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The Power of Positive Biking

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A while back I received the following:

Dear Spovangelist,

We came across your blog today and thought that you might want to know about a cycling jersey we are selling that is stirring up quite a buzz. The new jerseys at www.sharethedamnroad.comsend a message to aggressive drivers.

If you decide you want to write a little something about us for your blog, let us know and we will reciprocate a link back to you!

Best regards,
Jonathan Ciaccio

While I am an avid commuter and have been nearly run over on a few occasions due to driver rage or inattention, I’m not sure if I would wear one of their pre-printed shirts around town.

While I dig the inverted “Thanks!” on the front of the jerseys, certain Spokanites can get touchy behind the wheel, and I feel like the “more flies with honey” truism is particularly true in our town. Why not take the non-violent communication route?

I totally appreciate the purpose of avoiding accidents, raising awareness and keeping people safe, and am therefore more excited about Share the Damn Road’s customizable shirt options. What do you think about the following:

“One More Parking Spot”

“One Less Disease On Your Dollar”

“Please Pass Me : )”

“<- These Two Lanes Are For You”

“Go Ahead, Check Out My Legs”

“Biking For The U.S.A.”

“Zipping Between Potholes Since 2007″

“Visualize Green Lights”

A Hotbed for Cold Electricity

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While the worlds stands aghast at massive oil spills in the Gulf, or the political football about where to bury left over atomic waste, Spokane has become a harbor for a handful of independent, non-funded technical researchers who are on a quest to revolutionize the way the world generates power. These fringe physicists and electrical engineers defy the laws of thermodynamics, and are working with humble means to discover a new technology that they believe will supply more energy than their inventions would consume.

This search for an endless fountain of “free energy” has become a lifetime calling for many in our area, and they have slowly evolved their own community of interest. Just a few weeks ago Coeur d’Alene was home to the first world free energy conference of its kind. Outside this network of support they receive no assistance whatsoever from academic or government organizations. This is not surprising, given that the law of Conservation of Energy is the solid bedrock for classical physics and chemistry. Despite opposition from every establishment, they trudge on in search of a system that would represent an age-changing event.

But why would so many of the country’s cold electricity researchers congregate in the Inland Northwest? They all agree, to the best of their knowledge, that there is no other place on the planet where so many authors, bloggers and active experimenters are engaged in this heretical subject. Is it something about our regional culture? Something in the ether, perhaps? Either way, for the sake of the planet, one can only hope they might stumble across that new Holy Grail after all.

A Local Calling

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By Crystal Clark

This old phone box was standing on the corner of First and Jefferson, crying out for a bit of attention. A quick whip of string and tin can later we have a play on outmoded technology and the connections we make in our modern lives.

My son is a natural in front of the camera, that stance is all his own. The way his left knee bends and head tilts recall his no fuss attitude.

As of today, the tin can is no longer hanging there. Given the area the phone box is in, I’m guessing the can was clipped from it’s string for recycling money.

A Parking Lot in Park’s Clothing

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Every day I ride my bike past the sea of parking out in front of the INB. What little hope I had for development, sparked by those misleading “hotel property” signs last summer, was trounced when a friend explained that all the construction was for another surface lot. The nail in the coffin for my enthusiasm came when they demolished The Blvd. and chopped down its lone majestic willow tree. Like a digital mirage, the two can still be seen standing in Google street view to this day:

The swanky new parking comes with a price tag to match. At the peak of the Lion King frenzy, the lot appeared to be only 2/3 full at a going rate of $10 per spot. A blurb in the DSP’s Street Talk newsletter pointed me towards the master plan that was written for the Public Facilities District expansion.

Parking with Style
The new lot features sheltered, automated parking pay stations, new classic style light poles with wrought iron details on Main, 115 new trees, and solar powered lighting. Not bad for a parking lot!

While nobody can deny that the new lot is a vast improvement on the asphalt desert that preceded it, I have to wonder if this move effectively delays breaking ground on a planned multi-level structure. The Vision 20/20 plan fails to explain the rationale behind the timing of the current upgrade, stating only that the new lot will be around for about 10 years before Phase Two.

Downtown with a portion of current surface parking highlighted.

It was painfully ironic how Vision 20/20 carries on about the cultural and authentic place-seeking inclinations of Gen Y (see pages 24-25) only to result in the wrecking ball for one of their favorite local venues. They note a perceived disconnect between the convention center and the emerging East End, and then eliminate the nearest feature of that sought-after urban fabric.

In good faith I assume there are solid answers to all of these questions, and the plan suggests several exciting elements that will greatly enhance the downtown landscape if they are pursued. But what should the role of the public be in such a planning process? I was surprised to see that citizens were not listed as stakeholders, and only one public input meeting was cited in the report. The results of that meeting were not outlined, and so after 97 pages it is unclear how the proposal incorporates the perspective of local consumers.

We should use the assets we have, such as our visually appealing and unique historic buildings, to invest in permanent businesses and living spaces. Unnecessary parking lots flatline the heartbeat of downtown, no matter how they are used, and send the wrong message about the vision and direction we want for our city.

-Crystal Gartner

3 Deadly Excuses to Stop Stalling Spokane

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When you ask people in the park what they like about Spokane they say “it’s not too big” and “doesn’t have traffic like Seattle”. Some think Spokanites are “friendly” while others point out our access to nature and recreational resources.

On the flip side, comments about barriers to Spokane’s success contain equally generic and uninspired viewpoints. But this set of assumptions has a much more dire effect on our regional mindset. Let me challenge the basis of the top three most cherished Spokane excuses:

1) Spokane just needs more time.

PROGRESS IS NOT A FUNCTION OF TIME

Ask yourself “How many thousands of years was China under dynastic rule?” It is naive to assume some natural process of growth towards more democratic and/or sustainable societies. These practices do not develop on their own. They result from cultural patterns that are directly influenced by a complex variety of real world circumstances. THIS is where the focus should be kept, not asking “Is the time finally right?” I would agree with the truism that “timing is everything” – but this nugget of wisdom shouldn’t be taken proscriptively.

Creating your own opportune moments is a powerful skill to develop. If we can get past the limit imposed by this ‘glacial time assumption’ the challenge becomes identifying methods that accelerate the process of change itself. The social time scales of the past should not be inappropriately applied to the ever-changing possibilities for the future.

2) Spokane needs new people.

NEW BODIES WON’T REPLACE OLD ATTITUDES

Often I hear it said that we have to “be patient” and wait for all the old fossils to die off before things can really start to move ahead. A variation on this idea is that Spokane needs to import a bunch of “enlightened” Californians or outside corporate talent to cancel out the effects of suspicious natives or make our economy sing.

It is hopelessly narcissistic to assume that attitudinal barriers to change will disappear with certain members of the society that espouse them. Let us not forget that these people have children (often times a larger number of them) and ideas about the what makes the world tick have a funny way of transferring through generational lines. At some point social activists will have to suck up their uncertainty and (gasp) actually engage the criticisms they despise.

3) Spokane is too poor.

HOW WE SPEND IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TOTAL SPENDING

First off, as an American city, Spokane has a lot of fat to burn. The question is how we burn it. Are our dollars squandered on flat screen TVs or invested into energy efficient dishwashers? Do we allow our limited money to be vacuumed out of the local sphere by national and international corporate conglomerates, or do we circulate our dollars faster and more effectively in our own vibrant micro-economy?

Culture change can be spearheaded on a shoestring. The question must involve how to win hearts and minds, the money will follow. Just ask a preacher! Let’s remember one doesn’t loose weight by buying a fancy gym membership, one actually has to work out to get rid of those pounds.

For Som: Grief.

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I am taking a walk with someone today whom I have only begun to know. He’s saying something about “my twin brother and I…”

“–Wait. You have a twin brother?”

“Did. He died, oh, about three years ago.”

“…”

I fumble through the awkward what-do-you-say’s in my head and settle on, “How is that for you?” Only because my time was up and I had to say something.

“Honestly, it hasn’t been awful. I reached acceptance really early.”

“Oh.” I don’t have a response for that because nobody has ever answered with anything other than: “Awful. Devastating. Catastrophic.”

I do the panic thing and start rambling on about my own experiences with grief because what the fuck else is there to do. He says he felt guilt about not doing grief right until a friend told him however he’s doing it is doing it right.

SomWe get back, he takes off and I open my laptop to Facebook.

“We’ve lost Som Jordan,” posts someone.

“What do you mean, lost?” says someone else.

Nobody is talking about cause of death, which means it’s suicide. I know that already but I pretend I don’t know and ask around just hoping it’s something else.

The paper later reports that Isamu “Som” Jordan, a huge influence in Spokane’s music and journalism scene, was found in his home this morning. Cause of death: apparent suicide.

There is this prevailing struggle with how did he possibly not see the glow around him that everybody else saw. Everybody’s posting this music video he made with Flying Spiders. The only text they include is the song’s title: “Spokane’s Finest.”

I know nothing about anything about this situation. I do know it’s not coincidence that those people we think are invincible, brilliant, miles above us — our icons — also often suffer very deeply. Searching for truth does not turn up unicorns and rainbows.

Now that that’s said, I want to talk about grief, and that you should do it however you want.

You don’t have to cry to care. You can go to a vigil or not go to a vigil. Nobody gets to tell you you didn’t know him well enough to grieve or that you’re not grieving sufficiently or right.

Today, as I grieve the loss of a friend, a lot of grief from past losses tumbles onto me as well. It all feels very messy and maybe someone would tell me I was missing the point.

When people pry about the details, some may say they’re missing the point. Maybe they are. Or maybe they have questions because they care. Because suicide is not a thing we talk about much, and it’s confusing and it hurts and maybe they feel like answers will make it hurt less. (Spoiler: It will very likely make it hurt more.)

When people spit out platitudes on the internet, some may say they’re missing the point. When they do, or they don’t, organize a benefit concert. When they speculate. When they try to talk about suicide in general or death in general or grief in general. When they do or don’t cry.

This is the messy that we’re challenged to navigate with grace: simultaneously grieving and giving others the space to do their own version of that. There are a lot of us because Som had a generous spirit. Let that be a good thing.

Why Fagan Cares About Bikini Baristas

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City Councilman Mike Fagan is up in arms over bikini baristas. Bikini baristas are up in arms over Fagan’s newest proposal. The Councilman representing the 1st City Council District (U-District all the way up to Hillyard) wants to require a minimum clothing regulation or move to zoned “adult business” areas. There’s really no right way to feel about this. So many things about lingerie and bikini espresso stands repulse me — they defame the good name of espresso everywhere, objectify and over sexualize often very young women.

Most people understand that the word “Objectification” is a bad thing, but it’s deeper than that, it’s more than just a word. Our culture has made the female form a source of fascination, a white whale of sexual desire, which creates businesses like strip clubs, bikini barista stands and a whole lot of trouble. “Objectification”, is true to the definition of the word, it takes human beings and reframes worth from intellectual contributions, kindness, humor, love and transforms it in to sexual worth. Objects can’t be hurt, because they are inanimate, but when you turn women into objects, it makes things like cat calls, sexual harassment and even sexual violence more justified in the mind of aggressors and general d-bags.

Bikini barista stands may seem fun or even funny, but are fundamentally damaging to our community. Places like bikini barista stands are not really to blame; they’re merely capitalizing on the built culture surrounding women and women’s bodies. Read: it’s all our fault.

The toxicity of bikini barista stands aside, Councilman Fagan’s proposal is still plain wrong.

First, allowing middle-aged white dudes to tell women what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, is exactly what we talk about when we talk about gender inequality. Mike Fagan is, perhaps unwittingly, attempting to institute policies that are directly interfering with the independence and free will of women. And sir, we have enough of that patriarchal bullshit with out the help of our city government. Even more concerning is that Councilman Fagan is a self-proclaimed libertarian, meaning with every other concern, he is supportive of free market ideals and supports little governmental intervention. Except when it has to do with dictating the values of other people. Unequivocally proving he is attempting to institute a policy that is inherently sexist– on purpose.

Second, it is not the place of city government to decide the value system of it’s constituency. But to support the vital services the city provides. In the Spokesman-Review article on the bikini barista cover-up proposal, City Council President was quoted with the perspective of a strong leader, “Who decides what Spokane values are? I didn’t get elected to legislate values. …We should be talking about economic development, the creation of the budget and police accountability…”

The thing about sexism is that we have a choice. Our culture isn’t hardwired to be oppressive. We have the option to reframe the way we talk about sex, the way we talk about our bodies and the way we evaluate the inherit value of humans. We have the power.

We also have the power to buy good coffee from people that wear clothes.4

Posterizing for SPIFF

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Once again, it’s almost time for the Spokane International Film Festival. No Matthew Modine this year, but plenty of global films and a new feature: Posterize. With 21 designers commissioned to make posters for 25 films, it’s an art display showcasing independent film by some of the greatest graphic design talent in our city. And it’s free.

You can preview many of the posters here, as well as a listing of this year’s films for the festival here.

I think this is a particularly good idea because it allows festival patrons to glimpse the potential of movies they may want to see through the eyes of innovative designers. This should, theoretically, encourage a sense of community, pride, and interest in the arts from multiple angles. The show includes local favorites Karli Ingersoll and Chris Dreyer, as well as a host of emerging talent. It’s a combination of two way cool ideas that looks, well, way cool. Way to go, SpIFF.

The show will be one night only, at the Bing this Friday, from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

101 Reasons to Ride Your Bike in Spokane

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Spovangelist is not a bike blog for the simple reason that there are so many other outstanding local bloggers covering the topic. For some reason biking and blogging seem to go hand-in-hand. Four out of twelve of the blogs featured in the Spokane Blog Bible could be considered bike blogs, or at least strongly bike sympathetic. Here is an alphabetical list, please mention any I have left out: 100 KM, 26InchSlicks, Bicycles, Brewing and Bitches, BiketoWork Barb, Cycling Spokane, FBC Spokane, Fixed the Race, Fresh – Fresher – Freshness!, Joe Blogger, Out There Monthly, Shallow Cogitations and Spokanarama.

Awhile back I wrote 101 Things to do With a Surface Parking Lot. The list was a challenge and took a couple of attempts to complete. Coming up with 101 reasons to ride bikes in Spokane, however, was a breeze. I sat down and whipped these out almost without pause. In no particular order:

  1. your engine is in your butt
  2. people in bike shops don’t try and swindle you for repair costs
  3. cleaning your windshield is as easy as blinking
  4. people think you’ve “got guts”
  5. wearing bike accessories makes your fashion distinctive
  6. insurance doesn’t cost an arm and a leg
  7. changing a tire can be done in less than fifteen minutes
  8. biking daily adds spring to your step
  9. you are more likely to wear comfortable shoes
  10. pulling up to lock your bike is a great conversation starter with pedestrians
  11. people admire your dedication
  12. skip the lines, buses and craziness on your way to Bloomsday
  13. you remind traffic to pay attention
  14. takes a huge chunk out of your carbon footprint
  15. you don’t have to buy gas – this should be reason enough!
  16. no license required
  17. great compliment to regular exercise
  18. people think you’re sporty even if you aren’t
  19. bikes come in more colors than cars
  20. you never have to worry about parking availability again!!!
  21. you can’t lock your keys inside of a bike
  22. good for your heart
  23. way more likely to stop and smell the roses
  24. pot holes are easily avoided
  25. you set a good example for kids
  26. arrive at work refreshed and ready to contribute
  27. cold temperatures locally make biking more comfortable, not less
  28. make new friends, volunteer with Pedals2People
  29. about 70,000 people die from air pollution annually (this equals the number of deaths from breast and prostate cancer combined)
  30. Spokefest will feel like a vindicating joy ride
  31. you learn the art of layering your clothes
  32. breaks aren’t mysterious and are easy to repair
  33. reconnect with the day-night cycle
  34. stop fueling the war machine
  35. improve your flexibility
  36. be prepared for spinning at the gym
  37. encourage your friends to ride bikes with authority
  38. burn more calories every day to earn that fattening dessert
  39. win free prizes on MyCommute.org
  40. don’t leave a stinky trail of carcinogens wherever you go
  41. squeeze through narrow openings when necessary
  42. harness the power of evolution in making your transportation energy efficient
  43. you can carry your transit up the steps
  44. better your balance
  45. help people cost share when you carpool to an event
  46. you’ll never be caught off guard by the weather in inappropriate clothing
  47. hit up three times as many galleries during Art Walk
  48. make the Centennial Trail your freeway
  49. free yourself from guilt about hastening peak oil
  50. tread lightly on Spokane’s battered roads
  51. be invested in watching the local bike culture grow
  52. donate your old bikes to the Village Bicycle Project
  53. become thankful for red lights instead of being angry at them
  54. remove the temptation to answer and talk on your phone
  55. get discounts on drinks at Coffee Social
  56. improve your coordination by breaking while hand-signaling
  57. what a great excuse to get to wear neon!
  58. walk the talk when you pull up for a meeting at City Hall
  59. you only have to have two functional tires instead of four
  60. enjoy carpooling across town with friends you otherwise wouldn’t get to see
  61. get some mileage out of that backpack in your closet
  62. feel the elation of coasting down a long hill
  63. support your local bike materials economy
  64. create green collar jobs with your bike service purchases
  65. more easily reuse your bike parts across different brands and models
  66. flashing lights, light ropes and accessories are legal and encouraged
  67. whoever spent years paying off their bike payments?
  68. think of biking as a non-dietary “cholesterol cleanse”
  69. you are less liable to accidentally kill a warm and furry friend
  70. take advantage of existing bike infrastructure
  71. create the demand for more bike infrastructure
  72. bump total transit costs down from #2 on your household budget
  73. invent fun biking rituals
  74. pour aggression into powering up a hill
  75. vintage rigs are just as fuel efficient as new ones
  76. earn a rad “bike muscle” above your kneecaps
  77. stave off the risk of diabetes
  78. improve your posture
  79. beat the bus to your destination
  80. increase neighborhood property values
  81. slip through the traffic jam and be on time for dinner
  82. cycling promotes mobility for seniors
  83. cut your noise pollution down to “Near Nothing, Near Perfect”
  84. get rid of the need for the volume and overhead on that 2-3 car garage
  85. British Medical Assosiation says health benefits outweigh accident risks 20:1
  86. reduce the depreciation on your transit investment
  87. give your bones a daily workout
  88. a non-pharmaceutical/barbituate way to reduce anxiety and depression
  89. boost your LDL and HDL readings
  90. reduce your mortality by 40% – commute 3 hours a week for 15 years
  91. let speed function as your AC system
  92. bicycling is a physical meditation – a must for anyone living with ADD
  93. smell the pine, orange blossom, and lilac in the air
  94. become a crusader against America’s obesity pandemic
  95. merging your commuting and exercise time frees up hours for other pursuits
  96. ditch the concrete jungle and take the scenic route
  97. bicycling contributes to economic justice and equal opportunity for all
  98. contribute to Spokane’s urban/enlightened image
  99. protect your global neighbor – air pollution exceeds traffic fatalities 3:1
  100. foil the meter maids and parking Nazis
  101. cars pollute our lakes and groundwater; bicycles don’t

All Local Listening on Spotracks

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I haven’t made a mix for a while; which isn’t the same as saying I haven’t been listening to music. I have been. A lot. But I haven’t yet made an all-local mix, so here is a winter gift from me to you. Every song was meticulously picked from my itunes library and the corners of the internet, and the result is not necessarily a cohesively blending mix, but a compilation of truly awesome Spokane sound power. Enjoy!

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