Streaming Saturdays With Earshot Jazz

Want to feel the energy and emotion of live music while you’re stuck behind closed doors? In collaboration with Earshot Jazz, Town Hall is streaming live Saturday jazz concerts at the end of March and the first three weeks of April, directly from our stages! 

What about the virus?

On March 23, Governor Inslee issued a shelter-in-place order for all individuals, with the exception of essential workforce. That description of essential workforce includes allowances for “artists and musicians providing services through streaming,” provided guidelines around safe assembly are also followed. No more than 10 artists and technicians will be present at these events, and social distancing and enhanced hygienic measures will be employed. 

Town Hall and Earshot Jazz agree that music is essential to surviving, even thriving, during this health crisis–and we’re committed to offering live music that supports the health of our local artists, even as it fills your heart and moves your spirit. Whatever else you feel like moving, too.  

Who’s Onstage?

3/28 Alex Dugdale Quartet
Seattle’s favorite tap-dancing saxophonist takes the stage backed by a hard swinging trio of piano, bass, and drums.

4/4 Marina Albero Group
This Barcelona transplant brings Spanish inflections to stunning jazz piano technique and a fascinating approach to the hammer dulcimer.

4/11 Jacqueline Tabor
Award-winning vocalist Jacqueline Tabor showcases signature bluesy vocals—and unveils a new ensemble of Seattle jazz masters.

4/18 Kate Olson Ensemble
Joined by a fluid and inventive quartet, saxophonist Kate Olson brings her distinctive energy to Town Hall.

Add some groove to your Saturday nights with weekly concerts from Town Hall and Earshot Jazz! Visit these artists’ web pages to learn more about Alex Dugdale, Marina Albero, Jacqueline Tabor, and Kate Olson.

Updates: Town Hall and the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020


On March 23, Governor Inslee issued a shelter-in-place order for all individuals, with the exception of essential workforce. That description of essential workforce includes allowances for “artists and musicians providing services through streaming,” provided guidelines around safe assembly are also followed. No more than 10 artists and technicians can be present at these events, and social distancing and enhanced hygienic measures must be employed.

That means Town Hall is able to continue to offer its program of livestreams—many in collaboration with partners like Earshot Jazz, CityClub, and Citizen University—for the foreseeable future. If you squint, maybe it’ll feel like we brought Town Hall over to your house, without the squeezing past people to find your seat.

How long is “foreseeable”? Well THAT’s anyone’s guess—but know that we are committed to playing our part in the heavy worldwide lift to blunt the impact of Covid-19, AND doing what we can to support and sustain Town Hall’s close-in community of artists and presenters, organizations and audiences.

It’s a community that has been tended and nourished by trust and good will for nearly 21 years—and coming off the achievement of our capital work together, that bond feels especially strong right now. We work to keep open lines of communication—always and forever—so please let me know if you have any ideas, questions or concerns.

Wier Harman
Executive Director

March 11, 2020

Hello friends,

In light of Governor Inslee’s declaration this morning restricting public gatherings, Town Hall has suspended in-person attendance at programming throughout our building—including our smaller performance spaces unaffected by his announcement—until March 31. The period of closure may ultimately prove to be longer, but for now please check our website for information on the status of individual programs in April and beyond. We will share more general updates as soon as we have them, and feel free to reach out to with specific questions.

While our building will not be open to the public, we are presently exploring prospects for digital delivery/livestreams of some currently-announced and soon-to-be-announced programs. More information will follow later this week.

If you have purchased tickets to one or more events during this time and would like a refund, please contact us at We also hope you will consider supporting Town Hall during this financially challenging time by not requesting a refund and treating the price of the ticket as a contribution.

We at Town Hall are awed by the sense of collective responsibility and sacrifice emerging across our community—the realization that our only chance to bend the curve of infection is through coordinated action.

This time asks for maximum patience and understanding, even as it asks us to make choices we’d thought impossible even days ago. It will not be easy, but let’s try to find a sense of our own power now, by imagining what we can accomplish together.

Wier Harman
Executive Director


March 6, 2020

Hello friends,

Town Hall exists to inspire a healthy, sustainable community that supports and cares for one another. Now, as people across our region and around the world grow more concerned about the spread of COVID-19, ideas of “health” and “community” have taken on a more direct meaning.

Our leadership team meets daily to share news and coordinate response regarding the coronavirus, so we are able to adjust our approach based on the most current information available. And so, like other organizations lighting up your inbox today, we want to take a moment to address our approach to the coordinated regional response, and what it means for upcoming programs. Here are some things to know:

–We are taking our advice and direction from Public Health—Seattle & King County, along with other sources. The latest general statement from the agency can be found here:

–At this time, we have determined that we will remain open and continue presenting events for the foreseeable future.

However, a look at our calendar will show that a number of programs are being cancelled or postponed at the request of presenters or institutional partners. In these cases, we are working quickly to notify ticket buyers directly about cancellations and to share new dates for postponements. Information about requesting refunds and automatic rescheduling of tickets for postponed events is included in these specific event-by-event communications.

–In light of this, we recommend that you check your email, our website, and/or our social media channels for the latest information about an event you are planning to attend.

–For events which are taking place, know that we are implementing additional disinfection measures across all areas of our building, with special focus on high-traffic areas and objects that are regularly touched (including door knobs, counters/tables, elevator keypads, etc). We are also working to create greater distance between seats, when it is feasible.

–Meanwhile, audience members can take a variety of precautions. First, evaluate whether you should be considered a “person at higher risk,” advised to stay home and away from large groups and gatherings where there will be close contact with others—like Town Hall. People at higher risk include:

    • People 60 and older
    • People with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
    • People who have weakened immune systems
    • People who are pregnant

For all other attendees:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including washing your hands with soap and water frequently, coughing into a tissue or your elbow, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are at higher risk for coronavirus.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects within your home (like doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective.
  • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong

–Know that many Town Hall programs are made available as audio and video recordings. And while we are presently in the middle of transition in our livestreaming capability in the renovated building, we hope to have this resolved soon, and to encourage it as a viable option for staying in touch with our programs in real time.

Finally, we encourage everyone to read these recommendations from the King County Public Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control for reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection for ourselves and others. 

Stay healthy, and we look forward to seeing you this spring! 

Wier Harman
Executive Director

In The Moment: Episode 59

Buy The Book (Third Place Books)

In this week’s interview, Chief Correspondent Steve Scher talks with evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin about the impact of viruses on our genetic makeup, and the hidden universes inside our DNA. Shubin unpacks the properties of viruses, and the ways they can disrupt our world while simultaneously setting the stage for evolutionary change. With examples of ancient viruses that attacked the human genome and were then repurposed, Shubin delves into the essential role that repurposing has played in our evolution and the story of life on Earth. He highlights how the dynamic nature of genetic mutation continues to confound and intrigue researchers today. Get an insider’s look and stay in the know about what’s going on in this moment at Town Hall Seattle.

Help Us Continue to Create Engaging Digital-First Content!
Widespread event cancellations due to COVID-19 have put a strain on nonprofits throughout our community, including Town Hall. We hope you’ll consider supporting us during this difficult time by making a donation or becoming a member. Help us keep producing In The Moment—along with even more digital-first content!

Episode Transcript

This transcription was performed automatically by a computer. Please excuse typos and inaccurate information. If you’re interested in helping us transcribe events and podcasts, email

Welcome to in the moment a town hall Seattle podcast where we introduce you to folks coming to our stages by getting you familiar with their topic, personality and interests. I’m your host, Ginny Palmer. The Corona virus hits even closer to home than you might have imagined. Did you know that our genome is made up of material from many viruses that merged with other cells over the millions of years that life evolved, or that 8% of our genome is composed of dead viruses. Evolution is a strange and wonderful process that allows for amazing twists and turns in the ongoing development of life. Neil Shubin takes us through this wild ride and his new book, some assembly required decoding 4 billion years of life from ancient fossils to DNA. Neil Shubin is a paleontologist evolutionary biologist at the university of Chicago and the author of two previous books about evolution and host of the PBS series, your inner fish. He is provost of the field museum of natural history in Chicago. Shubin was scheduled to come to town hall on March 25th to talk about how the scientific discoveries of the last few decades have confirmed many of Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolution and help scientists understand the steps genes take that change species. That event has been canceled due to coven 19 measures to suspend public gatherings. But our chief correspondent Steve share talks with Shubin about his book over the phone.

Hey, see, hi Neil. How are you

surviving the social distancing world? We’re living in everything. Okay. On your end.

It is though. I, I have allergies and this is the big allergy season and I had just gotten off the plane from, uh, South Carolina when, when everything sorta started hitting here.

Yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling too, so it’s very strange stuff. Yeah. Yes it is. I had to send, I sent a note out to my lab this morning. Just, I said, anxiety is normal. Uh, but you know, let’s, let’s look after each other cause I’m did the anxiety level is huge, you know, and uh, we could do the test in the lab. It’s not diagnostic rate, but it’d be good enough to test folks in the lab. So, you know, we have all that stuff going. But you know, it’s just, these are crazy times with the economy, with, uh, collectively with the coronavirus. It’s just so disruptive for, I feel, you know, my students, I feel, you know, I feel they just faced so many challenges, you know, it’s just hard enough to be a, a young person, you know, and then you layer all this other stuff on. It’s like, Oh my God,

I have a, I have a, I teach at the UDaB. I have a student who, uh, in January had come back from Wu Han, uh, to see his folks. And he came back and, and he said, are you taking, cause this is really, really dangerous. I mean, my folks back there are, they’re freaked out. They’re, you know, they’re not going on the streets. Of course, it got even worse since then. Right. And, and he wrote me the other day and said, I’m serious. Are you taking these precautions? Are you being careful? Because he’s very worried. The university of Washington, um, stopped teaching, uh, in person classes for the rest of the winter quarter. And then they say, but we hope to be up again for spring quarter, which is March 30th. And I’m thinking, yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know how you can say that. So I’m already preparing my video lectures because I, I, uh, I wanted to start, it seems just completely appropriate to start with the Corona virus coven 19, but with viruses and how and how they relate cause in some assembly required, you go pretty deep into how we ended up with virus, Jeanette genetic materials from viruses and our genome.

Yeah. That’s one of the stunning things when you look at our, you know, what we’ve learned about evolution over the last decade or so, viruses and our relationship with viruses become this incredibly complex thing. You know, we think about what a virus is, you know, a virus and we don’t even know if they’re alive. I mean, I don’t even want to give a definition whether it’s living or a nerd, but the reality is they’re a piece of genetic material. Either the RNA or the DNA, but just genetic material, you know, surrounded by a, a shell, right? Um, and they lie and hurt until they contact a host. Uh, and you know, they, they can contact the host. And a lot of ways as we’re becoming increasingly familiar, um, you know, by insects can carry them, uh, droplets of air contacts, their surfaces, you name it. Anyway, as soon as they contact to a host, a chemical chain reaction goes off, right?

They attach to the host, they go inside the host cell, they go inside the nucleus, and then they commandeer the, the genetic material of the host to make more copies of themselves, you know, and that more copies can be 40 to 60,000, and then they burst out of that cell. And you know, when you think of that, we have 4 trillion cells in our body and that’s going in a lot of cells. I mean, that’s a lot of viral tissue, that strategy. I mean, they are the ultimate parasites because they take over and it’s enormously successful. The current estimate of the number of viruses on planet earth. If we can do it from like ocean water, you know, if you extrapolate from a cup of ocean water broadly is a huge number, 10 to the 31st, that’s a 10 with 31 zeros after it. When you look at that number, um, it’s larger than the stars in the known universe.

Okay. Wow. So this is like super successful. So these viruses, we’ve been living with viruses and our ancestors had been living with viruses for billions of years. So, so we have genome projects that have been done. Um, you know, obviously human genome project, genome project, Lily genome project, you know, thousands upon thousands of genome projects expanding every day. And here’s the surprise, when you look at our genome, the DNA that makes proteins, the things we call gene, 2%. Wow. Yeah, I think about that for a second. And so the rest, you know, there’s other stuff, all of that other stuff about, I mean, 8% of our total genome is actually bits of old viruses that invaded our genome and then got knocked out. So we have four times more viral bits in our own genome. Then our own genes. Okay. So we’re like walking virus, you know, that’s us. Okay.

We’re part virus. So researchers at the university of Utah, a few years back, uh, we’re, this is just tying it together. Another story to give you a different viewpoint on viruses cause we’re talking about evolution, our own evolution. Um, we’re working on this memory protein called arc arc, you know, and um, it’s a gene that makes a protein and it’s involved in memories. So mice that have a mutation in arc, uh, can solve a maze, but they don’t remember their solution the next day. So it’s clearly involved in memories. Uh, people who, um, have altered arc activity, um, have, uh, uh, increased rates of dementia, schizophrenia, memory problems and so forth. So art is a memory gene, right? So this researcher at Jason Shepherd at the university of Utah, I was looking at the arc protein. You know, I’m doing what every good biochemist does. Pops it under a high powered microscope, looks at its structure.

And he said, you know, I’ve seen this structure before. And so he goes back to his old infectious disease textbooks. He’s a young professor, but he went back to his graduate school days. Turns out that the structure he was seeing looked a lot like a protein structure, a, a capsule made by HIV. The virus that causes AIDS. Oh, Whoa. No, wait a minute. That’s weird. So he um, cause he’s in a medical school, Utah. He calls colleagues over, you know, in a different department and he makes a slide and he gives it to him. It doesn’t tell him what’s on the slide. And he says, here, why don’t you take a peek? You know, what are you, what am I, when I got on my slide, they thought it was the virus that causes AIDS. So then they sequenced this gene arc, this memory gene, and it turns out it’s a version of a virus similar to the kind that causes AIDS.

Think about that for a second. The gene is involved. So then he looks at it and says, well, you know, look, why was eight successful a, it’s a success. I mean the virus that causes HIV is successful because it has a capsule, a protein capsule around it that it makes that protects the V, the the G, the genetic material as it goes from cell to cell. So what helps HIV spread is its ability to go from cell to cell and you know, the individual and this protein capsule that it makes is a part of that success. Well, what makes arc so successful as a memory gene is the same thing. It’s ability to go from cell to cell with a protein capsule and it uses the version of the same capsule. So the more they look, they more they find that this, this memory gene is a version of a, a, of a virus.

And then they looked and they found that the hypothesis they came up with, which seems to be increasingly true there is that fish don’t have this, but all land living animals do that sometime in the very distant past, maybe about 375 billion years ago, an ancient virus attack the genome and maybe caused an infection of some kind, but got incorporated in the genome. Then got commandeered, got domesticated, got repurposed from doing its normal thing, which is infecting and you know, maybe killing or diminishing in some way, but to a new purpose got put to use, you know, so the hacker, the virus got hacked itself and got puts to Brittany, you use. And it turns out that we’re seeing this over and over again in evolution. We’re seeing some of the genes, I’m sorry, some of the proteins that are involved in, uh, the making the placenta and other structures in our bodies all have a viral history.

So it seems we have this really complicated interaction with viruses, the same properties that disrupt our world so much that wreak havoc with our world, that wreak havoc with our way of interacting with one another. Those properties are also make it useful as fuel for evolutionary change that they can be put to use in certain cases to make new structures. You know, and I can’t tell you just how, when you think about the complexity of our relationship to the natural world or the physical world as well, it’s really embedded in this story about viruses, right? So kinda, and we’re, we’re, we’re walking around part virus, right? And they are truly scary. You know, there’s no doubt about it. But they’re also been part of our history when they’ve been put to use to make new stops. So they’re also part of our humanity.

I love this sentence that’s, uh, in the, in the chapter our inner battlefield, the genome is the stuff of, well, few sentences. The genome is the stuff of B movies, like a zombie graveyard, bits and pieces of ancient viral fabrics. Fam fragments lie everywhere. By some estimates, 8% of our genome is composed of dead viruses, more than a hundred thousand of them at last count. Some of these viruses, fossil viruses kept a function, make a protein useful in pregnancy memory. Countless other activities others sit like corpses where they invaded only to be extinguished. So there’s this notion that we’re our genome. We talk about junk virus, junk, junk, junk stuff, and it’s not really, it is junk and that we aren’t using it, but it’s, it’s not completely garbage, right?

No, no, no, no. I mean, in fact, that whole is this very controversial notion calling the DNA junk, honestly. Um, because it means some of it, we know what it’s doing, but it’s not making you do that. Maybe some of these are switches that control proteins. Some of them are spacer regions. So you’re thinking about our genome as this incredibly dynamic thing. All right, let me give you a paint a word picture for you. Um, the, um, if you were to take our DNA, our genome in our, you know, it’s six foot long, we’re more or less think about that. That’s packed inside the nucleus of every single cell, uh, 4 trillion cells in our body. And it is not just a nerd, it’s sitting there opening and closing molecules are attaching to it. It’s just this, you know, this incredible concert of activity is going on to activate genes.

Well, for that to happen, you have our genes which make the protein, but then there’s all this other stuff which is involved in the actual activity of the DNA. Uh, and some of it, we actually have no idea what it’s, what it’s doing. Um, you know, it’s, it’s a, it’s a world is its whole universe inside our DNA. We know some of it are switches that control activity. Others are viruses that have been knocked out. But we also know that the three dimensional structure of DNA and the way that that structure changes, you know, opens and closes and twists and turns. It’s, it’s a, it’s an Acrobat rDNA all packed inside a tiny little nucleus, um, that controls the activity of genes during development as we go from embryo to adult, but also in health and disease and the normal functioning of our tissues. I mean, it’s just, um, you know, when you think about what we’ve learned about the genome in the last 20 years, it’s this dynamism, uh, it’s dynamism inside it, the dynamism in its act, in its relationship to the outside world. And that includes, you know, viruses, um, that, that dynamism is so incredibly important, uh, for our function of our own body, but also important for our evolutionary history.

So rather than junk, that phrases is not a good phrase in, in, um, an astronomy. And in a study of, of in astrophysics, we now have dark energy, dark matter, because we don’t really know what that is, but we know it’s there. So we call it dark cause it’s, it’s an, we’re uncertain of what it does. Is that a better way to think about all the stuff?

Oh, I love it. Yes. As infection on Carola, a good friend and colleague of mine who’s a leader in the, there’s two, there’s a physicist on Carolyn, a biologist on Carol. The biologist on Carol has been a leader in understanding how genes control development. And he, he actually refers to it as the dark matter of the genome, you know, which is, you know, that 90 X percent, which we don’t really know what it does. Uh, but we know what some of it does. And, um, you know, some of it’s controlling the activity of other genes, you know, um, and, you know, think about, it’s kind of mind blowing when you think that the DNA inside, you know, a tissue in the retina of the eye is virtually the same as the DNA inside. Uh, you know, cartilage in your knee, cartilage cell and your needs the same, right? More or less, you know, what’s different is the genes that are turned on and off the activity of those genes. So it’s not the genes per se that’s driving those differences of those tissues as much as it is the switches that control the activity of those genes in these, you know, in cartilage versus the retina or any of the other hundreds of tissues in our bodies. So really understanding those switches is what’s important for understanding what makes our body, you know, packed the way it is with the different of tissues and cells

and how it evolves. And that takes us back to the, sort of, the basic premise of this book. One of the premises of this book, uh, what Darwin said, the change in function is, is what begins what, what, uh, drives evolution.

Yeah, I was, yeah, exactly. And Lillian Hellman was put in another way. I was, um, when I was, when I was writing the book, I was reading a biography autobiography of Lillian Hellman. And she said, you know, she had a rough life and some of it self-imposed, but she, uh, uh, she said, uh, nothing of course, which she’s referring to our life. She says, nothing. Of course, effort begins when you think it does, you know? And I thought, wow, that’s kind of a motto for how we look at evolution now. You know, the antecedents we look for. And I’m a paleontologist as much as a molecular biologist. Um, the antecedents we look for always go deeper and time in different ways. And Darwin realized that, you know, he had no theory of genetics or development or anything and a very, you know, the fossil record wasn’t nearly as good back in 1859 as it is today.

But he knew that too. He said, look, these structures may have arisen for a different purpose, way back in the distant past, but it’s the change in function that is as important as anything else. Um, and to me, we see that at the level of genes we see that the level of the Oregon’s, sorry, I love to tell because it’s in my own field is most people think, you know, while lungs are related to the ability to live on land. So if you look at evolution and Eileen naively you’d suppose that the, you know, invasion of land by fish 370 million years ago, one of the big changes was the origin of lungs. And that’s manifestly not true. Lungs were around for zillions of millions of years before, you know, our ancestors ever took the first steps on land. You know, there are lung fish and being black lungs are air breathing and lungs, a very common thing.

And so the shift in much of the shift and transition from water to land didn’t as much involve new structures. It involved re-purposing or finding new functions for structures that already existed. You know, and, and so we can trace the histories, the history of these things as much deeper in time than we initially suppose, you know. And, um, and I think that story which you see in lungs is also, um, we see that at the genetic level and development and on and on and on and on. And I think it’s only been confirmed, um, hugely, uh, with, uh, with modern DNA technology. You know, so when you think, you know, feathers arose to help animals fly, lungs arose to help animals live on land, all that’s not true. The traits we associate with the great revolutions in the history of life are never associated with the great revolution. They always arose before and were rebar repurposed and they Rose for some other,

and it’s the repurposing that we’re coming to understand how important that is over time with the evolution of life.

That’s correct. And that repurposing often takes different forms, surprising forms that we would never would have predicted, you know, until we collect the data, you know, so the repurposing of feathers from structures involved in thermoregulation or sexual reproduction to flight, you know, that all that took knowledge of the fossil record that’s been coming increasingly refined over recent years. The knowledge of lungs coming out and fish, you know, that we’re living in water, breathing, air and water. You know, when, um, for a variety of reasons, um, that shifted likewise the genes originally involved in making swim bladders and fish actually they got repurposed to make lungs. You know, repurposing is the, uh, is the story of evolution of life on earth. Um, and by repurposing, copying, duplicating, modifying, merging things together. Uh, we come up with new stuff. You know, the recipe for life is sort of repurposed over billions of years and these are the switches that are jumping all over the genome.

The selfish gene as you, as you call it, Richard docking calls the Dawkins calls with, these are the switches that are showing all of the reproducing themselves. There are some of those. Yes. So there’s their switches. Some of them are some jump around, some don’t. And so, um, so think about this way. Our genome has, uh, parts that have the information to code proteins. Okay. Those are the genes. Those are that 2%. Then a lot of this other stuff is stuff that’s turning on and off those genes telling, telling the cells when and where to make the right proteins to make a, an eye, a bone, a piece of skin, hair and so forth. Um, and it’s those switches that are important, you know, and then, and we can study those switches, um, in evolution to compare tissues of say a bird to a reptile, to an amphibian, to a fish.

Uh, we can do that in many different ways. One of the things that’s really interesting and it w your question referred to is that there are other parts of our genome that are always roiling that are always making copies of themselves and inserting elsewhere. So, um, there, uh, one of the most famous discoveries, uh, was, was, uh, in genetics was the discovery that certain parts of the genome can make copies of themselves and then jump to go elsewhere in the genome. And if you look at our own genome, in fact, much of it is composed of these, um, of these ancient, um, jumping genes that, um, you know, that, that, uh, that they actually about 50% of our genome, think about that five zero, 50% or it’s unit is made up of these jumping genes that have taken over, right? Well, it turns out a colleague here at Chicago and others, some at Utah, some at Stanford, so forth, uh, Cornell have, um, have been looking at this and they find that some of these switches have gotten trained and have gotten carried around the genome by being part of these jumping genes.

You know, so you had a mutation arrive in one place and then, you know, that jumping gene brought new switches all over the genome and you can ask, well, why is that important? Well, if I was to ask, you know, how is a skin cell different from a, a car, uh, a cell that makes cartilage and, or one that makes a retina, it’s not just one protein, it’s hundreds of proteins that make them different. Well, one way to get that kind of change is to have a mutation appear in one gene, right? And then have switches, have the switches that control that gene carried by jumping genes across the genome. So the way you can have like a proliferation of changes appear in one tissue, in one protein at one place, but then get carried across the genome. So it’s a way to get relatively dramatic change in a fairly short period of time. They’re relatively simple mechanisms. Um, but all of this underscores just how dynamic the genome is that’s going on inside the, you know, the 4 trillion cells of our own bodies right now as we talk,

this raises so many other questions, but I have the language that you use and that you’re constrained by, perhaps you might say is a language that sort of, uh, you know, controls moves about, makes, creates, it’s a language of, of, um, an actor upon things. Right? And I’m not getting into the, I’m not talking about like the, you know, the a creator, right? Intelligent design, but I, but I, I wonder if, do you ever feel you’re constrained by the language? Cause your whole goal of course is to educate people about how science works and about how evolution works. So I just, yeah,

I wonder if I think about that’s actually conscious. Um, I do think a design is a fine word to use for things that even been produced by random, uh, um, uh, entities acting over time because what you have is something that is, appears to be incredibly and is incredibly structured at one way, incredibly, you know, with complex networks inside it that are interrelated. Um, and that’s that you can talk to that as a design, but the designer is a set of processes that include a substantial random as well as some non-random components. So yeah, makes and design are words you can use, but they are words that, um, uh, I use when I described, I have a process that is number one, historical, uh, and number two, that includes a substantial random, uh, component, um, which is obviously [inaudible].

Yeah. And now here’s my goofy question. The randomness of evolutionary, um, of components. Randomness, evolutionary change. Um, you could see how, I can imagine how comic book writers could see how you could end up with superheroes.

Right, exactly. I mean the spider bite to change the world or you know, something, some other mutation within the cell that all of a sudden gives somebody the ability to have stronger skin. Yeah.

Oh yeah. Look at the Hulk ride. He had a mutation with a gamma rays or whatever it was. And if we didn’t have the Hulk, look at what you think, how the world would be different, you know. Um, no, I mean contingencies. Uh, you know, contingency is a big part of evolution, but it’s not the only part. You know, there are parts of evolution that are highly contingent and then there are other parts of their kind of Nan non-random in very specific ways. So, you know, that’s, and that’s another thing I tried to deal with in the book a bit cause it’s, you know, obviously one of the big debates, you mean like physics, like the possibility of things.

I’m thinking as much as you will think of it in the biological reference of that, that is that, uh, you know, we wouldn’t be here today if an asteroid didn’t wipe out the dinosaurs 65 and change million years ago, that these continue these events, you know, these contingent events, uh, create opportunities, uh, for new, for species to evolve in new ways. Um, and that, you know, Stephen, Jay Gould, uh, used to say that if you replayed the tape of life, you know, you know, starting 550 million years ago, um, and say contingently remove certain species that are very different, you know, that we’re, we have all these different contingent events that make our world look the way it does today. Um, and you know, and if know, and when you look at evolution, it’s hard to escape the importance of those sorts of things, but it’s also hard to escape the fact that, you know, different creatures evolve the same structures independently over and over again.

Um, and we see that at the level of, you know, the, the anatomy we can see at the level of cells. We also have level of genes. So there’s, there is something that’s substantially non-random about it as well. So when I talk about evolution in the role of chance and evolution, I, it’s basically I talk about loaded dice that there’s a, you know, that there is a contingent or a random component, but there’s also a component that is, uh, that loads the dice, that tilts the odds and in certain ways, in certain terms, certain ends and outcomes.

Right, right, right. As you’ve first done your science and written your science, uh, your peer reviewed science papers and later written these books in Hurfeish

the university, then you’re inefficient. And then, and then this

book, some assembly required, has your, what has happened with your thinking because you’re writing these as the science is changing at the same time, right? So what has happened with your thinking over this time last 10 years?

Well, each of these books becomes a big part of me. Um, and then they, they, so, so when you, when you do a book like this, um, you are, um, you begin with a certain set of, uh, stories that you want to tell. I begin with scientific narratives and human narratives that I want to tell. Um, but then, you know, it changes, it evolves and it evolves as you learn as a scientist. It evolves as you learn as a storyteller. Um, so my thinking has changed quite a bit over the years. I mean, the whole notion of scientifically thinking about the dynamism of the genome, um, that’s something that really wasn’t on my radar screen 10 years ago. Um, and so that’s become a very big part of it. The me thinking about viruses in this way, that’s something I didn’t think about 10 years ago.

Um, but you know, what’s constant in this is that when I write, and when I think about the, you know, science is done by people and people, you know, work hard, get lucky, fail, improve, learn from failures. I mean, these are human narratives. Um, and, and those I’m always a much more, having written, I’m actually much more in tuned to other people’s narratives more than I was before in a funny way. Um, I think about they’re not because I’m writing about them, but I just think about their personal stories. When I hear somebody give a, even a scientific seminar, you know, I, I see the humanity in it in a way that I wouldn’t have seen before or wouldn’t have a pre, I would maybe would have seen it, but wouldn’t have appreciated it as much before. I don’t know if I’m making sense, but, um, you know, we all are a story.

We all have stories in our lives, you know, and, and, uh, and science is an outcome of that of, and it’s not, it’s never linear, you know, it’s never linear. It is always twists and turns and bends and go back and forth and all over. Um, and I’m much more in tuned to those than I was before. And also I’m much more attuned to how the science works that way. You know, that it doesn’t work in a linear narrative that it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s has its own complex path, just like the history of life on earth.

Well, this book has full of those and it’s great. I mean, I love to learn about these scientists who were grappling with these ideas in many ways in the dark, right there in the dark about what’s actually going on. But they’re putting together these amazing ideas starting, I mean, not starting with, but you know, Darwin among them. But you all, you talk about, um, some of the women that have been a part of this and maybe we haven’t had their stories, now we’re hearing their stories more. Julia Platt, Barbara McClintock and then a woman that I got to interview and you know, Mary Claire King and the work that she’s done and she’s been recognized for it. But it’s amazing work.

It is amazing work. And her, her life story is amazing. And I had the huge privilege of being able to talk to her when I was writing the book for about half hour, 45 minutes about her life story. And, and the life story that had a huge size antic footprint to it. And, um, you know, it just, it’s such a privilege to be able to talk to these people and learn about these people, but also tell their stories. Um, and you mentioned Julia Platt, there’s one who very few people know. Um, she was a woman working in the mid 18 hundreds in, um, uh, originally at the university of Vermont and later at Harvard and she was really off the charts intelligent and really off the charts passionate about biology in particular, embryology, obviously going, you know, understanding how Oregon’s and bodies are built from egg to adult and she couldn’t get a PhD in the United States.

So she went to Germany to get a PhD. Um, you know, against all odds came back and it’s 18 hundreds, by the way. It came back, ended up working, um, in woods hole, the Marine biological laboratory in a laboratory that, you know, valued women’s work. And she found something really remarkable that ran counter to the time people thought that all organs in the body came from one of three sort of tissues that in early embryonic development. And she found that some bones in the skull don’t obey that easy rule. And so she published a paper on that and the main leaders in the field, basically, I mean, I don’t know how to say it other than like they dumped on her. They just like said no. And eventually one of the big leaders, uh, confirmed her results, um, and backed her up, but not until she was chased out of the field.

So she ended up writing a letter to David star Jordan, who was president of Stanford university at the time, literally begging for a job. She ended up having to leave science. And, uh, she ended up becoming, after leaving science, she moved to Pacific Grove, California, became mayor of Pacific Grove, California, and ended up in the 1920s saving Monterey Bay. You know, so science is losses, the world’s gain, I guess. And her scientific discovery was later confirmed and it was shown that a, that what she’d had discovered wasn’t big agents of our own development and our own evolutionary change. She was one of the people who led to the discovery of a tissue type called the neural crest, which is this huge tissue type, which is so very important for evolution and our own development. So, you know, you know, to tell those kinds of stories, it changes you when I, you know, changes, you mean the author, me, I, I had, you know, w I had, I known of her work, but when I read her life story that has now, pardon me, you know, it’s like, eh, likewise, Mary Claire King, likewise, you know, Lindmar Gulas likewise, you know, Barbara McClintock and others, you know, they, the story of these people who often work against all odds and in the process changed the way we think of the world.

You know, that’s, um, that’s powerful stuff. And just be able to be able to have the privilege of getting those stories out there as I did, as I tried to do in this book. Um, you know, it was just a great feeling. So just, I hope they gain traction.

Are you finding that, um, as more women are in science, uh, and as that, um, that patriarchy falls away, that different a shift in focus looking at, you know, estrogen rather than testosterone? Is movers looking at female bodies rather than just as male bodies? Is it changing the perception? Is it changing the ability of science to learn more and take a deeper, deeper understanding of what’s happening in evolution in this case?

Well, yeah, and in fact, where we really feel it most is in clinical studies, right? Cause in so much, you know, clinical biology is based on the male, right? Um, that, uh, you know, the having the other 50 and change percent, uh, represented is a, is, is, is not only, um, uh, interesting, but it’s incredibly important. Um, and so, and it’s been just a major gap in our knowledge. There’s no doubt that as we get more diverse as a, you know, as a community in science, um, that the kinds of questions that people ask, uh, get broader. You know, and you know, we all profit because of that. Uh, and we all have our blind spots, right? Every one of us, we walk around with blind spots. And the first as a scientist, the blind spots are often in the kinds of questions you ask, you know, and I’m loaded with those, right? As is everybody else in different ways. And so the more we can have a community that helps us get beyond our own blind spots, um, the more traction we can get, the more the broader our work becomes, you know? Um, and so we’re, we see it left and right, or there’s just no doubt about that. Well, that’s why I love telling these different kinds of stories in the book. Honestly,

you’re, I’m in this book and in your work, you’re explaining what we know and what we are discovering and how much we’re discovering as we understand ways to unpack the genome and, and get right down to the microscopic level and molecular level with DNA. What don’t we know? What are still some of the big black holes that you’re thinking about?

Well what we, you know, we still, there’s just so much we don’t know. I mean, you know, we really don’t know how a Oregon is built from genetic information. You know, I can give you a list of genes that are involved in bill and making an Oregon right in its development, um, and its evolution. But how all those genes and proteins work together to make a heart. Uh, we’re a long way from that. You know, we’re a long way from connecting the dots. We’re good at making lists right now. We have technologies that can show us, you know, every protein that’s made in a cell, every protein and gene that’s active in a tissue, we can really do. I can give you those lists, right? But how you go from a list to a body question marks, right? We are still struggling in the dark on these things.

Although we’re getting better, you have to begin with the list, right? So we’re privileged to have those lists, but we are not, we’re still a long way from going from a list to a blueprint to, you know, a recipe to a body. I mean it’s just, it’s that, it’s that much. Um, so I think that’s what the coming decades are going to be. And I think, you know, we’re going to find, you know, DNA is filled with mysteries. There’s still is all kinds of regions in, in our own genome. We don’t know what it’s doing, what they’re doing, why they’re there, why they vary in the way they do, um, in the ways that they do. So, you know, we’re just loaded with mysteries. Likewise in evolution. I can show you all kinds of areas in evolution where, you know, we should, we need to target understanding the origin of vertebrates, creatures with backbones and skulls.

You know, we have some fossils that show us, um, likely candidates of the kinds of ancestors that existed then. But really the devil’s in the details. We can use a whole lot more information there. Have you go ahead. Oh, no, no. So there’s, you know, the reason why I love being a scientist is because every time you find something new, you give yourself answers. But some of those answers include much more precise and broader questions. And that’s kind of the phase we’re seeing ourselves in now. And knowing all these fields, fossils and genes. Hmm. Hey, when you’re not doing this, do you do other things to keep your brain active? Like what are your hobbies? I love, um, my dad was a mystery thriller writer, so I love reading stories. Um, you know, I’m, I’m not a workout nut, but, um, but hiking, moving my body is very important to me.

So for my own ability to work as a scientist or a writer, teacher and so forth, I need to do some exercise. So I am, I’m pretty, uh, pretty religious about that. The, um, um, uh, you know, working in the field, I work in Antarctica and the Arctic. It is a very physical thing. So I do have to stay, you know, get in shape before we go a field expedition. So that, that actually helps me cognitively. I, I find, uh, I love cooking. I love eating, so it’s good. Like to work out cause I like to eat a lot and I was a cook. Uh, I’m not a very good dishes, doers, so I just, I’ll call, I’ll call out that right now. I like shopping, but I hate doing the dishes. Hey, where do you hike around Chicago. I have flats. Okay. So like, you know, I mean the staircases are our mountains, but I, um, uh, I used to run this Derrick and before we went to Antarctica last time at, you know, I used to, I live on the 16th floor of a high rise, so I would run up and down.

Um, that was my workout. But, um, we have a light like Lakeshore pats. There’s a really beautiful, and it goes on for 26 miles. It’s just gorgeous wood look goons. And the Lake is like an ocean though, you know, like an inland sea almost. Um, so that can be beautiful. And, and what’s nice about it is given where we are, the bird population changes and then it’s a great place to do birdwatching. So that’s also a nice way to do it. Get a little nature inside the city for me. Yeah, you can go up to the, uh, to the Arboretum. That’s in Highland park. Uh, that exactly. Exactly. Great Japanese garden up there. But now, you know, like birding too. I like, I like to connecting to the natural world. Even living in a city, it’s fun seeing, I saw [inaudible] Falcon the other day in the city, you know, that was like a high point of my week.

I’m sorry, I saw a snowy owl and then not this winter we had a mild winter, but last winter I saw snow out and that was fun. So yeah, things like that. What do you, what is it, I’ll end with this. What is your work? What is your work in Antarctica? I read a little bit about it, but also what, what are you learning about all this stuff? Evolution, the climate change, all these things. What are you learning when you go to Antarctica? So Antarctica, we’re specifically interested in the fossils there. So we’re going there because Antarctica is, you know, is sliced by mountain range called the trans in Arctic mountains. And those mountains, uh, have all kinds of rocks of different geological ages. It turns out one slice of those rocks, one layer is from a period of time period in which was called the middle Devonian, about 385 million years ago.

Those rocks were formed in ancient rivers in ancient, um, ponds and lakes 380 million years ago. Antarctica was a tropical rainforest. And that’s then that’s what those rocks were reflect. So what we’re after is that period of time understanding what did the world look like 385, 380 million years ago. Um, and this, these rocks in Antarctica are giving us a unique window to that. Um, we’re finding fossil fish, early sharks, uh, uh, relatives of, of limbed creatures. I mean, it’s, we’re basically looking at using that as a window into understanding how did life shift from water to land plants and vertebrates, uh, you know, our relatives, the relatives of fish and so forth. So that’s where we’re learning and it’s, um, you know, it’s a fairly grueling place to work, um, for the kind of work we do. Yeah. Because what you have is the ice plateau, which where we are is at about five or 6,000 feet.

And then a mountain range has poked through that. So we work on the mountaintops that are poking through the ice. So we snowmobile from mountain the mountain, set up camp, uh, climb all over the mountains looking for fossils. Yeah. How do you keep your fingers warm enough to be able to do the work you’re doing? You’ve got to be, yeah, you’ve got to be careful about that. Um, yeah, so I mean, I’ll get, you’ll get really cold as you can imagine. Um, yeah, wear gloves. Uh, you learn to, you learn to work with gloves, you learn to work with, uh, mittens. Um, you, you know, you could, you kind of, we’re a very adaptable species, I gotta say. And so, you know, you bring the right gear and you learn to use it. Um, just, uh, try not to leave your exposed, uh, your flesh exposed to the elements for too long.

Um, it’s, I mean, it’s sort of a problem because when I have a fossil, like when I’m, you know, removing a fossil from the rock, my preferred position is to lie down on the rock with my face, like three or four inches from the rocks. Right. You know, so I can really see what’s in there. That strategy doesn’t work very well in Antarctica unless I have like a big old pen. So I’ll bring a sleeping pad, you know, lay it down so I can use my strategy. But, um, you know, it’s things like that you have to adjust and accommodate.

That’s remarkable. Science is remarkable. You know, um, you, uh, you’re at the, the field museum, one of the greatest, if not the greatest of natural history museums. And I’ve been, I’ve been taking some time to go to different natural history museums and thinking about the, the lineage of those museums and the importance that they actually have to our understanding of the world. And yet for a while it seemed like we were abandoning those museums and the collections of eggs and the, the, the stuffed varieties of the varieties of birds that are stuffed or even the skeletal structures. And, and so you go to some of them you go, Oh, this is 19th century. I, I see the science of the 19th century here. But yet it’s, it’s actually very, it seems to me very powerful stuff that they were doing back then that connects to what we’re doing today. And I, I guess I just wonder how you think about the natural history museums of the world.

Oh, I think that theme is extraordinarily important. You know, resources, hubs of research, each museum, whether it’s the field museum, the American museum, the Smithsonian and so forth. Burke museum in Seattle museums are incredibly important. Number one, they are repositories of diversity and we’re losing diversity on this planet. And we have these institutions where we can understand diversity over time because people have been making these collections. And so you know, if we want to understand diversity and whether it’s genetic or anatomical cultural or what have you, museums are our real window to that. The other thing about museums, this is incredibly important and this has been a big part of my own life as well as many others in my field is the Kindle excitement. That is, there’s something about the power of objects when you see a dinosaur or a bird or you know, or an archeological artifact, there’s something so resonant and powerful about seeing those objects that can be captivating.

The high points of my school year when I was young were like the field, the museum trips, you know, and not only cause I got out of class for the day, well maybe largely for that, who knows. But I also loved the being in museums and seeing the mummies and the and the dinosaurs and so forth. And you know, and a lot of the, one of the reasons why I went into natural history was because of the passion for museums, that passion that museums kindled. So museums are also huge hubs for research and education. So it’s so many levels. You know, the, the museums that pepper our cities and universities and so forth, uh, have had incredible importance, but also continuing and likely increasing importance in the years ahead.

I was at the museum at the university of Iowa and, um, they have a nice little natural history museum there. And I was sitting there in a little girl with her dad walked up to this display of eggs. They have all these eggs from the smallest eggs to the largest eggs. And she just, she was, yeah, she didn’t say anything. She was just standing there staring at it. And, and this was seven maybe, and she just was enthralled by it. And I just thought this, this is the best argument, not just for museums, but the best argument for looking at the truths that science can bring us.

Yeah. And it’s the objects that have such power, right? I mean, it’s, um, you know, I mean, well, the first thing people ask when I, you know, would walk people through the dinosaur exhibits that ask, is it real? And when you could say to them, yeah, that’s a real dinosaur bone. Um, you know, there’s something magical about that, that emotional connection that they develop. You know, when people would come into my lab, uh, and I’d give him a tour of my laboratory and, you know, I have some fossils we work on here and we used to have a Tiktaalik RESILIA, which is the, uh, one of the creatures that is a great window into how life fall to walk on land. Um, I used to, you know, I used to have the humerus in my office before we returned it to Canada and I’d pull it out and say, here’s the original humorous of Tiktaalik. And you could just see the goosebumps appear in their, you know, on their boat, on their body. And then, and on mine too, you know, cause there’s something very powerful about objects, you know, and, um, and that’s what drove me to paleontology is that, you know, you, you can find objects that change the way we think about the natural world and our relationship to it, you know, doesn’t get better than that. Yeah. And the Burke has been remodeled and rebuilt and then very much, and you can watch the, uh, you can watch the scientists at work and talk to them as they’re working. And it’s, it’s just a wonderful experience to be able to be so close to that. Yeah, you’re lucky to have that in Seattle. All right, sir. I appreciate you taking the time.

My pleasure. Thank you. Thank you very much. Right. Take care. Thank you, sir. Bye. To learn more, get yourself a copy of Neil Shubin’s book some assembly required decoding the 4 billion years of life from ancient fossils to DNA. Thank you for listening to episode 59 of in the moment. Our theme music comes from the Seattle bass band, EBU, and Seattle’s own bar Souk records. The recent coven 19 mandates to cancel events and public gatherings throughout Seattle has put a significant strain on the nonprofit community, including town hall. We know that it’s important to keep programming and creating engagement and educational opportunities for you, and we hope that you will consider extending your support. We need you now more than ever. So please make a donation online by clicking the link in the episode description below by texting town hall to four four three two one or by joining town hall as a member. And while we’re on heinous from public events, remember that we’re still programming events via live stream. Just go to our town hall, Seattle, YouTube channel, or visit us at town hall, thank you for your support and thank you for joining us right here in the moment.

Connecting Across the Social Distance with Eric Liu

At a time when quarantines are keeping us isolated from our neighbors, it’s more important than ever to help us maintain connections with our community and stay engaged as citizens. Eric Liu, co-founder of Citizen University, hosts regular Civic Saturday gatherings in Seattle to help us reflect, connect, and cultivate the kind of healthy civic traditions we need during this difficult time.

Town Hall and Citizen University are presenting a Virtual Civic Saturday on 3/28 to give civic-minded Seattleites a place to gather—even if it’s not in person. To preface this livestreamed event, Liu sat down with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby for a conversation about community health.

AE: During this time of social distancing, what are some ways we can maintain engagement with our community and feel that we’re still contributing to our society, even if we can’t do it in person?

EL: There are so many ways! Create a contact sheet for you and your neighbors—it’s a good chance to check on elders and introduce yourself (from an appropriate distance) to folks you don’t know yet. Read and subscribe to the Seattle Times—we in this area are unlucky to be an epicenter of the virus but we are exceedingly lucky to have an independent daily newspaper with such talented and dedicated staff. Circulate your time, talent, and treasure at any scale using any platform available.

AE: When health concerns are making people feel alienated from their neighbors, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. Right now, in what ways is Seattle (and our nation) most united?

EL: We are all realizing that when it comes to a pandemic there is no such thing as someone else’s problem. Our community is only as healthy as its least healthy members. That’s always true but most of the time society forgets it. There is no avoiding that truth now.

AE: What agencies and sectors would you encourage people to support right now? Who should we donate to? Who should we patronize?

EL: We should first make sure we help those who help us: health care workers, grocery workers, delivery workers. We can help them by pushing our policymakers and big employers to do right by all of them: living wages, paid sick leave, safer workplaces. Second, we should all get better at asking for help. Epidemiologically and economically, things are going to get worse before they get better. So it’s not so much “who should we donate to” as it is a matter of practicing mutual aid and figuring out how we can help each other.

AE: Many people are finding themselves stuck in their homes with an abundance of free time—the perfect opportunity to buff up our civic education! What are some texts at the top of your “civics required reading” list that you recommend people read during this time? Why do they resonate with you?

EL: Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell is about how people come together in times of disaster and form the kind of communities that we all yearn for—and she argues that the yearning means that we shouldn’t let that feeling evaporate after the worst passes. We need to pay close attention now, during the crisis, to how we practice kindness and civic love and civic responsibility so that we can keep up those practices after the crisis.

AE: What’s a message you would want all of Seattle to hear and meditate on in the coming weeks?

EL: Society becomes how you behave.

Join Eric Liu online on 3/28 for a Virtual Civic Saturday, or check out Citizen University to explore Civic Sermons from past gatherings

Getting Animated with Gustafer Yellowgold

A pancake smackdown, gravy bats, a little yellow man from the sun who loves to go on adventures—Morgan Taylor’s creations have been delighting kids and parents alike since 2005. With colorful animations and lively music that The New York Times has called “A cross between ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Dr. Seuss,” Taylor is a fan favorite on Town Hall’s stages. 

Taylor recently sat down with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby to discuss the origins of his beloved character Gustafer Yellowgold, sources of musical inspiration, and ideas for having fun while stuck inside.

AE: Can you tell me a bit about Gustafer? What inspired the character?

MT: What eventually became Gustafer started out as a doodle on a Dayton, Ohio record store marker board in the 90’s. I would draw this yellow, pointy-headed cat-faced creature on the new releases board each week. I put him in absurd situations, like frying up a box of turtles and frogs on the stovetop. He existed mostly on bar napkins until years later when I’d moved to New York City and started a children’s book and music project. I had some fictional short story-songs sung in first person, so when I first drew them out, I used the yellow guy. Coincidentally I already had a song called “I’m From The Sun,” and realized—hey, this is this guy’s story! It was a happy accident really. I put the Sun concept with this character and the whole world sprang forth.

AE: Why choose Minnesota as the setting to introduce an alien to Earth?

MT: Kind of in the same way that Stan Lee put Spider-Man/Peter Parker (and all his fictional heroes) in New York. The fantastic superhero premise has a more grounded, tangible quality when it’s in an actual geographic location. (As opposed to Metropolis or Gotham).

I have a list of Minneapolis bands that inspired me growing up, so I guess that had something to do with it. When I first was conceiving the fictional premise I had Gustafer land on Earth and living in a town called Butterburg. Having him in Minnesota is funnier and gets a good reaction.

AE: Why do kids connect so well with your music? What about parents? 

MT: I’ve always seen it as a “nobody excluded” rather than saying it’s specifically for children. Children are easier to entertain. It’s getting the folks to equally enjoy it that I find the most fun. I think the visual has always played a vital role in how the songs are conveyed. There’s a little magic in the silliness/emotionality combination that seems to work on all ages. 

AE: Which came first for you, the music or the animation? What gave you the idea to combine them?

MT: Always music first. Sometimes a concept will inspire the music, but I always have to have the song before I can start to make the visual. Like, I knew I wanted to write a song called “I Jump On Cake” and the general image the title itself conjures, helped me know what the lyrics should be.

AE: Lots of listeners have said they enjoy the mellow energy of your songs. Why choose to keep the pace slow?

MT: I don’t know. It wasn’t on purpose. Maybe growing up listening to so much soft rock has something to do with it. My live shows are 85% uptempo. And when the songs are mellow, they have the funniest visuals. So they don’t have a sleepy slowness. If your love ballad is sung by an eel or a pterodactyl it almost is better that it’s tender musically.

AE: Which of your songs would you recommend for first time listeners? Do you have any favorites?

MT: It never hurts to start from the beginning. “Wide Wild World” from 2007. That one has a scrappy charm and the songs are each unique to each other. I’m proud of it all. My albums are all short. My first few I barely cracked 30 minutes. 

AE: What are some of your favorite bands? How have they influenced your music?

MT: Beatles are kings of songwriting. Bread are the kings of soft rock style. But, my inner 9-year-old still lives in a room plastered with Kiss posters. After pre-teen years with Van Halen, Journey and Pat Benatar, I grew musically with R.E.M., The Replacements, and especially Minneapolis’ Trip Shakespeare.

In the 90’s it was T. Rex and Guided By Voices (my hometown Dayton, OH buds) and my adult Kiss resurgence. After I moved to New York City I finally found my love of Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Nick Drake and all the solo songwriter legends like that. As far as influence, I just strive to have my own voice like they all did. The Kiss thing; I had a chance meeting with Gene Simmons a couple of years ago and told him it was no coincidence that I ended up combining pop-rock and fantasy characters.

AE: Lots of kids and parents are cooped up at home right now—what would you suggest for ways to keep from getting bored indoors?

MT: Go outside and run around in the fresh air. Read. Get into new music. Find fun podcasts. Listen to audiobooks! Don’t spend all your time looking at screens. And most of all—create!

Morgan Taylor makes regular stops at Town Hall as part of our Saturday Family Concerts series. Check out all the catchy Gustafer Yellowgold songs on his YouTube page or listen to his latest audiobook.


Can You Help Migrating Birds By Turning Off Your Lights?

Every year, millions of birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway—the migratory path that stretches over 4,000 miles from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Circle. And each year, light pollution from populated areas can disorient and disrupt the rhythms of these birds. This can confuse, exhaust, and even endanger migrating birds—a 2014 study estimated that between 365 and 988 million birds collide with buildings in the US every year!

To explore the massive world of migration, listen to the full recording of our 2/19 panel discussion on The Pacific Flyway. And to learn more about light, energy, and sustainability in the Pacific Northwest, take a look at the resources offered by Puget Sound Energy. 

Town Hall is proud to announce our Powerful Partnership with Puget Sound Energy! With their support, we’re continuing our Town Green series, combining activist perspectives and policy-oriented programs with cutting edge research from climate studies and environmental sciences. 

For more community conversations focused on sustainability, check out Town Hall’s Town Green series. And to learn about simple energy-saving steps you can take in your home, check in with our Powerful Partners at PSE.

Turn off the lights to help save the earth—and a few birds!

Happy Birthday, Town Hall Seattle

On this day, in 1999, we opened to the public. It was 21 years ago today that we started a community here. It’s something we continue to do: building our community with wide open doors (though the pandemic has stymied us of late) and radically affordable tickets and stages, where everyone can take part, be inspired, and use their voice to shape our future. We believe that everyone deserves access to fresh ideas and artistic expression. We believe in an equitable Town Hall that belongs to all of us. We believe that, together, we can model the kind of society we want to share. All this is to say, this isn’t a day to celebrate Town Hall, it’s a day to celebrate us all. We can’t do it without you. If you’d like to give your financial support, please do. You can learn more about how to make an impact here.

Back on that first night of programming, Town Hall presented a free celebration of “Seattle’s Favorite Poems,” hosted by Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the United States. Others who read poems that night included local luminaries like Tom Skerritt, Speight Jenkins, Mike Lowry, Charley Royer, and others.

Robert Pinsky’s poem that he wrote for the occasion:


The hero travels homeward and outward at once,
Master of circumstance and slave to chance.
A spirit old and young, man, woman–each life
A spurt of knowing. The hero is the wife
Stitching all day a story unstitched at night
And also the son who calls the Council to meet
In the beamed Hall where the old ones used to gather.
Differing there, each regards all and each other.
A solitary old chief, the hero grieves
His dead companions, a nation full of lives.
The bird in cold and darkness buffeted in
Briefly through the bright warm hall and out again.
All nations wither Chief Seattle said,
And yet they are not powerless, the dead.
The shifting hero wanders alien places,
Through customs of cities and histories of races,
Their arts and evils, their goods, odd works and treasures.
Provincial, cosmopolitan, the hero embroiders,
Recollects, travels and summons together all
Manners of the dead and living, in the great Hall.

When Town Hall reopened recently, after it’s multi-million dollar renovation, we commissioned a work by Suzan-Lori Parks, celebrating our 20th anniversary.  It is below in its entirety.

a “forever” play by Suzan-Lori Parks

The action of this play starts right here right now.

X: Where do I begin?
Y: Why are you asking?
X: Just curious.
Y: All of a sudden you’re “just curious”?
X: I’ve been curious for – for a long time, but I never thought that the question I asked you was
a question one should ask, really. Because it’s a question that has an answer that could, oh,
idunno, start a fight. Or a party. Or a parade. Or a war. Or a famine. Or a wedding. Or a
healing. Or a fissure. Or a series. Or a portal. Or a race.
Y: A race?
X: You heard me.
Just then, hundreds of PEOPLE, thousands, really, “race” across the stage. As if every single
person in Seattle, Washington, and everywhere too, right, were, right at this very moment,
“racing” out of doors, or “racing” to the gym, or to the job, or to the school, or “racing” as part
of a sport, or late for a bus or a train or a boat or a plane, or trying to cross a river or a border or
a sea. Everybody “racing,” everybody “running” and everybody running on something or
toward something or from something and, also right, everybody running something. Yeah,
we’re all running something aren’t we? And we’re all on some kind of path, a path that takes us
all, in body and/or in mind and/ or in spirit, right in this exact instant, right across this very stage
and also right across the stage in your head. Where this play also is being performed. And each
person, is carrying a FLOWER – what kind of flower? Well, if you’re lucky, it’s the flower of your
own choosing. And as we see the PEOPLE “racing” by, know that, from this moment, for you,
things are going to be better. Because they’re all on the road to recovery and you don’t have to
run cause you’re already there. The ACTION of this PLAY takes place over and over and
FOREVER which means that this is a FOREVER PLAY. Am I getting off the subject? Am I getting
off the path? Not at all. Yay. Back to our play.
Y: The Human Race!
X: Exactly.
You’ve got something to teach me. I can smell it. Go on.
Y: Right, ok, well,
We know that there is no ”I” in “TEAM,”
But did you know that there is a “me” in “ENEMY?”
X: Well done.
Y: Thank you.
Did you come all this way to learn that?
X: No, but you came all this way to tell it to me.
Y: Ok. How do you do that?
X: Do what?
Y: Get under the surface of – me. Get inside my head.
X: You open the door and let me in. You flew me into town and opened the door and let me in
and so here I am. I’m here. And I’m in your head. Deeply curled up in there. Giving you a
healing hug.
Y: Mmmmmm. Thank you.
X: That’s what I do. Pretty much. That’s like the – common thread running through my output.
Y: Wow. Deep. What was your question?
X: Which one?
Y: The one up there at the top of the page, or back there, in the past. The question you had
about –
X: Where do I begin?
I have never told an actor how to say a line but it would be really great if they could say it as
close to the same way that they said it the first time (at the start of the PLAY).
X: Where do I begin?
Y: Exactly.
X: Where do I end?
Y: Good questions.
X: And what about the Others?
Y: What Others? Where?
X: Over there.
Y: Oh, they’re you.
X: They don’t look like me.
Y: No?
X: Not at all. They’ve got NNNNNN where I’ve got YAYAYAYAYAY. They’ve got SCRUNNNNCH
where I’ve got HURRRRRRRK. I’m all waaah waaah and they’re woo woo.
Y: They’re you. There you are. Right here. Right there. And over there too.
X: Couldn’t be.
Y: It’s true.
X: So, Everything is part of Everything? One thing expressing itself in an infinite variety?
Y: Bingo.
X: Should I ask “What Else Is There?”
Y: No. Don’t ask.
X: And that’s the whole Game of Life. In One Moment.
Y: Yep. Should we sing a song?
X: Let’s.
We sing “Beginner.”
…we’re going around and around and around and around and around and around again
we’re going around and around and around and around…

Thank you, everyone, for going around and around and around with us.

A Suggestion While in Self Isolation: Read a Book.

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” – Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” – Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

Don’t leave your house. Stay home. Stay healthy and keep others healthy. Do you need some suggestions for what to do in your home? Buy a book and read it.

Books are a life blood of Town Hall. We bring in authors and speakers from around the corner to around the world to inform, enlighten, and inspire all of us. The recent pandemic has hampered those efforts. There are deep fears in our literary community about how the coronavirus could damage the longevity of some of our most beloved bookstores.

We, at Town Hall, always delight in working with some of the finest bookstores in our city. They could use all of our help right now. Connect with your favorite local bookstore, order a book, read it, and repeat.

Ada’s Technical Books. They’re closed until March 31 at the earliest. They’ve had to lay off employees. You can order books using their online store.

Elliott Bay Book Company. They’re closed until March 31 at the earliest. You can order books online and they are currently offering free shipping.

Phinney Books. As of now, they’re “open,” but for pickup and delivery only. They’ll be in the store for their usual hours, but no browsing will be allowed in the store, and ideally as little customer traffic as possible.

Third Place Books. They’re three locations are still open with reduced hours but are taking it day by day. They are offering free shipping when you order online.

University Bookstore. All locations, with the exception of the Tacoma store (limited hours), are closed until March 30 at the earliest. They are offering free shipping when you order online.

Do what you can to help ensure the vitality of our region. We’re not one of the most literate cities in America for nothing. We appreciate knowledge, and wisdom, and creativity, and the imagination of us all. Find all that, now more than ever, from one of our local bookstores.

In The Moment: Episode 58

In this week’s interview, former WA Governor Gary Locke spoke with correspondent Rick Smith about the history and importance of the US Census. He traces the origins of the Census back to 1790, to the Constitution itself, and identifies ways the Census affects our nation—such as granting Washington a new congressional seat in 2010, as well as impacting distribution of federal funds. Smith addresses modern factors discouraging Americans from participating in the Census and underscores the protections and privacy measures in place to keep respondents safe.

Episode Transcript

This transcription was performed automatically by a computer. Please excuse typos and inaccurate information. If you’re interested in helping us transcribe events and podcasts, email

Welcome to in the moment a town hall Seattle podcast where we introduce you to folks coming to our stages by getting you familiar with their topic, personality and interests. I’m your host, Jini Palmer. Every 10 years our nation gets one chance to count its population. The data that’s collected determines the number of seats each state has in the house of representatives and is also used to allocate billions of federal tax dollars to local communities. There are several defining differences between the last census in 2010 and the 2020 census, including online forms and phone calls. Not to mention the current Corona virus outbreak and how that’s affecting the census. Bureau’s attempts to accurately gather that information. On March 16th town hall was scheduled to host an event with former governor Gary Locke, the honorary chair of the King County complete count committee, who is going to talk with a panel of experts about the critical role of the census and how it impacts us.

However, in lieu of the recent Corona virus outbreak in Seattle and mandatory measures taken by state officials, we’ve canceled this event, but not before our correspondent rich Smith, a staff writer at the stranger who focuses on local politics, books and performance. Sat down with Gary to talk about the census 2020 and what it means for all of us. All right, so governor lock. Before we talk about your important role in the census count, can you just tell me why the government needs to count everybody in the first place and what impact that has on our daily lives?

Uh, this is a practice, a account that has gone on ever since, uh, 1790, when George Washington was president. It’s built into our constitution where the government is required to do a count of all the people in the United States every 10 years. And actually the, the number of questions is very, very, uh, few, uh, this year. And in some ways almost the same number of questions as in 1790. Um, but, uh, it’s, it’s important for to two basic reasons. We count the population of America so that we can figure out how many States or how many members of Congress in each state and where. And as you divide up to state, uh, making sure that communities are accurately represented, accurately counted so they can be fully represented in the United States Congress. Based on the 2010 census, the state of Washington actually gained a new seat in the United States Congress.

Um, and because the number of members of Congress’s fixed, uh, 435 as our population in grows, each congressional district will have more members, more more residents. But in state Senate where the population has actually stayed flat or has decreased, that may mean that some of those States will actually lose a seat in Congress and some of them more faster. And the faster growing States will actually gain seats. So if we want full political empowerment, if either because we deserve our community is let’s say the state of Washington deserve extra representation. We want to make sure that we are entitled to our full political clout regardless of party, whether you’re Democrat, Republican, or independent. We want our voices to be counted, uh, in the halls of Congress on the issues we care about. At the same time, we want to make sure that we protect our voices.

And so, uh, we, we don’t want to be in an area where we might lose a seat in Congress. Um, and the census is also used by the state of Washington in determining the boundaries of the state legislature or the state legislature. We have 49 districts in the state of Washington. And if the Puget sound area is growing much faster than let’s say Eastern Washington, the Puget sound area might actually gain a new district in the state legislature. Um, and therefore the people of the Puget sound area will have even stronger voices in Olympia. Conversely, rural areas want to make sure they’re accurately counted so that they possibly, so they can avoid possibly losing a seat in the state legislature. And the second reason we want to be counted accurately is because so many federal and state dollars flow out to communities based on population. Um, the state of Washington receives currently about 2000, $300 per person per year based on population. Uh, whether it’s programs for seniors, uh, assistance for low income housing, uh, transportation dollars for highway repairs, road construction. A lot of that money going out to all of America is distributed on a population basis. So it’s important that we are fully and accurately counted so that we get our fair share of our taxpayer dollars going to the federal government and having it returned.

Uh, so this is the foundation of our representative government at the federal, state, and local levels. And it also determines, uh, how much, uh, money the federal government will allocate to vital services that we all need. Uh, you oversaw the census count in 2010. Uh, I, what are some major differences between filling out that census and filling out this one?

Well, the big, big difference, uh, for the 2010 census is that, uh, people will be able to go online, uh, to respond and not have to do it on paper. Uh, and you can also respond over the telephone. So we’ll starting next week, uh, and for the next week and a half, but starting next week, uh, households, residences, uh, we’ll start, we’ll get, start getting a postcard which will inform people of that toll free number to call to respond to the census or, uh, an online, an email address with, um, and each households, each Rez beach address will have a unique identifier. Uh, obviously we don’t want people, uh, you know, responding five times or each household, let’s say mom, dad, or daughter, resident, uh, um, family member each, each responding and saying, this is our home address and we’re filling out the census. So, you know, each, each residence will have one number or identifier and, um, they’ll use that, uh, to when they respond.

All right, well, so, um, they can fill it out online now. Seems to be the, the big change. Uh, what, uh, are there any protections that the government has implemented to make sure that those forms don’t get hacked or to, uh, provide some kind of a security or privacy in that way? Do you know?

Well, first of all, uh, there, there are enormous privacy protections, uh, over, uh, around the census. Um, census workers are not allowed, uh, are, are, you know, there are criminal penalties for census workers to reveal the information. Uh, the information is not shared under us law with any other agency. Um, everything is kept confidential. Um, and, uh, individual responses cannot be accessed I think for like 75 or 80 years. Um, but, uh, but in between, before then, everything is just an aggregate numbers, uh, without any type of personal identifiers. Uh, you know, there are X number of people living in Rainier Valley, uh, on this particular block there. The age, their age, they can make up their ethic. Ethnicity is, is, is such and such. Uh, gender, uh, breakout is such and such. Um, and, and that’s it. Um, these are in the most aggregate generalized terms. Um, but, uh, you cannot go and see what, how my dad filled out his census form in 1964, another 60 years.

Wow. Okay. Well, what happens if you don’t respond to the census? Is there a legal penalty? You

don’t respond to the census that technically legal penalties, but it’s never enforced. Um, um, and, uh, the census Bureau will hound residents and addresses several times sending out postcards, uh, several mailings, um, to urge people to fill out the census. Uh, now some households will get a written form, um, and they can fill it out on paper. Um, but, um, the census form the census will keep hounding you for the next several months. Um, and then after a while, uh, uh, starting around the end of April, 1st of May, we will actually, the census Bureau will actually send out people to go door to door, uh, to those addresses that have not yet responded either by telephone or by email or by written form.

Uh, I remember, uh, just sort of speaking of trying to get everybody included in this count, that the scent, the goal of the census is to count every head in the country. Right. And I remember earlier in the year, or maybe it was last year, there being some talk of adding a citizenship question on the census and some people were nervous that that would, um, uh, prevent or, uh, undocumented immigrants from, uh, filling out the census for fear that they might be, uh, found out. Uh, is that citizenship a question on the, on the census?

Nope. That citizenship question is not on the census.

And you’re saying that, um, the information in the census won’t be shared with other agencies and that might offer some more protections to, um, people who fear that the information might be shared with, uh, eyesore, the border patrol or any of those kinds of, uh, agencies.

Yes. And then that of course, was the big fear among many groups. Uh, when the, uh, Trump administration was proposing to include the citizenship question, even though even though, uh, the information still could not be shared with other law enforcement agencies, whether FBI or ice or a border patrol, et cetera, et cetera, um, nonetheless, the, the prospect of that question put a lot of fear and trepidation into many group, um, groups that are already hard to count, uh, reluctant to and suspicious, suspicious of government are not used to being, not used to having these types of participating in a census. And so, um, uh, the fear of that citizenship question, even according to the census Bureau was going to result in a lower participation, uh, lower responses, uh, fewer responses to the census form or to the census, uh, effort. And that’s why the tech, the, the career professionals within the census Bureau were adamantly opposed to the inclusion of that citizenship question. Ultimately, the U S Supreme court blocked, uh, the inclusion, uh, any type of citizenship question. And, and, uh, basically, uh, uh, saying that the administration’s justifications for that were all fabricated and politically motivated.

So those residents should, um, should have no fear. And, uh, respond to the postcard accordingly.

Uh, that’s correct. Uh, there’s absolutely, uh, there’s, uh, um, all their information is confidential. Uh, and, uh, there is no citizenship question, uh, on the, uh, census, uh, form, uh, and um, uh, but nonetheless, we still know that there are many communities that are still suspicious of the census, which is why so much of the effort, um, on the complete count committee, whether it’s for the entire state of Washington King County or even city of Seattle, is to really work with community based organizations and faith based leaders, uh, trusted voices within the community. Uh, because no matter how much, um, a Senator or a mayor, um, uh, an administration official, whether it was president Obama or myself as commerce secretary in 2010, um, we’re urging people to fill out the census. We were still government officials. Uh, but when you have the minister of your church saying, no, this is important, your information is confidential. Uh, these are the benefits to our community in terms of receiving our fair share of, of tax dollars coming back to our community or empowering our communities. Um, uh, with our, with representation in the halls of Congress or in the state legislature, those have much more impact. Just why all of our efforts have really been focusing on, uh, working with community based groups, uh, to get the word out about the importance of, of the responding to the census.

So that’s your role as a honorary chair of that King County complete count committee to help organize some of those local groups to get the word app. Which group in your experience has been the hardest to reach and what strategies have you used to reach them?

Well, a lot of immigrant groups, uh, who are unfamiliar with English language, uh, uh, where English is not the primary language, which recent immigrant groups, um, uh, ethnic groups, uh, who have feel, felt perhaps disenfranchised and from government, uh, for, for a period of time. Um, um, even senior citizens, uh, uh, are sometimes hard to count because they might be, let’s say in a nursing home or in a group home, a retirement home, and, uh, they may not get actual form in their mail box. Um, it’s really up to these group living or, uh, facilities to actually do the count. And so, um, we’re always worried that they may be missed. Um, and even sometimes students, um, uh, parents may not include them. Technically the parents are not supposed to include them on the survey and the colleges or universities are supposed to be conducting the counts, uh, because it’s, where are you primarily living? Um, April one, uh, what is, what is your main residence on April one? So,

so do they send like an Intrepid, uh, census Bureau workers out to these groups to, uh, and to those organizations to remind them on a monthly basis to fill out these forms? Or how do, what does that process look like?

Well, the, the, the census Bureau, um, hires people, uh, to, uh, get the word out and to meet with community groups. Um, and they, they, they try to locate all these, for instance, uh, adult living homes or retirement homes or nursing homes, uh, and, uh, they’re trying to work with this, the staffs, uh, of all these different facilities so that the facilities are actually doing the count. Not that we have a census taker that goes out to the retirement or to the nursing home. Um, but it’s that getting that we’re out, that, uh, that these larger facilities are supposed to be doing the count, uh, and then the colleges so that each dormitory is counting. Um, and that’s, that’s a tough undertaking.

Yeah, it must be,

but in the end, but in the end, if people don’t fill out the online survey, if they don’t call it in, and if they don’t fill out a form for those who receive the form in the mail. And after repeated reminders, a starting around may one, uh, the census Bureau will send people door to door. And these are people who are, um, you know, several hundred thousand people will be hired on a part time basis to go, uh, knocking door to door.

Wow. Okay. That’s, do they wear special census clothes so that you can distinguish them from [inaudible]

special badges? They’ll have special badges and uh, ID and, uh, uh, folks, uh, if there, if someone, uh, folks who are answering the door, if there’s a somewhat suspicious or want verification, they should not hesitate to, uh, see and, and ask or should not hesitate to ask, uh, to see the ID.

The West coast, many West coast cities and cities across the country are dealing with a, a homelessness crisis, a thousand sleeping on the streets, sleeping in their cars and trailers. They might be hard to identify. Does the census Bureau have a plan for reaching those people?

Yes, they do. Um, uh, there is a, there will be a very specific date, um, in which, uh, on which, uh, uh, homeless population will be counted. Um, and the census takers are actually working with the cities and towns and the, and the various nonprofit organizations that work with the homeless, uh, to coordinate that because obviously, um, as, as the homeless move around, let’s say in the Seattle area, let’s say they might be in a tent, um, under the freeway one night and the next night they might be in a shelter. Um, so if you spread this out over several days, you may actually double count of people. Uh, and so, um, there, there’s a lot of effort working with nonprofit organizations, uh, homeless advocates, uh, and local governments to identify, uh, where the homeless might be living, uh, on a particular set of days. And then, um, they go out on one particular day to really try to get it as complete account as possible.

We’re, I’m in the middle of a Corona virus outbreak, uh, as we’re talking. Is that making your life harder? Is that, is that making your life harder and making these efforts harder in some way?

Well, in fact, uh, we have a, uh, a meeting that was scheduled for this coming Tuesday. Uh, uh, Washington state complete count committee, which I actually chair and we’ve been holding these meetings, uh, about once every, a month and a half. Um, working with, for instance, uh, business groups, Hispanic groups, native American groups, NAACP, refugee groups, representatives, the colleges, universities, superintendent, public instruction. Um, my gosh, uh, I think, uh, the association of counties association of cities, um, and a small business Bureau, uh, you know, small chambers, uh, things like that. And just figuring out how we can coordinate, share best practices, um, share flyers, give out templates so that people don’t have to reinvent things, suggested letters that can be put into, uh, the news, uh, suggested language that can be put into the newsletters of organizations so that people just don’t have to reinvent this and can actually build off of the, the collective efforts and wisdom of, of so many other, so many of these groups that are involved in it as well as information, uh, uh, disseminated by the census Bureau itself.

So we’ve been having these meetings. In fact, we were about to have a meeting this Tuesday and just before you called, I was on the conference call with the, uh, with the state, uh, coordinator for the census and we decided that given the Corona virus and what the governor and County officials are recommending, we’re not going to hold our big meeting. Uh, we’re not sure that the press would’ve shown up anyway. We wanted to highlight the purpose was to actually highlight, uh, some of the efforts and the unique efforts of the different community based organizations. Um, and also because given the, the admonition to avoid being in large groups, we felt that, uh, it would be, um, somewhat inconsistent for us to be holding a meeting. So we’re actually going to do it online and what we’re going to do by Skype or zoom or zoom or whatever, uh, video conferencing. Uh, but, uh, the topic that we are going to focus on this coming Tuesday instead of showcasing the displays and the efforts of different community groups and organizations, um, is what are the challenges to a complete count given the Corona virus, um, over the next month and a half?

Yeah, I can imagine a strategy centered on people going into nursing homes, people going into churches, um, uh, and, and, and being in contact with a lot of, uh, people might present, uh, challenges. I imagine you’ll talk about some kind of safety measures for census workers who do that? Or do you have any idea what,

no, we’re actually, actually, we’re going to be focusing on how, how can a community organization, which was, let’s say, planning on having, let’s say, a census fair or a census booth at a fair or at a community gathering or in the church. Uh, how can you still get your message out to your community members or to the members of the community if people aren’t attending these public events or going to these public gatherings, whether it’s church, uh, or whether it’s, um, you know, uh, uh, um, the street fair, um, whether it’s a street fair and Rainer Valley, uh, or a street fair in the international, uh, Chinatown district. Um, so what strategies should these community organizations be devising or implementing? Just still get the word out to the members of their community. Um, do they switch from having a little fair street fairs and booths to advertisements in their newspapers, uh, that are delivered community newspapers? Do we need to redeploy resources into that and we need to, um, rely on email, you know, contacts and messages out to everybody. Um, um, so all the members of their organization and followers, contributors, supporters of their organization, you know, just mass flooding, uh, you know, everyone’s email addresses or mailing lists, you know, email lists. Um, so that’s what the meeting on Tuesday is gonna is going to turn into.

I see. Well, speaking of things

that make your life much more difficult or make the lives of census takers much more difficult, there’s often a lot of census scams that, uh, come come out around this time. And especially switching to a, uh, or offering in addition to the, uh, IRL formats. There’s all, you know, an, uh, a digital format. Uh, I can imagine fishing expeditions, I could imagine ads that look like a census form but really aren’t a census form. What can people do? What should people be looking for to make sure they’re actually filling out a census? Um, rely on the postcard that comes from the census Bureau, uh, that, uh, gives you a unique identifier and, um, and go onto that website and respond. And if the, if, if in any way, if, if the website, any website, any, um, mail that you get, uh, whether it’s, you know, snail mail or email that says, uh, uh, make a contribution or we need your social security number or we need your income, uh, information, then that’s automatically a scam. The census form a question does not ask anything about, so does not ask for social security number, does not ask for income. Uh, information does not ask, uh, you to donate. Uh, uh, uh, and so anything that, that wants additional, any type of financial information, uh, social security information, bank information, um, request a donation, all that scams, that’s a scam.

Since, uh, you know, some, some organizations right now, I mean, there’s, I think there’s something in the newspaper or in the news today about, uh, a political organization saying, uh, you know, help us with the census and, uh, respond to this. Um, and they’re asking actually inviting you to make a donation to a political campaign that is not part of the census.

Yeah, I saw that and I’m concerningly that was related to, um, I think a political campaign, um, that helps the president’s reelection. And so even though it’s a political ad, um, it might not have anything to do with the census at all. The ad in question is one that a ad in question had the word or asked users to take a census, but really it was just, uh, uh, an ad. Yep. All right. So we’ve got to look, be on the lookout for that. Uh, let’s say that we are an engaged, uh, population who wants our voice to be represented accurately in the halls of Congress and in the state houses. What else can we do to make your job easier?

Uh, talk to your friends and neighbors and, and, uh, ask them whether or not they filled out the census and let them know, uh, talk to them about how it’s important, uh, to have our voices heard. Um, because, um, if people don’t accurately, if we don’t have an accurate count, um, let’s say parts of Seattle are undercounted than parts of Seattle may actually lose a, uh, a seat in the state legislature or the boundaries will be made so large that your community’s voices are diluted.

So you would suggest maybe if you’re at church or something, looking around, you’ve got a few minutes before the sermon, uh, turn to your neighbor and say something like, wow, I really have you filled out the census.

It’s only, it’s only like seven or eight questions. It’s so easy,

right? Fast to fill out. Or if you’re in line at the grocery store and people are bored, you could turn to your neighbor and say, man, you hear about the census going around as in, it’s so great to take a short, easy to use census. Yeah. All right. Great. Well thank you so much for your time, governor lock. Oh my appreciate. I appreciate it.

Thank you. To find out more information about your rights and the census in Seattle, go to census Thank you for listening to episode 58 of in the moment. Our theme music comes from the Seattle based band, EBU, and Seattle’s own Barsac records. You can listen to our full town hall produced programs and speakers on our arts and culture, civics and science series, podcasts, and you can also watch a whole library of content on our YouTube channel. Just search Townhall Seattle and subscribe to support town hall. Become a member or see our updated calendar of events. Check out our website at town hall, until next time, thank you for joining us right here in the moment.

A Little Ink on Tattooing

The days when tattoos were most associated with sailors and ex-cons are long gone. Seattle has a diverse and thriving tattoo scene. Gage Academy of Art Artistic Director Gary Faigin moderates a panel of three tattoo artists on March 24 at Town Hall. Tickets are only $5 and free for anyone 22 and under. Update: In-Person programming at Town Hall has been suspended. We hope to have this panel discussion on tattooing to occur in the coming months.

One of those tattoo artists, Heidi Sandhorst of Dark Age Tattoo, sat down with Town Hall’s Jonathan Shipley to discuss a tattoo as a celebration, black and grey tiger faces, and how there are no strange requests.

JS: When did you start appreciating the art of the tattoo? What spoke to you about tattoos?

HS: This seems like such a hard question because tattoos have been such a part of my life for a long time. Tattoos have been in my field of awareness since I was a preteen and when I really started discovering music for myself: punk and riot girl. Most of the people in those bands and those that went to their shows had tattoos. Most of my friends had tattoos. I have always been an artist, have always been creating art and tattoos are just another way to express myself, to shrug off the status quo, to heal, to just enjoy something beautiful, and so many other things. It can mean anything and/or nothing for those who decides to wear them and I love that.

JS: What was the first tattoo you got? How many do you have now?

HS: I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday, I made the appointment a few weeks before it and I got a black and grey tiger face on my back shoulder. I can’t really say how many I have because I have larger pieces that took many sessions. I still have to tattoo my back and the back of my thighs, but that will be one big piece, and little bits here and there. I will probably never be done!

JS: What tattoo on you means the most to you? Why?

HS: The tattoo that means the most to me is usually the most recent one I got because it’s the one I am the most into at the time. Some people get tattooed for a story; I get tattooed to celebrate the art of artists and people I love. My most recent one is a peony on my knee by an amazing artist, Jamie August. Jamie is also one of the kindest people I have ever had the honor to meet.

JS: When did you start tattooing others? When did you decide to try and make it your job?

HS: I didn’t start tattooing people until I was well into my apprenticeship, so I had already decided to make tattooing my career when I did my first tattoo. 

JS: What tattoo did you do  for someone else are you most proud of?

HS: I strive to be proud of every tattoo I do.  I am proud when I execute a clients idea well, when they are happy, healed, safe, whatever their goal for the tattoo is and I have successfully aided in that process. I am also extra excited about subject matter I enjoy drawing and tattooing. Being given free reign to draw and tattoo it in my style is my favorite! 

JS: What’s the strangest request you’ve had for a tattoo?

HS: There are no strange requests! We are all human and you should never feel judged for being as “weird” as you want to be. I however will not tattoo anything racist/hateful and I deeply strive to not tattoo anything culturally appropriative that is offensive to the culture it was taken from, but I will admit that is a lifelong learning process and I defer to people that come from those cultures and actively seek out information from cultures and perspectives outside my own to be better informed. I know since these perspectives are outside my own I have to commit to always seeking out those voices and I will always be learning and growing.

JS: How long have you been at Dark Age?

HS: I have worked at Dark Age as long as it’s been open. Since 2014. 

JS: Why do you think it took so long for tattoos to make it to the mainstream?

HS: Tattoos have always been “mainstream” for me, so I’m not sure. Perhaps with the rise of Instagram and social media,  the ability to see so many people expressing themselves in so many ways so easily has made it more acceptable to express oneself.

JS: What’s the future hold for you in regards to tattoos?

HS: My future in tattooing is my future in life, to grow and learn always. To always be becoming the best artist, healer, steward of compassion I can be.

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