Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sign the recall petition

I picked up a lapel button last week that reads, "Say the thing that everyone is thinking."

Mark Zusman, the editor of Willamette Week, may not have written "what everyone is thinking" in his recent editorial urging readers to sign the Adams' recall petition, but he certainly has written what I've been thinking.

See whether he has captured your own thoughts too.

If so, sign the petition.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Success and the "anti-viral" blog

Recently I posted my 1000th entry on this site. I suppose it was a milestone of sorts. If my site meter is correct, each post averages 46 readers.

The Red Electric clearly hasn’t gone “viral." Anti-viral is more like it.

Also, the average visit numbers are distorted by Sarah Palin.

Or, to be exact, her glasses.

Let me explain.

The day I presented an in-depth analysis of Palin's specs, the site did go relatively viral. If I recall correctly, 700 Palinites flocked to The Red Electric. I’m sure that most of them wanted to emulate the beguiling Palin look. Instead they got references to Marshall McLuhan and Dorothy Parker.

I resist measuring the success of this site by the volume of visitors. Striving to be “popular” for popularity's sake, as we learned in high school, is a fool’s game. Sure, I could make several changes to increase The Red Electric’s popularity. Focus would help. I pretty much write about whatever is on my mind. I like it that way. But I’m told that to be successful I should focus on earthworms or planters’ warts or hubcap collecting.

(Full disclosure: I have a focused site, Backspace Typewriters, devoted to these grand old writing machines. I post there only major developments in my typewriter world. It works out to once a month or so. About as much as one person can take. I understandably get very few visitors, but those I do get, often comment. Alas, not so here at The Red Electric)

No, a subject-constricted, popularity-constrained site would be no fun. I’d rather roam widely: Quakers, my dad’s Buick convertibles, Peace Corps memories, Hillsdale secessionist impulses, “active shooter” alerts on my community college campus, the future of journalism, political mind games and — Sarah Palin’s glasses.

The result is that about half of the 46 daily visits result from the happenstance of chance search engine surfing.

I once wrote about how my iPod cords get tangled in my backpack as if they were engaged in some surreptitious electronic-device orgy. I tagged the post “sonic sex” and ever since I’ve found sonic sex addicts (yes, they exist) visiting the post. I fear my musings were not what they had in mind.

I recently went on vacation and didn’t post a word for five days. I figured the visits would drop off in my absence. To my surprise, the numbers actually increased slightly. Two explanations: Search engine hits keep happening no matter what I write today or tomorrow, and regular readers wonder about my whereabouts. It’s a stretch to say they were worried, but who knows?

So, curiously, in my absence, the site took on a life of its own. Not to be morbid about it, but I wonder whether web sites continue and even grow in popularity after their authors have moved on to the Big Blog in the Sky.

My soul is strangely warmed by the thought of blog immortality.

Until then, I look forward to composing the next 1000 posts.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Missoula's Peace Center

I reported yesterday on my trip to Missoula, and on the ways the Montana city has created several amenities that we here in Hillsdale have often discussed but not yet implemented.

Another Missoula institution merits mentioning, the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center.

The center is just south of the Higgins Street Bridge in a cluster of "alternative businesses." A fair trade shop is in the store's front, and a private, subscription lending library is to the rear of the space.

Rankin, a native Montanan, was a suffragette and the first woman member of Congress. She voted against this nation’s declarations of war in both world wars. In the case of World War II, hers was the solitary vote in opposition. She cast it in full knowledge that it would ensure she would not be re-elected.

In Hillsdale, we have a small cadre of peace activists, and some of us have talked of forming a membership lending library with a quiet, comfortable reading room.

Entering the Rankin Peace Center, you wander through the cheery, colorful shop. It is stocked with exotic musical instruments, peace books, radiant textiles, pottery, reed baskets, peace buttons and inexpensive, handmade jewelry. Most of the offerings are from other parts of the world.

The small library, reached through a doorway, is focused on peace, social justice and sustainability, and is a serene, comfortable haven. It is also suitable for small meetings. Along one wall is a kitchenette.

In Hillsdale, we could create such a center in the space we will be using for our community book sale (this Sunday, 10 to 3). Our focus could be on community building.

As you look at these photographs of the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center library and the shop, imagine what it would be like to have a place like this in Hillsdale.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Memo to Hillsdale: Missoula makes it happen

I’m back from six days in Montana. Most of the time was in Missoula, which displayed real civic accomplishments that are still striking, particularly since some are identical to visionary ideas we have in Hillsdale.

Of course Missoula is a municipality and can do what it wants. Here we are beholden to the Portland City Council and several other disparate urban and regional entities. We have virtually no say over what happens to our tax dollars, which are thrown into the urban stew.

Missoula’s own council is more than twice the size of ours and far more representative.

The City is divided into six wards with each ward having two representatives. City Council members reside in the ward they represent. Missoula's neighborhood system is as active as our own, and far better organized. (More on this in a later post)

Of course Portland and Missoula are widely different in size. Missoula's population in 2000 was is 56,000. It's probably 70,000 now. Comparisons between the two cities are, accordingly, immediately suspect.

Still, the photos show the ways that Missoula has built many of our Hillsdale visions.

We’ve talked about summer concerts at the Wilson High School stadium. While I was in Missoula, the city put on its eighth International Choral Festival with groups from nine different countries and states like Michigan, Colorado, California and Utah. Every three years for the past 22, the community has put on the festival. The grand finale concert is held on the gridiron of Grizzly Stadium at the University of Montana. Note the inflatable band shell in the photo. The performers are from South Korea.

Missoula is saying loud and clear: It can be done, folks, right there on the American holy of holies: football turf.

Down by the Clark Fork River is a landmark tower, part of the old train station. We could use such a tower next to the Casa Colima restaurant.

And across the river in a park is an outdoor theater (Let’s put ours in the underused Hillsdale Park) and a covered place for a Farmers Market. With one of those, we’d have shade in the summer and shelter in the winter.

All of these civic improvements result from a will that made a way. We can do it too.

Tomorrow: A combination peace institute, fair-trade store and private lending library.

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