Monday, October 16, 2017

Rachel Gross, scholar of outdoor gear, goes back to nature, via the mall

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 9:39 AM

U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps gear research. - COURTESY RACHEL GROSS / NATIONAL ARCHIVE
  • courtesy Rachel Gross / National Archive
  • U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps gear research.

“Why do Americans go shopping on their way to the wilderness?” asked historian Rachel Gross.

That they do is an article of faith today. Every list of what a camper, hiker or hunter needs implies that preparation for the outdoors is in great part a matter of buying the right things. Gross, now a postdoctoral fellow at UM’s Davidson Honors College, has a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, and her work explains how that came to be. Last Wednesday she presented an introduction to her work before an audience invited by the entrepreneurial incubator Blackstone LaunchPad.

Gross’ talk about the forces that shaped the vast American gear economy focused in part on how “brands shaped Americans’ material experience of the outdoors.” Many of those brands are iconic names whose images have shifted greatly over the last century, like Abercrombie & Fitch. A&F’s early 20th century retail flagship, with its taxidermy and indoor tents, was predecessor to today’s REI and Cabela’s stores.

Gross also detailed the mutually self-sustaining influence of the outdoor gear industry and the military. During WWII, outdoorsmen like Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean advised in the development of cold-weather uniforms. Later, military apparel would influence developments in outdoor clothing. And Gore-Tex’s miracle fabric, born of Teflon, was a catalyst for clothing as technology.

For obvious reasons—who here doesn’t have strong opinions about outdoor apparel and gear, and a desire to deconstruct consumerism?—Missoula is well tailored to Gross’ interests and work. As she develops her dissertation, “From Buckskin to Gore-Tex: Consumption as a Path to Mastery in Twentieth-Century American Wilderness Recreation,” into a book manuscript, Gross will be working locally with Davidson students to find vintage outdoor gear and clothing in preparation for an exhibit at Fort Missoula next year.

They’ll be doing a smaller pop-up museum before the end of the year aimed at raising community awareness of the opportunity to participate, and at eliciting contributions. “I’d be delighted to get the word out to residents who might be interested in seeing their old surplus packs or wooden skis on display in an exhibit,” Gross wrote in an email.

If you have anything interesting in your basement or garage, Gross would like to hear about it. She can be reached via email at

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gallatin County judge releases Gianforte mugshot

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 5:47 PM

Rep. Greg Gianforte's mugshot finally went public this afternoon, after Gallatin County District Judge Holly Brown ordered its release in response to requests from seven media outlets. Without further ado, here it is:

  • Courtesy of the Billings Gazette
According to the Billings Gazette, the photo was distributed to media for a $10 fee.

The booking photo continues the story of Gianforte's election-eve attack on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, for which Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. A justice court judge ordered Gianforte to pay $385 in fines and fulfill 40 hours of community service, as well as 20 hours of anger management counseling. Gianforte's attorneys objected to the congressman having to submit to fingerprinting and a booking photo earlier this summer. Neither Gianforte nor his attorneys raised objection to the mugshot being released to the media in court filings last week. For more on why the media fought to get this photo, read the Indy's story from Oct. 5.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Photos from Thursday night's Future Islands show at the Wilma

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 4:13 PM


Tobin Miller Shearer and the other white power

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 9:10 AM

Tobin Miller Shearer readily admits he doesn’t have all the answers. Even at his own lecture.

When audience member Chris Young-Greer stood up on Thursday night and asked how a person of color should handle people who expect them to constantly explain racial issues, Shearer, a white man, shook his head.

“You know I can’t answer that,” he said. But the microphone was still in Young-Greer’s hand, so he asked her what she thought.

“It’s very daunting to give someone opinions that they may not fully grasp,” she admitted. Shearer thanked her. The crowd clapped.

Shearer gave his lecture on Thursday at the University of Montana, where he’s an associate professor of history and director of the African-American Studies program. The lecture’s title? “How to be a White Guy: a Last Lecture on Punching Nazis, Baking Pies, and Not Being a Douche Bag.” Predictably, that title drew drew more a larger turnout than most 7 p.m. campus talks. Even after the seats filled up in the sizeable conference room, people continued to file in, sitting cross-legged on the floor or leaning against the walls.

“The first day of every class I walk into the room and tell my students, ‘I want you to know that I know I’m white,’” Shearer told the Indy. “I say, ‘There is going to be tension with me in this room, in this role. And there should be. But we can learn a lot together if we walk into that tension and see what we can discover about identity and privilege and power.’”

Shearer dedicated the lecture, part of the Last Lecture series presented by the Mortar Board Honor Society, to the advice he’s most qualified to give: how to be white and male, and how to use the privilege of those conditions to support and stand up for non-white, non-male people.

And no, standing up doesn’t mean punching Nazis. Violent reaction to white supremacy is a trendy way to play the hero, Shearer said, without addressing the deeper issues of racism. It’s one example, he said, of how white men are “blowing it.”

“We’re blowing it by not showing how many ways there are to be strong,” he said. “We’re blowing it by standing in the way of history.”

Fighting racism, Shearer said, isn’t about Facebook posts or knocking out Nazis. It’s about listening, having conversations about those issues and recognizing white privilege—over and over and over again.

“It’s not glamorous work. It’s hard work,” Shearer said. “I’ve gotten it wrong so many times, and I’ll get it wrong again.”

Only one line in Shearer’s lecture directly addressed politics: when he told the crowd that “white supremacy is enshrined in the White House.” That particular elephant in the room left no room for avoidance after an audience member asked what Shearer, given the chance, would say to Donald Trump.

“I wouldn’t punch him, as much as I might want to,” Shearer said to laughter. He said he would quote civil rights activist Ruby Sales, and ask, “Where does it hurt?”

“The man is not in touch with what’s hurting him,” Shearer said.

Then, a moment of quiet. And that, Shearer said, seemed like the perfect spot to end.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

UM releases fall enrollment numbers showing another overall drop

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 10:17 AM

This morning the University of Montana posted fall enrollment numbers online, with a press release scheduled to follow.

Overall headcount including main campus and Missoula College dropped 4.5 percent, to 11,865 students. The slide was anticipated, given that UM graduated more students last spring than it expected to replace through new freshmen and transfers.

This is the seventh consecutive year that enrollment has declined. The drop has been most precipitous among four-year undergraduates, for whom this fall's headcount is 7,550, down from 10,891 in 2010. That's a 31-percent drop.
Enrollment dropped again at UM this fall, according to numbers released Wednesday. - PHOTO BY CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • Photo by Cathrine L. Walters
  • Enrollment dropped again at UM this fall, according to numbers released Wednesday.
Incoming freshmen, the most significant long-term enrollment indicator, increased slightly, from 1,268 to 1,292, up 1.9 percent. But it's still one of the smallest freshman classes in recent memory, down from a high of more than 2,000 in 2008. Vice President for Enrollment Tom Crady had originally hoped to be able to increase freshmen by 3 percent.

"The good news is that we feel like we stabilized first-year enrollment," he says.

You can review all the fall enrollment data here. Pick up a copy of the Independent on Thursday for a full report on how UM tried to use scholarship money to attract more out-of-state students.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Photos from Sunday night's Modest Mouse show at Big Sky Brewing amphitheater

Posted By on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 at 3:58 PM


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Zinke gets Interior staff into the “#sportsmen” spirit

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 4:13 PM

As if riding a horse to his first day on the job wasn’t Montanan enough, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke embarked on a mission this week to make his new D.C. digs look more like a western dive bar. In an agency memo distributed Sept. 19, Zinke announced the installation of a Big Buck Hunter Pro arcade game in the Interior’s employee cafeteria, known as the Bison Bistro. Apparently it’s part of an effort to bring “the excitement of hunting and fishing” to the Interior office and to celebrate “Sportsmen’s Season,” which isn’t an actual thing but can probably be understood as Beltway code for what actual Montanans know as “general rifle season.”
  • Screengrab from @SecretaryZinke

“This is an important part of the Department’s effort to highlight its key role in ​hunting​ and fishing across ​our ​public lands​,” the memo reads. “This will​ also​ increase employee awareness​ ​of​ ​how ​our efforts can support sportsmen and in turn further the Department’s mission​ of wildlife and habitat conservation​.”

Because nothing says conservation like bonus points for shooting squirrels, birds and UFOs.

Zinke’s bizarre attempt to give his staff a digital jump-start on hunting season (the real thing is still a month away in Montana) went viral after the Secretary tweeted about the arcade game installation on Tuesday. Most Twitter users treated it with derision, criticizing the use of taxpayer dollars or demanding Zinke get back to work. Several referenced Zinke’s fact-challenged National Monuments memo to President Trump, which leaked days earlier, confirming that Zinke had recommended the shrinking of at least four monuments. The Secretary’s tweets continued regardless, consisting mostly of photos of Interior employees hunting deer- and elk-shaped pixels on a screen.

The game isn’t just intended for idle cafeteria use. The memo about its installation went on to explain that between Sept. 19 and Oct. 11, employees can choose to compete in the “Secretary’s Shotgun Showdown.” The four finalists with the highest scores at 5 p.m. on Oct. 11 will go head-to-head for a chance to play against Zinke himself. That’s why so many of Zinke’s tweets included the hashtag “ShotgunShowdown.” According to the memo, “Prizes include bragging rights and a ‘Beverage on the Balcony’ with the Secretary.”

Bragging rights. It’s nice to know that after all this time in D.C., Zinke hasn’t forgotten the key motivating factor that gets Montana hunters outdoors every fall. And how better to spread that message than with a pair of plastic shotguns.


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Ellie Hill Smith files finance complaint against mayoral candidate Lisa Triepke

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 12:08 PM

Today we published a story about mayoral candidate Lisa Triepke's campaign surrogate, Wes Spiker, who offered some choice words about transients while partially clarifying his rather murky role in Triepke's campaign. The campaign has disclosed paying Spiker's ad agency nearly $11,000 for "advertising," but our reporting indicates the agency plays a more central role in the direction and strategy of Triepke's campaign.

As the story went to press, state representative and Mayor John Engen supporter Ellie Hill Smith filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices alleging campaign finance violations by the Triepke campaign.

Hill's complaint alleges seven finance disclosure violations, including an unexplained "ATM fee" and failure to file so-called C7 disclosures for donations over $100.

"In a race for Missoula's mayor, where the city budget seems to be a much debated issue, it seems that nothing in the Triepke expenditures is properly itemized or labeled," Hill wrote.

Another alleged violation involves Triepke's "failure to disclose any detailed expenditures related to a $10,923.50 payment to Spiker Communications." As explained in our story, the Indy asked Spiker to provide a copy of the invoice. He declined, but did provide a list of services he's billed the campaign for, including "campaign strategy," which, last we checked, is different from "advertising."

Spiker took aim at Hill personally in our story, referring to commenters on her Facebook posts as "minions." And that was before she filed a complaint against his candidate.

Read more in today's story, "Lisa Triepke campaign surrogate Wes Spiker goes off script."

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Remembering Esther Chessin

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 3:11 PM

Over the past few days, a vase of flowers and a photo collage have occupied a table in the bustling seating area at Bernice’s Bakery. They’re there to commemorate Esther Chessin—a mother, community member and former owner of Bernice’s—who died Sept. 5 at St. Patrick Hospital. She was 52.

Ask anyone who knew her and you’ll hear stories of a smart, engaging and community-minded businesswoman. Some of the stories are simple and familiar, fond remembrances of weddings and backyard barbecues. Others encapsulate more trying times, namely Chessin’s battle with a cancer that twice went into remission. That she had a sizable impact on Missoula was evident, her friend Cindy Waltz says, even on hikes up Pattee Canyon or Mount Sentinel.
Esther Chessin, pictured here at her friend Molly Bradford's wedding. - COURTESY MOLLY BRADFORD
  • Courtesy Molly Bradford
  • Esther Chessin, pictured here at her friend Molly Bradford's wedding.

“She almost always knew somebody that we passed,” Waltz remembers. “She had a really wide reach, and part of that is growing up in Missoula. A big part of that was Bernice’s, though.”

Chessin bought Bernice’s from founder Becky Bolinger in 1993, and during her 11-year tenure as owner, she more than doubled the size of the space and established the popular seating area. It was in her capacity as the bakery’s owner that Chessin first got to know Christine and Marco Littig, who at the time owned the Red Bird wine bar and frequented Bernice’s for coffee and scones. They connected as peers and “acquaintance friends,” Christine says, and when the Littigs sold Red Bird, they wound up going to work for Chessin at the bakery. Christine recalls Chessin asking them to buy Bernice’s from her “no less than five times.” The fifth time, it worked. Chessin passed the business into the Littigs’ hands in 2004 (the Littigs turned Bernice’s over to new owner Missy Kelleher this summer).

“I don’t think she ever received enough credit for what she did to Bernice’s before Marco and I took over,” Christine says. “We elevated the face of Bernice’s, but she built it.”

Looking around the bakery, Christine adds that nothing aesthetically has changed since Chessin expanded. Chessin gave Missoula “a great gift,” Christine continues: a place to gather together and share tables with friends and strangers, “and eat a pastry on the side.”

Chessin also worked for the Independent as a business manager in spring and summer of 2007, then as an administrative assistant through January 2008. Former Indy owner and publisher Matt Gibson remembers her fondly as well. “Fundamentally, she was a gentle and kind soul,” he says.

The Indy is also how Chessin came into Molly Bradford’s orbit. Bernice’s was a longtime advertiser in the paper’s pages, and when Bradford started as an ad representative at the paper, Chessin became her client. In Bradford’s words, the two “just clicked.”

“When I first met her, I was like, ‘Are you Bernice?’” Bradford says. “She was like, ‘No, Bernice doesn’t exist. I’m Esther.’ We would laugh about who’s Bernice. We really bonded, and it extended outside of work. We would hike or go to musical events. She came to my wedding. I hosted her baby shower.”

Chessin’s death this week appeared, to many of her friends, sudden. Waltz says Chessin had begun cancer treatments again early this summer, and that she’d become ill Tuesday morning before being rushed to the emergency room. She died in the hospital that afternoon. Throughout her treatment this summer, and in previous years, Waltz says, Chessin “really didn’t make a big deal of it.” She was active in Missoula's Silver Linings breast cancer support group, in addition to her work as an area manager for the international skincare and wellness company Arbonne.

“She kind of just took it in stride,” Waltz says of Chessin’s battle with cancer. “I don’t think she wanted to give it a lot of energy. She didn’t want it to be the focus of her life.”

Over the past few days, Bradford and others have worked to set up a benefit fund for Chessin’s 13-year-old daughter, Isabella, at Missoula Federal Credit Union. Chessin’s friends are also planning a community celebration for Chessin on Oct. 1. We'll share the details of that event when they're confirmed.

"I'm sure everyone has said probably what I'm going to say," says Laina Wustner, Chessin's niece, "but she was just probably the most powerful force of love and life and strength, and she was not only a warrior against battling cancer but she just was a phenomenal warrior of life."

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Indy publisher Matt Gibson named general manager for Lee's Missoula-area papers

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 11:45 AM

Well we never…

Never thought we'd see the day, frankly.

Though maybe we should have.

By the time you read this, Matt Gibson will no longer be the publisher of the Missoula Independent, which he owned from 1997 until the paper’s sale to Lee Enterprises in April.
A Wednesday morning press release sealed the deal.
Matt Gibson
  • Matt Gibson

Effective immediately, Gibson takes on the title of general manager for Lee’s “Missoula-area properties,” i.e., the Missoulian, the Ravalli Republic, and the Missoula Independent. Lee VP Mike Gulledge continues in his role as publisher of the Missoulian and the Billings Gazette, and Independent general manager Andy Sutcliffe will continue in that role with expanded responsibility. There are no editorial department changes associated with the promotion. We have, however, noticed that Matt has started dressing sharper.

What does this mean for us? Well, it means that we have the strongest possible advocate for the Indy and its mission—an advocate who understands the paper’s history and promise better than anyone else could—embedded deep in the belly of the… umm… Lee family.

Or, in Gibson’s words, “The fundamental character of the Independent, which I’ve spent 20 years creating, is extraordinarily valuable. And it’s not going to be compromised.”

As for his new gig with the Missoulian, he says, “My goals are to build trust with the community and with a terrific group of employees and help guide the business to sustainable success.”

In that regard, of course, we wish him the very best of luck.

Because “sustainable success,” of course, is the real challenge in this perilous journalism moment, and it’s also, at root, the reason Gibson sold the Indy to Lee in the first place. The manifold difficulties facing the newspaper business need no recounting here. And yet:

“Somebody’s got to do the work, and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do,” Gibson says. “And Missoula is the only place I’ve ever wanted to do it.”

Now, more than ever, he has his chance. Those of us who’ve worked with him for years are confident that he’s more than up to the task. Those of you who’re about to get your first chance to work with him have a real opportunity in store. We’re rooting for you, boss.

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Artist Lecture: Patrick Zentz, bi/cycle/extrapolated

Artist Lecture: Patrick Zentz, bi/cycle/extrapolated @ Missoula Art Museum

Tue., Oct. 17, 7-8 p.m.

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