Friday, July 29, 2011

We are idiots

Well, here we are.  Roughly 96 hours away from a Federal credit default.  And doesn't it seem fitting?

This predicament is completely of our own making.  We, the citizenry of the United States of America, have entrusted our government to ignorant primitives enslaved by outlandish superstitions.  Earth is 7000 years old.  Cutting taxes raises revenue.  Global warming is a hoax.  

To tell you the truth, I can't make up my mind whether to hope that Congress can somehow turn us back from the abyss or if it might not be better to just let the whole house of cards come down.  After all, even as the castles crumbled, there would be some mighty beautiful flame-outs --corner office swindlers, robber barons, captains of embezzlement roasted and destroyed publicly.  That would be a glorious sight.  But, of course, the rest of us will burn too.

If the national election of 2004 didn't already prove it, this self-inflicted debacle ought to sweep aside any lingering doubts.  We are a nation of idiots.  Thank you, Tea Party.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The making of "Atomic Nuclear Bird Satans from Saturn"

Horror!  Bird Satan stalks unsuspecting lovers.
Said it before and I'll say it again: You just never know what you're gonna see in Portland.

Up on Tabor yesterday, I encountered a group of enthusiastic young folks, collectively known as Ragdoll movies, at work on a video.  The video, entitled "Atomic Nuclear Bird Satans from Saturn" is set for release (on YouTube) in about two weeks.  Lead actor Peter Litster described the flick as a "Fifties horror spoof."

The scene they were filming involved two young lovers sitting on a park bench, enraptured with each other and blithely unaware of the approach from behind of a Saturnine Bird Satan.  I don't think it ends well.
Bird Satan, played by Richard Marcy
The Ragdoll gang exuded youthful enthusiasm, which I found not only infectious, but refreshing.  Faith in one's work is rare (sadly) among those for whom it is warranted, and common (infuriatingly) among those for whom it is not.  But in the case of the Ragdoll company, with most of their lives still ahead of them, it is promising.

("Give it time," scoffs the jaded middle-aged artist.  "They'll come around."  Well, yes, they certainly will.  But there is no point in plucking the petals off a rose in bloom, eh?) 

Jace Brownlow directs his cast

Ragdoll movies already has a few shorts under its belt (check out the website here).  I perused some of their stuff and rather enjoyed it.

Youth's natural optimism is balm for the soul, I tell ya.

Atomic Nuclear Bird Satans from Saturn
Jace Brownlow - filmmaker
Sarah Ferguson -actress
Peter Litster -actor
John Litster -crew
Richard Marcy - Bird Satan

Update: Jace Brownlow sent me the link to the finished product. Be forewarned! Atomic Nuclear Bird Satans from Saturn is not for the faint at heart.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Big John faces the music

SceneTuesday night, July 26, 2011.  Debt ceiling negotiations rage across Capitol Hill.  Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sit at an elegant bar.  The Speaker is nursing a martini.  Leader McConnell sits quietly with his hands folded in his lap.  Across the room, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi huddles at a table with Representatives Chris Van Hollen, James Clyburn, and Steny Hoyer.

McConnell (to Boehner):  What are you waiting for?  You know you're going to have to talk to her.

Boehner:  Give it a rest, will ya?

McConnell:  I've already done what I can for you, John.  I tried to float the "Make Obama do it" plan.  They practically skinned me for it. 

Boehner:  Don't think I'm ungrateful, Mitch.  But let's be real.  If this all goes to shit, I might have to give up the gavel.  And you know what that means... 

[House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saunters in, espies Boehner and McConnell.]

Cantor:  Gentlemen.  Enjoying your evening?

McConnell:  I was just leaving... 

Cantor:  So soon, Mitch?  I thought we might have a drink, talk about plans for the 112th after the debt ceiling debate.

McConnell:  In Kentucky, we don't have much use for Virginia college boys.  And it's "Leader McConnell" to you. 

Cantor:  Right now, it is.  We'll talk again in a month.

McConnell:  Kiss my ass, you smart-ass punk.  [Exit.]

Cantor (shaking his head):  Believe it or not, John, that went better than I expected.

Boehner:  You should take his advice.

Cantor:  John, John, John.  Haven't you heard?  There's a new game in town.

Boehner (chuckling):  "Tea time with Eric?" 

Cantor:  Go ahead and laugh, John.  You won't think it's funny when I throw your ass out of the Speaker's office. 

Boehner:  You're kidding, right?  You don't think I got bigger things to worry about than you?

[Boehner laughs, shaking his head.  He sees Pelosi across the room.  She seems to be looking at him.  He can't be sure, but he thinks he sees her wink.]

Monday, July 25, 2011

Right-wing terrorism hits Norway

Grieving Norwegians

 (Reuters) - Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik said he killed 93 people to spark a "revolution" against the multiculturalism he believed was sapping Europe's heritage, and experts say a frank debate about immigration may be the best way to prevent similar explosions of violence.

In some Nordic countries, and elsewhere in Europe, political parties have fed on rising public concern over immigration as economic conditions worsen and a drip-feed of Islamist attacks stokes fear and suspicion of new arrivals.

But experts argue overly aggressive political rhetoric and scare tactics have inflamed passions rather than address the many complex, underlying problems.
Alas for Norway.  Right-wing intolerance has struck that noble, peaceful nation and it makes me very sad.  I would be less sad, honestly, if this had happened in the United States.  In America, we've learned to live with this kind of insane violence.  Events like this happen here with semi-regular frequency.  And in the wake of each such event, right-wing politicians stir up nativist sentiments by identifying a scape goat (Muslims, Mexicans, and gays are recurring favorites) toward whom they can point to rally fanatical support.  This perpetuates the cycle and fosters the cultural zeitgeist that makes such events more likely.

But I've been to Norway.  I've seen that society, where all citizens have access to health care and higher education and where they live in a civilized manner.  Frankly, Norway is far ahead of the United States, socially.  It is sad to see such an enlightened and educated nation fall victim to the fear and race hatred that is so prevalent in this country.

In 1999, when I was in Stockholm, in next door Sweden, a group of neo-Nazis held a rally.  But word got out to the general public and a counter-demonstration was quickly organized, resulting in the neo-Nazis being vastly outnumbered and more or less shouted down at their own rally.  Quite a stark contrast to the rallies that occur all around this nation, where people tote guns and imagine that threatening violence against the government is patriotic.

The actions of Anders Behring Breivik evidence the fact that Scandinavia is not free of racism and xenophobia.  But, unlike here in America, such attitudes are not celebrated or tacitly put forward as legitimate.

Norway!  Turn away from the abyss!  Don't end up like us!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Update on graffiti punk desecration

One month later, the beautiful and thought-provoking mural by Jane Brewster, located on the side of the building at the corner of SE 33rd and Hawthorne is already looking much better.

Those responsible for defacing the art were discovered and set to repairing the damage. A week or so past, I saw one of them, a young Caucasian man in his late teens or early twenties, at work removing the spray-paint defilement as part of his pennance. "Why'd ya do it?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Addicted, I guess."

I suppose I should have known.

Anyway, things are looking better now, as you can see.

If you look closely, you can see that the restoration, while quite good, is still less than the original.  Nothing to be done about that, of course. 

Well, I guess we could blame Eve. She ate the damn apple.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bachmann gets the Rove treatment

Wouldn't you know it?  Just as Michelle Bachmann's presidential campaign seemed to be surging, she gets served up some of that Karl Rove sauce.  Tasty!

Recent polls have shown Bachmann to be even with or ahead of poor old Mitt Romney, not only in Iowa, where she has something of a home court advantage, but on the national stage as well.  That's right.  The Republican party, filled to the brim with Tea Party zealots, is actually nutty enough to nominate Michelle Bachmann.  And the cynical calculators sitting in the conference rooms at the Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works, and the Club for Growth know it.  And it scares the hell out of them.

Enter Karl Rove, the smear artist.  Remember the 2004 election cycle?  Although he has never admitted to it, most analysts believe that Rove concocted the whole "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" movement that called into question the validity of John Kerry's military record.  As unbelievable as it seems, Rove managed to smear a decorated war veteran with lies and libelous rumors, playing to the perverted patriotism so prevalent among the Know-Nothings.

Rove went to work and --lo and behold! --stories are now surfacing about Bachmann's migraine headaches that, rumors allege, incapacitate her for days at a time.  Bachmann has spent several news cycles now explaining her medical condition, defending her abilities.

(As an aside, it's worth noting that one of our greatest presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was crippled with polio through most of his four terms in office.)

Well, Ms. Bachmann, this is just the beginning.  If you continue to have success in your bid for the nomination, the attacks will become more vicious, more hysterical.

Rove gets paid big money by people with huge financial empires to tear down anything or anyone that has the slightest taint of populism, even right-wing populism.  And that includes Bible-thumping throwbacks like you.

Rove's bosses hope to supplant you with a fake populist like Texas' Rick Perry, who knows who it is that butters his bread.

The irony of the whole thing, of course, is that Rove is responsible for your success.  As I stated in my previous post, it was he who fired up the ignorant rabble in the 2004 election, playing on their fears about Mexicans, homosexuals, terrorists and liberals, convincing them that their way of life was at stake.  Now, the monster that he awoke, of which you are the most recent manifestation (now that Sarah Palin is old news), is running rampant, threatening to destroy the perverted coalition that Rove cobbled together.

I'm not sure how it will turn out.  But I'm enjoying the show.  And there is one thing I am sure about.  Karl Rove is enjoying it, too.  He gets to do what he loves to do and, win or lose, he still gets his paycheck.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Who's gonna be the new right-wing whack?

Pat Robertson:  the old right-wing whack
Remember back in 1988, when Pat Robertson ran for President?  You know?  Pat Robertson, the Bible Belt hero who recently claimed that the earthquake which devastated Haiti was a consequence of that country having made a "pact with the Devil?"  When he defeated then-Vice President George HW Bush in the Iowa caucuses that year, the political punditry blew a gasket imagining the implications.

Ultimately, of course, Robertson's campaign came to grief, and in fairly short order.  But things are different today. 

Believe it or not, when Robertson made his run, the Republican party was broader and more inclusive than it is today. Doesn't that sound crazy?  How could the GOP be less inclusive than it was when Ronald Reagan was fighting tooth-and-nail to protect South Africa's apartheid government while chortling at entertainers in blackface? 

The answer, of course, is George Bush the Lesser.  No president before Junior ever so fully embraced the anti-intellectual, snake-charmer wing of the GOP.  Most pundits credit Junior (and his political handler Karl Rove) for lighting the fire under the religious zealots that allowed him to squeak out a victory (or at least get close enough to cheat) in the 2004 election.

Today, Junior's stink continues to devastate not only the nation generally, but the GOP specifically.  In his "there is no tomorrow" style, Junior nurtured the Bible-thumpers.  He made them believe they were legitimate.

He dealt platitudes to the 700 Club fans ("Jesus" is his favorite "philosopher," remember) like candy, all the while screwing them with his wars and regressive tax policies.  And in doing so, he undercut the moderate wing of the Republican party.  He was so successful in his efforts to convince Bible Belt rubes they mattered that today, any Republican candidate that strays one iota from the hard-line dogma of the Pat Robertson gang has to push against some pretty stiff headwinds.  (Just ask Mitt Romney.)

How could love so right turn out to be so wrong?
And so, today, potential Republican primary voters are full of piss and vinegar.

The Pat Robertson Republicans, finally waking up to the fact that Sarah Palin isn't going to be their standard bearer are now considering Michelle Bachmann.  Don't laugh, people.  She's serious as a heart attack.

Another option for them is Texas neo-Confederate Governor Rick Perry.  Despite earlier reports that the Rickster had removed himself from consideration, rumors are flying that he may be the new right-wing savior.  He recently participated in a "prayer event" in Houston, where he "call[ed] upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles.” 

I suspect that Perry is being put forward by GOP kingmakers as an alternative to Bachmann, expressly to appeal to the Bible-thumpers.  The GOP needs a candidate that appeals to the right-wing, but that isn't quite so ostracizing as that crazy dame from Minnesota.  Although Perry is every bit as nuts as is she, he is a governor, which gives him a facade of gravitas and theoretically makes him more acceptable to voters who are disturbed by Michelle Bachmann.  (And who can blame them?  Look at the woman's eyes!  They don't focus!) 
"Praise Jesus!  I'm a-gonna shoot me a librul."
The GOP bigwigs don't expect or hope that Perry will win the nomination, but they hope he can position himself for a Number 2 spot on the ticket, probably with Romney at the top.  In that way, they can have a presidential candidate that doesn't repulse the political middle and, at the same time, throw a bone to the Pat Robertson crowd.

It's all good for a laugh.  Or it would be, anyway, if the stakes weren't so high. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Roll on, ye stones!

Clackamas River
Jeanine and I went hiking today right along the river that skirts the Old Man's southwest flank.  Clackamas River, as we call it.  It was a gray, muggy day, up there in the foothills.  We hiked upriver a spell and then stopped at a stony beach to munch our sandwiches.

I became enamored with the murmur of the river at her chore.  She was rolling the round stones down the mountain.

The stones on the beach were at a resting point in their enduring journey. They sat, serene as monks, awaiting the next springtime push.  Ferruginous, turquoise, and amber veins recalled the subterranean home to which they hope to return someday.

They dream of home at the end of the pilgrimage.


Not today, nor tomorrow, nor in a thousand generations of men.  But in time... in time.

Stones would play inside her head
And where she slept,
They made her bed
And she would ache for love
And get but stones
La la la la la la la la la la la
Lordy, child
A good day's comin'
And I'll be there to let the sun in
And bein' lost
Is worth the comin' home
La la la la la la la la la on stones
You and me, a time for planting
You and me, a harvest granting
The every prayer ever prayed
For just two wild flowers that grow
La la la la la la la la la on stones

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book review: The Wordy Shipmates

The book-readin' gang has just finished up with Sarah Vowell's essay, The Wordy Shipmates.  The book deals with the Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay colony in the middle 1600s.  In addition to recounting the adventures and hardships these people endured, Ms. Vowell opines on their motivations, their beliefs, and their self-flagellating moral consciences.  And, in spite of the depicted history requiring a certain understanding of religious minutiae* and a recounting of depraved and cruel human behavior, the book is a light-hearted and easy read.

*Minutiae is probably the wrong word.  John Winthrop and the Puritans took all that stuff so very seriously.

It's a story of war and betrayal and religious schisms that seem microcosmic replicas of the bloody religious upheavals that were contemporaneously raging across Europe.  It's the story, more specifically, of John Winthrop and John Cotton and Roger Williams and other personalities who are credited today with having established the New England colonies that eventually became Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Ms. Vowell relays a lot of factual historical information and inserts her own humorous analogies and comparisons.  She relates (with varying degrees of success) how the deep religious convictions of these men and their people have shaped the United States of today.  (Ronald Reagan's "shining city on the hill" meme was a direct ripoff of John Winthrop himself!)

I had hitherto known Sarah Vowell only for her work on NPR's This American Life.  She has a clever sense of humor and a unique radio voice (childlike and deadpan, but also wise and funny).  Her timing and delivery are spot on.  All that is great for radio.

But the further I got into the book, the more I became irritated by her witty remarks and wisecracks.  Her diversions into modern day politics were old hat and unnecessary.   (Sarah, sister, you can't tell me anything about Reagan or Junior that I don't already know by heart.)  In short, what works so successfully on radio, doesn't transfer quite so well onto the printed page.

I'm a fan of This American Life, and even of Sarah Vowell.  And maybe, with that high standard in mind, it is no real surprise that I was disappointed by this book.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writers on writing

Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.  ~Mark Twain
The ugly fact is books are made of books.  The novel depends for its life on the novels that have been written. ~Cormac McCarthy
All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. ~Ernest Hemingway
In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. ~John Steinbeck
We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images. ~John Gardner
Hey, guys.  I thought --uh --wasn't this supposed to be a catered event?  ~Your humble author

Monday, July 11, 2011

River (Pt. I)

Note: Our assignment in my PCC writing class, High-risk Fiction, taught by Ryan Blacketter, is to write a short story. This is the first scene in my story. This is a draft and likely to undergo many revisions over time. But here it is...

Noah awoke when they pushed the front seat of the car back.  He was stretched out on the back bench, sleeping among the detritus of the road:  a stained, empty water cooler, crumpled newspapers, plastic garbage bags stuffed with rumpled clothing.  He heard a whisper and a rustle and then Flo was grunting and moaning in the front seat. The car was old and at one time had a suspension system, but the shocks were long gone and Flo’s rutting caused the whole thing to jounce like a pogo stick. Noah opened his eyes.

Flo was straddling the kid, pulling his face into her chest. Her eyes were closed, her face flushed. Dewy sweat beaded on her lip above her mouth. She bounced up and down, her chin bumping on top of the kid’s head. Her breath came in gasps.  She clutched the kid’s head to her chest as if she would not have him see anything beyond her.  They were both clothed so far as Noah could see. 

Noah frowned and pulled himself vertical in the back seat.  He was tired, but there was no going back to sleep with Flo growling.  “You’re like a goddam dog,” he said.
She did not stop.

“You got no shame,” Noah said.

Flo slapped the seat back with her open hands.  “God! Get out!” she said.  The kid's head dropped away from her.  His eyes bulged.  He gaped like a landed fish.  “Give us some room, man,” he said.  “Go see if you can find food.”

Noah tried to remember the kid’s name, but couldn't.  It didn’t matter anyway.   Just a wanderer headed north who'd picked them up in Sacramento.  “Bitch,” Noah said, but they were already back at it.

Noah flung open the back passenger door and scooted out, kicking greasy food wrappings and soiled clothes before him onto the blacktop. He slammed the car door, but it didn’t catch.

Noah knew how it was with Flo.  Before the old Rio finally dropped dead, Noah had driven all the way across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  In that time, he awoke every morning to Flo hiking up her skirt and straddling him as he sat in the driver’s seat. He didn’t know then, but he knew now: it didn’t matter to Flo who was underneath her. She liked to brace her back against the steering wheel. She’d told him once that it gave her leverage.

Noah turned his back on the bouncing car and thrust his hands into the pockets of his grimy jeans. He strode across the pavement toward the portable outhouses by the river walk.

A waft of air carried the mingled scents of pressed garlic and human shit through the cool, shaded places under the traffic ramps. Overhead, the morning traffic roared and sighed. Beyond the outhouses, the gray-green water of the Willamette River slid northward in a great silent push.  The river ran high; white foam frothed against the feet of the Hawthorne Bridge.  Water roiled in the wake of the bridge’s concrete footings, restless and meandering.  In the distance, across the sliding surface, the west bank shone golden in the morning sun.

Mexicans had set up a mobile kitchen in the parking lot, near the walkway that led up to the bridge. It was a tow trailer they had rigged up with a grill and range. They’d cut a window into the side, with a counter and a retractable awning.  A half-dozen Mexicans eddied around the trailer. A boy and girl carried sacks of onions and potatoes.  A young man in an apron scrubbed the grill and wiped down the counter at the window where patrons would place orders. Behind the trailer, an iron-haired old woman sat on a stool, peeling onions.  She squinted at Noah.

Noah pissed in the dirt next to the closest of the outhouses.  He glowered across the blacktop at the old Mexican woman.

The night before, they’d coasted into Portland after a long harrowing ride up from Medford. It had been rough. They’d eaten the last of the potato chips and some cherries they’d picked from a tree on the side of the highway, but that was all they'd had. The back passenger door would not stay closed, so they’d had to remember not to lean against it. The gas gauge didn’t work and they didn’t know how much gas they had, but they knew it wasn’t much. Noah had been more than half-surprised when they finally hit the Terwilliger curves and were able to coast nearly all the way to the Water Avenue exit. But they made it, and the car seemed to steer itself to the place under the eastern terminus of the Hawthorne Bridge, where it sputtered out and they sank into sleep.  As he descended, Noah heard the whisper of the nighttime traffic and beneath that, the faint but constant song of the river.

Noah zipped up and looked around.  On a bench set back from the river, sat the Drifter.  The dim-eyed, wry Drifter.  Never far from the river.  His bench was set back from the water before a shelf of rotted concrete.  A promontory that hung out over the water, adorned by twisted fingers of rusted re-bar protruding here and there.  The Drifter sat sideways on the bench, one leg slung out before him,watching the old Mexican woman watching Noah piss.  She was a stern old thing, that one.  In one hand she held a peeling knife, in the other a white onion.  She sat on a stool with a bucket of water between her knees. As he watched, she skinned an onion and dropped it into the bucket.

Noah was walking toward the Drifter when he saw that the woman had turned her eyes on him.  A strand of black hair hung across her forehead.  Tears streamed from her eyes.

When he was near enough to be heard, Noah greeted the Drifter with a growl.  "Fuckin' Mexicans," he said.

The Drifter looked down at his hands. Arthritis pushed his fingers more crooked every day.  "Fine mornin'," he said.

A breeze passed along the riverbank, carrying the smells of chorizo and onions.  Noah shrugged.  "Don't remember me, do ya?" he said.

"I know ya," the Drifter said. 

Noah shrugged again.  “So, what have you made of yourself since the last time I saw ya?” he asked.

The Drifter laughed. “Can’t ya see for yourself?”

Noah looked out over the river.  “Know where a guy might find food around here?” he asked.

The Drifter gestured toward the Mexicans at their trailer. “Go ask that old doña,” he said, indicating the elderly Mexican woman.  “She might give ya.”

Noah scoffed.   “Rather stay hungry.”

“You run with a more respectable crowd, don’t ya?” the Drifter said.  Behind Noah he could see Flo.  She stood barefoot on the pavement, back arched, arms stretched above her head like a diver poised on a diving board.

Noah glanced over his shoulder.  “She ain’t my crowd,” he said.

The Drifter shrugged.  “But you’re still trailin’ after her, pickin’ up whatever she drops in front of ya.”

“I hate her,” Noah said.

The Drifter's gift was to know how far to push and when to let off.  "You know how to swim, kid?” he asked.

"Not a stroke," said Noah.

“Better that way, trust me," said the Drifter.

For a while, they listened to the sigh of the traffic overhead.  But Noah finally took the bait, as the Drifter hoped he would.

"What in the hell are you talking about, you old loon?" Noah said.

The Drifter laughed --a low, quiet laugh.  "Catfish Cutter stood right there on them rocks twenty years ago and told me he could swim alright.  Said he could swim across this river.”

Noah looked out over the water to the far shore, where was the sea wall and promenade where people walked along the river in twos and threes.  They were tiny figures at that distance, scarcely distinguishable from one another.

"That'd be a long swim, I don't care who you were," said Noah.

The Drifter shook his head.  "Swim, don't swim, you end up in the same place," he said.  "River's gonna take ya where it takes ya."

To be continued...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good Doctor Hawthorne

Becky Oswald, our informative tour guide, standing at the Hawthorne Monument
On Saturday, I joined a tour, put on by an organization known as Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery.  The tour is an interesting walk through Portland's very first official burial ground, established in 1855.  Scanning headstones in this serene place, Portland folk are very likely to recognize a few names.  Bybee, Lovejoy, or Tryon, for example.

One of the more interesting stories I heard was about Dr. James Hawthorne, the namesake of my region of Portland.  Dr. Hawthorne, of course, established the Oregon Hospital for the Insane in 1858.  Back then, people were committed for all kinds of reasons.  Any behavior that made society uncomfortable might provide the justification.  Everything from dementia to epilepsy to retardation to palsy fell under the all-embracing rubric of "insanity."  

Close up of Hawthorne Memorial
Thankfully, Dr. Hawthorne was a progressive thinker.  The good doctor understood that many of the people who found their ways into his institution needed only a little compassion.  He treated his patients with dignity and gave them a sense of purpose by having them tend gardens or perform tasks for wages.  He arranged for musical performances for his patients, as well, believing that music was key to their recovery.  His practices were revolutionary at the time, and he received national recognition for them.

Nor was Dr. Hawthorne's hospital some grim and final destination.  People were admitted and released. Commitment was not a life sentence.

Of course, not all of the 500 patients that went into Dr. Hawthorne's hospital came out.  Some died without family or means to provide for their interment.  In those cases, Dr. Hawthorne, who promised his patients a decent burial, himself arranged to have them laid to rest... in Lone Fir Cemetery.

Headstone of the Good Doctor, himself
The tour was chock-full of interesting facts and stories that provide historical perspective for this city I've called home for over two decades now.  There were probably three dozen people on the tour and our guide, Becky Oswald, was knowledgeable and funny.

If you're interested, the tour occurs at 10AM on the second Saturday of every month.  Suggested donation is $10.  All funds raised thusly go to maintaining the Lone Fir Cemetery.  You can learn more by contacting Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery:  503-224-9200.  Email:

Friday, July 08, 2011

Hiking Mount Pisgah

Up on top of Mount Pisgah
Sister Mia and I went on a short, steep hike up Mount Pisgah outside Eugene today.  We completed the 1.4 miles (straight up!) to the top well before the day was full.

Which was good, because it was already hot when we made the summit.  My shirt was drenched.

Wild flowers
As I stated in my previous post, I'm working on a short story for a summer class at PCC, which comes at the expense of writing good solid blog posts for the next little while.

Mia at the summit
So, I took the opportunity afforded by the Pisgah vista to snap some photos to post here.

What a view!
Gotta keep the blog moving forward, you know?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hiatus 2011

In order to have any chance whatsoever of writing well, one must never relent in the quest to improve, to learn, to discover.  With that in mind, I have this summer enrolled in a fiction-writing class taught by Ryan Blacketter at PCC

The chief assignment for the class is to write a short story.  Mr. Blacketter has firm and well-founded opinions on what constitutes good writing.  He's well-versed in great literature, referencing Hemingway, McCarthy, Flannery O'Connor, Melville.  Folks, let me tell you, I'm swimming in some deep water.

Works of genius set a very high bar for dabbling keyboard-tappers like me, but let it not be said, by God, that I'd back down from a challenge!

This windy and unnecessary preamble is just to inform visitors to this blog that posting will be less frequent over the next several weeks while I toil to create something that doesn't shame me in front of my classmates.  When I finish the story, of course, I'll post it here.  Hopefully, when you read it, you'll agree that my posting lapses contributed to something worthwhile.

Enjoy summer!  

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Ramona Falls

The Old Man's mind was elsewhere.
Jim Kidwell and I made the trek on up to Ramona Falls today.  Old Man Hood was staring off to the west.  His mind was no doubt weighing some centuries-in-the-making gambit with which he might win this or that battle in his titanic war.

We saw evidence that his spring runoff was especially dramatic this year.  The roots of hemlocks and cedars protruded from newly-cut banks of volcanic silt.  The shrunken waters of the Old Man's subsiding rage coursed noisily through the debris-strewn wake of spring thaw.  

Lilliputian forests within the forest
Along the way, I could not fail to notice the colors of lichen and moss despite their subtlety.  Worlds entire exist in the tiny forests that take root on grumbling stones.

Here am I.
The falls themselves seemed to appear out of nowhere.  One moment we were picking our way along the trail, moving by turns in shadow and in light; the next, the song of the falls was in our ears and we were dazzled by glory.

Through light...
This is not a fall from glory.  Nothing like that.  The glory is the fall.  The glory is the fall. shadow.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Movie review: Dhadkan

Okay, so I'm late to the party.  People whom I respect (most especially my wife) have been singing the praises of Bollywood to me for years.  But until now, I hadn't gotten aboard the Mumbai cinema train.  Well, last night, Maty and I plugged Dharmesh Darshan's 2000 flick, Dhadkan, into the DVD player and I got initiated.

Dhadkan ("Heartbeat," in English) is the story of a young Indian woman, Anjali (Shilpa Shetty), the only child of a wealthy family, who must choose between her first love, Dev (Sunil Shetty), and the man whom her parents have arranged to be her husband, Ram (Akshay Kumar).  Dev, the illegitimate son of a poor woman, is dashing and passionate, but also irreverent and disrespectful toward Anajli's father, Mr. Chuahan (Kiran Kumar).  Despite her promise to Dev's mother, Anjali finds that she cannot disobey her father's wishes and agrees to marry Ram, who is a successful businessman and comes from a respectable Indian family.

The marriage of Anjali and Ram gets off to a rocky start when Ram's scheming stepmother and jealous siblings create complications.  Further, Anjali cannot forget her first love despite Ram's noble and sincere efforts to win her trust.  Matters come to a head when Dev reappears on the scene, no longer a pauper, but a successful businessman in his own right. 

Folks, Dhadkan is a fantastic flick. 

Visually, the film moves from one fascinating set to another.  Viewers are treated to scenes of rich Indian gardens, of festive and exotic ceremonies, of breathtaking Himalayan mountainscapes.  The costumes are dazzling; the actors, beautiful and talented.  The film uses musical numbers to relate the inner feelings of the main characters as they struggle to find their way through a love triangle complicated by centuries of tradition.  (And, by the way, the tambour-rich music is irresistible.)

Darshan demands a lot from his cast.  The choreography, the singing, and the acting itself are intricate. 

Most of the dialog is in Hindi, with occasional passages in English.  And while I generally dislike dealing with subtitles, I found that the translators did a superb job for this flick.  The translations are eloquent and moving.  (Most cosmopolitan Indians, after all, are fully fluent in English.)

Put aside any qualms you may have about accessibility.   Dhadkan exquisitely touches on many of those universal themes that we recognize in all great works of art:  fealty, ambition, jealousy, forgiveness.

Like many Bollywood flicks, Dhadkan runs long, at 161 minutes.  But the story never dragged, nor was it burdened by unnecessary scenes. 

As I stated, this was my first Bollywood flick.  It opened my eyes.  Slumdog Millionaire provided a clue, but Dhadkan proves it:  Hollywood's got nothing on Mumbai when it comes to making great flicks.