Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pugetopolis debate on TV and radio, and my next local readings

Just a few quick notes. Last night (Wednesday) we had a great turnout at Town Hall for the Berger/Egan "debate." In case you missed it, you can watch it in full on the Seattle Channel (Cable 21), no doubt muscling aside our strongman mayor for a little air time. But the air date is still to be determined. The photograph here was taken by journalist Steve Shay. Also, KUOW's The Conversation ran excerpts from the on-stage discussion about growth and the shaping of Seattle on Feb. 26. They added some additional commentary from other pundits and, of course, calls from listeners. You can find it at the link provided below.

Thanks to Tim, moderator David Brewster, Town Hall, Crosscut, Seattle Weekly, KUOW, the Seattle Channel, Sasquatch Books, the University Bookstore which sold out their on-hand supply of Pugetopolis, and all the 200 or so folks who attended. I know it was a tough choice: upstairs, my KUOW air-mate Cliff Mass was lecturing at the same time about the weather to a big crowd and promoting his bestselling book on the topic (buy a copy, it's a must-have for the Northwest bookshelf). I don't know how Cliff does it, but when he wants to sell some books, he manages to conjure up a timely snow storm. He's definitely got some pull with the weather gods.

Looking ahead to next week: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble at University Village on Wednesday, March 4 at 7pm. U-Village actually came up in our debate last night (Tim likes it, I think it's Bellevue Square without the roof). Was it better in the days when it had a bowling alley and a Lamont's? Or does a Fran's and a Pottery Barn get your juices flowing? Come and decide for yourself.

Also, for Eastsiders, note that I'll be reading at my former neighborhood indie bookstore, Parkplace Books, on Tuesday, March 10 at 7pm.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Berger/Egan evening

I came down with a nasty flu bug over the weekend, but plan to be on my feet for tomorrow's (Wed., Feb. 25th) event at Town Hall at 7:30pm. 

Award-winning author and journalist Timothy Egan and I will be downstairs talking about Seattle, our Northwest roots and Pugetopolis.  The conversation will be moderated by David Brewster (the event is co-sponsored by Town Hall, Crosscut, and Seattle Weekly). The Seattle Channel will be taping for broadcast. Admission is $5. My book Pugetopolis will be on sale and I'd be happy to sign it for you. 

Tim kindly wrote the introduction. Talking about my Mossback column for the Weekly and Crosscut, he said: "I love the column, I told him some years ago, even though I disagree with half of what he writes." I'm hoping our Town Hall conversation will uncover a few of those areas of disagreement. But truth be told, I think a .500 batting average of agreement is pretty good.  To paraphrase Rudy Giuliani,  I don't even agree with me all the time.

FYI, you might want to get there early because Cliff Mass will be lecturing upstairs about Northwest weather, promoting his excellent new book on the topic so there's bound to be a crowd. Of course, in my humble opinion, Tim has already had the last work on our weather: The rain is good. But Cliff will fill in the details.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sweden took me!

Just a short note to say that Friday night's reading/Happy Hour at the Swedish Cultural Center was fantastic. The Swedish sausage, drinks and crowd was great (about 90 people, a number of which signed up for membership in the Swedish Club too). My grandfather might have been spinning in his grave, perhaps with enough energy to bore the new downtown tunnel. To help keep him going, I plan to send in my membership application too (generously, non-Swedes are allowed in, even those of Norwegian ancestry). It's only $45 bucks and gives access to one of the best bars in town, so I see no downside. 

Anyway, my thanks to the Swedes for hosting the event and to all the people who showed up. This week, on Wed., Feb. 25th I'll be at Town Hall with Tim Egan and I'll have a little more on that later. It's not a reading, but a broader discussion about local issues that should be interesting. At least, I know Tim will be. I always look forward to what he has to say.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'll take Sweden!

This Friday, Feb. 20th, I'll be reading at Seattle's Swedish Cultural Center at 7pm. Now, if you asked my Norwegian grandfather about this (pictured here), he probably would have said that "Swedish Cultural Center" was an oxymoron. Like any good Norwegian, he didn't like the Swedes.

If my book reading sets him spinning in his grave in Lakeview Cemetery, then so be it, because it turns out that the Swedish Cultural Center occupies a marvelous mid-century modern building on the east slope of Queen Anne Hill and has a bar in it with a view that rivals the one at nearby Canlis. You can almost see Lakeview Cemetery from there. They've  been kind enough to invite me to read during their Friday Happy Hour, which means, as some friends of Mossback's have already figured out, that you can have a night of fine literature and your booze too. My grandfather would have heartily approved of that part anyway.

Admission is free and open to the public. Happy "Hour" runs from 5pm until 10pm and features a full bar (not just akavit) so you can have plenty to drink before, during and after the reading. There will be food too (Swedish hors d'oeuvres plates and entrees are $8 to $9). Non-drinkers are, of course, welcome as well. Books will also be on sale, and I'll sign them with my family's original, Swedish-sounding last name if you'd like, just to commemorate this moment of ethnic reconciliation. This should be a really fun event and I hope you can come. If you like it, you can join the Swedish club for only $45 per year and come back on a regular basis.

Next week, I'll be appearing at Town Hall with author Timothy Egan (Feb. 25). It won't be a reading but rather an on-stage discussion/debate about local issues, moderated by David Brewster. I'll post details on that later. No full bar, however. 

(PS: The photo of my grandfather, the first of our line of four Knute Bergers, appeared in the book Norwegian Seattle by Kristine Leander. Kristine is the Cultural Director of the Swedish Cultural Center, showing her commitment to bridging the enormous gap between the two peoples. Her book is a scrapbook of local Nordic heritage and I heartily recommend it.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Great time with the Bellinghamsters

I ventured to the northern fringe of Pugetopolis on Friday the 13th for a reading at Village Books in Bellingham's Fairhaven District, which is one of the best historic neighborhoods in the region. The drive was a slow-moving advertisement for staying close to home. When the freeway's clear, you can do Seattle to Bellingham in about an hour and fifteen minutes. I left Seattle a little after 3pm with a couple of stops (gas, bank) and pulled into Bellingham at 6pm. I-5 was ugly to Marysville, and traffic didn't really let up until just past Burlington. The true Pugetopolitan experience!

Had a quick bite to eat at the Colophon Cafe adjacent to the bookstore's  downstairs reading area. It was recommended to me by "Weekday" producer Katy Sewall of KUOW,  who attended Western Washington University. She commended the soups and, in true blogger style, let me describe briefly what I ate. The soup of the day was tomato & cheddar cheese soup, and it was excellent. I tried it because it reminded me of a dish I grew up with called "rinktum ditty," which was essentially Campbell's tomato soup with melted Tillamook cheese in it, poured over a bed of Saltine crackers. Kind of a poor-man's Mac & Cheese. The Colophon's soup was much better, but close enough to the comfort food of memory to fortify me nicely for the reading.

Which went well. A nice crowd (I counted about 50 people). I'd received a good write-up by Rich Donnelly in Cascadia Weekly, the local alt paper, previewing the reading (not available as a link, unfortunately). I enjoyed myself and as usual, the Q&A was lively and went long.  I read the chapter called "Sighting the Great American Peckerwood" about Bill Gates, intelligent design and Discovery Institute in honor of  Darwin's birthday this week. My one regret: I had no time to spend at Village Books but plan to get back up soon and spend some of my Obama stimulus money.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

North to Bellingham, and drinking with the Swedes

This week, I'll be heading to the Northern tip of Pugetopolis to read at Village Books in Bellingham. I'm pleased to get up there because Bellingham is one of those incredibly attractive places--college town, great history and older architecture, lively downtown, close to the Sound and mountains, proximate to the strange land of Canada--that has become, increasingly, a haven for Seattle-area refugees looking for a quality of life that has been slipping away in urban Seattle.That, in turn, is reshaping the city and its surroundings. In short, it's a ground zero of change and I'm looking forward to learning more about what's going on there. (My most recent visits have usually involved stopping for breakfast or to ransack bookstores going to or from Mt. Baker.) My reading is this Friday, Feb 13th (!) at 7pm.

My next Seattle reading will be at the Swedish Cultural Center on Friday, Feb. 20, which has a bar with one of the best views in Seattle. That's right, reading and drinking. There's been a lot of interest in that which may say something about my readership. More on this event later, but mark your calendar.

One note on a past event: Last Sunday (Feb.8) I moderated a panel on the future of media at the Bainbridge Island Library. The focus was, naturally, on local, Bainbridge and Kitsap County media, and the panel participants were Dennis Anstine, editor of the Bainbridge Review, David Nelson, editor of the Kitsap Sun, Althea Paulson, island blogger, Selina Shearer, news director of the island's cable TV program BNews, and's media reporter Bill Richards. The highlight for me was the turnout. It's a good sign when a library parking lot is full on a Sunday. The room was packed and the audience Q&A alone lasted an hour and could have gone longer. People are incredibly concerned about where the news is going to come from in these times of big media change. Technology, the collapse of old advertising models, the recession, all are taking a huge toll on traditional newspapers and radio and TV as well. No one is immune. And it's not as if people were happy with the media's overall performance even in good times.

One of the answers is that citizens are, and are going to have to be, more involved in delivering, shaping, reporting, and sifting the news, one of the things technology has empowered them to do. It's good to see that people care so passionately about the future of the news media, and if there is one thing good to come out of the announcement that the newsprint version of the Seattle P-I will soon be history (unless a buyer is found shortly, an unlikely event), it's that it is galvanizing people to explore what's next. If ever a time necessity was the mother of invention, this is it.