Historical Sights Around Portlandia (Day 14)

As a mirror image to the previous day’s travels around Mount Rainier and continuing our trip down the Cascade mountain range, we spent much of the day not seeing Mount Hood. However, we did soak up quite a bit of history looking at the Columbia Gorge, wandering around Timberline Lodge, perusing what might be the largest bookstore in the world, and listening to a grumpy old rock star.

Drizzling at the Columbia Gorge. Photo by kajmeister.

Columbia, the Gem of the West Coast

The Columbia gorge that runs like a sine wave along the border between southern Washington and northern Oregon is not to be missed if you come to the west coast. On a good day, you can look down the gorge to see bridge after bridge and even on a misery day like this one, the waterfalls gushing by the roadways were that much more impressive.

The gorge has been ruler to people for 13,000 years, with artifacts found from the early pioneers who crossed over the Bering Straits. Lewis and Clark traveled down the Columbia to get to the Pacific, so there are a number of historical markers. My friend Barb, who used to guide people down the Lewis and Clark Trail, would probably wish that we had stopped at all of them, but we voted to let her take us someday instead.

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Victoria Wander (Day 11)

After so much eating over the past few days, I cleverly planned to start this day with a long, leisurely bike ride, curated by The Pedaler Cyclery. Detouring through the back neighborhoods and beaches of eastern Victoria showed me a new side of this beautiful city, and my excellent guide, Charlie, filled me in on a plethora of fascinating history.

Willows Beach, Victoria BC. Photo by kajmeister.

Keep Yer Potatoes Outta My Pig

Y’all know that I love a good story, so I’m going to steal most of Charlie’s, but I have to say if you are ever in Victoria–and don’t you think you must go after everything I’ve said?–please do take a tour with these folks. I was immediately seduced and, for the first time in several days, it was not by bacon. I fell in love with the electric bike. I like a long ride, but my knees have not been cooperative in recent months. Yet all you do with these little contraptions is up the power a little and whup-up-up, bob’s your uncle, you’re up the hill and still pedaling. We meandered hither and yon through beautiful neighborhoods and park, first stop over to Finlayson Point where Charlie started spinning tales.

Guide Charlie at the swanky Oak Bay Marina. Photo by kajmeister.

Did you know that the U.S. and Canada nearly had shots fired over–a pig? It was June 1859, which Americans who paid attention in school will note was right before the outbreak of our Civil War. Despite the belligerence of a previous President ( Polk: 54.40 or Fight!), the U.S./Canada boundary had been set at the 49th parallel of latitude, which was cleanly below Vancouver Island and what is now also the city of Vancouver. But there was a problem.

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The Hottest Ticket in Town

The Divine Sarah Bernhardt playing Cleopatra, the original transformational theater experience

Transformational! G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)! You’ve never experienced anything like it!

Gobblyedook? Hyperbole? No, as you might guess, these were some of the Facebook comments about Hamilton, which we enjoyed seeing in San Francisco last week, despite the exaggeration and hoopla surrounding its existence. This is not a review of the show, about which you most likely already have an opinion, but it got me to thinking about the other It Performances and Artistic Experiences that also left long shadows from say fifty, a hundred, or even longer ago.

Contrary to some recently held beliefs, Hamilton is not the only theater experience that has ever been deemed life-changing. It was only about fifty years ago that musicals themselves were transformed by the introduction of contemporary music, young people, and irreverent ideas, in the first true rock musical, Hair. A century ago, there was a single person–and her rival–who changed all of theater. Still further back, there was a guy who changed how people wrote, what people read, and even how people think about Christmas. There are all sorts of ways to influence the arts.

When the Moon is in the Seventh House…

The musical Hair premiered off-Broadway in 1967, before moving to Broadway for a very popular, if critically tepid, run. When it migrated to London’s West End in 1968, the start was delayed until changes were made to the Theatres Act in order to allow for the nudity and profanity. Then, it ran in London for nearly 2000 performances.

Written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, who also appeared in the show, the musical explored the controversial themes that exploded across headlines the late Sixties: the youth counterculture, opposition to the war, air pollution, racism, free love, and bureaucratic oppression. The songs are joyous and sarcastic, hummable tunes of subversion. We had the album at home when I was nine, and I loved it. Of course, there was no place to actually look up the words to the lyrics, so imagine my dismay at 23, when I finally realized some of the words I was singing in the tune “Sodomyyyyyy…..”

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Trigonometry: Secant-ing out New Life in Ancient Civilizations

Plimpton 322 from sci-news.com

It’s irresistible. The siren song of Wikipedia calls to me. All I was trying to do was find out which Greek invented trigonometry. Was it Pythagoras and his bean-renouncing cult or someone else? And I come across this enticing little tidbit, a curious little reference which, to a history buff is like the smell of fresh cookies…

Based on one interpretation of the Plimpton 322 cuneiform tablet (c. 1900 BC), some have even asserted that the ancient Babylonians had a table of secants.[8] There is, however, much debate as to whether it is a table of Pythagorean triples, a solution of quadratic equations, or a trigonometric table.

Wikipedia: History of Trigonometry

Much debate? Some have asserted? This sounds like historical mystery to me. I was instantly overjoyed at the thought of poking around to see if anyone denounced anyone else in the public square or started fistfights or wrote long letters to the editor of scientific journals about how their enemies were cretins who didn’t know a hypotenuse from a hippopotamus. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Don’t Be Afeared, it’s Just Math

First, a few definitions. Even if you’ve never taken trigonometry or if the very word causes you to put a blanket over your head, don’t worry. Imagine that it’s a warm sunny day in Greece (or Babylonia or Sumeria or Egypt) and you notice that the pillar of the nearby temple, next to where you are sunning yourself, throws a shadow. Since you like to measure things, you get out your handy measuring stick and you measure the length of the shadow. You know the length of the pillar. You start doing calculations.

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Who in the Heck is Harriet Quimby?

Posed photo Harriet Quimby
Photo at william-m-drew.webs.com

Harriet Quimby was the first American woman to earn a pilot’s license, the first woman to fly at night, and the first woman to fly across the English Channel. She was a pioneering journalist, who wrote for San Francisco newspapers and ultimately as a staff writer for Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, a widely-read New York paper. Quimby also wrote several movie screenplays for D. W. Griffith. Known as the “Dresden China Aviatrix” because of her stature and fair skin, she cultivated a daredevil persona that led to commercial endorsements and earned six-figure fees for appearing at Air Meets. Her career kept her too busy for marriage. She died at age 37 in a tragic accident at an air show.

Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.

Amelia Earhart, citing Quimby’s legacy as a role model

I was playing a game where you have to generate names of things starting with specific letters. Ready? Think of Auto Models, Occupations, Ice Cream Flavors, Scientists, and Countries of the Eastern Hemisphere starting with ….Q. (Quest, Quartermaster, Quince–yes, there is quince flavored ice cream, ugh pass on scientist, Qatar). I was really stumped on Q-named Scientists. Internet lists only mention three: statistician Adolphe Quetelet, astronomer Thabit ibn Qurra (who was known as Thabit, so really doesn’t count), and Harriet Quimby. Ah, the entrance to a cyberspace rabbit hole.

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