Wednesday, July 28, 2010

King 5 on 'Local' McDonald's Ads

Ready for some hard-hitting investigative journalism? Here's the link.

Evidently McDonald's uses quite a bit of produce grown in the Northwest:

95% of their potatoes, 95% of their fish, and 88% of their apples come from this region.

Pretty good numbers, admittedly, but I'd like to point out that this is merely 'fetishizing' a few statistics -- how many ingredients are in any one McDonald's meal? -- and that they don't arise out of any concern for the environment. The King 5 piece remarks that McDonald's realized they were already doing this as a good business practice (read: to maximize profit) and decided to use it as advertising.

By presenting this fact with such nonchalance, Gary Chittim, the environmental journalist for King 5, missed his chance to comment on what might constitute a real commitment to local food. For example, as much as I abhor the 'urban gated community' that is Olive 8, I understand that their restaurant, Urbane, operates on a farm-to-table concept that brings a wide variety of local food to the menu. The very fact that this is part of their 'business' plan -- an ideology if you will -- distinguishes their intentional commitment to local food from McDonald's coincidental relationship to food produced in the Northwest.

If the producers at King 5 were better connected to what people are doing with local food, they would have followed this story with a piece on McGinn's year of urban agriculture and, of course, the great work that alleycat acres is doing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Vitamin Water is, gasp!, Unhealthy

I just saw this article and was momentarily thrown back into the Sisyphean task of exposing the Vitamin Water Social Club as a marketing ploy by Coca-Cola. On the heels of my (ongoing) dialogue with strategic branding agencies about the McDonalds "localwashing" campaign, I come to find that

"Vitaminwater is really just a sugary snack food; non-carbonated fruit coke disguised as a sports drink."

What, really? Coca-Cola would mislead people? They would spend a month doing nightlife marketing as an independent beverage creator when they are really a soulless monolith? Get outta here!

Anyway, just another reason to ignore Vitamin Water/Coke, McDonalds, and Qdoba, the janky fast-food place coming into the janky Joule Apartments on Broadway.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

How about a positive post for a change?

There are three things currently going down at PPL headquarters (my kitchen table) that are worth sharing.

First, I just submitted an application to Shunpike's Seattle Storefronts program in conjunction with The Lonely Kazoo, a rock opera and theater troupe who is putting the finishing touches on an incredible piece that resonates with many of my worldly concerns, namely environmentalism and consumerism. We are trying to get them a rehearsal and performance space in a vacant storefront in Pioneer Square or the International District, from which we can also launch a tour of vacant spaces around Seattle. In the meantime, their inaugural performance is scheduled for the Fremont Abbey on August 19th. They also have a call out for art made from trash to accompany this show on their website.

Secondly, I've written several entries about the Holding Patterns competition, and in addition to attending the open house last week, I've been speaking with one of the finalist teams about their project in Pioneer Square (seems like PPL's concerns are sliding Southwest a bit, doesn't it?). You can take a look at The Neighborhood Watch Theater Company's entry here. Their plan calls for converting the abandoned space at 167 S. Washington into a multipurpose theater. Currently, I'm trying to set them up with my neighborhood favorites Signal to Noise, to put together a scheme for seating and a stage.

And lastly, we come to Park(ing) Day Central Park. I've been a bit slow about getting this up and running but it's time...especially since I was recently contacted by a member of The Brite Collective about extending the event through the weekend. For the trifecta, this extension will shift the central park to the international district for Saturday and Sunday (Friday, the official Park(ing) Day, will still be at 500 E. Pine), and invite other on-street parks from around Seattle to do so as well. It's a tall order, but a fantastic one, and we will be putting finishing touches on the beginning of the plan this week. I have a list of about thirty groups that I'm going to solicit to build parks but the more the merrier, seriously. So if you're a reader who wants to get in on the arts/activism party that is Park(ing) Day, and you haven't already contacted me, please get in touch.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Welcome Readers from McDonalds and Clear Channel (UPDATE)

Thanks to the magic of sitemeter, I can see the hits coming from McDonalds, the fast food monolith that is styling itself as local but won't provide any information about where its food comes from, and clear channel, the media corporation from my home state of Texas, that is often accused of homogenizing radio and putting billboards running janky ads everywhere (the McDonald's ads are on their signs, or at least the one I photographed in downtown Seattle was).

Anyway, if you're reading this and you work for one of those companies, I'd like to say that we in Seattle don't appreciate your work in general, and especially this ad campaign. I actually have two engineering degrees from Texas A&M, where the business school is named after Lowry Mays, one of the founders of clear channel, and I'd like to take this chance to say that I'm ashamed to have any affiliation with his legacy. I've since made my way to Seattle, obviously, and been introduced to writers like Horkheimer and Adorno, who take the commercialization of radio very seriously (and they were writing about the Culture Industry around WWII). I wonder what they would have to say about the state of radio today? They didn't even like jazz so they would abhor garbage like this.

I'd like to think they would listen to KEXP, even though they are devoted to classical music.

Why is this relevant to the lot you may ask? Companies like these are part of the same American business culture that I blame for undertaking projects the proposed development at 500 E. Pine that would have resulted in an overpriced and bland project. They see only in dollars and have no concern for the landscape they are creating. The furthest you can get from a McDonalds in America is 107 miles; I'm not sure if it's even possible to get out of range of clear channel radio or billboards.


It looks like Omnicon Group might be the marketing agency behind these ads: there was a hit from their Seattle office before all the clear channel and McDonalds hits came though. I'm going to call and/or email them right now. Feel free to do the same.

According to the interwebs, Hornall Anderson Design Works, a local ad firm, was acquired by Omnicon in 2004. I just sent this message to the creative and production directors to see if they were indeed the creators of the billboards.

Hello Ladies,

I am a Seattle resident and a PhD student at the University of Washington interested in consumer culture and the built environment and was wondering if Hornall Anderson was responsible for the McDonald's billboards that imply that the food is produced locally? If so, I can think of a few other questions I'd like to ask, but I will wait on your response.

I participate in a bit of neighborhood arts/activism on Capitol Hill via the website People's Parking Lot (, and noticed a hit from Omnicon Group in Seattle, which I believe HADW is a part of; that's why I am contacting you.

Thanks in advance for your time,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

McDonalds Redux

In response to my question about their local advertising campaign, Jessica, a mouthpiece for the beast, wrote this:

Hello Keith:

Thank you for contacting McDonald's.

Unfortunately, we do not provide the names of our suppliers as we consider this information proprietary. However, we can assure you that McDonald's uses many high quality, nationally known brand name suppliers such as Tyson Chicken, Kraft Cheese, Hunt's ketchup, Gorton's fish, Vlasic pickles and Quaker Oats hotcake mix, to name a few.

Again, thank you for your interest in McDonald's.

McDonald's Customer Response Center

The Sun Break also has a good article about this campaign.

Commence defacing these signs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Park(ing) Day Info from Feet First

As previously mentioned, Feet First has started sending out information for this year's Park(ing) Day, which is Friday September 17th. You can read their announcement here. If you want to host an on-street park, the deadline for registration is Friday August 27th.

Our event last year was an extension/modification of the typical Park(ing) Day park. Since the point of the event is to 'reclaim' space devoted to automobiles, we conceptualized the lot as a space unused as part of the daily routine and decided to transform it into a central park, which could, in turn, be used throughout the day. Look through last September's archive and you can see more photos and posts than you probably care to read.

Want to build a park on the lot? Or an art installation? Do you play in a band and want to perform? Do you have a ping pong table or tetherball poles? Want to pass out flyers, cookies, or rabble rouse in general? Our Central Park will be the place.

Monday, July 19, 2010

FAIL (updated)

Yeah, this isn't an urban food blog, but you probably know how I feel about local organic food, independent retailers, and multinational corporations pretending to be local if you've spent any time reading through this site. It should, therefore, be no surprise that I was astonished to see this on 7th avenue this morning.

I'm no graffiti artist, but I think this sign is just asking for an, um, intervention. In the meantime, I wrote a quick email asking the advertising and marketing department what was going on:

I recently saw a McDonald's billboard in Seattle, Washington which hinted that the potatoes used to make McDonald's french fries were grown in Pasco, Washington, and was wondering if you could provide some proof. Nothing about the McDonald's brand says 'local' and I'm curious about what you're doing here: changing your ways because you had an epiphany? co-opting an authentic movement? outright lying? Please clarify. It would be greatly appreciated.

I suppose one interpretation might be that potatoes are grown in Pasco and McDonalds serves fries here in Seattle...

Have a question for these bastards? Here's the contact form.


More coverage at Grist and Fast Company, including a great shot of the disclaimer in fine print.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Seattle Square Market on Saturday!

Hope to see you there! Here's the website and flyer:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Shunpike Opportunities

I recently received an email from Shunpike detailing two great opportunities for public art and performance.

The first, and one I plan on pursuing, hopefully with The Lonely Kazoo as part of vacant space tour, is Storefronts Seattle. The pilot program is currently focusing on empty retail spaces in Chinatown and the ID, and calls for both artists in residence and performances/installations. Applications are due July 26th.

The next opportunity is Arts Crush, "a month-long festival (October) that connects artists and audiences with invigorating new experiences at hundreds of events across the region." As an extension of Live Theatre Week, a different discipline will be highlighted each week. This project is managed by Theatre Puget Sound and applications are due July 23rd.

The latter calls for pop-up performances in various places, so if you have any ideas for the lot, this might be a great way to facilitate them. As always, leave a comment or send me an email if there is something you'd like to pursue on the lot.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I took the first bus out of Coca-Cola City, it made me feel all nauseous and shitty. -- from "Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull" by Refused, on their album "The Shape of Punk to Come"

It's funny how my last little post saying that Coca Cola, the owners of Glaceau, who make Vitamin Water and are hosting the Vitamin Water Social Club over at Sole Repair for the rest of the month has attracted a few lengthy reads from, I assume, some low-level marketing geniuses at Coca Cola's headquarters in Atlanta (thanks, sitemeter).

I first became aware of Coca Cola owning these guys when Madison Market quit carrying Vitamin Water for that very reason. As you probably know, the co-op does not carry products that do not jibe with its mission statement, and I recall that their position against Coca Cola had something to do with water rights in India, i.e. using up an inordinate amount of water to create their product, and thereby limiting residents' access to fresh water. Here are some links on that issue.

India Resource Center

Corp Watch


And while I, admittedly, drink a diet coke from time to time, just like Bret Easton Ellis, I really hate to see these big corporations trying to infiltrate the 'hip' neighborhoods, veiled as independent brands. Everyone knows where the 'fake Starbucks' are, and if you are like me, you avoid them. In this case, I just want to make sure you know who is behind these events before going.

So, yeah, go see the bands, support Sole Repair, but don't think that Vitamin Water is made by the little guys.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Vitamin Water Social Club

Sure, they have some interesting bands playing, but what the fuck? A 'social club' being brought to you by Coca-Cola (they own glaceau, who makes vitamin water). Way to keep it alt, y'all.

Park(ing) Day 2010

So, I just read Feet First's Park(ing) Day 2010 press release and thought it was about time to start planning our second Park(ing) Day Central Park (click here and here to see photos from last year).

As you may know, the idea of Park(ing) Day is to reclaim space typically reserved for automobiles as temporary park space for a day, and while the lot is not used for parking, it is unused by neighbors in the same way the the street is unused. Rebar, the creators of Park(ing) Day, as well as many other fantastic interventions, approve of this interpretation.

I believe we had 18 parks set up on the lot last year, as well as one DJ, one band, and a radical painter that showed up unannounced, but was, of course, welcome (one of his works is still hanging on the back fence and can be seen here). We had a whole host of prizes ranging from ice cream to books to a zipcar gift certificate to $200, cold hard cash (seriously, it was coin).

So if you'd like to participate by building a temporary park or organizing (please, please!), let me know. Feet First wants to double the turnout this year citywide, so I say we double it in the central park too. That said, I think 35 parks is a reasonable goal.

Seattle Square Press Release

In its entirety:

For Information Contact:
Don Blakeney
don (at) theseattlesquare (dot) com
or Jen Kelly
jen (at) theseattlesquare (dot) com

A New Outdoor Market Launches in Pioneer Square
The SEATTLE SQUARE to feature locally designed apparel, vintage goods, mobile food, and headliner DJ’s

Seattle, WA (June 29, 2010) – Kicking off on Saturday, July 17th, Pioneer Square will feature a new outdoor market from 11am – 5pm every Saturday for the rest of the summer. What once sat empty and overlooked will soon be filled with local designers, mobile food vendors, public art and music.

The Seattle Square will feature a mix of Downtown restaurants like Delicatus, with mobile food vendors including Skillet, Ram & Rooster Dumplings and Parfait Organic Ice Cream--to name a few! The market will also host a wide range of vintage and craft vendors; selling everything from locally designed clothing, to handmade housewares and accessories, to mid-century modern furniture. To top it off, local and national DJ's will be providing a soulful, upbeat soundtrack each afternoon in the park.

The Seattle Square was conceived in response to the recent departure of Elliott Bay Books. "People thought we were crazy to want to try this new market in Pioneer Square once Elliott Bay announced they were leaving, but this is precisely the reason for doing it," said Seattle Square Co-Founder Don Blakeney. "Neighborhoods from West Seattle to Ballard have perfected the farmer's market--but few markets bring together the vintage, craft, and mobile food--and set it to music." Blakeney, a Seattle native, recently returned from New York City where he orchestrated a series of pop-up stores to activate the vacant storefronts in Times Square.

"The Pioneer Square neighborhood is perfect for a market like this," said Jennifer Kelly, Co-Founder of the Seattle Square. "There is a real sense of community here--and a lot of great people who are working hard to make this market a success and to reinvigorate the neighborhood in the process." Kelly moved to Pioneer Square last summer and writes the New Pioneer Square Blog. Both Kelly and Blakeney saw the popularity of outdoor markets and events like the Brooklyn Flea, MoMA's PS1 and Seattle's Mobile Chowdown, and wanted to bring them together to activate Occidental Square.

Local artists will also be transforming Occidental Park throughout the summer as a part of the Artsparks program put together by 4Culture and Seattle Parks and Recreation. Shoppers will be able to walk through a maze of art installations as they enjoy the food, music, and market. Local DJ's will compete in a weekly Battle of the Mega-Mixes--the winner of which will get a headlining slot at a local nightclub later this summer.

"The creative energy behind the Seattle Square is thrilling," said Todd Vogel, owner of the Nord Building. "The organizers have combined Pioneer’s Square’s artsy vibe and Occidental Park’s beauty to create an event for everyone. I can’t wait to go!" Vogel is the Director of the International Sustainability Institute, a group that forges public and private partnerships to promote public space and urban sustainability. He is also hosting a series of World Cup watching parties in Nord Alley across from Occidental Park through the finals in July.

Ideally located on top of every form transportation in the city, Pioneer Square offers a perfect town center atmosphere that is accessible to all. In addition to comprehensive rail and bus access, the Seattle Square has partnered with Diamond Parking and the Merrill Place Garage to provide complementary parking for all Seattle Square shoppers each Saturday.

About the Seattle Square:
The Seattle Square is a new outdoor market that runs every Saturday from July 17th, through September 25th, in Occidental Park between S. Washington and S. Main Streets, just east of 1st Avenue S. For more information about weekly features, music and mobile food lineup, directions, or contact information: