Thank you, Paul Newman

by Steve, September 28th, 2008

Paul Newman had some great scenes in his unbelievable 53-year cinematic career. Here’s one from Slap Shot (1977) with Strother Martin (in a twist on their roles in Cool Hand Luke). I love the way he acted with his eyes (Not safe for work!).

Besides being a great actor, Newman protested the war in Vietnam, was proud to be on Richard Nixon’s enemy list, and helped save The Nation when it faced economic troubles (here’s John Nichols on Newman in The Nation yesterday), among other things. And he did his own skating in Slap Shot. What more could you want from a guy?

Like Wacky Mommy said about him and Joanne Woodward, “It’s not like they were out taking off their panties in public and having nervous breakdowns in their SUVs.” No, Newman was a class act.

Thank you, Paul Newman for showing the world how to do it right. I’m going to go watch Slap Shot right now.

Hockey moms against Sarah Palin

by Steve, September 25th, 2008

Fritz v. Lewis: The City Club Debate

by Steve, September 20th, 2008

election08Amy Ruiz does a great job capturing the blow-by-blow on the Merc’s blog, so if you didn’t hear Friday’s city council debate, you might want to check that out before reading this.

I pointed out in a comment on Ruiz’s piece the one glaring factual error in the debate, Lewis’ claim that Jefferson High School is “1/4 full” and David Douglas is bursting at the seams because of the lack of affordable housing in inner Portland.

Gentrification and displacement of non-white communities is a serious problem in Portland, and I appreciate Lewis’ attention to this. But it has nothing to do with Jefferson’s (or Madison’s, Marshall’s or Roosevelt’s) under-enrollment.

These schools are under-enrolled because Portland Public Schools has allowed the majority of high school students in these clusters to transfer out while they have dramatically cut educational and extracurricular opportunities.

For example, out of 1,603 PPS high school students living in Jefferson’s attendance area last October, only 403 were enrolled there, along with an additional 142 from other neighborhoods. The balance of Jefferson’s student population attended other PPS neighborhood schools (437), Special Programs/Focus Options (423), with the rest in PPS Charter Schools, Special Services or Community Based Alternatives.

So Lewis is factually incorrect to blame Jefferson’s under-enrollment on the lack of affordable housing even though he is correct that affordable housing is a serious problem (something he and Fritz clearly agree on).

I can’t expect Lewis to be as well-versed in public schools policy and demographics as me, but he’s made this statement before, and it is just plain wrong.

Fritz, by contrast, spoke to the City Council when they met at Jefferson last January. She told them about the injustice of the inequity in opportunity between schools like Jefferson and Wilson, her neighborhood high school, demonstrating a clear understanding of a critical problem facing PPS.

On other issues, Lewis showed himself to be reasonably well-informed, though it’s almost an embarrassment to try to compare his 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector (and a couple years as a small business owner) to Fritz’s 20-year history as a community organizer, public citizen and advocate for equitable, transparent governance.

Lewis is wise to dwell on his business experience, since his public policy experience ends at the intern level. But it all started sounding like “Ethos yada yada started from zero yada yada Ethos yada revolving credit for small businesses yada yada yada Ethos yada started on my credit card yada yada yada make payroll yada yada staff of 75 yada yada yada Ethos…”

People are quick to defend Ethos, and I don’t want to beat up all the low-wage teachers and volunteers there who have brought music to the lives of kids that otherwise wouldn’t have much.

But there’s a certain charity mentality to it. I wrote about it in a comment on PPS Equity last July:

My complaint is with the misconception that Ethos solves the problem of PPS not funding music education in poor schools.

…Lewis perpetuates this myth, as in this quote (since removed) from the Ethos Web site: “When budget cuts threatened to destroy music education programs in Portland Public Schools, Charles stepped in and found a solution.”

It’s not a solution; it’s not even a band aid.

These organizations foster a charity mentality toward the least well-off among us, and … give political cover to policy makers who maintain a system that takes pretty good care of students in wealthy neighborhoods but not in others.

I am a to-the-death supporter of arts education in our schools. Which is why I point out that Ethos reaching a couple thousand students with some small amount of music education is no substitute for an integrated K12 music curriculum, taught by certified, union-represented teachers, for all 47,000 PPS students.

I don’t see any way Ethos is helping us get to that realistic goal (they’re doing it in Beaverton with the same level of state funding and even less federal and local funding). To the contrary, I think Ethos may work against this vision.

In the end, I was pleased that Lewis stayed positive and did not reveal his bombastic side, which was on display in the Willamette Week endorsement interview for the primary (and in his supporters’ comments on this blog and others). In that, besides going after John Branam about his salary as a PPS employee, Lewis seemed to cite his beef with PDC snubbing Ethos as a major reason for wanting to be on the City Council.

He seems to be maturing as a candidate, and I agree with him (as does Fritz, I believe) on several critical issues. But there’s little doubt who’s really the best prepared to lead, and to lead in the direction Portland needs to go.

Amanda Fritz has been significantly involved with the official planning of Portland’s future, and is uniquely qualified to bring citizen’s voices into City Hall and implement the Portland Plan. I stand by my primary endorsement and say “Fritz for City Council!”

Mystery bug

by Steve, September 1st, 2008

Big bug - topAfter a delightful trip exploring the amphibious and bug life in Iowa, from the Devonian to the present, we came home to discover a big bug in our own back yard.

And I was just saying we don’t have nearly the richness of bug life in Oregon.

Pretty, pretty big. Beetle-like wing covers, fuzzy as a tarantula, with horns and bat wings.

A bunch of its body is missing, eaten by ants?

What the?!?? ID anybody?

Big Bug bottom

Crazy big bug

Killer African Dwarf Frog

by Steve, September 1st, 2008

MIchigan J. Frog

When we first got an aquarium this summer, it was sold to me (who is seriously done with pets, save for perhaps one cat) as a source of tranquility.

We even discussed the ultimate disposition of creatures that met their timely demise (burial at sea was deemed too undignified). Untimely demise was not even a consideration.

Pretty soon, one aquarium just wasn’t enough. A second tank was brought online with a surprising mix of residents: two guppies (Chloe and Aladdin), a large snail (Bob), and a tiny little African Dwarf Frog.

Oh, how cute! The frog was quickly nicknamed Michigan J. Frog, for the singing Warner Bros. frog. He was alternately named Googly and Arthur.

Too cute for words, and personality galore!

The aquariums are great for teaching young children life lessons. Like asexual reproduction. Bob managed to, uh, impregnate him/herself, and spawned Alex. Discussions were had with the aquarium guy, who acknowledged that snails are considered pests. A Web search produced the helpful advice of smashing the little buggers against the glass with a pencil (don’t use your fingers, lest you get cut and incubate some kind of crazy tropical fish infection).

There were also some suggestions that the baby snails might get eaten by other aquarium dwellers, so maybe it wouldn’t be a problem.

In fact, one tiny baby snail that came after Alex seems to have disappeared. Guppies? Frog? Who cares… At least we didn’t have to do the deed.

Anyway, other than that, it’s been all love and light in the frog tank, with little Michigan J. Frog entertaining daily with his little song and dance routines.

He seems to have grown a bit, and keeps getting wedged behind the heater and the filter tube.

So imagine my surprise late last night to glance into this little ecosystem and see little Michigan J. Frog seeming to struggle with something. I figured he was just wedged again, but a closer look revealed him thrashing Aladdin about, apparently trying to gulp him down.

It was like catching a guard dog killing a chicken or something. Really crazy, I’m telling you.

Since he couldn’t swallow the thing whole (it was clearly dead at this point), he started swimming to the surface with it. He dropped it, and it sunk to the bottom, where it landed, upside down, in a plant, its tattered fins flapping in the current.

Had I glanced over at this point, and not 30 seconds before, I would have guessed the fish just died. Michigan J. was back to his goofy self.

I told Wacky Mommy about this, and she decreed that I must flush Aladdin and never speak of it it to the children. So much for the earlier “no burial at sea” decree.

Of course some more Internet searching revealed that yes, African Dwarf Frogs do indeed eat guppies, particularly their fry (which might explain why Chloe, who appeared pregnant, then not pregnant, then pregnant again, never seemed to actually have any babies).

The things the guys at the aquarium store don’t tell you!