Monday, September 29, 2014

Future historians rejoice! (Olyblogosphere for September 29, 2014)

1. There are fake bees. Nothing to be scared of, Janet Partlow blogs. They aren't even the scarier of bugs. Just flies that want to be left alone.

2. Like the first rain calling coho back to the freshwater, they call Mojourner back to the blog. Or, something like that.

3. Rebels By Bus is just a cool idea and a cool blog. Some day I'm going to make the public transportation trip to this one state park in Grays Harbor. And, I'll blog about it, in honor of the Rebels. Until then, read their recent updates.

4. I've been piecing together historic storylines the last couple of years. I've often thought how easy it would be if the less famous had some ways to easily translate their thoughts. Some people have their collected notes and letters boxed up and kept at libraries. But, if you didn't publish your collected thoughts and put them in your community library, you're out of luck. Elaine Nelson made me think that I'm glad we live now, Facebook, twitter, and other things will be a boon for historians.

5. Rignall, Washington is a place. I have to learn more now. Thanks.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Smith Troy project. This guy is facinating


I've been poking around for the last few years, learning everything I can about Smith Troy, one of Olympia's most infamous politicians. This is one fascinating guy. I'm going to write way more about him as I start to bring focus on my own thoughts about him. But, just to get started, here are some Smith Troy facts:

1. He was appointed Washington Attorney general when he was 33 years old. And, this is after years as the Thurston County prosecuting attorney. So, he started really young.

2. At one point in the 1930s, Smith was both the prosecutor and the coroner. Also, the sheriff was taking some time off, so he filled in there too. He was the law.

3. His wife committed suicide when she jumped out of a window at the old St. Peter's Hospital on the westside.

4. After he lost reelection in 1952 for AG, he was the lawyer behind Lemon v. Langley, which brought back dozens of state agencies that had moved from Olympia to Seattle.

5. In addition to being a track star at the University of Washington, he was a student leader in the effort to fire long time and legendary Husky football coach Enoch Bagshaw.

6. After 20 years of political retirement, Troy came back in the 1970s and served as the Thurston County prosecutor again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Two big things from the Scottish independence vote for Cascadia to think about

I am pretty reluctant to get anywhere near the Cascadian Independence movement. I know they're serious people, thinking hard about a really true independent country. I'm not one of them, but I appreciate Cascadia (obviously) and I appreciate they're work, but only as a venue to sharpen our concept of Cascadia. Whatever political system we're using, there is plenty of work in the near term to get done.

And, I think, in the jet wash of the recent Scottish Independence vote, there are some lessons for Cascadians (seeking independence or not).

1. Rural vs. Urban divide doesn't need to divide us. 

Whether you're like me and drawn the line at the Cascades, or draw in a much larger swath of the interior west, there's a sharp divide between rural and urban up here.

There was a similar urban/rural split in the Scottish vote. Essentially, poorer urban areas went for the breakup, while richer rural areas voted for union. This is ironic because the political party that sparked independence originally had support in rural areas.

In Cascadia the rural urban divide is based on a non-Cascadian Republican/Democratic political divide. But, as we've seen in some local election results, rural and urban voters can get together to elect particularly Cascadian politicians. 

2. Changing politics will change politics.

In the short term, the people who want an independent Cascadia should focus on just making Cascadia better. More people voting, more people engaged, a better politics. If, once we get more people involved at all areas of politics and government, we still want out? Then cross that bridge them.

The Scots began to see themselves differently, as representing a different sort of politics:
In the meantime, pro-independence activists have managed to capture the hearts and imaginations on many voters in Scotland in a way that the unionist camp has not. Drawing inspiration from what are considered to be the fairer and more prosperous Nordic countries with high levels of democratic participation, many in Scotland became involved in the campaign at the grassroots level.

Scotland Independence vote was built on the back of a new sort of politics:
The idea of the public as passive, inert spectators and with it the notion of politics as a minority report pastime, no longer holds. Instead, across the country a new energetic, dynamic political culture emerged which reshaped public debate and conversations.

It could be seen in the massive turnouts which saw poorer and disadvantaged communities turn out in record numbers. What I called ‘the missing Scotland’ – the voters who haven’t voted in a generation or more – re-emerged as a potent political force which has the potential to reshape long term politics. It was also seen in the re-imagination of public spaces, the emergence of flash mobs and protest, and a culture of celebration and carnival on the Yes side.
The other dimension found expression in ‘the third Scotland’ – the self-organised, independent minded supporters of independence – who have had a very different and distinct politics from the SNP. These groups: Radical Independence Campaign, National Collective, Common Weal, Women for Independence and several others, saw independence not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end.

They brought DIY culture, network politics, flat organisations and part of a new generation of young people into public life. They did things which were messy, fuzzy, creative and fun. They staged happenings, art installations, and national tours across Scotland, and in the case of Radical Independence they door stepped and challenged Nigel Farage when he came to Edinburgh last year. All of this contributed to a different kind and feel of politics which circumvented the ‘official’ version which was a high bound to command and control as any part of Westminster.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

All a place (Olympia in my case) needs to be is No. 1 in your own heart

Olympia is Americ'a's #3 Friendliest Small City!

Olympia is America's #55 Most Liveable City, and #3 in allllll of Washington!

Ugh.

Olympia is the town I love best, but seeing these lists being spread around always leaves me empty.

The problem with these rankings, is that they're subjective in the mix. Sure, they're usually pretty clear about what criteria they use to make up their rankings. But, the conclusions to me seem a stretch.

At least a stretch in that they should matter to any particular person. That friendly list up there especially. What makes a person friendly in Olympia is totally different that Grapevine, TX. We have a different history, different social structure and different culture. So, how can you really determine if we're any more of less friendly?

You really can't. People come up here from the deep South and find us off putting and cold. We go down there and find people overbearing and rude. But, both are considered friendly in their own context.

Or exciting. Someone considered Olympia exciting.

Its interesting to look back at this cottage industry of place rankings. David Savageau and Richard Boyer wrote the first "Places Rated Almanac" in 1983. The Almanac marked nearly the 20 year anniversary of the beginning of the Big Sort, a large demographic change.

According to the great book, Big Sort, Americans began unhinging themselves from diverse and deep rooted communities in the 1960s. They would find new homes in politically and socially homogenous communities.

It makes sense that book suggesting The Best Places, creating an idea that divergent communities could be objectivity ranked (and ranked and ranked) is a centerpiece of the idea of demographic sort. People who began shifting back and forth across the country began looking for rational reasons to pick one place over another. But, this rational sorting of communities lacks a coherence of place.

Toronto found itself on this lists regularly, and a local committee there decided to take a close look at what it takes to put these lists together. The committee (which focused on economic development) wrote a report that poked holes in how these reports are written.

Are they comparing apples to apples?

Is the data old? Has it been massaged?

Is the ranking consistent? Meaning, is #1 really one spot away from #2. Or is #2 really #432?

The lists really try to make what is a series of complicated and human topics clean and easy. We should never do that. It is too subjective.

So, as long as we're talking subjective, we might as well go all the way. What determines what is the best place should be inside of you. You might as well rank cities in America by "Top Cities Where My Friends Live" or "Top Cities Where My Kids Are Growing Up."

Doc "Moonlight" Graham in Field of Dreams put it best:
"This is my favorite place in the whole world," Doc says quietly. "I don't think I have to tell you what that means. You look like the kind of fellow who has a favorite place. Once the land touches you, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel the land like it was your child. When that happens to you, you can't be bought."
A place may be a good place based on a series of what look like objective criteria, but these can all end up being baloney if a place doesn't mean anything to you.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Your regular fortnightly blog links. At least something is fortnightly anymore. Wink. (Olyblogosphere for September 15, 2014)

1. Best blog at Olyblog in a long time: Olympia Then & Now. Awesome.

2. They're working to put Old Main on the list of national places of historic importance. I would've assumed it was on that list already, but there you go.

3. Sort of a meta post from the Plum Palate. But, it is important to keep up with your local bloggers.

4. Big News for the People's House. Which isn't a new proposed location to fight about, by the way.

5. I think the Percival just realized the Weekly Volcano died.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I'm really excited about the Oly Town FC Artesians. Even if I don't like indoor soccer

Sure, I'm not the biggest fan of indoor soccer. Sure, its fun. Its no futsal.

That said, I couldn't be more excited for the Oly Town FC Artesians this year.



First off, Brandon Sparks is pretty awesome. He's the hard worker behind Olysports, a very worth your time local sports blog that does all of the little things right.

So, secondly, if you remember the Tumwater Pioneers, then (in my opinion) everything good associated with that team had something to do with Brandon. He didn't run that team the way he's been put in charge of the Artesians, so we can expect to see more of the good with this new effort.

But, yes. Brandon is a good thing.

Otherwise, its great to see organized semi-pro soccer of any sort back in Olympia or Tumwater or Lacey. Especially, this sort of league. I love that we're coming into the Western Indoor Soccer League, and mostly because it has a home-brew feel to it. The league was formed by a group of owners that were upset by the politics involved in a more national league.

A lot of these same owners just got done with their first season in a sister outdoor league called the Evergreen Premier League. This is another home-brew league born out of frustration with national systems. And, for me, this is the real target: a semi-pro outdoor soccer team in northern Thurston County (hopefully Olympia).

I'm not too picky about where an Olympia soccer team should land, but if its a bunch of local Cascadian soccer entrepreneurs going their own way. Then that's the way for me too.

There are of course some other considerations too. The Artesians indoor have their own very nice facility. But, an outdoor team would have to play in a high school stadium for the time being. Or, a recreational soccer field. We don't have a soccer specific facility in Thurston County that could support crowds of more than a few dozen.

We should address that (possibly build stands next too one of the fields out at the Thurston RAC), but in the short term the Oly Town FC Artesians sound like a great idea. I can't wait.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Mars Hill, Cascadian religion and the Seahawks

This quote told me a lot about how the Seahawks phenomena (and sports fandom in Cascadia in general) is informed by how we approach faith. Or, how I know that being a Seahawks fan is nothing like being a person of church:
“Pray that the watching non-Christian world would not be given the opportunity to discredit not only our church but the very gospel of Jesus."

Cascadia is the largest of the few places in the United States that this is true. That the majority and mainstream is unchurched. Or, more importantly, don't consider faith, specifically often Jesus, to be an important cultural touchstone.

So, up here, if you are religious, if you attend church every week and consider it to be an important part of your social and cultural life, you are separating yourself from the pack.

Most importantly isn't just that Cascadia is unchurched, but that those that are churched, are separated from each other because our corresponding high level of religious diversity. Even if you lumped together all of the particular evangelical protestant sects, you would only come up with 25 percent of the 42 percent that consider themselves anything at all.

So, the Mars Hill leaders really are right, the big wide world out there in Cascadia is non-Christian and also non-church.

But, even thought it is pretty unique to here that we don't use religion as a cultural touchstone, we are not without important and almost universal cultural references. Generally speaking, these have often come up when a sports team is good.

In the mid-90s, we were all Mariners fans. Before that, it was the Huskies. These phenomena reach across Cascadia, seemingly uniting a disparate population. But, uniting behind what? That a team is good, the team is from here, we should root for them.

Matthew Kaemingk writing at Christ and Cascadia I think answers it best:

The Pacific Northwest has not “grown out” of religion, Cascadians have simply transferred their religiosity to what the sociologist Meerten Ter Borg calls “disembedded religion” or  “secular spirituality.” Broken free from religious institutions, structures, rules, and creeds this “disembedded religion” is an anti-institutional form of spirituality that seeks powerful aesthetic experiences.
Matt's right, Cascadia didn't grow out of religion, it was in fact never religious ever in its non-native history. And, he hits the nail on the head when he lists "structures, rules and creeds." This is exactly why the Seahawks (when they're good and attractive) are an overwhelming universal force, because literally anyone can like them.

There is nothing special you need to do. You don't need to change your political beliefs, the books you read or take an oath. You don't need to get new friends, dress differently (in large part) or change your life at all. You just need to care whether a team wins. Deeper social, political or cultural values never come up.

A pro-choice, atheist, progressive, Seattle resident can sit next to a pro-life, Christian, conservative Duval resident at a Seahawks game and nothing much in the descriptions of each other would matter.

But, that is not how church is in Cascadia. It has a much more deeper meaning. And, because religion is so fractured here, very specific things like creed, political belief and possibly what you wear really does come to mattering. And, if you are religious, it absolutely should matter.