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A Tacoma woman is in custody after refusing tuberculosis treatment for more than a year
A Washington state woman who was diagnosed with tuberculosis has been taken into custody after months of refusing treatment or isolation, officials said on Thursday.
The Tacoma woman, who is identified in court documents as V.N., was booked into a room "specially equipped for isolation, testing and treatment" at the Pierce County Jail, the local health department said, adding that she will still be able to choose whether she gets the "live-saving treatment she needs."
A judge first issued a civil arrest warrant for V.N. in March, 14 months after he'd first approved of the health department's request to order the woman's voluntary detention.
Tuberculosis (commonly referred to as TB) is a bacterial infection that can spread easily through the air. Without treatment, it can be fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Washington state law requires that health care providers report cases of active tuberculosis to the local health department for monitoring.
In Pierce County, the health department says it only sees about 20 active cases of the disease per year, and it works with patients, their families and communities to ensure that infections are treated.
V.N.'s case represents only the third time in the past two decades that a court order has been necessary to execute treatment, the health department said.
Over the course of 17 hearings, health officials repeatedly asked the court to uphold its order for V.N.'s involuntarily detention, which consistently ruled that the health officials had made "reasonable efforts" to gain V.N.'s voluntary compliance with the law.
Officers began surveilling the woman in March, and at one point observed her "leave her residence, get onto a city bus and arrive at a local casino," according to a sworn statement from the county's chief of corrections.
"Respondent's family members were also unresponsive [to] the officer's attempts to contact. It is believed that the Respondent is actively avoiding execution of the warrant," the chief said.Continue reading »
Year's lowest tides coming to Puget Sound
The lowest tides of the year are coming to Puget Sound starting this weekend.
Sea level in Seattle on Monday and Tuesday is expected to bottom out nearly four feet below the typical low tide.
The temporarily retreating shoreline will expose acres of seldom-seen tidelands.
“These low tides are a great opportunity to go out and see environments, habitats, places that are typically covered with water, that we don't typically get to visit unless we are willing to snorkel or scuba dive,” said Washington Sea Grant oceanographer Ian Miller.
Beach naturalists—tidepool experts—will be on hand at many beaches in King County Sunday through Thursday to help visitors appreciate the squishy, salty creatures all around and avoid harming them.
On Monday, members of the Swinomish Tribe plan to take advantage of the extra-low water to resume construction of the United States’ first modern clam garden on the tribe’s reservation near Anacortes.
“There's only certain tides, certain days of the year, that we can actually go out and see it,” said Swinomish Tribal Senator Alana Quintasket.
On a low tide in August, Swinomish tribal members and other fans of traditional Indigenous aquaculture gathered on Kiket Island on the Swinomish Reservation. They hand-placed 33 tons of rocks into a knee-high wall designed to trap sediment and boost production of butter clams and littleneck clams.Continue reading »
Seattle's Holy Grail: reducing single-use cups
Seattle Public Utilities is partnering with local businesses to encourage reusable beverage containers. The goal is to keep those cups in use, and out of the landfill.
While some to-go cups are recyclable or compostable, city officials say washing and reusing a cup is the best environmental option. The city already launched partnerships for reusable cups at concert venues like the Showbox and Zoo Tunes, and at beer gardens like at the recent Northwest Folklife Festival.
Now they’re venturing into local coffee shops, which has different challenges, because people at a concert venue or beer garden tend to drink their beverage on-site so it's easy to drop the empty cup in a dedicated bin. Coffee shop patrons want to take their drink with them wherever they’re going.
Jack Gralla is the product operations manager for the company reusables.com, which is just entering the Seattle market after creating a network of reusable and returnable cups and food containers in Vancouver, B.C.
Customers at a handful of cafes in Seattle can tap their credit card at the register to get one of the company’s stainless steel travel cups for free.
Gralla said they’ve found that offering the cups for free makes customers more willing to try the system, compared to older setups like glass Coke bottles that required a deposit.
“When they hear ‘free,’ they’re like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll give that a shot.’ So that’s a big reason,” he said.
The cup is free as long as customers return it to the special bin in any participating business within 14 days. After that, customers are charged a $15 replacement fee for the travel mug, but that fee is refunded if they bring the cup back within 45 days.
At Tailwind Café on Capitol Hill, Noreen Shahani took her drink in one of the steel mugs, which she’ll return when she’s finished with her errands nearby. She said an added benefit is the mug keeps her coffee hotter than a paper cup.
“It wasn’t too out of my way today, and I do like really hot coffee," she said.
McKenna Morrigan, strategic advisor for waste prevention with Seattle Public Utilities, said her agency and the city’s Office of Economic Development want to help businesses make the transition to reusables.Continue reading »
Washington state crowns its first Civics Bee champion
Washington state has its first ever Civics Bee champion.
Twelve-year-old Benjamin Wu from Narrows View Intermediate near Tacoma took the title at the state finals.
The state's first Civics Bee started months ago with a call for middle school students to submit essays identifying a problem in their community, and how it might be solved.
It culminated Thursday in Seattle with nine finalists who went through two rounds of quizzes.
The quizzes are somewhat like a spelling bee, but instead of spelling words the students were answering questions about the finer points of government rules, structure, and history.
The top scorers went on to answer questions from judges about their essay.
Wu, who took first place, spoke passionately about the issue of unequal access to computer science education, a problem he said is creating a new digital divide as technology revolutionizes our world.
Some of his peers spoke about issues such as homelessness and littering.
"It feels exhilarating,” Wu said after being named champion. “And also my ideas are being heard now.”
When asked why civics education is important, Wu said it teaches a sense of civic duty.
"It teaches us that we have the responsibility to solve these problems, we have the civic duty to solve these problems, and we need to be industrious, and we need to take action," he said.
Wu and his peers at the state Civics Bee are well-versed in a set of topics that many of their fellow students around the country struggle with.Continue reading »
Did You Know? The Northwest's pinball culture is flipping hot
In honor of the Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show coming up in Tacoma, here's a little pinball history from Seattle and beyond.
The following pinball factoids have been combined from KUOW's Today So Far newsletters from May 31, June 1, and June 2, 2023.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, something struck me as odd. "Where are all the pinball machines?!" I asked. They were harder to find than I'm used to as a Northwesterner.
Stepping away from our region, it becomes quite clear how lucky we are. The Northwest is a pinball-loving region. It's part of our culture, like hiking, micro brews, and tech. It can be easy to take for granted that wherever you are in Western Washington, you're usually not too far from a pinball game.
In Los Angeles, there are 212 pinball machines. That might sound like a lot, but for a big city like LA (3.8 million people), it's not much. In our smaller city of Seattle (734,000 people), there are 630 pinball machines. That's not counting neighboring towns, like Tacoma (127), or Kitsap County (about 80, if you don't count retired basketball star Todd MacCulloch's garage ... he has enough to host a world pinball championship tournament). Between Olympia and Bellingham, Western Washington has 1,470 machines. Over in the Portland metro area (including Vancouver, Wash., Hillsboro, etc.), there are 921 pinball games.
This is all according to the Pinball Map, the go-to source for finding pinball.
So yes, our region boasts more pinball machines than LA. We also have far more than New York City (242), or Las Vegas, which has 459 (341 of which are located at the Pinball Hall of Fame). And Chicago — the city where most of these games are created and manufactured — only has 290. Indeed, the love of pinball is deep in the Northwest.
Full disclosure: Proposing to my wife involved a trip to a downtown Seattle pinball bar.
Where did pinball come from?
The origins of pinball could be credited to the French who came up with a game called "bagatelle" in the 1600s/1700s (which itself was an evolution of billiards tables and croquette, etc.). This tabletop game involved hitting a ball onto a table with a stick. The table had pins spread throughout as obstacles. The goal was to get a ball past any obstacles and into a hole.
The French brought bagatelle to North America, where it became quite popular in the 1700s/1800s (there's an old cartoon of Abraham Lincoln playing the game). It then went through some evolutions, such as making it smaller and portable, and building a spring-loaded plunger to launch the ball. The ball would be shot up onto the table, hit pin after pin, and hopefully land in a hole. The element of chance was a big part of this version of bagatelle, which placed it in the realm of gambling.
In the 1920s, bagatelle showed up in Japan, where it transformed into another popular game called "pachinko." In the USA, it wasn't until the 1930s that these games started to resemble the pinball machines we know today.
Coin-operated machines were introduced. Electricity propelled its evolution at lightning speed, with bumpers, lights, and bells. The main thing that distinguishes modern pinball didn't come around until 1947 — the flippers. Different games started using flippers at various locations on the board. In the 1950s, they were placed toward the bottom where they have stayed ever since, as the machines continued to advance with electronics and computers.
The flippers removed much of the chance aspect of the game, without removing too much unexpected chaos (which is part of the fun). Whereas bagatelle boards would shoot a ball up, only for it to fall within seconds, modern players can now keep a ball in play for extended periods of time, while going on missions, completing tasks, and more. But due to pinball's roots in games of chance, the game was heavily associated with gambling, which put it in the crosshairs of anti-gambling politicians throughout the 1900s. Pinball was actually illegal in major parts of the USA for many decades. There were even many attempts to ban it in Seattle.Continue reading »
Let's get weird: Today So Far
- TSF readers weigh in on the word "weird" and whether or not Seattle and the Northwest have retained their signature weirdness.
- Also, Seattle's schools have become less diverse in recent years.
This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 2, 2023.
Seattle's schools are getting less diverse and some of the blame is being placed on the absence of Seattle Public Schools' busing program. But there is some nuance to the history of bussing in the city.
Seattle's bussing program started in the 1980s. It moved students from different areas of the city to schools they wouldn't normally attend because of their address. The idea was to counter the city's segregated history, make its schools more diverse, and expose students to cultures, classes, and experiences they wouldn't otherwise have. Up to 15,000 students were mandatorily bussed each year. A 2007 lawsuit ultimately concluded that the bussing program was unconstitutional. Looking back, results of bussing in Seattle are considered mixed. As Seattle Times reporter Dahlia Bazzaz told KUOW's Soundside, the burden of bussing was more severe for students of color; white students in the district dropped by about 28% when the program first started. The Times also reports that it's difficult to measure any educational benefits.
Participants were also divided on the issue. As KUOW has previously reported, one student changed her race on school records from Black to white in order to stay at Garfield High School.
“I actually graduated Garfield as a white female because that was the only way I could get back in, is to change my race,” Teya Williams told KUOW in 2013.
Others, such as Anthony Ray, aka Sir Mix-A-Lot, felt differently. He lived in the Central District, but attended Eckstein Middle School and Roosevelt High School in Northeast Seattle. That is where he initially discovered his love of music. Over the years, he has commented on his education in Seattle.
"Being exposed to other cultures and other ways of doing things was the best thing that could have happened to me, especially eventually becoming an artist," Ray told Seattle Refined.
“I’ve heard things like, ‘Forced integration is not good,’ ‘I want my kid to be able to go to school in our community; that’s why we moved here’ – all those things I totally understand,” Ray previously told KUOW. “But from my perspective, I didn’t have the luxury of living in a neighborhood where a good school was. We didn’t make that kind of money. My mom worked as an LPN at the King County Jail making 6 or 7 bucks an hour. So from my perspective, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Fast forward to today, and Seattle's schools are different. The numbers indicate that the schools are becoming less diverse. For example, northwest Seattle's West Woodland Elementary School was 50% students of color in the 1990s. Today, it's 27%. Bailey Gatzert Elementary along Yesler Way and 12th Avenue South was 65% students of color in 1990. Today, it's 88%. KUOW's Soundside dove into this reporting here.
Now, let's get weird!
Earlier this week, I asked you if Seattle was still weird? Also, is the Northwest weird? And, are we using the word "weird" too much? This was a follow-up question to Bill Radke's "Words in Review" segment on the word. In short, Radke feels "weird" is overused, not descriptive enough, and he avoids it. He even said it should be banished. His guest, author Erik Davis, felt otherwise. TSF readers wrote in with a few thoughts of their own.Continue reading »
State Sen. Mark Mullet enters race for Washington governor
Washington State Sen. Mark Mullet has entered the race to be Washington's next governor.
"As my kids like to remind me, I'm the only state senator who also delivers pizzas," Mullet says in a video announcing his campaign. "As a small business owner, I know first hand what it means when costs are on the rise and it's hard to meet payroll."
Mullet announced his campaign, Thursday, June 1.
Mullet is a Democrat who represents the state's 5th Legislative District, which includes Maple Valley, Renton, and Black Diamond. He grew up in Tukwila and now lives in Issaquah, where he owns a chain of Zeeks Pizza. He also owns a few Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream shops.
Mullet sets up his campaign priorities in a manner seemingly targeted at middle-ground voters. He pushes the issues of public safety, climate change, LGBTQ rights, banning assault weapons, and protecting unions, while also commenting that taxes are not the solution to every problem. He speaks about making Washington friendly to business while focusing "on the challenges and opportunities of everyday Washingtonians, not the extremes."
"Washington is like no other place," Mullet said. "There's opportunity, diversity, and innovation. But it also desperately needs change. We have to lower costs for families, and that starts with affordable housing, creating more pathways to the middle class by expanding vocational programs, and recognizing a renewable economy creates a strong economy. But the same politicians in Olympia that you see on the news are not going to be any different. They are too entrenched in the same fights, in the same tired solutions. We can't keep trying to tax our way out of every problem. That's why I decided to run for governor."Continue reading »
Foo Fighters' 'But Here We Are' is heavy, in every sense of the word
Foo Fighters formed in the aftermath of tragedy, as Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide left Dave Grohl reeling and in search of a voice. The band's self-titled 1995 debut found the drummer and newly minted frontman reinvigorated by grief, while 1997's The Colour and the Shape doubled as a rousingly hooky therapy session in the aftermath of his divorce. Taken together, the two records document Grohl's search for catharsis and balance amid painful destabilization, and they set the tone for a fruitful career that culminated in Foo Fighters' 2021 induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Now, 28 years after Foo Fighters' debut, the band has released its 11th album, But Here We Are — and once again found itself in mourning. Drummer Taylor Hawkins died unexpectedly in March 2022, leaving the band's future momentarily uncertain; then, in August of the same year, Grohl lost his mother, Virginia. The lyrics to Grohl's new songs suggest that she's an even greater presence — or, more to the point, absence — on the album than Hawkins. Grohl's words on But Here We Are ache with loss, even as they explode in full-bore rock mayhem, and that loss extends beyond the deaths of loved ones: They're songs about the loss of memory, the loss of comfort, the loss of the past, the loss of home. Once again, plumbing the depths of anguish has led to some of the most vital music of his career.
It's worth stopping here to push back against the pernicious myth of art stemming only from great misery, and to contemplate how much of Grohl's best work is also an extension of the deep community that's formed around him — which has, in recent years, extended to the occasional vocal contribution from his daughter Violet. But it's hard to miss, and it would be malpractice not to point out, the consistent ferocity and focus on display in But Here We Are. Grohl clearly understands that we honor departed loved ones by building new joys we wish they were around to share.
In that way, But Here We Are genuinely shines as a tribute to Hawkins. Though Foo Fighters' drummer will be replaced on tour by Josh Freese, Grohl returns to the kit throughout the new record, and he brings raw, instantly identifiable intensity to its 10 tracks. "Rescued" and "Under You" open But Here We Are with singles that seem to have emerged directly from an alternate-universe greatest-hits package — they're hard-driving career highlights that sound both timeless and utterly of the present — while "Nothing At All" and the title track ramp up those songs' aggression with choruses that kick up some of the finest frenzies of Foo Fighters' career.
Of course, for this band, riffs and reflection aren't mutually exclusive. For all its hard-driving abandon, "Under You" taps into a deep well of sentiment — "Someone said I'll never see your face again / Part of me just can't believe it's true / Pictures of us share sharing songs and cigarettes / This is how I'll always picture you" — as it contemplates grief as both a great weight and a process. Elsewhere, absences abound from every angle: "I been hearing voices / None of them are you," Grohl sings in "Hearing Voices," while the 10-minute epic "The Teacher" finds him pleading, "Show me how to grieve, man / Show me how to say goodbye." "Rest" closes But Here We Are on a true tearjerker, as he pledges a reunion "in the warm Virginia sun" — a reference to both his place of origin and the woman who raised him. And "The Glass" makes clear the stakes of his sorrow, as Grohl sings, "I had a version of home, and just like that, I was left to live without it."
Still, all the talk of death that pervades But Here We Are shouldn't overshadow what a truly formidable rock record it is — so catchy and vibrant, so brimming with wild-eyed wonder. It's heavy, in every sense of the word, but make no mistake: It'll still get stuck in your head for days. [Copyright 2023 NPR]Continue reading »
Drama at Burien City Hall is about more than one city: Today So Far
- Drama erupted at a Burien City Council meeting this week as tempers flared over a tense issue. But this happens at a lot of council meetings in a lot of cities.
- Stranger things are happening in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood.
- Amazon employees walk out in protest of the company's return-to-office policy.
This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 1, 2023.
There were hopes that the Burien City Council meeting this week could have been "a productive one and collaborative one," because, "That would be a lovely and welcome change.” That's what Councilmember Cydney Moore said before public comment commenced. By the end of the meeting, someone had yelled, "Why don’t you shut the f%#& up?!” to the passionate council chambers.
For years, I couldn't watch the TV show "Parks and Rec," because while the public meeting segments were pure comedy for the average viewer, as a newspaper reporter, the show was all too real.
Of course, there is a big difference between sitcom city hall and reality city hall. The sitcom is designed for laughs and can be turned off after 30 minutes. In reality, the problems discussed at city hall are very real, and ongoing. And if you're in a town like Burien, such problems can be much bigger than your city, like homelessness. And that can just make passions more inflamed and bitter. If there is one thing that rings true for both sitcom and reality city hall, it's when Parks and Rec Deputy Director Leslie Knope states, "These people are members of the community that care about where they live, so what I hear when I'm being yelled at is people caring loudly at me."
The drama in Burien this week centers on an undeveloped city park, but to residents it's about much more — homelessness, mental health, crime, safety, and other issues woven tightly together, which our region can't seem to get a handle on. Read the full story here. In short, the nonprofit Burien C.A.R.E.S. wants to turn the space into a dog park, and has a lease with the city to do so. There's a problem with that plan — a homeless encampment is currently set up on the property. What to do? Some want to sweep the camp to make way for the lease, which brings up another problem. King County has said it won't help with any such sweep, and also, the sheriff's department (which Burien contracts with for its own police) won't help either.
At Burien City Hall this week, more than 30 people signed up to speak during time for public comment, and many were ready to boo, cheer, name call, curse, laugh, and more. Community members accused the city of leasing the property in the first place so Burien can keep its hands clean while someone else moves the tents away. This tense discussion was echoed on the dais. In the end, no decisions were made. The encampment was eventually swept by the nonprofit and private security. Burien has no shelters or other services for folks to move to.
A lot of the feelings in the council chambers that night didn't translate well over video of the meeting, and a lot of the crowd commentary wasn't captured on mic. A few folks described the "rage" in the room. Exchanges were heated, and tempers were running high. KUOW's Casey Martin was in the room that night. His full story can be read here.
It's important to note something here. Some folks commenting that night said they were embarrassed by how Burien looks amid this controversy, and rageful interactions at a city meeting. That's understandable, but here's the thing: Burien is not unique. This sort of passionate, bickering city meeting is very common. It can sometimes feel as if TV and reality are blending. You have the usual cast of characters at these meetings in every city. You'll get a Dwight Schrute who has a straightforward, yet unreasonable plan. Frasier Crane will deliver a verbose diatribe, blaming the council for every problem, current and past. Steve Urkel will show up with information nobody really understands. Jerry Seinfeld will grab the mic and only offer questions, asking, "What is the deal with this city?" Eventually, Archie Bunker will speak, and that will just send the meeting off the rails.
Back to reality. I've seen official meetings on seemingly boring issues transform into rants about going vegan, how the Fibonacci sequence can be used to predict the next financial crisis, or global warming conspiracy theories. And if you see a guitar show up at a public meeting, get ready to witness the next viral video happening live, before your eyes. I guarantee you, all of this happens at city meetings far and wide, including your own. It's not just about Burien. It's not about any city, really. It's more about us, and how we work through problems.
Blame it on social media, blame it on a sense of having no control, blame it on a lack of mindfulness, blame it on the rain. Whatever the cause, a lot of us have developed a bad habit of demonizing and yelling. As a result, city halls can get used as a form of catharsis. But this way of doing things is a lot like a rocking chair — getting angry at your neighbors may give you something to do, but it won't take you anywhere. The problems persist in the meantime. There are still folks experiencing homelessness in Burien, and there is a lack of answers. Actually going somewhere takes hard work, harder than stuffing all your comments into a single minute at a council meeting. It takes working together.
“I’m pretty disappointed because I feel like it’s a whole lot of nothing burger,” Councilmember Moore said after meeting was over. “At this time, the city is not choosing to take any particular action in terms of where people can go, what the next steps are, how we can keep people safe, or housed, or sheltered.”Continue reading »
Seattle employer can sue workers over 2017 strike, U.S. Supreme Court rules
The U.S. Supreme Court said Thursday that a Seattle company has the right to sue the union representing its employees for damages arising from a 2017 strike. The company, Glacier NW, sued the Teamsters Local 174 after drivers walked off the job with concrete still spinning in their trucks.
Typically, disputes like this would be adjudicated by the National Labor Relations Board, but the new ruling allows the lawsuit to move forward through the courts. Unions fear the ruling paves the way for employers to sue whenever they lose money due to a strike, which is often the objective of workers seeking to gain leverage in negotiations.
The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in favor of Glacier NW, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson dissenting. The ruling overturns a decision by the Washington State Supreme Court, which initially sided with the Teamsters. Glacier NW appealed that decision, claiming the right to strike does not apply if the union didn’t take sufficient precautions to protect the equipment from “imminent danger.”
“The Union’s choice to call a strike after its drivers had loaded a large amount of wet concrete into Glacier’s delivery trucks strongly suggests that it failed to take reasonable precautions to avoid foreseeable, aggravated, and imminent harm to Glacier’s property,” the justices said in their ruling.
Teamsters says drivers did make an effort to protect the trucks by leaving the mixers rotating.
Labor groups condemned the ruling on Thursday, claiming it hamstrings a critical tool in the organizing toolkit.
“The ability to strike has been on the books for nearly 100 years, and it’s no coincidence that this ruling is coming at a time when workers across the country are fed up and exercising their rights more and more,” said Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien in a statement. “Make no mistake — this ruling has everything to do with giving companies more power to hobble workers if any attempt is made to fight back against a growing system of corruption.”
Update notice, Thursday, 6/1/2023: A previous version of this story reported MLK Labor, which represents more than 150 unions throughout King County would hold a press conference at Glacier NW to discuss the ruling. However, KUOW learned that the press conference will no longer take place.Continue reading »
Researchers tackle asthma hotspot: Seattle’s Duwamish Valley
Where air pollution goes, asthma is likely to follow.
Seattle’s Duwamish Valley has some of the worst air pollution in Western Washington. The valley also has twice the poverty rate of Seattle and is mostly people of color.
People living in the 98108, the ZIP code that includes the Duwamish Valley and Beacon Hill, are nearly four times more likely to end up in the hospital with asthma than King County residents overall, according to University of Washington epidemiologist Anjum Hajat.
“There are tremendous inequities in terms of asthma and many other health outcomes,” Hajat said.
Researchers from the University of Washington and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition hope to lower the valley’s exceptional rates of childhood asthma.
They’re giving 80 Duwamish Valley families low-cost box fans with air filters attached to clean up their indoor air.
They’ll study how the children’s health in those families changes, even as trucks, trains, and planes still pollute the air outside.
They want to see how well this low-cost approach to pollution can help kids breathe easier.
“What really impacts our air quality here more than anything else is transportation emissions, specifically diesel emissions from port activities,” said Christian Poulsen with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition.
The valley’s Georgetown and South Park communities sit between the cargo-handling docks of the Port of Seattle and King County International Airport.
The project will monitor indoor and outdoor air quality and support an advocacy team to identify the most effective ways to achieve cleaner air and healthier children along the Duwamish.Continue reading »
Is Seattle still 'weird'? Today So Far
Is the Northwest weird? Is Seattle weird? Should we even be using the word "weird" so much?
This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for May 31, 2023.
There has been a notion that our region is "weird." For example, in the 1996 documentary "Hype!" about the explosion of Seattle music into the mainstream, one person credits the unique sound to the weirdness that was so potent throughout the Northwest. This regional weird was promoted in pop culture, such as "Twin Peaks" or even "Northern Exposure." Growing up around here, embracing this weird was a form of pride.
As we've all found out over the past few weeks, KUOW's Bill Radke has an obsession with words. He's pushed back against the overuse of "legendary" or "dive bar," for example. This week, Radke explains his disdain for "weird." He has even banned the word in his own home.
"I tell my kids to avoid the word 'weird' because I tell them that it doesn't describe whatever it is we are talking about, it just says they are having a reaction, and we are better off naming our reactions, and exploring our reactions ... So I move that nothing is weird, we banish the word," Radke explained on the most recent "Words in Review."
Erik Davis is author of "High Weirdness," which is about drugs. In a way, he specializes in weird, and overall, embraces it. "I think every place gets its own weirdness," Davis said.
"I write about California weirdness probably because I'm a Californian ... there's a certain inflection up there (in the Northwest). The woods are darker and gloomier, and there is perhaps more of a funky, magical mushroom energy permeating in the Pacific Northwest."
"[Weird] is kind of a wastebasket word," he adds. "We put things that we don't really know what else to say about. While that sometimes is a meaningless dodge, or a way of not articulating our feelings to ourselves, or not describing exactly what might be peculiar or unusual about the thing we are talking about, the fact we are relying on 'weird' also tells us something about weirdness in our lives and what we do with things that don't really fit."
Davis notes that if you pull out everything we put in that weird wastebasket, they might not relate. An uncomfortable interaction could be weird, so can a bizarre movie, or a spooky dream, or an unusual flavor. Weird is a category unto itself, with a diverse range of meanings, he argues.
"It lets us see something about reality that no other word really does," Davis said. "It's one of those words where you have to unpack it a little bit, but 'things that don't quite fit' is probably the best way to put it simply."
I've always felt that humans evolved to seek out patterns, normalcy. It's a way to survive. That "weird" sound in the bushes could be a giant animal coming to eat you, so knowing patterns (normalcy) and also things that stand out, have been important to us over our evolution. To me, weird is something that doesn't fit into a pattern. It can eventually become "normal" and fit in. And not fitting a pattern doesn't make something bad, it's just something that stands out. When Seattle music started making an impression in the 1980s and 1990s, it didn't fit the pattern the music industry had established, so it stood out. That was a good weird.
I would argue that Seattle is not weird. It once was, but that weird character has faded over the years. We still have the gum wall, and Archie McPhee (thank goodness!), but Seattle is more of the same these days — same buildings, same problems, same bumper stickers, same Teslas if you live in Ravenna. And what was once deemed weird is now just wearing socks with sandals as if that's just normal.Continue reading »