Thursday, December 27, 2007

From the Sightline

As profesized by yours truly, here are a few awesome tidbits from the Sightline Institute.

First this incredibly depressing map on Grizzlies.

And now, some more inspring news. Check out this graph from Eric de Place:

Basically what Eric shows us here is that getting rid of low fuel efficiency cars is far better (not to mention easier) than building new more fuel efficient vehicles. He explains that the crux to understanding this issue is to stop thinking in "miles per gallon" and think about it in terms of "Gallons per mile".

Check out all his math and explanations here.

I would like to add here that not only does this math prove that getting rid of low efficiency is actually better, but also destroying cars is much better than producing more cars. Its much easier, cheaper, and in so many ways better to get rid of cars with low MPG than it is to waste money and energy creating more fuel efficiency.

I will throw in my opinion here and state straight out that minimizing our energy use is actually the only way we are going to stop global climate change. Technology has and will never be our savior (or saviour for BCers). Sorry to burst your bubble.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

God's Country

Mt. Baker is famous for three things. The largest snow accumulation ever recorded, The Legendary Banked Slalom, and the idolized Craig Kelly. Snowboarders outnumber skiiers on the mountain by at least 5 to 1 and I have a sneaking suspicion that the grooming machine is simply for show. Needless to say, Baker is a hot bed for snowboarding culture. In fact, Mt. Baker is to snowboarding culture, what ancient Greece is to Western culture. Craig Kelly and the rest of the MBHC founded a philosophy of sport and nature as one, a community that fostered the love of much more than capital gain (FYI: Baker's nearest town, Glacier, has the lowest per capita income in Washington State). That is not to say that Baker culture was an extension of the peace/love hippie era. In many respects it's a reaction to that as well. It is a much more fuck you kind of mentality that thrives on free spirit, but mocks the politically correct kind. Nonetheless while the ever popular Xtreme era continues to turn snowboarding into a show of ridiculous stunts and expensive gear, Baker retains the essence of what is and what will always be snowboarding; it is not about money, or style, or even skill, but rather the feeling of gliding over deep, pure, untouched snow.

When I was a child, growing up in Bellingham, Mt. Baker was simply where we went every Saturday between December and March. I didn't realize its place in the snowboarding world, I just went up, hung out with friends, loaded up on free breadsticks (oh man, those were the days...) and played king of the mountain with the girls before riding down 542 blasting Bohemian Rhapsody. Since moving to Seattle I only get up to Baker a couple times a year. But I have that distant perspective now. The understanding of how incredibly unique the Baker scene really is. Granted I don't ride many other ski areas very often (who the hell would when you got Baker?!?) but when you're waiting in line for Chair 7 to open its clear that the original community and spirit are alive and kickin'.

Going to Mt. Baker after a heavy snowfall is like a throwback to the days of the Gold Rush. With a report of "8 new inches with 12 new inches in the last 24 hours" most people simply leave everything (work, school, family, bong tokes) to get up here. Eyeing the crowd's gear, one finds a mish mash of hand-me-downs and dumpster finds. Mostly old, jackets that are too small, gloves with holes, boards that are delaminating. Just like the Alaskan miners, the typical rider has long unkempt hair and a full, thick beard. Anything for added warmth (and a confirmation that sex and love are far from the mind's focus). The gold in this wilderness is the white powder falling from the skies (an addiction much stronger for Baker Bums than the other type of white powder) and once the lift opens it's a mad rush to find every pocket of this white gold.

In a typical search for powder (aka: freshies, pow-pow, deep shit, good stuff) no one holds their opinions to themselves. Sitting at the top one can hear fierce debate over which routes will yield the most benefits:

"Let's hit up Gabl's."

"No way man! Gabl's will be all tracked out! Let's skirt Gunner's Ridge and drop in from there."

"Perhaps we should hike out Blueberry."

"Naw, that's too much work, lets just head over to the Pea Garden."

If you ride anything under the lift you are sure to hear calls of admiration as well as ridicule. Anyone considering a drop can count on yells of encouragement and the yells and claps are only louder if you biff the landing and tumble head over heals (sometimes called a yardsale).

Within the first few hours of the day most of the best stuff has been mined by the boards and the soggy, smelly community heads back to the lodge to smoke a few cigarettes and swap stories. They are generally a bit exaggerated. Some individuals boast about five feet of fresh snow where there was actually two. Others brag about their secret reserve that they intend to ride in the afternoon, but probably doesn't exists. Some older veterans tell stories of old to wide-eyed youngsters as they both share a few pieces of beef jerky and a 40 of OE.

On a Relativist's globe Mt. Baker's simplicity is truly refreshing. There are no fights over religion because all revere the gods of the weather. Nobody debates the methods of wealth distribution because each new storm cloud brings a fresh blanket of opportunity. While difference may exist, the community is united through the love and pleasure of their place and that perhaps is something we can all learn from.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Art Eco

This painting of Sockeye Salmon was done by Cascadian artist, Julie Thompson. Her works are done on naturally-molted peacock wingfeathers. If that's not sustainable, I don't know what is!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rudyard Kipling's Cascadian Journey

Rudyard Kipling was an Englishman born and raised in India during the second half of the 19th century. He became a writer for Indian magazines at an early age and soon after, began writing stories about his travels and experiences in the Indian interior. He is most famous for his novel, "The Jungle Book" as well as his short stories, such as, "Riki-Tivi-Tavi".

But, what is little known about this historic writer is his travels to America. In March 1889, at the age of 23 and before his international recognition, he sailed from India, through Southeast Asia and landed in San Fransisco on a legendary journey through the American continent. From San Fransisco he headed north, through Oregon and Washington, then up to British Columbia. The notes and remarks that he has about the Cascadian region are undoubtedly interesting.

There is nothing like an outsider's perspective to really understand the history of a place. Kipling dissects the Northwest like an anthropologist, pointing out all of the quirks that make up this region and its people. I would highly reccommend a read, of the whole book, Sea to Sea, but for now you can enjoy some of these great excerpts about Cascadia and its history. Enjoy!

In the late 19th century, salmon fishing was still an incredibly popular and lucrative job. Here, Kipling writes to Indian fishers about the unbelievable abundance of fish in the Northwest:

I HAVE lived! The American Continent may now sink under the sea, for I have taken the best that it yields, and the best was neither dollars, love, nor real estate. Hear now, gentlemen of the Punjab Fishing Club, who whip the reaches of the Tavi, and you who painfully import trout to Ootacamund, and I will tell you how “old man California” and I went fishing, and you shall envy. We returned from The Dalles to Portland by the way we had come, the steamer stopping en route to pick up a night’s catch of one of the salmon wheels on the river, and to deliver it at a cannery downstream. When the proprietor of the wheel announced that his take was two thousand two hundred and thirty pounds’ weight of fish, “and not a heavy catch, neither,” I thought he lied. But he sent the boxes aboard, and I counted the salmon by the hundred—huge fifty-pounders, hardly dead, scores of twenty and thirty-pounders, and a host of smaller fish.

From Portland, Kipling decided to take a little fishing trip of his own on the Clackamas River. The insurance man, "Portland", had gotten him a team and crew together for the short journey, but inevitably, it was not quite up to the standards that Kipling expected:

The team was purely American—that is to say, almost human in its intelligence and docility. The bystanders overwhelm[ed] us with directions as to the sawmills we were to pass, the ferries we were to cross, and the sign-posts we were to seek signs from. Half a mile from this city of fifty thousand souls we struck (and this must be taken literally) a plank-road that would have been a disgrace to an Irish village. All the land was dotted with small townships, and the roads were full of farmers in their town wagons, bunches of tow-haired, boggle-eyed urchins sitting in the hay behind. The men generally looked like loafers, but their women were all well dressed. Then we struck into the woods along what California [a guide] called a “camina reale,”—a good road,—and Portland a “fair track.” It wound in and out among fire-blackened stumps, under pine trees, along the corners of log-fences, through hollows which must be hopeless marsh in the winter, and up absurd gradients. But nowhere throughout its length did I see any evidence of road-making. There was a track,—you couldn’t well get off it,—and it was all you could do to stay on it. The dust lay a foot thick in the blind ruts, and under the dust we found bits of planking and bundles of brushwood that sent the wagon bounding into the air. Then with oaths and the sound of rent underwood a yoke of mighty bulls would swing down a “skid” road, hauling a forty-foot log along a rudely made slide.

Eventually they did make it to the Clackamas and here the scenery was a bit more tranquil:

That was a day to be remembered, and it had only begun when we drew rein at a tiny farmhouse on the banks of the Clackamas and sought horse-feed and lodging ere we hastened to the river that broke over a weir not a quarter of a mile away. Imagine a stream seventy yards broad divided by a pebbly island, running over seductive riffles, and swirling into deep, quiet pools where the good salmon goes to smoke his pipe after meals. Set such a stream amid fields of breast-high crops surrounded by hills of pine, throw in where you please quiet water, log-fenced meadows, and a hundred-foot bluff just to keep the scenery from growing too monotonous, and you will get some faint notion of the Clackamas. How shall I tell the glories of that day so that you may be interested? Again and again did California and I prance down that reach to the little bay, each with a salmon in tow, and land him in the shallows. Then Portland took my rod, and caught some ten-pounders, and my spoon was carried away by an unknown leviathan. Very solemnly and thankfully we put up our rods—it was glory enough for all time—and returned weeping in each other’s arms—weeping tears of pure joy—to that simple bare-legged family in the packing-case house by the waterside.

Next Kipling's American guide, California, took him North to see the boom town of Tacoma:

California was right. Tacoma was literally staggering under a boom of the boomiest. I do not quite remember what her natural resources were supposed to be, though every second man shrieked a selection in my ear. The rude boarded pavements of the main streets rumbled under the heels of hundreds of furious men all actively engaged in hunting drinks and eligible corner-lots. They sought the drinks first. The street itself alternated five-story business blocks of the later and more abominable forms of architecture with board shanties. Overhead the drunken telegraph, telephone, electric light wires tangled on the tottering posts whose butts were half-whittled through by the knife of the loafer. Down the muddy, grimy, unmetaled thoroughfare ran a horse-car line—the metals three inches above road level. Beyond this street rose many hills, and the town was thrown like a broken set of dominoes over all. A steam tramway—it left the track the only time I used it—was nosing about the hills, but the most prominent features of the landscape were the foundations in brick and stone of a gigantic opera house and the blackened stumps of the pines. California had gone off to investigate on his own account, and presently returned, laughing noiselessly. “They are all mad here,” he said, “all mad. A man nearly pulled a gun on me because I didn’t agree with him that Tacoma was going to whip San Francisco on the strength of carrots and potatoes. I asked him to tell me what the town produced, and I couldn’t get anything out of him except those two darned vegetables. Say, what do you think?” I responded firmly, “I’m going into British territory a little while—to draw breath.”

So Kipling set off for Vancouver, to relax with some of his fellow countrymen. He went by water this time, taking a long boat ride North, through the Sound:

I took a steamer up Puget Sound for Vancouver, which is the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway. That was a queer voyage. The water, landlocked among a thousand islands, lay still as oil under our bows, and the wake of the screw broke up the unquivering reflections of pines and cliffs a mile away. ’Twas as though we were trampling on glass. No one, not even the Government, knows the number of islands in the Sound. Even now you can get one almost for the asking; can build a house, raise sheep, catch Salmon, and become a king on a small scale.

When Kipling docked in Seattle, the city was still in the process of recovering from the Great Fire of 1889. This heavily affected his attitude towards the city:

Have I told you anything about Seattle—the town that was burned out a few weeks ago when the insurance men at San Francisco took losses with a grin? In the ghostly twilight, just as the forests were beginning to glare from the unthrifty islands, we struck it—struck it heavily, for the wharves had all been burned down, and we tied up where we could, crashing into the rotten foundations of a boat house as a pig roots in high grass. The town, like Tacoma, was built upon a hill. In the heart of the business quarters there was a horrible black smudge, as though a Hand had come down and rubbed the place smooth. I know now what being wiped out means. The smudge seemed to be about a mile long, and its blackness was relieved by tents in which men were doing business with the wreck of the stock they had saved. Here were shouts and counter-shouts from the steamer to the temporary wharf, which was laden with shingles for roofing, chairs, trunks, provision-boxes, and all the lath and string arrangements out of which a western town is made.

In June of 1889, to Kipling's relief, he finally made it across the border into British owned Columbia territory, and the city of Vancouver:

Except for certain currents which are not much mentioned, but which make the entrance rather unpleasant for sailing-boats, Vancouver possesses an almost perfect harbor. The town is built all round and about the harbor, and young as it is, its streets are better than those of western America. Moreover, the old flag waves over some of the buildings, and this is cheering to the soul. The place is full of Englishmen who speak the English tongue correctly and with clearness, avoiding more blasphemy than is necessary, and taking a respectable length of time to getting outside their drinks. A great sleepiness lies on Vancouver as compared with an American town: men don't fly up and down the street telling lies, and the spittoons in the delightfully comfortable hotel are unused; the baths are free and their doors are unlocked. You do not have to dig up the hotel clerk when you want to bathe, which shows the inferiority of Vancouver. An American bade me notice the absence of bustle, and was alarmed when in a loud and audible voice I thanked God for it.

The peaceful beauty and gentility of Vancouver had a lasting impact on him, and 15 years later, with money from his novel sales, he purchased a number of plots in and around Van City. Unfortunately not all of these deals were totally legitimate. In later years Kipling found out that a large piece of property in North Van, which he had been paying hefty taxes on, was not actually titled to him! In addition, two small parcels he bough on the East side of Vancouver for $500, he sold over 20 years later for $2,000. This would have been a pretty good deal unless you count the $60 a year taxes he had paid. I guess Vancouverites were just as money hungry as Americans in the end. It was just the spirit of the booming Northwest. Profits were there to be had, but you had to work hard (i.e. lying, cheating, and stealing) to get them.

Kipling's writings about Cascadia give us an interesting insight into the boomtown years of abundant resources, big ideas, and a whole host of individuals looking to cash in. Our cities were built on these foundations, but we should use it as a wary lesson for future progress.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Scorecard 2007

Surfing (or, more relatable to Cascadians, snowboarding) the web recently, I came across what might be called the Holy Grail of Cascadian affairs. The Sightline Institue, "is a not-for-profit research and communication center" working to, "bring about sustainability--a healthy, lasting prosperity grounded in place". And that place is Cascadia. The Institute manages two Cascadia-specific news blogs, The Daily Score and Tidepool (neither as good as mine of course), and also does specific research projects on Cascadian related issues, such as the impacts of highway-widening, relevant to Puget Sound's Roads and Transit and B.C.s Gateway Program. But the true goal (and treasure) of the Sightline Institute is their regional research on Cascadia that is comparable to other areas of the world. While I (and many of you I hope) feel Cascadian at heart, the fact remains that Cascadia is (as yet?) only cultural, not political. Therefore acquiring statistics and data specific to the region requires combining state, provincial, national, municipal, and other sets of figures; a monumental and time consuming task to say the least. Well, until I came across the Sightline Institute that is. I mean, just check out maps like this, or this! Perhaps you aren't quite as excited as myself about these random colorful pictures of Cascadia, but having been seriously researching Cascadia for the last couple of months, The Sightline Institute is bringing Cascadia into a whole new realm of genuine reality. I can guarantee that many future posts will use research and information from this premier Cascadian institution.

So, now that I am done raving about this glorious find, I can move on to the actual post, which is a summary of Sightline's recent publication, Cascadia Scorecard 2007: Seven Key Trends Shaping the Northwest.

"The Cascadia Scorecard, a project started in 2004 by the Sightline Institute, measures long-term progress in the Pacific Northwest. An index of seven trends shaping the future of the region, it is a simple but surprisingly far-reaching gauge. The scorecards indicators - health, economy, population, energy, sprawl, wildlife, and pollution - provide status reports for Cascadia and, by highlighting successful communities, offer a practical vision for a better Northwest."

If you want to read the full 68-page report, click here. Or, just trust that I did and read the following handy-dandy recap.

1. Health

Certainly one of Cascadia's strong points. Life expectancy is at 79.5 years, which would rank 12th if Cascadia were an independent nation. The Sightline Institute's model goal is 81.3 years, Japan's 2001 life expectancy, and thus, even at the currently slow pace, this goal is reachable within 11 years. Of course, it is important to note that gains in health have been uneven. British Columbia, "remains far and away the healthiest jurisdiction". The metropolitan areas of BC's South are some of the healthiest places on earth, while the healthiest places of Oregon and Washington aren't even standouts in the US. The healthcare system in BC as well as the compact communities of metro Vancouver both factor into its success. In 2007 Washington state increased access to preventitive health care which could help boost scores in the future.

2. Economy

The economy is a bit difficult to deduce. On the up-side Gross Regional Product grew by 72% from 1990 - 2005, while total personal income grew by 56% in the same period (inflation-adjusted). Yet, it looks as though medium and low-income households have seen almost no actual change in that 15 year period, British Columbia actually showing a slight decline. Other economic measrements, such as economic security and unemployment, have seen many ups and downs in recent years and there seems to be no set direction towards progress. The Sightline Institute concludes that without more regional research by policymakers, "Cascadia is flying blind" as far as its economy, tending to rely on national progress for improvements.

3. Population

The population growth of Cascadia has remained fairly constant over the past two decades with a birth rate of about 1.8. The target here is 1.7 (that of many Scadanavian countries) but unfortunately progress is going slow. The tendency is that more rural areas have higher rates (closer to 2) while metropolitan areas have lower rates (closer to 1). Thus, The east side of the Cascades (aside from Spokane) tends to be the area where the most improvement can be done. The most important issue is minimizing the amount of unwanted pregnancies. We are on the right track since recently both Montana and Oregon joined Washington and California in allowing for more equal treatment of prescription contraceptives. Another way to lower unwanted pregnancies is through economy as data shows that as income decreases, birth rates increase.

4. Energy

By far the worst-performing area on the scorecard. The Sightline found that Cascadia is region, "every bit as profligate with energy as it was three decades ago". Of course, not all the news is bad. Gasoline consumption has been falling consistently for the past seven years. Sadly, to offset this, electricity has seen a sudden jump in recent years. Sightline looks to Germany as a model for Cascadia where energy consumption is half and total standard of living is higher. Some measures that we can take to achieve this is carbon-based taxes, better city planning and public transportation, and probably the biggest, better awareness and concern for energy use.

5. Sprawl

While traditionally sprawl has been a bane of Cascadian communities, Sightline found that the compacted living arragements are making a resurgence in the area. In fact, the model for Cascadia overall is the metro area around Vancouver, BC. Although far from perfect, Vancouver has done a fine job with infill, protecting open space, and building close-knit communities where walking and public transportation are easy and efficient. In recent years Oregon has also been a leader in this area. Hoping to protect their traditional farmlands they have carefully channeled groth into urban areas. This is not to say that everything is on the right track. In 2004 Oregon's Measure 37 was a big set back for sprawl, allowing developers to gain compensation for developed lands. But, as a whole Cascadia seems to be slowly heading in the right direction, with speed picking up consistently.

6. Wildlife

Modest gains in wildlife numbers have been shown in recent years, mainly from Wolf populations in Idaho and Chinook salmon runs. Of course, even on the present course it would take 69 years to meet the Sightline's target goals, which themselves are only a fraction of historic population sizes. One huge target needs to be improving the waters of Puget Sound and the Columbia River, both areas full of toxic chemicals from idustrial endeavors. As well, creating protected wilderness areas for animals, such as wolves, to roam can be crucial. Wolves, who have rebounded from near extinction, play an unprecedented role in the ecological system of Cascadia. Allowing them the space and freedom to roam will help control and balance many other parts of the ecosystem within the region. Smart and managed building (such as dams and urban sprawl) will also play a large factor in the health of our future wildlife.

7. Pollution

Contamination in Cascadian bodies is high, just like much of the rest of the United States and even the world. Since data testing on this subject is still in its infancy, finding any solid trend is difficult. Luckily, governmental and popular awareness is increasing but the effects of our past mistakes are probably going to haunt us for years to come. Dealing with toxic waste sites, such as the Duwamish River, and making sure that future construction pays close attention to the environmental effects will be paramount over the next few decades.


There are four important lessons to take away from this publication. First, energy consumption is "stuck in high gear" and drastic actions need to be taken to decrease this. Second, British Columbia performs on average far better than the rest of Cascadia. BC's health care system is foundational to health, fertility, and even economic stability. As well, a comprehensive transportation plan, which has far fewer roads and highways than the Norhtwest States, stems sprawl, protect environment, lowers pollution, and increase health. Cascadians should be championing their own successes and looking internally to British Columbia instead of to the rest of the United States for future leadership. Third, while human inhabitants of Cascadia are doing fairly well, other most other creatures in the environment are barely holding on. We need to look critically at where we are building and growing and how we can maintain a wildlife that is abundant and healthy. As one of the last colonized places on earth, Cascadia's wildlife should be more intact than most elsewhere. It should be a regional goal to make this happen. Fourth, and finally, there is reason for optimism. While not all areas are showing significant improvement, few are showing rapid decline either. Awareness and understanding of the issues that plague our region at least give us the knowledge to do something about it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Uptight Seattlite

If anyone has not read the Seattle Weekly column, Ask An Uptight Seattlite, you're pretty much missing out on happiness. Every week he answers reader questions with smart, hilarious answers. This week was particularly full of hilarity, and so I could not help but post it, enjoy.

When my friend from D.C. visited in the summer, I was telling him about my participation in the "100-mile diet." That's where, for the good of the environment, you eat only things grown within a hundred miles of Seattle. Not only did he decline to join me, he thought the whole thing was laughable. In fact, he thought our city was full of hilarity. How we march earnestly around Green Lake clutching bottles of water. The way we always dress like we're going camping. The way we get so comically worked up about transportation issues. Now he's coming to visit for Christmas, and I'm worried that he'll think we're laughable in a whole new way: the way we suck all the fun out of the holidays with our superserious "sensitivity." What can I do to show him that we know how to have a good time?

Take this Stick From My Ass

Dear Stick From My Ass,

Is it really so restrictive and dreary to live here? If you really think so, you should take a holiday of an entirely different kind. You know how Amish young people are allowed, for a set period of time, to drink, smoke, and otherwise break the rules of their community? Well, you, too, should take your own little rumspringa from Seattle ways. Show your friend you can "loosen up" with the best of them. Stop recycling. Drink macrobrews and watch NASCAR. Drive everywhere. Don't wave when someone lets you change lanes. Kill spiders in your house rather than trapping and freeing them in a silently improvised ceremony of karmic self-blessing. Do all your holiday shopping at Wal-Mart and have them double-bag everything. Go to Sea-Tac and innocently ask where the Christmas tree is. Say, "There is no Christmas tree? Why ever not?" Walk around with a cell phone pressed to your ear at all times, even if no one's on the line, and say things like, "Yeah, that's one sales forecast I'd like to see, let me tell you what, you crazy bastard! You still in for tonight, you miserable cocksucker? Shooters at Hooters, my friend, shooters at Hooters!" Do this at every farmers market in town. Put down your phone only long enough to tell the Vietnamese farmer that his organic tomatoes are lumpy and not as red as the ones at Safeway. Ask Grease Monkey for all their used oil and pour it into the gutter in front of your house while glaring defiantly at your neighbors. Rent a Hummer and tailgate Vespas. Lean on the horn as you call out, "Get a car, Fancy Man!" Finally, go downtown and, in your loudest, heartiest voice, wish every stranger you see a merry Christmas. If you find that that kind of thing makes you feel good, I suggest you take yourself to Houston for a permanent rumspringa.

The Program

So I don't talk about music much but I had to throw this in there. Blue Scholars, a Seattle based hiphop duo, has recently gotten national recognition for their new album release, Bayani. If you've heard them you will know that they are not only incredibly talented but dedicated to promoting a Northwest style and a Northwest sound. And they are certainly succeeding (check out this song or this video)! Well, in an effort to bring about even more recognition for a NW sound Blue Scholars are hosting The Program. This 5-day set of shows has an all-NW lineup with artists from Vancouver down to Portland. It's events like these, building a cultural identity through regional art, which is really going to establish Cascadia in the hearts and minds of its citizens! Get your tickets soon!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sasquatch Militia

This little tid-bit is from the same early Cascadian era as The Tree Octopus, back when Cascadia was a fun fabrication (and part of numerous internet spoofs by Lyle Zapato). As I don't have time for a real post enjoy this little bit of classic history.

"Join the Sasquatch Milita...
Are you an able-bodied Sasquatch aged 10 to 150 who loves his or her country? If so, The Republic of Cascadia needs YOU to enlist in the Sasquatch Militia and defend our homeland against our many enemies, including such nefarious evildoers as:
  • Canadians
  • Southern Californians
  • Geoduck and Tree Octopus Poachers
  • Paraterrestrials
  • Americans
  • International Organized Crime Syndicates
  • Nosey Cryptozoologists
Besides serving your country, you will also be improving yourself. Sasquatch Militia will teach you many valuable skills that today's employers are looking for in Sasquatch. You will gain a sense of determination and confidence that will help you succeed. And you will also experience compatriotship with your fellow Sasquatch as you work together to secure the freedom of the Republic of Cascadia.

The Republic of Cascadia needs you now, more than ever, in these trying times. Do your part for your nation and don't let another Sasquatch take your place in the ranks of the Sasquatch Militia. Enlistment stations can be found throughout Cascadia's forests, just look for the poster of Uncle Sas."
Full info here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Weekly Alternative

News from Alternative Newspapers across Cascadia:

[The Georgia Straight]: Gordon McAdams wins the "Whistleblower of the Year Award" for calling out city planners, and subsequently being fired, concerning a road through Groham Narrows Provincial Park.

[Monday Magazine]: Although Victoria's needle exchange program has undeniably good intentions, neighborhood complaints have gotten the program, run by AIDS Vancouver Island, evicted from its buidling, leaving addicts without a safe needle supply.

[Cascadia Weekly]: Bellingham's efforts to court NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, got a large boost this week as U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen gave his endorsement to the city. NOAA, currently based in Seattle, announced plans to move locations earlier this year. Bellingham hopes to give it a new home on the old Geogria Pacific waterfront, handed over to the city and currently in the process of redevelopment.

[Boise Weekly]: The 6th Annual Bad Cartoon Contest has commenced and this year, the winner is, well, pretty bad. Sifting through Larry Craig antics along with a number of talking poop stories, Elijah Jensen was declared the winner. His cartoons generally revolve around teeth. Look for Jensen's cartoons for the next 52 weeks in the Boise Weekly.

[Pacific Northwest Inlander]: Not a whole lot of news going on in Spokane right now but the Inlander did produce an ALL LOCAL Christmas (sorry, holiday) shopping guide for the area. In other news, Mary Verner, the liberal (hybrid driving) mayoral candidate, was finally sworn into office. Way to be progressive Easties!

[Seattle Weekly]: In typical Seattle fashion, the Weekly ran a feature about the meatheaded idiocy of Pullman (which no doubt is true). Kyle Schott, a top football pick back in 2003, recently went to court for sexual assault charges against a Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority girl. Apparently, Schott was originally waiting, "to hear from the U Dub". I think WSU was a better fit.

[The Stranger]: No real news from The Stranger this week (except the typical rantings about development and racial discrimination in the city). Currently the paper's annual charity, Strangercrombie, is the talk of the town (or at least Capitol Hill) Hurry over to The Stranger Online to bid on some incredibly unique packages, including a personally picked cover done by the Presidents of the United States, or your very own spot on The Slog for a week! (if anyone wants to "lend" me $600 I'll happily talk up Cascadia to all the Strangerheads.)

[Vancouver Voice] What is with Cascadians and dirtying up their rivers? (see my previous post on The Duwamish) Sure, we've banned the major toxic troubles from The Columbia, like PCBs and DDT, but now even our personal hygiene products are killing The River's ecosystem. Apparently making those teeth reflectively white isn't exactly environmentally friendly.

[The Portland Mercury]: Another big 'ol auction, this time for Stumptowners. This year's proceeds will go to Sisters of the Roads, an organization dedicated to helping feed the homeless around Portland.

[Willamette Weekly]: 10 years after the signing of the Kyoto Protocol and it looks like not much has been accomplished. While 130 nations take part in more climate talks this week, in Bali, WW wonders why the hell nothing is really happening.

[Eugene Weekly]: Also bitching about global warming, Eugene is criticizing a little more locally. Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy recently cast the deciding vote for a $500 million dollar regional freeway expansion project. While Piercy signed on to Seattle Mayor Nickels' US Mayoral Climate Action Plan, many see this as a huge step backwards. Of course, Seattle itself is having quite a few road disputes of its own these days.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cascadian Communities: The Gulf Islands

Welcome to another addition of Cascadian Communities. This time we head up into Maple Leaf Country to explore the abstract land pattern that makes up the Gulf Islands.

If any of you are scratching your heads, wondering what gulf these islands are in, don't fret, the name is a misnomer. It is a relic of the days when the unexplored Strait of Georgia was believed to be a gulf. With thirteen major islands and about 450 smaller ones, these wooded oases are essentially the Canadian half of the San Juans (see map below). Yet, their slightly different geography and proximity to Vancouver Island actually give them a unique ecology compared to the surrounding landscape. The area receives an average of only 30 inches of rain per year, far less than the Pacific and inland coasts. This has made the Gulf Islands one of the last refuges of the Garry Oak ecosystem, which supports around 350 different plant and animal species. Only about 5% of Garry Oak ecosystems are still in their natural setting and the Gulf Islands' late introduction to modernity means that much of that fraction dots the Islands' landscape.

Of coures, this does not mean that the islands have remained unpopulated. In fact, Coast Salish Natives had a host of settlements throughout the islands and many of them remain today. In the 1930's, as transportation methods improved, British Columbia began promoting the area as a regional tourist destination. The peace, serenity, and lack of infrastructure on the islands attracted many nature lovers who desired unobstructed exploration. In the 1960's the islands became a hot spot for American draft dodgers looking to hide out from the authorities. More recently, many wealthy celebrities have found the Islands' tranquil landscape the ideal place for large vacation homes.

All of this has added up to an increase in foreign species and pollution which was not realized until recent years. The unregulated development of the islands means that much of the endangered areas are in private lands and difficult to protect. In 1999, in an effort to stem the rising problems, the BC government, along with a number of NGO's, established the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team, which works to promote conservation both on public and private lands alike. Similarly, in 2003 the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was established, setting aside 35 square acres across 15 islands as a sanctuary. The goal is to eventually turn the reserve into a full on National Park but land disputes between private holders, First Nations peoples, and the state remain to be negotiated.

The hodge-podge mix of First Nations peoples, draft-dodging hippies, and urban weary nature lovers, has made the Islands famous for their alternative lifestyle. No where is this more prevalent than on Salt Spring Island. Salt Spring is home to over 10,000 of the Islands' 25,000 residents with its capital in the small town of Ganges. here, every Saturday, over 150 vendors gather in Centennial Park to sell everything from home-grown berries to hand-crafted benches. In its early days the market was a place for individuals strewn about the islands to swap books, or borrow cooking supplies without having to return to the mainland. But over the years, the market has grown in popularity, bringing in hundreds if not thousands of tourists every weekend. True to the Gulf Island style though, a rule was implaced in 1992 that allowed only Salt Spring residents to sell goods, and the vendors must, "make it, bake it, or grow it" to recieve a permit. In addition, the residents developed their own currency, called the Salt Spring Dollar which is accepted on-par with the Canadian dollar on the island. Many of the other islands cling to this simpler lifestyle as well. Many of the islands still lack electricity and the Galiano Island community of 1,100 residents has managed to survive on only 28 inches of yearly rainfall for all of their water needs.

[Wikipedia] Gulf Islands
[Canadian Geographic] Come to the Islands
[Gulf Islands Guide]
[Canada Parks] Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Did You Know...

...the Port of Vancouver is the #1 exporter of foreign goods in North America.

...Over 750,000 cups of tea are served annually at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC.

...Tacoma was rated the Most Stressful City in America.

...Point Roberts, Washington is a United States exclave; it can only be reached by land through Canada.

..."Old Man of the Lake" is a large piece of driftwood that has been bobbing upright in Crater Lake for more than a century.

...Portland's Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the United States.

...The world's tallest tree is The Mendocino Tree near Ukiah, CA standing at 367.5 ft tall.

...Oregon City, OR is the oldest incorporated city west of the Rockies.

...Over 25% of Bainbridge Island, WA residents take a ferry boat to work, the highest percent in the US.

...Fan Tan Alley in Victoria, BC's Chinatown is the narrowest street in North America.

... Mt. Baker in Washington holds the seasonal snowfall world record at 1,140 inches.

...The totem pole standing in Seattle's Pioneer Square was stolen from a Tlingit Village in Southeast Alaska in 1899.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cascadian Flags

The flag. This emblematic piece of cloth has been used for centuries across the globe as a means of identity and unity. Looking at a flag, one can find out what a group of people value and cherish within themselves. The contemporary Cascadia movement is still in its infancy, and thus, it is full of different meanings to different people. Just like the early days of the American Revolution, Cascadians have developed a host of flags in their attempts to represent themselves. Here I have collected all of the flags that I could find online and described their symbolism according to the designers.

Commonly called "The Doug" (for Douglas Fir) this is probably the most prominent flag of Cascadia. (They are featured on the Cascadian Wikipedia site). According to the creator, the blue represents the "unpolluted sky" and the plentiful water of Cascadia, the white represents the clouds and snow, and the green represents our natural vegetation. The conifer tree stands, "in defiance of storm, fire, and Man." This is the only Cascadian flag that you can currently order; smALL Flags in Oregon will do them by request. Some people are also working to try and get it produced in Hemp. Keep up on that and other info about this flag here.

This flag was developed for the Republic of Cascadia site. Similar to The Doug, the blue and white stripes represent water and snow, while the green is for the vegetation. The red in this flag is for, "the volcanism and tectonic forces that burn beneath us". The setting sun symbolizes our place at the Western edge of North America and the fir cone is for, "rebirth, renewal, and our natural forest resources". (I'm not sure but I would guess that this one was influenced at least a bit by the flag of British Columbia.)

This flag is for the Kingdom of Cascadia, designed by Andrew Rogers. Here we see the same green for vegetation and white for the snow-capped mountains. The seven stars (similar of coure to the "Betsy Ross" and the EU) stand for the Commonwealths, which Rogers identifies as: Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and The Yukon (yes I realize thats only six, dont ask me). Rogers has also developed some Cascadian governmental and military flags that you can check out here.

This flag, called the "Eight Stars" was designed by Nick Pharris. The two green triangles (the same green as the Washington State flag and representing forests and hope) stand for the mountains, as well as the US and Canada, which Cascadia bridges. The blue and white stripes, from the BC flag, represent water (loyalty) and glaciers (peace). Unlike the flag above this sun is actually rising above the mountains and represents the "rising regional consciousness". The eight stars represent the distinct Cascadian areas: Alaska, the Yukon, BC, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, and Northern California. The gold color is used to represent prosperity as well as the croplands and deserts of the interior. More info here. (While this one has lots of meaning, I have to say its a bit too similar to the flag of Antigua and Barbuda.)

This flag was designed by the people over at the Cascadian National Party. The top blue represents freedom, while the bottom blue represents our water. The white wavy stripe is for hope and the green wavy stripe is for the environment and our resources. The two gold stars are for Oregon and Washington (pretty limited Cascadia view here).

This design was found by Rick Wyatt and is reportedly designed by David McCloskey, the founder of the Cascadia Institute and a well known name in Cascadian movements. Unfortunately the Cascadia Institute website has been taken down and I could not find any information about its symbolism.

And last but certainly not least is this flag. Although a bit amateurish, this flag holds a special place in my heart because a few friends and I designed this and painted it on the wall of small shack in Arembepe, Brazil. We didn't come up with any official symbolism but the mountain obviously represents the Cascade range, the geographical feature at the heart of Cascadia. The wavy lines were picked because of their prominence in many other Cascadian flags. The blue is for the sky and water, while the green is the lush vegetation between them. The grey was chosen for the mountain because we felt that it is the true color of the area.

Please feel free to post likes/dislikes, ideas, or concepts about these or any future Cascadian flags. If you happen to know of another flag email me a picture and an explanation of its symbols.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Climate Change Strikes Cascadia

Cascadians have generally been lucky when it comes to disastrous weather. Although the '85 Helen's eruption has remained paramount in collective memory (not to mention the constant doomsday earthquake predictions) recent years have kept us safe from the calamities befalling other parts of the US (ie. forest fires, tornados, hurricanes, and snowstorms). Well, it seems our luck has finally run dry. This week devastating winds (up to 90 mph) and rain (up to 11in) wreaked havoc on Southern Washington and Northern Oregon. The storm has left 5 people dead, at least 150 stranded, many more homeless, and over 100,000 without power. To make matters worse a twenty-mile section of I-5 between Centralia and Chehalis, Washington was completely flooded, halting the main transportation route between Vancouver, BC and Porland, OR. It is estimated that $4 million are being lost to businesses every day due to the obstruction and to raise the highway could cost upwards of $400 million. Even optimists that usually look to storms like these for snow in the mountains were disappointed since the warm weather meant rain and winds destroyed the already limited snow-pack. Sadly, no matter what our future response to global climate change may be, our past irresponsibility means that this is probably not the last of these type of disasters.

See also:
[The Seattle P-I]
[The Oregonian]
[BBC News]

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Clear Cut Press

Picture by Michael Brophy

Here's a straight up recommendation for all of you Cascadian loyalists like me. As an avid reader I have historically been disappointed with the recognition of Northwest literature. There are the New York writers (so depressing), California writers (too much for the screen), and the infamous Southern writers (racists!), but what about us Cascadians? Are we too satisfied dancing around in puddles and hiking up into the alpine to take out our pencils and jot down our thoughts? The answer is an emphatic no. And nobody says this better than The Clear Cut Press.

This independently run publishing company, based in Portland works to promote the beautiful words that flow from the minds of Cascadians (like me!). The company was formed in the early years of the new century by Matthew Stadler, founder of Nest magazine and a former contributor to The Stranger, and Richard Jensen, former executive of Sub Pop Records (Nirvana's label), and co-founder of Up Records. According to Jensen Clear Cut emerged through "conversations about economy and poetry" and as they say, because "traditional publishers may have lost sight of who reads and why".

Perhaps from Jensen's indy recording experience, the company works in true "punk rock" custom. All profits are split fifty-fifty between author and publisher. In addition, Clear Cut does not secure prohibitive rights in the 'text'. There company was not created to exploit writers and readers alike, but rather simply to bring a fresh batch of literature to a much watered-down industry.

The first subscription set from Clear Cut came out in 2005 and included short stories, essays, photographs, novels, and poetry from a host of Northwest Writers. I admittedly have not read the entire body of this work but I have put my hand in the jar, and the cookies are delicious! Here is a brief review of just some of the works from this collection.

The premier book in the series is entitled, A Clear Cut Future. The work is a conglomeration of short stories and essays that, "map the territory of interest to Clear Cut Press". Each work starts with a set of photographs that compliment the writings to follow. As a whole, this book embodies a beautiful perspective of the Northwest world.

One novel, Shoot the Buffalo, by Matt Briggs, is a must for the generation who grew up with flower parents. The story is told from the perspective of a military private remembering his childhood in the lumber town turned hippie farm of the Snoqualmie foothills. Well written and full of anecdotes of an "alternative" childhood the story highlights the breakdown of the "peace and love" ideals when confronted with practical, real world problems.

Core Sample: Portland Art Now
, traces the history and accomplishment that was a set of two dozen art exhibitions dotting the Portland landscape in 2003. The book is full of many great color photos, sprinkled with a few essays that explain this monumental phenomenon.

But my favorite work in the entire series is most certainly, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, by Lisa Robertson. Robertson, a creative writer/poet has developed a distinctly new perspective on urban studies. She walks the streets of Vancouver and surrounding British Columbia thinking very critically about how and why we build the way we build, and how that effects our lives, physically as well as mentally. I will end this blatant promotion for Clear Cut, at the risk of being incredibly long-winded, with the entirety of Soft Architecture: A Manifesto. Enjoy, and check out Clear Cut Press on the web for more info.

The Office of Soft Architecture came into being as I watched the city of Vancouver dissolve in the fluid called money. Buildings disappeared into newness. I tried to recall spaces, and what I remembered was surfaces. Here and there money had tarried. The result seemed emotional. I wanted to document this process. I began to research the history of surfaces. I included my own desires in the research. In this way, I became multiple. I became money.

The worn cotton sheets of our little beds had the blurred texture of silk crepe and when we lay against them in the evening we'd rub, rhythmically, one foot against the soothing folds of fabric, waiting for sleep. That way we slowly wore through the thinning cloth. Our feet would get tangled in the fretted gap.

We walked through the soft arcade. We became an architect.

The knitted cap on the wrinkled skull of the mewling kid is the first boundary. At the other tip the bootie dribbles. There are curious histories of shrouds. That is not all. Memory's architecture is neither palatial nor theatrical but soft.

Of course it's all myth. Beginning at grand rooms rankled in small stone Natufian couples co-mingled in kisses, the perspex galleries of pendant Babylonian dollies, the long halls of Egyptian cats that are sirens or dynasties, we amble towards the disappearance of godliness in cloth. Europe's lusty godlets start bending. Carved cloth connotes the wild swirls of the Christly sexual parts. Sprigged calico greets the renaissance of Venus. Prudery flows animate, clinging, vivid - we think it absorbs virility from naked Antiquity herself. Strolling from Byzantium we observe her teasing retreat. The mischievious and the sexy gods get dressed as patrons and courtesans and popes, crinolined in Fragonard's stiff satins, diminished to tiny petticoated players in painted enamel frolics. Finally invisible they loll in the latent conventions of canvas, or in the draperies and objets of the room themselves, such as the Frick's crushed mohair swags, the personified tapestry walls, the little petit-pointed chairs personified, the chamberpot, the silken floor personified.

We arrive at our long century. We note that the holy modernism of the white room is draped and lined in its newness by labile counter-structures of moving silk, fur, leather, onyx, velvet. The modernist inventors of the moot science of psychoanalysis raise its cold visage from the deep upholsteries and ruched cushions of the speaking invalid's couch. A contemporary describes the late Maria Callas's vibrato as "a worn velvet that has lost the evenness of its texture." As for us, we wear avant-thrift. We sit in spider-like chairs. But Soft Architecture expires invisibly as the mass rhetorics of structural permanence transmit: Who can say when the astonishing complicities of the woven decay into rote? The bare ruin of Bauhaus and the long autopsy of concepts serve as emblems of Soft Architecture's demise.

Yet our city is persistently soft. We see it like a raw encampment at the edge of the rocks, a camp for a navy vying to return to a place that has disappeared. So the camp is a permanent transience, the buildings or shelters like tents - tents of steel, chipboard, stucco, glass, cement, paper, and various claddings - tents rising and falling in the glittering rhythm which is null rhythm, which is the flux of modern careers. At the center of the tent encampment, the density of the temporary in a tantrum of action; on peripheries over silent grass of playing fields the fizzy mauveness of seed-fring hovering. Our favorite on-ramp curving sveltely round to the cement bridge, left side overhung with a small-leafed tree that sprays the roof of our car with its particular vibrato shade. Curved velveteen of asphalt as we merge with the bridge-traffic, the inlet, the filmic afternoon. The city is a florescence of surface.

Under the pavement, pavement. Hoaxes, failures, porches, archeological strata spread out on a continuous thin plane; softness and speed, echoes, spores, tropes, fonts; not identity but incident and the accumulation of air miles; unmarked solitude absorbing time, bloating to become an environment, indexical euphorias, the unraveling of laughter; a brief history of escalators; memory manifest, brindled, loosening; a crumpling of automative glass; the pornographic, the wrapped; Helevetica's black dust: All doctrine is foreign to us. The problem of the shape of choice is mainly retrospective. That wild nostalgia leans into the sheer volubility of incompetence. The nostalgia musters symbols with no relation to necessity - civic sequins, apertures that record and tend the fickleness of social gifts. Containing only supple space, nostalgia feeds our imagination's strategic ineptitude. Forget the journals, conferences, salons, textbooks, and media of dissemination. We say thought's object is not knowledge but living. We do not like it elsewhere.

The truly utopian act is to manifest current conditions and dialects. Practice description. Description is mystical. It is afterlife because it is life's reflection or reverse. Place is accident posing as politics. And vice versa. Therefore it's tragic and big.

We recommenders of present action have learned to say "perhaps" our bodies produce space; "perhaps" our words make a bunting canopy; "perhaps" the hand-struck, palpable wall is an anti-discipline; "perhaps" by term "everyday life" we also mean potential. We allude sympathetically to the lyrical tone of clothing and furniture since they clearly reveal to the eye, mind, and judgement the real shapes of peopled sentiment. Cravats gushing from collars, we agree with the Soft Architect Lilly Reich that "clothes may also have metaphysical effects by means of their inherent regularity, their coolness and reserve, the coquettish cheerfulness and liveliness, their playful grace, their sound simplicity and their dignity." From the vast urbanity of our counter-discipline we applaud the mercurial Miss Reich, who said, "One of my hearts is in building."

Soft Architecture will reverse the wrongheaded story of structural deepness. That institution is all doors but no entrances. The work of the SA paradoxically recompiles the metaphysics of surface, performing a horizontal research which greets shreds of fiber, pigment flakes, the bleaching of light, proofs of lint, ink, spore, liquid and pixilation, the strange, frail, leaky cloths and sketchings and gestures which we are. The work of the SA, simultaneously strong and weak, makes new descriptions on the warp of former events. By descriptions, we mean moistly critical dreams, morphological thefts, authentic registers of pleasant customs, accidents posing as intentions. SA makes up face-practices.

What if there is no "space," only a permanent slow-motion mystic takeover, an implausibly careening awning? Nothing is utopian. Everything wants to be. Soft Architects face the reaching middle.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Utterly Irrelevant News.

The Spice Girls decided to once again take up the sing and dance routine with their first tour in nearly 10 years. And who was the lucky recipient of the first show? Good old Vancouver BC. Lucky dogs.