Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Anyone know what the deal is with these rocks?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 2:26 PM

rockstack1.jpg

At the end of February, we noticed this strange rock thing — arrangement? sculpture? — in the dirt beside Monroe Street in the far northeast corner of Kendall Yards. The snow accentuated a deliberate circular pattern that otherwise might have blended in with the scattered dirt and rocks. This was during the time when everyone was obsessed with True Detective, which lent it a vaguely creepy feel. But it's quite geometric, almost like a sundial or mini-Stonehenge.

We moved on and forgot about it. But then, this week, a similar arrangement appeared in the dirt along Summit Parkway, just west of the Monroe Street Bridge. Some of the rocks are pretty large, but it could be the work of bored kids. Maybe someone’s project while they wait for the bus along Monroe. Anyone know? Any theories?

rockstack2.jpg
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Silverwood opening for the season this weekend

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 12:02 PM

SILVERWOOD
  • Silverwood

With our Summer Camps guide and this warm weather, it's no wonder we have summer on our minds. And now it's time for another of the Inland Northwest's summer traditions: Silverwood!

Silverwood will be opening its gates on May 3, with a special ticket price for the opening weekend of its 27th season. The theme park north of Coeur d'Alene opened in 1988, and thus, tickets will be $19.88 in celebration. (Compared to the regular price of $46, this is a pretty killer deal.) A season pass costs $140, which includes free parking and other discounts.

As usual, Silverwood stayed busy in the off-season and plans to open two new attractions for the kids in the new area, Garfield's Summer Camp Expansion. The Krazy Kart Ride — which spins you around in a figure eight — is perfect for younger children, with plenty of space for a parent tagalong. The Puppy-Go-Round features giant puppies flying around a circular track. Not only are they adorable, but the ride has the ability to put parent and child side by side.

Silverwood's opening weekend — and their special ticket price — lasts through May 4. Daily operations start on May 24.

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MORNING BRIEFING: Health assurance

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 8:47 AM

HERE

A remark about Cathy McMorris Rodgers made in the Spokesman-Review about Obamacare has her on the defensive. No, not that remark. Another one. She assures Republicans that despite the headline on Friday, she'll keep working to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (SR)

Police fatally shot a man who was the primary suspect in a new homicide investigation, the fifth officer-involved shooting in Spokane this year. (KXLY)

Washington state is already struggling to find money to adequately fund primary education. But a new report says they still have a long way to go. (SR)

A former director of the VA in Spokane is now tied to a record-faking scandal in Phoenix, Arizona. But she was good when she was in Spokane, the VA assures us. (KREM)

THERE

An execution in Oklahoma goes terribly, brutally wrong. (NY Times)

Proud owner of the Clippers/racist views Donald Sterling received an unprecedented punishment from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, a $2.5 million fine and a life time ban from basketball games. (CNN)

Florida State's quarterback, and a Heisman trophy winner, is apparently accused of shoplifting crab legs. (TMZ)

Bad times for the economy. (Washington Post)


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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spokane Police fatally shoot homicide suspect at crime scene

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 6:12 PM

Investigators process the scene of the fatal officer-involved shooting this afternoon of a homicide suspect who emerged from the blue truck holding what appeared to be a gun. - JACOB JONES
  • Jacob Jones
  • Investigators process the scene of the fatal officer-involved shooting this afternoon of a homicide suspect who emerged from the blue truck holding what appeared to be a gun.

Spokane Police officers shot and killed the primary suspect in a newly initiated homicide investigation this afternoon when the suspect allegedly drove through police barricades at the homicide scene and emerged from a blue pickup with what officers believed to be a handgun.

Investigators had shut down several blocks surrounding the corner of Jackson and Standard in North Spokane when the blue truck sped up to the scene at about 1:45 pm, police officials say. A photo from a KXLY crew at the scene shows a man with a gray object in his hand.

"Officers engaged the individual believing that there was a threat to the officers and the community," an SPD news release states. The man died at the scene.

Investigators reported recovering "what appears to be a firearm" from next to the suspect's body. Detectives with the Spokane Investigative Regional Response team soon arrived to take over the shooting case. The Spokane County Sheriff's Office will lead the investigation.

Police say a woman's body had been discovered at a home on the 2500 block of North Standard this morning. Investigators had identified the man in the blue truck as a person of interest in the homicide.

Approximately an hour after the shooting, detectives continued to process the scene and interview witnesses. A yellow sheet covered the suspect's body just outside the door of the blue truck as reporters huddled down the block.

This incident marks the fifth Spokane-area officer-involved shooting of the year.

Authorities say the Spokane County Medical Examiner will release the identities of the female homicide victim and the suspect who was killed. The investigation remains ongoing.


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Song of Ice and Fargo: What Minnesota could teach Westeros

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 5:11 PM

got-fargo.jpg

Take a moment, and you can find a lot in common between the Game of Thrones’ mythical Westeros and the TV series Fargo's equally mythical Minnesota. Both are lands of wide open vistas, where the specter of approaching winter is everywhere.

Both are lands of murder and mayhem. Both are places where notions of honor and masculinity drive people to do horrible things, where once meek chaps become twisted into devils. Both deal with violence against women — and basically everyone else. Minnesota's has its apple pie. Westeros has its lemoncakes.

In Fargo, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton, You know Him from Movies) wanders the wastes like a Midwest Mephistopheles, leaving devastation with a few choice words. He’s a tempter, a trickster god who gets his kicks from spotting a person’s weaknesses — their insecurity, their jealousy, their greed, their cowardice, their guilt — and pokes at those points like a bullying big brother until he just won’t stop hitting himself.

In other words, swap shotgun for a broadsword, and he slips right into the role of Hand of the King of Westeros, whispering poisonous words toward whatever poor soul is warming the Iron Throne. So too, you could see a parallel between the beaten-down, insecure Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman, Bilbo of Bag End) and poor Theon Greyjoy. Both disrespected by their families, both lashing out in, stupid, stupid ways, both in way over their head.

In both series, injustice marches forward: Just as the noble head of Ned Stark is sliced from his noble body in the first season on Game of Thrones, the smart, decent-hearted sheriff in Fargo who might as well be Andy Griffith is cut down by double barrels in its first episode. Violence falls upon on the just and the unjust. 

But the differences in the two show, well, that, as they say, makes all the difference.

For starters, Fargo has genuine heroes. Sure there are heroes that talk in ya betchas and doncha knows and uff dahs. Up against a bearded, smirking Lucifer, these heroes may seem way wildly outmatched. They're underdogs. All the best heroes are.

You have a competent policewoman,  Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman, Pretty Much Just this TV Show) struggling to solve a case under the nose of her lazy, unqualified supervisor, who just doesn’t want to make waves. Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks, Tom Hanks’ Kid) hardly starts as a hero. The officer is a bit fumbling, he’s scared away when Malvo decides to bare his fangs. But as the season progresses you can see him slowly finding his courage, slowly gathering the will to confront evil.

TV is already drenched in violence, nihilism, and anti-heroism. That’s what makes genuine heroism — good versus evil, instead of just evil versus evil — so refreshing.

You could make an argument that there are heroes, too, in Game of Thrones. But Game of Thrones takes pleasure in undercutting heroism wherever it can. The Starks are seen more as naive than noble. Ned Stark doesn't even get to go out with his sense of honor intact. He chooses dishonor over death and gets death thrown in for no extra charge.

Sansa Stark risks her life to show kindness and maybe you get a drunk thank-you and a kitschy heirloom as your reward. But that doesn't exactly take Daddy's head off the pike. Even the gift is corrupted. Sansa is just another pawn in yet another scheme, obliviously smuggling a murder weapon around her neck into a wedding.

Then we have Arya, a cute little girl who has decided now to serve the god of death. The little girl shoves a blade slowly, intentionally, through a thug’s throat. And we cheer, because it’s that kind of show.

Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf, manages to be mostly decent, despite indecent heritage. But here’s where the odd karma of Westeros comes into play. Every good act Tyrion does is followed by swift punishment. He saves the city, and gets a scar across his face, and a demotion in return. And now he’s tossed in a dungeon, seemingly entirely by coincidence, for a murder he obviously didn’t commit.

I suppose you could find good in mother of dragons Daenerys*,  but her campaign of abolition comes in the form of fire and blood. And her actual leadership ability — to rule, instead of just rolling across the eastern continent of Essos like the Golden Horde — is untested. That’s our best hope, really, for Westeros. A world that ends in fire instead of ice.

For a while you could even point to Jaime Lannister, the anti-hero with a heart of gold. Turns out, we were wrong. It’s his hand that’s gold. His heart is a heart of a rapist.

Villains do far better in this world. A disgusting old monster like Frey manages to become old and decrepit despite a penchant for betrayal and lechery. Justice, after three seasons, comes to Joffrey, boy king of junior high sadism. But it comes, in part, through poison from a slithering snake, Littlefinger, another sadistic schemer whose wild Pinky and the Brain style plans never** seem to backfire.

Part of the appeal of Game of Thrones, of course is that cynicism. It feels gritty and grimy and in your face. It sneers at classic narrative. Yet I find the pathetic scrambling of Lester Nygaard far more interesting than all the cackling and finger-steepling going on at King’s Landing.

The best TV reflects on the human soul, and for most of us, pure cruelty or lust for power isn’t our prime motivator. Sometimes we’re good. Sometimes we’re evil. But far more often, we’re weak. That, people often forget, was the truly interesting revelation of iconic anti-hero show Breaking Bad, and it’s a revelation that Fargo is doing a much better job of exploring.

In Westeros, however, the sheer number of pure sadists, for whom torture isn’t just a job, it’s a calling, is problematic. Westeros has its revelry, of course, its wine, women and song. But the wine is poisoned, the women are beaten, raped and brutalized, and the song the wedding band plays is just the musical cue for the massacre to begin. Westeros is black set against black: Dark cruel people set against a dark cruel world.

But in Fargo’s Minnesota the evil dropped into a world of niceness. In fact, as this AV Club Crosstalk explains, that “Minnesota Nice” becomes a sort of barrier for the heroes to overcome. Unlike Game of Thrones, no one walks into the local diner in Bemidji and sees, oh, geez, there sure is a lot of raping going on right now. Instead, people mostly just order coffee. As gross as the violence can be in Fargo, it’s the exception.

The famous ending of the gruesome serial killer flick Se7en has Morgan Freeman saying, “Ernest Hemingway once wrote 'The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for'...I agree with the second part."

Yet Fargo seems to argue for both parts: Yes, the world is full of greed and murder and cruelty, but it has a lot of other things too. It has small towns with warm coffee and kind people that smile at you. Game of Thrones argues against both parts. The world is not a fine place. And increasingly, it’s not worth fighting for.

Maybe that’s true. But if TV has to communicate one message, I’d prefer it be the former.

*Helpful mnemonic for spelling Daenerys: “Dragons Always Eat Near Eagle Roosts, You Said”

**(So far, goes the perpetual disclaimer)


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City introduces parks, streets tax plan

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Riverfront Park - LISA WAANANEN
  • Lisa Waananen
  • Riverfront Park

In hopes of paying for ongoing street maintenance and $60 million of improvements to Riverfront Park, the city will ask voters this November to support a new park bond and street levy.

Under the proposal, the total amount property owners pay would remain the same as current taxes, which are paying off prior city bonds: 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $91 on a $100,000 home. The total raised over the next two decades would be about $283 million.

Today, 34 cents per $1,000 assessed value goes toward repaying a 1999 park bond and the 2007 pools bond. The 1999 debt will be repaid by the end of this year. Under the new proposal, the remaining debt would be refinanced to allow the same amount of tax dollars from citizens — a total of about $100 million — to pay for new Riverfront Park improvements and to finish paying the 2007 debt over the next 20 years.

Similarly, 57 cents per $1,000 assessed value currently goes toward repaying a 2004 street bond. Under the new proposal, that debt would be refinanced for a better interest rate and a new term (20 years instead of 16 to pay it off), allowing about $5 million a year of those tax dollars to be spent on street maintenance. Those dollars could then be used to seek out matching state and federal dollars, says Mayor David Condon. While bonds are typically directed at very specific one-time infrastructure improvements, a levy will allow more flexibility to identify and pay for needed street maintenance as it becomes necessary in coming years, says Utilities Director Rick Romero.

“We are working to be safer, smarter and stronger and this proposal fits those goals,” Condon said when he announced the plan Monday.

Council President Ben Stuckart stood alongside the mayor for the announcement and called it a move that “fulfills an important citizen priority.”

Meanwhile, after some confusion, Spokane County is working to differentiate its own $45 million park levy lid lift from the city's bond. The county measure is likely to come before voters next year, not on this fall’s ballot.


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For the Expo ’74 anniversary, videos from the past and future

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 1:18 PM

expo-videos.jpg

This week’s upcoming issue includes a look back at Expo ’74 as we reach the 40th anniversary this summer of Spokane’s shining moment. It’s hard to imagine what Expo was like if you weren’t there, and we’ve been sifting through photos and old video footage to get a sense of what it was like. If you’re looking for the same thing, here are a few to check out.

Upcoming TV feature

There’s a lot of vintage footage and new interviews in an upcoming KHQ special documentary, which will air May 3. (Keep an eye out for Inlander Publisher Ted McGregor.) Here’s the trailer:


The Seattle perspective

Here’s the “Emerald City perspective” on Expo, in a recent segment from Seattle’s public TV station. It compares Seattle’s world’s fair a decade earlier, which focused on technology and the frontier of space, and Spokane’s environmental theme.


Looking back with the people who made it happen

KSPS created a full 50-minute documentary last year with a number of the experts and leaders who made it happen talking about the lasting impact of Expo.


How the U.S. Pavilion became an icon

Spokane Historical spoke with historian J. William Youngs, who wrote the definitive history of Expo, about the U.S. Pavilion. See other raw footage here.

If you really can’t get enough, we also included some other great videos in this post about the songs of Expo.


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MORNING BRIEFING: Tornadoes, elections and taxes

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 10:13 AM

HERE

Check out the two tax measures Spokane voters will have to wrestle with this November, including a Riverfront park bond. (SR)

If you are a car, and you’ve parked along the Bloomsday route, you might want to move. (KREM)

The Hutton building, the cantankerous former home of the Inlander, is getting some much needed improvement. (KXLY)

Moscow, Idaho, is holding a Renaissance fair for those in giant turkey legs and steins of mead. (CDAP)

THERE

At least 28 people have died as large areas of the Midwest and South got hit by tornadoes — with more storms coming today. (NBC)

The Environmental Protection Agency can protect the environment, Supreme Court rules. (NYT)

Democrats have had a pretty good run the last five years or so. But that might be about to change during these midterms. (Washington Post)

A sneaky journalist manages to record private remarks of John Kerry, speaking before the Trilateral Commission, where he warns that Israel could become an apartheid state. Not everyone liked that remark. (The Daily Beast)


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Elton John rockets back to Spokane Arena

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 9:04 AM

He’s back! Sir Elton John will perform at Spokane Arena on Sept. 17 as part of a 10-city tour.

This time he’s on an All the Hits tour — as if he didn't play all of the hits before. Many of these big singles, like “Bennie and the Jets” and “Candle in the Wind,” come from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, just re-released in honor of the album’s 40th anniversary (yes, it has been that long). Rolling Stone, in all of its wisdom, even gave the reissue a 5-star rating. And why not? Over the course of his five-decade long career, John is one of the best-selling solo artists of all time, racking up Grammys, an Academy Award, a Tony and an induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In short, he’s a living legend.

For those who can’t make it down to Las Vegas to see his The Million Dollar Piano show, now is your chance to watch him tickle the keys and belt out all your favorites. After all, at 67, the Rocket Man has still got it.

Tickets start at $29 and can be purchased starting Monday, May 5, at 10 am.

Check out John when he performed at the Arena before:


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Monday, April 28, 2014

“The Talk” on growing up black in the Inland Northwest

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 4:34 PM

Dolezal.jpg

About the same time most parents get around to telling their kids about the birds and the bees, parents of black children in America sit their kids down for “The Talk.” This talk almost always includes the standard DWB and SWB (Driving While Black and Shopping While Black) components, but as a mother raising two black sons in North Idaho and Spokane, I had to draft a prologue, several chapters, a glossary and footnotes to the standard monologue. And while “The Talk” is traditionally an annual event or coming-of-age moment for many families, it is not a special occasion in our household, but rather a daily corrective for living in the Whitopia of America.

It was after they had already encountered biased incidents at ages 4 and 5 that I began an at-home remedial curriculum for surviving life as a black boy in a white community. I tried to prepare them for a wide array of styles and methods of institutionalized and individual racism, but I failed to anticipate some of the extremities our family would face.

One Saturday morning, my kids burst into my bedroom. “Mom, there's a rope hanging in the backyard; it looks like a noose!” I raced outside as my mind instantly tracked back to the parting words of a colleague at Howard University when we left Washington, D.C., en route to Idaho. “Don’t go there; you’ll get lynched!” I remember brushing off her comment with some theoretical statement about not living in a culture of fear. But that day my sons found the noose really broke my heart in a certain kind of way. I hadn’t told them about all the other incidents of harassment toward us before that day; I wanted to be their shield against the wave of terror that kept me awake at night. And now they were faced with a symbol of death when picking garden strawberries for breakfast. The police came. They interviewed all three of us, mumbled something about us getting security cameras and logged the incident as a hate crime. Our house was burglarized not once, but several times. There were nooses, swastikas and death threats.

Over dinner one day, my son asked, “Do those people who harass us have kids? Because I think I met one of them at school today.” He had been taunted at recess, being called names like “monkey” and other racial slurs. When reporting the incident, he had to educate the supervising staff about why “monkey” was offensive to black people. Thankfully, we had already been having “The Talk” for four years by then, so he knew how to back up his statements with historical references. He was asked to give the school’s only Black History Month presentation the next year. Educating educators and doing the job of professionals at 9 years old; gosh, they grow up fast these days.

On the first day in second grade, my son came home with a despondent face. Never mind the fact that he was stung by a bee inside his ear that day; what was really on his mind was that he was the only black kid in his class again. Perplexed, I said that two of the other kids in his class looked black. “They don’t know they’re black,” he said matter-of-factly. At 12, he still distinguishes himself as the only black kid at his school actually being raised by a black parent.

Living in this area, “The Talk” is much more than a primer on what to do when you get pulled over by a cop, or how to steer clear of the school-to-prison pipeline. It’s about making a midnight run to buy a set of headphones for your son to wear in between his classes so he doesn’t have to hear the “N” word as he walks down the high school hallway every day. It’s about protecting your kids from the psychological disorders which can result from growing up labeled as the “other” in their classroom and being presumed guilty until proven innocent.

We must tell them that, amid all the constant reminders of what the supra-dominant culture sees as normal, acceptable and healthy, they have a rich legacy, a hidden history that begins with the origins of humankind and civilization itself. And when they are mocked, demeaned, and even injured, to hold onto the belief in their own worthiness.

After opening a dialogue, maybe some of their questions will be hard to answer — like why our state and their elementary school is named after former slave owners, or why they will never see their best friend again because his parents pulled him out of public school once they found out about their interracial friendship — but we have to begin somewhere. Developing a responsive and open dialogue is a great place to start. ♦

Rachel Dolezal, formerly of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d'Alene, is an award-winning artist and activist who teaches courses in art, Africana history and culture at area universities.

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