So Republicans are taking the 50th opportunity of JFK's assassination to claim JFK as their own. Grover Norquist even praised JFK for being a member of the NRA:
In addition to his across the board tax rate cuts JFK was also a life member of the National Rifle Association. He is missed.
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) November 22, 2013
Wonkette has a post explaining all the insanity, including Glenn Beck claiming that JFK "would be a Tea Party radical" if he was alive today. JFK may have cut taxes ("from a range of 20-91% to 14-65%," which is a rate that would make Norquist weep like a giant adult baby if someone pitched it today) but he was no teabagger. JFK also increased the minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and Social Security benefits. The only reason that Republicans can get away with claiming something like this is the conservative distortion field, which ignores important details like, say, historical context. If JFK saw today's America—where we throw people to the streets rather than provide basic mental health care, where young men snap on a monthly basis and shoot up public spaces across the country, where the wealth imbalance is more severe than it ever was in JFK's lifetime—he'd have to assume it was some sort of a bad joke.
As we've mentioned, Know Your City (née the Dill Pickle Club) is currently raising funds to pay for a mobile kiosk, which they will mostly use in the Ankeny Alley tourist triangle and attempt to convince passersby that the city was actually founded prior to Voodoo Donuts.
They have seven days to go to reach their $10k goal, with almost $7k already funded. In a bid to push them over their goal, they've made a fresh new video that profiles the makers of said kiosk, which will truly be a Portland creation (of course):
If you were holding back your donation for fear of supporting overseas manufacturing, lay your worries to rest.
In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, documentarian Ken Burns enlisted a TON of people (politicians—right and left, entertainers, journalists, etc.) to videotape themselves reading the Address... because... well, listen to it and marvel about how much of it is still pertinent into today's volatile political climate. Anyway, to watch people like former President Jimmy Carter, Arianna Huffington, Bill O'Reilly, Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Louis C.K., and more busting out some sweet recitations jump over to the "Learn the Address" site.
And while it's certainly not a competition... IT'S TOTALLY A COMPETITION. So watch the following videos, and vote below: Who recited it better? Stephen Colbert or Usher? WHO RECITED IT BETTER????
A forthcoming book raises serious doubts about a key piece of evidence that led a House committee to conclude in 1979 that President John F. Kennedy was likely killed as part of a conspiracy.
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato commissioned a scientific analysis of the Dallas Police Department’s Dictabelt recording of scanner traffic from Nov. 22, 1963, as part of his research for “The Kennedy Half Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy.”
Investigators for the House Select Committee on Assassinations relied heavily on the tape to say there was a high probability that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the lone gunman.
Sabato doesn't dismiss every conspiracy theory about the JFK assassination, and he concludes that we'll probably never know the truth of everything that happened. People like to wave coincidences around, but the truth is that most of them are conspiracy theorists because they just don't want to believe that one man can toss the country into chaos. Not all conspiracy theories are bullshit, but bullshit clings to conspiracy theories the way iron filings are attracted to a magnet.
We here at the Mercury are big fans of Kick Ass Oregon History—they produce a great podcast, as well as bus and walking tours and other live events, and I think they do a great job combining a deeply geeky appreciation for Portland's history with booze, jokes, boobs, and other things that are fun. (The newest issue of the podcast is about how the government shutdown thwarted a school trip to Crater Lake—or did it??? I dunno, I actually haven't finished the episode yet.)
Recently, Kick Ass Oregon's "resident historian" Doug Kenck-Crispin lent a hand to OPB in the production of the new documentary Portland Noir, which looks at the seedy, violent history of Portland in in the 1880s and 1890s. The program will air on OPB TV on Monday, Oct 21 at 9 pm, but you can catch an early free screening this Friday.
I can't figure out how to embed the video preview (which surely is my fault, and not because OPB made an unembeddable promo) but you can watch it over on OPB's website. In the meantime, here's a trailer that pretty much sums up Kick Ass Oregon's refined sensibilities.
"Your compost is so dirty." (!)
The OPB documentary will be considerably more, um, buttoned up than the above clip. It's screening at the Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan, on Friday at 7 pm.
(I'm categorizing an antiques-related post as "history." That works, right?)
I go antiquing and thrifting kind of a lot. I'm late to it, but I married into a family of semi-professional design gleaners, and have spent the last 8+ years learning the ropes—what's good, what's fake, when a seller doesn't know what they have (that's when you pounce), and maybe most importantly, getting a sense of the value of things. You can tell right away when you're in a tourist trap—they'll have only beautiful things, and everything will be so unattainably expensive that you'll wonder how they sell anything at all. Meanwhile some of the best deals require looking past a bunch of chintzy garbage—it's a slow pastime, a lifelong pursuit, and half the reason I visit the Oregon coast. Maybe it's not everyone's jam (hi Dad), but if it is:
Grand Marketplace just opened smack dab in the middle of town at SE Grand and Yamhill. I caught wind that the curio geniuses behind Paxton Gate, along with partner and general manager Andrea Jones, were behind it, and knew it called for a look-see.
It's pretty amazing. It has 22 different vendors, some of whom you might recognize (Animal Traffic, DIGS, Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage), very little filler, and the prices are mostly fair. (If you live in a world where a hand-painted gypsy carriage for just under two Gs seems like a bargain, as I apparently do.) If you've got a little dough to throw around you can find some really astonishing pieces—there's a Victorian-era bathtub/shower thing that is utterly amazing, and a steam-punk's wet dream (pun intended). If you're shrewd, you'll find some square deals. (Keep your head. That giant old wood dining table going for 10k may make you want to faint, but in New York it'd be going for twice that.)
They're also throwing what are planned to be monthly-ish flea markets in the back parking lot, with both their permanent vendors and then some, and on October 12 they're unloading what is tantalizingly described as "freight containers full of treasures straight from Europa." Also, on October 26 they're having a grand opening with live music that'll get going around 3 pm. But enough chitchat—here are some pics I snapped when I visited a few days ago:
If you're not a planner, your plans have fallen through, and/or you can appreciate the exhilaration of spontaneous travel, consider this: Know Your City is hosting a two-day tour of the storied, romantic, and kind of creepy Central Oregon boom towns that went bust. Called "Ghosts of Times Past," and includes stops in the ghost towns of Boyd, Dufur, Friend, Shaniko, Antelope, the museum in Fossil, hiking in the Painted Hills—oh, and one more stop in the delightfully named "Bakeoven."
The nice thing about a tour like this is you don't have to do any of the driving. The bus will pick you up and drop you off at Union Station, and all you have to do is sit back and soak in the history of Oregon's Wild West. The tour would normally cost $100 (not including lodging, but you can bring a tent and camp in Mitchell for five bucks or spring from one of two hotels with highly reasonable rates starting at just 20 bucks for the night)—but we're giving away a pair of tickets for the tour... which starts tomorrow! Get out of town, son! You might learn something!
You want 'em? Email me no later than 3 pm today with "ghost towns" in the subject line, and I'll pick a winner at random. In the meantime, enjoy this folksy Travel Oregon video, featuring a taste of where you'll be going:
Here's what Smith has to say about the video:
This Is Portland... [is] a direct spoof of a little known couple named Don and Bettina who were known for a series of travelogs. The two of them (I vaguely remember) produced fairly amateur films about travel—with crude sound and kitschy music. This short is in part dedicated to their memory. Note: this is Portland in 1971, when Portland was a dumpy little town with nothing in particular except offering a safe place to raise a family. My brother Duncan (now deceased) is featured as the character in the tuxedo along with his date in evening dress, Elinor Markgraf.There's a lot to enjoy here—and check out Tim Smith's other films, shot in Portland decades ago, on his YouTube channel.
The Sing a Song of Portland tour is a walking tour of Portland's musical history taking place this Saturday and Sunday. It's hosted by Know Your City, and you can get tickets to either day over on their site.
However! We're giving away a pair of tickets to Sunday's tour to one lucky Blogtown reader. To enter for your chance to win, send an email to this address with "Sing a Song of Portland" in the subject line. Please include your first and last name in the email, along with the name of your favorite Portland band of all time. We'll select a winner at random and get them on the tour! This closes Friday at noon, so enter now!
Remember back in July when I'd just come back from my first-ever trip through the ghosts towns of Central Oregon, and I was all hot to trot on the fact that Know Your City was hosting a guided tour (something that seems quite useful, considering there's nothing, and almost nobody out there, to give you much context behind the chilling (and kind of romantic) abandoned settings)? Well, they had to cancel that one. But! Now there's another one!
Tickets are now on sale for another shot at Ghosts of Times Past, a two-day excursion set for September 21-22, hitting the busted boom towns of Boyd, Dufur, Friend, Shaniko and Antelope, an overnight stay in the demi-ghost town (and totally awesome to rip around) Mitchell, hiking through the Painted Hills, and more, accompanied by Join Keith May, author of Ghosts of Times Past: A Road Trip of Eastern Oregon Ghost Towns. Do it. It's a trip.
This sounds two parts interesting and one part potentially humiliating: Know Your City is hosting a "Sing a Song of Portland"-themed walking tour on Sat-Sun Sept 7th & 8th, to "learn about the musical history of the Rose City, the issues effecting it today and then join together to sing some of the songs that have helped shape Portland’s music scene." Centered on venue-choked Burnside, the tour is being led not by some salty Portland lifer, but by one Sam Murray, a PhD student at Cardiff University, in Wales, who is writing his Doctoral Thesis on the Portland music scene.
KYC currently has a Q&A with Murray on their site, which helps explain the interest from someone so far away:
It all grew out of interest in Portland music, I listened to records from the likes of Laura Veirs, The Decemberists and Pink Martini and one day it clicked that they were all from the same city. I then came across an online mp3 of a Friday forum by the Portland City Club based around music in the city with Rachel Blumberg, Laura Veirs, Jared Mees and Dave Allen debating how the city can respond to its every expanding music scene. I then thought there’s gotta be a thesis in this so here I am three years later finally pursuing it. It is a privilege to study a city whose music I have been so passionate about for years.
The potentially humiliating part? The tour involves a sing-along element, so... be prepared for that. Tickets to both tours can be had right here ($10 for members, $12 for norms), and they're even throwing in a copy of Northwest Passage: 50 Years of Independent Music from the Rose City with every purchase—whatta bargain!
Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to deliver his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech.
But while it was an inspiring moment that defined a major milepost in the struggle for civil rights, King's speech looms so large in the popular imagination that it has cast an historical shadow over King's larger legacy, as well as the rest of the day's events. His was the tenth of ten speeches capping a daylong "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," and while King strayed from his prepared text to focus mostly on freedom, nearly half of the ten demands (pdf) specifically articulated by King and the rest of the march's organizers were economic, including massive public works and job training programs for the unemployed, a federal law prohibiting discrimination in public and private hiring, a broadening of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and "a national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living."
"Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 an hour fails to do this," the organizers duly noted back in 1963.
Adjusted for inflation, $2.00 in 1963 dollars would be worth $15.27 today. And so in a very real historical sense, one of the core demands underlying King's famous "I Have a Dream Speech," was a $15 an hour minimum wage. It is a dream that has remained unfulfilled to this day.
As King and his fellow organizers understood, political freedom without economic freedom isn't really freedom at all. Indeed, King went on to become an outspoken champion on behalf of economic justice for all races—so to emphasize just one part of his dream at the expense of another is to both misinterpret and misrepresent his legacy.
And so tomorrow, when thousands of fast food and other low-wage service workers nationwide walk off their jobs in pursuit of a $15 an hour minimum wage, do not scoff that these strikers are unworthy or that their demands are unrealistic, unless you are willing to scoff at the same dream that Martin Luther King Jr. marched in pursuit of fifty years ago today.
Just as I suspected, Portland, ME is named after the Isle of Portland in the English Channel, but that was a change from its original and much superior name Falmouth Neck. I would WAY rather our town have inherited the name Falmouth Neck, OR but what can you do.
The Isle of Portland is the Portland that started this whole mess, presumably named after the fact that there was a port there and it was some land. Fortunately, "Isle" didn't make the jump across the Atlantic, allowing future cities to have only two geographical words smashed together instead of three.
US cities aren't the only progeny of that Portland. Portland Stone is a kind of limestone mined from the Isle of Portland. Portland Cement, which is used in most concrete, is made from a different kind of limestone but was so named because it looked like Portland Stone. For the same reason, I would have named it Gray Cocaine Cement.
Portland, Victoria in Australia was NOT directly named after the Isle of Portland, but rather took its name from the middle man, 2-peat British prime minister the Duke of Portland.
The good news is we're the biggest (and best!) Portland in the world. Portland, ME has a metro population of half a million while Portland, Victoria and the original Isle of Portland have only 22k people between them. The Duke of Portland had a population of 1.
It's too bad we don't get to do much city naming anymore. But if we did, I think we've learned enough to not name cities after other cities. Cements and dukes, go for it.
Update: Other Portlands
Obviously this list wasn't exhaustive, just my favorite Portlands. There are 20+ other cities named Portland around the world. Some other notables:
* Portland, TX (Named after Portland, ME. Includes #73 on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail!)
* New Portland, ME (Oh shit! I hope old Portland, ME doesn't find out they've been replaced)
* Portland Parish, Jamaica (A leading producer of breadfruit, which is totally a thing)
* Portland Street, Hong Kong (famous for it's red light district, but in China red lights just mean communism)
Few would argue with the contention that Chanel is the biggest name in fashion—the brand itself seems more than aware, with truly arrogant pricing (even for high fashion) and a too-good-for-it attitude toward online commerce. As mainstream as it is, and as sorta turned off as I am by how it plays out in modern times (logo whoring is gross), the legacy of founder Coco Chanel is inspiring and enduring. Were she alive today, she'd be celebrating her 130th birthday, and the Huffington Post has compiled a collection of portraits of her throughout her life to commemorate. My recommendation, though (and next time I get the flu I am totally doing this), would be to watch back-to-back the two best biopics that have been made of her in recent years, which together show her both as a young, orphaned underdog and an intimidating success:
Meet your new religion, starring Robert "Sweathog" Hedges, Ruth "unitard" Buzzi, and Donny and Marie (who "gotta have that funk.")
Over the weekend I worked on a photo shoot that took place in various abandoned buildings around central Oregon, a part of the state to which I'd never been. Therefore, when I looked at the info for Know Your City's two-day bus tour of the area's ghost towns last week, I thought, "Oh that sounds really cool." Now I see it and I'm like, "That's gonna be fuckin' AWESOME!!" But it's coming up fast! This weekend fast.
Guided by Keith May, the author of Ghosts of Times Past: A Road Trip of Eastern Oregon Ghost Towns, the tour includes stops in creepily abandoned places like Boyd, Dufur, Friend, Shaniko and Antelope, plus a short walk through the gorgeous Painted Hills, and—maybe best of all—you'll spend the night in Mitchell, which is where we stayed too! Moreover you'll probably be staying at the Oregon Hotel, because I'm pretty sure there is only one hotel in town. Look for: a complete lack of cell phone service, a big cage behind the town gas pumps where this one guy's pet bear used to hang out (apparently he's too old to be down with daily transporting and now just hangs out back home at the farm?), and a surprisingly tolerant, almost lawless atmosphere in which people are constantly traveling through, especially on motorcycles or with hunting dogs, and there seems to be daily BBQ-ing and live music happening in the small park where you can camp up to three days for free. It's freaking delightful.
Anyway, if I had that much fun without the complete dose of fascinating history lessons being offered (the trip is Saturday to Sunday, and you can still get tickets here), you're going to have a blast.
Heritage brands—for the most part, at least in this era—straddle the divide between people who do and don't care about fashion. The workboots and jacquards worn by the people who built this country may be in vogue at the moment, but they also have that fascinating smack of national pride and history—they're clothes that will be behind glass in museums (or whatever installation designers of the future use) sooner than later.
One such is Red Wing, which is reissuing styles 875 and 877, among the most iconic in the company's history:
This boot is one of the two key styles that elevated the Red Wing brand to worldwide renown. The 875 and 877 were made with russet colored leather, tanned by using the sap of sequoia bark. The process yielded a rich color that was very close to the coat of an Irish Setter hunting dog. These boots provided excellent arch support, and had a light, cushion crepe sole. The 877 was introduced first and the 875 would quickly follow. They became an overnight sensation among hunters and workers alike. Together the 875 and 877 became Red Wing's most widely recognized boots and icons for the brand.
Thank you, Criterion Collection Twitter feed.
Did you know that Molly Ringwald has, in fact, been keeping herself mighty busy since her '80s days as John Hughes' muse and star of the most iconic teen movies of all time? In fact, she moved to France and did more movies there, got married, got divorced, wrote two books, did more movies and TV, got married again, had three kids, and now...
She's a singer! A jazz singer. Which isn't as strange as it might seem when you consider that her father was a (blind) jazz pianist. According to "someone on Twitter," her voice sounds like "a dessert." She released the album Except Sometimes in April, and is touring behind it, including a performance at the Newmark on September 27. So how is it going? Well, according to this review in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in which the critic imagines Hughes giving her notes throughout her set and banter, things are a little shaky:
Ringwald: “How’s everybody’s dinner? Their food is very good. I had a salmon sandwich.”
Hughes: Who wrote this script? And when you introduced one song as “this is track 9 on the CD,” hello? Please say something intelligent, something that’s as classy and fitting as your black cocktail dress.
Hm. Well, curiosity and nostalgia are certainly a potent combination when it comes to selling tickets. Which might have something to do with her album including a cover of "Don't You (Forget About Me)."
I don't think I feel so good about this.
That’s a question I’ve been asked more than once by confused visitors during my day job as a fact-shouting tour guide. I suspect that for every one person whose asked me directly about Portland’s off-putting monchromism, there are probably several more who have noticed, but haven’t said anything.
Breaking Chains, a new book by former Oregonian reporter R. Gregory Nokes, gives a bit of insight into Oregon’s ugly and complicated racial history. The book is dry and dense, but it’s also a great read for anyone who wants to understand the single nastiest element of Oregon history.
Slavery was not specifically legal or illegal when Oregon first became a territory, and a small group of slave-owning settlers, mainly from Missouri, did bring slaves to the territory. After slavery was made formally illegal, several former slaves were still kept on as “servants” or wards, still working for the same landowning whites as slaves in all but name.
The core of Breaking Chains focuses on the one and only slavery case ever tried in Oregon. Robin Holmes, a former slave, sued his former owner Nathaniel Ford. Ford was holding Holmes’ children after slavery had been formerly outlawed by the territorial government. However, even though Holmes had the law on his side, his was an uphill battle. Several of Oregon’s early power players (including territorial governor Joseph Lane, who would also become one of Oregon’s first senators) had deep sympathies for the pre-Civil War south, and were loathe to see a black man triumph over a white landowner in a court of law. But Holmes won, successfully rescuing his children from slavery.
As fist-pumpingly cool as Holmes’ story is, though, most of Breaking Chains is a chilling reminder of just how racist Oregon used to be. Voices for actual, real equality in Oregon were few and far between. Early debates about slavery focused just as much on the exclusion of African Americans as they did on the institution itself. One widely circulated polemic against slavery in Oregon, known as the Free State Letter, was just as opposed to the very presence of African Americans as it was to slavery. Judge George Williams, the same man who wrote the letter, would later also argue for excluding Chinese, saying that he wished to “consecrate Oregon for the white man.” The examples of institutionalized racism in Breaking Chains are too numerous to name but most outrageous is that Oregon rescinded its ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868. You know the whole thing about “equal protection” and all that? Oregon decided not get on that wagon.
Portland’s lily-white demographics aren’t just a weird accident of migration. There are very real, very nasty reasons for why this city is as un-diverse as it is today. What’s with all the white people? Oregon’s founders wanted it that way.
I'm posting this for no other reason than that Peter Gabriel's third album was released on this very day in 1980. Here is a "demo" version of "And Through the Wire," perhaps the least known song on that record and probably my favorite as well. I don't think this is a "demo" at all, but rather an alternate mix from the master take. That's Paul Weller of the Jam playing the snarling guitar riff, and Gabriel sings some different lyrics in this version.
With his 1980 album, Peter Gabriel anticipated many of the sounds and recording approaches that dominated the rest of the decade. Now with the '80s revival in full swing, there are echoes of this album everywhere.
I'm perpetually catching up on my TV stories, so it wasn't too long ago that I got my first lovestruck glimpse at Don and Megan's bitching pad in Season 5 of Mad Men. That shit is the bomb! If you're at all interested in mid-century doodads, decor, or architecture, you're in luck this weekend, my friend. You can take your mama. (She loves that stuff, right? It's kinda her era. I mean, your mama's so atomic, her first bikini was an A-bomb.) There's a nifty-sounding self-guided driving tour of a handful of mid-century houses in Northeast Portland on Sunday, complete with a post-tour reception at the 1958 "Home of Tomorrow." It'd be way more fun if you could bike it or walk it, but shrug, what ya going to do... modernism calls. Here's the deets from the Portland Mid-Century Modern League:
It’s a self-guided driving tour through some of our favorite mid-century neighborhoods, detailing homes, architects and builders of notoriety, and finishes with a catered reception at the 1958 Wedgwood “Home of Tomorrow,” designed by Blair and Fletcher!
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Price: $10 for map & reception, $5 for map only
Tours: Driving tours begin @ 2 or 4 pm. Tour takes approximately 1 to 1.5 hours
Purchase Tickets: 2-4:30 pm @ 1300 NE 117th (Home of Tomorrow)
Reception: Come back to the Home of Tomorrow at end of tour for a catered reception from 3-7 pm
“I’m a 34-year-old N.B.A. center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”
The gay part will now define him, in the public eye, more than any other. It will be the prompt for the loudest cheers he basks in and the nastiest jeers he sloughs off.
But in the opening paragraph, it comes after his age and occupation and race, getting no more space, in that one passage and for that brief moment, than other aspects of his identity. It’s a detail among many, but not the defining one.
That’s the integrated way that things should be, the unremarkable way a person’s sexual orientation ought to be lived and perceived.
It shouldn't have to prompt a phone call from the president, Bruni adds. (Or a Tweet from Michelle Obama.) But since it still does, consider for a moment how remarkable it is to have a president and first lady willing to tell Collins: "We've got your back!"
Look, I'm no Portland newby; I've lived here a long time and have paid my dues and then some. But like many of you, I didn't grow up here, and only really found out about Portland because of reasons that can ultimately be traced back to Courtney Love.
In addition to these periodic publishings, Streckert (whose day job is as a Portland tour guide, appropriately) has been holding casual seminars at the Jack London Bar to continue the education of his audience, like tonight's focus on Portland TV personalities (which kicks off at 7:30). That is exactly the sort of shit I, and chances are you, missed out on by being born in a different state. He tells of "Clowns. Cowboys. A man with too many buttons. Buzz-cutted retailers. News anchors. An actual, real whale. Puppets." And... I've heard of the whale. Should it even be noted that you can relieve yourself of ignorance while hurting your brain with alcohol at the same time? It's all about balance.
It was yesterday. Also yesterday, in Iraq, bombs took the lives of 65 people. In America, polls showed a solid majority thinking the whole thing was a mistake. On Twitter, Donald Rumsfeld remained unapologetic.
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