I was expecting Bruce Barcott's "Seven Ways to Die in the Outdoors" (4/22) to be an informative piece. However, I feel his thesis was weak. He strives to make his point that nature is an impartial phenomenon, "because Nature, contrary to Wordsworth, has no moral life; it does not feel." But he contradicts himself when he imparts a human attribute to nature, ". . . the deadly cruelty of a snowmelt stream." If nature has no feelings and cannot be good, then it can't render cruelty. And: "If we're going to learn from nature, we must be willing to learn that nature is sometimes wrong." If we argue that nature is impartial and knows no morals then it is an invalid statement to declare that nature can be wrong. Nature happens.
We who challenge the elements of nature or rather, I hope, adjust to its variability, do learn respect and admiration for its awesome powers and learn that we must be skilled, alert, and prepared, and even then may be caught unawares. But so it is with life. And if one lives too cautiously, it is as Helen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature."
The bared essentials
Responding to Bruce Barcott's "Seven Ways to Die in the Outdoors" (4/22):
Thanks to an American reporter's ignorance of current British patter words, [George] Mallory earned the reputation of being deep. The "Because it's there" remark—that is deep. Mallory was anything but. He applied "there" to an especially good cuppa, a nicely turned ankle, a soft hotel bed after a hard day of being lionized.
Children make sport of the "10 Essentials," but they are, in fact, exactly what the Mountaineers' Climbing Committee sought for beginners enrolled in its climbing course. Actually, the increase from the original Seven Essentials was rather fiercely debated by the 1950 Climbing Committee. The question was, "Where will it end?" The answer is that nowadays the "essentials" (for climbers) are urged on everyone venturing into Woodland Park. There are now hall monitors demanding that nobody be allowed out of his car without a cell phone. The gearheads presently are dancing in glee at the essentiality of having a GPS in your rucksack.
"Brinks Lake" is where the Brinks robbers went to picnic with their loot. It is not on Tiger Mountain. The weary feller lay himself down to sleep, praying the Lord his soul to keep, beside the Brink Trail. Don't depend on newspapers for your geography, or your history, or your philosophy. The press is show biz, like Everest has become.
Highline aquifer at risk?
I wanted to thank Eric Scigliano for the completeness and evenness of his reporting on this touchy matter ("The Pits," 4/15). I spent several years of my life at EPA in the 1970s attempting to address the arsenic issues at the Asarco smelter.
The contamination of the quarry is real and it presents a problem not mentioned in his article. If in fact the contaminated material is used as fill for the Sea-Tac runway project, it will be placed in an area that contributes to the recharge of the Highline aquifer. That aquifer is a primary source of drinking water for the Highline Water District and, I believe, is also used as a supplemental source by the Seattle Water Department during extremely dry periods. I haven't heard of any analysis focused on the potential contamination of the Highline aquifer if water entering the aquifer passes through contaminated fill.
This is a potential poisoning of a community's water supply. If the contamination is real and if it gets into the aquifer, it will be a major calamity. I hope the Weekly will look into this potential problem.
An effective Allied Arts
Contrary to an impression that was given in George Howland's article "Reviving Allied Arts" (4/29), that organization did play a very key role in enabling a public debate about the 2012 Olympics bid.
I participated in the Allied Arts forum at the Two Bells Tavern on the Olympics. There were at least four TV stations that showed up, plus radio and print media reporters. The resulting publicity generated the initial stream of citizen comments to the City Council, which later rolled into a tsunami wave.
In addition, their call for a public hearing on the merits of the city taking a role in the Olympics bid was critical in building council support for involving the public in this decision.
The design of an urban area is unfortunately shaped more by politics than by architects. Consequently, Allied Arts leadership in addressing the major political issues that impact the growth and design of our city is critical in allowing our citizens an opportunity to shape these developments. I congratulate them on their mission to open up the political process so that the art of living in an urban environment lifts our spirits and doesn't bury them.
Seattle City Council Member
In the 4/15 Impolitics column, "Creating Homes or Homelessness?" Geov Parrish covered aspects of the Seattle Housing Authority's administration of various low-income housing programs, including the Seattle Senior Housing Program. What disturbed me about the piece—aside from a number of significant factual errors and unsubstantiated charges—was that those of us actually involved were not consulted or interviewed.
Common sense, equity, and journalistic ethics would suggest that a writer talk to the people he is writing about (if they are available). I am the president of the Advocates, a grassroots organization representing the residents of the SSHP. To avoid future misunderstandings, let us make this crystal clear: Nobody speaks for the Advocates other than their elected officers. Period!
In spite of the impression conveyed in Parrish's column, the Advocates consider council member Peter Steinbrueck the best friend we have in local government.
By the nature of differing interests, the Advocates and the SHA are often placed in adversarial positions. The job of the Advo-cates is to strengthen our situation, while maintaining a dialogue with the folks running the store. We do not want the responsibility of having to defend the SHA. That is its job. But the credibility and effectiveness of the Advocates is not enhanced by published material loaded with factual errors and colored with ideological perspectives that do not accurately reflect our viewpoints.
J.R. (Jim) Joelson
Lessons from Dallas
Thank you for publishing "It's Not Better in the Morning" (4/29), which emphasized concerns about The Seattle Times' move to the morning slot in direct competition with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Readers should examine carefully the Teamsters' objections to this change. If it contributes to the eventual demise of the P-I, Seattle will be the loser in addition to the P-I employees.
When I lived in Dallas, Texas, I watched the Dallas Morning News drive its century-old competitor, the Dallas Times Herald, out of business through devious strategies and questionable practices. Even though Dallas has twice the population of Seattle, it now has only one newspaper. The Dallas Morning News, via its monopoly, wields its establishment line like a weapon.
Take it from one who has been there, don't go there.
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We neglected to mention that the 5/13 Seattle International Film Guide cover photo is of local comedienne Peggy Platt, who stars in Balancing Pies, a short film by Jonas Batt. Pies is playing as part of SIFF's Northwest Filmmakers Showcase on May 23 at 9:15pm at the Egyptian.
Due to a copyediting error in our 5/6 review of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the film term "follow shot" was used in place of the correct theatrical term "follow spot." We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.