Review: Choke on My Heart

Choke on my Heart


Hilarious amateur theater

Some of us actually prefer amateur performances in intimate spaces to the slick professional variety being marketed around town. Toy Boat Productions Choke on my Heart was a delightfully funny series of nine short one-act plays at the COHO theater in Northwest Portland.

I must add the disclaimer here that my daughter, Jade Fenton, was the director of one of those shorts, so there may be a slight bit of bias here. But PattyJo and I found ourselves laughing ourselves silly at nearly all of the scenes, except perhaps for the one serious piece which was quite moving.

The last piece, in particular, had us roaring. Aaron Ross, who also wrote and directed the play, is an extremely funny man, and a very competent actor.

The other particularly fine piece was Bukowski, Dad and Me, written by P.L. Carrico. This was the more serious piece I mentioned, which consisted of a monologue performed by Rachel Voorhies, who did a fine job, and had the audience in tears.

Some of the plays were quite raunchy, and this kind of amateur theater is not for everyone. But we insist on celebrating the raw creativity that bubbles up from the community cauldron. Raw or not, it beats the hell out of Campbell’s Soup.

I almost forgot to mention, it was also a benefit for Planned Parenthood. A good cause.

My rating: 4.0 stars

All the pretty little horses

photo by Duane Poncy
photo by Duane Poncy
We live in the old Irvington neighborhood of Portland, where most of the houses were built near the turn of the last century. Embedded in the concrete curb, in front of each house is a small iron hoop about three inches in diameter. Patty and I decided some time ago that the most likely purpose of these rings was to tie up a horse. One should remember that as late as the 1930s, a large number of people still rode horses as a primary mode of transportation.

horse 2Sometime several months ago, some enterprising artist came along, and tied up little plastic horses to the hoops all along the street. Most, if not all of the horses along our side of the street still stand there, hitched to their rings.

I have no idea who did this, or the purpose they had in mind. But it was a great idea because it caused us to think about these objects, the rings, and their historical purpose. A kind of living history lesson.

Push Polling in P-town

Well, the push pollers are at it again. Patty Jo became a recipient of the latest sleaze survey last night, and she was so pissed off, she hung up before finding out who the target was.

The caller asked her about her voting choices in a number of recent ballot measures, all of them right wing initiatives, including the “Takings” initiative and the anti-gay marriage measure.

Then came the tip-off question: “If you found out the following statements about a candidate were true, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for that candidate?”

This means the most vicious kinds of lies are about to follow. Whether or not you believe them is beside the point, because the purpose is to plant them in your mind as possibly true.

This is the point where Patty hung up.

I almost wish she hadn’t. This is the worst kind of campaign abuse, and if I knew which candidate was behind it, they certainly would never get my vote. Ever. Under any circumstances.

Multnomah County helps Bushies disenfranchise voters

In October of 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1461, The Federal Housing Finance Reform Act. This bill contained a Low Income Housing Fund, which would assist local agencies in providing much-needed housing for low income families. This bill, however, contained a rider saying, in effect, that any agency which does any kind of work around voter registration would be ineligible for funding. Not only that, but here’s the kicker, if they had done any of this kind of work in the previous 12 months to applying, they would also be ineligible.

Almost immediately, Multnomah County, Oregon (where I live) contacted the housing agencies with which it does business, and told them to cease all voter registration work. They are not even allowed to have voter registration forms in their offices for people to pick up.

First, let me point out that, as of the first of June, 2006, this bill is not even law yet. The senate counterpart to this bill, S. 190, has yet to be referred to the floor. In any case, the Senate version does not include this heinous voter registration restriction.

The League of Women Voters, among others, does not believe that the voter registration requirement is even constitutional. Additionally, it is in direct contradiction to the Federal Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires these same agencies to help register voters!

Yet, the mere existance of a simple clause in a House Bill has local governments and agencies cowering in fear -a clause which has almost no chance of becoming law, or standing up to challenge if it did,.

Multnomah County, and local housing agencies, in their cowardice, are helping the Bush administration disenfranchise poor people. And why? All because they are afraid that they might not get a slice of the new pork pie cooked up by the Republicans.

Oh, did I mention that it’s an election year? Gee, do you think maybe…? Nah, the Republicans wouldn’t do that, would they? You bet they would!

No more band-aids

Out for a morning walk, I saw a flyer stapled to a utility pole, offering opportunities of work to provide “Health Care for Children.” As someone who has flirted with reformist politics in the past, I was surprise at the strength of my antipathy toward that poster.

Now, I believe children should have health care. But I also believe that the elderly should have health care, and those of us inbetween. As a man in my fifties without insurance, I have empathy with anyone who is doing without. It’s a crime. Literally!

But I have come to believe that these kinds of incremental reforms are effectively scams. Oh, sure, the people who organize them are often sincere and hard-working –and clueless. They pit the old against the young, and, in the end, none of us get what we need.

For several years now I have had a similar resentment against the perennial beggars of taxes for the schools (or social services or jails or whatever.) As the rich get bigger and bigger tax breaks, the reformers demand that we continue to be enablers for this gigantic rip-off.

I say it’s time to stop this approach. The system is broke folks. Big time. It’s time to say no to anything short of fundamental and revolutionary reform.

Yes, support education and health care, but not through a system that funnels our money to criminals. In the meantime, how about free schools and free clinics? Where are all of the idealistic doctors and teachers? The system as it is does not deserve our support any longer.

Sunshine at last?

Sunday, here in Portland, the sun showed its face with no hint of shyness for the first time in months. No hide-and-seek with the clouds, just pure, glorious, unadulterated sunshine. On such a day you expect life to be good and to be rewarded with further soul-lifting support from the cosmos, so it should have been no surprise that the afternoon march and rally against the Iraq war would have a large turnout. But the actual size of the crowd was indeed a nice surprise.

When we stepped on the Max for the journey downtown, we were expecting maybe a few thousand of our fellow PDXers to join us in protesting this illegal and unconscionable war. But when we arrived at Waterfront Park, it was obvious that this would be quite large, even for Portland. It took over a half hour to file out of the park onto Naito Parkway for the march. March watchers reported that it took a full hour for the parade to pass Pioneer Square. The mainstream press estimated 10,000 participants, while some observers on Indymedia put the number at 50,000. My own (experienced) estimate is that there were 15,000 to 20,000 marchers.

After such a lame turnout for the protests across the globe on Saturday, one must ask, what made Portland different? Two factors I think were important: the northwest had a particularly wet and dark winter, which made the sunshine irresistable, and the anti-war movement in PDX has been languishing for over a year now. There was a lot of pent-up energy to get out on the streets with others and speak our minds.

Now, how about the converse to that question –despite Portland’s good showing, why is the movement against the war seemingly losing momentum? As you might guess, I have some thoughts on that subject.

1. What we have been doing hasn’t been effective. The tactics of massive rallies has not worked because the media has ignored or marginalized us. We need a new approach which involves civil disobedience on a large enough scale so that they can’t write us off. What if all 20,000 of us on Sunday decided to sit down in the middle of the street and not move until some concrete demands were met? What would the police have been able to do? Could the press have ignored that?

2. The world is waiting for US. The people of the United States are the only ones who can stop this war. Yes, we need the support of the rest of the world, but world public opinion of the Bush administration is close to zero, and that fact has had no discernable effect on the behavior of the U.S. government. It is up to us to stop this war.

Elections are coming up soon, and much of the anti-war fervor may be swept up into campaigns to unseat Republicans. This may or may not be a success, but what is the good of unseating Republicans if Democrats continue to have no spine? What will we do when the elections are over (regardless of who wins)? These are questions that need to be asked.