A commendation to you for covering environmental issues in your urban paper; mixing culture and aquaculture, for instance, will help Seattleites become more informed about the world beyond Bellevue and the fast lanes of I-5. As a native of Grays Harbor, where growing up we always scorned the maligned intertidal bivalve for its faster cousin the razor clam, taking more than your limit of everything was a cultural norm. The marbled murrelets are finally coming home to roost. Thanks for your interest, and Eric Scigliano's journalism ["Viagra on the half-shell," 7/13]. The article HAD to be his idea.
Shorter! Cheaper! More fun!
When a chance comes along to make the political season shorter, cheaper, and more fun, why is it that almost everyone involved with implementing it goes brain dead? I refer specifically to the inability of the state's political class to correctly imagine what should replace our current "open" primary system ("Primary problem," 7/13), which will disappear due to a recent Supreme Court verdict upholding the right of political parties to name their nominees.
The answer is, of course, to create primaries where the Democrats and the Republicans are made to do what the Greens and Libertarians have always done: choose their own candidates at their own self-funded conventions. No longer would office seekers spend the first half of every election year begging for PAC money to spend on expensive TV and radio ads aimed at the now all-important "independent" voter. Instead, candidates could turn their attention to the relatively few convention-going party members through such inexpensive means as mass mailings, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings.
In such a system, voters could focus on the general elections, taxpayers would be freed from having to subsidize the two major parties, and candidates should have to spend considerably less on their campaigns.
In short, private primaries would shorten the now overlong political season, decrease the cost of electioneering, and strengthen that failing civic institution, the state political party. Returning to private primaries is such a good idea that I am sure the press, the Legislature, and the courts will try their collective best to ignore the possibility.
If the state Democratic Party goes ahead with its planned lawsuit to repeal this state's time-honored blanket primary, it's going to look downright antidemocratic in the eyes of local voters [see "Primary problem," 7/13]. Although Party officials may find it inconvenient for our primary system to be run in this wide-open fashion, it is a system that gives voters maximum choice in determining who they elect to public office. Restrict this right, as Democratic honchos are eager to do, and you effectively restrict one of the most precious rights our political system has to offer. It is no wonder, then, that Democratic officeholders and candidates in this year's races are telling the Party hacks to back off. After all, if Democrats are suddenly perceived as really being antidemocratic, it is only the ones who are running for office that we voters will have the power and opportunity to punish.
Intellectual "wanna-be" gibberish!
Dear Mr. Zura: I am writing this letter, knowing it will probably never be printed. That's OK. There are many things I could say about your "review" of Closet Land [Stage shorts, 7/13]. Since it in no way resembles a review, I won't bother.
I do have one request, however: Please continue coming to Theatrical Productions that I am involved in and please keep offering your unique brand of intellectual "wanna-be" gibberish. It is quite entertaining. That's right, Greg, I want you to review my work. The reason is simple: to be insulted by one who inspires so little respect, who so vainly attempt to place himself above and outside the experience of the rest of the audience, is, for any actor, worth his salt, the Height of Compliment. For which is funnier? The clever joke told or the critique of the joke by the one person in the room lacking the mental chops to get the Punch Line.
One more request: if you had read the program, you would know that my name is Clark Andreas Ray not the shortened version that you printed. In your future babbling, please try to at least get that right.
CLARK ANDREAS RAY
In "Farewell, Fairbrother" [7/6], Roger Downey weighs in on the imminent departure of the Seattle Art Museum's esteemed curator Trevor Fairbrother.
Downey perceptively touched on several general issues that have plagued the recent history of visual arts institutions in the Northwest. Most importantly, Downey nailed the crucial issue that Fairbrother faced in particular. It has seemed to many of us in the arts community that Fairbrother's job entailed too many administrative duties aside from curating exhibitions and collections, despite the fact that he is a particularly gifted and energetic contemporary curator.
On a general level, summing up the very different contributions of the last four modern curators at the Seattle Art Museum might go something like this. In the 1970s, Charles Cowles forced Seattle arts audiences to recognize that the horizon line of American contemporary art extended beyond the dawns and dusks of the Pacific Northwest. In the 1980s, Bruce Guenther extended that line into Europe and beyond, while providing an inclusive context for artists of the Northwest. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Patterson Sims concentrated his efforts in gathering the larger community around the institution, increasing the ranks of collectors who would feel an obligation to the Museum. Trevor Fairbrother's great gift has been in curating an enormous number of exhibits that have shown off the museum's existing collection while simultaneously broadening it with new generations of artist heritage.
Acquisitions of work by Kerry James Marshall, Glenn Ligon, Kiki Smith, Wolfgang Tillmans, Ed Ruscha, and Sherry Levine, coupled with his series of exhibitions by several artists who have not been overexposed within the local gallery scene, are testaments to Fairbrother's fresh vision.
In the best of all worlds, we would want our curators to stay long enough to provide stability to the art scene but not so long that their entrenchment causes stagnation. In recent times it has seemed that curators (and administrators) at Northwest arts institutions have been trapped inside the revolving door that sucks them in and then whirls them back out before the good effects of their stay can truly be seen.
The loss of Fairbrother's contributions will be keenly felt by the arts community and, I suspect, by the Seattle Art Museum.
GREG KUCERA GALLERY
I saw the headline at the top of the July 6 Weekly, "Come see the softer, shrewder side of Slade" [see "Softening Slade," 7/6]. I first thought that the British band from the '70s had reformed. Then it hit me: you were talking about the other Slade.
Nah, it's gotta be about the band.
You go, Bob!
On the cover of your June 29 issue, the Seattle Weekly asks, "Who will watch the cops?" Well, shit . . . if nobody else has the time, I'll keep an eye on the cock-suckers.
In response to "Principal problem," by James Bush [6/29], I take issue with the fact that you used teachers' names when discussing people who have been chased out of Gatewood Elementary by Principal Dan Barton. All of the teachers who were mentioned save one have positions in other buildings of the Seattle Public Schools. The mere fact that they were not appreciated by Mr. Barton does not make their work unsatisfactory. Mr. Bush needs to think about the effect of innuendo on these people's careers and the relationships the people have formed since leaving Gatewood. Whether or not mentioning these people's names meets legal criteria for avoiding lawsuits for defamation of character is not the point here. The more important criteria that Mr. Bush should apply in his writing is whether or not it is ethical to adversely affect a person's lifetime career with unproved "opinions."
Further, the article contains two red flags about school leadership that were only glossed over. The first is that the faculty at Gatewood is divided in its support of Mr. Barton. A deeply divided staff in a school is frequently a sign of poor leadership. There is a wide variety of ways that a principal can use to develop support, some positive, some negative. In a negative atmosphere a coterie of the principal's supporters can be used [to] fend off critics who try to voice alternate ways of doing things. A healthy atmosphere encourages open dialogue and discussion of issues. "Divide and conquer" is a good war tactic, but it is the opposite of team building. The point I want to make here is that a good leader knows how to accept criticism. A good leader also knows how to get everyone on the same page, and to involve everyone in important decision making so that everyone will have some buy-in in the final product.
The second red flag is that the faculty is largely composed of young teachers. A weak principal chases out the older more seasoned staff members because they are a threat to the principal's credibility. Because seasoned teachers have lived through several "reform packages" already, they will be quick to point out the faults in a weak plan. Washington state law and the practice in Seattle make it difficult for a young teacher of less that three years' seniority to defend themselves against accusations, true or false. That leaves them in the terrible position of having to curry favor with the boss in order to survive.
A summary of good things happening at Gatewood is impressive. Teachers are encouraged to teach how to learn as much as teaching facts. The school is organized into teaching teams with integrated curriculum. The school emphasizes the "Big Four": cooperative learning, multiple intelligences, technology, and critical thinking. All of these are supported by good research of successful schools. Further, preliminary results on the ITBS standardized test show improvements in scores. However, being "passionate" about these reforms is no excuse for Mr. Barton's abusive behavior. I ask you, does the end ever justify the means?
The list of Mr. Barton's documented behaviors and complaints about him is quite long: temper tantrums, the use of epithets, sexual harassment, vindictiveness, ignoring feedback, public belittling and berating of staff and parents, and finally, communication that is both antagonistic and intimidating. This list should not be weighed against the school's accomplishments. Many schools in the Seattle School District have similar records of educational success without the pain suffered by former or present staff at Gatewood. If anything, it could be said that the Gatewood staff is succeeding in spite of the poor leadership skills of the principal. The same behaviors exhibited by a staff member at Gatewood would be reason for dismissal. How many careers will be ruined and how many people will be chased out of buildings before the District realizes that behavior like that of Mr. Barton is simply not acceptable?
JOHN E. DUNN, PRESIDENT
SEATTLE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
We weren't kidding!
You say, "The boss is out of town! We'll print anything." Let's see. [Actually we said, "The boss is out of town! We'll print anything!"—note second exclamation point. That means we really mean it.—Eds.]
We recently dined at the newly redesigned Space Needle restaurant, now called "Sky City." Folks used to say, because of the quality of the food, that the Space Needle was Denny's in the sky. Well, now it looks like Denny's in the sky. Everything is brown, representing the early '60s at its most drab. If the designer had to suggest a '50s-'60s motif, why not a lively combination of brushed metal, turquoise and pink neon in an art-deco style? [Why not indeed?—Eds.] That would certainly fit the "modern" movement represented by the Space Needle far better than brown on brown.
While some architecture and food critics are playing Seattle's favorite game of the emperor's new clothes, we would like to point out that the quality of the food has not gone up either, thought the prices have, which explains the name "Sky City." Our food was as bland as the color scheme. So, we suggest that if you want to get taken for a ride at Seattle Center's amusement park, try the Space Needle—the biggest ride of all. We couldn't figure out if the new restaurant was turning faster because of its new motor or if our heads were spinning because of the prices.
In the last 10 years it seems the Space Needle owner has aimed at mediocrity and has managed to achieve it at an extraordinary cost to everyone. We understand, however, that one cost-saving measure was to leave all the debris of renovation piled up at the base of the Space Needle and to pretend it's a museum for music lovers.
DAVID AND JANET HAGGITH
I feel that it is a downright shame that you do not cover more theater information for the Eastside. Such as the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater's Production of "Oliver!" this season. The cast and crew have worked too hard to make this play excellent to go without much media attention. The Forest theater is a treasure to not only the Snoqualmie Valley, but to us all.
Please cover more local theater companies such as SFFT, Which is an institution here in the Northwest. Thank you very much.
JOHNNA M. HANSEN
Sex it up!
Thanks to former Life magazine correspondent Kenneth Gouldthorpe for his enlightening June 29 article on recent journalistic trends ["The death of Life"].
For nearly 20 years, the print media has breathlessly struggled to compete with TV and other new media technology. The result has been a shallow, TV-style news presentation—but without the moving pictures and sound. Newspaper editors today like to "package" news stories, as if cleverly displaying them in the supermarket. They seem to think readers cannot distinguish between playing a CD for entertainment and reading news to be informed on serious issues. Why does information on serious subjects need to be dressed up and sweetened like a soft drink ad?
After 12 years as a reporter at small- and medium-size newspapers, I got tired of this trend. I'll never forget a new-generation editor's approach to one of our monthly, full-page news features: "Let's not get bogged down in hard news," he said. Another editor once told me he would shorten my article on local elections and issues, and "sex it up" before publishing it.
Ironically, efforts to "sex up" the news have only harmed the journalistic profession. Readers' respect for newspapers has declined with the trend toward more shallow news coverage. In the rush to report more, shorter stories, reporters are making more mistakes, most of which readers never see on the "corrections and clarifications" page. Almost everyone I know who's been part of a news article has a frustrating or laughable story to tell about their experience. Invariably, it involves uninformed reporters, usually with preconceived notions, who are too busy or careless to do a bit of research or double check facts. It doesn't matter whether it's a large Seattle daily or a small- town weekly. The reporting approach is the same.
I agree with Mr. Gouldthorpe that new technology has had a negative influence on the quality of today's journalism, but that's only because clueless editors have misused it. News editors need to get back to solid journalistic basics and leave the entertainment to the marketing department and TV.
We eagerly await your Best Of complaints. Make 'em good, people, and watch this space next week for the Best Of Best Of Gripes. Please include name, location, and telephone number. Letters may be edited. Write to Letters Editor, Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Avenue, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98104; fax to 206-467-4377; or e-mail to email@example.com