Tuesday, February 27, 2007

1, 10, 19, 24, 32, 43

These are the uniform numbers retired by the Sonics, honoring former stars Gus Williams, Nate McMillan, Lenny Wilkens, Spencer Haywood, Fred Brown and Jack Sikma, respectively. (Note that none of 'em were retired to pander to the fans, like the Seahawks's stupid 12th Man.)

The latest addition to the Key Arena rafters is #24, retired just last night. Though the number was worn by both Dennis Johnson, MVP of the '79 NBA Finals when Sonics won their only championship (and who, coincidentally, died last week), and Tom Chambers, MVP of the '87 NBA All-Star Game that I attended at the Kingdome, #24 was retired for Spencer Haywood. His 29.2 points per game during the 1972-73 season and 24.9 points per game in his five years as a Sonic (1970-75) both remain franchise records.

For me, my knowledge of pro sports pretty much began when the expansion Seahawks began play in '76, and the expansion Mariners began play in '77, both during my seventh year. The Sonics started up a decade earlier, in '67, but I was oblivious to them 'til after I started paying attention to the 'Hawks and M's. By then, Haywood had already been traded away to the Knicks. Yet I like that Seattle has this small amount of major-league history that went down before my sports awareness came into being, something cool that happened before my time but that I can learn about after the fact.

Read more about Spencer Haywood here.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Mountain Fresh TV

There's lots I could write about Rainier Beer: how the cheap local swill was brewed in Seattle from 1878 to 1999, how one-time owner Emil Sick also owned the beloved Seattle Rainiers, how the green-bottled Rainier Ale was affectionately referred to as "Green Death" (and the 16-ounce bottles were referred to as "pounders"), how the brand hasn't been locally owned since 1977 and hasn't been brewed in Washington since 2003 (no longer using "mountain fresh" glacial water from its namesake), or how the brand doesn't seem to even have a functioning web site...

But today I wanna write about Rainier's cool commercials that ran on local TV in the '70s and '80s. The ads amused kids of my generation long before we were of legal drinking age, and likely branded many of us as future Rainier drinkers. The above spot is my favorite, spoofing the then-popular video games early '80s (though I wish it included my personal fave, Centipede).

I also love this one, with the giant beer cans in the demolition derby ("Oh, taste that one!")... Local rival Olympia Beer gets dissed in both that ad and the one below. The handsome, rubber-faced guy reminds me of my pal Jay -- as a kid I found him hysterical, pretty much like I find Jay now...

The Wild Rainier mascot also appeared in several memorable commercials (and in this poster, helping some Conan-like dude fight Bigfoot). However, Rainier's best-remembered ad (albeit far from best overall) is the one in which a speeding motorcycle delivers the brand name via Doppler effect...

So, like, please drink responsibly.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Alfred Hitchcock

Good eeeevening.

Or good morning, good afternoon, or good whenever you happen to be reading this. I don't care.

I tossed out Alfred Hitchcock -- subject of this 1998 stamp -- as my favorite director when asked for one during my video store job interview. It's not like he's my far-and-away all-time favorite, but I can't think of any other director who's made more movies that I truly dig. F'rinstance, Rear Window has long been one of my absolute all-time, ten-star faves, and it became that much more dear to me when Eliza and I saw it on our first date.

Hitchcock never won an Oscar™, but maybe on Sunday, Scorsese finally will. I've seen all of this year's Best Picture™ nominees, save for The Queen. If it wins, I'll feel obligated to see that one too. (God help us all if Little Miss Shitpants wins.) I've made a point of seeing every Best Picture™ released during my lifetime, from 1969's Midnight Cowboy onward (I have no plans to see 1968's Oliver!). Overall I've seen 61 of the 78 movies to win Best Picture™ thus far. The only Hitchcock-directed film to receive the award was 1940's Rebecca, which, ironically, didn't do much for me.

No Best Picture™ nominations went to my original Movies of the Year! Movies of the Year!™, nor to this amended list:

1. Borat: Culural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
2. Wordplay
3. Jackass Number Two
4. Half Nelson
5. An Inconvenient Truth
6. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
7. Little Children
8. Friends with Money
9. loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies
10. United 93

If it ain't Scottish, it's crap.™

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scenic Drives: Final Report


I've now driven all 117 miles of the four original Scenic Drives laid out around Seattle in 1958, as depicted by this map. Other than along the mustard-colored Scenic Drive 4, I didn't see a single "Scenic Drive" sign on any of the other drives.

However, I did receive Seattle DOT's work report dated March 5, 1981, addressing the original 94 wooden signs installed along Scenic Drive 4 in '58. In '81, 35 signs were replaced (23 of which were "weathered," 11 of which were "missing," and one of which wasn't described at all). Five signs were removed (or six, if you count the one with the zen-inducing instruction to "remove missing"). The instruction for sign #29 says "Trim shrubs or RESET post and REPLACE," though I'm not sure which one happened. Two were marked "OK," and apparently left alone.

The other 50 signs weren't individually mentioned or field-checked, as the abridged 1981 route no longer included them. Instead, 18 new signs were installed along new legs of the shortened route -- four "temporary," and 14 permanent.

Eliza and I did our own field-checking in the last few weeks, finding just 13 signs still posted today. We came across both wooden and metal signs -- my best guess is that the original wooden signs were replaced with similarly wooden signs in 1981, but since then were replaced as needed with metal signs. Below is a list of the ones we found, with links to area maps. The signs are numbered according to the '81 report.

3. On the west side of Alaskan Way S at S Royal Brougham Way, facing north. Map.

21. On the east side of California Avenue SW, just north of SW Donald Street, facing south. Map.

25. On the north side of Harbor Avenue SW where it turns into Alki Avenue SW, facing southeast. Map.

31. On the west side Beach Drive SW, just north of SW Andover Street, facing north. Map.

33. On the west side Beach Drive SW, just north of SW Juneau Street, facing north. Map.

34. On the west side Beach Drive SW, just north of Lincoln Park Way SW, facing north. Map.

35. On the southwest side of Lincoln Park Way SW, just east of Beach Drive SW, facing northwest. Map.

39. On the south side of Wildwood Place SW at Fauntleroy Way SW, facing north. Map.

40a. On the south side Wildwood Place SW at 45th Avenue SW, facing northwest. Map.

40b. On the east side of California Avenue SW where it turns into SW Barton Street, facing south. Map.

51f. On the east side of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, just north of West Seattle Freeway, facing south. Map.

51i. On the south side of the Alaskan Way Viaduct off-ramp to Seneca Street, just west of First Avenue, facing west. Map.

51j. On west side of First Avenue S at S Cherry Street, facing north. Map.

Previous Scenic Drive posts:
Seattle's Scenic Drive to Nowhere
Follow the Trident and Trees
Signs, Signs, (Not) Everywhere a Sign
Scenic Drives Update


The Viaduct, the Sonics, NASCAR

Please indulge me as I rant about three hot local topics, bearing in mind that none of this is based on economics or politics so much as simple aesthetics...

The Alaskan Way Viaduct. I’m gonna miss that killer elevated view you get when driving northbound through downtown on the viaduct, but the thing's gotta go. The question is how to replace it -- with a tunnel? Or with a new, bigger viaduct? As The Stranger so succinctly says, No and Hell No. Instead, I strongly prefer a street-level, tree-lined boulevard, like San Francisco's Embarcadero. Above is an artist's rendering of what we most definitely should have.

The Sonics. It appears they'll soon be leaving Seattle for a bigger, better arena elsewhere, but it remains to be seen whether it’ll be in suburban Renton or faraway Oklahoma City. Same diff, I say. I love having the three major pro sports teams playing in the heart of the city, but since the 40-year-old Sonics -- our oldest and still our only big-league championship-winners (unless you count the 1917 Seattle Mets) -- couldn't get an arena built in the downtown area, then it doesn't much matter where they go. (I always thought that waste-of-space parking lot north of Qwest Field would make a great place for a new arena -- one that might also lure an NHL team -- but that's neither here nor there.) I guess I'd prefer the Sonics to at least stay in the area than move to another state altogether. Like, it'd still be sorta cool that my, uh, region could boast of having an NBA team, then again, I can recall just one Sonics game I attended in the 20 years since Xavier McDaniel killed a guy.

A NASCAR track. I can't believe there's even a debate as to whether we want such a big, loud, stupid monstrosity celebrating that gas-guzzling, flag-waving, Ricky Bobby-style culture that NASCAR represents, be it in Bremerton or anywhere else in the Northwest. Call me a snob, but let's leave that crap in the Bible Belt. If we’re gonna throw a kajillion dollars at any sort of entertainment, let’s use it to keep Ichiro in Seattle.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Batman

This 2006 specimen, featuring Bob Kane's 1940 cover of Batman #1, is part of this larger DC Comics Super Heroes pane.

Why Batman? Why now? Well, not only is Batman my favorite superhero (particularly the Adam West variety), but he's also the cover star of the current Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps. The book, which arrived in my mail this week, features color illustrations of every goddamn U.S. of A. stamp issued from 1847 through 2006. Unfortunately, the stamps aren't all actual size, and they don't all reproduce that well. Worst of all, the thing is held together with cheap-ass comb binding!

I still love its historic, pop-culture thoroughness, much like I dig this book, and this one. I'll certainly enjoy browsing through it in search of more cool stamps to highlight here.

Tune in next Friday -- same Postage Stamp of the Week-time, same Postage Stamp of the Week-channel.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Robot Camel Jockeys

Some Arab countries have in recent years begun using robots as camel jockeys, a story I first saw on TV a few months back. Here's that video (following a commercial), along with another video I found tonight.

Hooray for the precious children, etc. The thing is, it totally cracks me up how the little remote-control robots spastically whip the camels, and I especially love how they're outfitted in tiny caps and tiny numbered jerseys.

I want one.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Jury Duty

"I saw this stamp a few weeks ago when I was checking out the 2007 commemorative stamps. Thought you’d enjoy what I think is the lamest stamp ever."

Wow! With feedback like that, how can I not help but pander to my readers?

Anyhow, yes, this stamp is indeed Lame City. Its uninspired design looks like a horrible mashup of the PBS and Girl Scouts logos, with a dull "rainbow" of multicultural silhouettes. Of course, since jury duty is something most everyone finds tedious and boring, it's fitting that its corresponding stamp conjures the same feelings... But why only twelve people? Don't alternates deserve commemoration too?

Speaking of jury duty, a few weeks ago I dutifully reported to the King County Courthouse because of a summons I received in December. I'd previously spent two weeks on jury duty for a 2002 trial, and didn't expect to be called back so soon. Unfortunately, I didn't read the summons as closely as I should have. It was delivered to the proper address -- mine -- but not 'til I got to the courthouse at an ungodly hour did I realize the name on the summons was some guy I never heard of. So I felt like a total doucheball, but I was plenty happy to be excused.

Stay tuned for next week's installment of "Postage Stamp of the Week."


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Adult Swim

Did I mention my intent to become a better swimmer this year?

For the most part, I've always hated swimming. I don't mind splashing around in the water from time to time, but I've never enjoyed practiced, coordinated, point-to-point swimming. This started when I had to take lessons as a kid at our local pool, where I was always cold (it was an outdoor pool, and the shower/locker-room facilities were open-air too). Propelling myself through water simply seemed more trouble than it was worth. Even worse was when I had to swim on a team, actually competing in such unpleasantness. Oddly, it seems I should like swimming -- my mom and both sisters have been avid swimmers for decades, and if you believe in astrology (not that I do), we Cancers are supposed to be at home in the water.

In any case, after avoiding the water for years on end, I've tried swimming in various lakes in the last couple summers, and was disappointed (and in one case, spooked) by how weak, uncoordinated, and non-confident I was. I couldn't even bring myself to dive into the water -- flinging myself headfirst into anything seems counterintuitive.

So over the last five weeks I attended a series of eight half-hour swim lessons at Medgar Evers Pool (conveniently located right across the street from Ezell's). I relearned the basics: crawlstroke, backstroke, breaststroke, treading water, and I even did a few shaky dives off the pool's edge. Since the lessons ended last week, I've twice gone swimming on my own, and can feel myself getting stronger and more coordinated with each session. The water isn't as cold as I remember, though it seems I get tired a lot faster. But last night I made that pool my biatch.

In the meantime I dug out an old swim lesson report card (seen above, enhanced with my own artwork), probably from 1973 or '74 (when I was 4 or 5). Here's what my instructor, someone named Nancy Baer, had to say: "Steve is really starting to relax in the water. I strongly suggest to continue with lesson [sic] because he is now starting to lose his fear of water. He can now face float and back float on his own."

Not too shabby.

Final thought: There should be a reality show in which celebrities learn how to swim. Take care of yourselves, and each other.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Xavier McDaniel Kills a Guy

I went to this game at the Coliseum in the fall of '87. The Sonics beat the Lakers, but the best part was this ridiculous photo that appeared in the next day's Seattle Times, and again today.


Postage Stamp of the Week: George Halas

Welcome to my blog's latest feature, Postage Stamp of the Week™ (inspired by that killer crossword stamp below). The US Postal Service has issued enough stamps in the last 160 years to keep this thing afloat for awhile, so let's get right to it, shall we?

George Halas, depicted on this 1997 stamp, coached the Chicago Bears for 40 years -- including six NFL titles -- and to this day his Bears pay tribute by wearing his initials on their sleeves.

So, Bears v. Colts, Super Bowl XLI. At this time last year I was pooping my pants over the Seahawks's Super Bowl debut, in a cool old city with my favorite band playing halftime. However, I'm fairly indifferent about this year's game. Ever since the Colts left Baltimore, I haven't been able to take the India-no-place team too seriously. Meanwhile, the Bears clobbered my 'Hawks 37-6 earlier this year on national primetime TV, and then knocked them out of the playoffs in a 27-24 overtime game a couple weeks back. Still, the ol-skoo Bears are my sentimental favorite, but I won't be paying much attention.

Anyway, read more about the legendary George Halas here.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Crossord Report: January '07

Did I mention my intent to solve every New York Times crossword puzzle published this year?

So far I've solved all 31 January puzzles but three (a couple nasty Fridays and a Saturday that I haven't made much headway on). On top of that, I've also solved various late-'06 NYT syndicated puzzles and USA Today puzzles, as well as Robert Wayne Williams's syndicated puzzles in The Seattle Times, the super-easy syndicated Sheffer Crossword Puzzle in the Seattle P-I, and the first 22 puzzles in this book. I've only solved about three-quarters of Frank Longo's World's Largest Crossword Puzzle -- the puzzle gets tougher as it progresses, so the final quarter looks to be a fucking nightmare.

Other than the weekly, online-only A.V. Club puzzle, I only solve crosswords on paper, and then only in ink (not 'cause I'm a showoff, but because I can't abide that pencil-on-newsprint, fingernails-on- chalkboards-type sensation). However, I can’t say I always finish them without help -- I estimate that for about 15% of ‘em, I need to consult Wikipedia or an online dictionary or some other source to, uh, git-r-done. Alright, so maybe I'm a bit obsessive -- go figure -- but this guy's just plain nuts.

Programming note: On today's Oprah, guests include NYT crossword editor Will Shortz and constructor extraordinaire Merle Regle. Also, breast cancer survivors give us their Oscar predictions!

Total crosswords solved in January 2007: 72
Total crosswords solved in 2007: 72
On pace to solve in 2007: 848