Saturday, March 07, 2009

Backspace Typewriters

After several months, today I finally got around to posting on my other site, Backspace Typewriters.

I usually spare Red Electric readers references to the site. Even if you don't might find it particularly interesting, I'm certain you will find it bizarre.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 06, 2009

When we are what we “aren’t”; when we aren’t what we “are”

Labels like "parent," "teacher," and "neighbor" fix us in the language and in the thin crust of perception, but they don’t make us what we are.

How many “parents” really aren’t parenting? Ever had a “teacher” who didn’t teach? “Ministers” who didn’t minister? “Administrators” who couldn’t administer? “Students” who don’t study — or learn?

You get the picture, but it isn’t all bad.

For every “teacher” who doesn’t’ teach, dozens of “non-teachers” do. Who has taught you the most in the world? I’ll bet she or he wasn’t a “teacher.”

For every “student” who doesn’t study, hundreds of “non-students” do.

For every “parent” who doesn’t parent, dozens of “non-parents” do. They might be next-door neighbors, school bus drivers and, yes, teachers.

Each of us would be more effective if we recognized ourselves for what we are, not what we are labeled.

I am a “teacher” at a community college, but often I find myself being a parent, or, at my age, a grandparent.

Often I try to be what I think an “adult” should be. Yes, it still takes a conscious effort.

Imagine answering the question “What do you do?” with “I’m an adult at a community college. And, yes, they pay me for it.”

Am I a teacher? I think so, but those who know the answer are my students. Or should I say “students”?

So, what are you beyond your label? If you don’t know, find the answer. It might surprise you.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Some uninvited advice for The Oregonian

The Oregonian is shrinking again.

The way it is going about its slow disappearing act — and that’s what it is — says something about why it will continue to fade to nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a newspaper guy and I want to see a major news presence of Oregonian-proportions survive.

Notice that I didn’t say a major “newspaper.” That may not be possible.

But I do want a financially viable Portland news organization to emerge from the turmoil that has hit the industry. It may take some combining of resources and an entirely new methods of funding.

It will certainly take new ways of thinking.

It’s about time. For instance, it’s time for the news to be free of advertising pressures and compromises.

It may also mean the end of petty, cheap-shot competition. Journalism and journalists should have one share, and even cooperative, purpose: informing the public.

Call me crazy, but I believe The Oregonian could be the locus around which this new journalism emerges. Other journalistic “partners” could be Willamette Week, Community Newspapers and OPB.

But The Oregonian, as the big dog, is critical. And if the big dog is dying, things could fall apart quickly.

So what can The Oregonian do short-term to survive?

Here are seven recommendations.

The most recent evidence of the paper’s decline is subsuming the “Business” section into the front news section. The change says, in effect, that the “Business” section isn’t worthy of the reader’s separate consideration. Unlike, for instance, the “Sports” section, which remains very much its own entity. The message is that sports is more important than business.


Part of the problem is in the old section’s name, “Business.” The “Business” section has evolved, or should, from being strictly about business to being about the economy. It ought to be “The Economy” section.

Recommendation #1 is to call it “The Economy” and include news about labor and personal finance as well as about business. People are talking a whole lot more about the economy these days than, say, about The Blazers. Which brings us to….

Recommendation #2. If “Sports” is worthy of its own section and massive column inches (a doubtful assumption), “The Economy” certainly is equally deserving. Its substance is nothing less than our livelihood, our well being, our savings, our sense of security.

Come to think of it, “The Economy” increasingly determines “How We Live,” (HWL) which happens to be the name of another section.

Recommendation #3. Call “How We Live” something else like “Time Out” or “The Rest of the Story” (thank you, Paul Harvey) or “UpBeat” but don’t change its content. One exception: move any HWL economy story to the new “The Economy” section.

As it turns out, I spend more time with “HWL” than any other section. That’s because of its daily publication of games. The time-sink for me is Sudoku. The reason: It’s inter-active — like the Internet, which competes for the rest of my time.

Recommendation #4. Keep the “HWL” format but consider using interactive features in other parts of the paper.

Recommendation #5. Put “Sports” at the back of “How We Live.” Clearly sports are an attraction for many folks, mostly hairy chested ones who form symbiotic relationships with sports figures.

The above recommendations likely will do little more than buy the newspaper time to create a new journalism institution. Which leads us to....

Recommendation #6. Start talking with other news organizations and institutions about the future of Portland journalism. Get over bruised or inflated egos and start to put together a plan for serving the public. Consider a quasi-public service, non-profit organization called “The Portland News Consortium.”

Recommendation #7.
Challenge your readers and your own old assumptions and habits by dropping useless baggage. It can be as far-reaching as cooperating and converging with other news organizations and media, or as simple, but ethical, as announcing that the paper will cease referring to the University of Oregon/Oregon State rivalry as a war — specifically a "Civil War."

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dinosaurs discounted

Item: From February 2008 to this February, General Motors sales dropped 53.1 percent.

Here we are in the throes of a deep-diving recession and car dealers are still pitching H2 Hummers. The ad below is from last Saturday's Oregonian.

Note the discounts.

Such a deal. For a mere $50,000 and five bucks back in change, you get the vehicle that Consumer Reports just ranked the second worst car on the market.

And if that isn't enough, it slurps along at 11 miles to the gallon.

If you want to pay a bit more, $57,902 to be exact, you can snap up a Cadillac Escalade. It gulps along at 13 mpg. CR says the Escalade's reliability is "well below average" and its braking distances are long. So too are an aircraft carrier's.

Both vehicles are made by the taxpayer-subsidized, woefully mismanaged General Motors.

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Sign of Ignorance

This should test the systems.

A few days ago a state sign crew planted a bicycle warning sign at the entrance to the off-ramp from Barbur Boulevard to SW Capitol Highway. The location they chose clearly obscures the decades’ old sign that has directed motorists to Hillsdale and Beaverton. A sign indicating the way to OHSU hospital is barely visible.

What could the workers have been thinking? Were they thinking?


I’ll place a complaint today. Let’s see how long it takes ODOT to solve the problem.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Are we being taken for a $8.24 bus ride?

If you can believe TriMet's figures, it costs the transit agency $8.24 per rider to run the #55 Hamilton bus line, which serves Bridlemile and Hillsdale. TriMet could hire taxis to ferry riders to and from downtown for that. If the riders double up, TriMet might even save money using cabs.

Okey, all those cabs might pollute more, but they would employ more drivers.

Something is fishy about this whole TriMet financial mess. I hope hearings about the proposed service cuts shed some light on the workings of TriMet.

See the Hillsdale News for more about the #55 and other proposed cuts in local service.

Labels: , ,

Ourselves and Others

In the manner of Quakers, the query posted in the meeting room of our Stark Street Meeting House was changed today for the new month.

The March (or Third Month) query reads:

How careful are we of the reputations of others?
Do we practice the art of listening to one another, even beyond words?

Are we sensitive to each other’s personal needs and difficulties and do we assist in useful ways?

We worship in a circle, and I always position myself so that I can easily read the query on the distant wall.

After several re-readings and reflection, I was moved to speak out of the silence of worship. I asked my fellow worshippers to consider a change in the query so that it asks:

How careful are we of our own reputations?
Do we practice the art of listening to ourselves, even beyond words?

Are we sensitive to our own personal needs and difficulties and do we assist ourselves in useful ways?

I suggested that if we addressed these questions about ourselves, we would be far better able to address those about others as posed in the March query.

Labels: , , ,