Keep Oregon Historical Society budget intact

Lack of access to our state’s historical documents diminishes us. Not only writers and historians suffer, but everyone who reads, or goes to school, or needs to be informed about the world prior to us. In other words, everyone.

The Oregon Historical Society is scheduled to reopen on April 2nd with drastically curtailed hours: one to five pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. But even those hours are tenuous. The state legislature wants to cut the OHS budget funding in half, from $2.4 million to $1.4 million.

If you think that funding this century-old institution is frivolous, consider, as local historian Michael Munk pointed out recently, that the City of Portland just voted to subsidize the wealthy owner of the local soccer team. Is a professional sports team more important than our historical heritage? Is this what we’ve come to?

There is still time to lobby your state legislators to maintain funding for the Oregon Historical Society. You can also sign the petition.

Review: Felina’s Arrow

International Women’s Day at The Backspace.
Patty and I don’t get out much these days to hear live music. But waiting for the gates of spring to burst open had us chewing at the bit, so we decided Saturday night was the night.

Felina’s Arrow

International Women’s Day at The Backspace, Portland, OR, March 7

Patty and I don’t get out much these days to hear live music. But waiting for the gates of spring to burst open had us chewing at the bit, so we decided Saturday night was the night. We were going to find some good music, one way or another. Of course, not part of a demographic targeted by the current music scene, and no longer following the latest bands, we were confused. The days of punk and hard rock concerts are over for our aging and precious ears, and in this youth-oriented town, it’s hard to know what you’ll stumble into.

But we did know about International Women’s Day. And the event at The Backspace looked interesting. So, we googled the performers and listened. Okay, we decided, we’ll try them out. We were surprised by an evening of enjoyable music.

The first act was Nicole Sangsuree, backed up by members of Felina’s Arrow. She has a very competent, smooth voice with a strong presence. While the love songs she performed were not particularly inspiring to our demanding ears, many listeners would undoubtedly enjoy them more. I will confess a prejudice here. For a love/relationship song to pass muster with me it has to be really, really, really good. It has to touch something deep. Didn’t quite make it.

The second act, Ivy Ross, was great fun. Her slightly quirky voice reminded me of Jolie Holland at times and Iris Dement at others. She encouraged audience participation–which I love–and her songs were full of great social commentary and meaning. While maybe not as polished as the other two acts, she was very competent and had an winning stage personality. We’d go hear Ivy Ross again.

Felina’s Arrow was the crown of the evening. Felicia Figueroa’s amazing bass and guitar work was both accomplished and nuanced. I suspect she is classically trained, but her range of styles is impressive. The pieces ranged from jazzy samba style rhythms to Eastern European folk sounds. Poeina Suddarth’s vocals were equally amazing in range and precision. From soulful to tender, she didn’t miss a beat.

The songs, too, were skillfully written and very moving. The anthemic “Amelia” was the height of the evening, with beautifully structured minimalism and soulful pain.

My only gripe–and this is true of 95% of the live shows I’ve ever attended–the vocals are too far back in the mix.  I’m a lyrics guy, and I want to hear every single one of those beautiful words. As an ex-performer myself, I realize the problem is often the venue. Old brick buildings with concrete floors aren’t the best acoustic environment. And what you, the performer hear in the stage monitors is not the same thing your audience hears.  The ideal situation is to have a sound engineer you can trust, which is unrealistic most of the time. And then there is the obnoxious blathering redhead sitting near me–I really didn’t pay $7 to hear your self-absorbed chatter all night.

Despite the distractions, this is a very nice discovery for us. We will be catching Felina’s Arrow again soon.

My rating: 4.5 stars


Advice to left websites: get RSS

As a 25-year veteran of left-wing politics (NAM, DSA, the Greens, The Alliance newspaper), I know the difficulty of getting the word out. Well, I have news for you. There is something called the Internet.

I hear you protest: we are on the internet, already. People just aren’t coming to our website.

Yeah, but the truth is you are not reading this article simply because your computer is connected to the internet. Your search would never have found us without something else: an RSS feed. And the truth is, very few of the organizations I have researched over the past few weeks have an RSS feed. Many blogs also do not have a feed (although those at blog sites like Blogger and WordPress don’t have to worry, since those platforms automatically include an RSS feed). At Blogging Cascadia, we would love to syndicate many of your sites, and help you spread the word to a larger audience. But, alas…

An example in point is The Portland Alliance (a monthly newspaper for which I was on the editorial board during the 1980s). This free monthly left-wing newspaper could triple or quadruple its outreach with RSS, and a little website optimization. There would be almost no extra work once the feed is added. Through php, articles you post are automatically added to the feed.

So, what is RSS? RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is the standard for syndicating news sites and blogs. RSS is a “feed” file which can be read on a newsreader, added to a Google page, or picked up by a syndication site like Blogging Cascadia. In other words, it allows your readers to access you in multiple ways.

Most CMS and blog platforms have dynamic RSS built in. These platforms are also much easier to maintain and more search-engine friendly than a static HTML site. Organizations which are not using these kinds of platforms should seriously consider doing so. They take some setup, but once they’re running, they will simplify your web presence.

Democratic Party bloggers have had a tremendous impact on public opinion, especially among the young. Why can’t the independent and alternative left do the same? I know you are strapped for volunteers and cash, and finding volunteers with internet coding know-how is sometimes difficult. Yet what is the alternative? To become irrelevent as the world shifts to online news and opinion?

A good web presence can be a source of new readers, and expanded donations and volunteer recruitment. A shabby web presence (like a shabby bookstore) will drive away all but the converted. But without an RSS feed, no one is going to find you at all.

Blogging Cascadia – our new news site

I have been working on a new news feed for literature, arts, environment, and progressive politics in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been frustrated with the difficulty of finding good blog and news sources by northwest bloggers. Cascadia, for those who don’t know, refers to the Cascadia bio-region, which includes everything from the Siskiyous to southern British Columbia. There is a lot of good stuff coming from here, and my goal is to produce some consolidated feeds.

We’ve also included some feeds from Indian Country that aren’t necessarily tied to the northwest. You can subscribe to feeds by category, so if you’re only interested in arts and literature, you can limit your feed to bloggers who write about these subjects.

We haven’t gone public yet, but you can check us out at Blogging Cascadia.

Another reason to leave your cell at home

This is scary stuff if you’re any sort of activist. Sure, they say it’s opt-in, but there are always ways around that. As a public person, I don’t mind people finding my address or phone number (unless they’re advertisers), but individuals tracking my exact whereabouts? I don’t think so.

The Raw Story | Google offers free software to track people