Thursday, November 30, 2006

back to the gym

Just for the record: I've returned to the gym. I've never been a fitness fanatic or considered myself athletic, but the guilt and embarrassment was really weighing me down (figuratively and literally).

I stopped going for all of the typical reasons (lazy, unmotivated, work, relationship, etc.). The reality is that I didn't make the gym a priority. Anyways, a few weeks ago a co-worker admitted that he was in the same boat. He stopped going when his gym partner had to stop going. So, last week I bit the bullet and offered to go to be his gym partner.

So far, we've gone Monday and Tuesday night. Fortunately, the good people at 24 Hour Fitness were kind enough to continue debiting my checking account for the many, many months I avoided the gym so I didn't have to worry about re-joining. What's more embarrassing to admit is that I actually forgot where the gym was and took the wrong street (yes, it's been that long).

Anyways, I'm really sore today, but I feel good that I'm getting back into the routine. We may go Friday, otherwise, I promise to go this weekend.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jimmy Carter is great

Originally uploaded by nojam75.

Today, I've been hearing (NPR's Fresh Air) and seeing (CNN's Larry King Live) Jimmy Carter's interviews about his controversial new book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. He admits that the title is purposely controversial.

Admittedly, I know nothing about the Middle East/Israel/Palestine dispute. However, it's always troubled me that the U.S. gives so much monetary, military, and political support to a country that seems to discriminate based on race and religion. The rationalization is that Israel is still better than many of the neighboring countries in the regions.

While I was watching the interview's closed captioning at the gym, a caller to Larry King asked about why not a single-state solution in which Palestinians were recognized as citizens and allowed to vote. Carter's recognized that Israelis would never agree to such a situation because, obviously, the Palestinians would vastly outnumber the non-Palestinian Israelis and take over, but I love that the question was asked and considered.

Contrary to the inept way his presidency is often portray by right-wingers, Carter strongly defends accomplishments and Clinton's Mid East peace accomplishments. It's reassuring to know that after almost six years of Bush, Jr., incompetence, there are still people who believe Mid East peace is possible.

Also, in one of the interviews Carter distinguishes the Bush presidencies as "Bush Senior" and "Bush Junior". I have never heard any other political figure use the senior/junior language. I always assumed there was some kind of unspoken rule against using this language, but Carter seems to use it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Seattle trip

Originally uploaded by nojam75.

Originally uploaded by nojam75.

Originally uploaded by nojam75.

Originally uploaded by nojam75.

Scott and I took our semi-annual Seattle day trip today. We spent too much time and money at IKEA. Then we hung-out in Seattle. Scott took numerous pictures of Smith Tower.

We got back this evening. It was nice getting out and seeing another city for the day.

Christmas tree lighting

Originally uploaded by nojam75.

Originally uploaded by nojam75.

Scott, Paula, and I went to the Christmas tree lighting "ceremony" at Pioneer Courthouse Square last night. The first 45 minutes we had to listen to the "legendary" Linda Hornbuckle(sp?). While I'm sure she is a great musician -- we didn't really care for her selection of music. Then the has-been group, the Bare Naked Ladies, came up and played two Christmas songs.

After the tree was lit, we got the heck out of there and went to a nearby Starbucks. Ta-da! Christmas has been celebrated.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Michael Richards' apology

A seemingly unedited version of Michael Richards' unpolished and rambling apology on the Letterman show is on YouTube (The abridged version CBS posted doesn't make any sense). Richards' statement seems pathetic and unrehearsed that it seems genuine. He even used the outdated "Afro-American" term. recounts a Richards sighting after the apology in which he is overheard admitting that he doesn't have a PR person to handle the disaster: "I don't have anyone handling this. If I did, I wouldn't have gotten into trouble in the first place." (Obviously this is a rumored remark, so who knows how accurate it is.)

I have to admit that as a long-time Seinfeld show fan, I really did want to believe Richards was genuine and sincere, but Richards offensive remarks seem to go way overboard. During the statement, he momentarily lost my sympathy when he tried to phrase his behavior in the context of the nation's race relations and Katrina, but he steered himself back to his awkward apology. It would be adviseable for Richards to check-in into drug/alcohol or even psychiatric treatment -- even if he doesn't have a diagnosed problem -- because I can't imagine how else he can explain away his remarks.

On a side note, this has to be one of the most awkward television moments ever. Jerry Seinfeld even scolds Letterman's live audience ("Stop laughing. It's not funny.") who were obviously not following the unexpected transition from comedy show to serious interview. Undermining the Letterman segment is that Michael Richards and Jerry Seinfeld are so closely connected to their self-centered Seinfeld characters who were never sincere or serious about anything. Although I intellectually know Richards and Seinfeld are real people seperate from their characters, it was impossible not to see their characters in the Letterman segment.

Monday, November 20, 2006

ExGayWatch exposes Exodus' misleading statements posted this great presentation about Randy Thomas' misleading statement on the Adam Carolla show. Also, Peterson Toscano transcribed a portion of the interview in which Thomas asserts that participants must voluntary participate and that Exodus ". . . respect a person's right to self-determination."

Although it's still early, Exodus and Thomas have ignored EGW's criticism. I would assume their position would be that Thomas was only referring to adult participants and that minors may be forced into their programs under the guise of parenting.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Casino Royale: Grade B

Scott, ma, auntie, and I saw Casino Royale last night. The new James Bond, Daniel Craig, is excellent! This reimagining is along the lines of last year's Batman Begins. A little more serious and less comic bookish. There are fewer gadgets and eye-rolling one-liners and Craig is featured as this film's eye candy. Even during the S&M torture scene, the (one-eyed) bad guy remarked how well Bond worked out.

The only real complaint I have about the film is that it was too long. The Oregonian's critic, Shawn Levy, is right. The new Bond is great, but the movie itself is bloated and one-third of the film could have been edited out.

UPDATE: I also love this movie's Bond song You Know My Name performed by Chris Cornell:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Portland architecture debate

The PortlandTribune stirred up controversy with its October survey of local architects' and designers' most beautiful and ugliest Portland buildings. The select architects the Tribune surveyed made some very unpopular choices:

Tribune Most Beautiful Buildings:

1. Robert and Ann Sacks home, 2281 N.W. Glisan St.

hawkeye-sacks building
Originally uploaded by jege.

a.k.a. Dosha's NW Portland salon. (This is such an unpopular/unrememberable building that I couldn't find any photos on Flickr or Google image. I think I found one photo using the really cool Flickr maps feature. Dosha has a photo on their website.) I'm sure it's a functional and well-designed building, but I wouldn't call it beautiful.

2. Portland Art Museum, Hoffman Wing

(Again, this building is so unrememberable that I can't find pics to link to.) I actually like the simple design of the Portland Art Museum's main building. However, I'm not even sure what the Hoffman Wing is. Their website said it was added in the 1960s.

The museum's main building has always been dwarfed by the huge and more impressive Egyptian-ish Shriner's building next door. Now that the Shriner's building is part of the museum, the museum has had to install signs to remind people that the entrance is located at the smaller building next door.

3. U.S. Bancorp Tower

pig bink
Originally uploaded by travis ezell.

Although it appears to be just another blocky Portland office building, I do like the pink tower's angles and reflective copper windows and it is a major feature of the skyline. The former US Bank headquarters is less impressive in person though.

4. Belmont Lofts, 3442 S.E. Belmont St.

Belmont Lofts
Originally uploaded by sleevelesshearts.

This is a nice, functional building. However, like the NW Dosha building, it's not very rememberable. It looks like a throwback to the 1950/60s block buildings. Also, I have to wonder how long that wood exterior will last.

5. Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse

Originally uploaded by david owen.

I do like the federal courthouse. Unlike a commercial all-glass office tower, this federal building looks solid and imposing, but also optimistic and futuristic like it plans to be around for the next millennium.

Tribune Most Ugliest Buildings:

1. Wells Fargo Center

Wells Fargo Center
Originally uploaded by

I agree. Portland tallest and universally disliked building dominated the city's skyline for much of the 1970s/1980s. Portland needs just a few more tall buildings to hide this zebra behind.

2. Portland Building

The Portland Building
Originally uploaded by Daly & Daly.

I like this building. I know it's a weird and controversial building, but the City should get credit for trying something different.

1000 Broadway

1000 Broadway
Originally uploaded by JoeCollver.

Again, I disagree with the supposed 'experts'. This is a great addition to the skyline and a pedestrian-friendly building.

Marriott-Downtown Waterfront

Originally uploaded by pdxjeff.

While I would not call this building pretty, I think it should receive credit for being shaped differently than the series of block buildings surrounding it.

Rose Garden Arena

Rose Garden
Originally uploaded by rfduck.

I wouldn't call the Rose Garden Arena ugly, but not beautiful either. It's just like any other arena: big. Also, the artwork thrown around the building like the unbuilt fort and the crown are just pointless.

The Tribune's articles generated a much-deserved outcry from readers, so it ran an article about readers' comments.

Readers' Favorite Buildings

Multnomah County Central Library

Central Branch
Originally uploaded by jensect.

The Central Library's design is classic and functional. In fact, when the building was recently gutted, the floor plans were left relatively unchanged -- at least in the building's public areas.

Jackson Tower

Jackson Tower Portland, OR2
Originally uploaded by Seth Gaines.

I like this building -- although the lighting is a little gaudy. I'm not sure if the its clock even works.

Fox Tower

Fox tower
Originally uploaded by samgrover.

The Fox Tower is still too new to know if it's styling will endure, but I like how it fits into the skyline and it space age features.

Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion
Originally uploaded by lindn.

While I agree that the Pittock is beautiful, I think of it as a home -- not a building.

Dekum Building

Dekum Portland, OR4
Originally uploaded by Seth Gaines.

This is probably one of the overlooked Portland buildings, but its a great building.

In addition to the above buildings, here are some of my own picks for beautiful buildings:

Norm's Additional Beautiful Building Picks:

McMenamins' Ringler Annex

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

I love this tiny, triangular building.

First Congregational UCC

First Congretional Church
Originally uploaded by Aphex Twin.

Most older churches have an unfair advantage when competing against other buildings in beauty. First Congregational has the tallest church bell tower, lovely stain glass, and a great circular interior layout.

Portland City Hall

City Hall Portland, OR2
Originally uploaded by Seth Gaines.

I'm not sure what the architechual style of this building is, but it looks perfect as a city hall.

Justice Center

Multnomah County Justice Center
Originally uploaded by XBearPDX.

Most people don't realize that this prominent building is not just a courthouse, but also the Portland Police HQ and county jail. What I love about the building is how well it hides it purpose.

Telegram Building

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

I'm not sure what the name of this building is now that it's been remodeled. I think the developers are still trying to find an anchor tenant since the intended tenant, Princeton Athletic Club, went defunct.

Union Station

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

It's amazing to think that this grand train palace was once a major gateway to the city like the airport is now.

Blitz-Weinhard Brewery

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

The developers did a great job keeping this industrial building intact -- even keeping two huge tanks that I think may have been converted into rooms. Although, I miss the brewery's smell.

Benson Hotel

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

Oddly, the telephone company purposely designed their building behind the hotel to match the hotel, while the hotel's own later addition looks like a terrible, stylized modern version. So the adjoining building that most resembles and compliments the hotel is actually a boarded-up telecom.

Bishop's House

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

Hat tip: Jack Bog's Blog

Thursday, November 16, 2006

downtown churches

Tuesday's PortlandTribune had an interesting cover story about the plight of Portland's downtown churches. I used to attend First Unitarian, Scott and I met at the beautiful First Congregational UCC, and we often admire First Presbyterian Church. I can't say we stopped attending First Congregational because it was a downtown church. While we liked the church and its service, both of us didn't really connect within anyone else there -- not that we're really connecting with anyone at the church attend now. We are both really bad at church socializing -- hence why it took us three months to meet. I suppose we liked the church we attend now because it's much smaller and more intimate than First Cong, its closer to Scott's house, and (admittedly this is shallow) has a later starting time of 11:00 a.m.

I suppose the glaring ommission in the Tribune article is that religious fundamentalism is a major contributing factor in the growing appeal of suburban churches compared with the stagnant/declining sizes of many traditional and theologically careful (and liberal-leaning) downtown churches. Most downtown churches carry traditional mainline denominational baggage (hence all the "First" church names), such as whether to include/exclude gays, whereas many suburban churches are fundamentalist-orientated have already concluded such debates.

More positively, the Tribune edition included an article about First Unitarian which seems to have the opposite problems of the other downtown churches. As a proudly theologically/politically liberal church, it continues to grow, has expansion plans, and is considering adding a third Sunday service. They're currently building on their block and have plans to build a new sanctuary (if they ever raise the money from the admittedly thrift UU members).

I attended First UU for about a year. Although its size was intimidating, I liked its progressive culture and Dr. Sewell is a great pastor. My main reason reason for leaving was that I missed Christian tradition and, again, didn't really connect with anyone.

FRONTLINE: A Hidden Life

I just saw FRONTLINE's report, A Hidden Life about the 2005 sex scandal involving the late Spokane Mayor Jim West. It painted a really sad picture of West's life/career and raised questions about the Spokesman-Review's reporting ethics.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Simpsons untouchable

The Simpsons producers and writers have made their opinion about Bush, Jr., the Iraq invasion, and the military very clear such the Operation Enduring Occupation in this year's Tree House of Horrors XVII. Last night's episode was about the military's in-school recruitment efforts. There was even a gag about the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal which I even thought was distasteful. The episode went beyond John Kerry's "botched" joke and directly implied that the people who enlist are either Cletus yokels or Homer idiots.

The episode appropriately lampooned the Army's child recruitment efforts. Having lived with a former recruiter, I'm well-aware of how commission-paid, military recruiters target low-income, minority, and otherwise vulnerable youths. Before 9/11, my gay-military-recruiter housemate (long story) and I argued about Portland Public School's policy of prohibiting military recruiters due to its anti-gay hiring practices. He laughably argued that the military was an educational institution and therefore not subject to such restrictions (I'm still not sure how his argument worked). I argued that the military is an employer and PPS had the right and duty to enforce its policy prohibiting discriminatory employers. Now with the military enmeshed in an unwinnable war, I doubt he would even argue the military is an educational institution.

Didn't Walter Cronkite's editorial against the war mark a major turning point in the public's sentiment about the Vietnam war? Twenty-four/seven corporate entertainment news has eliminated the venerable anchorman (with PBS' Jim Lehrer the possible exeption), but the nearly universally watched The Simpsons' criticism of the war and the military has to signal some kind of change in the public's perception. While I'm sure many conservatives disagree with the show's anti-war/anti-military sympathies, I haven't seen any criticism about the episode or this season.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

weekly Classical Millennium trip


Nearly every week, I get to accompany Scott to Classical Millennium (part of the original Music Millennium store). The highlight of this weekend's visit was finding a mildly humorous sign at the Subway restaurant down the street.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

"Jesus Camp" closes

In other news, the Christianist indoctrination childrens camp featured in the documentary Jesus Camp is apparently shutting down. According to

Organizers of an evangelical summer camp for children featured in the documentary "Jesus Camp" are discontinuing the camp because of negative reaction sparked by the film and recent vandalism at the camp site in Devils Lake, N.D.

"We have decided to hold different activities in future," Pentecostal pastor and camp organizer Becky Fischer said.

While the negative reaction to the camp is understandable, vandalizing a kids camp crosses the line. If ND has any type of hate crimes law, the vandalism should be prosecuted.

Like any good evangelical leader/marketer, Fischer believes God led her ministry into the spotlight. According to her article on the ministry's website:

It all began in 2002 on my first trip to South Africa. My host . . . prophesied boldly: "Becky Fischer, you're going to be on national TV with children who are operating in the supernatural." We got it on tape. . . .

. . . But in the back of my mind I was expecting a phone call someday from TBN or the 700 Club or some other Christian programmer.

Later in her article, she unsuccessfully argues that the film misrepresented the camp as political:

. . . The surprising twist none of us expected to come out of the film was that it ended up having strong political overtones. "How in the world did that happen?" I kept asking myself and them. I have never ever considered anything we do political in any way. . . .

. . . But when we drug out a life size poster of President Bush to teach our kids this scripture, secular eyes saw this as political.

Likewise when we brought out a flag of Israel and taught the kids to pray for the peace of Jerusalem according to scripture (Psalms 122:6 NLT, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper.") they saw it as political. Without question then when Lou Engle came the last night and shared his vision of praying for the peaceful overturn of Roe vs. Wade (the court case that made abortion legal in the USA) the filmmakers saw a whole new angle to their film. But this is just good Christianity to us! (Psalms 106:38 NLT "They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters. By sacrificing them to the idols of Canaan, they polluted the land with murder.")

Fischer is apparently naive and/or trying to portray herself as a persecuted Christian. Apparently by sending the evil secular media to her, God wanted to pressure her to shut-down the camp. Or maybe exposing false prophets is just good Christianity to us.

Hat Tip:

We've got political capital and we're going to use it.

After the Republicans won the presidency, House, and Senate earlier this decade, I tried to console myself with the assurance that the electorate always swings back to the uneasy Red/Blue balance. After all, the Republicans are very likely to over-reach. Well, it took longer than I liked, but voters finally decided to reign-in the Republicans and are going back to two-party control of the government.

I've had been looking forward to watching the election returns come in; however, instead, I accompanied Scott to Portland Opera's Faust. It was a great production! The opera was a nice distraction to watching the often misleading initial returns come in. It was very exciting to come out of the opera and hear the news that the US House has been won back.

Locally, I was pleased with most of the state and local election results. It appears the OR House has been won back to the Dems -- creating one-party rule of the state government.

The election I'm watching closely is OR State Representative for the 49th District (East Multnomah County). The incumbent, Conservative Christianist Republican Karen Minnis, used her position as House Speaker to single-handedly block a civil unions bill that had bi-partisan support and the votes to pass. Her challenger, former public radio reporter, Democrat Rob Brading, narrowly lost the 2004 election. Overnight, Brading was leading, but this morning Minnis is ahead by 335 votes.

UPDATE: 11/08/2006 I edited made minor changes to my self-important thoughts above.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Whirlwind Omaha Wedding


Wow, I just got back from my 48-hour trip to Omaha, NE, to join Scott at Jay and Paula's wedding. On Friday night, Scott picked me up at the airport and drove me through downtown before we arrived at the rehearsal dinner. The dinner was at Gorat's which is an old 1940's formal dining restaurant that has been made famous as billionaire Warren Buffett's favorite steakhouse.

The wedding and reception on Saturday were great. Jay and Paula were married in a traditional Catholic service at Holy Cross and the reception was held at a huge, historic barn. I got to meet and spend a little time with some of the people Scott and Paula often mentioned from their college days. We roomed with Natasha who was very entertaining and friendly. Scott was sorry that we didn't have any time to explore the town or show me some of his favorite places like Runza. However, I'm glad I was able to see the much-talked about wedding.

Scott and I have been awake since 2:00 AM Portland time to catch the plane today, so we're still a little dazed. I wish I took Monday off too so I can catch-up, but oh well.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Anti-gay Ted Haggard gay sex scandal

It's becoming an old story. Prominent anti-gay activist is accused of the very behavior and sexual orientation that he opposes. This time it is National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard.

According to KKTV, Haggard's church said that last night he "admitted to some of the claims made by a former male escort", but has not admitted to all of the allegations. According to a KUSA, the male escort,

"Mike Jones" (I can't believe that's his real name), kept voicemails from Haggard in which he calls himself "Art". Jones claims Haggard was ordering meth from Jones:

"Hi Mike, this is Art. Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply. And I could pick it up really anytime. . . ."

And in another vague, smoking gun voicemail:

"Hi Mike, this is Art, I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. . . . "

I recognized Haggard as the megachurch pastor featured in the Jesus Camp.