Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Forest, McDowell Creek

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Here's a slideshow from Linn County's McDowell Creek Falls County Park, near Sweet Home, OR. The park's waterfalls have appeared here already:

I'm not sure if this area is technically part of the Cascades or not, but the moss-covered trees tell us the park gets a lot of precipitation. It's not quite as rainforesty as the Olympic Peninsula, say, but it still makes for some interesting photos. Or at least I thought they were interesting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Beverly Cleary Fountain & Sculpture Garden

In NE Portland's Grant Park, there's a small plaza with trio of statues of characters from Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, which were set in the surrounding neighborhood. In the summer months there's also a small fountain here, I guess for kids to play in; it wasn't running when I stopped by, but someone posted a YouTube video of it taken last summer. The whole assemblage was created by Lee Hunt, who also created the Human Comedy terra-cotta faces on a building at 3rd & Yamhill downtown.

I admit I never read any of the Ramona books as a kid, and it's a bit late to do so now, but I understand they're a fond childhood memory for a lot of people. So I can't speak to what scene from which book this is, or whether the characters look the way the books describe them.

The problem here (which is one I've discussed before) is that statues of kids are always creepy. Or at least they always look creepy in photos. I think it might be the facial expressions; Statues of presidents, generals, prominent local businessmen, etc., can pose their subjects gazing nobly into the middle distance, boldly leading us into the future or something. With kids you can't really do that, so they're often pictured laughing and smiling, and that doesn't translate into bronze as well. Whatever the cause, statues of kids always seem to evoke the "uncanny valley" effect, the same reason creepy clowns and ventriloquist dummies are so unsettling. I swear they didn't look this creepy in person, maybe because you can see they're child-sized and nonthreatening and not at all Chucky-like. Or at least not Chucky-like during daytime. At night it's anyone's guess.

Sapporo Friendship Bell

Here are a few photos of the Sapporo Friendship Bell in front of the Oregon Convention Center. The bell marks the longstanding sister city relationship between Portland and Sapporo (the big city on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, host city for the 1972 Winter Olympics, and namesake of a beer you may have heard of). There's a second bell that marks the sister city relationship between Portland and Ulsan, South Korea. I didn't realize the two bells had different origins at the time, so right now I only have photos of the Sapporo bell and I guess I'll need to go back for the other one at some point. Although I may hold off on that until my Drafts folder is a bit smaller.

The two bells were the focus of a brief controversy in 1990, when a local evangelical Christian group objected on First Amendment grounds, claiming the bells were a Buddhist religious symbol and should either be removed, or joined by a nativity scene. Convention center management didn't buy the argument; the bells stayed, and there's still no nativity scene. The ACLU was reported to be "looking at the case" but they don't seem to have ever filed suit over it. I can only imagine how Bill O'Reilly would have demagogued this if Fox News had existed back in 1990.

Garden Gate

Here's another object from outside the art museum: Garden Gate by longtime Portland sculptor Mel Katz. His work has appeared here a couple of times before, namely Daddy Long Legs on the transit mall, and Red, Yellow, Blue at the 200 Market building. The museum doesn't have an online collection page for Garden Gate for some reason. It might be because it's a relatively recent acquisition; it was at Portland's Laura Russo Gallery as recently as 2002. This newness means I also can't find much of anything to share about it; many search results are actually for an entirely different Katz Garden Gate located in Bend. (I was just complaining about reused titles the other day and already here's another example How annoying.)

Based on a sample size of 3 I've seen, and a few others I've seen photos of, I think I generally like his work. This clean, colorful style was apparently uncommon in Portland's mid-20th-Century art world, which generally preferred lumpy bronzes and rusty cor-ten steel whatzits. (Alhough as far as I've been able to tell, said art world consisted of at most a dozen people at any given time, so having a niche to oneself isn't really that surprising.) The Portland Public Art blog liked Garden Gate too, and that blog's anonymous author was hard to please. I suppose the takeaway here is that while I may have uninformed opinions about art, they aren't always unusual opinions. Take that however you will.

If I ever wanted to sound more informed and insider-ish, I suppose I could start adapting text from the Arty Bollocks artist's statement generator. I'm also tempted to adapt the Git manpage generator for documentation in my day job. In both cases I'm not sure anyone would notice. I'm occasionally tempted to throw together a Markov chain generator that consumes the last 8+ years of this humble blog, and see what it spits out. I'm kind of afraid to see the results of that, to be honest. An auto-generated blog post would probably start with "Here are some photos of..." and ramble on for 2-to-5 unmemorable paragraphs before ending rather abruptly. And now that I've mentioned Markov chains, I'm kind of afraid of the generator becoming self-aware, or at least of it simulating self-awareness as well as I do. Heck, as far as you know this may have happened already.

Monday, April 14, 2014

American Hop Museum

Here are a few Instagram photos from the American Hop Museum in Toppenish, WA. The town is in the middle of the Yakima Valley hop-growing region, which produces much of the world's hop supply, and the museum claims to be the only one in America dedicated to the industry. I can believe that, since Oregon's Willamette Valley is the only other big hop-growing area in the country, and I'm fairly sure we don't have a museum.

It's your basic agricultural museum, with exhibits on growing, harvesting, drying, packaging, and brewing. Lots of vintage farm equipment to look at, old displays from the state fair, vintage brewery signs and beer taps, etcetera. Oh, and there's a gift shop at the end, which sells just about every hops item you could imagine, except beer. This sort of place may bore a lot of people, but I love a good small-town museum. I'm sure it also helps if you're a fan of the end product, which I am.

I'm not sure they could legally sell beer in the gift shop even if they wanted to. It seems the town of Toppenish is also home to the Yakama Nation tribal offices, the headquarters for a reservation nearly the size of Delaware, and the Yakama tribe has had an alcohol ban in place for about the last 150 years. In 2000, citing problems with alcohol abuse, the tribe attempted to enforce the ban across the reservation, which soon led to conflict with the state attorney general. The problem here is that the reservation is a patchwork of tribal and non-tribal lands, and a majority of residents within the legal boundary are not tribal members. In 2001, the local US Attorney threw cold water on the idea, stating the ban would probably not be enforceable against non-tribal members, and apparently that was the end of the proposal, although the ban remains on the books. In any event, I suppose having a hop museum on a (legally) dry reservation is no more strange than having the Jack Daniels distillery in a dry county in Tennessee.

More recently, the tribe has also refused to recognize Initiative 502, Washington's 2012 ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana, due to substance-abuse concerns. In January 2014, the tribe announced it would try to enforce this ban on all lands covered by the 1855 treaty with the US Government, covering about a fifth of the entire state. I'm not a lawyer, and I'm generally very sympathetic to tribal sovereignty claims, but I can't really see this idea going anywhere..

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Enchanting Garden

Today's adventure takes us back to downtown Honolulu again, once again to the intersection of Bishop & King Streets. This is the heart of Honolulu's financial district, and on each corner of the intersection a big bank or insurance company has installed some prestige art. It always seems kind of silly when CEOs compete over who's got the biggest, uh, sculpture, but all things considered I'd rather have them compete over art than over how many jobs they can offshore to Bangladesh or something. In any case, I've already covered Sun Disc, Upright Motive #9, and Na Manu Nu Oli, and today's post completes the set. Enchanting Garden is yet another sculpture-fountain combo, this time outside the First Hawaiian Center office block. It's by local sculptor Satoru Abe and -- surprisingly -- only dates to 1997, same as the building itself. They really fit in with the 1960s modernist look the rest of the area has. I don't know if this was deliberate, or whether the Jet Age International Style is the local vernacular and creating more of it is just automatic at this point.

I unfortunately don't have a lot of material to share about Enchanting Garden. It seems there's an entirely different Enchanting Garden at Honolulu's McKinley High School, also by Abe but dating to 1983. They don't even look all that similar. Pretty much all the search results I can find are for the 1983 one and not the one pictured here. So artists, a plea from a humble blogger: Could you try not reusing titles? Or if you really have to, could you at least maybe number them or something? That would be great.

Thea Foss Waterway Bridges

Thea Foss Waterway Bridges
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So here's a photo of a couple of bridges in Tacoma, neither of which is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, for once. Instead, here are the two bridges over the Thea Foss Waterway: The SR 509 bridge (1996), the cable-stayed one in the background; and the older Murray Morgan Bridge (1913), a lift-span bridge that you can't really get a good look at in this photo, unfortunately.

In most cities (i.e. those without a famous suspension bridge across town) the SR 509 bridge would be a major local landmark. At the very least it would have a proper name to it, maybe a retired mayor or influential congressman or something, but as far as I can tell this isn't officially called anything except the SR 509 cable-stayed bridge. Not long ago I rashly said something about Eastern Washington's Cable Bridge being the only cable-stayed bridge in the Northwest, other than the pedestrian one at OHSU. So yeah, I was kind of wrong about that, it turns out. It wouldn't surprise me if there are others besides the Tacoma one. I don't know of any others, but it wouldn't surprise me.

The Bridgehunter page for the Murray Morgan Bridge is livelier than usual, with reader-contributed anecdotes about it and the contentious politics of bridges versus ships in Tacoma. The Port of Tacoma occupies the low-lying tideflats where the Puyallup River flows into Commencement Bay, which is inconveniently right in the middle of the city of Tacoma. The fastest way between downtown and the Dash Point area would be on elevated bridges over the port, but that creates a height and width limit for container ships, which the port finds intolerable. In 1997 they arranged to have the outdated Blair Bridge demolished and not replaced (unless you count SR-509, which detours around the south end of the port), cutting what used to be a significant road link in the area. The nearby Hylebos Bridge reopened in 2012 after being closed for eleven years. Its drawbridge became stuck in the open position, and there was talk of demolishing it as well. Eventually the port realized the bridge was a critical evacuation route (in case of tsunamis, earthquakes, or lahars from Mt. Rainier erupting), and repairs were belatedly made.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Savannah Rapids Park, Augusta GA

Augusta Locks Augusta Locks Augusta Locks

Here are a few old photos of Savannah Rapids Park on the Savannah River, in suburban Augusta, GA. This is the point where the river crosses the Fall Line, and the headgates for the historic Augusta Canal are here. These photos were taken around the headgates area, although it's a fairly large park and there's more to it than this. The website mentions something about a waterfall, although I don't recall ever seeing it. If I had, I'm fairly certain I would have taken a photo or two.

The main thing I do remember is looking around for alligators. I'd heard they showed up here now and then, and there were signs warning people to please leave the alligators alone, dammit. Ok, the signs didn't say "dammit", this being the South and all, but the point was conveyed. I didn't see any gators, though, and I was both relieved and disappointed. I'd seen alligators before, during a family vacation to Florida in the mid-80s. They were swimming around in a canal at Cape Canaveral, in fact. Somehow that didn't really count because it happened in Florida, though. Anyway, I finally saw a wild non-Floridian alligator at Hunting Island, on the South Carolina coast, and somehow managed not to get any photos of it. I told coworkers about it later and they weren't that impressed. I think the best analogy is with bears in the western US: Not something you see every day, and a real nuisance when they do show up.

Going back through these old photos, I'm struck by how few photos I have of the Augusta area, despite having lived there for several years. I'm not sure why not; the old historic downtown was quite photogenic, at least if you ignored all the empty storefronts. The Augusta Canal took a very scenic route from the headgates into downtown, past historic cotton mills and under historic bridges, before petering out in weeds and neglect in a bad part of town. I haven't been back in the last decade and maybe it's changed since then, but it wasn't exactly the most economically vibrant city, other than the one week every year when it became the center of the golf universe, and the locals all left town for the duration. Savannah and Charleston had it beat in the tourism department, it was too close to Atlanta to be much of a business hub on its own, and any business that didn't gravitate to Atlanta likely ended up in Columbia or Greenville-Spartanburg, SC instead. Locals seemed to regard this with a mix of puzzlement and resignation. Grand development schemes came and went without rousing the city from its economic doldrums -- a riverfront condo tower in a city that shunned condos and avoided downtown after dark; big new history and science museums the local government couldn't afford to actually operate or maintain; minor league baseball and even hockey(!) teams that came and went; even a riverfront "Georgia Golf Hall of Fame" full of cheesy (and often vandalized) statues of famous golfers. Nothing ever seemed to pan out, and nobody could figure out why. Augusta would make a lot more sense if there was some sort of centuries-old curse on the place, a curse where nothing really terrible ever happens, but the city's forever doomed to watch enviously as nearby cities get all the goodies and it doesn't. But, as usual, Savannah and Charleston ended up with all the cool ghost stories.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Untitled, Macleay Park

NW Portland's Macleay Park is one of my favorite places in town, and I've never really done it justice here. An early blog post only covered one obscure corner of the park. I've also posted a boring video of a creek in the park, and a photo of a local slug. I've also done a post about the Thurman St. Bridge, which stretches over the park's lower entrance in dramatic fashion. Unfortunately this isn't a proper post about the place either; you might have noticed I've been doing a sort of public art thing lately, and Macleay Park is home to today's stop on this ongoing tour. The lower entrance to the park includes a meadow and group picnic area stretching out beneath the Thurman St. Bridge, and the popular hiking trail along Balch Creek begins at the far end of the meadow. In the middle of the meadow is an incongruous trio of bright red abstract sculptures, collectively known as Untitled. Their RACC page gives the rest of the story:

Three geometric abstract steel sculptures are placed in a raised landscaped area in and located directly south of the Thurman Street Bridge. In siting the work, the artist wanted the sculptures to respond both to the surrounding greenspace (thus, the bright red color) and to the broad horizontal expanse of the Thurman Street bridge (thus, the vertical nature of the sculptures). At the time the pieces were installed, Vern Luce lived near Lower MacLeay Park and selected the site both for its visual beauty and its proximity to his home.

The date on it says 1983, but the design was originally selected in 1979, and funded with a chunk of federal CETA money, along with Silver Dawn in Wallace Park, and the untitled ring whatzit in Couch Park. I've actually added a blog tag for CETA-funded art; other than Silver Dawn most of it isn't that great or memorable, and it's by people you've never heard of, and it's all in the same groovy chunky 70s style. It's not trying to communicate an environmental message, or define a neighborhood identity, or serve as a local landmark, or harmonize with its surroundings or anything like that. It just sort of exists, period, plunked down wherever the movers thought was easiest and left to confuse future generations. Or, more likely, be ignored by future generations, and marked as territory by their dogs.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Fremont Rocket

Fremont Rocket

So here's a photo of Seattle's "Fremont Rocket", in the Fremont neighborhood not far from the Troll, the Lenin Statue, and Seattle's little Fremont Bridge (which is positively puny compared to ours). Fremont as a whole kind of grabs you by the lapel and demands you acknowledge its infinite quirkiness. There are even signs from the neighborhood chamber of commerce, explaining just how awesomely quirky and alternative everyone and everything is:

Fremont Rocket

I will allow that Fremont (and Seattle as a whole) has an excellent marketing operation, way more slick than anything Portland could ever dream of. It's enough to make you forget this is the same city that gave the world Clippy and Kenny G.

As the story goes, this is supposedly a real, live government-surplus rocket, rescued from the facade of a defunct government surplus store. That's not quite true; it's actually a tail boom from a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, a twin-tailed USAF cargo plane of the 1950s, which the old surplus store had fashioned into a sort of cartoon rocketship. It would obviously be cooler if it was a real rocket, but it's not. If you want to see an actual real rocket, there are various places around the country with rockets on display. I think Seattle's Museum of Flight may have a few, but I haven't been there in many years. Rocket launches are fun too, if you ever get a chance to watch one in person.

In any case, there is sort of a space connection here. The C-119 aircraft was used for many years for midair recovery of film capsules ejected by Corona spy satellites. Seriously, that's what they used to do. Electronic camera sensors weren't advanced enough at the time, so a spy satellite would take a batch of film photos, and return them by dropping a recovery capsule with the film inside. A plane would snag the capsule's parachute in midair and reel it in, instead of having it land or splashdown somewhere where the Rooskies might find it first. The early spy satellites were publicly called "Discoverer", which was supposedly just an Air Force engineering test and research program. "Discoverer 14" was the first successful recovery, which resulted in some fun vintage newsreel footage:

white rhododendron

white rhododendron

red tulips

red tulips

new leaves

new leaves