Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lawmaker shows interest in Media Literacy

My amateur lobbying effort to give Media Literacy a formal place in the state’s schools has finally drawn a direct response from Rep. Mary Nolan, my state representative. My state senator is Ginny Burdick, who, after more than two months, still hasn’t responded to my correspondence.

If you want to review my “blog trail,” it begins here, then goes here and on to here.

Which brings us to yesterday, when Nolan e-mailed me. The relevant section of her e-mail follows. The Rep. Galizio mentioned is another state representative, Larry Galizio, who teaches media issues with me at Portland Community College. He has urged me to work through Nolan and Burdick and is unwilling to take the initiative because, he says, he is on the Ways and Means Committee. I still can’t fathom his reasoning, but, hey, he’s the decider.

So here is Nolan’s response….


Thanks for your note. Always good to see your name in my in-box.

Here are my thoughts….

(Media Literacy) is an intriguing idea, which I'd be interested in learning more about. I'll follow up with Rep. Galizio, as well as investigate whether this is addressed in any way in the high school or community college curriculum in Oregon. Perhaps you could tell us a bit more about what the NW Media Literacy Center does.


Mary Nolan

I replied to Rep. Nolan and noted that she and anyone else can find out about the Northwest Media Literacy Center at

I have also forwarded to her Oregon legislation that got to the governor’s desk in 2001 but died there because it hadn’t been vetted by the Superintendent for Public Instruction. The legislation establishes a state commission on Media Literacy that would advance its cause. I’ve also shared a New Jersey law that mandates that media literacy be taught in the schools.

Oh, and I’ve copied Sen. Burdick. At this late date I’m just testing to see whether she reads the e-mails she invites us to send her.

I’ll keep you posted.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Leave me out of this!

Headline writers at The Oregonian not only proclaim the news, their work proclaims a need for two daily newspapers.

Enter The New York Times.

On Monday, both papers ran on their front pages a story about an effort to get the Bush Administration to collect unpaid taxes.

The Oregonian story, which came from the L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service, dominated the page with this four-column-wide screamer: “Congress wants your unpaid taxes”

Wait just one second there, Bub.

"Your" unpaid taxes? Who, me?

The Times ran its own story in the lower left-hand corner. Its headline made it partisan, not personal.

“Democrats Seek Unpaid Taxes, Setting up Clash.”

On to the stories themselves.

In The Oregonian, the story says nothing to support the headline’s false intimation that I’m not paying my taxes.

It also specifically calls the so-called “tax gap” effort bi-partisan: “...Democrats and Republicans are talking it up as a way to fund politically appealing initiatives—and bring down the deficit to boot.”

The Bush administration’s position toward addressing the gap isn’t mentioned.

But back in the New York Times, the lede and headline are joined at the hip: “Congressional Democrats, hoping to finance an ambitious agenda without raising taxes, are on a collision course with the Bush administration etc.” From there on, the story is framed as a push and pull between the Democrats and various Bush mouthpieces.

At one point the Times quotes one Michele Davis in the Treasury Department. Ms. Davis is a spokeswoman, an unsettling term that for me unfailingly evokes the female-phobic humorist James Thurber (vis. "The Catbird Seat").

Anyway, Ms. Davis manages to inject a hackneyed Conservative shibboleth into her oh-so-well-crafted sound bite: “We are very mindful of the compliance burden on taxpayers who do follow the law.”

Wait a minute! “Compliance Burden on taxpayers who do follow the law.”

Now she’s doing what the Oregonian headline writer did—dragging me into this. I follow the law, and I frankly bear no “compliance-burden”—well, on second thought....

My "compliance burden" has nothing to do with how much I pay, but with how Ms. Davis’ boss and patron in the White House, George W. Bush, is spending my money on a policy that has led to mayhem and murder.

If only Ms. Davis would talk about THAT compliance burden.

Until then, she, and The Oregonian, can leave me out of this.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Portland Portrait: First Sunday in February

Last Sunday as Portland ordered pizza and iced the beer in preparation for the Superbowl, I decided to explore a city I pretty much had to myself.

These photos are from a solitary amble down curving, forested Terwilliger Boulevard to a nearly deserted downtown Portland.

Enjoy the stroll.

Forest Arch

Fern Cascade

Urban Forest


Tram nest on Pill Hill

Urban contrast

A street to myself

Lighted way



Sunday, February 04, 2007

Be still my heart! Stirrings in Salem!

Here is an update of my on-going mini-saga with seemingly aloof Salem legislators.

This episode notes signs of a pulse in Rep. Mary Nolan's office. It follows on my gentle prodding of her and two other lawmakers to introduce legislation that would advance Media Literacy in Oregon.

So far my admittedly amateurish lobbying has consisted of a trickle of e-mails (with relevant and short attachments) from me that have gone largely unanswered.

I am somewhere between being perplexed and exasperated by the experience.

But I am learning.

More than that, the silence from Salem is steeling my resolve.

First, a taste of Media Literacy, which is well established in schools in several other states—but unrecognized here.

Media Literacy is, among other things, an effort to get children (and adults) to be critically aware of media’s impact on their lives, their communities, their country and their planet.

Here's an example for children: When a cartoon program repeatedly tells kids that eating sugar-frosted, glucose-injected cardboard is great fun, kids (and their parents) should think about what this junk will do to their bodies and brains. Consequences like obesity and hyperactivity, for starters.

Example for "adults": When Super Bowl advertisers suggest to mass male audiences that drinking Coors somehow goes hand-in-hand with bikini-clad twins, guys should note that all Coors really offers is cold cans and bottles.

You’d think this would be obvious, but visual media don’t want you to think.

Media Literacy does.

So, as I say, I have been trying to get my elected representatives, Rep. Nolan and Sen. Ginny Burdick to put Media Literacy on this session's legislative agenda. I have included Rep. Larry Galizio of Tigard because I know him and have reason to believe might be interested. We both teach media awareness at Portland Community College.

At least Galizio responded to one e-mail, though he basically passed the buck and has not been heard from since.

So far Burdick might as well be dead.

Last Wednesday I received evidence of life in Nolan’s office when this e-mail arrived.


Please forgive the late response to your earlier e-mail. Representative Nolan was in between staff for much of December and I'm afraid that your e-mail fell through the cracks when I took over. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

I have printed out both of your e-mails and will pass them on to Representative Nolan and she will get back to you later this week.


Marah Hall
Legislative Assistant
Representative Nolan

“Later this week” was last week.

Two readers of the Red Electric have suggested that I phone these solons. This week I will, but please note, dear readers, that if legislators are going to invite e-mails (and they do), they should be prepared to respond to them.

In the meantime, if you bump into Nolan or Burdick, you might tell them to “call home.”

The number is (503) 245-7821.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Sacrificing" one's Palate for Chocolate

Just when I thought I might have put decadence behind me, the irrepressible Ted Coonfield, pictured here at the head of the table, invites me to a chocolate tasting (pictured here and below).

Ted has his fingers into everything including chocolate. And now he’s been taking an on-line chocolate-making, appreciation course.

So here we are, a few of Ted’s friends, invited over to hear what he has learned and to put our palates through their cocoa paces.

Ted is one of those bigger-than-life sorts. His voice is a mix of the lingering drawl of a transplanted Oklahoman, which he is, and the éclat of unfettered exuberance. It’s hard to get Ted down with a pen, but a broad brush sweeps over food, wine, old pick-up trucks (he has a restored ’53 Chevy), life on any farm, hippy lore, and good times in general.

And just when you think you have figured him out, he surprises you…again. After last night’s meticulously planned and graciously executed chocolate tasting/feast, he showed off an intriguing side table he had crafted from a wine barrel. And yes, he knew the vintage of the wine.

Anyway, back to the chocolate tasting.

Ted invited each of us to recount chocolate stories before we got into the tasting. Several were as rich and tasty as the morsels before us. Interestingly, many had more to do with chocolate smells than chocolate flavors. A refugee from the Bay Area invoked Ghirardelli Square, not the place, but the savory aroma of it.

Ted then led us through a chocolate multiple-choice quiz. What does M & M stand for. and who was the Tootsie Roll named for and which holiday results in the greatest chocolate consumption?

Then the real fun began. Nine of us pondered the virtues of 28 morsels of chocolate served in five “flights” (with plenty of water in between),

Lindt Extra Fine Dark Chocolate , Dagoba New Moon, Vairhona Le Noir Amer-Dark Bittersweet, Green & Black Organic Dark Chocolate, Santander Dark Chocolate Single Origin, Sharffen Berger Semi-Sweet Dark, Blanxart Chocolate Negro….

The chunks originated in places as diverse as Peru, Spain and Belgium.

We compared smells, textures, “initial tastes,” “meltability” and flavors (bitterness, sweetness, sourness and acidity).

At times a single morsel would collect wildly different opinions. One person’s “yuk” was another’s “divine!”

Strange to say, but after “Flight #4,” I could see why, day in and day out, people might be paid to do something like this.

But for one evening, this was a wild ride of cocoa exploration.

Just so the results of the evening’s careful deliberations won’t be wasted on the chosen few around Ted’s table, here’s the consensus favorite: Baratti & Milano Cioccolato Extra Fondante Amaro, which can be found at Zupan’s. (By the way, Ted recommends Barbur Foods for the best all-around chocolate selection. And, as a bonus, chocolate taster Mike Ponder recommends Barbur’s $3 Lebanese pizza.)

It is now the “morning after.” I did manage to get some sleep, though Ted warned us that our chocolate tasting, which began at 8:30 p.m. could keep us up. And yes, I am slightly hung over. I think it will be a while before I crave chocolate, even Baratti & Milano Cioccolato Extra Fondante Amaro.

But don’t hold me to it.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 02, 2007

On emptying pockets

Recently I’ve been trying to decide whether I have too many pockets or too few.

Over the last five years my pockets have bulged beyond baggy with the paraphernalia of my technology-captivated, urban existence.

Cell phone, PDA, credit cards, business cards with their own container, a pen or two, a coin purse, keys (my God, the keys! Two for the house, one for the car, one for a jointly-owned motor scooter, one for my classroom, and one for…well I’m not sure what it’s for but I carry it ‘just in case.’), an old pocket watch and a miniature yet utilitarian Swiss Army knife with tiny, but excellent scissors, plus toothpick, plus tweezers, plus small screwdriver, and, I almost forgot, a knife blade.

Oh, and a small pouch for my hearing aides and batteries. It turns out the infirmities of age require pockets.

Keeping all these items straight can be a minor, verging-on-major, production. I do a lot of pocket checking throughout the day.

Which has led me to wonder what it would be like to have no pockets, or at least empty ones.

Imagine leaving the house for a 30-minute walk empty-pocketed.

Surely this must be some form of modern nakedness.

No keys. (Relax. What are the odds of the house being burglarized in the next half hour?)

No wallet. (No shopping list. Nothing to buy.)

No identification. (I imagine a neighbor finding me sprawled out unconscious in the street. He is scratching his head: “It sure looks like Rick but it can’t be—he’d have some ID on him….”)

No cell phone. (Just like 10 years ago. I did it then, I can do it now.)

No knife. (I’ll trim my toenails later)

No business cards, no PDA. (This walk is for leisure and experimentation, not business)

No hearing aide/battery pouch. (A short walk, well within the life of my batteries.)

Such radical pocket pruning would put me in a very different place…right here in my neighborhood.

One day soon I’ll chance it.

And pocket the experience.

Labels: ,