It's funny that you publish an article ("Pottery Barn Nation," 7/29) complaining that Northwest consumers have become more concerned about buying the product with the right status rather than a practical item. That's exactly what your "Best of Seattle" issue (SW, 7/22) has been pushing them to do for many years. Isn't your complaint really that the stores that are adding the "best of breed" stamp themselves instead of purchasing your label?
Bruce Barcott's "Pottery Barn Nation" (7/29) article took a bizarre tone as it attempted to reconcile his new appreciation of interchangeable, expensive "pieces" with Seattle's traditionally self-determined sense of taste.
What was the tone of Barcott's article meant to suggest? He is reflexively critical of the presence of all these new upscale stores he peruses, but directly beneath that surface is a happy shopper who can share with "us"—some unspecified class of Seattleite—our new pleasure in the availability of chain store-determined taste.
While he took an ostensibly critical look at the pieces offered by the new shops that have come crashing into Seattle in the last five years, he "want[s] to weep," presumably with joy, at what he found there. Do they satisfy some sense of taste he was never able to accommodate in this town before, some cosmopolitan sleek-yet-homey impulse that lay dormant until Restoration Hardware set up shop here?
I don't think so, or I think that his implication that "we" have been feeling that same lack is inaccurate. It's a generic response—a calculated one at that—to be resisted, precisely because one does have taste. Instead, he reciprocates and rationalizes in print the desire to believe what a chain store says to you and about you.
Personal taste is anathema to the shops Barcott nominally criticizes but surrenders to with an audible sigh of relief. National chains have only found a new technique, as documented by Barcott: they attempt to make the buyer feel like s/he is buying a little piece of him or herself. But that's not possible: every lamp, chair, couch, and dustbin is identical twin to every other lamp, chair, couch, and dustbin with the same SKU number in warehouses, shops, and homes nationwide. The stores' attempts to persuade a buyer should not be confused with the obvious fact: these items are the opposite of unique.
What bothered me about the article was the assertion that the presence of these new chain stores in our midst somehow represents Seattle's "rising tastes," as if Seattle is gaining something aesthetic by the presence of these stores. Barcott's tone was wistful but insistent, as if to say, "Don't you almost wish that everything you bought didn't come by the thousands?" It doesn't have to, and if there has been a prevailing Seattle aesthetic, it is one built from going to small local shops and finding pieces of one's own style, rather than depending on a chain to supply generic representatives of real antiques and finds.
Funny story ("Pottery Barn Nation," 7/29). However, the author's basic premise that the "middle class" has recently become so flush with extra cash it can afford to go out and spend a few grand on an armchair is presumptuous. It's also dead wrong. The author is apparently referring not to the mean, or middle, of Americans, who earn roughly $48,000 per year, but to those closer to the top third—$80,000 plus. In reality, the middle class has less spending power than it has had in decades.
We heard the same kind of naive boosterism during the 80's and the birth of the yuppies. It wasn't "Morning in America" for the middle class then, and it sure isn't now.
Pirates be pirates
These Pirates ("Booty camp," 7/29), these boy-men who come out once a year, 'sanctioned' by the City of Seattle (which still manages to apply the positive connotation of the word), and who are dissed by everyone else who favor Webster's other definition of the term, are our only contact with history and with Peter Pan. The Seafair Pirates may put us in mood for the only annual event we really have while giving us pause for thought as they pee in flower pots, but you must remember that, historically, pirates have never served as role models of society.
Keel haul 'em
Regarding the Seafair Pirates ("Booty camp," 7/29) and their conduct: Last summer my wife and my seven-year-old daughter were at Alki for the Seafair Landing. My daughter enjoyed the 'sea battle' and watched the pirates land. Her joy at the festivities turned, however, as upon being approached by one of the younger, hunkier pirates, he proceeded to barter with her—a handful of cheap trinkets in exchange for propositioning my wife. My daughter's demeanor immediately changed, and she refused both the offer and the junk. The pirate stood there amazed and chagrined, then tossed the junk on the sand and walked off in search of other prey.
We think they are disgusting, not the least bit entertaining, and should be tossed overboard!
In "Freedom to clear-cut" (Impolitics, 7/29), Geov Parrish refers to "dire implications . . . for ecosystems" from potential ratification of the "Global Free Logging Agreement" at the coming Seattle WTO conference. This agreement would forbid all restrictions on the sale of forest products, specifically including measures requiring the labeling of "sustainably produced" wood.
If anything, Parrish grossly understates the danger to our planet. On August 2, in St. Louis, Peter Ryan, President of the International Botanical Congress, stated, "We are predicting the extinction of about two-thirds of all bird, mammal, butterfly, and plant species by the end of the next century, based on the current trends. At the current pace of habitat destruction, only 5 percent of the world's tropical rain forest will be left by the middle of the next century."
Weyerhaeuser is among the top local companies expected to contribute $250,000 in cash or "in-kind" services to underwrite the Seattle Round of the WTO that commences here on November 30. Weyerhaeuser spokesperson Frank Mendizabel says, "It's an excellent opportunity to strengthen relations with ministers from countries where we have investments or may make investments. We want to make our views known on trade issues."
It's time for noncorporate individuals who are interested in both maintaining a sound world ecology to support life for ourselves and our children, and in upholding our hard-won and hard-kept Constitutional rights, to make our views known on trade issues—and on Constitutional ones as well!
Like most educated Americans, I find apartheid and racism repugnant, but the article on David Scott-Donelan ("Rhode warrior," 7/29) lacked integrity. As hard as Nina Shapiro tried to smear him with guilt by association, there's no story here! Certainly Scott-Donelan bills himself as a hard-core professional killer, and he did train military forces of a racist government that were accused of atrocities by their enemies. But she failed to uncover any evidence that: 1) Scott-Donelan is a racist himself; 2) that he committed any racist atrocities; or 3) that he trained anyone else to commit atrocities. She is even forced to admit that the only person she spoke with who had firsthand knowledge of Scott-Donelan had not detected a hint of racism in his training. So where's the story?
Shapiro really stretches to equate his use of "Rhodesia" instead of Zimbabwe on his resume as contempt for black Africans. If your company was taken over by another firm and you were laid off, which corporate name would you put on your resume? Scott-Donelan never worked for Zimbabwe.
Who gets to define what beliefs are correct? Isn't it arrogant hypocrisy to "tolerate" only people who we agree with already? As a believer in free speech, I must reluctantly defend a macho chest-beater like Scott-Donelan, despite my embarrassment at defending rights to ideologies I personally find abhorrent. Does he have a right to whatever his political views are? Yes. Does he (or any other public employee) have a right to use a taxpayer-sponsored soapbox to spread his political views? Absolutely not. Scott-Donelan probably shouldn't wait for an invitation to speak at graduation at the Evergreen State College next year.
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