Culture

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A search for community at Man Show Spokane 2014

Posted By on Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 8:46 AM


The mission was clear – find out what a “man” is, as defined by the commercially driven Man Show Spokane 2014.

The stakes? Well, pretty non-existent really, other than a personal interest as a new transplant to Spokane, and self-described “man.” Although, my definition of the word might be a wee bit different than the marketing demographics’ version at play at Man Show Spokane. I may not hunt, nor sail, nor ride motorcycles nor buy calendars of tool company pin-ups. Even so – I am a man, dammit! 

The definition fluctuates, of course. “Man” has all manner of permutations. In my home state of Utah, a big part of it for some is going to church and siring many, many children. I’m not qualified for either of those roles. And yet, I’m crazy hairy and deep-voiced. But I digress.

Community celebrations and festivals are good barometers of a culture and a place. That’s according to a pop-culture class taken 23 years ago, anyway. So I headed to Man Show Spokane to learn a bit about my new community, and “manned up” for the trip. Unshaven. Wearing a heavy metal T-shirt and hoodie. Listening to the newly remaster of Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy on the drive (yes, you should buy it – again). 
GArdenBenghazi.jpg


My Suburu looked a little meek parked next to some of the trucks in the lot, but whatever – I’m still a man, dammit! The most surprising thing I saw there was a SCRAPS animal rescue booth right next to a FrozenCritters.net spot showcasing furs, skulls and collectible gator heads, or maybe seeing a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook for sale alongside booths for Tupperware and DirecTV. Oh, and there was a booth featuring a conspiracy theorist/gardening entrepreneur’s wonder-tool dubbed the BGT (Basic Garden Tool — over there to the right).

And still, I found some answers to the question:

WHAT’S A “MAN” IN SPOKANE? (according to a two-hour visit to the Man Show Spokane 2014)

A Spokane Man likes to bash the hell out of some cars when given the opportunity:
CarBash.jpg

A Spokane Man is ready for zombies:
ZombieKnife.jpg

A Spokane Man can appreciate hand-crafted decorations on his growler (Northwest Brew Gear):
Growlers.jpg


A Spokane Man can go for a beer-flavored jam or jelly (from Mick’s Peppourri, or Mick's Brewourri in this case):
BeerJam.jpg

A Spokane Man likes a good deal:
Helicopter.jpg

The Man Show Spokane 2014 runs through Sunday. It's $10 for an all-weekend pass. 


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Friday, November 14, 2014

The hit podcast “Serial” shows just how scary-flawed memories are

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 3:06 PM

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The This American Life spinoff Serial, following a reporter’s investigation into the conviction of Adnan Sayed for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, has become a pretty big deal. It’s all over social media. It’s become the most popular podcast in the world. A subreddit has sprung up to analyze the most minor details. Slate launched its own podcast dedicated entirely to talking about the Serial podcast. So did the A.V. Club. Parodies have sprung up. The backlash has begun, inevitably producing "think pieces" about whether it’s “problematic.”

But for me, the series’ greatest work has been to highlight a huge systemic flaw, not in the justice system, but in the human mind: Memories are awful.

Science has known this for a while. Whenever we replay memories, especially important ones, we have a chance of altering them. But as Serial's Sarah Koenig and the hordes of amateur gumshoes back home try to make sense of the case, this fundamental problem keeps looming larger and larger.

The murder is 15 years old. It happened in 1999, way back when I was writing Star Wars: The Phantom Menace fan fiction about my middle school. That’s a massive gulf in time, and that time has a cost.

Adnan says he can’t remember many details of that day, details that, if he’s innocent, could help exonerate him. From the very first episode, Koenig talks about this problem, about how hard it is to remember details of a random day, even if your freedom depends on it.

In that episode, we learn that a girl named Asia wrote a letter, a year after the murder, supporting Adnan’s alibi that he was in the library that day. Fifteen years later, Asia confirms it. But the reliability of that testimony is suspect. Not because Asia has a reason to lie, but because events of one year prior, let alone 15, are difficult to remember.  We learn his track coach can’t remember if he showed up for track that day, a crucial component of his alibi. There’s the mutual friend who remembers Adnan hanging out at her apartment on the night of the murder, and remembers Adnan was acting strangely. But it’s difficult to tell how much that had to do with him smoking weed, and how much that had to do with a decades-old memory filtered through the haze of Adnan’s conviction.

But even more disturbing are the memories that seem just completely wrong: There’s the student who claimed, 15 years ago, that a neighbor boy told her that Adnan had opened a trunk and shown him a body inside. But then when Koenig calls up that boy, he doesn’t recall that moment at all.

Koenig uses these issues to cast doubt not so much upon the case against Adnan, but the legal system itself. It’s tough to tell when witness inconsistencies are lies, and when they’re faulty memories. In the latest episode, posted yesterday, she interviews a detective explaining how police sometimes give an unrecorded, dry run of a confession, better to iron out inconsistencies.

Sometimes the problem is not that we don’t remember. It’s that we remember, but remember wrong. In fact, even the most vivid memories, the ones tied to emotion, the ones we think are seared into our brains, can quite quickly get distorted.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Have a cigar: Retired athletes are becoming regulars of Spokane's stogie circuit

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 12:53 PM

SheffSwagandBar.jpg

That there was a line of people anxiously waiting for the doors to open for the Gary Sheffield appearance wasn't a surprise. After all, the guy is a World Series champ, nine-time all-star, bordeline Hall of Famer and, at the very least, a familiar face to anyone who's watched baseball the past two decades. His bat-waving stance was intimidating to pitchers and instantly recognizable to fans, and his outspoken way with the media made Sheffield a regular in the sports-section headlines. 

No, the surprise was that the people in line at Northern Quest Resort & Casino weren't there for some baseball memorabilia show or ex-jock meet-and-greet. They were there to sample a cigar designed to commemorate Sheffield's 500th home run in the big leagues, a stogie the Florida native designed alongside cigar maestro Rocky Patel. 

Retired athletes have a long history of struggling to fill the time they used to spend in the spotlight of massive stadiums, and the country is littered with restaurants and car dealerships stamped with names like Don Shula, Mike Ditka or Karl Malone. 
Former Major League ballplayer Gary Sheffield, chilling at Legends of Fire. - DAN NAILEN
  • Dan Nailen
  • Former Major League ballplayer Gary Sheffield, chilling at Legends of Fire.


Athlete-branded cigars are a bit out of the norm, but the folks at Northern Quest's Legends of Fire cigar lounge have tapped into that celebrity-smoker circuit with a series of events this fall. First, ex-NBA star John Salley came to town for the resort's Little Smoke festival in September. Then fellow hoops vet John Starks came to Legends of Fire and regaled fans with tales of his years battling Michael Jordan. 

Sheffield was the first Major League baseball player to make the trip to Spokane for a cigar show, and arguably the most high-profile athlete yet. Blake Crossley, Legends of Fire manager, said the recent monthly parties are drawing crowds of cigar lovers more than athlete worshippers. Patel's cigars are highly regarded, and the chance to enjoy a new smoking option proved to have strong appeal — Crossley said the Sheffield event sold out of its 75 spots in just a couple days. 

A few minutes before the crowd is allowed in, Sheffield saunters in, sparks one of his cigars and orders a cocktail. He's a long-time smoker, and says cigars — which he pronounces "cee-gars" — are perfect for relaxing in retirement. Although, he notes, he smoked plenty during his playing days, too. 

"I’ve been smoking about 18 years," Sheffield says. "Most athletes smoke cigars. Whether you have a tough day or a great game, you just pull out a cigar and relax and put the game behind you until the next day. It’s one of those things that I didn’t do in public a lot when I played, but when I retired I said, 'It’s time for me to enjoy my life, do the things I enjoy doing.'"

When the Legends of Fire doors open, Crossley's prediction that the air would fill fast with smoke from the Sheffield cigars proves correct. The 75 attendees grab their glasses of Glenlivet scotch — a sponsor of the event — and immediately find tables and light up. No one much bothers with Sheffield, and he enjoys how mellow the vibe is as he's left to chat with Crossley and a Patel rep while he enjoys his smoke.

Later, he'll talk for a bit about how he came up with the blend of flavors making up the Gary Sheffield HR 500 cigar — "I smoked hundreds of cigars, trying a lot of flavors" — and he'll talk a bit about his career, sign some baseballs, take some pictures. But for now, Sheffield is happy to just kick it.

"It's the total opposite of baseball [events]. You can go to an event and nobody really knows who you are. Maybe they're more into football or basketball," Sheffield says.

"That’s what I like about this, it’s just the speed I’m on right now. Just relax, chill, mingle with people and just enjoy a cigar." 

You can read a review of the cigar from a local blogger here. The next Legends of Fire party is the Black & White Event on Monday, Dec. 8. 

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Friday, November 7, 2014

CAT FRIDAY: The cat cafes are coming

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Glynda, a resident of Oakland's Cat Town Cafe, the first cat cafe to open in the U.S., last month. - CAT TOWN CAFE & ADOPTION CENTER FACEBOOK
  • Cat Town Cafe & Adoption Center Facebook
  • Glynda, a resident of Oakland's Cat Town Cafe, the first cat cafe to open in the U.S., last month.

Coffee and cats. What a nice, warm, cozy combination.

This complementary pairing of kitties and caffeine in the form of cat cafes, a trendy concept that originated in Taiwan a few decades ago, is rapidly taking off around the world. The United States welcomed its first "cat-fe" last month, with the opening of Oakland's Cat Town Cafe, and other West Coast cities are already following suit. Both Portland and Seattle are set to each welcome a cat cafe sometime next year. (More about that below.)

While it's assumed cat lovers view cat cafes as one of the best cultural trends to have ever gained traction, others will scoff. Why would you go somewhere to hang out with cats if you already have cats at home? Why would you would want to eat or drink in a room filled with cat fur and other potential contaminants?

Lots of reasons, it turns out. 

The draw for these cultural oddities in the large metro areas where most cat cafes are located isn't limited to the quiet and calming companionship the feline species offers. In high-density population areas where having a pet may not always be allowed due to tenant contracts, such as in Japan — which has the highest number of cat cafes at more than 150 — the concept is appealing to busy professionals who can't make the commitment to owning and caring for a pet.

Besides offering a soothing escape from life's daily hustle, many cat cafes are also part-time adoption centers. Oakland's Cat Town residents are all adoptable, should a customer become so enamored they can't bear to part with the friendly feline they've met over a latte. The intent behind placing adoptable cats in a more relaxed setting like a cafe — in contrast to a crowded, loud shelter — is also a way to showcase cats needing permanent homes in a more uplifting and positive environment. Leading up to Cat Town's debut on Oct. 25, co-founder Ann Dunn said the cat cafe concept is also a "way to lure people in that’s sort of passive."

A scene from a Japanese cat cafe. Japan has the most cat cafes in the world with more than 150 across the country.
  • A scene from a Japanese cat cafe. Japan has the most cat cafes in the world with more than 150 across the country.

And you'd better believe there are very strict health regulations in place at these food-with-cats hybrids, at least from what we know about state-side businesses. Food must be prepared in a completely separate area from where cats are housed.

Before you get too hyped about heading to the Cat Town Cafe, or any other international versions, make sure to check the cafe's website, or call, to see if reservations are needed before your visit. To prevent a mass of excited, squealing humans from scaring and overwhelming their furry residents, cat cafes in Europe (like this one in London) and Cat Town only allow a predetermined number of guests into the cat's lounging quarters at once. Most cafes also have a set of basic guidelines all customers are asked to follow when interacting with the cats.

While Cat Town became the first to actually open in the U.S., other Western cities aren't far behind. Another Bay Area cafe, KitTea, was set to open in San Francisco this summer, but hasn't announced yet when it will officially open. 

Closer to Spokane, Portland is set to get its own kitty coffee house with Purringtons Cat Lounge. The business's site says it's set to open in early 2015, and is partnering with Oregon's Cat Adoption Team (CAT) to house adoptable kitties alongside its espresso offerings. The cafe is to be located in the Northeast Portland area, at 3529 NE Martin Luther King Blvd

Meanwhile, the Rose City's northern rival Seattle is not to be outdone, and plans for its first cat cafe, Seattle Meowtropolitan, are in the works. The couple behind the concept, which is planned to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors by housing adoptable cats, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign and they're hoping to open the cafe sometime in mid-2015. A location hasn't yet been determined. 

As amazing as it would be for Spokane to have its own cat cafe, I have my doubts that a city our size could sustain a business concept like this in the long-term. Do readers agree or disagree? Why or why not? Would you visit a cat cafe as a tourist in another city? Have you already been to one? We'd enjoy readers' thoughts on the subject. Please comment below or email me, at [email protected]

Also, don't forget to check out the results of the 2014 Cat Friday Halloween Cats Photo Contest! The results were posted last Friday, and we're still waiting to hear from our winner. 

CAT TOWN CAFE & ADOPTION CENTER FACEBOOK
  • Cat Town Cafe & Adoption Center Facebook


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How WSU students sparked a social media campaign against a social media app

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 3:45 PM

"Yikity Yak," WSU students say. "Don't talk back."
  • "Yikity Yak," WSU students say. "Don't talk back."


Last year, we tackled how online innovations gave rise to anonymous confession pages that allowed bullies to lob any insult at any person, risk-free. 

And a lot of older types don't get just how much that sort of anonymous social sabotage can hurt young people. Social media is not a hobby or a game: It’s an entire sector of life, often even more crucial than home life or school life. Meanwhile, the regular introduction of new communication apps — Instagram! SnapChat! — introduces entirely new social navigation challenges, and new avenues to bully.

Most recently: Yik Yak.

The name sounds like the sort of fictional social media app that would show up on The Good Wife, but it’s totally real. Like Twitter, users post short messages. Like Reddit, users can up-vote messages they like, and down-vote messages they don’t. Enough down-votes, and the message disappears. Users can easily search messages from location, like Washington State University or even a specific classroom.

And then there’s the feature that makes all the difference: “The wonderful thing about Yik Yak: it’s anonymous,” a Yik Yak message from the WSU area said today. “The terrifying thing about Yik Yak: It’s anonymous.”

There isn’t even a username associated with each post. They just appear, as if summoned from the ether.

So, like Juicy Campus before it, Yik Yak has become a sensation at universities like WSU. It’s been that way all semester, says Sarah Temple, a WSU senior working as the WSU Panhellenic vice president for membership education.

At first, she says, the messages seemed pretty harmless. But as the semester wore on, the messages began to take on an edge.

“There were some that were sexual in nature,” Temple says. “Some referred to alcohol. Some very degrading to both men and women. When it was less about honest, light-hearted fun, we really had a problem with that.”

In particular, she says, messages began slamming specific fraternities and sororities, even specific individuals. “I think it was focused on our Greek community,” Temple says.

It got personal, she says.

Enter #ReleaseTheYak. Temple says she first saw it three weeks ago on a Delta Gamma member’s Instagram feed. Soon the organic campaign became official: Students would post photos of themselves deleting the Yik Yak app on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram under the hashtag #ReleaseTheYak.

And just like any good meme, the idea has started to spread. University of Washington students have joined.

“In the last couple of hours, [Oregon State University] has now gotten on board,” Temple says. “Other schools have banded with us.”

Viral content, meet viral antibodies.

“Today @OSUGreeks is joining @WSUpanhellenic in the #ReleaseTheYak campaign because we support sisterhood and love, not gossip and negativity,” one OSU student tweet from today reads.

But so far, the efforts haven’t really seemed to stem a tide of WSU Yak messages: In the span of 10 minutes around 1 pm on Thursday, over 30 messages came from WSU. That’s the other problem with something being anonymous. It wouldn’t be hard for WSU students to righteously condemn the app, and make a big show of deleting it, while continuing to send messages under the table. They could keep spreading gossip, keep checking the app, keep slinging barbs or insults.

Most of the messages, however, weren’t particularly vile. “Horatio Cane is the most bad ass crime scene show character to ever exist.” “My friends in class aren’t here so I have to sit here drunk by myself.” “The clock tower being one minute late bothers me.”)

It’s mostly banal stuff. Questions about homework assignments, complaints about essays, meta-commentary about the app itself, and slightly risqué psuedo-confessions: “I finally had sex in every building on campus. I can now graduate” and “if you don’t smack my ass and pull my hair, you’re not doing it right.”

Even if some WSU students still use the app, Temple says, if the content has become less ugly, that’s a victory. At least, over this one specific social media app. 
“We have some anonymous Twitter accounts that have done some very similar things,” Temple says.


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Monday, November 3, 2014

Not "like" like: What some politicians don’t get about Facebook

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 1:05 PM

RTs, many a Twitter profile inform us, do not equal endorsements. Neither, for the record, do Facebook friendships, nor Instagram likes, nor Pinterest pins, nor LinkedIn connections.

A Rep. Matt Shea email shows his two most recent opponents are friends on Facebook
  • A Rep. Matt Shea email shows his two most recent opponents are friends on Facebook

But during political season, when an association can make or break a candidacy, some politicians fail to understand that. By now, it’s too late to provide a corrective for this campaign, but hopefully this can serve as a warning for future generations. 

Witness Rep. Matt Shea’s campaign against Josh Arritola in the 4th District. Shea has a lot of ways to tie Arritola to groups many conservatives despise — including Arritola publicly telling the nurses union he stands with them. (While he says he’s against Obamacare and for right-to-work, Arritola’s wife is a nurse, and he’s unapologetic for his support for them.) But Shea goes further than just pointing to donations, endorsements or campaign photographs: He goes to Facebook.

“In 2010, my then-opponent was a liberal, pro-choice, union-supported Democrat. She too, had a bad habit of lying about me and my record to gain support,” Shea writes in an email. “So, the fact that my then-opponent and my current opponent are friends makes perfect sense.”
As evidence, he posts a screengrab of Arritola’s Facebook wall, where —J'accuse! — he’s Facebook friends with Amy Biviano, Shea's Democratic opponent two years ago. 

The anonymous attack website against Arritola goes even further, saying “according to his ‘Likes’ on Facebook, he is supportive of Mainstream Republicans of Washington State whose website (washingtonmainstream.org) states that Mainstream Republicans are Socially Moderate Republicans.”

Because many Mainstream Republicans are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, the site implies that Arritola’s Facebook like of this organization overrides his public statements against all abortion.

The opposite problem can occur as well. Back in 2010, County Commissioner candidate Al French’s campaign ran into trouble with its interpretation of Facebook: French simply listed everyone who “liked” his campaign on Facebook as a supporter (though not an official endorser) on his campaign website. That including Roseanne Lasater, a woman who had a Bonnie Mager campaign sign in her yard.

Even in December, after the election, and 50 days after she requested her name be removed from the list of supporters, her name remained as a French supporter on the website. It was only taken down after the Public Disclosure Commission opened an investigation into whether French violated the law by, “with actual malice,” falsely claiming the support of Lasater.

“There were a couple of ‘em that were obviously in Bonnie’s camp that were trying to get information off my Facebook page, but I don’t know that,” French told the Inlander this summer. He added them to their list of supporters “and the PDC said, you know what, that’s not illegal.”

More specifically, the PDC said it didn’t have a clear direction over whether campaign activity on the Internet counted as a “means of mass communication” subject to the state ordinances prohibiting false endorsements.

In fact, one name of a non-supporter is still listed as a supporter on French’s website for this campaign: Local hummus maven Victor Azar, listed in Lasater’s PDC complaint. Azar says he isn’t voting for French or any other incumbent this year.

“I don’t want my name being used in politics,” Azar told me. “I’m a non-partisan altogether. Yeah, I’m not voting for him, no.”

He friended French on Facebook, he says, but it was strictly business.

“I want everybody to be aware of my products,” Azar said. “But that doesn’t mean I endorsed the guy.”

Informed that Azar wasn’t a supporter, French wrote it down on a legal pad, intending to remove his name from the list. “If there’s anybody that’s still on there that doesn’t want to be, let me know and I’ll take them off,” French says.

Yet, to this day, Azar’s name is listed as a “supporter” on French’s campaign site.

In the large scheme of things, these are minor issues. But it gets at a bigger conundrum of this hyper-public, social media-saturated age. "Like" doesn’t necessarily mean like. "Friend" doesn’t necessarily mean friend.

Liking a Facebook status could mean you agree with the statement. But it also could mean you like the way it’s said, or you want to show support, or you have fat thumbs scrolling through a feed on your phone.

Friending a person on Facebook could mean that you are their friend and supporter in real life. But it also could mean you are their acquaintance, that you’d like to date them, that you met once at a party, that you want to keep close track of their statements, that you find their social media presence funny or mockable.

A local activist like Mariah McKay has 4,280 friends. Now, McKay is a pretty social person, but there’s no way she’s actually real-life friends with over 4,280 people. But for an activist, that's a pretty awesome tool to connect with all those people.

I friend Matt Shea on Facebook, I friend Josh Arritola on Facebook. I join Facebook groups about East Valley school politics, Complete Street design, The American Conservative, and the Idaho Democratic Party, but not because I necessarily adopt or agree with any of those views. It’s because I want to follow these people, hear what they say, and hold them accountable.

I accept almost any non-spam friend request, because I know extending my social network’s reach vastly increases the number of potential sources I can message without that message being dumped in the “Others” tab. Facebook chat has become a vital tool for a journalist: I was able to ask former councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin what she thought of Matt Shea while she was on vacation in Italy. That never would have worked if I'd avoided friending her because it would seem like an endorsement.

Many of us already live in a media bubble, with very little exposure to other points of view. The last thing we should have to worry about is being seen as endorsing the entire point of view of every person we "friend" or "follow."

Look, I’m sympathetic. The explosion of online methods of communication have introduced whole hosts of new semiotic riddles: Is that email sarcastic or serious? Is that winky-face because he’s into me? Is the animated pencil scribbling then erasing because he’s self-censoring? Is she now using squirrel emoticons on Skype instead of hearts because something subtle but profound has broken in our relationship, signaling a slow slide toward disengagement and contempt? (Probably.)

Heck, just check out this Key and Peele sketch about how easy it is to misinterpret text messages (language warning.)

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to all of this: If you’re wondering what someone's “like,” retweet, Facebook friendship, or text message means, all you have to do is ask them. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, that’s easier than ever.


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PHOTOS: Curling Clinic

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 11:14 AM


On Sunday, the Lilac City Curling Club held their annual clinic at Riverfront Park's Ice Palace. Six students were taught the basics of throwing rocks and sweeping during the first hour of the clinic. This sport of finesse looks deceptively easy. Students initially struggled to throw their rocks from the hack, a footbase, down the length of the ice rink to the house, a bullseye-shaped location. Sweeping, where players sweep a broom in front of a thrown rock to affect its speed and trajectory, also proved difficult as students lost their balance and struggled to keep up with the rock at first. They caught on quickly, though, and soon played their first game. Some of the rocks even made it to the house, where points are awarded. The Lilac City Curling Club will begin league play at the Riverfront Park's Ice Palace on Sunday, November 9. For more information, visit spokanecurling.com.

Student Christina Akinlosotu, center, throws a rock towards Lilac City Curling Club board member Dale Garraway. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Student Christina Akinlosotu, center, throws a rock towards Lilac City Curling Club board member Dale Garraway.

Lilac City Curling Club board member Dale Garraway gives a talk at the beginning of a curling clinic. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Lilac City Curling Club board member Dale Garraway gives a talk at the beginning of a curling clinic.

Student Dave Jackson puts on a slider over his shoe. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Student Dave Jackson puts on a slider over his shoe.

10-year-old Lilac City Curling Club member Ethan Thompson kneels next to some curling rocks. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • 10-year-old Lilac City Curling Club member Ethan Thompson kneels next to some curling rocks.

Lilac City Curling Club board member Dale Garraway, right, instructs student Reed Cody on how to hold a curling rock. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Lilac City Curling Club board member Dale Garraway, right, instructs student Reed Cody on how to hold a curling rock.


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Friday, October 31, 2014

CAT FRIDAY: Results of the 2014 Halloween Cats Photo Contest

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 1:15 PM

It's here! Happy Meow-loween, everyone!

This year's Cat Friday Halloween Cats Photo contest received many amazingly adorable entries. As with last year, we're sharing all the submissions in today's post. But to reward our participants for their efforts — getting a cat to wear a costume and politely pose for a photo isn't easy — we're giving away a $20 gift card to one winner. Since we're a Spokane-based paper, we thought it appropriate to choose a gift card to a locally owned business catering to pets, and to a resident in our readership area. We intentionally left the rules pretty fuzzy at the beginning of the contest this year, because as with last year — who knew how many submissions we'd actually get? Surprisingly, the contest again received many entries from way outside of the Inland Northwest, which is pretty awesome.

This isn't to say we didn't appreciate all the out-of-town submissions. Considering the success of this contest for two years in a row, we're already planning to up the ante next year and get some better prizes lined up. It seems dressing up pets for Halloween has become just as big of a deal as dressing your kids or yourself. The proof is in the results of this little contest, and others hosted by major cat culture sites like Catster

And now, the costumed kitties!

Gwen the Ewok, from Olympia, Wash. Submitted by Anna E.
  • Gwen the Ewok, from Olympia, Wash. Submitted by Anna E.

Tom, aka the "Burger King," from Georgetown, Delaware. Submitted by Ai K.
  • Tom, aka the "Burger King," from Georgetown, Delaware. Submitted by Ai K.

Morris dressed as a dapper Scottishman. He's from Orlando, Florida, and his photo was submitted by Clare D.
  • Morris dressed as a dapper Scottishman. He's from Orlando, Florida, and his photo was submitted by Clare D.

Teddy the elf, from Lake Elsinore, California. Submitted by Jennifer S.
  • Teddy the elf, from Lake Elsinore, California. Submitted by Jennifer S.

Bubbles the fairy, from Henrico, Virginia. Submitted by Beth W.
  • Bubbles the fairy, from Henrico, Virginia. Submitted by Beth W.

Sylvie the elf (with a slice of pie), from Olympia, Wash. Submitted by Stephanie S.
  • Sylvie the elf (with a slice of pie), from Olympia, Wash. Submitted by Stephanie S.

Maddie, the 1,000-year-old sorceress cat, from Spokane, Wash. Submitted by Will H.
  • Maddie, the 1,000-year-old sorceress cat, from Spokane, Wash. Submitted by Will H.

Poseidon, from Walled Lake, Michigan, dressed up as a Hawaiian hula cat. Submitted by Michelle B.
  • Poseidon, from Walled Lake, Michigan, dressed up as a Hawaiian hula cat. Submitted by Michelle B.

Leaper, from Columbia, Pennsylvania (who also entered last year!) dressed up in his dinner tux this year. Submitted by PJ L.
  • Leaper, from Columbia, Pennsylvania (who also entered last year!) dressed up in his dinner tux this year. Submitted by PJ L.

Ash, of Spokane, didn't dress up, but is still very festive as he "contemplates mortality and the absurdity of existence." Submitted by Jennifer L.
  • Ash, of Spokane, didn't dress up, but is still very festive as he "contemplates mortality and the absurdity of existence." Submitted by Jennifer L.

Timmy, of Spokane, dressed up as Danny Zuko from Grease. Submitted by Jessica L.
  • Timmy, of Spokane, dressed up as Danny Zuko from Grease. Submitted by Jessica L.

Blinky, from New York City, is a flying monkey from the Wizard of Oz. Submitted by Isis K.
  • Blinky, from New York City, is a flying monkey from the Wizard of Oz. Submitted by Isis K.

Thunder, of Spokane, channeled Yoda this year. Submitted by Raevyn W., an Inlander staffer.
  • Thunder, of Spokane, channeled Yoda this year. Submitted by Raevyn W., an Inlander staffer.

Abby the giraffe, from Spokane. Submitted by Bruce D., an Inlander staffer.
  • Abby the giraffe, from Spokane. Submitted by Bruce D., an Inlander staffer.

Samwise as Yoda ("Kill you for this, I will."), from Spokane. Submitted by Ali B., also an Inlander staffer.
  • Samwise as Yoda ("Kill you for this, I will."), from Spokane. Submitted by Ali B., also an Inlander staffer.

And now, announcing the winner of this year's Cat Friday Halloween Cats photo contest, Oliver the Cat-osaurus Rex, from Spokane! Congratulations to Oliver and his owner, Chelsey. Please email me ([email protected]) with your top three favorite Inland Northwest pet supply stores, and we'll do our best to get you a $20 gift card to one of them.

Oliver, of Spokane, is a cat-osaurus rex. Submitted by Chelsey J.
  • Oliver, of Spokane, is a cat-osaurus rex. Submitted by Chelsey J.

Thank you to ALL cats who entered this year. We hope readers enjoy this year's line-up of fabulously costumed kitties. As a disclosure, Inlander staffers who entered did not qualify for the prize. For ethical reasons, we also did not include submissions by those who personally know this writer in the final contestant pool.

How can we make next year's contest even better? Please send us your suggestions or leave them in the comments. Also, remember to keep your cats indoors and safe tonight as festivities take place around your neighborhood!


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spokane company Beardbrand is on ABC's Shark Tank tomorrow night

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 4:57 PM

The Spokane-based company sells beard oils, waxes and care products. - BEARDBRAND.COM
  • beardbrand.com
  • The Spokane-based company sells beard oils, waxes and care products.

With No-Shave-November starting in a few days, it's timely that Spokane-based startup Beardbrand, which sells products catering to the "urban beardsman," is competing on the Emmy-winning reality investment show Shark Tank. The episode airs tomorrow night, Oct. 31, at 9 pm, so those who choose to stay in and pass out candy should be able to catch its premiere on ABC. 

Beardbrand CEO Eric Bandholz, who has since moved to Austin, Texas, is appearing on the show to introduce the company's mission and products — high-quality beard oils, mustache waxes and beard grooming accessories — to Shark Tank's investors, aka "sharks," who then have the option to invest in a percentage of the company.

Beardbrand's online store was launched last year, after Bandholz and company co-founders Lindsey Reinders and Jeremy McGee worked together during Startup Weekend Spokane. The company currently carries more than 25 products and has reached $1.5 million in annual sales.

The details and results of Bandholz's pitch are being kept secret until after the episode's first airing. It will be available to watch for free online one week after it airs on TV, or soon after it airs for viewers who sign into ABC's site through their TV provider.


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Spokane is a spooky place — here are some favorite creepy stories from the archives

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Signs of Spokane's past lurk below street level, including Louis Davenport's safe in the hotel's basement. - STEPHEN SCHLANGE
  • Stephen Schlange
  • Signs of Spokane's past lurk below street level, including Louis Davenport's safe in the hotel's basement.

Facebook and Twitter seem to be overflowing with other local media outlets' postings about ghosts and supposedly haunted Inland Northwest locales over the past couple weeks. With the big October holiday less than a day away, we decided it timely to revisit the Inlander's archives of creepy coverage, both lighthearted and serious, to get in the mood for All Hallow's Eve. 

In the past year, freelance videographer Nathan Brand put together several heavily researched mini-documentaries for a short series he dubbed "Unsolved Secrets of Lost Spokane."

Episode 1 takes viewers into the basement of the old Dutch's pawn shop building to see its historic and creepy bear murals that once decorated a speakeasy and card room there.

Episode 2 is short primer on one of the region's earliest serial killers, known as "Bluebeard."

Brand also dug deep to uncover all the grisly details about early Spokane's infamous axe-murdering teen, Sidney Sloane.

Also earlier this fall, Brand took his fascination with unsolved murders and Spokane's darker past even deeper to investigate the unnatural death of prominent public figure, Spokane fire chief Al O'Connor, who unexpectedly dropped dead more than 30 years ago. The cause of his death still remains a mystery.

In time for the Halloween season last year, we also sought to enlighten readers about some of the Lilac City's best urban legends, like the haunted "Thousand Steps" at Greenwood Cemetery, some creepy, unexplained happenings at the Dania Furniture building, and downtown's resident theater spirits. 

Our fascination with the lesser-seen and super-creepy underground sites around the region doesn't end there. Photographer Stephen Schlange was on a mission last fall to document what lies behind some of the city's locked doors that only a few are privy to.

Back in the early aughts, then-Inlander staffer Mike Corrigan penned a fascinating first-person account of his discoveries beneath Spokane's downtown streets in a piece titled "Speakeasy Spelunking." 

Later, Corrigan went back underground to seeking for evidence of Spokane's Cold War-era nuclear bomb shelters.

Another past staffer uncovered the haunted histories of Spokane's most famed ghost-ridden sites — The Davenport Hotel and the Patsy Clark Mansion. 

The historic Masonic Temple, now being renovated and restored as an event center called Riverside Place, also has a colorful and eerie history we've delved into for fascinating features. 

The Inlander has also done a fair share of reporting on ghost towns, including Elberton, Wash., on the Palouse, and the death of another Spokane far from our own.

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