Sunday, March 19, 2006

March 19th Rally

Friday Rally
Originally uploaded by Martina.
We interrupt the Tales of Birthday Revelry series to announce that the big day is here - March 19, 2006, the third anniversary of the Iraq war and occupation.

It's a gloriously sunny day, and in a few short hours, what is predicted to be at least 10,000 Portlanders (though I hope for more!) will hit the streets in protest. The sun and the fact that the rally has a record number of sponsors and endorsers seem to bode well.

Everyone I know has heard about the event ad nauseum, however, in case anyone has forgotten it is at 1:30 today in Waterfront park. For anyone who has never protested before, it really is an empowering feeling it is to be surrounded by thousands of other people who share your beliefs and are trying to do something about them. Hopefully, the energy and sense of community will inspire people to speak up. There's so much that people can do, especially when they work together.

More on today's protest,PPRC and the regular Friday rally later. I'm off to take a shower as I don't want to be blamed for single handedly bringing down the peace movement by clearing the park with my funk.

P.s. If you see the bus named Cool on the streets and listen closely, you'll notice that the ice cream truck music is actually The Marseillaise. I don't know why, but the unexpectedness of that tune in such a chirpy context delights me.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Tales of Birthday Revelry - Holbein's Madonna

This just in. Revelers (aka Martina) report that this year's festivities are shaping up to be the best birthday week ever in the history of Martina!

Although my birthday is not until the 20th, festivities began early with a cake and presents at work on Thursday. My boss (who got me a lovely Entertaining at Home cookbook, which features a recipe for a Mixed Berry & Chicken Salad that I cannot wait to try!) is going out of town next week as is another coworker. This meant that I could not have my actual birthday off, so I chose to take St. Patrick's Day off instead.

As it turns out, other people's infernal insistance on taking vacations and going to meetings just to spite me (ok, they didn't really do it to spite me) ended up being a blessing, because it allowed me to go downtown visit the Hesse: A Princely German Collection exhibit which is reaching its last days at the Portland Art Museum. The exhibit features the stunning Holbein Madonna and a number of Winterhalter portraits on loan from Moritz, Landgraf of Hesse and his son, Prince Donatus. With the collection closing on the 19th, I managed to slip in just in time.

It really is awe inspiring to stand in front a painting like Holbein's, not only for its magnificence, but for its history. As was the case with many German art works in World War II, the painting was sent eastward for safe keeping as the fighting advanced, and came very close to being lost, as a HeraldNet article explains:

During World War II, it was transported from Darmstadt east to Silesia to keep it safe. As Russian soldiers advanced through Silesia in February 1945, the painting was again loaded up and transported westward. En route, it narrowly escaped the firebombing of Dresden.

On a snowy night in December 1945, the 19-year-old Moritz of Hesse was sent by his uncle, Prince Ludwig, to retrieve the painting from Coburg Castle, accompanied by an American officer whose job was to find works of art that went missing during the war.

After removing the painting from Coburg Castle's dungeon, Moritz and the American officer packed it into an Army truck and headed for the Hesse family's Schloss Wolfsgarten palace. The truck caught fire. Fire extinguishers on Jeeps that passed by didn't work.

"We finally suffocated the flames with sand and earth, and I was able to bring the family treasure to Schloss Wolfsgarten intact," Moritz, now the Landgrave of Hesse explains.

And lucky it was that the family treasure was restored. The family held onto it for a while until seizing the opportunity to try to sell it to the Getty Museum. Ultimately, however, the fell through when was blocked by the German government due some beaurocracy on its part concerning non-exportable national treasures, so the family was forced hang onto it. Fortunately, Portland has been lucky enough to have the painting here on loan for the past months.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Originally uploaded by Martina.
Today has been a day of highs and lows. On the up side, the day brought the opportunity to master the art of the glue gun making signs and peace sign "puppets" (really large, cardboard costumes that make the wearer look like a peace sign with legs) with PPRC, making me feel crafty AND "activistic" all at the same time. To up the activist angle even more, I was interviewed by the evening news (though perhaps I should hold of on deeming that an "up" until I know a) if they air the interview (they interviewed my mom too, maybe they'll use hers...I hpe they do!), b) if I come of sounding like a total goober or not. Having had an experience being misquoted by a sloppy reporter in the past (albeit on the subject of language acquisition and not war), I do not underestimate the power of media to make anyone sound like a total asshat.

That said, I do hope that I said something worthwhile. I am amazed that, even with the number of reservations I have about the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it was difficult to express them all in a pithy two minute interview. Now, I can think of a million things I should have said. I could have touched more on the loss of human life. I could have talked about how the funding of this war is diverting money that could be going to programs within our own country. I could have talked about how Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with September 11 and how occupying Iraq does nothing to protect us from terrorism. (Is there anything that can be done to protect people 100%? I really don't think so.)

Instead, I just came up with something about how being against the war is too often confused with a lack of support for our troops. I talked about how my dad was a veteran and fought in Vietnam and that we were lucky he came home. A lot of people aren't so lucky, and the best thing we can do to support our troops is pull them back when their lives are being squandered in an unnecessary conflict.

On the down side (though not as down as the tens of thousands of people [I refuse to break the numbers down into Americans versus Iraqis...the waste of human life is the waste of human life regardless of national or religious affiliation] who have died since the start of the war), today would have been my father's birthday, if he were still alive. I woke up feeling kind of grumpy and didn't realize until almost half way through the day that it wasn't really that I was in a bad mood. I was just sad.

On the down (but kind of funny in retrospect) side, it is quite possible that I no longer welcome in the Mennonite community. Although I have no affiliation with the Mennonites, they generously donated the use of their basement for our sign making party. Unfortunately, I created what I suspect was a faux pas when I yelled "God dammit!" after burning myself multiple times with a hot glue gun. My paranoid side thinks there must be a special part of hell for those who take the Lord's name in vain in a church. In my defense, I can only say that it just slipped out and that re-burning skin that already has fresh blisters REALLY hurts!

I like to think that my gaffe is somewhat indicative of the ongoing spiritual crisis I have been experiencing since we started flirting with occasionally going to church. I like some of the "love they neighbor" sorts of ideals, but have a hard time with a lot of the details. If I'm going to be honest, I have difficulty self-identifying as a Christian (I am told by the pastor that this is typical for Progressives), Bible thumpers and evangelism tend to annoy me (I've not been told anything about that, since I have kept that tidbit to myself), as do people with habitual speech patterns like "Well, pray about it and let me know."

Personally, I think God has better things to do than be an enabler to my wishy-washy nature. I like to think that if I really were to ask him for guidance on something that should be self-evident, God's response would be "You know the right thing to do. Do IT* and leave me to the people with some real problems." *Note: "Do it" would be said in God's best Ben Stiller as Starsky voice, but he wouldn't ask me who my wig man is, because being omniscient, he already knows who all of our wigmen are.

My conflicted feelings about religion are a subject another, much longer post. Suffice it to say that I am having a hard time with labels and ascribing to any one religion as the "right and true path". Rather, I feel kinship to the big concepts like compassion, peace, treating others with respect and kindness, etc. That said, I am off to watch the news to see if I, my mom or any of our friends will be featured.