Life is Short

March 31, 2009

In an interview broadcast today, singer John Mellencamp described to NPR’s Terry Gross the inspiration for the song “Longest Days” on his 2008 CD, Life Death Love and Freedom.

He said his grandmother called him Buddy. She lived to 100. Late in life she often asked him to lay in bed with her as she rested. Once, side by side, she asked him to pray with her. Read More


Search for Secret Rooms

March 31, 2009

When I was a kid in the 1960s and lived in an old rented house (old by Florida standards — 1930s), I was convinced it had hidden spaces.

Off the living room was an alcove we called the library. One wall had a love seat and window looking out onto an orange grove. The other two walls had built-in, floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with books. The books belonged to the original owner, who had died.

Many times I removed books and searched the wood behind them for a secret button or other devices. I was sure there was a way to reveal a mysterious room leading who knows where. This mania stemmed from watching mystery movies, including The Phantom Empire, and reading Hardy Boys books. Read More


Vicarious Escapes

March 31, 2009

Every so often I stumble upon a story and see myself as the central character:

It sounded like a bunch of centaurs were following an exercise video upstairs, right above my bed this morning. Interesting visual, but at 7 AM there ain’t a damn thing more fascinating and beautiful than the backs of my eyelids underneath the blankets.

jeff-simmermonThus begins another installment in a blog that I cruise to daily, hoping for a new entry. The best stories, writes the author, Jeff Simmermon, are “fertilized with a pinch of some amazing shit that always starts with ‘And I am NOT lying.’ ” Read More


Film Trip To Nostalgia

March 29, 2009

Odd for nostalgia to grip me while viewing a century-old film of a place I’ve never been. I’m a sucker for black-and-white historical images as it is. But Barcelona 1908 conveys in seven minutes a longing for a simpler time — people on the streets amid streetcars, bicycles, and few automobiles.

Part of the appeal may be similarities to my home, bike-loving Portland and its expanding streetcar network. Work beginning this year will bring them close to my house. It’s a return to the past — streetcars crisscrossed the city for decades until the country went automobile crazy after World War II. Read More


Violence of Spring

March 28, 2009

The ‘hood has changed after a week of violent crime only a short walk from my Northeast Portland house.

Count them: two stabbings in two gang fights at the Lloyd Center Mall, another gang fight at the Applebee’s restaurant across the street from the mall, a bank robbery, and a gang-related shooting at an Asian restaurant-bar four blocks south of me. The victim survived four gunshot wounds. Read More


The Great Takeover

March 26, 2009

The most provocative, over the top, and disturbing take on what has befallen us appears in the latest Rolling Stone. Sometimes the truth is so close we can’t recognize it, and a writer like Matt Taibbi comes along to piece everything together into sharp focus:

The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d’état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations. Read More


Pink Light War On Youth

March 26, 2009

To deter teenagers from congregating in certain areas at night, British groups are deploying pink lights that highlight their pimples. The lights, unlike those that attract and electrocute mosquitoes and other insects, play on the vanity and self-consciousness of young people to drive them away. Read More


Media Bashathon

March 25, 2009

I usually wield no club in the intensifying mainstream media bashathon. But Todd Gitlin, whose journalism bona fides make his views worth a read, rightly hammers Big-Time Reporters’ coverage of President Obama’s press conference last night.

Petulance born of arrogance is especially repugnant when it leads to stories focusing on style at the expense of substance. We need hard-nosed reporting combined with clear explanations and analyses of what’s really happening around us. Now more than ever.


Cracked Window needed a friend. How else to explain its diminutive new companion, More Cracked, a spartan place for random photos and asides.

With Cracked Window nearing its one-year anniversary, I decided a big blog and Twitter aren’t enough for the ephemera I latch onto. Better to get it out of my head and make room for more.


Not Living This Large

March 24, 2009

In the midst of economic despair, my Visa card company sends me a promotion to see a Formula I car race in Monaco (copied in full below). The cost, not including airfare, is $13,600 for two people — the required minimum.

Receiving the offer must portend a pending windfall. Either that or someone believes I work for A.I.G. Read More


Sealing Up the Gold Mine

March 23, 2009

Posting a comment on Facebook has landed me a radio show interview tomorrow. Topic: the implications of severe cutbacks at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library, where I spent much of the last two years researching this book. Read More


Tricycle Symbolism

March 21, 2009

Do two make a trend? I’ve now seen lone tricycles perpetually locked to sidewalk bike racks outside two Northeast Portland restaurants. They’re obviously in place for symbolic value, but symbolizing what?

One has been parked outside Tin Shed for at least a few years. A couple nights ago, a newer trike grabbed my attention. It’s outside Belly, which opened in July to good reviews but isn’t getting the business it deserves. Read More

{ 1 comment }

Humane Efficiency

March 20, 2009

Feel like the country is overrun with greed and inefficiency? Hard not to these days. So these numbers sprang off a whiteboard at the Oregon Humane Society today:

Animals adopted last year: 3,810 dogs, 5,197 cats, and 999 other (rabbits, hamsters, and similar small animals).
Adoption rates, respectively: 99, 95, and 92 percent. Only medical and behavioral issues prevented a 100 percent score.

    Maybe the Humane Society should run Wall Street.