By Kate Clark Seattle Times
Seth MacFarlane wears two hats.
Sometimes he’s the voice of Peter Griffin and dozens of other characters on one of the wildly successful cartoon series he has created.
Sometimes he’s Seth MacFarlane, Grammy-nominated jazz singer, admirer of Frank Sinatra and 55-piece orchestras.
On Friday, he’ll be the latter, performing a series of orchestral jazz standards with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall.
While MacFarlane is best known as the creator of “Family Guy” — a show defined by its controversy and scatological humor — he is also a musician. He says these two passions are easy to reconcile because really, they are both character performances.
“You need to act, you need to tell a story, you need to inhabit the lyric,” MacFarlane said.
“You gotta find a way in; find a way to make the song mean something to you. With an animated character, you are tapping into some of the less noble parts of the human psyche and with a romantic ballad it is the opposite, but the fact that you are telling a story is the same.”
MacFarlane trained his baritone with the help of vocal experts Lee and Sally Sweetland — renowned trainers of Sinatra. In 2011, he released his first studio album, “Music Is Better Than Words,” which would earn him the first of four Grammy nominations.
He went on to release “Holiday For Swing” in 2014, and most recently, “No One Ever Tells You,” which came out last year.
All three albums were conducted and arranged by Joel McNeely, who will conduct Friday evening’s performance. He is also one of the composers on “American Dad!,” another animated series created by MacFarlane.
McNeely’s double duties are just one example of MacFarlane’s ability to intertwine his musical ability with the cartoon kingdom he has built with Peter Griffin on the throne. Unlike other animated series, it’s no surprise to viewers when “Family Guy” incorporates a grand musical number into an episode.
“That is a show that utilizes anywhere from 50- to 80-piece orchestras for one episode,” MacFarlane said. “I’ll go occasionally to ‘Family Guy’ scoring sessions just to hear the orchestra play the score.”
Naturally, MacFarlane’s movies have had similar musical treatment. The title song for “Ted,” “Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” was nominated for an Academy Award for best original song in 2013.
Even with high-caliber award nominations, the voice behind songs like “I Can’t Poop in Strange Places” — a “Family Guy” original — has encountered a fair amount of bewildered critics.
“People will go along with you if you are taking it seriously and doing something of value,” he said. “We take it seriously. We really push ourselves to treat this as though these are recordings that are gonna be around for a long time, so they gotta be as great as they can be.”
So, when MacFarlane takes the stage on Friday, don’t picture an evil baby or a talking dog. Enjoy Seth MacFarlane, string junkie.
“There is nothing like working with an ensemble that is 55 pieces or larger,” he said. “As a vocalist you become a part of a larger organism, it’s less about yourself and more about what is taking place on stage … It becomes as much of a show for me to enjoy as hopefully the audience.”
By Kate Clark GeekWire
A recent report about the state of Black women in tech entrepreneurship found that only 0.2 percent of all U.S. venture capital deals from 2012 to 2014 went to Black women, despite the fact that they founded 1.5 million businesses and are the quickest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the nation. Black women founders also received just $36,000 on average in funding, while the average failed startup raised $41 million.
This massive gap highlights the need for culturally-focused startup hubs like Black Dot, a new resource center for Black entrepreneurs in Seattle’s Central District.
Black Dot co-founders K. Wyking Garrett, Aramis Hamer, Monica Washington, and Mujale Chisebukaseek to change these statistics. They strive to get more youth in the Central District interested in entrepreneurship while providing Black entrepreneurs with the necessary resources to successfully start or maintain their businesses via panels, networking events, and the option to use Black Dot as a co-working space.
“We look forward to kind of being like a greenhouse for economic sustainability in this community — we are a seed,” Garrett said. “The dot is a seed.”
The idea for Black Dot came about after the founders attended a Startup Weekend event called Hack the Central District. At the hackathon, Hamer and Washington created the idea for Heart Haven, which, similar to Black Dot, would provide the space for artists to connect and create. At the same time, Garrett createdAfricatown, a website and app that serves as a mechanism of discovery of the Central District.
After the event, they realized the community needed more than just one weekend a year to create and innovate new ideas. Working with David Harris, a startup advocate for Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the entrepreneurs agreed that there should be a place that would provide a way for artists and innovators of all kinds to meet and develop ideas that benefit everyone in their community.
Thus, Black Dot was born.
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By Kate Clark The Daily
Last Mother’s Day Evan Wallesen, a UW senior and president of Students for Concealed Carry (SFCC), bought his mom a gun.
While a gun is not your average Mother’s Day gift, coming from Wallesen, it made sense.
“I’ve taken her to the range, I got her her carry permit,” said Wallesen, who also has a carry permit and carries a gun with him everywhere he goes, except the UW campus. “If I am competent enough to carry a gun everywhere else, then why not the place I spend most of my time?”
Last year, Wallesen and two other UW students, Laycee Hyde and Shannon Harris, who have since graduated, started SFCC. The club was intended to be social, a place where students could gather and, as Wallesen puts it, “go shooting and not be hated on.”
To inaugurate the club and raise awareness of its existence, the three founding members stood in Red Square wearing orange jumpsuits, holding signs that read “Criminals love gun-free zones.”
In a not-so-subtle way, they were attempting to highlight their view that banning guns puts students in greater danger, as they are not able to protect themselves.
“Right now, what is stopping a crazy person from walking on campus with a gun?” Wallesen said. “If I have my gun, I am the first line of defense. … the crazy person who wants to kill a bunch of people doesn’t care about the law. If you have decided to commit murder, you aren’t going to care about the felony you get by walking on campus with a gun.”
Despite the confrontational nature of this public display, Wallesen isn’t normally aggressive about his politics. He labels himself fiscally conservative and socially progressive. When it comes to guns, he agrees with the right-wingers: no limitations.
He is knowledgeable, excited, and surprisingly genial as he discusses gun legislation — open versus concealed carry, mental health, and politicians’ views on guns, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz alike.
He is not at all combative.
Since its formation, SFCC has quickly morphed into something even more political. Earlier this quarter, under the guidance of Rep. Elizabeth Scott, SFCC crafted House Bill 2867: “Authorizing conceal carry on campuses of institutions of higher education.”
HB 2867 wasn’t referred to committee, making it pretty much dead upon arrival, but SFCC plans to edit and evolve the bill, then submit it again during the next legislative session.
The bill would legalize concealed carry on the UW campus. Currently, firearms are completely banned from campus, despite both open carry and concealed carry being legal in most places in Washington state. Jails, schools, bars, or parts of airports are the exceptions, areas where guns are unauthorized. To legally, openly carry a weapon one does not need a permit, but to carry a concealed weapon, a concealed pistol license is required.
The bill, if passed, would mean academic institutions could not make any rule that barred license holders from carrying a firearm. It would, however, allow “provisions concerning the storage of pistols in dormitories,” and would not necessarily apply to private institutions.
A similar bill recently passed in Texas, Senate Bill 11, which beginning Aug. 1, 2016, will legalize concealed carry of firearms on campus at the University of Texas at Austin. It was, and still is, highly contentious on the UT campus.
Many Texas students continue to avidly oppose the bill.
According to the Facebook event, “Campus (DILDO) Carry,” 10,000 people will be attending a “Cocks, not Glocks,” protest taking place on the UT campus the first day of school, Aug. 24. Students and others opposed to SB 11 plan to strap massive dildos to their backpacks, with the idea that dildos are “about as effective at protecting us from sociopathic shooters, but much safer for recreational play.”
Late last month, the dean of UT’s School of Architecture resigned due to concern with the new policy.
In 2015, there were 23 shootings on college campuses across the country. The likelihood of a shooting occurring on your campus is still incredibly slim, but this uptick in campus violence has brought gunrights, accessibility to guns, and gun laws in general into the center of debates.
According to the Pew Research Center, most Americans are in favor of requiring background checks for gun shows and private sales of firearms, as well as implementing laws preventing someone with a mental illness from purchasing a gun. But when it comes to developing a federal database to track gun sales and actually banning assault-style weapons, it becomes a partisan issue.
In 2014, Pew reported that 32 percent of Americans owned a firearm for hunting, but 48 percent, the majority, owned a gun for protection. This is a 22 percent increase from 1999 when only 26 percent owned a weapon for that reason.
Wallesen says the campus carry bill isn’t motivated by fear. He isn’t scared of a shooting occurring on campus, but he knows it is an imminent threat that, as of now, he can’t do anything about.
He thinks students have a false sense of security.
“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he said. “That’s the way I think everyone should act. … Why do you stock up on food? Why do you wear a seatbelt? I prepare for someone to attack me and I hope that no one does.”
Wallesen credits SFCC member and UW graduate student Allen Acosta with making this bill a reality.
“We push the boundaries of our liberties,” Acosta said. “It’s healthy to understand what rights we have and what rights the government has. That’s why I love this group, because they are willing to do that.”
Acosta has been networking with gun rights groups to garner support for the bill. He and Wallesen are optimistic for the bill’s future.
“We’re doing something, which is more than I thought I’d be doing when I started this club,” Wallesen said. “Allen came to the last meeting of the year and now here we are with a bill. … beyond what I thought would be possible.”
When Wallesen started the club, he intended for it to connect him with others who, like him, see guns and frequent trips to the gun-range as a hobby, not just a political issue.
“Anyone who collects anything, you are always looking for something new to add to your collection,” he said, referencing his growing collection of firearms.
Wallesen brought all six of his guns on SFCC’s quarterly trip to the West Coast Armory in Bellevue on Feb. 3, during which they exchange guns, get a little target practice in, and eat Chick-fil-A.
“Outside of the politics of it, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
He emphasized that not everyone who attends SFCC’s trips to the gun range is a Republican.
Still, SFCC is inherently political and the members know it. They are almost entirely Republicans and many are actively involved with College Republicans, another UW student organization.
The students in SFCC are a minority on campus because of their desire to legalize concealed carry, but they are also Republicans in an area dominated by left-leaners ready to “Feel the Bern.”
Being a political minority isn’t always easy. When Wallesen and other members of SFCC proudly don their “Students for Concealed Carry” T-shirts, which list the Second Amendment in its entirety on the back, reactions from passersby are not always positive or friendly.
Wallesen has learned how to deflect some of this negativity and has realized that most people don’t actually seem to want to hear him out or learn about his position.
“They don’t want to argue with me, they just want to shame me,” he said. “This club has forced me to organize my beliefs. Before, I knew my beliefs, but I didn’t know how to articulate them well.”
Wallesen is graduating in the spring and plans to move to California to pursue a career in engineering for Disney. He realizes California is equally, sometimes even more, liberal than the Pacific Northwest, but luckily he has already developed a pretty thick skin for when it comes time to discuss politics and conflicting ideologies.
Regardless of where Wallesen is, whether he is in the political majority or minority, he won’t cease to advocate for less stringent gun laws.
“The Second Amendment shouldn’t just shut off,” he said.
By Kate Clark The Daily
‘A marathon until the weekend:’ Meet the busy students of the UW’s Army ROTC
On a particularly frigid winter morning in 2011, Hyeong Oh, a newbie in the U.S. Army, got a 2 a.m. wake up call. He groggily picked up the phone, only to find out he had to be at Fort Campbell, Kentucky post’s airport, in a couple of hours.
“Have you watched those videos of soldiers coming back from deployment and families crying?” he asked. “I’ve seen that.”
That morning, Oh was asked to lead the families of soldiers, who would be returning home to Fort Campbell later that day, to a gymnasium adjacent to the airport. Families were meant to stay inside the gym; after all, it was snowing. Instead, they waited anxiously outside, gripping the fence that separated them from their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives.
The families waited one hour shivering in the snow, until they spotted a plane.
“They were all yelling and shaking their hands,” he said, recalling that night, “and when a soldier came out of the airplane the families were crying, really crying.”
As Oh watched the emotional greetings, he began to understand the significance of his service; the military doesn’t only impact soldiers, but entire families.
Oh joined the Army at 19 years old, only six years after his family emigrated from Seoul, South Korea, and when he realized pursuing art school or moving to Las Vegas to learn the ins-and-outs of the hotel business were not the most economical of decisions. While his parents both run successful small businesses, his mom an alterations shop and his dad a carpet-installation business, he refused to consider taking money from them for school.
“My mother told me, ‘Just go, I can pay for it,’ but I didn’t want to give them that pressure,” he said. “Right now, because I left, because they don’t have another guy who just wastes their money, they have more money.”
When Oh’s friend told him joining the Army meant a free education, he figured it was for him; it was a simple, cost-effective way to pursue his degree.
He had been in the Army three years when he heard about the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Students are taught fitness, leadership skills, and military science while obtaining a degree from one of 275 participating academic institutions across the country. ROTC pays each selected cadet’s tuition or room and board for at least two years, and upon graduation, they are commissioned into the Army as Second Lieutenants.
That offer appealed to Oh, who is now a junior at the UW and a third-year in Army ROTC (AROTC).
The only catch: an eight year contract with the Army. Four years as an active duty officer and four years of Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), or six years in the Army National Guard and two years of IRR. While Oh is anticipating pursuing active duty in the Military Intelligence Branch, signing that eight year contract was not easy.
“After [we] finish college and do the eight years [we] are 30 years old,” Oh said. “We spend our 20s in the Army. You have to really commit.”
The Kinnear Husky Battalion: in the business of educating
Kitty-corner to McMahon sits Clark Hall, a building whose exterior matches the other halls throughout campus, with the exception of the pull-up bars that decorate the courtyard. This is home base for AROTC, as well as Air Force, Navy ROTC, and the military science department.
AROTC is celebrating its 100 year anniversary in 2016, though military instruction at the UW began in 1862, 54 years before the modern AROTC was formed by the National Defense Act. That makes the Kinnear Husky Battalion, the official name of the UW’s AROTC, one of the oldest military instruction programs in the country.
As a member of the Kinnear Husky Battalion, cadets attend physical training (PT) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, beginning at 6:15 a.m. sharp. On Thursdays, they have two hours of Leadership Lab (LLAB) starting at 6:00 a.m. Depending on other duties they have within AROTC, they may be able to sleep in Tuesdays. But, most weekdays begin around 5:30 a.m. and end around midnight, after they finish their homework and tend to other typical college student tasks.
Lt. Col. Tevina Flood, chair of the department of military science and a West Point graduate, said it’s hard for her to quantify the exact amount of time a cadet spends each week on AROTC-related activities. Her conservative estimate was around 20 hours a week.
“It’s pretty hard for some of them to keep it together,” Flood said. “I’ve got a senior, he does this, he has a few different jobs, of course he is a full-time student, he doesn’t get any support from his family. So yeah, it’s a lot.”
The AROTC cadre are active duty army officers, like Flood who started at the UW in January, after spending most of her career in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Afghanistan.
Although Flood is a military school alumna, she said she recognizes that ROTC cadets face unique challenges.
“My 80 cadets are this tiny minority, and when they look around themselves they see lots of people behaving in ways that are not the same as what they do, and it would be very easy for them to say ‘I want to do that instead of what I am doing now,’” Flood said. “And some of them do that, and unfortunately then some of them have to be shown the door.”
The distractions within what Flood called the “sea of temptation” range for each cadet. It’s often difficult for them to indulge in what many college students typically take part in due to their schedules. Flood emphasized that it isn’t the AROTC cadre’s job to stop cadets from engaging in activity that doesn’t fit the character of an Army officer, and it isn’t their job to discourage such behavior either.
Their job is purely to educate.
Fortunately, as long as a cadet is committed to their choice and isn’t “stupid,” they can make it through, Flood said.
“If we start from the position that it is probably a matter of ignorance, then I can fix ignorance,” Flood said. “I can’t fix stupidity, but I can fix ignorance. We are in the business of educating just like all the rest of the faculty here are.”
Growing up military
Ignorance isn’t an issue for Elena Wright, sophomore cadet and member of ROTC’s Ranger Challenge Program. She grew up in a military family, with a colonel for a dad and a lieutenant colonel for a mom.
Before settling in to ROTC at the UW, Wright moved 11 times. From Washington to Kansas, Pennsylvania, Kuwait, Colorado, and finally Canada, where her parents live now.
She had stints in “civilian communities,” but always preferred to live on posts.
“You’re always going to be safe for the most part,” Wright said. “I was completely like, in this encased bubble of safety.”
Her upbringing made her highly adaptable to change; a crucial characteristic for anyone in the military. She can make friends and connect with just about anyone, assets you’ll find in most military kids, she said.
For most of her life, Wright has been planning to double major, graduate, go to medical school, and become an Army doctor. Dissimilar to most of the population, for Wright, not going into the military is what scares her.
“I love that I know it; I love that it’s my community that I feel comfortable in,” she said.
Wright is one of two women in the UW ROTC’s Ranger Challenge Program, or what Wright called ROTC’s varsity team. Ranger Challenge is composed of 10 cadets who spend additional hours every week training, and then compete with other schools on fitness drills, field drills, and on an army knowledge exam. Membership in this elite squad is very competitive.
As for possible sexism, Wright said she has only received support from her male and female colleagues in the Ranger Challenge and general AROTC community.
“If someone said something to me to the effect of like, you’re not good enough because you’re a girl or, you shouldn’t be here because you’re a girl, everyone, including all my male colleagues would defend me,” Wright said. “I’ve had people ask me questions like ‘how do you carry that pack, you’re so little, or you’re so short, you’re a girl,’ and I guess I just neutralize the gender aspect. I carry it the same way everyone else does. You just try to keep up and you do your best. It doesn’t have to be about being a girl or being a boy.”
Wright said she wanted to become part of the team to challenge herself, and thinks her determination is what landed her a spot in the program. During tryouts last fall, she completed the final day despite a cold that left her without a voice.
Now, she balances AROTC, Ranger Challenge, class, homework, and sorority life, leaving her with time for about four to five hours of sleep each night.
“The way one of the girls describes it is, it’s a marathon until the weekend and then you can recharge,” Wright said. “I think it’s just about learning how to manage your time really well. Like I don’t go out during the school week. There are girls in my house who love to go out every Tuesday and Thursday night, and I never do … I don’t really mind because that isn’t my priority, that’s not why I am here. I don’t think my future patients or colleagues would have wanted their physician to have gone out every Tuesday and Thursday.”
From Coal to Diamonds
On busy game nights, the University Village RAM is packed. There’s a line out the door of customers waiting to be seated, tables to be cleaned, and fans shouting as touchdowns are scored, or aren’t scored. For most of the RAM staff, these are stressful nights. But for one busser, they’re a cake-walk.
“At Fort Knox we had to sleep in a field in the middle of the forest for eight days straight,” senior cadet Jacob DesCamp said. “I went without a shower for a week, and it’s hot, and you’re sweaty and miserable. When you go through stuff like that, and like some cadets have gone through deployment, then you know what a crappy situation really feels like.”
DesCamp works two jobs on top of his school and ROTC workload. Typically, he spends four days a week bussing tables at the RAM and walks dogs every day for extra cash. Like Oh, DesCamp enlisted in the military prior to joining ROTC. At 17, he joined the Oregon National Guard, completing basic training before his senior year of high school.
He plans on spending the eight years on his contract, and beyond, in the National Guard, while pursuing a career within a government security agency, like the FBI or the CIA. Similar to most college seniors, he’s recently been applying to jobs within those organizations, adding to his already busy schedule.
“Sometimes I feel like my heart is gonna stop,” DesCamp said. “Honestly though, I know people out there in the military go through a lot worse, so I try to keep that in mind.”
DesCamp said that being in the army changed him more than he could have ever imagined when he enlisted.
“Enlisted soldiers have a tendency to poke fun at ROTC cadets because they see it as being easy, I guess,” DesCamp said. “But it has been a lot harder, more challenging than I ever anticipated. It makes adults out of kids.”
He compares the experience of being a cadet to riding a roller coaster. Some days are easier than others; some days it hits you all at once, like a rollercoaster loop or a 200 foot drop. But the skills he has acquired along the way, from public speaking, to leadership, to stress-management have made the hard, unpredictable days worth it.
“You put pressure on coal, it turns it into diamonds,” he said while explaining his growth in the service.
Wright, Oh, and DesCamp all commend the AROTC cadre of Army officers for helping them develop these skills in their few years in the program, despite the laborious schedules.
“They will definitely learn something, and in the end, enjoy the shared suffering,” Flood said.
Reach News Editor Kate Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KateClarkUW
At the age of 12, Krystal Koop found herself living on the streets of Anchorage, Alaska. An abusive relationship was the primary catalyst to her two years of homelessness. She couch-surfed, spent innumerable nights in shelters, and, on the good days, found refuge in a close friend’s home.
At 14, she got shingles — an extremely painful skin rash very rare among teenagers — from the stress and trauma she endured daily. It went untreated for weeks. She had no access to proper treatment or someone she could readily confide in. Eventually, her close friend’s mom, the one she spent many nights with, noticed her itching and squirming.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” the woman asked Koop.
“There were so many reasons why I couldn’t, didn’t say anything,” Koop said.
Forced to choose between foster care and moving 3,000 miles to San Francisco to live with her father — a perfect stranger — she chose the latter.
“I didn’t know my dad,” she said. “And the circumstances that led me to homelessness didn’t make moving in with a man I didn’t know feel good. It was a culture shock.”
Fast forward 20 years, Koop is just months away from finishing a master’s degree in social work at the UW. She is also the director of University District Street Medicine (UDSM), a UW student-run organization aimed at improving the quality of health care available to homeless individuals.
Several aspects of Koop’s upbringing led her into the social work discipline. She recounted two memories in particular. The first, the agonizing experience that was shingles, and the second, her difficulty with social workers.
“I had six social workers and I met one of them once,” she said of the year and a half she spent in and out of shelters. “That’s unacceptable, but it was very motivating for me.”
Enter UDSM, a program that allows Koop and students of the six health sciences schools at the UW to provide efficient and effective care to the U-District’s homeless.
According to the National Library of Medicine, people who are homeless often have poor health, which is then exacerbated by the lack of resources available to them. Wound and skin infections, like what Koop experienced, substance abuse, pneumonia, and bronchitis occur more often when living outdoors.
Data from the 2015 One Night Count highlighted a growing problem. Volunteers counted nearly 4,000 people sleeping on the streets on that January night — 20 percent more than in 2014. While there are no U-District specific statistics, the large homeless encampment that sprung up on the Ave earlier this year, coupled with soaring rents, suggests the population is growing at a similar rate.
The speed at which it’s growing is inconsistent with the amount and availability of resources for the homeless community. UDSM hopes to fill some of those gaps in services.
“We literally go out and pound the pavement,” Koop said of the street outreach UDSM is based on. “It helps hard-to-reach folks access services.”
UDSM members gather on weekend mornings or weeknights, times when services aren’t typically offered, and break into groups of two or three, with some combination of a medical, nursing, social work, physical therapy, pharmacy, or dental student.
Brook Lifland, a first year medical student from suburban Florida, an area where homelessness is not evident, said the homeless population here, and in Boston where she got her undergraduate degree, were really surprising for her.
“Meeting people and having those interactions is really a valuable thing, especially as a med-student who gets really caught up in the book work,” Lifland said. “I find in my day-to-day interactions I don’t get to have such deep connections with people.”
Initiated in 2013, UDSM operates out of the Elizabeth Gregory Home and St. Vincent de Paul Church when members aren’t pounding the pavement. At these two U-District locations, they provide the same services they would on the street, which range from offering advice on how to navigate the system and resource referrals to physical exams.
Koop said one of the biggest problems is people just don’t know what their resources are. The key to UDSM, she said, is education.
Another crucial aspect is mindfulness.
“One of our goals is to bridge that gap between the homeless and not-homeless folks,” Koop said. “We are all people.”
The next step for the organization is to open their very own student-run clinic. That UDSM coupled with other UW student-run initiatives suggests an increase in student involvement with the issue of homelessness in Seattle. UDSM, Health Equity Circle, and Tent City Collective (TCC), all UW organizations, similarly seek to augment resources and improve conditions for the homeless community.
A petition on Change.org has been circulating the web calling for the UW to host Tent City 3, a homeless encampment. Hana Alicic, a lead organizer for TCC, said they are developing a walking tour for students, staff, and community members that would take them to areas of campus suitable for an encampment. Health Equity Circle also advocates for homeless individuals and campaigns for a number of other health and social issues.
Even with the actions of these student organizations in the U-District, resources in the city in general are limited, according to Koop.
“Homelessness is a 24-hour situation,” Koop said.
Reach News Editor Kate Clark at email@example.com. Twitter: @KateClarkUW
By Kate Clark The Daily
In one of the Queer Student Commission’s (QSC) many meetings held to prepare for Friday’s 12th Annual Drag Competition, three members teased the director, junior Mitchell Chen.
“We are all going to complain if you don’t perform, Mitchell,” QSC member Sally Niven said.
Chen blushed and laughed it off. He said he wanted to leave the opportunity for others. Chen and his small staff have spent the last two months planning the competition, which has ranged from finding performers, hosting rehearsals, working with Delta Lambda Phi — a fraternity for gay, bisexual, and progressive men — and finding ushers, staff, and volunteers to work the event, hosted by local drag personality Aleksa Manila.
Making sure all performers are in the right order, on time, and ready to go is within Chen’s job description, but ensuring the event is also educational and inclusive is his priority. He said drag used to be a way for a community to celebrate and has turned into a laughable occasion for many.
“That is not what drag is for,” he said. “That can make gender seem like a playground, but it is a source of violence. Gender is socially constructed: the clothes you wear and how you interact. Drag brings light to those facts; it jokes about the ridiculousness of gender roles. There are really a lot of complexities around it.”
Sophomore Tino Fuentes, a member of Delta Lambda Phi and a first-time performer in the competition, said there is a certain political importance to drag.
“It reminds people that gender is basically nothing,” Fuentes said. “You see all these people on stage who are probably the most feminine people you’ve ever seen in your entire life, with tons of makeup and high heels and crazy hair, and yet at the end of it all they take off the makeup and wig and padding and they’re all still guys.”
Breaking the mold
Fuentes became interested in drag about a year and a half ago. He attributes his interest in it to “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a reality show in search of “America’s next drag superstar.”
RuPaul’s anthem, “Born Naked,” will blast from the speakers at the conclusion of senior Taylor Philpott’s performance.
“I think it’s a really cool message to send out,” Philpott said. “You are born as an open book. You don’t know what being a boy means or what being a girl means; society puts that on you.”
Like other performers, Philpott has spent the last few weeks rehearsing his dance in front of his mirror, practicing his makeup, and finding the right outfit, which has come to be quite an expensive endeavor. He found his five-inch Michael Kors heels at Crossroads on the Ave, where, he said, there was a little tension and confusion from the sales people. He had been questioned for his purchases before; after buying his first pair of heels at Aldo, he experienced the same skepticism.
“It can be such a difficult concept for people to grasp sometimes,” Philpott said. “But I am a good example of someone who can break the mold, like I don’t look like the type of person who would normally do this kind of thing, but you don’t have to do what society tells you to do. You can be happy and confident in yourself and still be you.”
Philpott dances every Wednesday at Neighbours, a nightclub in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, but unfortunately that experience does not calm his nerves. Not only is he nervous that the UW crowd won’t be as supportive as the Neighbours crowd, but unlike at the club venue, he will have the spotlight on him with a 1,200-person audience watching as he performs in drag for the first time.
“I am just going to own it,” Philpott said. “I know there will be the haters saying you should have done this, you should have done that, but I am comfortable enough in my own skin to not really care what they say. I am just excited to show people my drag.”
Ignoring the naysayers
Similar to Philpott, very few people have ever seen sophomore Joey Lu in drag. On Friday, he will be dressed in traditional female Chinese garb shipped from China, and dancing to an elegant and slow Chinese song. While this will only be his second time performing in drag, he has dressed as his character, Yuki, many times before. She is part of him, he said.
“Back in middle school I was really ‘masculine,’” Lu said. “I feel like there are two parts of me, but back then I only showed one part. I never got the chance to show the other part. When I am in drag I just feel like I am being myself. Both sides are me.”
Lu grew up in Shenzhen, China, where dressing in drag is far from the norm. Regardless, he doesn’t criticize the country for their beliefs.
“I feel like it’s OK for people to have their opinions,” Lu said. “If I can dress however I want to dress, then they can say whatever they have to say. I don’t really care about their opinions.”
Lu has studied at the UW for three years now, and he says the environment has really changed him. He feels safe on campus and has stepped far outside his comfort zone. When he finally decided to do his first drag performance at the annual QSC Ball, he wasn’t nervous at all, much to his surprise.
Now he has the confidence to continue performing, and although he says he will never identify as a “pure American drag queen,” he feels comfortable in the community. His hope now is for China to become more tolerant.
“The community is there but the ‘normal’ people don’t know about it,” Lu said. “I have seen a lot of guys who are married and have children because of social pressures. It isn’t the life they really want but they can’t get out of it. It’s bad.”
Friday night spotlights
Chen worked especially hard this year to make the competition a more inclusive event. According to Philpott, including the minority of the minority is very important to Chen — all were welcome to sign up for an audition.
Philpott, Lu, and Fuentes will be joined by several others, including female performers, who infrequently compete in drag competitions. Senior Varsha Govindaraju, sophomore Celina Gunnarsson, and junior Victoria Peterson will be doing a choreographed dance involving lots of sarcastic movements and crotch-grabbing to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Govindaraju said participating in the show is an opportune time to both reveal her more masculine side and poke fun at masculinity.
“You can be cool, you can be a douche, you can be feminine, you can be anything,” Govindaraju said of the dance as she practiced with Gunnarsson and Peterson on the lawn outside Thomson Hall.
Govindaraju’s sentiment reiterates Chen’s initial goals. She also said she enjoys the opportunity to express herself through dance and art. Fuentes likes drag for the same reason; from hair, to makeup, clothing, shoes, song choice, or characterization, it’s creative, he said.
“You can do whatever you want and there are endless possibilities,” Fuentes said. “And it’s extremely important to have a drag show on campus because it opens drag to a lot of young, straight, college-aged kids. It’s also one of the only big queer and gender non-conforming events that ever happens here at UW, which I think is important for the inclusion of a lot of folks.”
Reach News Editor Kate Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KateClarkUW
A field of dreams moment: Puget Sound Senior Baseball League
For Puget Sound Senior Baseball League players the love of the game will never die
Its not often you can simultaneously converse with a mechanic, attorney, electrician, Amazon and Boeing executives, a carpenter, coach, contractor, consultant, veterinarian, teacher, and software engineer.
For the Owlz, a 45+ team within the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League (PSSBL), this is a typical Sunday afternoon. But on the baseball field your profession isn’t important. All these guys care about is how much you love the game, oh, and maybe how good you are at playing the game.
The sound of the ball colliding with the baseball bat was loud on the Sunday in mid-May I spent watching the Owlz. It sounded as if the wood bat had just cracked into dozens of pieces — pieces you expect to see laying on homebase as the batter runs toward first. But there aren’t any pieces on homebase, surprisingly the wood bat, the type of bat you use in “real baseball,” is still intact. With a wood bat there’s no ear-piercing ‘ping’ that sends balls flying into the outfield. With a wood bat the player has to do all the work.
“We play for a certain level of competition,” said Dave Moody, Owlz team member, mechanic at Boeing, and South Whidbey Island high school baseball coach. “And that’s what’s great about it.”
Founded in 1989, the PSSBL has grown from four to 65 teams and nine divisions ranging from 19+ plus to 55+. On that especially sunny day just a few weeks after the season kicked off, the Owlz defeated the Sugar Kings on one of Eastlake high school’s baseball fields. An appropriate location considering the league is for men wanting to “revisit their youth,” at least that’s what their Wikipedia page says.
For most of these guys, there’s about 15 of them, this East-side high school is a bit of a trek, especially for Moody who made his way over there via ferry boat and car. But that doesn’t matter because “When you love the game you go where it is,’ he explained.
Baseball occupies a large role in Moody’s life just as it does for several, probably all, of the other players. One player, Darren Nolan, plays for two PSSBL teams. Another, Max Montrey, is merely a bystander until “his birth certificate catches up with him” in a few years and he’s old enough to play on the Owlz. And for Dan Shumacher, a carpenter, the Owlz general manager and “unquestioned leader,” these games are a family affair.
He’s instilled his love of baseball into his two teenage sons, who are regulars at Owlz games. During this particular game his two boys fought, rather viciously, over who got to keep the scoring book during the game and when the Sugar Kings got a little aggressive, calling one of the Owlz an asshole, the younger son didn’t hesitate to get involved.
“If pops can get ejected from my game I can get ejected from his,” he shouted. To which his dad responded, “heck yeah!”
Dan’s wife, Corrie Shumacher, is also a regular. She knows the backstory of all the players and explained to me that guy is a former minor leaguer and those guys used to play college ball against eachother. And while she said they just play to “keep their manhood,” she acknowledged that the Owlz’s chemistry is unique and doing something you love with a group who understands and shares that love at this age is pretty great.
“I had no idea the place baseball played in his heart,” Corrie said. “They all just love baseball, it’s that field of dreams moment — if you build it they will come and he really built this team and they really are living the dream at 45 and up.”
While I’m not sure the dreams of these men were to play baseball through dozens of injuries in front of, well, nearly empty bleachers, their camaraderie is certainly evident. In between innings Moody admitted to me the conversations in the dugout are as amazing as the accomplishments on the field. In fact, he compared those conversations to the feeling you get when you catch a line drive. Any baseball player knows just how euphoric that feeling is.
Unfortunately, for a group of 45 to 50+ year-olds, it’s not all euphoric. Some of it is extremely painful. Sometimes that pain is an emotional one, like after a very upsetting loss. The Owlz, formerly the Volcanoes in the 35+ league, have some pretty cemented rivalries. I think several of the guys would admit to getting a little too upset after a bad loss to the Islanders or the Ravens.
But more often than not, the pain is a physical one. One player, Dave Clark, who also happens to be my dad, listed off some injuries he’s seen in his teammates in the 15 years he’s played in the PSSBL.
“A broken arm, fingers, nose, one of my teammates had six surgeries to repair his broken eye socket, pulled hamstrings, torn rotator cuff, bad ‘strawberries ‘ from sliding, sprained ankles,” he said and then added, “Is that enough?”
These guys are all hurting in some way, ranging from something as minor as a sore knee to as major as Stan Friedlander’s, an executive in Amazon’s shoe department, torn rotator cuff, but they carry on.
“I am an idiot but I love playing,” Friedlander said. “I would get three rotator surgeries, probably four. Almost every joint in my body has been torn, replaced, damaged. My doc asked me how painful it is and I say ‘I am always in a little bit of pain, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.’”
This may seem like an overly romanticized tale of a man’s love of the game, but it’s not. When these guys tell you ‘baseball is life,’ they really, really, really, really mean baseball is life. GM Dan went as far as to say that god put him on earth to play baseball, (and to parent his boys of course).
“This is a brotherhood,” Moody said. “Everyone has something they are passionate about whether that is swimming, jogging, whatever— guys that are passionate about baseball are special, its a special group, you can tell.”
After the ninth inning wrapped and the Owlz hooted, cheered, and gleefully high-fived one another I got a text from my dad, who couldn’t be there that day and had been periodically asking for updates. I told him the final score, “Hoot, Hoot! Buy them all a round,” he replied.
By Kate Clark The Daily
Karin Huster wasn’t supposed to leave her home, play with her pets, use any form of public transportation, or visit any malls, restaurants, or movie theaters. All non-essential activities had to be kept to a minimum.
At least until Monday, when she finished her 21 days of “active monitoring” for Ebola symptoms.
Huster returned to Seattle from Port Loko, Sierra Leone, on Dec. 22, where she worked with Partners in Health as the medical director of the local Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU). She received her Master of Public Health (MPH) in 2013 from the UW and credits the program for preparing her for the Ebola epidemic.
Formerly a trauma nurse at Harborview Medical Center, Huster is now an independent medical consultant for humanitarian emergencies. This unique job title will bring her back to Sierra Leone in March, this time working with Doctors Without Borders.
Huster, who has also worked in Liberia and Lebanon, said the School of Public Health motivated her and her classmates to cross borders. Four students from her MPH cohort are also treating Ebola patients in West Africa.
“That shows you that the program breeds a lot of minds that are curious and are really active and involved with the health of the world,” Huster said. “I don’t think I could have picked a better university. It’s been sort of a super family that has stayed with me and continues to in every aspect of what I do.”
The MPH is a two-year program that includes practicum field experience. Huster fulfilled this requirement as an intern for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon. She later completed her thesis there in partnership with UW Global Health Professor Ali Mokdad.
Katie Wakefield, graduate advisor in the Department of Global Health, said the MPH program strives to provide students with the historical framework necessary to understand the social, political, and economic factors that characterize many developing countries.
On the front lines
When asked about the main difference between working with refugees in Lebanon and Ebola victims in Sierra Leone, Huster had a simple and clear answer: death.
“They are not dying, we are not talking about death at a constant rate,” she said. “With Ebola you are talking about death every minute.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been about 8,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola and about 3,000 deaths in Sierra Leone. The Partners in Health website reports that Port Loko is one of the hardest hit cities in the region.
“If you can imagine it’s just a bunch of old iron beds and crappy mattresses,” she said. “Electricity sometimes, no running water, no sheets on patients’ beds. At least that’s how we found it when we started. A level of hygiene that would make you want to run the other way.”
The lack of money and health care workers made the work extremely difficult. Huster said patients don’t have what they need to die in dignity.
“They complain of being cold, they didn’t have clothes to change them into when they vomited all over themselves,” she said. “They aren’t complicated things; we aren’t asking for vaccines, or an ICU.”
In addition to a lack of basic supplies, the ETU has more patients than the staff can handle.
“You have 10 people to tend to 110 patients who are all at varying degrees of dying; the idea is to increase the staff a lot so that you do have that quality of care,” she said.
Huster’s position as medical director put her in “fire-extinguishing mode” all day, every day. She oversaw the command center, or what she calls the West Wing. She handled admissions, data management, and training, among other tasks.
Her days typically began at 6 a.m. and ended at about 9 or 10 p.m., depending on when the last ambulance arrived. She then returned to the sleeping quarters and began the grueling, but rewarding, process all over again.
“It was a blast,” she said. “Every single one of us wanted to wake up and work, we never wanted to leave. I want to be back yesterday because these people need you. I don’t like the corny stuff, but really there is work to do and it is work that matters.”
“You aren’t going to like this,” a health care officer said to Huster when she returned to the United States. He was talking about active monitoring.
This 21-day monitoring period is meant to ensure workers are treated immediately and do not spread the virus if they become ill. In Washington state, the monitoring is much more lenient, at least in comparison to states such as New York or New Jersey, which require mandatory quarantine of returning travelers.
Huster and King County public health employees have not seen eye to eye on the active monitoring policy. Huster said these policies perpetuate the isolation she felt while overseas.
“We as health care workers, when we come back we are stigmatized,” Huster said. “All that fear is still there, now it’s directed mostly at the people who are coming back.”
Huster religiously monitors herself, constantly checking her temperature if she has even the slightest symptom. “It’s a culture that is ingrained in us,” she said.
However, Jeff Duchin, chief of Communicable Disease Control for Public Health in Seattle and King County and UW professor of allergy and infectious diseases, said some returning health-care workers have denied their symptoms.
Additionally, he said the policy is necessary to satisfy public concerns. After all, 80 percent of Americans support mandatory quarantine, according to a CBS News poll.
“Public policy is informed by science, but it also has to consider public values,” Duchin said. “The fear and concern of the public about Ebola is something that can’t be ignored.”
Duchin feels that states with a mandatory quarantine are “overreacting.” Seattle, he said, has found a nice middle-ground.
Regardless of how disruptive the monitoring policy is here, Huster is happy to have reached the three-week bench mark. She will have to tolerate the process all over again after her next return from Sierra Leone, and to that she says: “If only they saw what we saw over there, then I think they would readjust their fears.”
Reach Science Editor Kate Clark at email@example.com. Twitter: @KateClarkUW