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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sister Cities International Film Festival is Best Bargain of 2010

You'd never expect ticket prices for a popular annual event to go DOWN by almost half, but that's the case in Tacoma. It's time again for the Sister Cities International Film Festival at the Blue Mouse Theater in the Proctor District. It begins on Thursday February 4 and continues each Thursday through April 8. For years the festival has meant a special night at the movies. It always offered a different foreign film each week, live entertainment and food representing the countries of each of Tacoma's many sister cities around the world. Tickets were $18 per film, and worth it. Now the price is a mere $10 per film, or $90 for all ten. That's a bargain on top of a bargain. So what changed? Not much.

"This year we're not doing the food," said Bill Evans, owner of the Pacific Northwest Shop and a strong supporter of the festival. It sounds like the organizers are right on track. The food was nice to have, but in my opinion only a small, and by no means essential, part of this attractive package. The idea was to preserve the integrity of the festival's film offerings, continue the live onstage entertainment that accompanies each showing, and make the price more affordable in our current economy.

Even if you don't get a taste of the food, how often do you get a taste of what's happening in film making in countries like Japan, South Africa, Israel, Taiwan, Russia, Cuba, South Korea, Norway, and the Philippines? Add to that the live performances from different cultures and you have an enlightening and entertaining event. Remember, we're all part of the big human family, so get to know Tacoma's "sisters."

I'm proud that Tacoma has this great event, thanks to major sponsors like the City of Tacoma, the Tacoma Arts Commission, Sister Cities International, the Port of Tacoma, and the Blue Mouse Theater, as well as generous individuals who recognize its value to our community and the entire region. I can't wait to attend it again and encourage all of you to treat yourselves to something different and delightful. And if you don't live here, it's worth the trip.

Tickets can easily be purchased online by going to the Sister Cities International Film Festival website. There you can learn all the details, see the schedule, read a synopsis of each film, and order individually by clicking on the link under each title. But don't forget that if you buy the season ticket package, one is free. You can also stop in at the Blue Mouse Theater on Proctor Street between 26th and 27th on N. Proctor, or the Pacific Northwest Shop , on the corner of 27th and N. Proctor, to buy your tickets. And if you hurry, you can get in on even more bargains during Bill's annual sale.

See you at the movies.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Writing Local History - a Pierce County author featured on website

We've all seen it happen. Year after year you drive by an old house or barn, still standing its ground as development encroaches, and then it one day it's gone and a strip mall takes its place. And what about that neighbor in his nineties who spent his entire life in your community and could tell a million stories, if anyone cared to listen? He'll be gone one day too, and with him the eyewitness account of maybe a century of experiences, changes, and perspectives. We all see it happen, but few of us do anything about it. I look around Tacoma and see history everywhere, much of it threatened, and I wonder how much will survive. The saddest part is that most of the time we don't even know what we've lost until it's too late.

An enthusiastic local historian named Lawrence "Andy" Anderson hates to see those kinds of things happen. He grew up in logging country, near Graham in rural Pierce County, Washington, surrounded by history. When he played in the woods as a boy he could still find what remained of pioneers' log cabins, and even as a boy he appreciated the what his older neighbors knew about the past. As a young man, Anderson realized the old folks who remembered would soon be gone so he began to seek them out and record their stories. They shared photos with him, opened up, and brought local history to life with their rich and vivid memories from those times.

The result was his book, "In the Shadow of the Mountain - A History of Early Graham, Kapowsin, Benston, Electron, and Vicinity." It's filled with photos, carefully researched and documented, well written and entertaining to read. I'm one of the lucky people with a copy because now even the second printing is sold out. I'm pestering him to publish a third. But every one of us is lucky that this important piece of Washington history exists at all. If Anderson hadn't decided to take on this project decades ago, when those interviewees were still alive, maybe no one else ever would have, the opportunity lost forever. To many of us Anderson is a hero.

Are you curious about your community's past? Did you ever have the urge to write about local history? Maybe your own family has been in one place for generations and your connection to that heritage inspires you to preserve it. If so, you might want to read an article I wrote based on an interview with Anderson, and recently published on a website called Neighborhood Life This website's growing number of readers appreciate it as an important source of helpful information, ideas, and discussion for anyone who wants to improve the quality of life in their neighborhood. My article, called "A Closer Look at Home - Thoughts on Writing Local History" can be found listed first on the "Features" page, and is also directly linked to from the Home page. It offers all kinds of good advice on writing local history. By reading it you can benefit from the experience Anderson gained through many years of work.

Quoting from the article, he says, "Writing good local history requires nothing less than total determination and passion in pursuit of the subject." If you think you can meet those requirements, consider this important endeavor. As in the case of Anderson's book, maybe if you don't do it, nobody else will. Please have a look:
Neighborhood Life

Note: The photo at the top of this page is a snapshot of my great-grandparents' homestead in Alberta, Canada and the photo in the still life below is of a huge tree stump on Vashon Island, taken by Albert Therkelsen. Neither exists today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All Shook Up - How's Your Earthquake Preparedness?

There's nothing like seeing the Haitian earthquake victims on the TV news to make a person grateful for simple necessities. Last night, with those images fresh in our minds, my husband and I sat down to our dinner of leftovers and it felt like a feast. A hard rain, driven by high winds, pummeled the window and I thought about people, some badly injured, with no medical care, shelter, food, clean water or a safe place to sleep. The people in Haiti had so little to start with. Now many of them have nothing. NOTHING. Picture yourself in their situation.

We can sit here and feel compassion and still be disconnected because it's a faraway place, not our home town. But while safe in our cozy cocoons, we need to be reminded that a major earthquake could happen here too. Every time I go for a walk around my Tacoma neighborhood the cracks in driveways, including my own, and sections of sidewalk thrust up at odd angles, disturb me with their ominous signs. I wonder about the hill behind our house and the stability of the ground beneath our streets and homes.

We've all heard it again and again: be prepared. Are you? We've done some things like fastening tall bookshelves to the wall and securing the hot water tank, but when it comes to having emergency supplies on hand or a plan in place, I'll admit I'm not well enough prepared for a possible earthquake or other disaster.

Of course this is not the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Our infrastructure, though far from perfect, at least still functions. Help would arrive soon. Wouldn't it? After all, this is the U.S.A. That's what the people in New Orleans thought too. But even under the best of circumstances we could be without power, phones, water, food, shelter and medical help, at least for awhile.

Let's all make this a New Year's Resolution. It's a lot more important than losing weight or organizing your record collection. Just to help out, here's a list of links for websites loaded with information and resources. Please, because I care about all of you, take a look. But remember, knowledge means nothing if you don't take action.

Reducing Earthquake Hazards in the Pacific Northwest - United States Geological Survey

FEMA - Earthquake
Red Cross

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fyddeye- a new maritime history community

Joe Follansbee has done it again. His knack for being the right guy with the right idea at the right time means good things happen that wouldn't otherwise. He just started an exciting new web community called Fyddeye to connect people who care about maritime history, on the local level and around the world. Now I want to help him spread the news.

If you're a regular reader you might remember me writing about this busy freelance journalist, webmaster, and author last April in a blog post called Time, Connections, and a Guy Named Joe . Even if you just discovered Good Life Northwest you might know Joe because of his involvement with 4Culture , the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, the Maritime Heritage Network, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Community, his numerous articles in Seattle area magazines, and his book, "Shipbuilders, Sea Captains, and Fishermen: The Story of the Schooner Wawona."

You won't find "fyddeye" in the dictionary. On the site, Joe says its source was a word that refers to a sail-making tool and the human eye. That's logical, since he always keeps an eye on what's happening in the world of maritime history and preservation efforts. And it's a good thing, because treasures from the past can disappear in the time it takes to blink, if nobody cares. If you didn't care before, you will after you become a fan of Fyddeye. It's a place for people Joe refers to as "maritime heritage advocates," lovers of historic ships and lighthouses, to read and contribute to news and information about preservation efforts, urgent needs, and successes.

It isn't all serious either. The tone is friendly and fun and I can see it becoming the web equivalent to places like the Point Defiance Boathouse here in Tacoma, where you see old friends hanging out with steaming cups of coffee, just catching up on the latest catch. Or maybe they just need to be around water and boats. Having grown up on an island, I know that homing instinct that makes me want to lean on a railing, smell salt air and hear the seagulls. And I care about old ships, like Puget Sound's "environmental ship," Adventuress, which I've written about many times.

So come aboard! Your friends at Fyddeye are waiting, just a click away. For now at least, you have to bring your own morning coffee. But you never know with Joe...

Copyright Candace Brown 20009