Today comes a classic Karl Rove assault on a member of the opposition party, a churlish smear rather than criticism over issues:

Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.

Rove was speaking of Barack Obama, never a country club member and unable to join many because he’s black.

Rove’s comment to Republican Party insiders begs the question: has any non-elected official harmed our country more than Karl Rove, at least in the last century?

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I‘m a terrorist. No doubt about it. I didn’t want to go over to the Dark Side, but some forces are too powerful to resist.

The Obama Fist Bump nailed me, or OFB as we converts call it.

It happened today on a Portland pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5. I was among throngs of people walking bikes across the Failing Street Bridge. We were part of Sunday Parkways, a trek along six miles of streets closed to cars for six hours.

Wheeling his bike toward me beneath a gray sky was a harmless looking dude. A skinny summer-time Santa with an Obama sign on his bike. Behind me, Suzame, my wife, saw the sign and yelled out the candidate’s name over the din of cars streaming past beneath us. Santa stopped next to me and held out his clenched fist. Read More

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Phoning home

June 21, 2008

Only in Portland. That’s my reaction whenever I observe an example of what makes my city quirky and vibrant. It explains the unexplainable.

The slogan “Keep Portland Weird,” adorning bumper stickers and t-shirts, is catchy but implies intent to meet a predetermined goal. But weirdness here tends to be organic. Nor is it weird if you revel in it. More like “Keep Portland Normal.”

What’s normal? Take the telephones nailed to a power pole at Northeast 28th and Burnside . I lifted the receiver of one. Written in neat block letters on the cradle was “Self Phone.”

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Iraq: What have we done?

June 19, 2008

Unlike past wars, the Iraq war is an abstraction. We rarely glimpse the unspeakable suffering. Most of the media have lost interest. Some stalwarts remain, chronicling events beyond our comprehension. As much as I hate this war, I’ve never let what happens there penetrate my comfortable life here. Until now.

Reality intruded last night when Suzame, my wife, showed me this photograph: Read More

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Hidden worlds

June 19, 2008

When I first saw Jason Tozer’s photographs, including this one used with his permission, I thought they were from a newly discovered solar system.

Tozer’s work is a stunning reminder that we think we see so much so clearly but actually see little. Hidden worlds abound at our fingertips, their existence beyond our grasp.

I’ll never think of my little boy‘s bubbles from a bottle the same again as they waft past on a warm breeze, Jupiters and ringless Saturns adrift.

You can learn more about how Tozer shot his images here.

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Garden porn

June 16, 2008

Sex in my garden, courtesy of dracunculus vulgaris. Just saying the name is a turn on. The dime on one shows how big they are. Too bad they smell like rotten meat for a day or so to lure flies into their throats. Voodoo lily and Mick Jagger’s tongue are among the many nicknames. Two more are about to unfurl, a veritable orgy in waiting on a quiet Northeast Portland street. Listen for moans in the night.

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Happy Father’s Day. From my youngest son, two months shy of three, comes a gift. “I’ll draw a picture for Dad,” Atticus tells his mother, Suzame. He conjures up Everyman confronting the wonders and perplexities of the world. Our little oracle comments on life like I never did at his age. Take this recent gem: “Mommy, don’t flush my poopy down the potty. You’ll stop it up.” A few minutes later: “Thanks for plunging it way.” Almost makes me wish potty training wasn’t nearing an end.

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Death, never rewritten

June 15, 2008

Odd what catches one’s eye. In Saturday’s Oregonian, a story about a man’s death at the coast invited a quick read. Why I’m not sure. The story was terse, as such stories usually are and have to be because of limited space: a for-the-record summary of another tragedy, another person dying too young.

This morning I read a piece written by the man’s close friend, posted on an indispensable web site about Portland’s robust food and drink scene. (Both men are/were restaurateurs.) A dispassionate account with passion roiling beneath the surface. Read More

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Meet my doppelganger. I just saw him and his endless list of exclamation-pointed needs: instant cash, online psychology degree, anatomy adjustments, soul mate promising unspeakable pleasures, discounted Wall Street Journal, and colon cleanse.

In the mirror I don’t see the alleged other me. His image emerges in disjointed words, thousands of them jamming my junk email box.

Every day I delete my automated huckster, my electronic stalker. But he never dies.

Next I’ll drive a wooden stake through my hard drive. It won’t matter. He’ll still be out there, bits and bytes of digital flesh and bone, waiting.

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Art from filth

June 14, 2008

I hope this hauntingly beautiful video shot in San Francisco inspires copycats in Portland. Artist Paul “Moose” Curtis uses stencils and a pressure washer to transform the ravages of urban pollution and time into pastoral scenes. “Nature’s voice. . .is written in dirt like it would be written in blood,” he says.

More about “Moose” here and video director Doug Pray here. Tip source: Andrew Sullivan.

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Psychobilly me

June 13, 2008

Rocket 88 is blazing through the Peacock Room with some high-octane psychobilly with flamboyant frontman Michael Bales in some tight shiny pants. . .

This news arrived in my email today via Google Alerts, courtesy of an entertainment web site run by my former employer in Orlando. Before I moved to Portland, I occasionally received phone calls intended for him, a member of my same-name brethren. No surprise: the calls left the impression that his life was edgier than mine.

Besides the Rocket 88 singer, I’ve received email alerts about others who share the name, including the Indiana guy appealing his theft conviction, the assistant producer of a film in which people spontaneously change genders, the veteran Florida fishing guide, and the PhD student immersed in biomedical informatics at Columbia University. (UPDATE: U.S. Census data shows there are two hundred of us.)

The emails make me wonder who they are, beyond the online snippets and snapshots. Do common traits accrue from something as arbitrary and artificial as a name? Would we like each other if we met? Read More

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A photograph would convey more than words, but I don’t have one of a barista at Peet’s Coffee at Northeast Broadway and 15th. You can’t miss him: the young guy with a modified mohawk, traditionally cut on top but with checkerboard-patterned sides and back. By Portland standards, the haircut barely rates a second glance. But the doo is striking in its geometric precision and attention to detail.

I asked him who cut it. His brother, he said, first drawing a carefully measured grid and then following the lines.

The barista had no idea that as I looked at his haircut I was transported back to 1963. Beatlemania was sweeping the nation, and boys were going for that mop-top look, which seems preppy and conservative today. My hair was getting close. Then my father ordered me to the barbershop.

I’d have trouble persuading the twenty-something barista how much controversy Beatle cuts stirred all those decades ago, and how many parents were driven to irrational -– and ultimately futile — acts to preserve decorum and order. Read More

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On the radio, Garrison Keillor says writer Charles Webb turns sixty-nine today. Webb wrote The Graduate, the book on which the 1967 movie was based. News to me is Webb’s sequel, published in January.

A little research shows Home School is a sequel in name only. Not worth reading, not worth risking the original story losing its special status. Good stories end with an ambiguous uncertainty that keeps them very much alive.

My first encounter with The Graduate was the movie starring Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock and Katherine Ross as Elaine Robinson. I didn’t read the book until I had seen the movie five times — the first with guy friends, the last four alone — before graduating from high school in 1968.

I imagined myself as Benjamin after his affair with Elaine’s mother, Anne Bancroft’s iconic Mrs. Robinson. I loved his Alfa Romeo sports car, the way he drove it balls-to-the-wall, how good he looked unshaven and disheveled, how he questioned his advantaged life, how he did whatever it took against impossible odds to win Elaine’s heart from the superficial, pretty-boy college guy.

I wanted to be Benjamin the intellectually gifted outsider, the rebel whose persona exuded a secret charm that attracted girls like Elaine. At Winter Park High in Florida, such girls were my friends but beyond my romantic reach. Read More

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