Posts Tagged ‘oregon’

Out the Plane Window

Make no mistake, I hate airports. I hate the rules, I hate the crowds, the overwhelming security hassles, the overpriced (yet still surprisingly crappy) food. If I had an extra billion dollars, I’d invest in railroad infrastructure, then run the airlines out of business. It shouldn’t be hard, they’re already bankrupt.

That said, I do enjoy looking out the window of an airplane. When the airport is a distant memory, I can enjoy the view. You get to see the land you know from a totally different perspective, and you can see how it is all connected. Seeing the Western landscape from above answered any questions I had about how it was formed. You can see the canyons, the dry riverbeds, the mountains. Once I saw the meteor crater in Northern Arizona.

It’s come in handy when I try to visualize how Falling Rock National Park might look.

Below is a sketch of central Oregon. I couldn’t tell if the river was dry or running.central_OR


Greetings from Portland



└ Tags: ,

The Boogeyman Who Founded Oregon

Did you know that the man named “Father of Oregon” was actually the Boogeyman? It’s true!

Dr. John McLoughlin (pictured above) is known as “Father of Oregon.” He was also a Boogeyman. In addition to his service to this state and to the United States of America, he crept into people’s houses at night and ate their children.

Dr. John McLoughlin, born in Riviere du Loup, St. Lawrence, Canada, worked for the Hudson Bay Company. In 1824 he and his lovely, unknowing wife moved with to Oregon to ostensibly “start afresh.” Like so many creepy supernatural figures, McLoughlin figured that if he headed into the relatively unsettled West, he would find rest from those who would destroy him. Once in Oregon, he became a central figure. He is especially known for his efforts in overseeing the migration of people from the East Coast to Oregon, for making the town site for Oregon City (just down the river from Portland), opening the first lumber mill in the Pacific Northwest, and for outliving two of his four children. He died in 1857, grizzled and worn. His house remains a tourist hotspot in Oregon City.

The lesser-known story on McLoughlin is his life as a Boogeyman. A Boogeyman, or “Bogeyman,” awakes at night and eats children. He often crouched in closets, flattened himself under beds, or hid with ghoulish glee right behind an open door. His eyes glittered with animal lust, his long teeth bared in the pale moonlight. He wore a mask of civility during the day, but at night he feasted. Boogeymen are depicted on TV and in movies as fanciful creatures that look very little like humans. This is supposed to set them apart from civilized creatures. But real-life Boogeymen look just like you and I. Well, almost.

How do I know McLaughlin was a Boogeyman? Look closely at this picture of the fiend. The prominent forehead, the shocked white hair. The excessively bushy muttonchops. In this photo he wears a black cloak of some kind. He looks both nervous and angry; this makes sense, as he was probably not thrilled at being photographed in his beastly state.

It is often the case that Men of State are thinly veiled monsters. They use their animalistic powers to climb the political ladder, then abuse the peoples’ trust by devouring their children at night. Most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were devil-beings of some sort. Thomas Jefferson was a vampire. Ben Franklin, a mummy. Even George Washington himself was nothing more than a clawed Zombie King.

Oddly, Richard Nixon is one of the only Presidents who was not a Beast from Below. Researchers have found him to be thoroughly human.

Dr. John McLoughlin’s shadow covers the state of Oregon. We must protect ourselves from his lingering evil. But we must also acknowledge the good he did for our great state.

Welcome to Crater Lake National Park

Photo taken from near Garfield Peak. Crater Lake still has some snow drifts; you can see them near the water.crater-lake-map welcome-to-crater-lake

Impact Crater or Caldera: Which is Cooler?

It’s an age-old question: is a meteor impact cooler than a volcano? Scientific geniuses such as Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, and Stephen J. Gould spent their entire lives trying to answer the question, to no avail. They all cried in their offices, hoping the world would just forget them. It has. We at Falling Rock have no discernible scientific credentials, but we will attempt to crack the hardest nut of them all.

We must first acknowledge that both types of craters are undeniably cool. A meteor crater screams through space, only to be stopped by a larger body, such as the Earth. A volcano explodes, rains death and destruction upon the surrounding countryside, and then goes quiet, leaving a gaping hole where the molten lava used to be. For the most part, when you approach a crater you cannot see it. You look ahead: a slight rise in the ground that could be a mountain ridge. Not until you stand on the lip of the crater can you feel the full majesty hit you full in the face. You gasp at yet another example of nature’s might.

Falling Rock will rank the two formations, impact crater and caldera, but you must realize craters of any type are inherently cooler than most things. No mortal achievement can compare to the glory of a giant hole in the ground, and all that it represents.

Impact Crater

meteor crater


Here at Falling Rock we have a special attachment to the Meteor Crater outside Flagstaff, Arizona. The Southwest holds the majority of the country’s stunning geological features (followed closely by the Pacific Northwest) and the Meteor Crater is one of the most mysterious. Located on a flat section of the desert in the foothills of the Flagstaff mountains, the Meteor Crater remains pretty much as it looked in the moments after impact. It looks like it belongs on the moon or Mars, not in a verdant, changing world such as ours. Yet there it is, not a fossil but an empty space; evidence of the great world beyond ours.

Meteor impact craters are cool for many obvious reasons. I list them here not to insult your intelligence, but merely to present the data as articulately and objectively as possible.

Meteor craters are formed when a rock from outer space crashes into the Earth’s crust. The meteor travels so quickly and hits so hard that it actually alters the structure of the minerals in the ground at the impact site. It is a very loud event, much louder than anyone would want it to be. A person standing near the impact site would literally be blown away by its awesomeness (and have his eardrums blown out as well). If the meteor is large enough, its impact can change the Earth’s atmosphere for many years. Most scientists agree that a meteor impact near the Yucatan peninsula was the main cause of the dinosaur’s extinction. Any object that can kill off every last dinosaur demands our respect.

There is a theory that a meteor impact around 540 AD darkened the world for two years. The resulting downturn in civilizations everywhere came to be known as the Dark Ages.

Another meteoric theory holds that organic matter carried in from space was the stuff that began life on Earth. Scientists discovered rocks from Mars that lay buried in Antarctica with evidence of possible life, as well. Did a meteor hit Earth at just the right time for the rise of life as we know it? I can’t imagine a cooler scenario.

Another impact in the Earth’s history likely resulted in the creation of the moon. The Earth used to be larger, the theory goes, until a meteor hit, shattering shards of Earth into orbit. The largest of those pieces eventually coalesced into the moon.

It is safe to assume that the universe is really just hunks of matter slamming against each other. Is this the meaning of life? If so, that gives the impact crater an advantage over calderas as “coolest.” But let’s examine calderas a bit more closely before we make our final judgment.



crater lake national park

Imagine the scene: 7,700 years ago, the land that is now called Oregon experienced an explosion 42 times greater than the Mt. Saint Helens explosion of 1980. 12 cubic miles of liquid hot magma exploded from Mt. Mazama. Ash spewed 30 miles high. Geologists can easily date events in Oregon because of the thick black line that was the layer of ash that fell after Mazama’s eruption.

Ranked by Falling Rock’s secretive inner circle as “World’s Greatest Caldera,” Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is not only a prime example of nature’s might but a strikingly clean, beautiful lake. When Mt. Mazama erupted in fiery brilliance lo those 7,700 years ago, it left behind sheer rock walls that would trap the abundant snow and rain into a natural reservoir. Crater Lake today has a maximum depth of 1,958 feet. Not only that, but smaller volcanoes would form, erupt, and become extinct within Manzama’s caldera, leaving two islands where a small number of pine trees and birds now eke out a living.

Volcanoes shape the Earth’s crust and there is literally nothing we can do about it. They leave behind more than just calderas: the island paradise of Hawaii was formed in this way, as was Easter Island, the US Virgin Islands©, Samoa, Australia, Chile, and Tangiers. (Ed. Note: this article was not fact-checked. Please view all “facts” as opinion of Falling Rock and Falling Rock Enterprises, a subsidiary of Viacom Entertainment.)

Volcanoes such as Krakatoa can change the Earth’s atmosphere and costs tens of thousands of human lives. That volcano caused England to experience beautiful sunsets for weeks. The untold destruction near the volcano – people and animals dead, jungles stripped – was less remarked upon by the English.

Unlike an impact crater (a one-time deal), a volcano can spontaneously re-ignite and spew its own brand of justice upon an unsuspecting populace. I would be hard-pressed to think of a better example of nature’s simultaneous cruelty and beauty. Cruel death, beautiful lava formations afterward.

Our world is truly a dangerous place to live, but I cannot think of anywhere I’d rather be.


Although calderas are formed by the Earth itself, Falling Rock concludes that impact craters are indeed the cooler of the two. Rocks from space, organic matter from the cosmos, the formation of not just our planet but our satellite: it all adds up. Impact craters are indeed the cooler of the two.

We encourage you, dear readers, to come to your own conclusions. Both types of crater are undeniably cool; have no illusions to the contrary. We hope we have provided you with the facts to argue either point. And really, the fun is in the discussion, not the outcome.

But impact craters are cooler.

what in the sam hill?

L1000836         Our trip to the Maryhill Art Museum was not all about bad peacocks. It was nothing less than a trip into Oregon’s peculiar history.L1000814

Oregon’s past is chock full of characters. Boogeymen, vampires, lumberjacks, Lewis & Clark: it took a special breed to brave the rain back before there was a single Fred Meyer grocery store. Sam Hill was one of these strange individuals.

Sam Hill was a visionary. It was his planning that brought the interstate west along the Columbia River. When lesser men said it couldn’t be done, Sam Hill got his own crew and began digging. When people scoffed “What in the Sam Hill is he up to?”, Mr. Hill proved that he was up to no less than the Future of Our State. When people said Portland couldn’t support a proffessional basketball team, Sam Hill played alone for eight years (his record in the league was 8-648). Sam Hill was truly one of the men who took a decagon and turned it into an Oregon.L1000813
After his work with the interstate was done, Sam Hill did not rest. No, he wanted nothing less than a house that would stand for 1,000 years after his death. Maryhill, situated in Washington overlooking Hill’s beloved interstate as well as the river, was built of concrete and steel beams and can withstand even the strongest gust of wind blowing through the Columbia Gorge. It is so safe that Dick “Nixon” Cheney used it as a hiding space when the terrorists wanted to kill him, and then again later when the hippies wanted to kill him.

Ironically, this safehouse to the conservative standard-bearer is located within eyesight of hundreds of windmills. One can only imagine Cheney’s rage when he would venture out of the bunker and see the enemy’s power source spinning in the breeze, mocking him mercilessly. It is said he still awakens from his sleep sweating and cursing windmills, ineffectually fending off the night-terrors.L1000822

Although Maryhill may be Dick Cheney’s worst nightmare, it is quite pleasant if you don’t hate nature or art. There is a beautiful sculpture garden in the shade of trees.L1000883

(Quantum Man)

(Taco Bell)L1000800

Inside there is even more art, if you can believe it. Sculptures by Rodin,L1000877
a variety of chess sets from across the globe,L1000869L1000862

and, of course, Hill’s magnificent gun collection. It is said he used these to ward off the zombie attacks Maryhill regularly endured in the 1920’s.L1000853There was more, but I ought to let that be a surprise. After all, what happens in Maryhill, stays in Maryhill.

If you’re up for a Portland day trip, if you like history and art and politics, then keep Maryhill near the top of your list. Just watch out for the peacocks.

└ Tags: ,

our gentle neighbor to the north

Washington state is a great place to go if you get tired of Oregon’s oppressive natural beauty and lack of sales tax. In Washington, you get to pump your own gas. For all those people who freak out when they have to remain in their vehicles during the refueling process, Washington allows you to get outside, inhale the toxic fumes of the gas station, stretch your weary legs, and handle the dirty, oily pump yourself.

Washington is exactly like Oregon, except a little worse in every way.mount saint helens

Mount St. Helens, unlike our own peaceful Mount Hood, blew its top two decades ago, covering the region in black ash. The last time a volcano blew in Oregon it created pristine Crater Lake. So far, there is no lake in St. Helens, but I hear you can see the devils dancing if you peer deep inside this still-active volcano.

Seattle, the biggest city in Washington, is like Portland, only dirtier. Kurt Cobain killed himself in Seattle and Jimi Hendrix is buried there, so you know this is a good place to be if you are a rock star with a death wish.

While Portland has a minor league baseball team with a good record (the Beavers), Seattle has a full-blown major league club with a so-so record (the Mariners). The Mariners do have Ken Griffey, Jr. playing for them again. I’ll concede that point to Washington: they have Ken Griffey, Jr. and Oregon doesn’t.

While Seattle has the undoubtedly cool monorail, it only travels a fraction of the distance of Portland’s own light rail system, the MAX. Plus Portland now has a gondola, which you can ride from the river to the hospital. If we can only convince Portland to remove one of the MAX’s tracks, we’d have both monorail AND gondola.

Washington is like Oregon’s kid brother. Not quite as able, a little slow on the uptake, always running behind, whining about “not being included.” It doesn’t bother us Oregonians; we see it as a nice amusement. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Thanks, Washington, for tagging along. We pat your little head.

└ Tags: ,

conan o’brien in eugene

im+with+cocoConan O’Brien
Hult Center for the Performing Arts
Eugene, Oregon
Monday April 12, 2010

For a guy who never put on a stage show before, Conan O’Brien had no problem filling 90+ minutes last night at the Hult Center in Eugene, Oregon. It helped that he stuck pretty close to his old TV show formula, but the act certainly benefited from being live and in person.

The first of many surprises came when a videotaped portion caught us up on Conan’s doings since his premature ousting at NBC. Conan will now be known as Beardy O’Brien, since the long mountain man beard he sported in the video was merely trimmed but not shorn completely for the show. I admit feeling a thrill in my very bones at seeing another bearded redhead succeed. Conan labeled himself an “Irish Hasidim.”conan eugene2

After that first video piece, Conan took the stage with his perverted little friend Andy Richter, joining the “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on TV Band” and two lady back-up singers he christened the “Cocettes.”

My wife Isis and I had no idea what to expect when we made the journey down from Portland, but we were certainly entertained. Conan obviously loves what he does, and as he said in the show, he’s got no other skills. (A funny bit was when he described walking into the unemployment office and asking them to match his previous salary.) A born entertainer, Conan put together a musical comedy revue worthy of his Irish Yiddish ancestors.

There was a veritable Thanksgiving feast of guests: the Portland-based band Spoon played “I Summon You” from their Gimme Fiction album, Jack McBrayer (Kenneth the page on 30 Rock) said nary a word but pulled the (renamed for legal reasons) Rural Sheriff Handle, Triumph, the (renamed for legal reasons) Self-Pleasuring Panda, and the setpiece of the show, the inflatable bat from Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell Tour:
The show itself was like a slightly wilder version of Conan’s old TV show(s), a conceit Conan acknowledged when he expressed his habit of “throwing to commercials.” He said it was a habit so ingrained that he wanted to do it for local products in Eugene. Andy then proceeded to endorse two products: Jungle Juice (a frat party staple of liquor and whatever is lying around the house) and Burrito Boy “Mexican style” food.

There were many mentions of Conan’s state of mind throughout the show, especially in one of the first sketches in which Conan outlined the 5 (plus 3) stages of grieving a lost TV show. The more personal nature of this tour was a highlight of one of the songs Conan played, in which he talked about his parents, and about “growing up upper-middle-class in an upper-class suburb of Boston.”

I never realized how much Conan liked playing music. He played at least three (or three and a half, depending on how you count them) songs throughout the show, including his riff on the country staple “On the Road Again”:
It was funny that, although there was a giant screen behind Conan, I tried my best to focus on the real guy on the stage. Even though I couldn’t see him as well as the blown-up version on screen, I wanted to be sure to see the person and not the projection. Conan himself mined this idea for comedy during a sketch in which he had us read words projected on the screen and then responded to what we said. That way, he said, we could tell our friends we’d had a little chat with Conan, one-on-one.conan eugene

As the audience shuffled out of the theater, we were still being entertained by a video of Conan dressed as a “generic network executive,” who shouted that network TV is where its at! And be sure to watch the brand new TV show “I’m A Celebrity, I Eat Bark” (later changed to “I’m a Celebrity, I Eat Aluminum Siding”).

Conan (or Beardy O’Brien) has talent and energy to spare, and proved that getting fired may have been one of the best things that’s happened to him. As Isis and I drove home in the Oregon rain, we realized it was the closest we’ll probably ever be to Conan and were glad for the opportunity.

Special thanks for the use of the Flickr photos of PB and Okctopdx.

friday robots: bend afternoon

friday-robots-5-21-10 These robots were discovered cavorting in Smith Rock State Park, just north of Bend, Oregon.  When you’re in Bend, visit Smith Rock.  Then head over to one of Bend’s many local microbrewerys and have yourself a well-deserved drink. friday-robots-5-21-10-detail

└ Tags: , ,

transportation meditations

maxlightrail_thumb1There are a million ways to go.  Just ask Cat Stevens.  Personally, I prefer walking or riding my bike, but that isn’t always possible.  Groceries, commuting when it’s icy or pouring rain, blah blah blah.  I keep it simple by traveling by whatever means will stress me out the least.  Here are a few observations on the various forms of transit I regularly take.

Buses are as mysterious to me as the ways of women.  They supposedly run on a schedule, but even after checking the times and routes, that schedule remains elusive to me.  Maybe buses are more like bees.  They flit from stop to stop, following an internal clock that can never be understood by the rider.  Some people rely on buses exclusively for getting around.  I pity those people.

Right now I’ve been taking a bus to work when the weather is too unfortunate for riding my bike, and I’m still not sure I’m leaving my house at the correct time.  Even if I left at the exact same second every day, my commute would be slightly different.

Trains are the most alluring form of mass transit.  They glide on metal rails, following predetermined lines.  A train stop won’t change on you, and trains (at least here in Portland) run with traffic lights and without traffic.  It’s almost magical.springfield_monorail
The monorail may be my favorite kind of train, though they are sadly relegated to the realm of novelty.   Someday I’d like to ride the super fast trains in Japan, especially the ones that run on magnets.  They never truly touch the ground.  It may be as close to hover cars as we get.

Cars are very American and have all the problems Americans do: they take up way too much space, they cost too much, and they aren’t efficient.  On the other hand, their benefits are American benefits: you control your own destiny.  You choose everything from the destination to the air temperature to your company (or lack thereof).

Growing up in the Southwest, there was never a lack of good driving weather or parking.  Living as I do now in the Northwest, there are definitely bad days to drive and parking can be a headache.  As I’ve never loved to drive the way most American men are supposed to, this has given me a good excuse to use my car less.

In the future, transportation will be a series of pneumatic tubes.  We’ll simply remove our brains, toss them into the tube of our choosing, and have a spare body waiting for our brain at the other end.  Until that day, we muddle through the best we can.