Monday, September 17, 2007

Things to Do on a Wet Day in Seattle

Continuing on my theme of Seattle tourism, we had Sunday to play with, too. After yet another visit to the Pike Place Market (delicious breakfast goodies from the Russian bakery next to the original Starbucks, called Piroshky Piroshky...cinnamon rolls to die for!) we decided to head over to Seattle Center to maybe go up to the observation deck of the Space Needle. But being a gray, overcast day, we decided that blowing $16 each to look at rain and clouds didn't seem very attractive.

So instead, we decided to check out the Science Fiction Museum. That was a blast. Kind of a pilgrimage, since both of us are lifelong readers of SF, as well as fans of SF movies. We were pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was. We'd been expecting something a little cheesy, maybe over-the-top fandom. But it really was more of a museum, investigating the role of SF and speculative fiction in society (and vice versa). Truly, it's worthwhile, whether you're interested in the intellectual aspects, or if you just want to see the artifacts (like original tricorders and phasers from Star Trek, costumes from Star Wars, first editions of classic SF books, and so on). It was really a fun afternoon, and a great way to get out of the rain.

Did I mention that we finally got rained on in Seattle?

After several hours, we wished we had more time, but I had arranged to meet an old friend and coworker for beers and football, and my wife needed to go to a cocktail thing for the conference.

Short description: Go! It's really fun.

Playing Tourist in Seattle

My delightful spouse has to be at at conference in Seattle this week, so I joined her for the weekend. We had passed through Seattle very briefly a couple of years ago as part of our 2005 World Tour, and enjoyed it a lot. So we were looking forward to a chance to play tourist again.

Saturday morning, we wandered out from our downtown hotel toward the Pike Place Market, because we'd missed it last time, and because it has the terrific reputation. I'm told it's the model for what San Francisco's Ferry Plaza.

That comparison flatters San Francisco's entry (nice though it is) and drastically shortchanges Seattle's. The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Marketplace has a terrific farmer's market, and provides a pleasant venue for some local (and national chain) shops, it has neither the physical scope nor the democratic presence of Seattle's market.

First, the farmer's market. There are wonderful stands with produce displayed lovingly and artistically; that's a show in itself. There are fish markets that appear to be as much a floor show as a food source. And the flowers are amazingly plentiful, colorful, and reasonably priced.

Then, the market. It's crowded on the weekend, with locals mingling with tourists. There are shops upon shops upon shops, ranging from musical instruments to clothing to collectibles. There are restaurants of various stripes. It's rather daunting how much is there.

And then there is the public market, where tables are rented by the day, and people of all sorts hawk their wares. Arts, crafts, foods, name it! It's just a wonderful, vibrant place, and different every day. We had a great time wandering around there.

In keeping with our tourist theme, we decided to walk over to Pioneer Square and do the Underground Tour. It's really more stand-up comedy routine than historical tour (or "historical satire," as they call it), but it really is interesting to visit the portions of the city that were initially built above ground, then rendered subterranean when the city decided to regrade part of itself, raising the street level 10-18 feet (and eventually also raising the sidewalks to the same level, some four years later.

It was a good insight into the history of an interesting city and some of the characters that built it.

We spent the evening with friends who were celebrating their wedding anniversary, at a terrific restaurant called Crush. Very tasty!

All in all, we find Seattle to be as we did before: easy to get around on foot, with lots of fun things to see and do. A great example is a little toy store by Pioneer Square called Magic Mouse. They have lots of wonderful stuff, all arranged rather whimsically over two floors of an old building. It was really fun to wander around.

Another Phil Frank Note

I just read this morning's column by Jon Carroll in the S.F. Chronicle. Obviously he, and a lot of others, shared my fondness for Phil Frank and especially his bears:
I think maybe we all wanted to be the bears. Farley was smart, but he was lonely. Baba was crafty but not warm. The bears were a family, eking out a living in the Northern California landscape, forever adopting hopeless causes and embracing obscure passions. If I had to live a comic strip life, that's the one I'd choose. Free food, lots of friendship and a six-month nap every year.
The bears were the best. *sigh*

I should mention that Jon Carroll, too, is a fine local institution. I've met him a few times, and he's a very nice, funny fellow. If only he didn't write so much about his cats.... (inside joke)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Very Sad Note

I hate to get maudlin, but this makes me very sad:
Phil Frank, whose cartoons graced the pages of The Chronicle and other newspapers for more than 30 years, died Wednesday only a few days after he announced his retirement because of illness.
Phil Frank and his characters have been an important part of my life for a long time, and I will miss his work. I first became away of Frank and his character Farley back in the 1980s, when his comic strip, Travels with Farley, was nationally syndicated. I loved the way Farley could leave his regular job as a reporter to work for the summer as a ranger at Asphalt State Park. The wonderful bears he introduced at the park, always scheming ways to get food from the tourists, are among my favorite cartoon characters ever. Think Yogi Bear, but with much more complex characters.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the bears are die-hard San Francisco Giants fans, like yours truly.

Years ago, a couple of his bears were made into plush toys. I have a doll of Alphonse, wearing antlers and a t-shirt depicting one of his classic moments, standing next to a "Do Not Feed the Bears" sign in the park, holding a sign of his own that reads, "I am not a bear." My daughter still loves this joke. So do I. (And here is one such bear that recently sold on eBay.)

And no mention of Phil Frank and his work would be complete without a mention of his puns. Between the last frames of his comics, he always put some kind of appropriate pun, and many of his comics featured them, too. One of his books of collected comics, for example, was titled "Fur and Loafing in Yosemite." And once when a guest chef (a vulture from Death Valley, I believe) was coming to work at the bears' restaurant, the Fog City Dumpster, he was unable to bring his own ingredients on the plane, because of the limit of "two pieces of carrion per passenger."

I always respected Phil Frank's decision to stop drawing a syndicated comic because he wanted to be more spontaneous. He could deliver strips to the Chronicle a day before printing, rather than a couple of weeks before printing for the syndicate. This allowed him to produce very timely, local comics, even though it put him on a very tight work schedule.

Although I am deeply saddened by his passing, my life is much richer for having known the work of Phil Frank. I will miss him, but will always cherish the memories he provided.

I must also note that Mr. Frank died of a brain tumor, and chalk this up as yet another of the ways cancer has affected my life. Please, let's all take care of ourselves, and try to wipe out cancer.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

This Explains a LOT

Picture taken last month at the World Famous San Diego Zoo:

All I can say is, now I know why they're going extinct!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Goodness. A couple of my friends have done this, so now I guess I have to, too. says I'm an Uber Cool Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!

So for those keeping score at home, I'm cooler than Rod, but nerdier than Laura. So proud....