Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Webfoot Wednesday: What's in a Name

This morning the Oregonian reported that city planners intend to assign the title of "Pioneer District" to the area around Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland. Titles have influence, as those of us who have lived in Portland for years can appreciate when observing newer residents' embrace of the "Pearl District" as the, well, "pearl" of Portland. It's a lovely, revitalized area and I'm glad to see the development and fancy shops, but before it was the "Pearl" it was a rundown, somewhat scary district of often-abandoned warehouses and the Henry Weinhard Brewing Company. The "Interstate" district in North Portland? That was another, similarly blighted area.

The new titles that accompany and sometimes influence revitalization and renewal can be helpful things. I'm cautious when confronted with gentrification, however, because of the unintended consequences of such activities. What happens to the people who were once residents of inner North and Northeast Portland now that we have the trendy Mississippi Ave. and the 'new and improved' Albina District? How do we meet the needs of all the members of our population? Anonymity can breed neglect, but titles can bring some serious problems along with the opportunities they present.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Webfoot Wednesday: Thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving, this is a post of thanks... following are just a few of the many, many reasons why I am so grateful to live and raise my daughter in Oregon.

The beauty of the coastline...

Sand castle-digging on the beach at Siletz Bay, Lincoln County

Old Cannery and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, Clatsop County

The majesty of the interior...

Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument in Central Oregon

Views of the Oregon Trail and the Blue Mountains, Baker County

Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, Eastern Oregon (no worries, the kid is not actually in danger of running off the cliff)

The community...

Jeld-Wen Stadium During a Portland Timbers Soccer Match

Kid and Friend at Zoolights, Oregon Zoo, Portland

Friday, November 18, 2011

Muse of the Week: Historical Cuisine

Life has had a tendency to get rather depressing lately, from unrest and economic ruination abroad to protests and gridlock at home. Awareness and engagement remains important, and historical context critical -- but every now and then it is healthy to take a break and enjoy a less topical walk through world, or in this case, primarily Western, history. I found a fun blog the other day called The Old Foodie and I highly recommend taking a look at it. About five times a week this British-born Australian woman posts fascinating reflections on historical food ingredients and practices, antique recipes and fun quotations. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Webfoot Wednesday: Railroads

This is a post of primarily local note, but I have long wondered about the history of the railroad line through Newberg and exactly what employees are doing when they route bits and pieces of train back and forth... and back... and forth... across the town's many railroad crossings. This Web page provides some interesting insight into railroad lines in Yamhill County, some of which (including the local ones that can drive a person bonkers when those gates go down) are still functional. (The grammar isn't spectacular, but the information is great.)

The inconvenience of an unscheduled stop aside, I've always been glad to see the activity on these lines. There is something about these big, imposing machines that makes the life of the town seem just a little more "real."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Muse of the Week: What's Good for the Goose

There was an interesting article in The Atlantic a couple months ago about the epidemic of sex scandals among politicians. (Male politicians, that is... anyone else notice how much better women are at keeping their hands to themselves? Or, at minimum, not getting caught?) The news of the past week about Herman Cain is just further evidence of how riotously inept humans tend to be at conducting themselves with any sense of decorum. Memo to the vast majority of these politicians who invoke a personal religious faith: Martin Luther's comment to "sin boldly" was NOT meant to be taken as a license to ill.

Herman Cain's behavior, if proven -- and there seems to be some pretty serious evidence gathering -- is inexcusable. Sex scandals are damaging to all concerned because they cheapen the value of our most private relationships, but even more troubling is the reality that such attempts to engage in improper behavior and assume one will get away with it demonstrate an alarming level of hubris. How could a person seriously think they could undertake such actions and get away with them? That no member of the relentlessly investigative American media would find out? What does this demonstrate about a candidate's fitness to make principled and above-board decisions on important matters of state?

Some on the right appear to be dismissing these allegations as nothing more than smears. This smacks of hypocrisy given how doggedly conservatives assailed politicians such as Bill Clinton for his picadillos, which were serious and wrong (albeit consensual). If wrong is wrong, improper behavior cannot be tolerated on either side of the political aisle. If we condemn John Edwards and Anthony Weiner for what they did, we cannot exempt Cain, should these allegations prove to have foundations.

An additional note: I have seen arguments to the effect that Cain is being victimized because he is a black man and the identified victim claimant is a white woman. Racially motivated allegations have a long and tremendously tragic history in the United States. Many innocent people have died because of the prevalence of inexcusable prejudices about the supposed depravity of black males. The people making these claims, however, are some of the very same individuals who have cast a shadow upon Obama's citizenship and denigrated his right to govern... using racially tinged arguments. We must pay heed to the tragedies of past experience, but we cannot pick and choose the context of our racialism. American citizens deserve better. Racism is always wrong, should always be fought, and should never be used selectively to justify or condemn. It is simply too serious a crime.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Notes from the Archives

The best thing about archives is the random material that springs forth from seemingly dull files. Find of the day, in the ever-so-tantalizingly titled "Jean Young Campaign, 1958 7th District":

There was once (I'm guessing this should be past tense as a google search brings up nothing but travel info) an organization called "Scandinavian Ticket, Inc." which distributed voting advice based upon "investigation and study made by a group of Scandinavian Business and Professional men." Were you a "voter of Scandinavian extraction," these fine gentlemen had for "the last THIRTY-SIX ELECTIONS" carefully composed their slate of preferred candidates just for you. Endorsed in 1958 were Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark O. Hatfield (score one for the Scandihoovians) and the aforementioned Mrs. Young (outcome there was a bit of a bummer). Go figure.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Webfoot Wednesday: Renovation Stories

Interesting photos of one of Portland's historic buildings, gutted for renovation of its lower floor: Lost Oregon posting. I'm fascinated by the stories buildings tell about past use, old construction practices and so on. Our built environment remains quite young here on the West Coast compared to Europe or even the eastern United States, but even our (comparatively) new buildings have stories to tell. I'm reminded of the time my parents found an old camera behind the cabinets while renovating the 1926 home in which I grew up. No film, unfortunately, but fascinating nonetheless. The cabinets themselves told a story of past technology, having been constructed with openings to the outside, long capped, that would originally have been mesh screens--food preservation mechanisms for a pre-refrigeration era. Take a look at the sidewalk walking down the street in an older neighborhood... chances are good you'll eventually find a hitching ring. History is a story (well, many stories), and the stories are everywhere for those who take the time to see them!