Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Meriwether, Osama and Emeralds

This Lounge post is not about Osama.  He's mostly dead.  Let's move on, down tonight's particular rabbit hole..

And, surprisingly, let's start with sugar cubes.

Several dozen, in fact, stacked in racks and rows; tall walls of impenetrable sucrose bricks.  Roman arches, Spanish spires and holy pure-cane crosses, assembled upon sturdy styrofoam prairies.  Whose idea was it, by the way, for Californian fourth graders to build Catholic missions out of sugar?

Why sugar?  Why not plaster of Paris? Dried marshmallows?  Legos?

No, it was sugar cubes.  But not for me.  No. I was not tied to the simplistically sweet masonry of every Californian history project that came before.  The history of the state was too rich, too varied, to repeat yet again, the same tired project.

The state had been settled by native nations, Russian whalers, Spanish conquistadors and Mexican Rancheros.  The Golden state that drew, by the horde, gold-lusting fair-skinned descendants of the Angles and the Saxons, the Irish and the Chinese, is now the seat of global media domination.  It is the fifth largest economy in the world, ahead of entire nations.  The home to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Apple Computer, Disney, Sonoma, five major league baseball teams and Half Dome, is not appropriately, or adequately, represented historically by crunchy little sugar cubes...

In terms of California's historical epicenter, however, nothing compares to the gold rush, which was previously discussed HERE.  Being the precocious history nerd that I was, therefore, I proceeded to construct, with the crafty aid of my mother, a mostly working scale model of a 49er's gold camp, including rocker boxes, long Toms, panning prospectors and nuggets.  Missing, of course were the saloons, card houses and whores...

Skip ahead 14 years, and find me (and my iguana) moving to Oregon, the historical home of the Missoula floods, Meriwether Lewis's winter home, the Fort Stevens "attack" and Big Foot.

Sure, we sit at the end of the conveniently-named Oregon Trail, but essentially, it was a dirt road.  We, as a state, are the end of a long long long dirt road.  Scant pickings, this, for an insatiable history enthusiast such as I, but we get by.

Get by, that is, by reading, researching and listening to others who know, nearly, more than we do about most things.

If you have sat and spoken with me for more than about 10 minutes, anytime in the last three years, you will have likely tuned me out as I was droning on and on and on and on about any one of my current favorite podcasts, many of which revolve around either Skepticism, Astronomy or History.  (Woo!)

Two (three) of the very best podcasts available across the entire podcast spectrum both (all) delve deep into the churning currents of the historical past.  They are The History of Rome with Mike Duncan and Hardcore History with Dan Carlin (AND A History of the World in 100 Objects from BBC Radio 4, although, this one, while spectacular, doesn't count, ).

Mike, of Rome, we learned early on, researched, wrote and recorded from his home in Portland, Oregon, for years, until, for some ridiculous reason, like work or love or something, chose to move to Texas.  Hardcore Dan, however, remained a mystery, declaring his hidden coordinates to be at the end of the Emerald City International Airport, wherever that was...  Seattle, I thought, or maybe Los Angeles.

I was shocked, therefore, to learn today that he was broadcasting (podcasting) from Oregon's own Emerald City of Ducks, cowboys and hippies; Eugene.

Dan and Mike, the two (two of the three of the) most fascinating purveyors of popular history, both sprung from this vapid historical wasteland.  (The BBC show, being from the BBC, naturally, doesn't come from Oregon. Their brilliantly British program dulls my point and runs counter to the artistic aesthetics of this now-obnoxiously-long tome, and therefore will not be discussed...)  (much)  (yet)


Dan does an independently-minded centrist political show too, which appeals to my independantly-minded centrist mind, but his history show is the proverbial shit...  He skips around, sucking the marrow from the bones of the epochs, telling the tales of history from street level.

Mike, who is telling us the entire history of Rome, in order, one deadpan inference at a time, on the other hand, is leading a private tour across Rome, Greece and Turkey this week. I will, regrettably, not be joining him.

I'm not going to encourage you to listen to the podcasts.  You can do what you choose to do with your own morning commutes.  Sure they will make you smarter.  They will rouse your intellectual curiosity and allow you to discuss subjects like Alexander, Mithridates, and Diolcetian with an air of authority at cocktail parties.

But really, you stick to Justin Bieber and the morning zoo crew....  I'm sure you'll get a lot out of it.

The Roman Riot
1.5 oz Amaretto
1.5 oz Galliano
1.5 oz Sambuca
Build in a tumbler, no ice...


  1. Anonymous2:57 AM

    While it doesn't go very far back, as historical stuff goes, Oregon's Willamette Valley is noteworthy for the radical labor movements of the early 20th Century. There are several W.O.W. (Woodsmen of the World) halls still up -- one in Shedd, another in Eugene, and probably a few more. The W.O.W. were a far-left "Wobbly" group. I think mostly they got their heads cracked.

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  3. Anonymous1:39 PM

    I can't believe you didn't know Eugene is called the Emerald City. Also, the WOW Hall is now a music venue in Eugene... interesting. I, btw, fucking hate Eugene.

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