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Beavers' backers back from bowl Saturday, December 30, 2006

Members of the Oregon State band and cheer team wait for their luggage at Portland International Airport on Dec. 30, 2006, after a charter flight from El Paso, Texas. On Dec. 29, OSU beat the University of Missouri 39-38 in the Sun Bowl.


Oregon State University's football team finished the season ranked no. 24 in the nation, earning a trip to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 29. The Beavers were matched against the University of Missouri.

By all accounts it was a thrilling game, with the lead changing several times. OSU scored two touchdowns in the last six minutes of the game to erase a 14-point deficit.

After their last major, with just seconds left on the clock, they needed a single point for the tie. Instead of making the sure play, though, they ran the ball into the endzone for a two-point conversion and the win, 39-38.

The players flew back to Eugene, just a short bus ride away from Corvallis. The 179 members of the band and cheer team, however, flew to Portland and chartered a bus back to the university campus.


Many alumni and other Beavers fans also returned to Portland aboard chartered flights today.

Watching the game on television, many friends and relatives of the band members were annoyed that the half-time show was pre-empted for coverage of a memorial service for former President Gerald Ford.

"A one- or two-minute thing would have been alright, but it went on for 15 minutes," said one.

"It was a private service for his family. They should have respected that," added another.

"He can't get any deader," quipped a third.

Band and cheer team members boarded buses in at 6:30 a.m. in El Paso to catch their flight back to Portland.

Beavers fans returning from El Paso wore black and orange to honor their victorious team.

Kwanzaa in Portland Thursday, December 28, 2006

(right) Patricia Welch shares a photo book made by her uncle with Portlanders gathered at North Portland Neighborhood Library for Kwanzaa celebrations on Dec. 27, 2006. Family is an important aspect of the theme of Umoja, or unity, celebrated on the first day of Kwanzaa.

About two dozen Portlanders gathered at the North Portland Neighborhood Library on Dec. 27 to learn about and celebrate Kwanzaa. Wednesday was the second day of the seven-day festival.

Kwanzaa is a unique African-American holiday, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Each day of the celebration honors one of the Nguza Saba,
or Seven Principles: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).

Kwanzaa runs through Jan. 1.

(left) Karifa D. Koroma shares a story from his days as a college student with Portlanders gathered to celebrate the second day of Kwanzaa.

(below) Anna Shelton-O'Rourke, 3, helps Joyce Harris lead celebrations on the second day of Kwanzaa at North Portland Neighborhood Library on Dec. 27, 2006. About two dozen gathered at the library to learn about the 7-day African-American holiday.


Business as usual Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dressed as a dog, Kit Collins protests the fur industry as shoppers walk past Schumacher Furs & Outerwear in downtown Portland, Ore., on Dec. 23, 2006. Demonstrators have been picketing outside the store every Saturday for more than a year.

Despite an eviction notice saying the furier had to leave the premises by 1 p.m. today, it's business as usual today for Schumacher Furs & Outerwear, and the protesters who picket the downtown Portland store every weekend.

Gregg Schumacher, owner of the 111-year-old business, said today that he expected to be in that location for "another couple of months."

In November, Schumacher indicated that the company would be moving to suburban Portland in the Spring. He was quoted in The Oregonian saying
the store would leave downtown Portland because the area is "losing its appeal for people to shop in."

Today, he confirmed that he would be moving but declined to say where.

"We're not disclosing that right now," he said.

Last Saturday, anti-fur activists continued their yearlong protest outside the Schumacher's 811 SW Morrison St. location.

"It's not personal on Gregg Schumacher," says Matt Rossell who works for the animal rights group In Defense of Animals. His group and others chose the location because of its visibility to the public, he says.

Schumacher has not taken the protests lying down, though. For much of the past year, he has held "protest sales" of 50% off every Saturday. Playing on their plackards, in March he responded directly to the demonstrators, putting signs in the window saying "All Protesters Should Be Beaten, Strangled, Skinned Alive, Anally Electrocuted."


In April, he complained to Portland City Council that police weren't doing enough to control the protesters, and filed a notice of intent to sue the city over the issue. He and his wife have also staged "anti-protester protests."

As quoted in The Oregonian, City Commissioner Randy Leonard feels the Schumachers are largely to blame.

"The Schumachers carry at minimum -- at minimum -- equal responsibility for what happened outside their store," Leonard said. "I think the case could be made they did what they could to fan the flames at every opportunity."

Matt Rossell agrees. One of the reasons they've been so successful in maintaining the protests every weekend is that people have been anxious to see what the Schumachers are going to do next, he says.

Another protester, Carol, declined to give her last name. The private security firm he hired to guard the store has been photographing, videotaping, and interrogating the protesters, she said.

Rossell won't describe driving Schumacher Furs out of downtown Portland as a victory. "The victory," he says, "is all the outreach over the last year."

Other protesters echo that sentiment. Kit Collins, who has been to all but one of the protests, won't call it a victory. "It does feel good to see him leaving, though."

The demonstrators say they will continue their weekly vigil until Schumacher's moves. After that, "it depends where he goes," says Collins. "Hopefully nobody will want him."

Oaxaca Solidarity Demonstrations Saturday, December 23, 2006

(above) "Todos somos Oaxaca! We are all Oaxaca!" chant protesters to conclude a skit performed in Holladay Park, near the Lloyd Center, in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 22, 2006. The protesters demonstrated in support of the people of Oaxaca, Mexico, where ongoing strikes have brought violent clashes with the police.

A group of about 60 gathered outside the Mexican Consulate in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 22, 2006, to support the ongoing people's uprising in Oaxaca, Mexico. A smaller group performed a skit dramatizing the Oaxaca story at the Lloyd Center MAX station later that afternoon. The demonstration in Portland was one of at least 15 held across the country on Friday.

In May, 2006, teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico, went on strike. It was not an unusual occurence, nor was it violent. The government rejected their demands, and on June 14 the police forcibly attempted to remove the strikers from the town square. Instead of ending the strike, though, the police action galvanized the teachers and prompted other groups to join them. A group called Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca, or APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca) emerged, representing teachers, students, farmers, and others in the working-class majority of Oaxaca. They occupied the plaza and several government buildings, took over several radio stations and at least one television station, and called for the resignation of the Governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruis Ortiz ("URO").

The police made additional attempts to remove the protesters, and violence ensued. APPO says that dozens of citizens have been arrested, raped and tortured, and at least nine have been killed.

Portland resident
Kate Sherman was in Oaxaca for about 10 weeks this fall. While there was a lot of tension in the city when she arrived, it was when President Fox sent in the PFP (federal police) in October that things got out of hand.

"After that, the amount of gas, the amount of force that was used was just way out of proportion."

Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, pulled the PFP out of the city on Dec. 17, but they remain in the area. According to the New York Times, the arrest of several protest leaders has weakened the movement and reduced the frequency and size of demonstrations. State police have resumed responsibility for security in Oaxaca.

John Brush (left) and Tim Ekeren portray a Mexican consular official and a TV personality, respectively, in a skit about Oaxaca performed by protesters in Holladay Park, near the Lloyd Center, in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 22, 2006.

It seems unlikely that the situation in Oaxaca would have lasted so long, become so violent or so widespread if it were simply a matter of teachers bargaining for a new contract. There are deep economic and political undertones influencing this year's events.

Oaxaca is one of the poorer parts of a nation that's poor by North American standards. The farmers say that they have been hurt badly by NAFTA, which allowed foreign ownership of once-public lands and an influx of subsidized American corn that they can't compete with. In the agriculture-based economy of the region, the impact has spread widely to the working class. They accuse NAFTA-supporter Ulises Ruiz Ortiz of winning the state gubernatorial election by fraud.

URO, says APPO, is just looking out for the interests of the rich landowners and tourism industry in Oaxaca. That is why he wants to remove the barricades that protesters have erected all over the city. The protesters, on the other hand, say that they need the barricades to prevent the police from attacking and arresting them.

Mexico's federal government appears to be concerned primarily with protecting law and order within the country. It seems that if a popular uprising in Oaxaca can overthrow the state's governor it might happen elsewhere, even at the federal level. Although European Union observers found no significant irregularities, left-wing groups in Mexico have accused President Felipe Calderon of "widespread fraud" in winning this summer's Presidential election.

Kate Sherman speaks to protesters demonstrating in support of the people of Oaxaca, Mexico, in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 22, 2006. Sherman has been to Oaxaca six times over the last nine years. She returned to Portland less than two weeks ago after a 10-week trip to the area.

In Portland, activists have picketed the Mexican consulate several times this fall (see previous report on Oct. 31's rally). Kate Sherman, who has made repeated trips to Oaxaca over the past decade, says they are gathering to educate the public about the situation, network with each other, and "to let [the Mexican Government] know that the world is watching." She was a member of a delegation that met with the Consul on Friday afternoon.

Sherman, a Latin Studies student at Prescott College in Arizona, wants to return to Oaxaca.

"I definitely will go back some day," she says, "but ... [now] it's really dangerous there."




The Lights on Peacock Lane Friday, December 22, 2006

(right) Sightseers admire decorated houses on Peacock Lane. Every year thousands visit the four-block street in SE Portland to see the light show, a Christmas tradition since the 1920's.

Described by some as "
no doubt, the most well-known Christmas tradition in Portland," the lights on Peacock Lane draw thousands of visitors every December. Every evening from Dec. 15 through Dec. 31, the street is
chockablock with cars, limousines, handi-trans buses, and even a horse-drawn carriage. The best way to see the lights, though is on foot.

Every home on the street is decorated, with themes running from nativity scenes to Santa Claus's to grinches. Hot chocolate and cider are available, served by volunteers from the neighborhood.


Brian Peterson serves hot chocolate and cider to sightseers on Peacock Lane on Dec. 21, 2006. He was helping his friend, Michelle Cairo, who lives on Peacock Lane.

Peacock Lane runs between SE Belmont and SE Stark, one block east of SE 39th (map). The light show continues nightly from 6 to 11 through Dec. 31. The lights will be on until midnight on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.



Hanukkah in Portland Wednesday, December 20, 2006

(right) Standing on a ladder, Shneur Wilhelm removes kerosene candles from a menorah in downtown Portland, Ore., so that he can refuel them. Five of the eight candles were lit on Dec. 19, the fifth night of Hanukkah. This is the 23rd year Chabad of Oregon has lit a menorah in Pioneer Courthouse Square. They will light the candles at 5:30 each afternoon through Friday.

(left) Members of Chabad of Oregon, led by Rabbi Moshe Wilhelm (beard, third from left) gather to light the menorah in Pioneer Courthouse Square at sundown on Dec. 19, 2006.

Name that state! — Answer Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A couple of weeks ago I posted a montage of license plates I found in my neighborhood, with the state names blacked out, and challenged readers to identify the plates. If you want to try it yourself, click here before reading any further.

Thanks to everyone who played; Mum & Dad were the winners, scoring 23 out of 23. Stuart also identified all 23, but admitted that he used www.worldlicenseplates.com to help with a couple. It's an amazing site, but in the eyes of the judges that was cheating so he was disqualified. He was second anyway. Did Mum & Dad cheat? Who knows! But they didn't admit to it, so by Olympic precedent they're clear.

Here is an unredacted version of the montage. Click on it for a slightly larger version. State names are listed below, in case they are still unclear.


From left to right: (top) Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California; (row 2) Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois; (row 3) Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota; (row 4) Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina; (row 5) Tennessee, Texas, xxx, Utah; (row 6) Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin.

And, in case you were wondering, I've seen most of the rest since the original posting.

St. Mary's Fire Sunday, December 17, 2006

A PGE technician walks past a burning transformer at the St. Mary's electrical substation at 1785 SW 158th St. in Beaverton on Saturday night. Hundreds of homes from the Pearl District to Beaverton, Hillsboro and Gaston lost power due to the fire. The MAX line also lost power and was shut down west of the Beaverton Transit Center. Tri-Met was running shuttle buses to move passengers between there and Hillsboro.

Large areas of Beaverton and Hillsboro lost power on Saturday night after a transformer caught fire at the St. Mary's electrical substation on SW 158th St. in Beaverton at about 7:30. Customers as far away as Gaston and the Pearl District downtown also lost power after Portland General Electric technicians de-energized the other two transformers at the substation.

Christmas shoppers were caught in the dark in commercial districts in the affected areas, and traffic was backed up at several major intersections where signal lights were out.

Roads in the vicinity of the fire were closed by police while PGE crews tried to determine the cause of the fire. Tom Van Hoon, a supervisor with PGE, said that security video showed equpiment failure caused the fire, not suspicious activity. They would have to wait until the transformer completely cooled down to inspect it and identify a more specific cause.

"Right now, we just can't get close enough to it," he said.

PGE crews and fire fighters from the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue planned to wait for the fire to burn itself out. A foam truck from Portland International Airport was on standby to respond, but they didn't expect to need it.

Equipment failures of this magnitude are very rare, said Van Hoon. Damage from the fire is expected to be "millions."

Power had been restored to most of the affected areas by midnight. Tri-Met crews expected to have the MAX train running its regular schedule by morning.

Tipoff to the basketball season Friday, December 15, 2006

Jackie Nared (right) of Westview High School wins the tipoff from Grant's Josephine Young on Dec. 14, 2006. Westview defeated Grant 64-53 in the non-league match.

OK, so the basketball season actually started a couple of weeks ago. But yesterday's game between Westview and Grant's girl's teams was the first chance I had to shoot a game this season. I shot quite a bit of basketball last year, culminating with seven games in three days during the girl's state championships, but after a nine-month layoff I was a bit rusty: my timing was off, I was having trouble tracking plays, etc. By the end of the game I was starting to feel the groove again, though.

The Wildcats controlled this game from start to finish, cruising to a 64-53 win and improving their record to 5-1. Grant fell to 1-4.

This game was played while a fierce winter storm whipped through the region. In one Oregon coast town, the children were sent home from school early as administrators feared the wind could topple buses en route. Wind gusts of 97 mph were measured on the coast yesterday afternoon, and gusts of up to 53 mph were recorded in Portland. About 375,000 people lost power in the storm, some of whom might not have power restored until the weekend. Today, many schools in the Portland area are closed. Several highways are also closed because of trees down across the road. The storm also interrupted the search for three climbers missing on Mt. Hood.

Neither Grant High School nor my apartment lost power during the storm. There wasn't as much rain as I expected, and I didn't spot any particular problems on the route between the school and my place. It was pretty windy crossing the Fremont Bridge, but other than that I didn't really feel it.

Aubrey Ashenfelter (center) of Westview scrambles for a loose ball with Jacquie Shaw (left) and Patti Polk of Grant High School during Thursday night's game.

Pulpit Rock, The Dalles Monday, December 11, 2006

Pulpit Rock stands at the intersection of 12th and Court streets in The Dalles, Ore. In 1838, before the roads were there, Methodist preachers founded a mission at that location to convert the Wascopam Indians to Christianity.

About 80 miles (130 km) east of Portland, the city of The Dalles is one of the older settlements in Oregon. Originally, it was the end of the Oregon Trail, where the wagons trains were transferred to rafts to float down the Columbia River. Now, the community of about 12,000 is the site of a major hydroelectric dam and a shipping port.

Before the city was incorporated, Rev. Jason Lee, with Revs. Daniel Lee and H.K.W. Perkins, founded a Methodist mission there in 1838. They chose the site now known as Pulpit Rock because it overlooked a spring where the Wascopam Indians came to water their horses. It was the fourth Protestant mission in Oregon territory.

In 1846, a road was completed from The Dalles to Oregon City (then the capital of Oregon), and most of the emigrants took that route. The mission was sold in 1847, and it fell into disuse by 1850. Nothing remains of the
mission today.

Jack Howe, 85, (right) came to The Dalles fresh out of the Navy in 1946. He and his wife of more than 60 years have lived in a house right beside Pulpit Rock for 52 years. Every year, he says, they close the streets around the site to hold a sunrise service on Easter morning.

SantaCon 2006 Sunday, December 10, 2006

(left) Josh Gardner was one of dozens of Santas who participated in SantaCon 2006 in Portland, Ore. On Dec. 9, more than 100 Claus's barhopped their way around the city for no particular reason.

Last Saturday, down by Skidmore Fountain, a pair people in Santa Claus suits walked across my path. Not too surprising at this time of year.


It could have been a coincidence when I saw another Kris Kringle's giving candy canes to a kid at the nearby MAX station just a few minutes later.


But when
a procession of more than a dozen St. Nick's wound its way through the narrow spaces between the stalls at Portland's Saturday Market, I knew something was up.

Camera in hand, I followed the quickly growing group of Santas a couple of blocks to McFadden's Saloon and started asking questions.
It turns out I had stumbled across Portland's edition of SantaCon.

(right) Dozens of Santa Claus's file into McFadden's Saloon in downtown Portland shortly after noon on Dec. 9.

It's hard to get information about SantaCon. I asked one Santa who was carrying a megaphone and appeared to be directing the group whether he was organizing the event.

"I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of Santa Claus," was the reply. It was in keeping with the spirit, if not the letter, of the script that participants are given:


Who's in charge? SANTA
Who are you with? SANTA
What organization are you with? SANTA
Who organized this? SANTA
Where did you get the buses? SANTA
Who's that woman? SANTA
Who's that guy? SANTA
How did you get here? A sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

According to an article about last year's event in the Portland Tribune, SantaCon started in San Francisco in 1994, and migrated to Portland in 1996. Thirty-seven cities in the United States, Canada, and even England, Japan and Germany will have events this December. Chicago and Portland each have two separate dates.

There doesn't seem to be any particular purpose for the gathering, other than giving people a weird opportunity to drink, cause a little mayhem, and spread cheer. In Portland it is coordinated, if not organized, by the Portland Cacaphony Society, who describe themselves as "
a randomly gathered network of free-spirits seeking new adventures beyond the pale of mainstream society," and "a bunch of good-for-nothing psychic cowboys."

SantaCon comes to Toronto and Ottawa (and other locations) on Dec. 16. In Portland, SantaCon II is Dec. 23.

(above) Santa, left, greets Santa as Santa, Santa, Santa and Santa file into McFadden's Saloon in Portland on Saturday afternoon.


"Portland 6" convict appeals his sentence Monday, December 04, 2006

(left) Kent Ford pickets the Pioneer Courthouse in downtown Portland on Dec. 4, 2006. His son, Patrice Lumumba Ford, received an 18-year sentence in 2003 when he pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. On Monday, the Federal Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit reviewed that sentence on the grounds that the wrong basis was used in determining its length.

During the summer of 2001, Portland native Patrice Lumumba Ford and others took martial arts training to prepare themselves to "fight a violent jihad in Afghanistan or in another location at som
e point in the future."

Following the September 11 attacks, Ford bought a shotgun and twice went shooting in a gravel pit in Washougal, Wash., with some friends.

After the U.S. started fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, Ford and five others (the so-called "Portland 6") planned to travel to Afghanistan to fight the U.S. forces. They flew to China on Oct. 20, 2001, intending to pas
s from there into Afghanistan via Pakistan. They tried several times to enter Pakistan, but were unable to do so. Ford returned to the U.S. in November.

This is what he admitted to in a plea bargain in October 2003.

At the time, Ford had been in prison for over a year and was facing 70 years for various terrorism-related charges. In the deal, he pleaded guilty to "seditious conspiracy" and received an 18-year sentence.

The Department of Justice heralded the convictions of Ford and his co-defendants as a major victory in the war on terror.

"But," says his father Kent Ford, "there's nothing there. There's just nothing there." Kent says his son and the others were going to Afghanistan to help at refugee camps.


That was the sentiment among many of the 30 or so people who gathered to voice support for Patrice Lumumba Ford outside the Pioneer Courthouse in Portland on Monday morning, where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard a review of Lumumba's sentence.

Lumumba's new lawyer, Shaun McCrea (right), argued that his sentence should be reduced because the length was determined on the wrong basis.

But reporters who were inside the packed courtroom said it didn't go well for the plaintiff. "They got creamed," said one.


Nevertheless, McCrea was cautiously optimistic. "
I had a good time arguing. I think I'm right. But sometimes just because you're right, doesn't mean you win," she told reporters outside the courthouse.

Kent Ford says the government "picked on [his son] because he's muslim."

Another man who has made the same accusation appeared briefly at the rally this morning. Brandon Mayfield (left) was held and questioned for two weeks in 2004 in connection with a terrorist bombing in Spain after authorities mistakenly identified a fingerprint on a bag of detonators. Last Wednesday (Nov. 29), Mayfield received an official apology and $2-million settlement from the government in that case.

The court is not expected to release its decision on Ford's appeal for several weeks. Meanwhile, Ford is incarcerated in Victorville federal prison in California.

Kent Ford (center) smiles with supporters in front of the Pioneer Courthouse after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard a review of his son's sentence on Dec. 4, 2006. Supporters filled the court room, and more than two dozen additional supporters picketed outside the court house while the appeal was heard.

Name that state! Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The laws in Portland are designed to make parking a bit of a hassle, to discourage driving. In my part of the city (NW) finding a spot to park can be particularly challenging, especially if you're looking for a spot that is not limited to two hours or less, which is the case for those of us who live here.

Walking around my neighbourhood, I've come to the conclusion that it is the barrio-of-choice for newcomers, though. Whenever I walk somewhere, I take an informal survey of the license plates I see parked on residential streets or non-commercial lots. The Oregon and Washington plates, and even California tags, are a gimme. But I find it surprising how many other out-of-state licences I can find right around my home.
I found all 23 of the plates shown above within three blocks of my apartment, over the course of 15 minutes! I think I've seen all 50 states + D.C. at least once now.

I see many of them on a regular basis, so I know they live around here somewhere. However, since they don't have Oregon plates yet, I figure they must be fairly new to the area. (Surprisingly few from Canada, though. Either they change their plates quickly, or just don't move to this part of town!)


Since my last little game was so successful, I thought it was time for another. How many of the licence plates can you identify in the picture? (Click on the photo for a larger view.) Send me an email with your answers, and let me know if you're counting left to right or top to bottom. Yes, they are all from different states, and none are from Canada or Mexico.

US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Tuesday, November 28, 2006

(right) The court room for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Portland, Ore., is in the historic Pioneer Courthouse.

The U.S. Federal Court System, which handles cases involving federal laws and inter-state matters, is broken down i
nto 94 court districts—at least one in every state, plus one in the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. There are also district courts in Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The districts are organized into 11 circ
uits which hear appeals of those cases. Oregon, along with California, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii, is part of the Ninth Circuit. (The District of Columbia and the Federal Circuit are not included in the 11 circuits.)

The Ninth Circuit has a reputation of being the most liberal in the country. Among its decisions was the determination that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance were unconstitutional, setting off a national uproar in 2002. (That decision came just after I moved to Nevada and just before the Fourth of July. The people at Elko's Independence Day celebrations made a point of shouting the "under God" part that year.)

With 28 judgeships, the Ninth is the largest circuit. It hears cases for about a week per month in Pasadena, San Francisco, and Seattle. Cases are heard in Portland for about a week every other month. They also hear cases in Anchorage and Honolulu a couple of times per year.


The court in Portland is in the historic Pioneer Courthouse, which I wrote about in a previous posting. The building was built between 1869 and 1875, and had a major expansion added in 1902-05. Approval was given to tear the building down in 1939 (to build a larger Federal Building), but the money was never appropriated for the construction. It also went a major seismic retrofit and restoration in 2002-05. The building is the oldest extant Federal Building in the Pacific Northwest. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.


(left) The octagonal cupola atop Pioneer Courthouse gives a wonderful view of Pioneer Courthouse Square and other features of downtown Portland.

Tree lighting ceremony Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thousands of people filled Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland on Nov. 24 for the lighting of the Stimson Lumber Tree. Stimson Lumber has committed to providing the City of Portland with a tree for the next four years.

For the past week (see previous postings no. 1 and no. 2), workers have been busy erecting a 75-foot Douglas Fir in "Portland's living room," Pioneer Courthouse Square. On Friday night, it was time to light it up.

The program for the tree lighting ceremony included a speech by Mayor Tom Potter, a Christmas singalong with a local area band, a musical appearance by Ed Robertson and Tyler Stewart of the Barenaked Ladies and, of course, Santa Claus.

Now that we're past Thanksgiving, the Christmas season is in full swing. Nov. 24 also included the Macy's Santa Claus Parade in downtown Portland.

Thanksgiving Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sandy Montgomery holds a container of mashed potatoes as Evelyn Hedden adds gravy. The women, both from Pleasant Home United Methodist Church were helping prepare meals for the hungry at Rockwood United Methodist Church in Gresham on Thanksgiving day. Volunteers from six area churches served more than 170 free turkey dinners on Thursday afternoon.

The Gresham Outlook assigned me to photograph a couple of "meals for the hungry" programs run by churches in Gresham on Thanksgiving Day. Immediately east of Portland, Gresham has a population of nearly 100,000 making it the largest suburb of the city. US Bank has a large data processing center in Gresham, and there is a large Boeing parts plant. There are also a few businesses in the high-tech sector. More people, however, commute to Portland.

Kari Gustafson serves a turkey dinner to Juliavera Calisto of Gresham at Rockwood United Methodist Church on Thanksgiving day. Gustafson, who now lives in Vancouver, Wash., was volunteering with other members of Peace Church of the Brethren, which she used to attend.

Babes and boobs Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Marnie Glickman, right, nurses Calliope, while Chanda Hall (left) holds Lucy and Rachel Brusseau (center) holds James in front of the Delta check-in desk at Portland International Airport on Nov. 21. The event was part of a nationwide "nurse-in" protest of the airline. On Oct. 13 a woman was asked to leave a Delta flight after she declined to cover herself with a blanket while she breastfed her daughter.

About 35 women and their children came to PDX for this event. You can read more about it at www.momsmilkanywhere.org, among other sources.

How to stage an effective protest

For today's protest du jour, we have the Oaxaca situation again. You may remember that I posted a couple of weeks ago about two protesters who had locked themselves to the door of the Mexican Consulate in Portland. Yesterday (Nov. 20) they were at it again.

Except this time it wasn't anywhere near as dramatic. In fact, I have to say, that it was one of the least interesting protests I've had the chance to photograph. With that in mind, this posting presents a few tips for those would-be protesters for making their demonstration effective, at least from a photographic point of view.

The point of most protests is to get a message across to the powers that be. Obviously, if you're protesting in front of, say, the Mexican Consulate, you want the people inside to know you're there. Maybe there were a dozen people inside. If you're lucky, they'll mention it in a report to their bosses at the embassy. And maybe a couple hundred people will walk by your event as you demonstrate, so you get them. But thousands will read the newspaper or watch the television news. If you can get those people onside, then your message has power. And the people inside the consulate will have a clipping they can send to their bosses at the embassy.

So what am I looking for in a news photo? As well as all of the technical and aesthetic elements that make a good picture, I need three things: a distinct group people (usually passionate), a message, and a target. And remember that most news stories only get one photograph, so I need all of those in one image.

Now, before anyone gets all uppity, remember that these are just the opinions of one photographer. I know that it's my job to make a storytelling image of whatever is thrown in front of me, regardless of the situation. I take pride in my ability to do that despite all the cards that are stacked against me. And I would never actually give suggestions to any subjects of a news photo—that would be unethical as I'm there to document what happens, not influence it. But these are some of the things that pass through my mind as I'm trying to capture a Pulitzer-prize winning image, or at least something that fairly represents the events I see. "Geez, I wish they would just ..." or "Aren't they going to do something?"

  1. Get the necessary permits. Yesterday's protest got off to a muted start because the group didn't have a permit to gather in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Yeah, I know they cost money, and you don't want to feed the system you're trying to fight against. But face it, like it or not, those guys are in charge. If you try to circumvent their rules, they'll shut you down right quick. That's not my problem; if it happens, I'll photograph that. But if you follow their rules and manage to beat them, it's an undeniable victory. At right, Sgt. Fender of the Portland Police Bureau explains the limits of what the group can do without a permit to one of the protest organizers.
  2. Be organized. Admittedly, organizing anarchists is like herding cats. But protests aren't very effective when everybody is just standing around trying to come up with another chant to yell, or trying to figure out what route to take on the march.
  3. Get lots of people. Yes, you can make up for small numbers with enthusiasm, but that only goes so far. I don't care how passionate you are, systematic inhumane treatment of dust mites isn't newsworthy. One of the main criteria for whether something is newsworthy or not is whether people care. In a city of 1 million+, if you can only attract 30 people to your protest, that's an indication that your cause doesn't impact on that many people. I understand that a fire starts with a single spark. But a lot of sparks don't start fires at all. Call me when you've got a fire.
  4. Most protests include a chance for group leaders to speak to the gathered crowd. I want to photograph their faces as they speak. But I also need something in the background that represents the cause, or what you are protesting. That would happen naturally if the speakers speak from the middle of the group, so that there are protesters and/or signs behind them. At least have a banner or something behind them. Otherwise, they just look like street corner preachers (see at right). Not newsworthy.
  5. If you don't have lots of people, at least stick together. Unless it is symbolic of your cause, a thinly dispersed group of people "doesn't read well." That is, it's hard to convey the image of a group of people united for a cause. If everybody's wearing similar clothes or has the same hat or something, that also helps to visually unite the group.
  6. Have signs, lots of signs, and make them two-sided. Remember, photographs are visual things. For the most part, one group of people yelling and shaking their fists looks the same as another. So if you want your message to get across in print, you need some kind of recognizable symbol in the picture. I'm not suggesting that you should walk up to the photographer and show them your sign, but if you're there waving it about, you want to give the media a chance to capture it. Making two-sided signs helps. In the photo at right, for example, you can see a (thin) bunch of people in front of the Mexican Consulate in Portland. There's a cop in the background. They have signs, but most of them are facing the consulate. I understand that these people were picketing the consulate, and wanted to get a message to the people there. But if you have two-sided signs, then the people reading the paper will get your message too. Which is the more important audience—the dozen people inside who couldn't change anything if they wanted to, or the thousands who will read the newspaper? Why don't I just photograph the front of the people, you ask? Three reasons: First, I need to get some kind of location in the picture, so people will know you're outside the Mexican Consulate, or at the Police Chief's house, or whatever your target is, and not just standing on the beach. Second, the police won't let me stand on private property any more than they allow the demonstrators to. Finally, I did, as best I could (see photo above).
  7. Use symbols that people know, and keep them simple and clear. Originality is great, but remember that the average reading time for a newspaper photograph is something less than a second. So it's got to be pretty obvious. If the reader (who probably doesn't know much about your cause) doesn't immediately understand the message, they will pass right by it. And if they don't read the picture, they won't read the story.
  8. Some of the most effective protests include some kind of performance that symbolizes your message. Acting out something or setting up a dramatic tableau that represents your cause makes for a good photo op. I don't want to suggest pulling any stunts that would get you arrested but, frankly, that had a lot to do with why the last Oaxaca protest made the news and yesterday's didn't.
I guess that's about it. Remember, a good protest photo needs a distinct group of people, a message, and a target. If you can set that up without it looking staged, you're one step closer to getting your picture in the news.

Working on the Tree Monday, November 20, 2006

Workers are as busy as beavers putting thousands of lights on the 2006 Tree for Portland, donated by Stimson Lumber.

(right) A Pioneer Courthouse Square employee mounts a bracket on one of the branches so that it can be reattached to the tree. Most of the branches were removed from the tree for transport. The tree will be fully reassembled and decorated with lights in time for Friday's lighting ceremony.

Gales Creek Camp Sunday, November 19, 2006

About 21 million Americans have diabetes. Maddie Ehl developed Type 1 diabetes at the age of three. Now 9 years old, Maddie is the inspiration for one of the largest teams in the Summit to Surf ride. (The ride is a part of the nationwide Tour de Cure, organized by the American Diabetes Association to raise money for diabetes research.) Maddie's Riders raised so much money—nearly $16,000 last year—that they won a $1,100 indoor cycling bike.

But rather than share the bike among the 60 team members, they donated it to the charity auction for Gales Creek Camp. Gales Creek, about 30 miles west of Portland, runs summer camps for children, teens and families affected by diabetes.

My friend Stacey volunteers with a number of different organizations. She came to Portland more recently than I did, but she's already connected with the camp. On Saturday night, they held a spaghetti dinner and auction to raise money for the camp, and she asked me to help with it. We sold raffle tickets for $1 each, and raised several hundred dollars. Together with the dinner and auction, the event raised several thousand dollars for the camp.

[Sorry, no pictures for this post. I didn't bring my camera with me. Maybe something tomorrow ...]

70-foot tree sprouts overnight in downtown Portland! Monday, November 13, 2006

J. Seward Johnson's statue "Allow Me" seems to point at the Stimson Lumber Tree as it is unloaded at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Nov. 13. The 70-foot Douglas fir was cut in Gaston on Friday. The lighting ceremony is Nov. 24 at 5:30 p.m.

Every winter, Stimson Lumber donates a tree to the City of Portland to place in Pioneer Courthouse Square. It arrived in
a short parade with a band and police escort, as well as a marketing team from Cricket cell phone service, one of the major sponsors.

The main thing people should know, says Pioneer Courthouse Square employee Mahlin Shisler, "is what an awesome gift it is from Stimson to the City of Portland." Many other companies also contributed, he added, including Campbell Crane and Sunbelt Rentals.

It's more difficult finding a good tree for downtown Portland than for yourself. "At home," says Bill Akers of Portland Parks and Recreation, "you only have to look at one or two sides. Here, you see all four."

(left) Bill Akers uses a plumb line to help fellow Portland Parks and Recreation employees align the Stimson Lumber Tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Nov. 13.

What should you look for in a tree? "Straight as possible ... nice shape, nice top," says Shisler. They also have to make sure the branches aren't too brittle, so it can make it beneath the overpasses on its way to the square.

Most of the branches are cut off to transport the tree. They came in a second truck, and will be reattached this afternoon. Then city crews will put thousands of lights on the tree in time for the lighting ceremony on Nov. 24.

(right) The tree sits in a specially-designed hole in the middle of the square, supported by giant shims. Workers will construct a 5-foot tall "bucket" around the base.


What in the World? (Answer)


Regular readers will remember that I posted a small detail of a photo last week, asking you to guess what was pictured. Here is the answer—purple cauliflower. I found it on sale at the Portland Farmers Market. Thanks to everyone who participated. The winner, randomly selected from the correct entries, was ... oh, wait, we didn't have any entries. Too bad, the prize was a Ferrari. I guess I'll have to keep it. Better luck next time.

One more thing ... Sunday, November 12, 2006

Santa Claus (aka Dick Ellis, a Navy Vietnam Veteran) salutes the crowd at the Veterans Day ceremonies on Nov. 11. But he wasn't there to give out toys—he was collecting toys for needy children.

It's Veterans Day, remember? Saturday, November 11, 2006

Russell Carter salutes as the flag is raised at precisely 11 o'clock during Veterans Day ceremonies in Portland, Ore. Carter served in the European theater in World War II.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses row on row/That mark our place ...

When I was growing up, November 11 always seemed to be a big de
al. At the beginning of November, white boxes full of little plastic poppies appear in the stores, and people would bring them around to our classes. For a donation of a few cents, you too could pin a red flower with a green center to your jacket just like all the grownups. Or you could fold them in half, stick them between your lips and pretend you were wearing lipstick, which is what we usually did. Even if you decided to wear it, they kept falling off your jacket, so you had to make another donation every few days.

The first few years I was in school, Remembrance Day (as it is known in Canada) was a holiday. Later, they kept us in school so that we could learn more about the meaning of the date, which invariably meant assemblies, and poetry/essay/poster contests. I never won.

... and in the sky/the larks still bravely singing, fly/Scarce heard amid the guns below.

I was a Beaver/Cub/Scout throughout my childhood, so on the Saturday nearest Nov. 11 we got to be in the parade. As well as the Scouts and Guides, there was the Acton Citizens Band, the high school band, a pipe band,
the air cadets, and as many legionnaires as figured they could make the walk through town on a snowy November day. The parade always ended at the local cenotaph where someone would read off the names, they'd play Taps, and we'd have a minute of silence to remember the dead. I didn't know anyone who had died in any wars, so I'd try to figure out what I was supposed to think about, and make sure I didn't cough, sneeze, or giggle when someone else did. Eventually they would play Reveille and we could breathe again. Once they had played Abide With Me, it was time to go home.

We are the dead. Short days ago/We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,/Loved and were loved and now we lie/In Flanders fields.

Beside his wife, Beatrice, Robert D. Maxwell bows his head as his citation for bravery is read during Veterans Day ceremonies in Portland, Ore. On Sept. 7, 1944, Maxwell threw himself on a grenade as he and three other soldiers defended their observation post against a full platoon of enemy soldiers. Maxwell was permanently injured by the explosion, but his action saved the lives of his comrades and earned him the Medal of Honor. He is the only Medal of Honor recipient living in Oregon.

I think this was the first Veterans Day ceremony I've attended since I moved to the United States. In Portland, it was marked with a small parade and an hour-long ceremony in the Hollywood district. It wasn't really that different than the ceremonies I grew up with. A piper played Amazing Grace; a trio sang God Bless America and America the Beautiful; the Grant High School band played the Star Spangled Banner as the flag was raised; and the Legion Honor Guard fired a 12-gun salute. (You couldn't see the Air Force jets that made a fly-by right at 11 o'clock due to the mostly-cloudy skies, but there weren't too many complaints; most people were happy that it wasn't raining.)

Because I was busy photographing the event, I wasn't thinking too much about its content. But when they started reading John McRae's "In Flanders Fields," I was suddenly taken back to Acton as I mouthed the words that every Canadian schoolchild learns.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:/To you from failing hands we throw/The torch; be yours to hold it high ...

It wasn't until I got home that I realized how much I missed the moment of silence that I've always associated with November 11, and remembered the words at the bottom of every cenotaph: "Lest we forget." It's probably
something that goes better with Memorial Day here. Still, perhaps we would do well to repeat it twice a year. That induction is meant to remind us of the sacrifice that those men and women made on our behalf.

If ye break faith with us who die/We shall not sleep, though poppies grow/In Flanders fields.

What, though, of the sacrifice that our families and nations made in sending generations of young men (and now, young women) to fight. Even those who come back with all of their body parts intact are mentally and emotionally scarred. In a day where the threats and enemies are becoming more and more impalpable, one can't help wonder whether the incredible levels of resources--physical, financial, and organizational--dedicated to fighting them couldn't be better applied elsewhere.

The American Legion Honor Guard fires off a round in salute during Veterans Day ceremonies in Portland, Ore.

One of the biggest differences I have noticed, living in the United States instead of Canada, is that in this country, it seems like everyone has served in the armed forces. In Canada, I knew only a handful of people in the reserves, none of whom had seen active duty in a war zone. Here, every family is directly connected to someone who is or was in the military. If they didn't themself serve, their brother, sister, spouse or children did. I've never been in combat--and never wish to be--but by all accounts it's a horrible experience. It's a huge sacrifice to make.

As Americans and Canadians, we enjoy a wonderful standard of living and a huge degree of freedom in our lives. There is no doubt that that freedom is worth defending. And no one doubts the courage or skill of the soldiers charged with doing so. It seems to me, though, that the "threats" we face today (e.g. Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and even al Qaeda) are caused more by people that feel threatened by us rather than people who want to make us subservient to them (as was the case through the Cold War). But what was our response? To threaten them more explicitly--"We're going to come to your country and impose our system of government so you can see how much better it is. And you will thank us for it. Or else."

Does it not make more sense to wait for other people to ask us for advice or assistance, rather than unilaterally telling them how we're going to make their lives better? Freedom on the march, indeed.

They say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Both Canada and the United States have made huge sacrifices in the theater of war in the past. Perhaps we need to take another minute of silence to think about that. Lest we forget.