The Future Has Passed

Mark Wattles began construction of his dream home in 1997. Two years later, he halted work on the 49,240-square-foot structure. The closet in the master suite alone measures twelve-hundred square feet.

The house sits on thirty-two acres in West Linn, south of Portland. The home-to-be overlooks a bend in the Willamette River, with a 270-degree view and 2,700 feet of water frontage. Wattles paid $1.25 million for the property in 1994 and says he spent $12 million on the construction.

Wattles maintained the unfinished dwelling and kept the building permits active for twenty years. He sold the property at auction for $2.27 million in 2018. The buyer envisioned a Tuscan-style villa estate and vineyard and a wine tasting room. After two years with no additional construction the property is for sale again. Asking price is $3,999,999, a bargain.

Wattles was the founder of Hollywood Video, for a time the second-largest chain of video-rental stores, behind Blockbuster. Facing a hostile takeover attempt by Blockbuster in 2005, Hollywood accepted a buyout by Movie Gallery, a smaller competitor. Movie Gallery went bankrupt and was liquidated in 2010.
Wattles meantime, purchased Ultimate Electronics consumer electronics stores, itself in bankruptcy. The Ultimate chain went into its final bankruptcy in 2011 and Wattles faced a $5.1 million judgement for personal guarantees he had made to Sony.

Industry powerhouse Blockbuster at its peak had more than nine-thousand stores. Today there is one. Blockbuster did not keep up with fast-moving technology. It faced competition from Netflix which offered subscriptions for mail-order DVD rentals. Netflix transitioned from rentals to on-line streaming service.

The last Blockbuster store is in Bend Oregon. If you’re not in their neighborhood, you can order merchandise from their web site. (Need a “Be Kind, Rewind” t-shirt?)

And Mark Wattles? His current project is drive-thru coffee shops in the Dallas Texas area.

Nat “King” Cole – TV Pioneer

The Nat King Cole Show premiered November 5, 1956 on the NBC television network. Cole’s popularity as a singer—he had sold millions of records—would have seemed to assure success as host of the eponymous variety show.

The fifteen-minute variety show, later expanded to a half hour, featured the suave and personable Cole hosting A-list guests such as Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte. Nat Cole himself had performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, Cavalcade of Stars, and other popular TV variety programs.

Cole’s was the first nationally-broadcast program hosted by an African American. The Nat King Cole Show was canceled after thirteen months, unable to attract a national sponsor.

Continue reading “Nat “King” Cole – TV Pioneer”

Inauguration Follies

Andrew Jackson decisively won both the popular and the Electoral -College vote and thus the presidency in 1828. He had been the popular-vote winner in 1824 and received more electoral votes than his opponents, but not a majority. After some wrangling and deal-making, the House of Representatives awarded the presidency to John Quincy Adams.

The first to become president after losing the popular vote, four years later Adams achieved another first; the first president to be defeated in his bid for re-election. (John Calhoun was voted vice-president in both elections.)

Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson gained fame for his exploits in the War of 1812. He led U.S. troops against Creek Indians—who were allied with the British—and later repelled the British in the Battle of New Orleans.

The 1828 campaign was notable for its vituperation. Jackson and his wife Rachel were vilified with accusations of adultery and bigamy. (Rachael died shortly after the election.) Similar accusations were flung at Adams. Still, Jackson’s popularity with the working classes carried him to victory.

Continue reading “Inauguration Follies”

Handy Anti-Democracy Guide

Newly-elected representative Cliff Bentz, the sole Republican in Oregon’s congressional delegation, cast his first votes last week. The freshman congressman joined 138 other representatives and eight senators voting to overturn election results.

The New York Times has provided us with a handy reference, including portraits, of the 147 legislators who cast votes against democracy.

Click here for the list of those with whom Rep. Bentz’s name will forever live in ignominy.

Electoral College Follies

The Constitution of the United States went into effect March 4, 1789. The Electoral College, as prescribed in Article II, Section 1, elected George Washington president that same year, with 69 votes. Washington was re-elected with 132 votes in 1792. John Adams received the second-most votes, thus winning the vice-presidency, both times.

Presidential elections worked smoothly all the way up to the vote in 1800. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 votes, sending the election to the House of Representatives. (Jefferson thought he was running against John Adams; Burr was Jefferson’s intended vice-president.) The Constitution had not foreseen the possibility of a tie. After thirty-six votes, the House named Jefferson president and Burr vice-president.

Continue reading “Electoral College Follies”

Rescued Film

What to do with that old roll of undeveloped film you found in the back of a drawer. Take it to Costco or your neighborhood drug store? A few years too late for that.

Send it to Levi Bettwieser in Boise, Idaho. He will process the film and post digital copies of all discernible photos for you to download. You will not receive negatives. (Maybe you’re not old enough to know what negatives are.) There is no charge, but you do agree to relinquish all rights. (He does accept donations.)

Bettwieser started his Rescued Film Project in 2013 after developing 140 rolls of film he had accumulated over years of rummaging at garage sales. He was taken by the images that came to life. Photographs of family and friends, dogs and cats, holiday celebrations and vacations, birthday parties, including lots of pictures of cakes.

Rescued Film Project has about 16,000 images in its archive. A one-person operation, Bettwieser has a backlog of 2,000 rolls to process. It’s a labor of love; he holds down a regular job, so Rescued Film is a night and weekend project. If you send film to him, it could be months before you receive a response.

In the meantime, browse through the archives. If you recognize anyone in the photographs, Bettwieser would like to hear from you. Occasionally he is able to reunite a person with long-lost snapshots.