A popular TV comedy Portlandia mocks
take themselves far too seriously.
We're seemingly over-the-top for such ecological must-haves like
curbside composting and track our carbon footprints and have an
annoying propensity to smugly flaunt green pride. Do the eco-virtuous
become caricatures as Portlandia
suggests and why?
I think so and as a long-time (but not native) resident, I think I
know why. (Quick answer: It's them that moved here).
The caricature--decades in the making--has a number of givens that
keep Portland closer to its "forest roots." For one, no coal-fired,
smoke-stack industry. Cheap hydroelectric power from Bonneville up the
Columbia sees to that.
Moreover, the clean, green, natural image of
Oregon was really fueled
by the reverse-psychology PR genius of the late Governor Tom McCall,
who famously said in the 1971, it's okay to visit, "but for heaven's
sake, don't move here to live."
A popular eco-countercultural paean from 1975, the novel Ecotopia, by Ernest Callenbach,
further cemented Oregon's reputation as Mecca for those fed up with
what the material world offered and who yearned to live more in balance
Also in the 1970s, Portland's progressive urban planners put in
motion a number of initiatives to keep Portland from going the way of
traffic-choked urban sprawls elsewhere. An Urban Growth Boundary
severely limited development of surrounding farmland. Downtown was torn
up to rationalize mass transit (buses and now light rail) through the
core, creating the Transit Mall of dedicated lanes. Voters kaboshed a
third freeway in the city. The list goes on and continues.
Convincing to me of Portland's spreading reputation was a visit to
Austin, where I saw a public service TV ad along the lines of "We can
have light rail here and this is what it looks like." Rolling across
the screen was Portland's own light-rail trains!
The dynamic is pretty simple: Portland's population swells with
migrants from elsewhere seeking the urban Valhalla in Oregon. Above
all, they don't want the dream to change.
Before long they outnumber local natives. They impose their reactionary
progressive values--an odd combo that morphs into the real reason for
Portlandia's quirky hipness.
These Portland emigres want to live the
19th Century in the 21st (but keep a lot of modern benefits!).
So from such yearnings, Portlandia
was bodied forth, even if she wasn't actually born here. She moved here
to live. Sorry, Governor Tom!
Read Charlie Dickinson's
story collection, The Cat
at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
7:25:13 Le Havre by Kaurismaki
7:20:13 This Ain't California
6:27:13 The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, a book review
5.29.13 My Linux (Mis)Adventures
5.25.13 Southern Cross the Dog, a book review
5.5.13 Russian Tumbleweed
4:16:13 "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster
3.25.13 Moore's Law
3:13:13 Grocery Shopping
2:28:13 Razor Blade in Moonlight
1:27:13 Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design, a book review
12:9:12 White Bread, a book review
12:4:12 Update on Old-School Shaving
11:12:12 Ten Great Buys at Dollar Tree
11:6:12 My New Russian Camera
10:29:12 Leaf Day
10:2:12 The Russian Navy in New York?
9:21:12 The Righteous Mind, a book review
9:14:12 Revolution, 1989, a book review
8:23:12 Train Whistles in the Night
8:2:12 Why I've Stockpiled Light Bulbs
7:22:12 Old-School Shaving
7:16:12 Злектроника МК-52, computer de minimus
7:4:12 Ivan's Childhood by Tarkovsky
6:21:12 The Unabomber, a modern Thoreau?
6:12:12 Do the gods exist?
6:7:12 My "Retail Therapy"
5:28:12 On Taxes, We Should Go Green
5:17:12 Portland's Trash
5:6:12 The Toaster Project, a book review
4:24:12 No Seconds
4:12:12 Portland's Runaway Utility Bill
4:8:12 The Repossession, a book review
3:30:12 How I Got Published in Mississippi Review
3:9:12 The End of Money, a book review
2:18:12 Beauty Plus Pity, a book review
2:5:12 Kirk's Castile Soap
1:29:12 Confessions of a Fallen Standard-Bearer, a book review
1:22:12 Thirst, a book review
1:17:12 My IBM ThinkPad 1999-2012
1:11:12 String Beans
12:22:11 Spiritual TMJ
12:16:11 1Q84, a book review
12:11:11 How Portland Became Portlandia
12:1:11 The Fixie
11:20:11 Camus' Insight
11:13:11 Old & Worthy
11:7:11 Life Is Tragic
10:31:11 A Matter of Death and Life, a book review
10:25:11 Dead Letter, Email Fatigue
10:18:11 Reinventing Collapse, a book review
10:11:11 Rereading Pirsig
10:1:11 The Sisters Brothers, a book review
9:26:11 The Great Stagnation, a book review
9:16:11 Coffee, The Affordable Luxury
9:12:11 The Genius of Value
9:5:11 Death and the Penguin, a book review