Okay, I need to put this right up front so nobody claims that I tricked them: This whole article is a total conflict of interest. It's promoting Stranger-created events, events featuring Stranger writers—one of those writers, in fact, is the writer of these very words that you're reading right now—and events featuring talent with heavy Stranger ties. It's possibly the most Stranger-centric article that The Stranger has ever published. I am not proud of this fact, but there it is.
Let's start with the biggest conflict of interest of all: the event that I'm involved with. I'm going to be interviewing the writing staff of Parks & Recreation. Do you see the problem I'm facing here? On the one hand, a panel featuring the writers of what is probably the single best-written show on network television is a can't-miss event. On the other hand, the person pointing this out is the person who's going to be asking Alan Yang, Aisha Muharrar, David King, Joe Mande, Megan Amram, and Matt Murray questions during the panel. It's not like I get paid more if more people show up to the event or anything, but it's still kind of awkward for me to be promoting this discussion. But I can't emphasize this enough: These are the people who put the words in Ron Swanson's mouth, which clearly makes them some sort of televisionary demigods. You can see how my feelings are conflicted.
Then there's the Stranger-produced event that's packed with surprises. This is super-embarrassing, because I can't even tell you what the surprises are. All I can tell you is this: The Stranger has teamed up with Intiman Theater to produce a series of talks titled "Put It All on the Table." It's intended to parody the self-importance of TED Talks, while still being entertaining on its own, and each of the talks is on a taboo topic that you wouldn't bring up over the dinner table. I can't tell you what Andrew Russell, Valerie Curtis-Newton, and (my—ugh—coworkers) Dominic Holden and Cienna Madrid are going to talk about, even though I know what the topics are. I can't tell you who the special guest host is. All I can tell you is that the topics are guaranteed to make you squirm while you laugh, and you probably shouldn't eat during the presentations or bother to bring your conservative relatives along. Again, I am blushing as I type this, but trust me: You probably won't see a more hilariously inappropriate event at Bumbershoot this year.
Even the events that aren't sponsored by The Stranger or starring my officemates are loaded with Stranger ties. The Fantagraphics Follies event, for example, is a talk-show-format event put together by the best damn publisher in Seattle. That's not so bad; though we at The Stranger have a lot of love for Fantagraphics, there's no conflict of interest inherent there. The musical guest is cartoonist Peter Bagge's Can You Imagine? which, as far as I know, is a pop group made up of 100 percent non-Stranger employees. But then the other guests get a little ethically squishy: Eroyn Franklin, whose cartoons have appeared in The Stranger recently—once on the cover, even—and Kelly Froh, who we've praised a whole bunch in the last year.
And then it just becomes an all-out conflict-of-interest-palooza. The headlining guests are Jim Woodring and Ellen Forney, both of whom have published countless cartoons in the pages of The Stranger, and both of whom have won Stranger Genius Awards for literature—Forney in 2012 and Woodring in 2010. See? Even though they're not on The Stranger's payroll, we've given them the highest honor we have to give, because we think they're both among the best writers and illustrators Seattle has to offer. If you haven't already seen Woodring employ his giant pen (this is not a euphemism), or seen Forney read her memoir, Marbles, you owe it to yourself to attend this event, conflict of interest be damned.
Look, I'm not proud of the fact that the extended Stranger family is behind the most interesting literary arts programming at Bumbershoot this year. But that's just the way it worked out. Deal with it. (Sorry.)