Friday, March 23, 2007

What's so "progressive" about billboards?

Portland Progressives may wonder what KPOJ-AM620, “Portland’s Progressive Radio Station,” is doing slathering its name on billboards around the city.

It so happens that the billboards and the radio station are owned by the same corporation, Clear Channel. That’s the very same outfit suing the city to make dozens of billboards even bigger.

I suggested here yesterday that, as taxpayers, we might save ourselves and our City big bucks if we snatch the billboard issue from the lawyers and publicly boycott Clear Channel advertisers who blight our landscape.

If you boycott KPOJ (with its ubiquitous three monkeys ad), you get a two-fer. You end up boycotting Clear Channel twice—as the station owner and as the billboard owner.

Ah, the perils of being a media conglomerate!

The downside: You have to forgo the insights and verve of talker Thom Hartmann for the duration…. Then again, he might just want to chat about his corporate "parent's" suing his adopted city.

How about it, Thom? Any thoughts about protecting "the Commons" from the folks who sign your check?

By the way, if you visit the Clear Channel site for buying billboard space in Portland you are treated some fascinating market statistics and a idyllic photo of a Portland notably and ironically unblighted by billboards.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Memo to Portland: Boycott billboard advertisers

The Oregonian featured a story today about Clear Channel's legal efforts to install bigger more intrusive billboards along Portland's Interstate corridors.

Back in the mid-90s, Hillsdale, Homestead and Bridlemile neighbors faced down Clear Channel (then it was AK Media) and won after the multi-media corporation had already installed a humongous sign at the corner of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and Shattuck, right across from Albertson's.

And, no, it didn't require a lawsuit like the one the City of Portland is enmeshed in.

All it took was the editor of the Southwest Community Connection (namely me) to print the phone numbers of the PR departments of the billboard advertisers as well at the number of the president of AK Media. (Yes, there are real flesh-and-blood, bad-publicity fearing people behind those slick corporate logos and intrusive signs.)

Each month, I urged readers to get on the phone, using my handy list of numbers, to call the advertisers (and the AK Media president) to say that this community was pledging to boycott all companies advertising on the billboard. My editorials vowed to run the phone numbers and the names of the offending and offensive advertisers until the sign came down.

Dozens responded conveying the word that advertising intrusion into our public "commons" would be counter-productive.

The advertisers got the message.

After the paid advertisers pulled out, AK Media was forced to give the space away to non-profits like the Portland Zoo. If you can't make money, at least you can go for the charitable tax write-off. Of course we got on the phones to Metro, which runs the Zoo, and Metro beat a retreat too.

Ultimately AK Media couldn't even give the space away, so the corporation finally took down the sign.

So why should the City of Portland using our money go to the expense of fighting Clear Channel's attorneys in court? Why don't we all just note who is advertising, post the phone numbers on-line, and then get on the phone or internet to say: "You know what, your advertising is going to bite you in your bottom...line."?

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

TV-B-Gone zaps The Hillsdale Brew Pub

So my TV-B-Gone arrives in the mail today. I immediately test it on one of the shopping channels "offered" by my cable "service." I mash the button on the little pocket remote.

Bulls-eye! The screen blinks off.

So I attach my new B-Gone to my key chain and head out to the Hillsdale Brew Pub for a burger and IPA. I'm meeting my friend Erik there to talk media literacy business.

In the far upper corner, the mounted tube is glowing with some inconsequential basketball game. I look around the room to see whether anyone is watching it. No one is, so....

Bulls-eye! The screen goes black.

The pub conversations doesn't skip a beat. No one complains. No one notices. Erik orders another beer.

Ninety minutes later when we leave, the TV is still off. It probably still is.

Who knows, it may never come on again. We can hope....

Not get this: I have never—EVER—gone to the Hillsdale Brew Pub and found that corner mounted TV off.

Tonight, it is and no one even knows it...except Erik and me.

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The Golden Age of Prose

I'm certain a few thousand bloggers have noted this, but I'll throw my lot in with them now: We may be in the Golden Age of Prose.

Not because the writing today is any better—though it may be—but because so much writing is now accessible and hence encouraged by vast audiences, however small.

And so much of it is good. Why? Because this medium invites us to write and write and write. As we have been assured, the more we do it, the better we get.

You may have come to the Golden Age of Prose conclusion yourself. Very likely can offer nuggets yourself (Please DO!). As for me, I haven't roamed all that widely on the web, but my modest meanderings have turned up some real gems.

Here are a mere two...follow the links off Paperback Writer and Annie Rhiannon and you will find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole to Wonderland.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Politics, press shun language of peace

In the last post I mused over why we never put political power in the hands of those following the path of non-violence and over-arching love.

Here's one reason: The bellicose language so widely used in political discourse.

"War rooms," "air wars" (broadcast ads), "political strongholds," "attack ads," "knock-out blows."

You've heard them all, particularly in the run-up to elections.

The media eat this stuff up. Nothing sells like conflict—so play it BIG.

Even so minor a political story as the one on the front page of today's Oregonian makes the news sound like a dispatch from Iraq. The story is about former Mayor Bud Clark's opposition to current Mayor Tom Potter's charter revision proposal.

Here, in the sub-head of the story about the wonkish measure: "The fight over a proposal to change Portland's form of government pits two old friends: Tom Potter and the man who used to hold the job."



On to the caption next to the photo showing Clark comfortably recuperating from an appendectomy: "Former Mayor Bud battling again to preserve the city's unusual form of government. His foe this time? Mayor Tom Potter, who served as police chief under Clark."



Gimme a break.

These two old friends disagree. It's been know to happen. I disagree with a lot of my friends.

Headlines to the contrary, Clark and Potter are not clawing at each other in the trenches.

In fact, if you scan past the big print hype and read into the story itself, you find it is subdued, although "battling" is repeated and a "wound" analogy is wheeled out (remember that appendectomy?). The two men openly compliment each other. Says Potter of Clark: "He's one of the sweetest people I know." Clark, while opposing the charter revision, proclaims his personal trust of Potter.

But like most political stories, this one is packaged in martial terms. Politicians and the press are saying, in effect, the language of peace and reconciliation are not spoken here. "Don't even think about it. We don't."

Well, its time the public, politicians and the press all thought about it and started changing the language—which is the beginning of changing the way we think...and act.

What hope for unity and understanding and peace can their be if we don't?

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The political courage to love

The Vietnam vet who confronted me on the streetcar Sunday (see previous post) has led me to a sobering conclusion.

We are one domestic terrorist attack away from electing a war-hardened John McCain as our next president.

Seen this way, the absurdly premature polls now pointing to a Democratic victory in 2008 are numbers from nowhere.

Suppose a terrorist cell, or a solitary suicide bomber (or, perish the thought, an agent provocateur) detonates a bomb in an all-American shopping mall some Saturday in the next 18 months.

Two hundred dead? Four hundred? One thousand gravely wounded. Many victims are children. Depictions of the devastation and agony are delivered again and again to the TVs in every living room in the land.

Baghdad suffers such carnage each day.

Here, once will be enough.

Will a vengeful, flag-waving, self-righteous America then vote for a Clinton/Obama ticket or Obama/Edwards? An Edwards/Richardson pairing? How about Al Gore?

Not a chance.

A “United We Stand” America will send a McCain/Giuliani or a McCain/Brownback war team to the White House.

And the killing goes on and on and on.

The important point is this: The likely winners, like all the candidates in both parties, will be, self-proclaimed “Christians.” Once again, they will be too weak, yes, too cowardly, to put into practice Christ’s most challenging commandment: “Love your enemy.”

As a people we should ask, where do we find leaders with the moral strength and courage to chance such love?

Can our system of government even nurture them? Do we, a frightened people steeped in “might makes right,” bar them from the halls of power? Would we, who venerate a Christ or a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, ever actually have the courage to elect such a person—to act in the name of love?

I fear that unless we (and here I mean all humanity) quickly evolve so that we vest such leaders with real power, we as a species are doomed.

I don’t think that my streetcar acquaintance had any of this in mind when he challenged me about my service to our country; but this is where his challenge has led me.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

A post-peace march encounter with the past

So Portland’s Peace march was bigger than Seattle’s. Who knows, it may have topped San Francisco’s.

Well, never mind. This is not some March Madness peace play-off between cities.

Besides, the evening news tonight is spending more time on a handful of anarchists jousting with police in front of the Justice Center than it is on shots of the winding, quirky, sardonic, bitter march for peace.

And then there was my ride back from the march on the trolley….

An in-your-face guy in his fifties seated across the aisle spots my “Wage Peace” sign and says, “So you’d rather fight them here than over there?”

I’m never good with impromptu retorts, which is probably just as well, but this guy won’t let my silence stand.

“So you’d rather fight them here than over there—and, believe me, we WILL be fighting them here.”


“Serve in ‘Nam?” he asks.


“Did you serve in Vietnam?”

“No,” I say.

“Did you ever serve anywhere?”

“I was in the Peace Corps in Africa for three years helping people,” I offered.

“Some people don’t want help.”

“Well the people I helped sure did.”

“Some people don’t want help,” he repeated.

“The people I helped CERTAINLY did.”

It was his turn for silence.

Two more trolley stops and he got off in stony silence.

They call Portland “weird,” but they don’t know the half of it.

When my antagonist watches the news tonight, will he remember the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer he encountered on the bus, or will he be focused on the hand-cuffed anarchists being carted off by the police?

Or will we be one in the same?

As for me, I wonder what this Vietnam vet went through 40 years ago that delivered him into the hands of George W. Bush, who never served anywhere for this country.

And still doesn’t.

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