A Little Ink on Tattooing

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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.

What Are People Doing?

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Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Yesterday afternoon an interesting demonstration of Dalcrose Eurhythmics was given by Elsie Hewett McCoy” and, “Dr. Mizra Ahmed Sohrab spoke about the emancipation of Persian women that is currently going on.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

In the March 6 edition of the Town Crier there was a brief mention of Seattle’s local Composers Society. There was a program that “marked another milestone in the history of this club of talented musicians whose members are doing their part in making the history of music in the Northwest.”

Not to toot our own Town Hall horn too much but we have also done our part in making local music history. Last year, for instance, we were part of a Phillip Glass commission entitled “Perpetulum,” the first piece Glass composed for percussion. Third Coast Percussion gave its Northwest premiere as part of Town Hall’s Town Music Series. “Perpetulum” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category.

Next up for us on the commission front? Town Hall has commissioned a piece by Judd Greenstein as part of our coming yMusic concert that takes place on Town Hall’s Great Hall on April 8 (tickets are on sale now). Known for his structurally complex, viscerally engaging pieces of music, Greenstein’s compositional voice aligns with the stirring verve of yMusic, who embody the humanity of the music they play. 

The writers of the old Town Crier would undoubtedly be pleased upon hearing that Seattle’s musical history is still being made at Town Hall Seattle.

A Melting Pot of Music

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Emily Slider, a local world music aficionado, was in attendance at our most recent Haram Global Rhythms Concert. She was kind enough to send along this review. She’s reviewed Town Hall concerts in the past on the Town Crier and for KEXP.

Photo by Roy Kuraisa

On Sunday, March 1, The Great Hall was a melting pot of Arabic sound. Gordon Grdina was joined by an ensemble of ten musicians, each accomplished in his own right. Unlike previous concerts in the Global Rhythm series, which have included a local and a global performer playing separate and distinct sets, this concert was a collaboration with Gordon Grdina’s ensemble, Haram, featuring Marc Ribot on guitar.

The evening opened with a guitar solo by Ribot, which lured the audience into the captivating sound. On the cue of Grdina, Haram broke into what sounded like a celebratory Klezmer wedding song. The melody tiptoed down descending intervals, dancing its way around the hall. The woodwinds rose in dynamics as every instrument played its own melody or drone, creating a very atonal feel in the midst of this traditional song. To wrap up this first piece, the ensemble quickened its tempo until each instrument was racing the others to the finale of the song. Another song began with Grdina’s ear pressed to the body of his lute as though he were coaxing the precious sound out of its body and sharing a sacred gift with the audience. His fingers flew over the body of the lute, demonstrating his mastery of the instrument.

Each voice in the ensemble had its time to shine on stage, which made for some remarkable solos. The violin, played by Jesse Zubot, opened a piece by dragging the bow lightly across its highest string, creating an eerie atmosphere. He then crept his way up the strings ferociously, creating a string sound reminiscent of Kryzsztof Penderecki’s Polymorphia. During a clarinet solo, Francois Houle, popped his clarinet in half, covering the bottom of the shortened woodwind with his hand. It was as if each player on stage were challenging himself to find every way to evoke the most sound from his instrument. When the group incorporated a call-and-response vocal into the sound, it sounded less like a religious or traditional influence and more like a ska vocal sound. After a traditional Sudanese song, the feedback from an amp was augmented and became a voice onstage. Haram heightened the fuzzy noise until Grdina cut it off and the room fell into silence again.

Haram wove free-form jazz into traditional melodies with ease for the entire evening of music. The members onstage represented ensembles that ranged from anarchist punk to concert hall groomed jazz, and to see so many individual players meld into one sound was striking. Marc Ribot played exquisite solos, yet blended beautifully with the sound of Gordon Grdina and his Haram. The night provided a fascinating, unforgettable contrast between traditional and experimental sound.


(Literally) Food for Thought: A Discussion about Conscious Eating with Sophie Egan

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We face ethical choices every day, like when we stand in the grocery store line. Is this food good for me? Is it good for others? Is it good for the planet? Health, nutrition, and sustainability expert Sophie Egan will be at Town Hall on March 19 with insight from her new book How to Be a Conscious Eater. She’ll be in conversation with environmental author and journalist Tim Egan. Tickets are on sale now.

Sophie Egan recently sat down Town Hall’s Jonathan Shipley to discuss organic foods, the bulk aisle, and how to carry a couple of cucumbers.

JS: What did you eat as a kid? How ingrained are those habits as we become adults?

SE: Pizza. A lot of pizza. My parents told me I was going to turn into a pizza. I was a picky eater and ate what kids eat: chicken nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These sorts of foods become our comfort foods as we grow older. Top Ramen for me. They are given a special status for life. They’re called foods of privilege because they were given to us in our formative years when we felt safe, secured, and loved.

It’s actually about exposure. Kids can eat all sorts of things. There’s a program called 100 foods before one. Kids can eat spicier things than you may think—can eat different textures, different flavors, all sorts of things.

JS: When did you start questioning what you were eating from an ethical perspective?

SE: My own habits have been informed by my work. For over five years, I served as the Director of Health and Sustainability Leadership and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America. I couldn’t help but start thinking about what I was eating in that role.

The food systems were much more opaque before. Now they’re much more transparent. That’s a good thing, but the pace of the issues we have to contend with has accelerated, from the plastics used in food production to slave labor used in our shrimp supply. There is a lot to be cognizant of, and with all these issues making decisions on what we eat is becoming more and more complex. My hope is that my book helps inform those decisions.

JS: Organic food: is it worth it?

SE: There are two good starting points. The dirty dozen are the foods that have the highest pesticide residues. The clean fifteen are the foods with the least.

JS: For those with limited financial means, what do you suggest at the grocery store?

SE: Eating in ways that are good for the planet tends to be good for people. Plant-based food is good for the planet and less expensive. Compare a bag of lentils versus a pork chop, for instance. You want whole grains? Buy a tub of oats. Wild salmon? Buy canned or frozen. Organic produce? Buy frozen. The bulk food section is a great place to get good food at the best price. You can get your granola there without the packaging and without the marketing.

JS: What simple tips can you give someone going to a grocery store wanting to be a conscious eater?

SE: Labels are confusing. Flip the package over. The front of the packaging is nothing but marketing. The information you need is on the back.

Evaluate foods based on what’s in it (is it healthy?), what’s on it (be cognizant of stickers and claims), and the package itself (what will happen to this package when you’re done?).

JS: You don’t need a plastic bag for your cucumber.

SE: Use a reusable grocery bag and reusable produce bags.

JS: What should meat eaters consider?

SE: First—less is more. Less red meat is better. The red meat you buy most often comes from factory farms, which is incredibly harmful to the planet in a wide variety of ways. When you buy your meat, make sure it’s not factory farmed; that it’s more humanely raised; that it’s got grassfed certification. It was raised on a pasture and not in a factory. 

JS: Aside from personal changes in eating, what can people do to help the planet food-wise?

SE: Speak up to local governments to incorporate food solutions when it comes to climate change. Food is often left out of climate change discussions when it’s a key facet of it. Raise your voice to institutional purchasing. Look at your kids’ school, your workplace, your healthcare provider. Are they being ethically conscious about their food choices?

Want to digest more about conscious eating? Join us on March 19 as Sophie Egan takes the stage with Tim Egan. Tickets are $5 and FREE for anyone under the age of 22.

Renowned Mathematician And Physicist Freeman Dyson Has Died At Age 96

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Town Hall Seattle sends our condolences to the Dyson family. Renowned mathematician and physicist Freeman Dyson passed away after suffering a fall at Princeton University.

Dyson’s most useful contribution to science was the unification of the three versions of quantum electrodynamics invented by Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga. He subsequently worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology, looking for problems where elegant mathematics could be usefully applied.

Town Hall Seattle hosted Freeman Dyson on two occasions. His last visit was in May 2018. He was joined on stage by Neal Stephenson to discuss his autobiography, Maker of Patterns.

That discussion:

It was an honor for Town Hall to host Freeman directly and to consider his work and enduring legacy.

What Are People Doing?

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Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Mrs. Nathaniel Parschall will be the hostess of a dansant at the Red Cross lunchroom” and, “Mrs. Grace Matters spoke on Thursday at noon about food conservation.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

On the cover of the December 7, 1918 edition of the Town Crier was the dashing Lucien Perrot. Perrot, for years, had been teaching the citizens of Seattle the French language and was a professor at the University of Washington for the Student Army Training Corps.

The Student Army Training Corps is no longer. UW continues its French language studies. But did you know there’s a place in Seattle where anyone can learn the French language from children to adults? C’est vrai! It’s true!

Alliance Francaise is in the Wallingford neighborhood. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, it offers French language classes to all ages and levels and offers French and Francophone cultural events locally. 

You can learn about their languages classes here and their coming cultural events here.

Learn something new. Lucian Perrot would be so fier (proud). 

Rosa Floribunda are Red, Viola Odorata are Blue

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Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m going to the Ross Bayton Town Hall event, and you should, too.

On March 4, horticulturalist Ross Bayton will present a crash course in plant history, ruminating on the origin and significance of the Latin plant names we encounter every day.

Before the event (and be sure not to miss the NW Flower and Garden Show at the Washington State Convention Center) here are a few interesting plant facts! Be astounded. Impress your friends at your next backyard barbecue!

A sunflower is not just one flower.
Both the brown center and the yellow petals are actually about 1,000-2,000 individual flowers held together on a single stalk.

There are more microorganisms in one teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth.
Microbes are EVERYWHERE and are important for keeping soil full of nutrients.

Some of your favorite fruits are members of the rose family.
Apples, pears, peaches, raspberries, strawberries and more are cousins of the rose.

You can change a hydrangea’s color by altering the pH level of the soil.
A more alkaline soil will result in pinker blooms. A more acidic soil will produce bluer blooms.

Be careful of foxglove.
The flowers, stems, and leaves can be deadly. The chemicals deslanoside, digitoxin, digoxin, and digitalis glycosides make this popular perennial quite harmful.

There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.
Over 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced each year, making it the world’s most popular fruit. The second most popular fruit is the banana.

Learn more about plants at Town Hall! Unlock the secret (and not-so-secret) origins of the growing world around us with Bayton’s illuminating exploration of the plants we know, and some we don’t. Tickets are on sale now ($5, and FREE for anyone under the age of 22).

Oud Intentions

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What happens when you merge fluid improvisation and subtle noise with traditional Arabic music—then add the talent of a guitar master? The Vancouver-based band Haram aims to find out. Led by award-winning oud virtuoso Gordon Grdina, Haram will be joining us at Town Hall on 3/1 in a Global Rhythms performance alongside legendary guitarist Marc Ribot.

Town Hall’s Alexander Eby sat down with Gordon Grdina for a conversation about ouds, band history, and the spirit of collaboration.

AE: Initially, what got Haram together? What factors steered the band towards including elements of traditional Arabic music?

GG: The band came together in 2008 from two main ideas. First, I wanted a band that could play the traditional Arabic music I was studying but in an unorthodox way. This was the Iraqi folk music I was learning from my teacher Serwan Yamolky and the traditional radio music from Egypt in the 50-60’s by musicians like Oum Khalsoum Farid Al Atrache, Abdel Wahab etc. We’ve since expanded to include Sudanese and Persian music from the same period. 

Secondly, aside from my trio I wasn’t playing regularly with a lot of the incredible musicians in Vancouver and wanted to have a larger ensemble where we could all play together and get a chance to hang out. Some of the musicians were already versed in this music but most weren’t. I knew their incredible sensitivities would bring out new aspects of this ancient music and the repertoire would bring out aspects of their own playing we hadn’t heard before. It ended up being a great idea and we’ve enjoyed many great nights of music since then.

AE: Why are you drawn to the oud as an instrument? What’s it like to try to merge that sound with the rock/jazz/indie/improv sensibilities of the band at large?

GG: I had a very good guitar teacher when I was young who always brought new interesting music to each lesson, and left it with me so that I would get inspired. At 13 I was into a lot of blues and slide guitar, and my teacher Marko Ferenc brought me a Vishwa Mohan Bhatt record with Simon Shaheen. He wanted me to check out Vishaw’s slide playing, but as soon as I heard the Oud for the first time I was blown away. I couldn’t understand how the sound was being made but it grabbed me and I fell in love with it instantly. Simon Shaheen is also one of the greatest Oud players in the world so that didn’t really hurt either. I then got interested in other Oud players like Hamza El Din and Rabih Abou Khalili and later Munir Bachir and others. 

I didn’t get an Oud and start playing the music until I graduated from Jazz School. I got one off of Ebay and instantly started a band called Sangha with my friends Hidayat Honari Neelamjit Dhillon and Hamin Honari. We play original music based in Arabic Persian and Indian concepts. So my understanding of the instrument and practice of it has always been within a blending of tradition. I’ve since studied traditional Arabic music more in-depth, but using the traditional alongside all of the other aspects of my musical understanding is intrinsic to how I make music. I knew that this band would bring out different aspects of the musicians and I could see how their unique voices could add a different dimension to these timeless melodies. 

AE: What interests you most about working with Marc Ribot? What do you think the result will be of blending his musical style with Haram’s?

GG: Everyone in the band and myself are huge fans of Marc. He is one of the icons of the instrument because he transcends the guitar and creates music that immediately touches you. He is soulful, always interesting and intriguing no matter what he does. His sound isn’t based in flawless technique—even though he has that too. It’s based on creating the most direct and honest music in the moment. The most exciting part of this band is that everyone thrives on freely creating in the moment with a sense of abandon.

I think that Marc will meet this abandon and take us all to the next level. I’m expecting excitement, surprise, a fair amount of ripping and the unknown!

Haram and Ribot join forces onstage on 3/1 for an energetic and intuitive concert in a unique exploration of Arabic musical traditions. Get your tickets here!

What Are People Doing?

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

Today’s entry…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The debate:

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