What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “The Junior Prom takes place tonight at the Masonic Temple” and, “The Smith College Club of Seattle is giving a series of dances at the Women’s University Club to aid in raising the $4,000,000 endowment fund for their alma mater.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

Gracing the cover of the February 7, 1920 Town Crier was none other than Mrs. Margaret P. McLean. McLean taught at Cornish College and was to give a dramatic reading of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables to rapt and adoring fans.

Town Hall fans, there are a variety of events involving drama this very month on our stages:

February 12: Diane Rehm: When My Time Comes. Arguably the most dramatic event in one’s life is at the end of it. Rehm talks with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds about the Right-to-Die movement.

February 15: Julie Blacklow: Diary of a Badass Reporter. Blacklow was among the first generation of women in television news in the United States.

February 19: Pacific Flyway: Waterbird Migration from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego. The incredible stories of migratory birds and their challenges for survival. 

February 25: Susan Fowler: Fighting Sexual Harassment in Silicon Valley. A chronicle of her stand against the pervasive culture of sexism, harassment, racism, and abuse at Uber.

For our full calendar of Town Hall events visit us here. Most tickets are only $5 (and FREE to anyone under the age of 22). We look forward to having you join us. 

A Five-Decade Debate as Important as Ever: James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr.

On February 20 at Town Hall, Nick Buccola brings to the the stage a debate about race reverberating 50 years on. 

“I knew I was black, of course, but I also knew I was smart. I didn’t know how I was going to use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to use.” James Baldwin grew up poor in Harlem in New York City. His stepfather treated him harshly, so from a young age Baldwin retreated to libraries where he read and started to write. By his 35th birthday, he’d become one of America’s great writers, penning such books as Go Tell It On the Mountain and Notes of a Native Son. He also came to be considered one of America’s great thinkers and human rights advocates, stepping forward to guide critical discussions in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“Liberals claim they want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” William F. Buckley Jr. was born in 1925, not long after Baldwin, in the same city. Privileged, his mother filled their home with servants and tutors. Buckley attended Yale, became an informant for the FBI, and worked for a time with the CIA. He also founded National Review, a publication that has become a prominent voice on the American right and has played a significant role in the development of conservatism in the United States.

These two men—diametrically opposed intellectuals—met at the University of Cambridge on February 18, 1965. There they debated the question “Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro?” Yes, said Baldwin. “I picked the cotton, and I carried it to market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing.” No, said Buckley. “The fact that your skin is black is utterly irrelevant to the arguments you raise.” Buckley positioned himself in the debate as a reasonable moderate, one that resisted social transformations Baldwin sought—in particular, desegregation. “The fundamental friend of the Negro people of the United States is the good nature and is the generosity and the good wishes…the fundamental decency,” Buckley said, “of the American people.”  

Fifty-some years later, debates on race relations are still at the fore of our country. Viewpoints on race are still in sharp contrast; in a 2018 Gallup Poll 54% of non-Hispanic whites said black and white relations are good, as opposed to 40% of blacks who said the same. This is marked drop even from 2001 where 70% of blacks said relations were good—more so, at that time, than whites (62%).

On February 20, Linfield College professor of political science Nicholas Buccola joins us to tell the full story of the Baldwin Buckley debates. His book The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William Buckley Jr, and the Debate Over Race in America explores the radically different paths of Baldwin and Buckley and the controversies that followed their fraught conversations. Buccola shows how the decades-long clash between these two men illuminates America’s racial divide today and echoes the necessary work still to be done by liberals and conservatives alike. 

Buccola delves into Baldwin and Buckley’s conversation as a remarkable story of race and the American dream that still resonates today—an unforgettable confrontation that pitted Baldwin’s call for a moral revolution in race relations against Buckley’s unabashed elitism and implicit commitment to white supremacy.


Join us on February 20 for this important talk. Tickets are on sale now ($5, and FREE for anyone under the age of 22).

The debate:

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Mrs. Myra Pless will be hostess this evening at a supper dance in honor of lieutenant commander Robert Bachmann of the USS Tennessee” and, “Captain Roald Amundsen, the noted Arctic explorer, will be the honor guest at a dinner given by the Rainier Club.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?” 

Today’s entry…

The Big Game is this weekend. The San Francisco 49ers will be playing the Kansas City Chiefs for the NFL trophy. It’ll be East vs. West. East, to us, anyway. In the December 10, 1921 edition of the Town Crier, they were discussing the football teams of both sides of the country in a brief story about the UW Huskies. “The football game last Saturday lent additional support to the belief that some of us have been cherishing in our breasts for, lo, these many years, though only of late have we been sufficiently iconoclast to whisper it,” the story begins. “It is to the broad and general effect that out here in this wild and woolly west we raise a crop of athletes that is superior to any to be found elsewhere in the world.” The Town Crier writers would undoubtedly be cheering for the 49ers this weekend. “It has been satisfactorily demonstrated that apples, oranges, and other fruits, wheat, oats, and other grains, trees, stock of various kinds, and pretty nearly everything else that grows in this part of the country sets a standard of superiority for all other sections to aspire to, so why should not the rule hold true with young men?” 49ers fans, indeed! The Chiefs, Town Crier prognosticators believe, are going down thanks to our ample supply of fruits and grains.

After watching the game, or the commercials between the game, come back to Town Hall in February for a variety of great events that you’ll cheer for.

Diane Ravitch joins us February 4 to discuss the fight to save public schools.

On the same night Bob Redmond will moderate a panel discussion about bees, guts, soil, and cancer.

On February 5th, with Gage Academy of Art, the artist Gary Hill takes the Town Hall stage.

Rick Steves returns to Town Hall on February 6 with a message of hope.

The Westerlies will play their signature music with the spoken word stylings of Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye on February 8.

Whether you’re coming from the West or East (say…Bellevue), tickets are on sale now! We assure you they’re cheaper than football tickets! Most are $5 and free for anyone under the age of 22.

For our full calendar visit us here.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Now that the holidays are over there is an aftermath of deadly quiet in social circles” and, “In celebration of the wedding day of George and Martha Washington, the Rainier Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is giving an elaborate card party at the Scottish Rite Temple.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

There was an ad in the January 17, 1920 Town Crier for Violet Tatum Hats. “Already-are hats appearing in the shiny straws and bright flowers- suggesting early Spring.” Hats were a big thing in the 1920s. And Spring is a big thing at Town Hall.

True, Spring 2020 doesn’t begin in the Northern Hemisphere until Thursday, March 19 but Town Hall’s got an early spring with a plethora of events. For instance:

January 17: Mozart Birthday Toast. Raise your glass to celebreate Mozart’s birthday with an evening of intimate masterpieces by one of the most beloved composers of all time. The concert will be performed by Byron Schenkman and friends.

January 31: Lyric World. How can poetry expand our understanding of civic life? Poet and former Town Hall Artist-In-Residence Shin Yu Pai invites us to the first of her Lyric World discussions, exploring the role of poetry as it stokes our curiosity and gives voice and attention to the human experience.. 

February 8: Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye. As part of Westerlies Fest 2020, spoken word poets Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye join the Seattle-bred, New York-based brass quartet The Westerlies.

February 9: Ensemble Caprice. Early Music Seattle presents a rendition of Vivaldi’s Montezuma.It is a semi-staged opera production reconstructed and reimagined by Ensemble Caprice Musical Director Matthias Maute.

February 22: Showtunes Theatre Company’s 20th Anniversary Gala. It will be a night filled with laughter, music, memories, and surprises.

February 23: North Corner Chamber Orchestra. “Through the Glass,” the third concert cycle in NOCCO’s 2019-20 season, shines a light on important though often forgotten elements of our musical fabric: women composers and young performers.

February 29: Miguel Zenon Quartet. Earshot Jazz brings one of the most groundbreaking and influential saxophonists of his generation. 

March 1: Haram with special guest Marc Ribot. Our Global Rhythms series continues with Haram, a Vancouver-based group led by Juno Award-winning oud virtuoso Gordon Grdina. Also on stage will be legendary guitarist Marc Ribot.

Come on out to Town Hall before Spring. Wearing shiny straws and bright flowers is entirely optional! We’re looking to seeing you.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “The Garden Club Convention, with meetings, luncheons, and dinners goes up to Friday, then guests leave for a Mount Rainier trip” and, “Miss Jasmine Eddy is motoring home from Harvard.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

The July 7, 1930 edition of the Town Crier had an ad highlighting the University Book Store. They were telling folks buying gifts for new brides and grooms that “there is nothing that so pleases as the wedding present of the thoughtful – a gift of books.” Indeed, “These remain in the library when other gifts have disappeared, a constant reminder of the giver, and a constant source of pleasure to the married couple.”

Another constant source of pleasure in Seattle since January 10, 1900? The University Book Store. They first opened for business that day in a cloakroom next to the University president’s office in Denny Hall. Today, it is one of the great college stores in the country. Although it is one of more than 5,000 college stores in the United States, it is third in total sales volume and leads all college stores in the sale of books and supplies.

Happy birthday, University Book Store! We, at Town Hall, congratulate the bookstore for their gift of books throughout the years to the community at large and thank them for their lasting and fruitful partnership with us.

To learn more about the bookstore’s history, go here. To learn more about their coming events, go here. To learn more about Town Hall’s coming events, go here.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “A number of friends motored up to Seattle to partake in a dinner dance hosted by Mrs. Edward Agnew,” and, “Mrs. Darrah Corbett celebrated Christmas day with a tree.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

The Seattle Symphony placed an ad in the December 27, 1919 edition of the Town Crier. They were excited about their coming January 20 performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, his “Eroica” symphony. Tickets were priced at 50 cents to two dollars.

Speaking of Beethoven, 2020 is the 250 anniversary of his birth. On January 12 Town Hall will host Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Winter Festival Preview. Taking place in the Forum, Beethoven scholar Geoffrey Block, musicologist and author of Experiencing Beethoven: A Listener’s Companion, will present a brief overview of the composition of Beethoven’s string quartets, which traversed the breadth of his compositional life.

The event is only $5 (free for anyone under the age of 22). That’s music to your ears, isn’t it?

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Mrs. Frederick Bentley will have a Christmas Day dinner at her home for 14 guests,” and, “Mrs. A.W. Hawley entertained on Wednesday afternoon with an interesting ‘Hour of Magic’.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

Town Crier writers lamented loose talking in the December 20 edition. “Never has there been a time when straight thinking was needed than right now. Loose talking needs a padlock.” It continues, “Every hour we hear and read radical opinions expressed, by those who by tradition and training should be leaders in our community, which if acted upon would inevitably lead to crime and blood-shed.” Town Crier writers feared the worst. “The man with a low-grade mentality broods over fancied wrongs and it takes only a little to put him into the criminal class and that is furnished more often than we think by the loose talking of those who should know better.”

There seems to never have been a time than now when straight thinking is what we need. Lies and half-truths run rampant. Few know that more than Samuel Woolley. Woolley, a writer and researcher with a focus on emerging media technologies will be on Town Hall’s stage on January 9 to discuss his new book, The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth. He cautions that technology may soon play an even deeper role in the rise of disinformation—with human-like automated voice systems, machine learning, “deepfake” AI-edited videos and images, interactive memes, virtual reality, and more. Can we survive the onslaught? Tickets are on sale now ($5 and free for anyone 22 and under). 

The 1919 Town Crier story continued, “A thoughtful man said the other day, ‘I’ve had wide experience and know many people of all classes but I’ve never known a good man or a good woman; I’ve never known a bad man or a bad woman. There never was one of either kind – everyone is a blend of both.’ It takes straight thinking to get to that point.” It concludes, “The majority allows others to think for them. It is far easier. Today the issues facing everyone of us require cool and careful thinking and no loose talking.”

There’s plenty of straight thinking at Town Hall. There’s plenty of cool and careful thinking and no loose talking. Join us for an event sometime soon. Our online calendar can be found here.

Some Information about Misinformation: A Conversation with Samuel Woolley

 

Information literacy is an essential ingredient in a healthy democracy. Samuel Woolley will arrive on Town Hall’s stage on January 9 to discuss his new book The Reality Game. It shows how the breakneck rate of technological change is making information literacy nearly impossible. Woolley argues for a new culture of invention, one built around accountability, and especially transparency.

He recently sat down with Town Hall’s Jonathan Shipley to discuss bots, bias, and Facebook.

JS: What initially got you interested in misinformation?

SW: I first got interested in digital misinformation during the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street—offline protests that made serious use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to organize and communicate. I noticed, during these protests and participants’ use of digital tools, that the internet wasn’t only getting used for democratic ideals or to aid the people fighting back against authoritarian regimes. In fact, it looked like the regimes and their supporters were also using these same social media platforms in attempts to artificially amplify their own talking points. They were building armies of fake accounts—known as sock puppets and, when automated, political bots—to massively spin things in their favor. A small group of researchers, including my collaborator Philip Howard and I, quickly discovered that these coordinated “computational propaganda” (as we began calling them) campaigns were also being used to attack and defame opposition leaders. Bot armies were simultaneously co-opting the hashtags the activists were using to coordinate and filling them with misinfo, spam and noise—making it so the platforms became less viable tools for communication. After running early analyses on these circumstances, we began to widen our net to focus on whether similar tactics were being used around the globe. The punchline is well known to most people now, but suffice it to say that we found similar tactics being used during almost all online conversations surrounding the elections and other important events we examined—from Australia to Venezuela.

JS: What can we do, John and Jane Q. Public, do to combat it? How can we tell fact from fiction these days?

SW: I think that the public should have hope for several reasons, and also that there are several things we can do to combat misinfo, disinfo, and computational propaganda. First, it’s important to note that the very fact that we are having serious public discussions about the problems associated with misinfo and “fake news” (though I prefer not to use this particular term) is a win for truth. Those who work to spread fiction, for political purposes or otherwise, have a much harder time spreading junk news and other informational garbage when people are savvy to the problem—as some have said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant” when it comes to such issues. When my teammates and I first started studying and reporting on these problems in 2013, it was very difficult to get anyone, let alone tech firms, to pay attention. Now, stories about misinformation are everywhere you look. 

Social media firms are also responding, some more effectively than others. 

There are also tools people can use to track social media bot accounts and false narratives. BotOmeter allows people to plug in Twitter accounts handles and, using numerous parameters, learn if a suspicious account is actually automated. BotCheck.me, from RoBhat Labs in Berkeley, has similar uses. The team at RoBhat also have tools like NewsBotAI, which assesses bias in news articles, Surfsafe.me, which assesses author credibility, and FactCheck.me, which works for cluster automated behaviour and improve response times to misinfo attacks. On top of this, teams at the Center for Media Engagement at UT Austin, FirstDraft, Data and Society, the SMaPP Lab at NYU, the Digital Intelligence Lab at IFTF,  the German Marshall Fund, the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council and others are constantly releasing top notch research and deploying exciting new tools to combat misinformation and bolster solid reporting.

JS: Are our social media channels too far gone? Twitter, I know, recently banned political ads. Will that prove at all effective? Why/why not?

SW: The largest social media companies,Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc., face the serious challenge of catching up to a problem that has existed on their platforms for a decade. For the longest time, they were doing little more than deleting the automated accounts they chanced upon. They did not, by their own admission, do nearly enough about the issue of political manipulation on their platforms. They set their sights on growing as fast as possible without thoughts to the informational repercussions that came with this massive scaling. It’s hard for me to see this unfettered growth, alongside the disregard for how they were damaging democratic communication, for anything other than greed and negligence. Finally, though, the executives at the companies are beginning to take responsibility and they are deploying serious resources towards fighting back against misinformation and other forms of manipulation online. 

Really, though, it is the researchers and engineers at these companies who I have the most faith in. They are the ones with the serious know-how, and they’ve shown they want to do something. It was these employees that spoke back against Zuckerberg’s recent move to allow to allow politicians to spread disinformation in Facebook ads in the name of “free speech.” It was them who fought back against (and eventually sunk) predatory payday loan ads and Google’s Project Maven AI drone project with the pentagon. Recent moves by Twitter to ban all political ads, or by Facebook’s near opposite move to allow some forms of political disinformation in ads, feel a little too cut and dry for my taste. These companies are being heavy-handed, likely for the sake of optics and marketing, rather than taking a nuanced approach to the problems. I mean, what exactly constitutes a “political” ad? And how can they allow the most influential among us to spread totally fake narratives? It seems like the companies are trying, and even trying hard, but that they’ve still got a lot of work to do. This makes me wonder, what new social media platforms will arise? How will new channels be built, from day one, in efforts to prevent the flow of misinfo?

JS: Facebook—friend or foe?

SW: Facebook, as I’ve mentioned, has a lot of problems and shoulders a serious share of the blame for the current fractured state of the global information ecosystem. Zuckerberg, Sandberg, and other executives at Facebook have become well known among the tech crowd, from external researchers like me to current and former Facebook employees, for tightly controlling their firm. They would do well to make the process of fixing the problems they’ve helped to create by allowing more democratic input from their own employees and outside experts. They should listen, and listen well, to their research team—which is full of capable, well-trained, social and computer scientists. 

Google also shares a huge share of the blame, but has gotten much less attention, mostly by remaining mum and towing the bogus line that they are “just a search company.” As if the world’s largest search firm hasn’t had a hand in allowing the information we see and consume on their engine to be manipulated and disinformative at several junctures throughout its brief history. They also own YouTube, which researchers like Alice Marwick and Becca Lewis have shown to be rife with white-supremacist, racist, and other seriously problematic content. Google needs to step up in a very big way. Twitter, because of its smaller size, is more a bit player in this drama—though they get a lot of attention because journalists and policy wonks hang out on the platform. In recent months, Twitter has arguably been doing more than its larger rivals to fight back with its political ads ban and other moves. What we chiefly need, though, is more collaboration between the firms. Right now they aren’t taking these issues on as a team. They are still trying to hide their cards from the companies they see as their opponents in the market when really they should be focusing on their opponents in the fight for the truth.

JS: Fake news stories. Twitter bots. Deepfake videos. What’s next on the misinformation front?

SW: I think the next frontiers for misinformation lie in innovations in Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and extended reality media. I’m also concerned about the realization of individualized political ad targeting and things like politically motivated geofencing. To date, the vast majority of social media bots we’ve seen have been clunky and brutish, usually just massively amplifying likes or re-posts on behalf of one political idea or person or in opposition to another. 

They’re the cheapest tool that has gotten the job done for those hoping to manipulate public opinion. With social media firms stepping up their responses to misinformation, and with innovations and price drops in AI tools, it’s likely we will begin seeing more convincingly human AI accounts. Whether these accounts will actually be able to convince people, rather than polarize and disgust them in the way their clunky-automated brethren have, remains to be seen. But we should be planning for AI to be deployed for manipulative information operations. Also worth thinking about: will AR and VR tools be used to spread propaganda? If so, how? I list examples in my new book of some ways this is already happening in places like China and beyond. We’ve got to get ahead of such uses of our emergent technology before they grow out of hand.

JS: Is technology moving at too fast a rate for us to keep up with it in regards to misinformation? 

SW: Yes and no. Yes, technology is growing too fast and we could really benefit from a “slow” technology movement like that discussed by Janell Burley Hoffman and others. We need a new direction in tech that focuses on thoughtful, ethically-made tools that are built with human rights in mind rather than growth and profit. But no, too, because I’m a firm believer that politics, scandal, and points of concern move like a pendulum. History shows us we tend to swing from one extreme to another, politically, culturally, economically, socially. We are lucky when we exist in times of relative balance. The way technology has allowed disinformation to scale through automation, and the way that features like anonymity prohibit our ability to catch the “bad-guys”—these things are scary but they aren’t insurmountable. Technology is not a runaway train, we aren’t dealing with HAL or Skynet here, we still have control and there are still many, many, things we can do. We can, for instance, built tools with the best features of humanity in mind. We can design for benevolence, equity and fairness. 

JS: What do you suggest the government (local/state/federal) do to stem this tide?

SW: Generate sensible policy! I say “sensible” because many of the attempts I’ve seen, from Europe to Brazil to the US, lack technological viability and tend towards heavy-handedness. We need governments and policy-makers to consult very closely with public interest technologists and social scientists who study technology so that they create laws and regulations that actually combat rather than complicate the problems at hand. I’m proud of politicians and political entities like Mark Warner and the City of Seattle that have worked to actually combat misinformation online. My other caution is, though, that we need systematic regulation to this problem. Fragmented laws—for instance amalgamations of divergent regulation at the local, state and federal levels—could hurt us in getting things done a lot more than they could help.


Learn more when Samuel Woolley talks misinformation on 1/9. Tickets are on sale now.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Youngsters, taking advantage of the cold snap, have hunted up the old ice skates of various vintages and are indulging themselves in the rare sport of skating,” and, “A party of ten married couples dined ‘Dutch’ last Wednesday evening.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

There was happiness and rejoicing in the December 13 edition of the Town Crier in regards to a Saturday concert. “There is going to be a wonderful treat given to the children of Seattle,” the Town Crier proclaimed. The Seattle Symphony, with the help of one Louise Van Ogle, would be doing a children’s concert. “The concert, which will be given in Meany Hall, will open with the ‘March of the Toys’ after Mrs. Van Ogle tells a story about the toys that will take part in the parade.” It continues, “Of course there will be a good many of them because they come from the workshop of the Wizard of Oz and everybody knows what a wonderful toymaker he was.” The concert concluded with some fancy Claude Debussy numbers.

Readers, you’ll be happy to know that there will be a wonderful treat given to the children of Seattle on January 18. Town Hall will be doing a children’s concert. As part of Town Hall’s Saturday Family Concert series, Senegalese percussionist Thione Diop will perform in Town Hall’s Forum. Diope’s powerfully expressive Djembe drumming evokes the heart of the instrument as a traditional cultural icon from West African used to call the people together. It’ll be a concert filled with music, dance, and culture. Tickets are free for youth and only $5 for adults. They’re on sale now!

Join us for a wonderful concert the whole family can enjoy.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Mrs. Frederic Struve gave a few friends on Friday the pleasure of meeting the Countess D’Ursel” and, “Mrs. Henry S. Tremper entertained sixteen small guests at luncheon on Saturday.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

The cover of the December 6, 1919 Town Crier features the children’s book department at the old Frederick & Nelson department store. The place, it was noted, was “a center of lively interest for children of all ages who are claiming this Book Land as their own especial property and enjoying it to the full.”

The Town Crier was full of good words about good books. A story about Book Land inside the issue stated, “It is a place that gleams with color…There are children everywhere: chairs are full, and there are rows of youngsters sitting contentedly on the floor lost to the world in books.”

Book Land is a good place to be. There have been a variety of studies on the benefits of children reading: brain health and empathy for a start. Behavior and attention for another. Simply growing up in a house with books has benefits.

Some people who know and love places like Book Land—Pamela Paul and Maria Russo. They’ll be chatting with Maria Semple on January 13, 2020 about their new book, How to Raise a Reader. Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review. Russo is the children’s book editor of the same publication. Semple is the author of the acclaimed novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette. The talk will explore new and lively approaches to cultivating a love of reading in younger generations.

Tickets for the event ($5 and free for anyone under the age of 22) are on sale now.

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