Archive for June 2, 2013

Antiques Roadshow at the Burke

June 2, 2013 Leave a comment
Dzoonokwa Mask, George Walkus. Wood, paint, and human hair.  From the Burke Museum.

Dzoonokwa Mask, George Walkus. Wood, paint, and human hair. From the Burke Museum.

The PBS hit series Antiques Roadshow came to Seattle recently, with an episode that aired just last week. During their visit, they stopped at my favorite museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. (It’s a state museum, and it’s on the University of Washington campus. Come visit!) In hour three of the episode, as explained at the show’s website, “host Mark L. Walberg discusses Northwest Coast Indian masks with appraiser Ted Trotta at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.”

No need to watch the full show. Just click here to see the two-and-a-half-minute Burke snippet. I’m sorry I can’t embed it, but just click and enjoy. The mask pictured above is one of the two featured. You can read a little more and get additional views of the mask here.

Categories: Museums, Television


June 2, 2013 Leave a comment


A few years ago, my friend Werner had just finished Nick Reding’s Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town and told me about it over lunch, urging me to read it as well. I looked at reviews, downloaded the free opening portion to my Kindle, and decided it was too bleak to jump into just yet. It sat on my reading list for a year, then fell off.

The other night, Gail and I had just watched a show on TV via Netflix and I was looking for something else to watch when I stumbled on the suggestion of Breaking Bad, the soon-to-end AMC cable series that began in 2008 but that we had never watched before. It’s about a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque who becomes a methamphetamine maker. I knew it was well regarded and decided to see what the fuss was about.

As we watched the pilot, the Reding book came to mind, and my curiosity was piqued anew. I downloaded the free opening portion, this time reading it in full, downloading the full book so I could keep reading.*

I’m a little past the halfway point now and the book is indeed bleak. Here is the description at its website:

Methland tells the heroic story of the small town of Oelwein, Iowa–and, through it, the story of drug abuse in Rural America. Once a railroad, meat-packing, and farming hub, Oelwein has been battered by the Farm Crisis and decimated by job losses. More recently, thanks to the lobbying of pharmaceutical companies in Washington, D.C., record amounts of methamphetamine, aka crank or crystal meth, are available on Oelwein’s streets. Like thousands of other small towns across the United States, the drug’s production has become one of Oelwein’s principal business. Now, the town doctor, the mayor, and the prosecutor are fighting back.

Journalist and native Midwesterner Nick Reding spent four years living off and on in Oelwein. Along with the book’s three principal characters, Methland follows the traffickers, addicts, federal agents, and politicians whose lives make up a uniquely contemporary American tragedy, blending sociology, history, and thousands of hours of eyewitness reporting into a real-life account that reads like a novel.

Reding is at his best in recounting the lives of Oelwein’s residents, as well as important characters from outside Oelwein. There’s many a haunting story. I’m less happy about Reding’s tendency to repeat himself when discussing his larger socio-economic themes, with insufficient detail to back up his points. But maybe the detail is still to come.

Then there’s the incredible annoyance—not Reding’s fault—of the poor Kindle rendering. What’s up with these publishers? Is it so darn hard to do this well? Especially frustrating is the recurrence of words with spaces inserted.

Try this sentence out, from the book’s first paragraph, in which the author imagines spotting Oelwein as he looks down from a plane en route from Chicago to San Francisco:

Briefly, you can look at this photographic image of a town, imagining the lives of the people there with voyeuris tic plea sure.

I spent some moments imagining that “plea sure” is some kind of legal jargon.

Or this, in an account of a meth addict living with his parents:

One night Major stole his mother’s pan ties and bras and hocked them at a bar.

I might have unwound the meaning of “pan ties” more quickly if it didn’t happen to come at the end of a line, allowing me a moment to stare at it in puzzlement before taking in the subsequent two words for context. I was going to ask Gail if we had any pan ties in the kitchen and what we used them for.

Major and his parents, by the way, live in In dependence, Iowa. Or so it says about a half dozen times.

As for Reding’s larger theme, here’s one description.

What continued to take shape for me was the portrait of a town that stood as a metaphor for all of rural America and its problems. That’s to say that the evolution of the meth epidemic had occurred in lockstep with the three separate economic trends that had contributed to the dissolution of small-town United States. By looking closely at the events of 2006, one can see the parallel trajectories of meth and small-town economics—the one rising, the other falling … . And the things that spurred this simultaneous rise and fall: the development of Big Pharmaceuticals, Big Agriculture, and the modern Mexican drug-trafficking business.

Again, I look forward to the details.

And here is the opening paragraph of Walter Kirn’s NYT book review four years ago:

Think globally, suffer locally. This could be the moral of “Methland,” Nick Reding’s unnerving investigative account of two gruesome years in the life of Oelwein, Iowa, a railroad and meatpacking town of several thousand whipped by a methamphetamine-laced panic whose origins lie outside the place itself, in forces almost too great to comprehend and too pitiless to bear. The ravages of meth, or “crank,” on Oelwein and countless forsaken locales much like it are shown to be merely superficial symptoms of a vaster social dementia caused by, among other things, the iron dominion of corporate agriculture and the slow melting of villages and families into the worldwide financial stew.

I look forward to learning more.

*Not really the full book. Boy these sorts of things are annoying. The paperback edition, which I suppose came out about a year after the hardcover, has an afterword. I know this because before I downloaded the free Kindle sample, I looked at the Table of Contents that Amazon previews at the print book webpage, in order to see how long the book was, and there was the Afterword. I imagine Reding provided an update, or a look back, before the paperback came out. But three years later, it’s beyond the power of Amazon or the publisher to offer a revised Kindle version.

Categories: Books

Safeco Diamond Club

June 2, 2013 Leave a comment


I haven’t gone to many Mariners baseball games in recent years. Until last weekend, the last time I was at Safeco Field was almost two years ago. The year before, my brother-in-law Jim had won an employee contest that had allowed him to pick a game the next season for which he would have full rights to a suite. He chose a Saturday night game on July 2, to celebrate his and Tamara’s 20th anniversary, and invited the family. (I wrote about it here.) That was our lone game that season, and then we managed to let last season pass without a game.

I’ve already written about the game we went to last weekend, in the context of its being Felix Hernandez bobblehead doll night. What I didn’t explain is that we had Diamond Club tickets. This was our friend Judy’s idea.

Judy and her family have had season tickets behind home plate since 1977, the Mariners’ first season. We’ve been fortunate to join Judy for many games, both at the Kingdome and at Safeco. The seats are maybe fifteen rows back from the field. The last couple of times we went, I noticed that people seated in the first few rows had food served to them at their seats. I didn’t know what the deal was. Now I do. It’s the Diamond Club.

What Judy suggested to Gail is that we choose a game for which she had tickets and she would trade them in for Diamond Club seats. The Diamond Club consists of the first eight rows behind home plate in the two sections immediately left and right of the line that runs from the pitcher’s mound and home plate straight into the stands, as well as the first eight rows of the two sections just left and right of these two. (The outer two sections run into the sides of the dugouts, and so aren’t very wide.) But more than that, the club consists of the space under the stands in these sections, with a restaurant, a bar, and more.

One enters the club from outside by going to the ticket takers at the southwest corner of Safeco, walking through an area that leads up to the stands, and then showing tickets again at the club entrance in order to be admitted. Inside the door, you are greeted, given an overview if you haven’t been in the club before, and shown to a restaurant table. It’s buffet eating, but first you can order drinks at your table before heading to the food.

Everything, I should add, is included in the price of the ticket. And these tickets aren’t cheap, though Judy pointed out that one could pay almost as much just for the seating in the stands, so it’s a pretty good deal. One doesn’t have to eat and drink to excess to feel like one has gotten one’s money worth.

The buffet is set up in an upper level surrounding restaurant tables. Then there’s a lower level with the bar, booth seating along a wall (where we were), and still more seating down around the bend. We ordered our drinks, then took our plates and headed back up to see what our options were. At one table, a man was making crab cakes in a frying pan. At another, there was mashed potatoes, asparagus, and barbecued ribs. Maybe fish too. I have to say, I should have written this post a week ago. I’m forgetting. Next, there was a man carving turkey and slicing meatloaf. Around the bend, on another wall, was Caesar salad, an array of fresh and roast vegetables, fruit, potato chips, and lots more. Then came desserts, which we didn’t look at closely until later. One table had a chocolate fountain with bananas and strawberries for dipping or coating. And along a counter were seven or eight cakes and pies to choose from.

Hard not to eat to excess. And from our booth, we could see a large grab-and-go center for people to get food to bring to the stands, or to come in from the stands for. Bratwurst, pizza, pretzels. And about a dozen candy dispensers on the wall.

There was a refrigerator behind our booth. It took me a while to realize that this was for our use too, filled with water and soda. This is all near one of the openings to the stands. By the next opening was a popcorn station, with hot butter too. And the next opening had boxes of candy of various types along with a soft ice cream dispenser. Oh, back by the brats and pizza were bags of caramel chocolate popcorn and some other type of popcorn. It’s really too much.

Game time was 7:10, with the club opening a couple of hours ahead of time. We were there shortly after opening, and at our seats an hour ahead of game time. The seats were in the seventh of the eight Diamond Club rows, about six to eight seats in from the center line. Which means we had a pretty darned good view of everything, including all the people milling around behind home plate for the pre-game activities. A boy and his dad who would go out to centerfield to catch balls shot from a machine in order to win assorted prizes. A boy who threw a ceremonial first pitch. Later, a group of kids from some school in Federal Way who were marched out just in front to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. But before all that, we caught the tail end of Rangers batting practice, with Rangers manager Ron Washington leaning against the batting cage watching his charges.

And did I mention the food? Yes, we could go back in any time for the grab-and-go offerings. But we also had menus at our seats from which we could order burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, drinks, and more, which would be brought to us by the next half inning. The sandwich special that night was a cheesesteak that I had my heart set on when we read about it on arriving at the club. However, after the dinner we ate, it simply wasn’t possible. I did eat some of Gail’s chocolate caramel corn. And I couldn’t resist grabbing a box of gummy bears on our way to the seats. That pretty much did me in. No cheesesteak for me.

The game? Oh yeah. We didn’t pay just to eat. We paid to see baseball. And so we did. There’s Felix Hernandez, at the top of the post throwing a pitch. The photo gives a better sense of where we were seated than my words provide. Great location.

But Felix had an off night, was hit hard, and we lost. A bleak game. Plus, a totally unrelated issue arose in an early inning and I found myself distracted for about two innings in a series of texts with Joel, despite his protestations that I should just enjoy the game and get back to him afterward.

I don’t imagine we’ll be getting back to the club soon. When we do—if we do—I might go for the seats farthest away from the center, over by one or the other dugout. For one thing, they’re just far enough off center to be beyond the screen that protects us from foul balls, offering a clearer view. A first- or second-row seat there would be pretty cool. And I might space out my eating better, so I’ll have room to eat the sandwich special at my seat.

Categories: Baseball, Food