Listening Guide: In The Moment Episode 31


In episode #31 of In The Moment, Chief Correspondent Steve Scher talks with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith (3:45) about the incredible groundswell of community movements that took place around the time of the 2018 election. Smith comments on the remarkable strides made in just one year, with states adopting gerrymandering reform to combat election rigging, restoring voting rights for felons, and securing public funding for campaigns. Smith shares the hope he felt from these election results and real moments of democratic change—and the broader movements they inspired.

Then, correspondent Reagan Jackson talks with renowned Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (17:36) about his proudest memory. Thiong’o responds with a story of his mother, who put him through school and instilled in him the value of always doing his best, even though she couldn’t read or write. Thiong’o also discusses the time he spent in exile and the reason he was incarcerated by the Kenyan regime for over a year after the release of his landmark play Ngaahika Ndeenda. Thiong’o and Jackson talk about the current political climate, Thiong’o’s hopes for the future of his own legacy, and the importance of authors writing in their native tongue to preserve the philosophy and culture each language contributes to the world.

And host Jini Palmer shares recordings from the Town Hall community, who provided questions for therapy columnist Lori Gottlieb (25:22) in preparation for her arrival on Town Hall’s stage on April 10, 2019. Jini presents Gottlieb’s insightful responses to each of these intriguing and personal questions.


Still Curious?

-Hedrick Smith appears in numerous video discussions of democracy, including this video exploration of the material in his book Who Stole The American Dream?

In this video interview, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o shares his thoughts on memories and how they make us who we are.

Lori Gottlieb writes the column Dear Therapist for The Atlantic, where she addresses many of the same kinds of questions that the Town Hall community asked.

-Town Hall’s Jonathan Shipley interviewed Lori Gottlieb for our blog. Check out their conversation on the Town Crier!

Listening Guide: In The Moment Ep. 30


In episode #30 of In The Moment, correspondent and Grist editor Matt Craft sat down with journalist Dahr Jamail (2:17) to discuss his experience exploring different parts of the world to witness climate change firsthand. Jamail explains that he believes that one of the major causes of climate disruption comes from people growing disconnected with nature—they just adjust a thermostat and don’t see the impact on the environment around them. Craft and Jamail discuss dealing with the heaviness of the topic, and how Jamail sees climate change scientists looking at their research as soldiers on a battlefield. He nods to the bleakness of our environmental future, and entreats us to act and preserve the land before it’s too late.

Chief Correspondent Steve Scher interviews Siri Hustvedt (12:28) about whether we can trust our own memories to be accurate or if we use memories to construct fictions for ourselves. Hustvedt recalls reading Emily Dickinson at a young age, musing on the idea that her younger self could never have understood what those poems were about. Still, they inspired her to write back then, but what her older self remembers and what the younger self wrote about are different. Hustvedt reconciles the differences between past and present, delving into the ways her writing has evolved and the ways we’re all constantly changing.

And host Jini Palmer highlights a  theatrical radio performance from the Mahogany Project for the 13th annual Urban Poverty Forum (24:16). The Mahogany Project shines a light on the facts and repercussions of the U.S. worldwide military presence, our military aid in eradicating terrorist groups, and delves into the consequences of our massive national military spending. They share details on the disproportionately low pay offered to U.S. troops despite the large federal military budget, and the blowback of this spending on taxpayers in the form of reduced resources for housing, healthcare, food, and education.

Still Curious?

-Dahr Jamail has written many articles for online publications such as Truthout.org, including this video discussion of climate change.

-Siri Hustvedt discusses the striking similarities between physicists and poets in this video interview.

-Town Hall presented the 12th annual Urban Poverty Forum last year. You can listen to a recording of the full event in our podcast archive.

-Want more details about U.S. military spending? The Department of Defense website offers an overview of the 2019 military budget, as well as archived overviews from previous years.

An Interview with Holocaust Survivor Irene Butter

Irene Butter is one of the few Holocaust survivors still writing about her experiences. On April 16, 2019 she joins us for a Town Hall conversation about taking action and refusing to be a bystander. You can get tickets to the event here. To give us a preview of her story and her message of hope, she spoke with Town Hall’s Copywriter Alexander Eby.

AE: Can you tell me about what your life was like before the Nazis came to power? Before the camps?

IB: Well, I did have a wonderful early childhood. I lived with my loving parents and my brother who was two years older than I, and I had the great fortune of living with my grandparents in the same house. We were given all kinds of treats and taken on trips—it was truly a wonderful family. But then Hitler came to power and the persecution of the Jews began.

My grandfather owned a bank and my father was his partner, and the bank was taken away from him because Jews could no longer own banks. This left my father unemployed, so he left for Amsterdam to try to find a job. My mother and brother and I followed him a few months later, but my grandparents could not come with us. That was the first separation we experienced. We were in Amsterdam for two years before the Nazis invaded. When the Nazis took over Holland and then everything began to escalate, life for the Jews became very uncertain. There were many restrictions, and then of course the deportation. I think I had six wonderful years of childhood in Berlin and Amsterdam before the Nazis invaded. And from then on times were very difficult.

AE: What were your experiences like in the camps? How did you cope with day-to-day life there?

IB: The first camp we were in was Westerbork, a German concentration camp in Holland. Most people did not stay there long, and things were difficult. We lived in a crowded barracks. The adults were made to work, and for the children there were no schools or libraries, no toys or books. It was complete boredom. Food was limited, and in retrospect it was not all that bad—but only because things got a lot worse.

The worst part of life in Westerbork was every Saturday, when a cattle car train would arrive. The railroad track ran right down the middle of the camp, so wherever you went you had to see it, and it stood there Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. And then on Monday the barrack leaders turned on all the lights to read the names of the people who were made to leave. Most of those trains went to Auschwitz. Some of us were made to clean the wagons of the trains, and we had a glimpse into what was happening Auschwitz. They found little notes that described the gas ovens, and we learned that most people were gassed upon arrival. It was heartbreaking every week to have to say goodbye to friends or relatives.

Now in our case, my father met a friend in Amsterdam who had just received Ecuadorian passports from a man in Sweden. My father sent a letter to have some of these made for us, but we were deported from our home in Amsterdam before they arrived. The German government had issued an exchange policy by which they kept Jews who had either a foreign nationality or who had passports to one of the allied countries. They kept those Jews because Hitler wanted to exchange them for German citizens who had been caught in other countries when the war started, like a prisoner exchange. After four to six months in Westerbork, a package containing our Ecuadorian passports arrived, and we were no longer at risk of being deported to Auschwitz.

Instead we were sent to a camp called Bergen Belsen, which was referred to as an exchange camp, where Jews were held until the exchanges could take place. We spent an entire year in Bergen Belsen, and conditions were much worse. The adults were subjected to long days of slave labor, six and a half days of work. And we were all made to stand in a big square once a day to be counted for roll call, sometimes for hours at a time. Food rations were minimal, not enough for anyone to survive. Hygiene was deplorable and there were many deaths from disease epidemics and malnutrition. And there was punishment. There was brutality. You had to learn to be able to cope with death, to tolerate death. There were dead people all around you. Every morning I woke up surrounded by dead bodies. It was a truly fearful situation. Everything was uncertain.

AE: What are your thoughts about the situation at the American border, specifically the separation of children from their families?

IB: Heartbreaking. That’s all I can say—I have nightmares about it because I myself was separated from my family. When we were finally included in one of the exchanges, we were put on a train from Bergen Belsen to Switzerland. The second night on the train, my father died from malnourishment and from being badly beaten, and my mother was also very sick. When we arrived in Switzerland my mother and brother were hospitalized, but I was not allowed to stay with them. Switzerland was not accepting any more refugees, so I was sent to a refugee camp in Northern Africa. I was separated from my family not only by cities, not only by country, but by continent.

The war had not yet ended, and for several months I didn’t even know if my mother and brother were still alive. When I finally learned that they were recovering, still nothing was done to reunite me with my mother and brother until we came to the United States. We were separated for 18 months, and I have never forgotten the trauma that comes from being separated from your family. It’s almost unbelievable that this is happening today, and I am very proud of the people who are working to interfere with this process of family separation.

AE: What would you recommend for people who want to take action and avoid being bystanders at a time like this?

IB: It is such an important message for young people, and I’ve been talking in schools for more than 35 years about never being a bystander. I think we all have choices to make, and if you have certain values you need to act on them. When you see injustice and evil you need to interfere in any way you can. Seek help for people who are being injured, line up support, and refuse to be enemies. There is a lot of hatred being promoted at target groups these days, and it’s so destructive. We’re told that people are our enemies when we’ve never met them, or we’ve never even seen them. Refusing to be an enemy to those people is very important because it means opening up to people who are different. To look them in the eyes and listen to their stories. When you do that, you find that the differences between people are far smaller than the similarities that we all have as human beings.

Join us on April 16, 2019 and sit in for Irene Butter’s courageous firsthand account of one of the most harrowing chapters of human history.

Listening Guide: In The Moment Ep. 29




In episode #29 of In The Moment, correspondent Katy Sewall talks with John Lanchester (3:58) about his book The Wall. They delve into Lanchester’s inspiration for the book—a recurring dream. Lanchester recounts the prescient nature of his dream, which took place before discussions of Brexit and Trump’s border wall. The dream took place in the future of our world impacted by global climate change and a rising sea level, and followed a lone figure standing on a dark, cold wall. Scher and Lanchester explore the notion that walls such, though typically made for security and safety, often create exclusion and othering for those on the opposite side. Lanchester says that those who participate in othering must make constantly make excuses and seek justifications, and must train themselves to see the others as people wholly unlike themselves. In order to change how people see the world, says Lanchester, we need imaginative works of fiction.

Chief Correspondent Steve Scher interviews renowned biologist Frans de Waal (12:20) about our assumptions about animals. They discuss the common perception that animals only have instincts or minimal associative learning. De Waal recalls how in the 1990s his contemporaries laughed off his proposed theories of animal empathy and sympathy—yet he continued his research undaunted, inspired by the close relationships and knowledge he had developed about the primates he worked with. He discusses the process of measuring the physiological effects of emotions in animals, as opposed to feelings which are individual experiences. De Waal also reports that he’s just as happy to work with animals while relying solely on observations.

And host Jini Palmer sits down with Town Hall’s Marketing Manager Jonathan Shipley (21:44) to discuss the Town Crier blog and his interview with translator Michael Straus. Shipley discusses how he learned that the process of translation is not verbatim, but a more complex consideration of finding the “spirit” of the text. Jini and Jonathan delve into the importance of the translator as a part of the finished work, and of the ways which audiences interpret or receive that work.

Still Curious?

-Frans da Waal gave an enlightening TED talk on the moral behavior of animals.

-NPR offers a fascinating recorded interview with John Lanchester about one of his previous books How To Speak Money.

-You can read Jonathan’s interview with Michael Straus on the Town Crier.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum

Our renovation has touched every corner of Town Hall. When the cranes clear out and the plaster is all swept up, some of our performance spaces will feel revitalized yet familiar—while others will get to introduce themselves all over again.

The Great Hall will retain its classic warmth (with a few modern amenities), but our downstairs space is undergoing a complete transformation. Downstairs is becoming The Forum, a completely modular 300-seat space designed to keep up with Town Hall’s fluid calendar. The room’s design allows it to become the best possible version of itself, re-forming to fit the needs of each event and completely transfiguring the energy each night.

Here are a few events we wish we could have put on in The Forum while we’ve been Inside/Out:

Any Saturday Family Concert with Caspar Babypants. We could rearrange the room to give the kids a wide open dance space up by the stage.

An episode of Sandbox Radio. Sandbox brings so much energy to the stage—and so many performers! Plus they usually bring tons of instruments and sound effects, so they need all the room they can get.

Pie & Whiskey. Can you imagine the whole room downstairs smelling like fresh-baked pie coming from the new kitchen? Delicious.

MIT Enterprise Forum: Art in the 21st Century. On January 16, 2019 the folks from the MIT Enterprise Forum turned The Summit into a pop-up art gallery, with a panel discussion to tie it all together. Once Town Hall’s downstairs is fully transformed into The Forum, we’ll have the flexibility to do that too—plus so much more.

Sign up on our mailing list to hear more updates about our renovation schedule and to hear more news about our building reopening.

Listening Guide: In The Moment Bonus Episode (Global Rhythms)



In this bonus episode of In The Moment, get an inside look at the past and present of our Global Rhythms series! Host Jini Palmer talks with Spider Kedelsky, the founder of the Global Rhythms series. He recalls how the music series came to be and shares his experience working with different groups and musicians over the years. In the 1990’s Spider explored different cultural groups and communities throughout Seattle to bring a diversity of music and traditions to Town Hall’s stages, before broadening the reach of the series to include sounds and traditional arts from around the globe. Then Jini sits down with Jon Kertzer, current curator of our Global Rhythms series, to find out how he got involved with Global Rhythms and learn about his experience in radio and his interest in world music.

He explores this season’s Breaking Borders theme, highlighting the ways which the music of numerous immigrant cultures form the foundation of American music—making it all the more crucial that we celebrate them. Kertzer discusses Mamak Khadem (22:34), who performed the season’s inaugural concert in December, and highlights her established roots in the Iranian community. Kertzer discusses the Pedrito Martinez Group (23:27), a fun high-energy Cuban percussion band featuring members from several parts of Latin America. Next he discusses Lorraine Klaasen (25:03), a South-African jazz singer based in Montreal whose Town Hall show will be her first performance in Seattle. The back-to-back performances of Mokoomba and Chimurenga Renaissance (27:18) break the mold a bit according to Kertzer, since Mokoomba is coming from South Africa and Chimurenga are first generation Americans. These two groups have always wanted to play together, and this will be the first time they’re sharing the stage. To wrap up the series Kertzer discusses Kinan Azmeh (30:30), an amazing Syrian musician classically trained at Juilliard whose techniques merge Western classical music with Middle Eastern Folk traditions.

Learn about the history of our Global Rhythms series—and about the unforgettable lineup that’s approaching this season!

Listening Guide: In The Moment Bonus Episode (Town Music)


In this music-oriented bonus episode of In The Moment, host Jini Palmer sits down with with Joshua Roman, curator of our Town Music series, for a conversation on all things chamber music. They explore the theatrical aspects of live performance, and Joshua gives us a window into the mind of a curator, offering us snapshots of his process for choosing musicians and arranging lineups each season.

After that, Jini and Joshua discuss stand-out elements of each of the concerts in our 2018-19 Town Music season. For the first performance, Sideshow by Talea Ensemble (15:50), Roman highlights the theatrical spin that the piece brings to chamber music—utilizing props, facial expressions and tightly controlled body movements to evoke the dark surreal nature of 20th-century Coney Island freak shows. Then he takes a look at Third Coast Percussion (18:20), the Grammy-winning Chicago quartet who will be presenting an avant garde percussion quartet commissioned by Philip Glass—his first-ever for percussion! Jini and Joshua also touch on Piano Ki Avaaz (22:00), the piano trio commissioned by rising star composer Reena Esmail. The piece is her first-ever piano trio composition, and it utilizes her signature techniques of incorporating Indian classical music into western classical style. And finally, Jini and Joshua explore Bach to Bates (25:12)—a concert juxtaposing classical works by Bach alongside cutting-edge commissions from Grammy-nominated composer Mason Bates, who employs a unique integration of electronic sounds and styles into his symphonic compositions.

Get inside the mind of a curator in this special episode, and learn about all the ways you can experience the cutting edge of chamber music and enjoy classical repertoire in new ways.

Listening Guide: In the Moment Episode 28

In this 2018 recap episode, host Jini Palmer speaks with Megan Castillo, Town Hall’s Community Engagement Manager, about our community’s responses on social media about favorite Town Hall moments (2:15) and then Jini and Steve highlight a selection of interviews which didn’t make it into previous episodes. Speakers include: Blair Imani with Monica Guzman (31:25); Arnie Duncan with Steve Scher (33:28); Denise Hearn with Alex Gallo-Brown (37:58); Rob Reich with Steve Scher (40:10); Randy Shaw with Tammy Morales (44:44); David Reich with Steve Scher (47:19); David Hu with Grace Hamilton (51:41); and Michael Hebb with Lesley Hazleton (53:27). Get an insider’s look and stay in the know about what’s going on in this moment at Town Hall.

Listening Guide: In the Moment Episode 27

In episode #27 of In The Moment, our correspondent Tammy Morales interviews Randy Shaw (2:17) about the rising price of housing. Shaw cites a 50-year-old federal law which states that the government would be responsible for providing citizens with houses. But that law has been ignored, and widespread access to homes has been left to the whim of the free market. They explore the factors which have led to the commodification of housing. Shaw and Morales discuss potential strategies for rescuing the housing market from rising prices and the grip of scarcity—strategies like up-zoning, rent control, investment in low-income communities, public housing, and mobilizing communities to vote for changes to local land-use policies.

Chief Correspondent Steve Scher talks with Octavio Solis (13:12) about the dreams of Solis’ past. Solis relates his impetus to record his own history in the manner of retablos—a form of Mexican folk art—and how if he doesn’t write them down they will remain dreams. He explores the ways which he becomes a character in his own stories, a fresh-faced figure who is naive and learns a lot by falling on his face. Solis also talks about how the Chicanos changed the culture of lowrider cars—a metaphor for how two cultures can change and merge to form an entirely new one.

And host Jini Palmer conducted a backstage interview with Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie (22:25)—the creators of the hit podcast Limetown—along with Cote Smith, the author of the series’ prequel novel. They discuss Akers’ and Bronkie’s journey in making Limetown, outlining their favorite parts of the process. They explore the reasons they chose the avenue of audio instead of film or book, and reveal the auditory science behind their approach. They also discuss Smith’s new novel and all the ways that the Limetown world is expanding into different mediums. Akers and Bronkie reflect on the life they’ve made out of the initial idea they had nearly 5 years ago.

Still Curious?
-Read about the latest real estate trends and the future of Seattle housing with these articles from The Seattle Times.
-PBS offers us a video interview with Octavio Solis, highlighting his experiences growing up as a “skinny brown kid” in El Paso.
-Learn more about the history and culture of retablo paintings.
-Season 2 of Limetown is now available—check out their website to listen!

Listening Guide: In the Moment Episode 26


In episode #26, correspondent Alex Gallo-Brown speaks with Denise Hearn (1:55) about her book The Myth of Capitalism. They explore the notion that our apparently open capitalist society is being undermined by a few goliath corporations who are stifling the competitive market. They discuss workers’ rights, de-unionization, racial inequity, non-compete clauses, mandatory arbitration (which prevents workers from filing class action lawsuits), consumer activism (how we vote with our dollars), and much more.

Chief Correspondent Steve Scher interviews Alex Rosenblat (14:23) about her research on Uber—and the ways consumers and workers are at risk of manipulation by the company’s algorithms. Rosenblat contests Uber’s claim to be a middleman, revealing how the company has quietly separated what passengers pay and what drivers pay in order to charge passengers more without giving drivers their fair share. She outlines the difficulties employees face when unionizing or pursuing legal action, and the precarious situation of having an algorithm for a boss.

Steve also shares a short interview with political scientist Rob Reich (26:57). They discuss the problematic effects of philanthropy on democratic society, and Reich advocates for a shift in the public perception from one of gratitude to criticism. Reich asserts that the very-wealthy are leveraging private resources to influence public policy, which in turn is undermining the idea of democracy.

The feature this episode highlights our program on November 7 with L.A. Kauffman (29:25). She makes the case that grassroots organizing—not the democratic party—was the hero of our last midterm election. Kauffman shares the startling revelation that more people have protested since Trump took office than ever in history, and encourages us all to continue to stand strongly for the values that we hold dear.

Still Curious?

-Writer and former labor organizer Alex Gallo-Brown interviewed Annelise Orleck about the worldwide laborers’ movement of the 21st century. You can explore Alex’s work here, and listen to their conversation here.

-Denise Hearn curates her own blog—take a read!

-The Seattle Times posted an article earlier this month which puts a local spin on the ongoing conversation about Uber’s practices surrounding transparency of information and fair treatment of workers.

-Columnist Anand Giridharadas spoke on Town Hall’s stage in September earlier this year about the problematic aspects of philanthropy in America. The discussion resonates with Rob Reich’s own ideas—check out our recording of Anand’s event.

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