Local Art News
The largest youth film festival in the world is happening this week in Seattle. The 2015 National Film Festival for Talented Youth, which opens on Thursday, April 23rd and runs through Sunday, April 26, features 248 films from an international roster of directors, age 11 to 24. And this year, for the first time, female filmmakers are in the spotlight: 48 percent of the festival’s films are the work of women directors.
The 2015 lineup includes poignant tales of goldfish and a zany zombie musical. A lot of personal experience goes into the creation of the films, says festival Program Manager Todd Kaumans, who describes NFFTY as a “filmmaker’s festival.”
Indeed, the NFFTY audience is mostly the filmmakers themselves, who get to network with this year’s special guests, including James Foley, director of a dozen House of Cards episodes, and Warren Etheredge, host of Reel NW and The High Bar. Connections forged at NFFTY can have surprising results. Kaumans notes that NFFTY attendees often “come back having made a film with someone they met the year before.”
Kaumans’ own festival entries (in 2010 and 2011) led to a producing gig for PBS. “Young filmmakers are always overlooked by regular film festivals,” he says. “NFFTY is all about proving they have just as much talent and potential.”Filmmakers on the NFFTY 2013 red carpet. Credit: Sarah Sprouse/NFFTY
The female focus of this year’s festival gives aspiring women directors a rare chance to shine. The fact that nearly half of this year’s films have women directors places NFFTY well above last year’s industry standard: seven percent of the top 250 films were directed by women. To top it off, the closing night program is, entitled “Femme Finale,” showcases the festival’s best female filmmakers in a special screening.
The opening title sequence of Mad Men, with a Don Draper-esque black-on-white cutout tumbling perilously to his doom, may be remembered much longer than anything the Draper character does in the program’s seven seasons. After all, how many cigarettes can he smoke, whiskeys can he guzzle, married women can he bed, before it all blurs together like a carousel going endlessly round and round?
There are episodes of The Walking Dead so embalmed the only good thing about them was its credit sequence, a creepy montage of dystopian detritus; the found footage remnants of a world eating itself alive; capped by the terrifying telephoto of a lone zombie in a sunlit field, relentlessly stalking your nightmares.
And in the criminally under-seen and now defunct post-Katrina series Tremé, the opening title sequence consisted of the water-damaged photos of a storm-tossed scrapbook, real pictures of the busted homes and broken lives of New Orleans dwellers intercut with hurricane video and the rolling party that is a second line bop, set to the insanely danceable jig of John Boutté’s title song.
These are my favorite title sequences in this golden age of series television we find ourselves in. So many programs, so many channels, so many intriguing ideas. If you judged most of these shows based on their credit sequences alone, you’d think they were all masterworks. So why not skip the actual programs and just watch the credits, provided here by Vulture magazine in this roundup of the Ten Best TV opening credits of 2014.
The breathtaking water-borne imagery from The Affair is their number one pick;
followed by the haunting decapitated super-impositions of True Detective;
and the chilling frescoes of The Leftovers (in third place), a program that, apparently, no one liked except me.
Some shows on Vulture‘s list I’ve never even heard of: Manhattan, Black Sails, Marco Polo. Others seem like they’re trying too hard. Halt and Catch Fire is nothing but some digital streaks of color.
Penny Dreadful treats us to bleached close-ups of insects.
But Outlander’s title montage is a total turn-off, playing like one of those ghastly PBS Celtic song specials plunked onto an abandoned backlot from Lord of the Rings.
If a show about wind-tossed tresses flapping to a Gaelic wail is what you’re after, this is definitely your ticket.
This is the first in a 2-part series on changes in Seattle’s built environment.
Tucked into a side street in Seattle’s International District is a three-dimensional metaphor for the changes being seen all across the city.
The delightful Eastern Café is bounded by two long interior walls. The south wall is layered with many decades of paint, some of it peeled off to reveal the handiwork of past owners and purveyors of goods and services. The wall is chipped and battered, possessing a richly colorful and eccentric patina. The other wall is made of gypsum board, a synthetic product of the 20th century that replaced hand-built lath and plaster for interior walls. It is flat and boring with a relentlessly perfect smoothness and uniform beige color that add to the monotony.
The contrast between these two walls is being writ large across the city, with large blocky new apartment buildings replacing smaller scale, often idiosyncratic structures. In many neighborhoods behemoth projects consuming entire blocks now rise up eight stories. A number of developments in Ballard reflect this shift in scale.
Occasionally, we get a flash of design brilliance with forms, patterns and compositions from creative minds. Some of the recent development along 12th Avenue East on Capitol Hill falls into this category. But in most cases, new buildings are wrapped with the external version of gypsum wallboard; they are repetitive, flat and featureless.
The reason for this visual “meh” can be traced back to the early 90’s when the City of Seattle did something that no other city in the country had done: It adopted a building code which allowed a never-before-seen, hybrid form of construction. The development industry calls it “5 over 1”; that is, multiple floors of light wood-frame construction erected on top of lower floors made of concrete. (In the lingo of building codes, wood frame construction is called “Type 5”; fire-resistant, concrete construction is “Type 1.” Hence the “5 over 1″ nickname.) In some cases, this code has been literally translated into five floors of wood frame over one floor of concrete, but it can also be six levels on top of two.
One rationale for this hybrid approach was lowering the cost of construction and, therefore, the price point for the consumer. Prior to the code change, buildings taller than four stories had to be built with much more expensive materials and systems. Over the years, as dozens of 5 over 1 structures went up in Seattle, fire marshals around the country watched to see if residents would be consumed by conflagrations. When that didn’t happen, building codes were changed to allow 5 over 1 anywhere.
Since Seattle has been at this longer than anywhere else, the city also discovered a basic flaw in the 5 over 1 approach. Because wood expands and contracts in response to changes in weather and moisture content, certain types of rigid materials used on building surfaces pull apart at their seams, leaving cracks that wind-driven rain can penetrate. And penetrate it did.
Along with the accompanying mold and mildew, water damage led to massive insurance claims, litigation and costly repairs. For more than a decade, numerous buildings around Seattle were cocooned in plastic wrap while their exteriors were being reconstructed. As it turns out, only a few materials perform well when stretched across many floors of wood framing. Many of these materials, such as “Hardy” planks and metal sheeting, are, well, as boring as sheet rock, aesthetically speaking.
Thankfully, in recent years new exterior materials have become available that can convey a richer character and perform well over time. But despite the wider array of choices, the results can be either overly repetitive or visually chaotic. As with any artful endeavor, striking a balance can be challenging.The mix of materials, colors and fine details enhances this 5 over 1 building in downtown Seattle. The top floor against that blue sky is pretty cool too. Credit: Hewitt
There are ways to bring elegance to 5 over 1 structures, but it requires a high degree of skill and commitment. Only a very talented designer can take such a limited palette of materials and make the resulting building interesting, if not elegant. But developers must be willing to hire those skilled designers. Many are simply not interested. And this reveals a hidden flaw in the City’s design review process: No amount of process can “make” a designer talented or a developer committed to creating superb buildings. Hence, the wildly uneven — and often uninspiring — architecture in Seattle today.
Recently the rapid pace of development has exposed this construction-based flaw. There are scores of sites under construction, as documented by the wonderful SeattleinProgress.com. With tall steel cranes visible in every direction, the city seems besieged. In a sense, Seattle is a victim of its own success. With all the articles and rankings touting its culture, its music, its natural setting and its high-paying jobs are we really surprised that so many people want to move here? Even corporations that previously located in outlying areas — Weyerhaeuser, Facebook and Expedia, for example — are piling on.
The pace of development here has also been fueled by dramatic changes in the national demographic makeup. Households are smaller but more numerous. Boomers, who make up a quarter of the population, are downsizing and opting for more compact dwellings in urban places that offer transit, cultural amenities and high-quality health care. Millennials, another 25 percent of the population, are eschewing the suburbs in favor of density, diversity and public transit that only urban places offer.
Some middle-aged cynics suggest that Millennials will refill the suburbs once they have children. I’m not so sure. In sharp contrast to past generations, Millennials are putting off marriage and kids. Moreover, their values are rooted in lifestyles that only denser urban places can provide.
We are seeing a sea change in the preferences of younger Americans. For one thing, Millennials are acutely aware of the environmental damage done to this country by five decades of outward expansion into an auto-dependent landscape. Climate change is only one negative outcome of those growth patterns.
Right now, virtually every major metropolitan area in the country is seeing a significant uptick in the development of rental housing, often in the form of multi-story, stacked flats. This is due, in part, to the fact that financing for condominiums has been, until very recently, non-existent. But even if owner-occupied housing was more available, many Millennials would rather not be tied down by a house with 30-year mortgage. Given college loan debts, even those with higher incomes may not have enough saved for a sizable down payment on increasingly costly single-family, detached houses. No surprise then that apartment development is booming like never before. Seattle is not unique in this regard.
Last May, The Seattle Times made an assertion that has been repeated by politicians, journalists, and community activists: Seattle is the country’s fastest-growing city. Too bad the claim is untrue. We are not the fastest growing urban area; we’re not even in the top three. Those honors belong to cities in Texas according to recent research by Forbes Magazine.
One explanation for this phony claim, alluring or alarming as it might be, is that most organizations monitoring urban growth look at metropolitan areas, not at the individual jurisdictions within them. But rather than touting a dubious title we should instead be discussing how to shape the patterns of growth as well as the choices we offer.
In this region, growth and change are occurring in almost every city and town surrounding Puget Sound. We live in an urban region with “Seattle” as its collective avatar. Seattle may be seeing a decrease (aka displacement) in certain population groups, but those folks are replenishing older, inner-ring towns that were, not too long ago, mono-cultural bastions of the white middle class.
All cities change over time; that is their nature. Many Puget Sound communities are now a rich mixture of cultures with different customs, history, language, dress and cuisine. There are certainly downsides to gentrification. This trend isn’t one of them.
For the last decade, we have gone through an awkward period of adjusting to a whole series of changes. We have seen a rapid uptick in demand. Some developers are here merely to grab the gold; they seem to have little interest in creating lasting communities. Meanwhile, designers with wide-ranging abilities try to create buildings of larger scale and higher densities and they frequently miss the mark.
And even more changes are coming. Within the next decade, we will very likely see a massive misalignment in the demand and supply of particular housing types. But that is another story.
Coming soon, Part 2: How Millennials – and Boomers too – are driving a need for more townhouses.
2015 KAC Artists’ Exhibition features the broad talent of local artists May 2 – June 20, 2015 Opening reception: Friday, May 1st, 2015, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Welcome to City Superheroes, the second installment of a regular column that highlights the powerful figures walking among us with the help of a (usually local) illustrator. This week’s pairing: performer Prom Queen and cartoonist Mark Palm.
Moniker: Prom Queen
Given Name: Celene Queeno Ramadan
Other Aliases: Leeni
Superpowers: Time travel, shape shifting, spatial manipulation
First Appearance: April 2012 at the Can Can Kitchen & Cabaret for the release of her record, Night Sound.
Local Haunts: Vito’s, the Can Can, Café Racer, the Blue Moon
Archenemies: Closed-mindedness, Defeat, Complacency
Even Heroes Have Heroes: David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Amy Winehouse, Lesley Gore
Origin Story: Born in Massachusetts and raised in New Hampshire, Celene Queeno Ramadan visited Seattle in 1999 and fell in love with it. She moved out in 2004, after graduation (from the University of New Hampshire) and a year-long stint working at PBS. It was when Celene moved to the Emerald City that her super powers – time travel, shape shifting, etc. – really took off. Indeed, no historical era is beyond her reach. A virtuoso creator, Celene can also summon a magic genie whenever she needs extra inspiration.
She began her Seattle career as Leeni, a solo musician performing Chiptune (synthesized, 8-bit music derived from vintage electronics). In 2011, she transitioned to Prom Queen, a solo, cinematic confection with a bouffant and a pink guitar.
Prom Queen, the band, emerged soon after when Celene joined forces with keyboard and guitar player, Ben von Wildenhaus, and hit its stride when lead guitarist Jason Goessl and drummer Tom Meyers joined a few years later. In 2014, the four bandmates released their musical and cinematic masterpiece, Midnight Veil, a 12-track audio and video project featuring Seattle luminaries such as Waxie Moon, Ahamefule J. Oluo, Lily Verlaine and Fuchsia Foxx. The project’s Parisian, 1950’s-noir aesthetic is as alluring as an ounce of Chanel #5.
Her Philosophy: “Get out of your own way and do the best work you can. Realize that while art is important it is not the end-all-be-all. The most important part of art is that it’s truthful. Choosing art is choosing honesty, a certain level of openness, a very humble life and finding joy and celebrating in the immediate.
“I always want to have a community that I feel like I’m a part of where we’re really supporting each other and everyone has their own gift to bring. I just want to keep people close because people have such unique voices — and that goes for both creative collaborative and friendship.
“I love that I can go out in Seattle and see someone I know. I like that the city is small enough that you can do that and large enough where you’re always meeting new people. It’s the perfect sized city, which helps build strong foundations.”
What’s Next: Prom Queen plays Vito’s on Saturday, April 25th.
About the Illustrator: Marc Palm is a Seattle illustrator/cartoonist and organizer of Intruder Comics Newspaper. He’s been making independent self-published comics since he was 16.
The Weekend List: Allen Stone croons around town. Swan Lake at PNB. Reptar does the Tractor. Seattle architecture explained.
* Denotes events that are $15 or less
Allen Stone: Evolution of an Artist
There’s something unique about singers that grew up in church. Aretha Franklin, CeeLo, Whitney Houston and innumerable others all honed their craft on hymns and gospel music. Washington State native and preacher’s son Allen Stone did too, and the voice forged by his religious upbringing reliably lifts the spirits of anyone willing to listen. Not that his music is religious — it just reverberates with evangelical zeal. Known for killer covers of both classic and contemporary pop songs, Stone excels in hitting the higher registers and he’s a master of the vibrato. This week, he’s playing The Triple Door, Nectar Lounge, Neumos, The Neptune and The Paramount as part of his “Evolution of an Artist” series. The Triple Door and Nectar Lounge shows are already sold out, but the rest are up for grabs. (Opening acts change with each performance.)
If you go: Allen Stone, Various venues, April 13-18 (prices vary). All ages. — J.S.H.
Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass. Credit: Christopher Duggan.
Monica Bill Barnes and Co.
Two reasons you should go see New York-based Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass: 1) They’re performing at the intimate Velocity Dance Center and Velocity knows dance.
2) The dancers just performed in Seattle alongside Ira Glass. (You know, Mr. This American Life.) If you think he’s cool and he thinks they’re cool then you will probably think they’re cool too. And Ira thinks they’re really cool. “I just saw Happy Hour,” he told me earlier this month. “They both play men for an entire hour. They’re men who don’t get along with one another and the story is so totally wonderful and it moves them somewhere between dance and vaudeville and an old I Love Lucy sketch.” Sold!
If you go: Monica Bill Barnes and Co. Velocity Dance Center, April 16 ($20) — F.D.
Indigenous Showcase: Maria Tallchief *
She was Native American and she was a groundbreaker: The first U.S. prima ballerina and the first star when George Balanchine formed his New York City Ballet company. This 2007, locally made documentary profiles the life of Maria Tallchief, from her childhood in Oklahoma to her dancing with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Tallchief died in 2013. Seattle filmmaker Sandy Osawa, a member of the Makah tribe, will be on hand.
If you go: Maria Tallchief, Northwest Film Forum, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. screenings on April 17 ($11) — F.D.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Swan Lake
If you love story ballets, rows of dancers moving in unison, and luscious,
sweeping scores, then this PNB production is a sure bet. Even I, a huge fan of contemporary abstract work, find myself getting swept up in all the emotion that unfolds on stage. (Plus, I’m a sucker for sets with gorgeous full moons.) If you can, hit the Saturday matinee: Carla Körbes is dancing; one of the last times you’ll get to see her before she retires in a couple of months.
If you go: Swan Lake, McCaw Hall, Through April 19 (Tickets start at $35) — F.D.
Jeffrey Ochsner: Shaping Seattle Architecture *
This annual event is one of my favorites — AND totally essential to Seattleites, whether new in town, lifelong residents or somewhere in between. Dynamic and insanely knowledgeable UW professor Jeffrey Ochsner delves into the history of Seattle architecture, illuminating the story of our city’s landscape and planning and providing details on the buildings surrounding us. This Saturday’s Part 1 lecture covers 1880-1935; Part 2, which tackles 1936 through the present, happens next Saturday, April 25. See the city in a whole new light. I am still talking about what I learned at this lecture four years ago.
If you go: Jeffrey Ochsner, Central Library, 1 p.m. on April 18, All ages (Free) — N.C.
Daniel Clowes *
The fingerprints of Daniel Clowes are everywhere: the memorable poster for the movie Happiness, the graphic novel (and its film adaptation) Ghost World, frequent New Yorker covers. Even a comics’ novice like me can’t help noticing. Clowes is an artist unafraid to dabble. He’s also versed in capturing both the bizarre and relatable in American life to more acclaim than most comics can dream of. This Saturday, he comes to Fantagraphics to talk about and sign copies of the 25th anniversary release of his comics series, The Complete Eightball. His appearance comes at the tail end of Record Store Day, the only annual holiday for audiophiles. Be sure to grab some vinyl at Georgetown Records while you’re there.
If you go: Daniel Clowes, Fantagraphics , 6 p.m. April 18 (Free) — N.C.
Two Gallants *
The name conjures those sinister men in long black coats that other country musicians sing about in murder ballads. The San Francisco duo does make country and roots blues music, but theirs has a raw-boned aggression that revolutionizes country — akin to what Bob Dylan did to folk music back in the day — and it’s explosive. True to their finger-picking forebears, Two Gallants compose thoughtful, thematic tunes that tend to favor long verses over repetitive choruses. Plus, if The Black Keys and White Stripes have taught us anything, it’s that electric blues duos have undeniable chemistry.
Kraken Congee Opening Night
Congee is, at its most simple, a kind of rice porridge popular throughout southeast Asia. It’s comforting and delicious on its own. When used as a canvas for fresh, local fresh ingredients and adventurous, carefully prepared additions (whether Chinese five spice, duck confit or curried pumpkin), it becomes a revelation. For the last two years, Kraken Congee has been a labor of love for Shane Robinson and Garret Doherty, who’ve been at the wheel as their mobile Congee emporium has popped up around Seattle, always to acclaim, and always with new, tantalizing flavor combos. Visit their brick-and-mortar (with bar) store — another excellent addition to Pioneer Square — anytime after Monday! Meantime, stare in wonder at the pictures they’ve posted.
If you go: Kraken Congee Opening Night, 88 Yesler Way in Seattle, April 20— N.C.
If you’re one of those people who likes watching bands bend genres in funny ways, go see Reptar this week. Their music, like David Byrne’s work, has a manic Funk/New Wave fusion that brings guitars and keyboards together. But their percussion has flavors of Caribbean and American rock drumming, and the lead singer sounds like Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend talking baby talk. Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon’s Graceland project are perhaps the most apt sonic comparisons, but Reptar lyrics have that slightly bored, nihilistic tone that disaffected millennial rock musicians own, albeit with a wry sense of humor woven throughout. The group hails from the musically inclined Athens, GA, which has brought us such acts as Danger Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel and R.E.M. — to name a few.
If you go: Reptar, Tractor Tavern, April 21 ($12). 21+ — J.S.H.
On January 1, the garbage cops started patrolling Seattle for banana peels and pizza boxes along with cans, bottles and grass clippings. That was the day Seattle Public Utilities added food waste to the list of recyclable and compostable items not allowed in landfill-bound garbage. On July 1 they’ll start writing tickets for offenders.
The fine will be minimal: $1 whenever food, yard and recyclable waste make up more than 10 percent of your garbage. But it still pricks libertarian reflexes. As Abraham Lincoln said in his Temperance Address 173 years ago, “When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a ‘drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’”
Why can’t the nanny state persuade rather than force us to do the right thing? Surely we’ll be better urban environmentalists if we’re given the chance to make the choice ourselves?
Not according to recent research into a phenomenon that psychologists call “moral licensing,” which you might also call “compensatory vice.” It suggests something counterintuitive about public policymaking: To avoid behavioral blowback, compulsion may be a better way to induce good behavior than persuasion. That’s because, according to the researchers, when we feel good about doing the right thing, we use it as an excuse to do the wrong thing.
I got a glimpse of this phenomenon a few years ago when I wrote about two opposite types of drivers, hyper-milers and super-commuters. Hyper-milers are obsessive gas misers who make it their mission, hobby and, sometimes, sport to squeeze the last yard out of each drop of fuel.
Super-commuters drive insanely long distances to work. The superest I could find was a hair stylist who’d racked up hundreds of thousands of miles driving from the far side of Spokane to the far side of Seattle each week to cut hair at a favorite salon. When I asked gently if she ever thought about the effects of all that driving, she replied, “I drive a Kia Rio, so I’m doing my bit.”
I thought of that well-meaning mega-miler when I read a recent article in the Economist on “ethics and the environment.” It recounted a Harvard Business School working paper and other studies showing that people are more likely to do something wasteful or self-indulgent after they do something deemed green and virtuous first. The Harvard paper, “BYOB: How Bringing your Own Shopping bags Leads to Treating Yourself, and the Environment,” which used store scanner data to correlate shopping-bag and grocery choices. Shoppers who bring their own bags do buy more than the usual share of products considered environmentally friendly. But they also buy more candy, ice cream, and potato chips than those who don’t.
In another Massachusetts study, households who received water-saving tips and weekly estimates of their water usage cut that usage by 6 percent. But their electricity consumption went up nearly 6 percent. Just so, the hyper-commuting hairdresser felt free to drive more miles — many more miles — because she drove a relative gas-sipper, even if the net effect was to make her a gas guzzler. I suspect we all make similar rationalizations. Be extra nice to your spouse and you’re entitled to have a fling. Nothing wrong with driving a gas-guzzling SUV the size of a small battleship if it’s the less gas-guzzling hybrid version. I know a dieter who felt entitled to pour heavy cream in his coffee because he used saccharine (this was back in the day) rather than sugar.
The Economist found that the converse seems to hold: If we’re compelled to do something virtuous rather than choosing to, we don’t compensate by indulging ourselves in some way. In another study, subjects were told to imagine themselves doing community service and then asked to choose a reward for their good work: a new pair of jeans (supposedly “self-indulgent”) or a vacuum cleaner (“practical”). If they were told they were doing community service to work off traffic violations, they were much more likely to choose the virtuous vacuum cleaner than if they were told they were simply volunteering.
This study, like so many other imaginary-scenario studies, sounds sketchy to me; the real-world tracking of water and electricity consumption seems more plausible. But if these findings hold up, then it sounds like the city is doing the right thing by ordering rather than urging citizens to sort out recyclables and food scraps and forgo plastic bags. Otherwise our virtuous recycling might leave us feeling entitled to gorge on steaks, drive Hummers and Escalades, and wrack up gazillions of air miles — activities that can do more environmental damage than the odd banana peel or water bottle in the waste bin.
A little more than a year ago, in my monthly column for Seattle magazine, I put forward the idea that Seattle needs a new nickname. We’ve been Queen City, Jet City and since the ’80s, rather lamely I think, The Emerald City. It felt like it was time for a change now that we’re a decade and a half into a new century.
Suggestions flowed in: Next City, Cloud City, Rain City, Yuppie Gulch, Pothole City, Raintopia, Egotopia, Salmon City on the Salish Sea, Consensusville, Process City, Gateway to Factoria, Corporate Whoreville, The Platinum City, Ten-Percenterville, Sea Atoll, Babylon and Bertha’s Folly were some of them. You can see that dreamers, grumps and trolls had a field day.
A moniker is clearly a means by which the populace, as it should, can express itself on the issues: climate, income inequality and our collective stupidity. Boiled down to a slogan, it all seems so petty. Nothing has really emerged, so this year, I’m thinking maybe we should Go Big.
Maybe instead of a new nickname, we need a new name. Period.
Someone is already working on that.
Meet Richard Haag. He’s one of America’s foremost landscape architects, and at 91 years old, still working, still thinking and creating. He was one of the saviors of Pike Place Market, with Victor Steinbrueck. He has shaped the city, quite literally, like no one else. He was the landscape architect who made over Seattle Center after the 1962 World’s Fair; he planned the beautiful Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island and the Battelle campus in Laurelhurst; he designed Victor Steinbrueck Park, which gave the common man a fantastic view of Elliott Bay more efficiently, more democratically and much less expensively than the current proposed waterfront redo.
Haag is probably best known for one of our greatest public treasures, the landmark Gas Works Park, which is acknowledged internationally as an extraordinary example of urban adaptation, and a great place to fly kites.
The landscape architect is also one of the instigators of a quiet campaign to change the name of Seattle to “Sealth.”
New York was another early name for the city, but quickly got laughed out of town. It is certainly more poetic than Duwamps, or Duwumps, another early name for Seattle. Restoring the name Greater Duwamps still has an advocate or two, among them sportswriter Art Thiel, who has said that it has the virtues of being indigenous, clunky, contrarian, and sounding like “something in a windstorm crashing down on a yard/deck/car/park/road.” What could be more Seattle than soggy-sounding Duwamps?Richard Haag, during a 2007 visit to Gas Works Park, which he designed.
But pioneers wanted to honor Chief Seattle, who had been so helpful during the early days of the settlement.
There has been a lot of argument over how the chief’s name was actually pronounced in his native Lushootseed language. Some say “Seattle” is the best approximation; others say “Sealth” (as in “health”) is. The earliest written European recording of his name was “Sea-alt,” or “Sea-yalt.” Some tribal members have said that the original pronunciation in Seattle’s native tongue would be more like “Sea-a-thhll” or “Sl-ahl.” The Northwest heritage website Historylink.org says the correct pronunciation is closer to “See-ahlsh.”
The chief’s burial marker in Suquamish bears his baptismal name, Noah Sealth. Sealth, some argue, is a mispronunciation bestowed by the Catholic missionary who baptized him. Still, we have a Chief Sealth High School and a ferry named Sealth.
The late historian Bill Speidel said it was important that the pronunciation of the city’s name be slightly wrong so that the chief would not spin in his grave every time his name was spoken, attributing that belief to the local tribes. If that’s true, either Seattle or Sealth seem safe bets. So which is more euphonious?
Simplicity, Haag argues, is a good thing. Sealth has that virtue over the rattling word Seattle. “Speak or whisper ‘Sealth’ in front of a mirror — it just flows out, effortless…. Sealth will be preferred by persons challenged by enunciation, by poets, graphic designers, typesetters, word processors, text messengers.”
Sealth is like an exhalation, a breath of the fresh, wet air that sustains us.
Haag also reminds us that many major cities have changed their names: Istanbul, Turkey, was once called Constantinople; Bombay, India, is now Mumbai. But Haag’s strategy isn’t to pass a resolution. “The transition is voluntary,” he says. There would be “no costly referendums,” no initiatives or legal action. He encourages people to simply start using it in return addresses, graphic design, and in conversation.
In other words, make the change to Sealth by stealth. “There is no sign-up, no dues. You can automatically support this bottom-up movement by simply substituting Sealth for Seattle at every chance.” He predicts: “Gradually, a grassroots consensus will prevail. No matter if it takes two generations.”
As we know here, change in this city can take time.
This column originally appeared in the April edition of Seattle magazine.
Last June, after almost five years, I left my post as Canlis’ office manager/media and public relations coordinator for the world of corporate PR. I’d arrived at Canlis a half decade before as a wide-eyed college graduate with a degree in history and absolutely no idea what to do with myself.
Within a few months of starting as a reservationist, I was casually dropping terms like “mise en place” and “prix fixe” during conversations with my baffled parents. I quickly fell head over heels in love with the world of fine dining and the energy and passion that comes with a well-run restaurant.
I’ve been relieved to find that my fierce love of good food (and photographing it) has stayed with me through my professional transition. I’m the person who leaves a restaurant having tasted something incredible or finishes reading a post from one of my favorite food bloggers and can’t rest until I’ve recreated the recipe myself.
This happened recently after a quick beer and bite to eat with friends at Percy’s & Co. in Ballard. I devoured the kale & Brussels sprout salad with pecorino and almonds offered on the dinner menu and was struck by how completely delicious and simple it was. A tangle of shaved Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced kale, toasted almonds and cheese dressed with a basic vinaigrette … I had to try it at home.
So here it is — a perfect spring (or any season, really) salad. Filling enough that you can pair it with a glass of crisp, bright white wine and eat it for dinner while sitting on the porch steps as the light fades. Special thanks to Chef Derek May and the team at Percy’s & Co. for being willing to share this recipe with me. Disclaimer: There were no exact measurements for ingredients going into this so please use as much or as little of any ingredient as you prefer. You can’t really go wrong.
1 bunch Lacinato kale, shredded off the stem
1/2 -1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, grated (Pro tip: You can use the large grate on a cheese grater.)
3/4-1 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, chopped.
1/2-1 cup grated Pecorino Romano.
The dressing is a pretty straightforward vinaigrette and can be made in a blender or combined in a jar and then shaken. Amounts are suggested, so please adjust to taste.
1-2 small shallot cloves, finely chopped
1 large spoonful of dijon mustard
Juice of one small lemon
1/2-1 cup olive oil
Several teaspoons of champagne vinegar to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
Mix all salad ingredients with desired amount of dressing and enjoy!