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.
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.
-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.
Somehow, in all the years I’ve lived in Seattle, I haven’t found my way to Mercer Island. I know it’s not that far, so it’s not like I couldn’t find the time. After all, the first week I was here I hit all the guidebook hotspots—the bridge troll, the gum wall, the Space Needle. Over the years I’ve caught up on some of the must-do spots and best kept secrets as well. I’ve hung out at KEXP’s Gathering Room and taken in a live broadcast while enjoying some coffee from La Marzocco. I’ve chased away the winter with some mead from the White Horse Tavern in Post Alley. And now, thanks to the energetic lineup of SeaJAM, I’m finally going to make it to Mercer Island in style!
SeaJAM is a weekend-long festival (December 8-9) hosted at the Stroum Jewish Community Center. They’re jamming all weekend long in celebration of Hanukkah, and they’ve put together an amazing festival of Jewish and/or Israeli dance, comedy, music, theater, and more. Saturday features performances by klezmer champion David Krakauer, legendary funk trombonist Fred Wesley, and hip-hop renegade Socalled. That’s a collision of musical styles I’m excited to see!
On Sunday morning I’ll wake up early and take in some Mercer Island scenery. I’ve heard good things about the hikes in Pioneer Park (always open to trail suggestions!), and I’ll need something to energize before the festivities start back up at noon. For all the parents out there, make sure you stop by and see indie-pop band The LeeVees at their 1:00PM performance for the “Hanukkah Rocks” Family Dance Party. There are also plenty of Hanukkah games and art (although you’ll find me by the food trucks.)
To pass the time until the shows that evening, I’ll probably check out Island Books. I’m a frequent visitor to Seattle’s wide array of bookstores, including Elliott Bay Books, Third Place Books, and of course Twice Sold Tales.
Then on Sunday night I’ll find a seat for a new dance performance from emerging choreographer/dancer Rebecca Margolick and composer/graphic artist Maxx Berkowitz, as well as an appearance by comedian Cathy Ladman. She’s been on The Tonight Show nine times, written for TV sitcoms, and appeared in Charlie Wilson’s War,Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and most recently Modern Family.
SeaJAM has something for everyone, whether it’s comedy, food, art, a family dance party—or if you’re like me, a chance to finally explore a part of Seattle that you’ve been missing out on. See you there!
On October 23rd, Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent, made their explosive appearance on Town Hall’s stage to celebrate the release of their new book She Wants It: Desire Power and Toppling the Patriarchy. For an evening of raucous conversation and feminist debating, they were joined by special guests Hannah Gadsby, Morgan Parker, Nicole J. Georges, and Faith Soloway.
If you’d like to revisit the evening’s discussion, or if you weren’t able to make it to the event, take a look at the photos below, taken by Libby Lewis.
The evening begins with a bustling crowd as friends exchange excited greetings and fill the hall in preparation for Jill and company. (Town Hall’s own Edward Wolcher is excited too!)
Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby brings the house down with an opening comedy routine.
An interlude from musical guest Faith Soloway, who plays a tune to welcome Jill to the stage.
Jill talks with Morgan Parker in preparation for her conversation with Nicole J. Georges and their session of feminist debating—a social sport of Jill’s own design.
Nicole takes the stage with Morgan, and the crowd listens with rapt attention.
After the show, the crowd arrives for book signings and a chance to meet these powerhouse speakers in person. Audience members show off their Soloway swag, and the speakers pose together.
Soloway fans gather for drinks and conversation at a post-event reception. So many were ecstatic to meet Jill and get their books signed!
Since the tragedies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the March For Our Lives movement has taken a stand against senseless gun violence. Town Hall was proud to offer these students a platform to speak to our community, share their experiences, and and discuss Glimmer of Hope, the book exploring the stories and struggles of the March For Our Lives movement and its founders.
In episode #25 of In The Moment, correspondent Mónica Guzmán talks with author and nonprofit founder Blair Imani (1:46) about Blair’s experience during a rally-turned-protest. Blair describes how the event led to her getting sent to prison, which in turn helped propel her visibility as a queer, black, Muslim activist.
Chief Correspondent Steve Scher sat down with Peter Sagal (13:50), host of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”. They delve into a personal biography about how running has shaped Peter’s thinking and his life—and how it continues to help him get through tough times. Peter shares the story of crossing the finish line at the 2013 Boston marathon moments before the fateful bombing. Steve and Peter also discuss the factors that motivated Peter to write his book—from a hard year of divorce and not speaking with his children to the 14 marathons he’s run and the feelings that those experiences have made him want to share.
Jini Palmer meets with Ijeoma Oluo (24:17) to talk about her takeaway from Jill Soloway’s appearance on Town Hall’s stage on October 23. Ijeoma tells Jini about how she finds feminist arguing to be more of an exhausting practice than a sport, and how important it is to get facts right if you have the stage. Ijeoma also addresses a misquote from Nicole Georges about Lindy West (who Ijeoma was sitting next to during the event) reminding us that it’s important to stay fired up and encouraging us to give these issues their due of knowledge and consideration.
Social change isn’t just an idea. It’s people on the street forming demonstrations, rallies, and movements that prove the power of collective action. Town Hall is proud to feature two speakers whose work is tapped into that action, and who join us to introduce the people who are embodying change today.
L.A. Kauffman (11/7) has spent more than thirty years immersed in radical movements as a participant, strategist, journalist, and observer. She shares her front-line perspective, delving into the history of America’s major demonstrations to teach us how to read a protest. With insight on protestors ranging from their overall organization and makeup to the signs they carry, Kauffman explores the nuanced relationship between the way movements are made and the impact they have.
At the heart of these movements there are often individuals—and activist Blair Imani (11/9) intends to make sure they are not forgotten. She shines a light on under-celebrated individuals who have made huge contributions to critical social movements over the last century, but who are often overlooked due to their backgrounds or communities of origin. Imani offers us a radical and inclusive approach to history, celebrating women and nonbinary champions of progressive social change.
People drive progress. These speakers remind us that it’s critical to remember the individuals who’ve made social change possible. Listen in and learn about what it means to be the first one to the streets—and the kind of difference we can make when we demonstrate together.
As the summer heat dies down and the leaves start to fall, we’re seeing our historic renovation come together. During the summer our friends at Rafn Construction focused on strengthening the structure at the attic and roof levels, as well as installing the pathways and infrastructure for the building’s new systems. While we love seeing the progress of the repairs on the building’s exterior—with the restored terra cotta and repaired roof—it’s the interior systems that have us most excited right now.
Roofing work started in September, which enabled the construction teams to begin performing moisture-sensitive work. They’ve been installing the new elevator and hanging drywall in mechanical shafts and parts of the Forum (previously “The Downstairs”). But as the weather starts changing, it’s time to get the roof and walls closed up, get heat into the building, and start putting in finish materials, such as drywall and plaster.
Closing walls means finalizing all of the systems inside them. Ventilation, hot water radiators, refrigerant-based heating and cooling, AV wiring and power, sprinklers, fire alarms, and performance lighting are just a few of the systems they’ve been installing and upgrading while the walls and ceilings are still open.
The interior of the building may look like a jungle of conduit and scaffolding right now, but closing up the walls marks a major step toward making Town Hall feel like home again. As the rooms start to look like their old selves (and in plenty of cases, their new selves) we will have more and more opportunities to see these state-of-the-art systems at work.
We can’t wait to feel the year-round comfort of the climate control and put the state-of-the-art sound system through its paces—and we want you there with us to experience it all next Spring!
Sometime in October, 2001 I first heard the opening musical strains of NPR’s “On Point.” They’re enrapturing, unmistakable—and as of 2001, practically untraceable. This was before most of us even knew how to use the internet. Few people had heard of a small online resource called Wikipedia (launched earlier that year) and it would be nearly a decade before music identification apps like Shazam would explode into ubiquity with the iPhone revolution. I had no way to know this was anything more than the program’s theme music—and once I did learn it was a real song, I had no way to track it down. But when I first heard the jaunty snares and hypnotic guitar loop that announced the start of the program, I knew I wanted more. (That particular tune is “Everything Is Alright” by Four Tet, in case you’re curious.)
I was so fascinated to sit down with Town Hall’s Digital Media Producer Jini Palmer to learn about some of the opening music she uses in our Town Hall podcast series.
Frequent radio and podcast listeners are no doubt familiar with the practice of bookending a program with a few bars of catchy ramp-up music. And plenty of listeners will know the peculiar and unique chagrin of loving the ten seconds of theme song that opens their favorite podcast, but having no idea how to locate the full song. That’s why I was so fascinated to sit down with Town Hall’s Digital Media Producer Jini Palmer to learn about some of the opening music she uses in our Town Hall podcast series.
Recently Jini has been updating the series podcasts to feature opening music from the local label Barsuk Records. She’s selecting songs that she thinks speak to the character of each podcast series, transporting listeners to the right headspace while highlighting each show’s individuality. As I listened to these tracks, I was struck by how much each one had its own distinctive flair—which got me wondering about what it would be like to hear these artists perform on Town Hall’s stage.
For the opening song of our Arts & Culture series podcast, Jini chose the languid pop track “Eleanor” by Hibou, the echoing shoegaze-synth solo project of artist Peter Michel. “This song is from Hibou’s first album, and this particular song is kind of a breakdown of the album’s style.” Jini says. “This one has all the same elements that I enjoy in many of their songs, like the synth-drums and ringing guitar, but with a more measured tone that seemed appropriate for introducing the Arts & Culture lectures.”
But Hibou’s breakneck melodic dream pop isn’t absent from our podcast series altogether—the opening music for Town Hall’s insider podcast In The Moment is in fact “Dissolve,” the very first song of Hibou’s self-titled album. And as listeners of In The Moment can attest, those first driving seconds of Hibou’s energy seem relentlessly committed to putting you in a good mood. I wondered aloud to Jini about the possibility of bringing Hibou to Town Hall in person to perform the theme song at a potential live recording of In The Moment. “That sounds great,” Jini chirps, “and I’m sure Hibou would bring great energy. But a live In The Moment still seems a long way off.”
She turns my attention to a different track: “Eating Paper” by David Bazan. The song’s rhythmic rock guitar—alongside steady ringing tones with a curiosity-piquing timbre from an instrument I can’t quite place—comprise the theme music for our Civics series podcast. “I can imagine David Bazan playing to a packed Forum, with all the chairs full and standing room in the new Library and Bar.” As I listen, I can understand why. Bazan’s lyrics are provocative and profoundly down-to-earth. His honest, confessional tone seems to beg for a more personal performance—the kind that Town Hall’s new Forum or Reading Room are perfectly designed for.
“Or maybe in the Great Hall?” The comment startles me; I had pictured Bazan as such a perfect fit for the Forum that it almost feels wrong to move him, even hypothetically. But her reasoning makes sense. “Could you imagine what it would be like to hear him with the acoustic reflector?” I can. The old Great Hall admittedly had some sound quality issues: dead spots, audio distribution trouble, uneven volume depending on where you sat. The new acoustic reflector will deliver higher quality sound evenly throughout the Hall, and is designed to work with amplified, unamplified, and acoustic music. The songs on David Bazan’s album Strange Negotiations (where Jini discovered “Eating Paper”) switch effortlessly between acoustic, rock, and folk—and seem to live somewhere in between.
I was struck by how much each one had its own distinctive flair—which got me wondering about what it would be like to hear these artists perform on Town Hall’s stage.
Our Science series opening song was a bit of a dark horse, but the selection spoke to Jini’s peculiar sense of humor. She selected multi-instrumentalist Eric Elbogen, a.k.a. Say Hi To Your Mom (or just Say Hi for short) to lend us the gently grooving guitar-and-synth chords of his track “Galaxies Will Be Born.” It’s a deliciously ironic choice, given that the lyrics to every song on that album are pretty much exclusively about the life and times of vampires!
“I chose [this song] because the guitar reminded me of stars twinkling. That, combined with the song’s name, made it relate in my mind to Science since we have so many Astronomy events,” Jini explains. “Plus I thought it was a funny juxtaposition to open our Science talks with a song from an album that’s about mythical creatures like vampires. Most people wouldn’t necessarily make that connection unless they were familiar with the album and what it’s about, so it’s mostly just a joke for me.”
The song certainly primes Science listeners with a kind of pensive quality, but Say Hi’s creatures-of-the-night theme took me in a bit of a different direction. Eric’s music would make a fantastic complement to Seattle Radio Theatre’s annual live Halloween broadcasts at Town Hall, such as last year’s popular show Chimes At Midnight or this season’s live broadcast of Orson Welles’ fateful classic War of the Worlds on October 25, 2018. It’d be a real treat to see Say Hi join the live music accompaniment section for a Seattle Radio Theatre show—but sadly that’s just a beautiful dream. For now, we’ll have to make do with rocking out to his catchy vampire-themed album Bleeder’s Digest on the way to the show.
As our conversation draws to a close, Jini delights me with news of her runner-up musical choice. “I was considering using something by The Long Winters,” she tells me. “I almost went with their song ‘Unsalted Butter’ for the Arts & Culture podcast, and ‘Scared Straight’ for Civics. I like both of those songs a lot, and I dig The Long Winters. But they just weren’t the perfect fit like the other bands. Barsuk has so much good stuff, it was hard to pick.” The comment encourages me to dig deeper into the archives of other bands on the Barsuk record label—and there are plenty of great options to choose from. It’s strange the way we come to learn about amazing music, and how we come full circle. Exploring the origins of theme music back in 2001 inspired me to do the same for Town Hall’s podcasts and fall in love with the music on Barsuk records. And at the end of it all I re-encounter The Long Winters—a group I discovered several years ago because they’ve lent one of their songs to another podcast to use as a theme song.
I can imagine The Long Winters really putting Town Hall’s new acoustic system through its paces, and how they’d certainly bring the house down as headliners at one of our annual Distilled fundraisers or a reopening celebration for our newly renovated building. Of course, I know a Long Winters concert at Town Hall is purely hypothetical. Indeed, so would be a performance by Hibou, David Bazan, or Say Hi. For now I’ll have to make do with the first ten seconds of our podcasts.
But we’ve come a long way since 2001—this time I know where to find the songs.
Barsuk Records has been kind enough to let us use songs from their incredible repertoire. Take a look at their website to find more amazing groups like the ones features on Town Hall’s podcasts.
Episode #24 of In The Moment brings us a conversation between Chief Correspondent Steve Scher and Seattleness co-author Natalie Ross (2:50). She details the things she loves about Seattle, and reveals her history as a Geography major and how it morphed into a focus on landscape architecture and interest in maps. Together, Natalie and Steve discuss the fascinating new insight that comes from examining information from a topographical perspective—and an opportunity to see the place we live in a different light.
Steve also sits in with Dr. Marie Wong (13:04) about the upheaval of land value that’s happening in Seattle’s International District. Wong explains how developers are swooping in and purchasing one-story buildings with the intent to redesign them for newer (and more expensive) purposes. Wong outlines the harmful effects of this practice and explores the potential consequences of this new wave of developments—whose rise may precipitate an exodus of local businesses who can no longer afford to remain in the International District.
Town Hall Correspondent Grace Hamilton interviews David Hu (15:45) about cutting-edge research in the field of animal locomotion and behavior, and how new discoveries are yielding benefits in a vast array of fields, from robotics to food conservation. Hu enlightens us on the topics that are intriguing scientists the most, including the water-storage capacity of cat tongues and the rapid food waste breakdown capabilities of the black soldier fly larvae.
And Edward Wolcher (28:01), Town Hall’s Curator of Lectures, offers us an update on the November calendar. He talks about upcoming Town Hall programs surrounding the rapidly approaching mid-term elections, including our Election Night Viewing Party. Edward also highlights a handful of more lighthearted Town Hall events taking place following the elections—in case audiences need a break from intense political discussion.
Interested in the history and future of Seattle’s districts? Last season Erik Molano, one of our Inside/Out Neighborhood Residents, put together events about two of Seattle’s neighborhoods. Check out out recordings of these events about the history and future of both Capitol Hill and the Central District.
Last year, Grace Hamilton interviewed Yale Ornithologist Richard Prum about animal mate choice and the evolution of beauty. Listen to her interview here.
Edward Wolcher has appeared on In The Moment a few times before. You can hear him again in Episode #10 and Episode #22 (or onstage giving introductions at many Town Hall events!)