Listening Guide: In The Moment Ep. 37


In episode #37 of In The Moment, Chief Correspondent Steve Scher talked with Alva Noë (5:48) about the philosophy of baseball. Noë explores the benefits of a slow and easy game and how it provides time and room for reflection. He asserts that, in a way, we’re all playing the game by asking the same questions as the players do in the moment. The pair pays tribute to ex-Mariners player Ichiro Suzuki and the generational magic of watching a game with your kids, meeting the players, and catching a ball. 

Host Jini Palmer talked with Edward Wolcher and Megan Castillo (17:50), Town Hall’s Curator of Lectures and Community Engagement Manager, about our upcoming Homecoming festival in September. They tell us about the lineup of speakers, artists, and fun unique programs in store—what’s new, what to expect, and what to look out for. 


Still Curious?

-Hear a Big Think interview with Alva Noë discussing contemporary research on human consciousness.

-Join Edward Wolcher for a discussion on solving climate change in an August installment of Town Hall’s beloved Penny University series.

-Check out Town Hall’s Homecoming Festival lineup!

Listening Guide: In The Moment Ep. 36


In episode #36 of In The Moment, Correspondent Grace Madigan sits down with Ed Levine (3:33) to explore his journey and the inspirations that led him to create his food blog Serious Eats. Levine names some of his favorite foods and food memories, and delves into the ways his passion for food has always brought him joy.

Chief Correspondent Steve Scher talks with Charles Fishman (12:07) about the unsung heroes of NASA behind our trip to the moon. Although the astronauts got all the coverage at the time, Fishman talks about his fascination with the people involved behind the scenes. Fishman and Steve chat about how people love space—whether it’s the hardware, the equipment, or the museums. They close with a discussion of the ways in which the things we do on earth requires outreach and investment into space in the form of satellites and other infrastructure.

Host Jini Palmer highlights a segment from Lee McIntyre (21:49) in his June 3 program in defense of science. McIntyre contends that scientific evidence can’t be used to convince people who don’t believe in evidence. He tells us that in order to sway anti-evidence thinkers, we need to influence their reasoning and establishing trust. McIntyre outlines how people often believe speakers who they think they can trust rather than listening to facts, data, and science. With the rise of the information age, McIntyre asserts that people can go online and find multiple arguments—many of which are conspiratorial and unsupported—that support their views. He closes by arguing that this trend is creating what he calls a “culture of denial.”

Still Curious?

Charles Fishman appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air to discuss his upcoming book about the 1969 moon landing, One Giant Leap.

-Check out Ed Levine’s blog Serious Eats—just be prepared to get hungry!

In an interview with CBC Radio, Lee McIntyre expounds on the “culture of denial” facing modern science.

Listening Guide: In The Moment Ep. 34

Episode 34:

Bonus Content:

This listening guide is a two-parter! In episode #34 of In The Moment, Chief Correspondent Steve talks with Rachel Louise Snyder (5:25) about her research on domestic abuse and sexual intimate partner violence. Snyder upends many myths and misunderstandings about what is commonly called “domestic violence.” She outlines how even the language we use doesn’t fully capture its insidiousness. Snyder addresses domestic violence as a global epidemic and talks about how some people are trying to end it.

Host Jini Palmer covers a conversation between Executive Director Wier Harman and Town Hall founder David Brewster (15:51). Wier and David spoke at this year’s Director’s Dinner about Town Hall’s past, present and future. David gives us a glimpse into some of the problems he ran into when trying to get Town Hall off the ground, and they banter about the visions and plans for Town Hall that have stayed true since the beginning.

Then in a bonus episode, Correspondent Charles Cross talks with John Waters (1:08) about his transgressive movies, living with stars, and some shared moments in Seattle. Waters reflects on what he’s learned along the way and where he’s going now.


Still Curious?

-Rachel Louise Snyder has spoken in numerous segments on NPR’s “All Things Considered” as well as APM’s “Marketplace” and PRX’s “Global Guru” series.

-Interested in attending next year’s Director’s Dinner? Town Hall members get an invitation every year! To learn about other benefits of membership, visit our membership page.

-Check out this NPR spotlight featuring John Waters on the May 20, 2019 episode of Fresh Air.

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.

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.

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!

A Shield as a Weapon Against Intolerance

It’s a funny thing—the skinny guy with the turban, glasses, and big beard wandering around New York City dressed up like Captain America. People are smiling. People are laughing. People are joyously putting their arms around him to get a selfie. Sikh Captain America is a popular guy in the streets with that charming outfit, that disarming smile, that shield. Hashtag superhero. Tweet. Retweet. Instagram heart. Facebook post. Heart emoji. Hashtag America.

Sikh Captain America’s name is Vishavjit Singh and he’s had a mob come to his house to murder his family. He’s been called names: “clown,” “genie,” “raghead.” Singh wears a turban. He has a beard. He has brown skin. After 9/11 he didn’t leave his house for two weeks, afraid to. Once he did he was eyed, ridiculed, made fun of, yelled at, derided. Once, not five minutes after taking off his Captain America outfit and getting back into his street clothes, someone yelled at him across the street, “Osama bin Laden!”

Singh started writing cartoons of Sikh characters soon after 9/11. He himself grew up in the Sikh faith (the 5th largest religion in the world) and wanted to start making Sikh characters known. One day he drew a Sikh Captain America. Drawing the Sikh superhero he thought we should relish our diversity and understand our commonalities. Then, in 2012, a mass shooting took place at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. A white supremacist opened fire, fatally shooting six people and wounding four more.

The shooting affected him. Perhaps, he thought with much cajoling from friends and associates, he should don the Captain America costume and step out into the streets. Those horrible tragedies led him to this—the smiling people, the laughing people, the people eager to take their photo with him. “My palms were sweating,” he says on that first foray into New York’s streets. “I was scared out of my mind.” He got hugs. Cops came up to take pictures of him. A fire station invited him in. He was pulled into a wedding. “I quickly realized I was onto something good.” Ever since, he’s traveled throughout the country, and beyond, to fight intolerance. “We all have stories to tell,” he says. “We just have to reach out to people and ask what theirs is.”

I asked Singh for his story.

He was born in Washington, DC but moved to India as a young child. He left India and came back to the states soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. The news spread fast the day of Gandhi’s death; the assassins were her own bodyguards and those bodyguards were Sikh. Mobs, eager for revenge, roared into the streets looking for Sikhs.  The Singh family was terrified. They survived, with the help of their neighbors, but thousands were not so lucky. Sikh men and boys were burned alive. Sikh women were victims of sexual violence. Sikh businesses, homes, and houses of worship were gutted. He’s drawn these experiences into his cartoons. “We need to read our history, tell our stories, and make more connecting points.”

He returned to America and attended college, turbaned and bearded. People laughed at him, and told him to go back to where he came from. He’s an American citizen. “I began questioning why I needed to stand out. People look at me wherever I go.” He took off his turban, got a haircut, and shaved his beard. After he did it, “No one was looking at me! People thought I was Hispanic and started speaking to me in Spanish. I told them I didn’t speak Spanish. They asked, ‘Then what are you?’.”

Singh’s return to his Sikh roots took years. He’s grown his hair long again. He’s grown his beard back. He wears a turban. Also? He wears a superhero costume. “I’m trying to confuse peoples’ initial perceptions. Confusion leads to exploration, exploration to learning, and learning to understanding.”

“Why can’t we all be Captain America?” Singh asks. “We all can be Captain America. Why can’t a girl be Captain America? A black person?  A woman? An old man? A child? We’re all Americans. We should not be defined by labels…I am more,” Singh says, “than what you see.”

An introvert by nature, Singh has certainly stepped out of his comfort zone and he suggests that we all take a few steps outside of our own comfort:  “We need to create a safe space for each other. We can learn so much from each other.” As Captain America he goes to comic book conventions, camps, retreats. He lectures to children and adults, and he exhibits at museums  (including WHAM! BAM! POW! Cartoons, Turbans & Confronting Hate, now showing at the Wing Luke Museum).

Why? He doesn’t want anyone to feel like he’s felt his whole life: like ‘an other.’ “We write our story every day. Find a way to tell it,” he implores us. “Find your voice. We all have a voice.”

Who is Vishavjit Singh? A Sikh, an American, a cartoonist, a husband, a son, a brother, a writer—more than all that. He teaches us that we’re more than a label, more than the sum of our parts. He’s Captain America, and he’s here to tell us: so are we all.


Don’t miss Singh’s event at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center on October 1st and 7:30PM. Reserve your tickets here.

“Timefulness”—Thinking Like a Geologist to Save the World

What does it mean to think like a geologist? Geology professor Marcia Bjornerud gives us a window into a field that studies the literal history of the Earth. She will be joining us on September 17 to discuss “timefulness”—her newly coined concept that encourages a drastic (but, she says, necessary) shift in our 21st century perspective. In the meantime, Bjornerud spoke with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby about the geologist’s mindset and the explanatory power that comes from reading the rocks.

AE: What gets a person interested in geology?

MB: Many of our students—and I think this is true across the country, not just at our university—discover geology almost by accident. Many of them first sign up simply to fulfill a lab requirement, thinking that geology doesn’t sound as scary as physics or biology.

AE: And then they realize they love it?

MB: Exactly. The field has a powerful capacity to convert people who don’t think of themselves as “the science type.” I think that’s because, for me, geology has this huge explanatory power and that’s really addictive. I sometimes say geology is the etymology of the world. Once you get in the habit of thinking that way, you want to understand how things came to be. For a lot of people that’s the attraction.

AE: And unlocking that explanatory power, was that the goal of some of your earlier books? To make geology more accessible?

MB: Definitely. This is the world we live in, and it’s really kind of shocking how little the average earthling knows about the planet. I think geology has a PR problem, if people are aware of it at all. It’s linked in their minds, understandably, with the oil industry, the mineral industry, or with this perception of dusty musty museum collections. There aren’t too many opportunities for people to get the big picture. That’s what I’m trying to achieve. I want to give people a window into this longer view, and help them engage with the logic of geology. Over the course of my teaching career I’ve learned that people are hungry for that big picture. They hear about dinosaurs once in a while, but they don’t really have a chance to see the grand overview.

AE: So is that the goal with introducing this concept of “timefulness?”

MB: Yes. It’s not an attempt to tell the whole story of the earth. It’s more about demystifying how geologists think about time. It’s about communicating how we’ve gone about constructing the geologic timescale and why it’s relevant. There’s a misconception that geology is all about the past. While that’s partly true, we also study the past because it’s the only thing that we have that can allow us to make intelligent inferences about what might happen in the future. So geology is increasingly as much forward-looking as backward-looking.

I think it’s an underappreciated intellectual accomplishment that humans know as much about the deep past of the planet as we do. And it’s not just one person who won a Nobel Prize for figuring it out, it’s two centuries worth of people from all over the world. Many different cultures, personalities, and kinds of scientists have contributed to this amazing history of the world.

AE: Accomplishments formed by standing on the shoulders of giants?

MB: Right. The logic of it is comprehensive. You can spend a lifetime learning all the details, but I think at least appreciating how we, collectively, have gone about understanding the past is a step in the right direction.

AE: How do you help a student learn to think this way?

MB: Well, it certainly helps to go out in the field and learn from first principles. One of my favorite metaphors for the way geologists see the world is that of a palimpsest manuscript. In the past, before paper was widely produced, documents were written on parchment. But parchment was expensive, and often used and reused. Old ink would be scraped off, leaving vestiges of the earlier writings underneath. That’s a good way of thinking about landscapes. If you can get out in the field and start seeing these ‘re-inkings’ then it becomes a kind of habit of mind. We can abandon our peculiar 21st century mindset that the past is burned up behind us and instead recognize that the past is in fact everywhere. Our own bodies and cells are narratives of evolution; everything around us has a backstory.

I had a math professor who would often say there are many sizes and shapes of infinity. I think that’s a useful way of thinking about the geologic past too. There are things that happened a long time ago, a long-long time ago, a long-long-long time ago. It’s central to the “timefulness” idea that we get some depth of field and get a sense of the distances between some of the big events in Earth’s history.

AE: Now, also contained in the title of your newest book is the notion of saving the world. How does this expanded depth of field and knowledge of the Earth’s history relate to saving the world?

MB: It speaks to a perceptual shift that we need to make. We need to think of ourselves as earthlings and not as somehow having outgrown the natural world. We’re deeply embedded in the natural world. Things that have happened in the past are going to continue to unfurl, like it or not, into the future. We need to think of ourselves as part of that continuum and set things in motion now that may not bear fruit until we are gone. We have to change our view of who we are in time—and our sense of obligation to future generations.

There are models for doing that here and there, so it’s not an entirely new idea. Kurt Vonnegut famously suggested there should be a new cabinet post, Secretary of the Future, who would provide counsel on behalf of the unborn. I’ve done some work with the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, which is a consortium of tribes in the Upper Great Lakes region that works to protect treaty rights around Lake Superior especially. The treaties that they protect were signed back in the 1830’s, and they’re trying to make plans for the next century or so. So there are models for how to do this, but we need a collective shift in consciousness and self identity.

AE: What can we do on an individual level to model our lives for this way of thinking?

MB: Get curious about the natural world. Get children in particular engaged—tap into their innate scientific curiosity, early and often. And just try to instill in people a sense of their connectivity to the natural world—to the geologic past and the geologic future.

AE: What do you think of the old adage, to say something is “set in stone” or “written in stone?”

MB: That means it’s temporary. Mountains come and go, and erosion prevails.


Don’t miss Marcia Bjornerud’s talk on 9/17 at The Summit on Pike.

Restoring Our Iconic Stained Glass

The Great Hall’s signature oculus has returned from its extensive restoration! After nearly one year offsite with the experts at Seattle Stained Glass, the oculus has been revitalized and reassembled—and the transformation is stunning. The oculus won’t be installed until the renovation is nearly complete, but our skilled construction team has afforded us a glimpse at another of our building’s restored windows.

Where once stood a wall of scaffolding, we can now see the Great Hall’s iconic arched window on the south side of the building, complete with weather proofing and storm windows. These tall and stately panes add a characteristic burst of color to the gleaming terracotta facade, and we can’t wait to see how the assembly looks from the inside! Red weatherproofing material has been applied to exterior window framing, and new storm windows will protect from the elements to extend the life of the glass (don’t worry, the red won’t be visible when construction is complete).

The restoration of Town Hall’s stained glass oculus was generously funded by the Committee of 33.


Learn more about the renovation, and please consider making a donation in support of the project.

A Space For Us All

We often say that Town Hall is more than just a venue, and this is true in many ways. But our organization wouldn’t be the same without our historic home. For twenty years, our institution’s values have been reinforced by the features of our landmark building. Simultaneously austere and welcoming, the marriage of civic-inspired architecture and community-focused construction combine to create an inviting space where our city comes together. The pillars along the building’s face lend the structure a political severity reminiscent of a government building (no wonder we’re so often confused with City Hall!), while the radiant terra cotta façade seems to manifest the warmth inside this bustling gathering space. There’s nowhere else quite like Town Hall, and we certainly wouldn’t be the same without this building. Anyone who’s been to an event inside our venue can attest—our home helps make us who we are.

Preserving the qualities that define each of our performances spaces is a critical goal of our renovation. It’s a delicate balance to achieve as we outfit the building with upgrades that will allow us to continue hosting our city’s inspired conversations. We’re upgrading the Great Hall, overhauling our Downstairs, and adding a new space on the lobby level, the Reading Room. Between these three performance venues we can accommodate events of every size—from a crowd of nearly a thousand seated shoulder-to-shoulder in the pews, to a cozy circle of a dozen chairs. We’re excited to re-introduce you to these spaces, at once familiar and transformed, when we re-open in February of 2019. But until then, come with us for a look behind the cloak of scaffolding at the three performance spaces coming to life inside Town Hall!

The Great Hall’s character is striking from the moment you enter. The curved oak pews radiate out from an unassuming stage, and on a full night you’ll see nearly 900 people packed into those benches. The voices of every discussion carry all the way up to the vaulted ceilings to mingle around the iconic stained-glass oculus. We’re keen to preserve these elements of the space that are so core to the identity of the Great Hall as a place where communities can gather to speak and be heard. That’s why the first item on our list for the Great Hall is a suite of acoustic upgrades. Our architects at BuildingWorks are working in tandem with master acousticians from Jaffe Holden to create a state-of-the-art acoustic program. A custom-designed acoustic reflector will hang above the stage, tuned specifically to the contours of the room to evenly distribute sounds from the stage to every seat in the house—with or without a microphone. We’re also permanently installing our Hearing Loop system to benefit audience members with T-coil hearing aids, as well as special sound damping materials between the floors of the building to prevent the uproar from a lively “kindie-rock” concert from interrupting a measured science panel just down the stairs. Combine all this with a face-lift of restored crown molding and the addition of cushions to our 98-year-old antique pews and the Great Hall promises to perform well, look sharp and feel comfortable every night—whether it features an international virtuoso, a civic leader, or the screening of a classic film.

While the Great Hall is holding tightly to the qualities that lend the space its characteristic warmth, the Downstairs space is transforming dramatically—so much that you might not recognize the room from one night to the next! Downstairs is becoming the Forum, a completely modular 300-seat space designed to keep up with Town Hall’s fluid calendar. One night the room might be configured as a three-quarter thrust stage for a civic lecture, the next it may become a runway for a queer fashion show, or a corner-round platform for a series of Bushwick jazz performers inspired by a heady science-fiction novel. The beauty of the space’s design is its ability to become the best possible version of itself, re-forming to fit the needs of each event and completely transfiguring the energy each night. Add to that a library and bar flanking the space’s ample 5,000-square feet, and the Forum is tailored to invite the community at large to make this space their own—an ideal complement to the aplomb and applause of the Great Hall.

The newcomer to Town Hall’s performance spaces—the Reading Room—resides between the two on our lobby level. This flexible 90 seat space provides the perfect accompaniment to the thunderous applause of the Great Hall and the mid-sized adaptability of the Forum. Ideal for intimate poetry readings, local policy discussions, and events by grassroots community organizations, the Reading Room embodies the promise that this is your Town Hall: a place where you can stand eye-to-eye with an icon one night, and mobilize your neighbors the next. We encountered this kind of energy on numerous nights during our 2017-18 Inside/Out season, when our calendar included more locally rooted events than ever before. The Reading Room is our way of creating a dedicated home for these discussions in our building—a close-knit environment where curious minds can engage directly with impassioned activists, inspired artists, and groundbreaking scholars from our region and beyond.

This building makes us who we are. Each room in our venue has witnessed decades of community congregation around the inspired ideas that infuse our region, ideas that are the pillars of our institution. We haven’t seen these new spaces yet; they’re still taking shape in a whirlwind of concrete and plaster. But when the tarp drops and the scaffold comes down, we hope you’ll be there with us to bring these new performance spaces to life—to fill them with our collective energy and shape them with the values of our community.

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