New Sidewalks near Harstad

This piece was originally published on mastmedia.plu.edu here

Many Lutes have stumbled over the cracked and cragged sidewalks on Park Avenue across from Harstad Hall, but Pierce County Public Works is working to make those struggles a thing of the past.

Work to improve the sidewalk along Park Avenue between 125th Street South and Garfield Street South began Aug. 31 and is expected to conclude mid-September. Garfield Street South will be closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for 10 days during the final stages of the project.

New additions include curb extensions, lights and rectangular rapid flash beacons to improve the visibility of pedestrian crossings. In addition, ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act will be installed on the east side of Park Avenue South at 122nd Street South and Garfield Street South.

“This work to improve pedestrian access will benefit local businesses, Pacific Lutheran University students and faculty and the surrounding neighborhood,” said Pierce County Public Works engineer Brian Stacy in a press release.

Crews removed the vegetation and trees before the school year started.

PLU contributed $50,400 to the $966,675 project.

“I think it’s really nice that the university recognizes that we do have students with disabilities,” senior Shiori Oki said. “Even as an able-bodied person, it can be cumbersome to not have a sidewalk and feel like you have to walk in the street.”

Oki lives off-campus and said her walk to and from class can be dangerous because of the lack of sidewalks, especially late at night. Pierce County Public Works currently has no plans to add sidewalks north of Garfield Street South.

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Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock tried to warn Seattle

Album artwork for Modest Mouse's second LP The Lonesome Crowded West. Isaac Brock, the band's frontman and lyricist, predicted the metropolitan nightmare that Seattle would become in the years following the album's release.
Album artwork for Modest Mouse’s second LP The Lonesome Crowded West. Isaac Brock, the band’s frontman and lyricist, predicted the metropolitan nightmare that Seattle would become in the years following the album’s release.

 

By Jeff Dunn

Isaac Brock was right. In the album released by Modest Mouse The Lonesome Crowded West, Brock predicted the now-inevitable metropolitan megalopolis that will end the Seattle-Tacoma area as we know it.

OK, you could say I’m a bit bitter. Lonesome Crowded was released in 1997, just before the city began to feel the weight of its own size and expansion. At the time, nothing was being done to prevent issues Brock points out. We’ve made progress since then, but too little, too late, and for the foreseeable future I will be forced to endure the endless monotony of traffic up  and down the I-5 corridor.

The satisfaction we gained from our rapid and immediate expansion has cost us much more than just our elbow room. We would’ve been better off “compacting” our conscience and keeping it safe for another time, rather than to “bottle and sell it.”

Nineteen years later, Lonesome Crowded‘s predictions for a dystopian Seattle have come to fruition. To someone like Brock, who was quick to point out that he was an Issaquah native, and who penned such lines as “I didn’t move to the city, the city moved to me,” which carried more weight under the surface than above it. Brock becomes (or already was) the character Cowboy Dan in the song of the same name, who rails against the city encroaching on his lonesome, crowded west. On “Convenient Parking,” Brock bemoans the destruction of nature to make way for the paved world. He even comes off as accusatory (Well aren’t you feeling real dirty/Sitting in your car with nothing/Waiting to bleed on the big streets).

Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine opens with “From the top of the ocean / To the bottom of the sky / I get claustrophobic.” Here, at the top of the album, Brock sings against the dangers of consumerism. Brock’s entire world is shrinking around him. The Seattle he knows and loves is rushed with wave after wave of new residents, draining themselves into spaces that weren’t there before, propelling the city ever-forward on its capitalist tide. The influx of Amazon employees has long been touted as the reason behind rising rent costs in the downtown and South Lake Union area (Brock couldn’t have predicted Amazon specifically when he wrote “Workin’ real hard to make that internet cash/ work your fingers to the bone while sittin’ on your ass on the album’s fifth track, Jesus Christ Was An Only Child).

Seattle has crested since 1997. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area added 57,000 people in the last year and remains the nation’s 15th largest metro area, with 3.61 million people. 65,000 of those people live downtown, and 24 new residents move in per week. That’s a lot of people. And all of these people are always out and about. I don’t know if you’ve tried to get anywhere downtown recently, but it’s a nightmare. It’s the 5th most traffic-congested city in the U.S., with drivers in the metro area waiting in traffic for an average of 89 hours per year.

Seattle has nearly 100,000 parking spaces downtown. But, as Seattle Business editor John Levesque puts it, “it always seems that my car is No. 100,001 in line.” Brock and Levesque share the feeling that though we live in the metro area, something as simple as convenient parking has gone down the drain.

The city has not been stagnate in getting traffic flowing again. In November of 1996, (yes, 1996) King, Pierce and Snohomish County voters approved a tax increase which allocated funds for a 25-mile light rail system. Thus began what is collectively known as the “Dark years” for Sound Transit. I’m not being dramatic for effect, the time between 1999 and 2009 wherein the project faced numerous political and financial delays is referred to in numerous source documents as “the Dark years.”

While the Link is open now, and in fact just opened two new stations in Capitol Hill and the U District, it isn’t a solution. The process that was funded 1996, won’t even be anyway to “Ride the Wave” line to ride from Federal Way until 2023.

Seattle is, however, ranked the best city in America to find a job, the fastest-growing big city in the country and the most “cultural” city in the United States, according to the State of Downtown 2015 release. We may have made small steps in the right direction, but Brock’s central message was ignored; the time has come to pull the bottle of conscience off the shelf, pop the top, and drink up.

 

Review: The Life of Pablo by Kanye West

The dust has settled around Kanye West as the juggernaut of events that was “The Life Of Pablo” release comes to a close. The album, released Valentine’s Day exclusively via Tidal, comes with a resurgence of communication from Kanye via Twitter, for better or worse depending on your view.

“This is a gospel album,” he announced during Yeezy Season 3, the part-fashion show, part-album release and listening party befitting Kanye’s maximalist style. The album opens with the heavenly “Ultralight Beam,” immediately establishing the Christian influences Kanye weaved into the album. Both his and Chance’s verse read more like gospel than hip hop, and the full choir mixed with horns and organs takes us home to that sweet spot between genres.

The intense megalomania that comes with super-celebrity will consume and destroy those of us who cannot fathom it. Kanye West is not, however, incapable of fathoming it. Kanye’s ego explodes across the tracks, taking him to new highs of vanity and new lows of self-deprecation. Even so, he presents himself as the narcissistic anti hero we know and love, though he’s cracked a bit under the pressure of being a social icon, and we can see his anxieties are peaking through the cracks in TLOP. See: “Silver Surfer Intermission,” a track that holds no value except to prove that the temporary album title “Waves” was meant as “love and support” for rapper Max B (cited by Wiz Khalifa as the originator of the “wave”).

The album progresses in a much different style than previous Ye releases. Average track time is about three minutes, outliers being “Real Friends,” “No More Parties in L.A.” and “30 Hours.” Each track is different from the previous, and different from the rest of his discography, but still manages to fit together like a piece from one of the album’s namesakes, Pablo Picasso (though music reviewer Anthony Fantano would argue the tracks are “more Jackson Pollock than Pablo Picasso”).

Despite making each track feel different from the others, there’s still elements from old jams. “Waves” is reminiscent of the golden choruses on “We Major” and “Devil in a New Dress.” “Freestyle 4” and “Fade”  pull from the loud, angry Kanye that made Yeezus. The beat-chopping throughout the album solidifies Ye as the best at what he does.

Kanye draws parallels between himself and the three Pablos (St. Paul the Apostle, artist Pablo Picasso, drug lord Pablo Escobar) throughout the album. Kanye sees himself in “No More Parties in L.A.” as a messenger from God, as an artist pushing his limits,  and as the enemy of the media (I feel like Pablo when I’m workin’ on my shoes / I feel like Pablo when I see me on the news / I feel like Pablo when workin’ on my house).

It’s impossible to analyze his music in a vacuum. While it’s true that a separation of art/artist is possible on a smaller scale, Kanye’s case is different. He’s an immensely influential artist, with seven full-length albums under his belt since 2003. He’s been in the pop culture spotlight at least since then. He knows the things he says have far-reaching effects. Kanye should know better; Kanye definitely thinks women are objects, definitely thinks he can run for President of the US in 2020, Kanye thinks Bill Cosby’s innocence is something he can joke about.

Some would argue that TLOP is more spectacle than art. If that were true, wouldn’t that mean that all the preceding rants and tweets and freakouts were all part of this spectacle? Can we reduce Kanye to nothing more than a symbol in the media? Isn’t this exactly what he’s upset about?

All things considered, Kanye is nothing more than a man. A man that has created his magna opus, a piece of work that serves as both a reflection on where he’s been, an intimate peek into his daily life, and a glimpse at what could possibly lie ahead.