Seattle’s Homeless: Building Communities

Homeless in Seattle

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Over the course of the past six months I’ve watched a homeless encampment sprout and take over a strip of land along Airport Way S., on the edge of Chinatown in Seattle.

I’d been tempted to stop and check it out, but felt wary. Unlike the nearby Nickelsville encampment, which appeared to be orderly and governed, Airport Way S., looked scarier.

On my way to work one sunny day in late summer, through my open window, I heard live music coming from the camp, and decided to pull over and park.

Three visiting pastors from S. Carolina and Kenya were leading a youth group who came to minister, distribute clothes and entertain the people living in the camp.

They were happy to talk:

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Volunteers minister to homeless

After interviewing the volunteers, I wandered between tents, parked vehicles and makeshift structures, and came upon a three-sided tent where a few people were sitting around a table. I thought they might be “in charge,” but they were inhabitants. One man was coloring in a coloring book; a woman was industriously rolling cigarettes, (which she was selling to others in the camp); and a third was a young man who had been on the road for a while and found himself in Seattle with no means to live. Here’s our conversation:

terri-nakamura-jaster-of-the-cheshire-airport-way-seattle-20160910_145659JC: I’ve been here 7 days and I’m a traveler.

TN: So how did you even find this place [homeless encampment]?

JC: It’s not hard when you’ve been on the streets as long as I have. You find places like this relatively easily.

TN: So how long have you been on the streets?

JC: Since before Katrina. I left one year before Katrina and I haven’t been back since. I was supposed to be there but I came here for a friend. If I had a forge and foundry, I wouldn’t be here.

TN: So you’re a metal worker?

JC: I’m a blacksmith, yes. I generally end up making weapons, chain mail, hell, if I had a bunch of coat hangers, I could make something right now. And I can could pack that b1tch out custom. All I need to do is get their measurements.

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TN: That’s quite an operation you have there (talking to a woman making cigarettes) they look quite professional

JC: I love those little packers. I had a small one once.

[Guy comes up to buy cigarettes and talks to the woman. There are 20 in a pack. He’ll come back for two packs.]

TN:  (to the woman) So, how long have you been here?

Woman: I’ve been here three weeks.

TN: This place wasn’t here a couple of months ago.

Woman: It’s probably because people get pushed out of certain areas. And then they get pushed into another place. This is kind of what happened.  I’ve seen it before. Make a community, make a family.

TN: Someone comes along and says, “OK you guys can’t stay here anymore,” — then what happens? How do you find a new place?

JC: Day by day we look and we see little things. Like I know of about 50 sleep spots that I could  use and no one would ever see me.

TN: You’ve been in Seattle seven days and you know of 50 sleep spots? That’s pretty amazing.

JC: It’s not hard. Walking around, you see ’em. I’ve been in this life for a while.

TN: You don’t seem very old.

JC: I know I don’t. I’m actually not that old. I’m 20.

Woman: I’m 27.

TN: You guys both look young.

JC: My name is Jaster of the Cheshire. Don’t ask me how to spell Cheshire.

TN: You sound like a Game of Thrones character. 

JC: I like to make things with my hands. I like to work on my own. I don’t work well with some people who mess with the creole boy. Oh he1l, no. I’m a crazy Louisiana boy.

TN: You don’t have a southern accent.

JC: Because that’s how long I’ve been away from home. The only time my southern comes out is when I’m angry. Or drunk. I drink on someone’s birthday or when someone dies. 

That’s a good way to grieve. I want to send my friend off and i want him to know I’m smiling and enjoying myself, knowing one day I’ll join him, wherever in the he1l we’re going.

TN: Well, I wish you the best of luck.

JC: I wish you luck, too.

TN: Thank you. Everybody needs some luck.

JC: We do. It helps us through everything we do every day. Lady Luck can sometimes be a cruel mistress.

Homelessness can be the result of many causes, including drug addiction, untreated/undiagnosed mental health issues, domestic violence, and tragic life events like death of a loved one, job loss, and family disputes.

Natural disasters or the elimination of options due to financial stress are other causes. It’s possible to be living a normal life until circumstances drastically change.

A friend found himself in several of the conditions above, and became homeless. I wanted to talk with him about his journey, but during the process of searching for him, I discovered he had died. There are people all around us who, as a result of some bad luck and lack of support, find themselves in his shoes.

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A border around a 10′ x 10′ plot of dirt was being reserved for “Redd.”

Homelessness is a concern to almost everyone in this city. On a neighborhood blog, I read a thread about homeless people camping in greenbelts, and the huge amount of trash they generate and leave behind. People had concerns about health, safety and how homeless encampments can negatively impact a neighborhood.

One idea was to create an area for homeless people to stay or camp, where restrooms and facilities for washing or bathing and disposing garbage are made available. One person likened homeless people to unwanted pets that have become too burdensome to maintain, then released in the wild.

Despite studies, meetings and participation by community organizations, there has yet to be a permanent solution.

Should Seattle make itself a hostile environment for homeless people?

Are urban campgrounds the answer?

Homelessness is a vexing problem here. Our city government is spending  time and money to identify a solution, and other groups are also working toward an answer.

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Tent City Collective has an objective: To mobilize, educate and unite students and people experiencing homelessness in order to end the many inequities that perpetuate homelessness.

It’s a lofty goal. But when the warmth and sunshine of summer gives way to the cold and rain of fall and winter, the solution can’t come fast enough.

I’ve gone back to visit the Airport Way S. camp twice more. It still looks scary, but the people living there are not. They arrived for all kinds of reasons, and they are bonded by their circumstances.

Those living there hang onto the community they’ve created. And when they’re forced to move, they will start again. The cycle will repeat itself until we find an answer.

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A miserable place to exist


Domestic violence is one of the major causes of homelessness.Verizon Wireless supports Hopeline, where donated phones are then turned into valuable resources for nonprofit organizations and agencies that support domestic violence victims and survivors nationwide.

The video and photos in this post were shot using a Samsung Galaxy S7, provided by Verizon Wireless.

More about Terri:

One Man’s Journey to Homelessness

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How does a guy who seems to have everything end up living in a tent and dying alone?

On the far right in the photo above, alongside several high school friends, stands Will, posed like Michelangelo’s David. Showing hyper-focused inclinations since childhood, Will was born March 12, 1950, and grew up in Burien, Washington. He (and the friends in the shot) graduated from Highline High School in 1968. Will then went on to earn a B.F.A. in 1978 from the University of Washington.

Will was creative. When he was in high school he did a poster for a dance featuring Magic Fern, a rock band from Seattle in the ‘60s. He loved music. He and his friend, George, attended the first Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair. Like many who grew up in that era, he was a serious fan of the Grateful Dead, but he also liked Talking Heads, Devo, Jazz and David Guetta. He had an adventurous spirit. He traveled to far away places including Europe, India, Goa, Tibet, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Following a prolific period as a sculptor, Will got a day job as an employee of the UW as a painter in the facilities department. The job was boring, but his life was not. He loved wine and learned to make it, producing gallons of it, then moved on to making whisky. He converted part of his rental house into an aviary and began breeding hundreds of budgies of every imaginable color. He got hooked on mineral collecting because his friends Roy and John were rockhounds—and within a year, he had acquired $2,000 worth of specimens. But his true passion, which may have contributed to his downfall, started in 1990 when he began to breed red and white Siberian Huskies.

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Mike, a long-time friend since the second grade, says, “From the first day I met him, he would jump into something with both feet. The first thing was his penny collection. He was focused and would immerse himself in things.” Or as his friend Roy puts it, “When Will gets into something, he gets into it.”

He continued to work at the UW until he was injured. After that, he survived on disability and doing odd jobs, and continued creating fractal art, and largely lived what seemed to be a reasonably normal life that included new friends as well as old.

Until about 2007, Will lived in a rented home in the Bryant neighborhood of Seattle. He was a great story teller, had a friendly way about him, and hung around with an erudite group of people including other wine aficionados and brainy people who worked on Cray computers and on projects like Boeing’s Star Wars program.

Then one day, everything began to change.

The owner of Will’s rental passed away, and the heirs decided to sell the house he was renting. Will was evicted.

At first he stowed his possessions in his friend, Henry’s, basement. Henry didn’t mind keeping Will’s things, but didn’t want anyone extra living in his home. Will was able to come and go as he pleased, and all was fine until he crossed the line and surreptitiously began to sleep there. His act of defiance had a negative effect on their friendship.

Part of his income stream was a years-long project, painting Mike’s house. He would hole up in Mike’s garage and take showers in the basement. It wasn’t the greatest for Will or Mike’s wife and kids.

In trying to piece together the sequence of events, Roy looked through a pile of photos and came across a camping picture. It was taken in March, 2010. By then, Will had already been living with his dogs in his van for a couple of years.

Will knew the spots where he could wash up and where he could source food. Roy says, “He would camp in public spots in neighborhoods. For a couple of years he parked in a church parking lot. They knew he was homeless, and eventually people in the area knew him and didn’t hassle him.”

To help him make some money and put a roof over his head, other friends hired him to paint their summer home and let him live there as long as he needed. The house was empty and surrounded by land where the dogs could romp freely. There were soft beds, electricity, a kitchen and bathroom, and living room with a television. It seemed like an ideal way to get him out of his car and into a home.

But at some point, it was discovered that even though Will had access to a free, warm and comfortable home, he continued sleeping in his van with his dogs while he worked on the house. He used the kitchen to cook, and used the bathroom for bathing, but he ran an extension cord from the house to the van where he would watch movies and sleep with his dogs.

A transition had taken place: Will no longer felt comfortable living inside of a normal house.

The unraveling of Will’s life occurred gradually. Each stage of the progression, by itself, struck everyone as “weird,” but then, Will was an odd duck, so it didn’t seem entirely crazy. If anyone would choose an unorthodox path, it was he.

Unlike many homeless people, Will had some resources. One family member supplied him with a cell phone for a while. He had his disability income. He owned some valuable assets. He had friends who were living normal lives. And he was eligible for temporary housing, but only if he would give up his dogs.

Erin, a family friend says Will was approved for housing six times, but wouldn’t go because he didn’t want to give up his dogs. Rather than part with his Huskies, he chose to live in his car.

Will and Mocha.png

Will was diabetic and not taking good care of himself. Even in the best of circumstances, it can be hard to stay on top of the disease. He blacked out while driving, and crashed his van. His friend, Paul, helped him buy another, and he crashed it, too. To finance the third, Roy helped him sell his mineral specimens. He crashed three vans before he began living in a tent.

Living in a tent is hard. Roy visited Will at one of the camp sites and saw insulin pens were all over — but no testing stuff. He was just taking shots and not monitoring his diabetes

Says Paul, “At the end of 2013, he was living in a tent with his two dogs in a public park in Federal Way, and had been there for a couple of months. Henry and I had a long talk with him about getting him care, and said we could help him find a place and get him set up IF he would get rid of the dogs. We even found someone who was willing to take the dogs and would have provided better care for them, but he refused.”

He was able to live for a while in Nickelsville a homeless encampment on South Dearborn at the edge of Chinatown. It didn’t last long. He bucked authority, got into an argument with the guard, and was evicted. He moved back into a tent. Once a week, Roy would pick him up and take him out for food and let him wash his clothes.

By New Year’s Day 2014, Will was in Harborview Medical Center, looking like a “crazy homeless guy with his hair all over his face.” It was a particularly cold winter. He had suffered frostbite on his fingers and toes, and didn’t lose any of them, but he was not in good shape. While at Harborview, he punched his doctor because she got too close, and didn’t recognize his long-time friends, Paul or Henry. He didn’t realize his dogs were gone. (The dogs were placed in a “No Kill” shelter in Federal Way.) Will felt he was being held prisoner. Clearly, he was not thinking clearly.

Will looked close to death, but by the time February came along, much to everyone’s surprise, he continued to survive. He was moved to St Francis Hospital in Federal Way and was placed in the Progressive Care Unit. He seemed to be coming along.

Toward the end of July of 2015, Will moved to an adult family home in Federal Way, near Roy. The proximity made it possible for Roy to visit each week and take him out for a meal.

Paul reports Will didn’t adjust well at first. In the family home, there were four children under the age of 10 also living there The TV was tuned to Sesame Street. It was a circus. So Paul got Will a laptop thinking he could watch movies and things of his own choosing. But Will would balance it precariously and would lose his balance when he used it. The landlord asked to have the laptop removed. The owners had Will’s best interests at heart, but he couldn’t follow the rules.

A month later, on August 28, 2016, Will died.

When asked about the cause of death, Roy was told “he was worn out.”

His friend, David, says, “Will was a character, sometimes following a rhythm only he could hear. He graduated from the UW with a fine arts degree and went off to India with a lovely blonde girlfriend. Came back dressed all in white—the coolest guy around. A kind and unconventional man, he didn’t always make the best choices, but he was always a loyal friend.”

Like so many homeless people who never expect it to happen to them, anyone reading this post could, at any time, find themselves teetering over the edge into the rabbit hole. Is it mental illness, the failure of a system, random bad luck, or a combination of all of the above?

Will is missed by his friends. They ask themselves if they could have done anything more to change the course of his life. But Roy sums it up perfectly: “He wanted to take care of himself, and wanted to live life in his own way.”

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Photo taken August 29, 1981

Will, March 12, 1950 — August 28, 2016


More about Terri:

The Caring Economy — Earth Day 2016

 What companies do every day

Earth Day, established April 22, 1970, has become the largest secular observance in the world, and is celebrated by more than a billion people annually. It’s a day where people are more mindful about the environment and reflect on what they can do to help preserve and protect the planet.

But the earth needs our care every day — not just on Earth Day. Here is what a few companies are saying and doing:

Alki Surf Shop 

Having our business on Alki Beach means we have a front row seat to observe Earth Day and the forces of nature. We are aware of the ebb and flow of the tides. We look out at sailboats being driven by the wind, and hear the high-pitched calls of seabirds as they wheel overhead. When the sand is hot, we stick our toes in the cold salt water of Puget Sound – home to an irreplaceable, teeming ecosystem – and gaze up at the snowcapped Olympic Mountains glistening in the sun. And we realize that all of this is interconnected and must be protected for all time. — Kahuna Dave, Beach Bum and CEO, Alki Surf Shop

Alki Beach Sunset © terri nakamura - small

Apple

Apple’s recycling efforts recovered 89 million pounds of materials in 2015, including copper, silver, aluminum, steel, zinc, and $40 million worth of gold.

A commercial featuring Siri and promoting “Liam,” debuted today. Liam is a robot designed to dismantle and recycle iPhones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99Rc4hAulSg

Siri and Liam commercial

Amazon

Amazon is always on the lookout for ways to reduce the company’s impact on the environment.

  • Shipping packages are made from recovered fiber content, and are 100 percent recyclable
  • Amazon incorporates sustainable and eco-friendly materials in their buildings (six of their buildings have been awarded LEED Gold certification)
  • They make “Green” products available to consumers (www.amazon.com/greeAmazon Earth Day Bookn).

Today, Amazon offers “The Four Seasons – An Earth Day Interactive Children’s Storybook” as a free download.

Google

One of Google’s goals for the products they create is to be good for the environment. A few points worth noting:

  • Google has been carbon neutral since 2007.
  • They are the largest corporate buyers of renewable energy on the planet.
  • Their data centers use 50 percent less energy than typical data centers.

“We live on a beautiful planet, and it’s the only one we’ve got,” says Sophie Diao, 2016 Google doodler.

To see a history of Google Earth Day doodles, visit: http://time.com/4304384/google-doodle-earth-day-2016/

Sophie Diao Google Doodler Earth Day 2016

Value Village 

A “clothing spill” appeared yesterday on Alki Beach. Electric Coffin, a creative company whose efforts were sponsored by Value Village, was deployed to create installation art made of discarded/donated clothing. The conical spirals appeared to be “poured” from an oil barrel into a “pool” of colored clothing at the base. Informational oil-barrel lids told more of the story to passersby. The work brings attention to the volume of textile waste generated by people each year, which averages to be 80 pounds per person in North America.

Sidewalk Art - composite © Terri Nakamura-small

Verizon 

In honor of Earth Day 2016, Verizon has made a commitment to plant 50,000 trees this year.

But on an everyday basis, Verizon is a good corporate and global citizen that works to protect our planet as well as better serve their customers. A few statistics of note:

  • Verizon has 206 Energy Star-certified stores, offices and centers
  • 289 of their retail stores are LEED-certified
  • Verizon has reused, repurposed or recycled 50 million mobile devices to date
  • Employees have collected and recycled 2.1 million pounds of e-waste.

Verizon impacts and how to make a difference

 

Whether you did something to honor Earth Day, or if  you did nothing more than enjoy family, friends and colleagues and the world around you, I hope we can all do things in the future to help make it possible to celebrate many more.


Apple, Google and Verizon images sourced at URLs cited; Alki and Value Village images shot by Terri Nakamura, using a Samsung Galaxy 7, courtesy of Verizon Wireless.

I’m proud to participate as a member of Verizon’s social media outreach team. My posts are about my own personal experiences.  No compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

More about Terri:

Racing Bigfoot in the Shadow of Mount St. Helens

Joe Galioto

Imagine running a 200+ mile race in four days, over impossible terrain, with only six hours of sleep.

Some of us think our jobs feel like that!

But in fact, this is exactly what Joe Galioto did, along with 58 other athletes who completed the Bigfoot 200, an extreme endurance run that traversed Mount St. Helens in Washington State.

When Susan Galioto inquired about our AirBNB property in Lewis County, Washington, it was a head scratcher. Based in New Jersey, she wanted to reserve the house for nine days, but for about half the time, it would be empty. She then told me the reason: her husband was coming to participate in The Bigfoot 200, and for the duration of the race, he would be on or near Mount St. Helens, one of the most active volcanos in America.

I did some checking and found out some interesting facts about Bigfoot 200:

  • Just under 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) of ascent
  • More than 96,000 feet of elevation change
  • 203.8 miles long, non-stop, point-to-point
  • Start: Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Mountains; Finish: Randle, WA in the Big Bottom Valley.

When asked if there any races as long or difficult as the Bigfoot 200, race director Candice Burt responded, “Yes. There is the Tahoe 200 and Colorado 200, and other difficult races that are even longer or have extreme weather, like snow or heat. [But] it is my opinion that the Bigfoot 200 is the most difficult 200-miler in the United States.”

Prior to a reservation, it’s important to communicate with our AirBNB guests in real life or by phone. It helps us anticipate issues that may arise, but in addition, it’s a chance to get to know interesting people like Joe and Susan whom we’d otherwise never have a chance to meet. As the race time was growing closer, we nailed down the logistics of getting them the keys and directions, and I mentioned that there is no cell phone service beyond the town of Morton except for Verizon. Fortunately, like us, they were Verizon customers.

The Horsfall House is a 100 year-old farmhouse filled with a sweet spirit.

My husband, David Horsfall, and I purchased the property 25 years ago, when we realized our two young sons were growing up in the city, and had no experience playing in the woods, building fires and doing things that we did when we were kids. There are trails running through the 22 acres of forest, and there are meadows surrounding the house, which is just a few minutes from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It’s an easy drive to Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, and a great place to get acquainted with nature.

A couple of days before the race, Joe flew into Seattle, then drove two hours to Randle to familiarize himself with the area, and to train and explore. He arrived at the property on September 4th and described his first reaction:

When I first drove up the drive and parked by the house and got out of the car, I felt this incredible surge of energy and emotion, I felt like I belonged there.  Not sure if you’ve ever had an experience like this, but it is powerful.  I didn’t even go in, I just walked around the property, the house and to the shed and then finally the front porch where I entered.  It was like I was revisiting a place I had been before and I was just walking around checking to see that everything was the way I remembered.

Before I unpacked the car, I called Sue and asked if there was any way she and the boys could fly out, I knew it was crazy and far-fetched (but hey, running 205 miles in the mountains was somewhat far-fetched too) – I just felt like I was “home” and they should be there. That they would love this house and property as much as I did, and I was only there for five minutes. 

Whenever he is asked how he trains, his typical response is “run lots,” which is funny and obvious, and not far from the truth.

He is a NASM-certified personal trainer, USAC cycling coach, and RRCA running coach, but stresses that regardless of events he enters (and the required training), the needs of his family take priority.

About his preparation, Joe says,

“I make up workouts that don’t require as much time, but attempt to duplicate the same stress my body would be feeling late in a race. Additionally, strength-training, back-to-back training runs and strategic races such as the “Running with the Devil,”  hosted by the NJ Trail Series, which consists of running 1.5 miles up-and-down a ski slope for 12 hours, all play a role, but most important of all is mindset — I’m a firm believer that with the proper training and a positive mindset, you can achieve your goals.”  

Joe reached the “downtown” Randle area early Sunday morning, and as he walked fast towards the White Pass High School finish line, many people driving by slowed down to say “hello” or congratulate him. He saw the race director, Candice Burt, along with members of her team; photographers; runners who finished earlier; friends he’d met only days before — all clapping and cheering. He continued to fast-walk until the final turn. Filled with feelings of pride, euphoria and gratitude, following a grueling four-day challenge, he began to run. Arms pumping, knees high, he sprinted the last 100 meters and crossed the finish line with his hands in the air. There was never a doubt!

Before heading back to New Jersey, Joe had several hours before he needed to get to the airport. So he made a trip to Alki Surf Shop where David and I were working that day.

Selfie of Joe, Terri and David at Alki Surf Shop in Seattle, WA

Selfie of Joe, Terri and David at Alki Surf Shop in Seattle, WA

Hearing about Joe’s connection to our home, and the exhaustion, hallucinations, and pushing himself to extreme limits to reach the end, was amazing and awe-inspiring. David and I felt fortunate to meet him, and honored to play a small part in such a remarkable achievement.

The finishers:

http://www.ultralive.net/bigfoot200/webcast.php

Joe’s path:

Joe Galioto Bigfoot 200 map

A Spot satellite tracker enabled family and friends to track Joe’s progress

The course was out of cell phone range, so it was critical to be able to have a way of letting others know his location. Joe wore a Spot satellite tracker, which enabled family and friends to track his progress, and if he had needed it, provide emergency responders a way of finding him.  Each dot in the photo represented his location. If you see it on the web site, you would see tailed information (such as time of day) when mousing over the dots.

Mount St. Helens crater

Joe approached the Johnson Observation area just prior to sunset, and was treated to the beautiful sight of the Mount St. Helens crater, awash in alpenglow.

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Unexpected beauty along the race path

Along the Lower Falls section of the Lewis River (approximately 110 miles into the race), the view of the waterfalls was just incredible.

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Traversing boulders

The first section of the race ended in Blue Lake 12 miles away, but required an awesome traverse of the Mount St. Helens’ blast zone boulder field.

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Fixed ropes to scale a steep wall

Climbing out of the canyon and heading towards Windy Pass (approximately 20 miles into the race), required the use of a fixed rope to scale the very steep incline.

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And as for Bigfoot? He wasn’t spotted.

Photos and captions by Joe Galioto


Streams of Consciousness

This image was found, unattributed, on an Instagram feed. The original photographer is  Magdalena Wasiczek. http://www.popphoto.com/photos/2013/09/behind-photos-magda-wasiczeks-surreal-floralscapes

This image was found, unattributed, on an Instagram feed. It had 223 likes at the moment I took this screen shot. The original photographer is Magdalena Wasiczek. http://www.popphoto.com/photos/2013/09/behind-photos-magda-wasiczeks-surreal-floralscapes

Or, How Instagram morphed into a Tumblr blog

When I first started using Instagram four years ago, it was a cool photo-sharing site where anyone with an iPhone could apply filters to make an average photo look awesome.

As with most social media channels and applications, people discover inventive uses and loopholes to exploit sites and apps in ways that might not have been originally anticipated.

Such is the case on Instagram.

Instead of viewing original photography, I’m seeing a large volume of plagiarized photos or reposted images designed to increase the popularity (likes) of a given user’s stream. Inspirational quotes, as well as cartoons and memes also take up a lot of space. In my view, non-original photographic content has proliferated like milfoil, much like random sharing on Tumblr.

I wondered if my observations were unique, so as a reality check, I asked several of my favorite friends on Instagram what they thought.

The vast majority of those I asked felt it was wrong to share photos without at least acknowledging the original photographer. People with streams full of this type of content are open plagiarists, and continue the practice because Instagram doesn’t care.

An exception would be feeds that are dedicated to “featuring” a photograph and attributing the user who created that content.  Some of these feeds are well moderated and only share and attribute original content from users who tag their work with the feed’s dedicated tag (granting permission to repost the work).

On the other hand, is there any point in being overly concerned by the sharing of non-image or appropriated content? After all, Instagram as a place for people to share things they feel will be of interest to others, and as long as the content is allowed by Instagram, is it really a problem?

It’s a problem when you have a friend on Twitter and follow their IG feed, only to find things you don’t want to see. As far as I know, there is not a lot of choice except to unfollow.

Currently, there is no way to “mute” users or content you don’t wish to view. So the only thing one can do is to unfollow accounts where the content doesn’t interest you. It can be awkward because some people become upset when they are unfollowed. Some even feel they must unfollow you as “payback.”

To that I say, “Oh, well!”

To my knowledge, searching via hashtag is one way to see a topic, but there isn’t a way to list people whose images you really want to see. If there is an app out there to do that, please tell me!

How do you use Instagram?

Would you like to see a a list feature to help filter what you see?

I’d love to to have you share your thoughts.


The friends who provided information to help me write this post include: Jack Higgins (JackandPele), Reg Saddler (zaibatsu), Cheryl Senter (CherylSenter) and Darren Sproat (DarrenGSproat). My thanks to them for their friendship and support.

Jack Higgins marches to the beat of a different drummer. Former advertising creative director and writer, Jack has found a new way to use Instagram. For a while, I didn’t understand his cryptic images, until I looked at his page and saw the puzzles, solved. They form mosaics! I should note, everything Jack does is thru the thought control of an evil dog named @tipytomita!

Jack Higgins composite

Reg Saddler is an amateur photographer and social media guru, listed on the Forbes list of top people on social media and too many other lists to name. He understands the hows and whys.

Reg Saddler composite

Cheryl Senter is a professional photographer working in New England. I had the pleasure of meeting her here when she visited Seattle two years ago. Her Instagram feed focuses on her amazing dog.

Cheryl Senter composite

Darren Sproat is a Canadian photographer known for his landscapes. He has been featured on the Nokia blog and cultivated a fan base (including me!)—all in awe of his images.

Darren Sproat composite

Thanks to Verizon for the Galaxy Note 4 used for many of the images posted on my own instagram feed: https://instagram.com/terrinakamura/

The Enduring Legacy of The Kingsmen—Part 1

At the time, they didn’t know it would change the music world, and their lives, forever.

Interviewing current and former Kingsmen members Dick Peterson, Steve Peterson and Barry Curtis, as well as Hollywood Walk of Fame DJ, Brien Bierne, wasn’t just fascinating—it was fun. They talked to me about The Kingsmen, “Louie Louie,” and how it all began more than 50 years ago.

Francis Ford Coppola once said art depends on luck and talent. For the legendary Kingsmen, it involved luck and talent, but timing as well. Dick Peterson, one of the band’s early drummers, is quick to admit The Kingsmen’s rocket to fame was the result of the perfect musical storm.

In the early 1960s, rockabilly stars from the 1950s were still churning out hits. But the early 1960s also ushered in new and eclectic sounds ranging from novelty songs to musical styles including folk, doo wop, rhythm and blues, surf and Motown. Of that time, Peterson, “The fan focus was shifting from individuals like Elvis, Fabian and Frankie Avalon to an era of bands.’”

As the musical scene was evolving, former disc jockey Brien Beirne, sees one event as a major catalyst. “In fall of ’63 when The Kingsmen came out with ‘Louie Louie,’ a very interesting thing happened that I think changed everything musically,” he reflects. “It was the death of President John F. Kennedy. Everybody was looking for an escape. It was such a horrific, devastating moment, and I believe it opened the door to lots of new sounds. The Kingsmen were part of the wave that represented escapism for the youth of the day.”

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Louie Louie 45 RPM © 2006 Richard Peterson

So, in April 1963, when five young guys in Portland, Oregon, recorded an audition tape to land a gig on a cruise ship, they were unprepared for what was about to come.

The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie” was popular in the Portland area, where it enjoyed cross-pollination by local KISN AM rock DJ, Ken Chase. Chase also financed the $36 needed to produce the demo destined to become the iconic hit single, and hosted The Kingsmen as the house band in his teen nightclub, The Chase. Beirne, who was a teenager in the Portland area at the time, remembers it being such a hot ticket “that it didn’t matter how many pimples you had—if you could get a table for you and your date at The Chase, you were ‘golden’ for the evening.”

The band enjoyed success and played packed houses, but it wasn’t until Boston’s most popular DJ, Arnie Ginsburg, aired the song as “The Worst Record of the Week,” that “Louie Louie” experienced a meteoric surge in popularity. The reason? Unintelligible lyrics had teenagers imagining the words were laced with profanities and descriptions of sexual acts!

They didn’t realize the poor sound recording would be a critical factor in the song’s appeal, but several things came into play:

  • Jack Ely, the lead singer on the recording, had just had his braces adjusted and his mouth was in pain;
  • The sound engineer refused to move any of the microphones nearer to Ely, impacting the clarity of the lyrics; and
  • The band had not tightly rehearsed, which opened the door to spontaneity.

The ambiguous lyrics, the rough sound and energy, and the luck of having Ginsburg spin the song when he did was pure genius, but unplanned. Peterson laughs, “It was very fortunate. Without the controversy, I think The Kingsmen’s version of ‘Louie Louie’ would’ve died.”

To be continued…

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Terri Nakamura is a professional graphic designer who loves social media, music and writing.  Follow her on Twitter: @terrinakamura; Read her blog, Confessions of a Graphic Designer: http://seattledesigner.blogspot.com/ or find her connections: http://about.me/terrinakamura

© 2010-13 Terri Nakamura

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The Enduring Legacy of The Kingsmen—Part 2

“Louie Louie” — under investigation by the F.B.I.

Because of its unpolished sound and edgy rhythm and blues, the song already had huge appeal, but questions surrounding the song lyrics fueled its momentum. As the controversy grew, the song was banned on many radio stations, and prohibited entirely in the state of Indiana. Of course, this meant the song was destined to take off in a big way. A concerned parent wrote to then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy, complaining the lyrics were obscene, and eventually an official inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation was launched. Was “Louie Louie” really corrupting the youth of the day?

J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, said about the song, “[I] strongly believe that the easy accessibility of such material cannot help but divert the minds of young people into unhealthy channels and negate the wholesome training they have already been afforded by their parents.”

Take a moment to consider what’s on the radio today!

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Letter from the FBI Lab, WA DC. 1965. Printed through the Freedom of Information/Privacy Act, section 202-324-5520

The guys had no inkling of how big a deal it was.  Former keyboard player Barry Curtis remembers, “All I knew was, at one point we had two singles and three LPs on the Billboard Chart at the same time, and The Kingsmen were the number one live touring band in the country.” They were on the road constantly and insulated from the outside world. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for them to be booked once, often twice, and sometimes even three times in a day, 330 days of the year. And think of how cool it was for a bunch of teens and early 20s guys from Portland, performing with The Beach Boys, The Zombies, The Dave Clark Five, and The Rolling Stones.

They were earning $4000 a night or $6,000 on double days, so even when considering their manager’s 15 percent; 10 percent for their agents, the prestigious William Morris Agency; and hotels and expenses, they were still making more money than any of them could’ve imagined. But it wasn’t like all of the money was ending up in their pockets. The guys drew salaries and were told the rest was “being put away for their retirement.” For context, during the mid-1960s, the minimum wage was $1.25; the average family income was less than $7,000 per year; and you could fill your gas tank for $5.00. They were having the times of their lives.

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“Jolly Green Giant” recording session, Audio Recording, Seattle—1964 Left to right: Jimmy-John, Lynn, Jerry Dennon, Mike, Karney Barton (engineer) © 2006 Richard Peterson

As their fame and popularity grew, so did the FBI investigation. The Federal agents attended every concert, monitoring the band. In spite of the constant surveillance, the guys weren’t concerned until there came a knock on the door in the middle of one night, with someone saying, “This is the FBI and we are going to talk.” That was when everyone realized, for the first time—they might actually be in some trouble.

To be continued…

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Terri Nakamura is a professional graphic designer who loves social media, music and writing.  Follow her on Twitter: @terrinakamura; Read her blog, Confessions of a Graphic Designer: http://seattledesigner.blogspot.com/ or find her connections: http://about.me/terrinakamura

© 2010-13 Terri Nakamura

The Enduring Legacy of The Kingsmen—Part 3

“Louie Louie” — Unintelligible at “any speed”

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The Kingsmen lion logo © 2006 Richard Peterson

After 31 months, it ended in a Federal Communications Commission hearing. There were two possible outcomes.

The first was finding for the plaintiffs. If the song was ruled as obscene, there could be dire consequences for the band. The record would be banned and possibly The Kingsmen could be subjected to fines or worse. Finding for the plaintiffs could’ve also implicated the recording label for engaging in transporting obscene material across state lines.

Or, the judge could find for the defendants.

After listening to the song at every speed, the judge still couldn’t hear anything with certainty. Considering the lack of FBI evidence, and relying on his own ears, he ruled the song “unintelligible at any speed,” and lifted the ban.

The verdict was a triumph because “Louie Louie” began climbing the charts once again, with all rumors about the alleged raunchy lyrics intact. The guys capitalized on the situation under the guise of, “Hey, we got away with it!”

In the spring of 1964, The Kingsmen were touring with the likes of Dionne Warwick, Chad and Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, and famed DJ “Murray the K, aka ‘the Fifth Beatle’” (Murray Kaufman). They were on top of the world. And they were guests on popular shows including American Bandstand, Shindig, Hullabaloo and in the film, “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini,” starring the heartthrob of boys across the U.S., Annette Funicello.

When the British Invasion hit in 1964, its music shared the airwaves with American bands, and instead of being seen as competition, their music was appreciated by everyone, including The Kingsmen, who by then were like ambassadors of American rock. But when the ”psychedelic era” hit mid-decade, the new musical expression reflected a seismic shift in society and culture.

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Actual schedule hand-written by Murray Kaufman, posted backstage for Easter Extravaganza, March 1964 © 2006 Richard Peterson

The decade ended with Woodstock. By that time the guys recognized they weren’t “what’s happening,” and though their popularity waned, their music continued to influence other bands of the day, even laying the groundwork for the “garage band sound.”

Curtis muses, “It all starts somewhere. We were all influenced by other people. It wasn’t so much that we influenced established bands, but we influenced a lot of local bands. Young bands today—they just keep that whole thing going.”

To be continued…

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Terri Nakamura is a professional graphic designer who loves social media, music and writing.  Follow her on Twitter: @terrinakamura; Read her blog, Confessions of a Graphic Designer: http://seattledesigner.blogspot.com/ or find her connections: http://about.me/terrinakamura

© 2010-13 Terri Nakamura

 

The Enduring Legacy of The Kingsmen—Part 4

The Lawsuit That Forever Changed the Music Industry

Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “10,000-hour rule,” in his book, Outliers. It describes the volume of experience people accrue to reach a perfected level of expertise. When asked how much time the band spent honing its craft, Peterson thought back. “It wasn’t unusual to play 11 hours a day including performing, practicing and playing around while traveling from gig to gig.” This would mean nearly 20,000 hours over the course of five hard years on the road!

As years passed, band members began to wonder where the money that had been “put away” had gone, and why they weren’t receiving royalties for their songs that were being used and sold. So Peterson filed a lawsuit against the owners of the master recordings to regain ownership of their music. When he filed the suit, it was similar to when they recorded the demo of “Louie Louie”—it was much more important than anyone could have anticipated.

In April of 1998 the judgment in Peterson’s favor was granted. It was groundbreaking. And in November of 1998, the Supreme Court declined an appeal filed by the record companies.  At last, many acts were able to regain ownership of their own master recordings, and it forever changed the way record companies must treat talent.

The lawsuit was huge for the entire music industry. In 2002, also recognizing their mark on rock and roll, The Kingsmen received Lifetime Achievement Awards from The Grammys. Added to their three gold records and countless accolades, it was a great validation. When asked how he felt about Rolling Stone Magazine calling “Louie Louie” the fourth most influential recording of all time, Dick Peterson can’t help but agree, “It is incredibly great.”

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Photo: Current drummer Steve Peterson with Grammy award in his Seattle recording studio © 2010 Steve Peterson

The Kingsmen have been a working band for 52 years, and the guys still rock out every chance they get. Current drummer Steve Peterson (no relation to Dick) says as long as the members continue to breathe, their plan is to keep playing, because they believe there is room for what they do. They won’t attempt to change up their act with the music that’s currently popular, but they’ll continue playing their music, and new music with a ’60s flavor to it.

As for new Kingsmen music, Steve Peterson offers this recap: “There’s nothing in the works, but we’re all writing and producing music for other projects. Dick is working on a soundtrack for a movie; Dennis Mitchell  (younger brother of original and current band member, Mike Mitchell) is writing for The Dennis Mitchell Band; and Barry and I are writing songs for another Seattle band, The Daily Flash. “

And the future of The Kingsmen? “Many of the places we used to play are now using bands from the ’80s instead of the ’60s, so we’re playing less frequently,” says Steve Peterson. “I just hope we can keep playing as long as we can.”

Of those days, Brien Beirne sums it up nicely: “Rock and roll was young, and you should have been there.”

It’s unknown how many versions of “Louie Louie” have been recorded, but according to LouieLouie.net, it’s believed to be more than 1,500.

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Terri Nakamura is a professional graphic designer who loves social media, music and writing.  Follow her on Twitter: @terrinakamura; Read her blog, Confessions of a Graphic Designer: http://seattledesigner.blogspot.com/ or find her connections on xeeme:

© 2010-13 Terri Nakamura

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