The level of architectural writing in the local press is, as I often complain, abysmal. So if you really want to find knowledgeable, critical writing about the masses of steel, concrete, and glass currently forming themselves all over our downtown, you have to look at--no, not this column, silly--your e-mail in-box. If you're lucky, someone will have forwarded one of John Pastier's eviscerating missives to you. Pastier has written for Slate, The Seattle Times, the Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger about local construction, but has no regular outlet for his architectural writing--perhaps because he is continually, endearingly pessimistic about most of the current building boom.
That didn't stop him from penning a well-thought-out assault on the schematic design for the new Seattle City Hall, and then e-mailing it to the board of art and architecture watchdog group Allied Arts of Seattle. Pastier's primary target is the Hall's siting: atop a steep grade, with a block and a half of city-owned property left for open space and private development below it. He points out that given the grade, people trying to get to the City Hall from the Third Avenue bus corridor and tunnel will have to climb the equivalent of five stories just to reach their elected representatives' front door. Grand processional entrances are fine in their place, but five stories is a serious goddam climb just to, say, pay a parking ticket. As compensation, we have a long expanse of park area that will either be a glorious jewel of civic life or a series of bum-strewn, windswept plazas raised up and walled off from the sidewalks--depending on how good a job the city does of managing the spaces and how interested locals are in hanging around the front porch of government buildings.
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Recent events connected with three separate legal battles could drastically affect the price you pay for recorded music. Two of these cases raised the price; one made it lower: It all depends on where you shop. Free online downloading of major-label products is pretty much over, with both MP3.com and Napster succumbing to the legal might (not to mention the legal and ethical rightness) of the majors, and Metallica agreeing (in the case of MP3.com) not to post major-label songs and denying service (in the case of Napster) to hundreds of thousands of Metallica fans who'd purportedly (and illegally) traded that band's files online.
While free music is fast disappearing, cheaper music will be more widely available in the wake of a complicated consent decree signed last week whereby major labels agree not to force retailers to sell their products at or above a set minimum price. Meaning, as long as you enjoy shopping for music at Wal-Mart or Best Buy, the new Britney Spears CD will be priced at the rock-bottom of profitability.
Of course, good news for consumers, as you may have noticed, is usually bad news for small, struggling boutique operations (for example, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et al. vs. independent booksellers), which depend on larger per-unit profit margins to stay afloat, and thus have a hard time competing with deep discounters. Let's all start collectively worrying about Orpheum and Cellophane Square, shall we? It'll be a fun break from worrying about Bailey/Coy Books and Elliott Bay (both still thriving, by the way).
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