Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Portland Parks & Rec considers ‘Unicycle Bastards’ on park paving stone

Posted by on August 23rd, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Kidical Mass - August-26.jpg

Jeff Lauten, shown here with his
daughter at the site of the future Harper’s
Playground, where he hopes to donate a
paving stone with his club’s name on it.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Unicycle Bastards, a local unicycle riding club, wants to help build Harper’s Playground in north Portland’s Arbor Lodge Park. The group came up with $260 to purchase a paving stone in the forthcoming playground; but their request was denied when Portland Parks & Recreation felt uncomfortable with printing the word “Bastards” in a children’s area of the park.

The club was informed of the decision last week and they have since requested an appeal of the decision.

Jeff Lauten, a 47-year-old Overlook Neighborhood resident and member of the Unicycle Bastards, says they think it’s unfair. “We’re just a small, old, silly group of unicycle riders,” he told me on the phone last week. “We love Harper [the young girl who the playground is being named after] and the playground and we just wanted to be a part of it.”

The effort to revamp the playground at Arbor Lodge park — and name it Harper’s Playground — has galvanized the community and enjoys broad support. Lauten has been going to the park for years with his 4 and 7-year-old children and he’s disappointed that he and his riding buddies can’t lend their name to the list of supporters. (Note: Unicycle Bastards is listed as a supporter on the playground’s website).


Unicycle riders at a cyclocross race in 2007 (Lauten is third from left).

Lauten says the group was first dubbed Unicycle Bastards in a film made by Burk Webb for the Filmed by Bike film festival in 2005. Since then, the group has grown to over a dozen core members. They meet to play unicycle polo regularly, they race in the Cross Crusade cyclocross series, they have participated in many Pedalpalooza rides, and Lauten — the group’s unofficial leader — was even named as a juror at Filmed by Bike this year (which is quite the honor in local bike scene circles).

Lauten says 12 of the Unicycle Bastards pitched in money for the $260 paving stone. “We’re not trying to cause trouble, that just happens to be our name. What if we were the Hell’s Angels?.. It seems unfair that we were shunned just because of a pretty tame word.”

PP&R media relations staffer Mark Ross says the adopt-a-paver application clearly states that “wording is subject to approval.” Ross says PP&R is in discussion with the executive director of Harper’s Playground, Cody Goldberg, about the issue.

“We realize that Unicycle Bastards means well and has only the best intentions,” Ross says, “But the site is a children’s playground; and wording is subject to approval.”

Lauten says they’d consider another name; but they really hope to keep Unicycle Bastards. They have filed an appeal with PP&R and the City is currently considering the appeal.

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  • jim August 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    It seems like it would be pretty easy to come up with a more appropriate name.

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    • Caleb August 24, 2012 at 11:51 am

      I agree this would be easy. However, I also think it would be easy for people to talk about words to the point where they no longer carry negative impact. It seems to me that as a species we’re more self aware than ever. Couldn’t we extend our awareness to why we’re bothered by such words and no longer be bothered by them…or maybe more accurately, realize we’re not bothered by the words but by what we think the words represent in other individuals? How much effort and time is spent on people getting offended or simply worrying about offense?

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  • Toby August 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Ummm, pretty sure that if the Hells Angels bought a paving stone, their name would NOT be on it at a children’s playground. Give me a break. Bastard is one of the tamer four letter words but it still is. Poo poo head would probably be denied as well and it’s much tamer. move along…move along…

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    • jim August 23, 2012 at 7:32 pm

      Actually the Hells Angels has a ride every year that benifits the Toys for Tots program. Probably no plaque in the park, hospital, jail for them though.

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  • Cycling small business owner August 23, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    The picture that Bike Portland uses is not a photo of the UBs. It is a photo of some participants in the unicycle category of the Cross Crusade series. Jeff Lauten often “pulls stunts like this” paving stone name appeal because he is rewarded with free publicity by Jonathan Maus and others in the cycling world because they think it’s cute fun. Jeff was also upset that the Oregonian chose not to print his bully gang’s name, that facebook removed photos that were against the TOS and has been twice banned from a worldwide unicycle forum. For Portland Parks and Rec to allow an individual and his gang of bully friends who like to intimidate kids, adults and destroy parks and rec property to name a paving stone would be an absolute joke. As usual the UBs just want to see what they can get away with…

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    • Nick August 23, 2012 at 7:59 pm

      They are bullies and destroy park property? Mind elaborating?

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      • Jack August 23, 2012 at 9:12 pm

        I think I might have to take credit for being the bastard who “intimidates kids”. I sold a 16 year old “kid” a big unicycle banner. When he failed to pay up for about two months, I told him I would be calling his parents.

        What can I say. I’m a total bastard.

        Cycling Small Business Owner: You’re going to have to cite at least one example of “destroying PP&R property” before throwing around such an accusation.

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    • boiled beard August 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Serious Juggling, YU mad though?

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    • Sunny August 23, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      So they really are bastards. NO STONE FOR YOU!

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      • Burk August 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm

        Trust me, give them the stone! And pray that is all they demand! If they fear not twice unicycle forum banning they obviously don’t know the meaning of the word…… fear. Or banning.

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    • shermanator August 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      Panties. Unbunch. Now. Seriously, Serious Juggling, you will be in a much better space once you unbunch that axe which you feel compelled to grind. Please to stop using bikeportland.org as your platform for bullying people who donated to Harper’s Playground. BTW, what’s your paver going to say? You too can purchase one for a $250 donation. Please see http://www.harpersplayground.org to learn more about how you can support this awesome project.

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  • Mitch August 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm


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  • Tony Choate August 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    A simple and universally acceptable solution to this non-problem:

    The Unicycle B*tards.

    To both the Unicycle Bastards and PP&R: Make it happen, agree to this and stop wasting everyone’s time.

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  • no August 23, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    it will be ripped up before my kid can read it

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  • karl d August 23, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Unless you need to be an illegitimate child to be a member they should not get a Paving stone with their name on it.

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    • jocko August 24, 2012 at 11:00 am

      “We’re just a small, old, silly group of unicycle riders, who never knew our fathers”

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  • Spiffy August 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    some of the kids playing there might be bastards themselves… wouldn’t want to invalidate their existence by deeming it a bad thing…

    might as well just ban anybody with the name Johnson… and just forget about Willie and Peter… poor bastards…

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  • Paul in the 'couve August 23, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    It is simple. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a name that is edgy, provocative and connotes some sort of lawlessness or anti-establishment attitude and at the same time be accepted as appropriate for playgrounds.

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    • Caleb August 24, 2012 at 11:56 am

      What if the name was never intended to be edgy, provocative, or to cannote some sort of lawlessness or anti-establishment attitude? I know nothing about the bastards, but am instead saying it’s just a name.

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      • Paul in the 'couve August 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm

        So then why aren’t they the Unicycle Boys instead of Bastards?

        Because Bastards sounds a lot cooler doesn’t it? You could come up with 100 very innocent names for a group of Unicyclists yet they call themselves the bastards. I don’t have a problem with that. I wouldn’t want to join the Unicycle Blokes either. Unicycle Bastards sounds a lot cooler because it is slightly inappropriate. It certainly true that Bastard no longer carries quite the same weight as a “bad word” as it did 40 years ago. However, it plagues by the fact that it actually has a definition and is considered a rather rude and derogatory manner of referring to what we later called “illegitimate children” and now finally just call kids.

        If Bastard ever does lose all negative connotation, then very few “cool kids” clubs will call themselves Bastards because it will be as boring as Blokes.

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        • Caleb August 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm

          That’s quite the short-sighted perspective you appear to have. “Bastards” is no cooler a word to me than is any other word. I don’t really even think any words are “cool”. Maybe I’m in the tiniest minority, but I’m still an example showing not everybody feels the same emotions that you do in response to any given word. Those “cool kids” might not actually think they’re “cool”. Why not ask them what their motives for selecting a name are before deciding they think and feel the way you do?

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          • Paul in the 'couve August 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm

            Caleb, thank you. Give the “cool kids” a hug from me. I’m sorry I hurt their feelings but not thinking their name is boring.

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            • Caleb August 25, 2012 at 7:28 pm

              I don’t think sarcasm is a productive way to confront such misunderstandings between each other. I was less concerned with their feelings when I said what I did than I was with your own perception on your life.

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              • Paul in the 'couve August 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm

                There’s no misunderstanding. We just disagree. Peace out man

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              • Caleb September 3, 2012 at 10:15 pm

                I hope you find your coming times peaceful, too. Thank you.

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  • pengo August 23, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    “Help help, I’m being repressed!”

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    • Case August 24, 2012 at 8:56 am

      “Now I see the violence inherent in the system!”

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  • Cycling small business owner August 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    For starters, how about welding a UBs sign to a Portland Parks fence? And I know more than that was said, Jack, even if not by you. There are other instances of bullying, too, such as emailing obscenities to a minor in response to a request to the northwest unicycling community at large; a call for unicycle hockey players for a long established club in a clean family friendly environment.

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    • Schrauf August 24, 2012 at 7:33 am

      Those Bastards!

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    • Amy August 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      This is not a forum for assaulting the character of Jeff Lauten or the Unicycle Bastards. Let’s all stick to the subject at hand – whether an organized (albeit ragtag) club can put their name on a paving stone. And perhaps the larger issue of whether parenting our children by protecting them from anything the least bit unsavory is realistic or even desired.

      In my opinion – as long as PP&R returns the money, they have the right to refuse the name. But I know the Bastards. They are husbands, fathers, business people, citizens, and all-around good guys. And we shouldn’t assume we’re doing the world or our children a favor by leaving the Bastard name off the history of the playground.

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  • Alex Reed August 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    How about “Unicycle Unitards” instead? I find unitards more offensive than bastards personally but I bet it would pass PP&R muster 🙂

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  • peejay August 24, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I hope that in a few hundred years that as a country we can outgrow our repressed prudish origins, having been founded in part by a fringe religious group who locked people in stockades for adultery and burned “witches”.

    It’s just words, folks. Kids hear them more often from other kids in the playground than read them on bricks, fer ****sake.

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  • Jeff August 24, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Non-story of the year.

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  • Paul August 24, 2012 at 8:27 am

    This *is* a story and PP&R is correct in rejecting the word. Bastard is a perjorative and the word does not belong on a toddler playground. I am pretty certain that a vast majority of parents of toddlers would agree.

    Especially single mothers.

    Would the term half-breed pass muster? Or retard? How about cripple? I would argue they are all analagous and equally inappropriate given the venue.

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    • Caleb August 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      When I was a child, I thought the word “bastard” simply meant “bad person” or something like that. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned it had anything to do with “illegitimate” children. My lack of understanding came from equally uneducated children exposing me to the word.

      If a child of a single mother were to read “bastard” on a brick with the same misunderstanding that I had, how much would that actually hurt the child? None whatsoever, I imagine.

      Now lets imagine a child understands the word and reads the brick. Perhaps this is untrue, but I would think a child with that comprehension would by such a point be able to read the other bricks and come to recognize that the context of “Unicycle Bastards” is that of a name, and subsequently realize the term “Bastards” has nothing to do with himself/herself, especially if the child has nothing to do with unicycles.

      Such a small stretch of the imagination can teach us that words being “appropriate” or “inappropriate” is a relative matter. How much negative connotation can a word carry without negative understanding in the word’s perceptive mind(s)? How negative will the perceptive person feel with a thorough understanding of how any connotation works? We can’t possibly account for the mind of every single individual who will experience the playground, so how about we instead let the children confront the words, teach them as much about the words as we can, and let them become largely unperturbed by any words?

      I’m all for respecting popular opinion, but let’s not slip into a complacent regard for that opinion. After all, there was a time when most people were in support of slavery, withholding women from voting, etc. How much would popular support for these things withstand modern scrutiny? And how popular now are the unpopular opinions from those times?

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      • Paul August 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm

        The issue is not about free speech, it’s about the environment and the clientele. I’m terribly sorry, but I’m really not looking for any provocative or edgy issues when I take my daughter to the playground.

        I’ll privately snicker at the contribution from Peter Johnson, but I’m certainly not going to explain it to my 6 year old daughter.

        But I’m the father who runs cigarette smokers and old pervs off the playground, so maybe I’m just a little controlling of the environment which my child experiences…

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        • Caleb August 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm

          I didn’t think or say the issue was free speech, either. That was somebody else who mentioned such an idea.

          What I’m getting at instead is that words being “provocative” or “edgy” depends upon individual perspective of them. It’s not the words alone that create the mental/emotional turmoil, and I’d argue the child’s habits of thinking are much more responsible for any negative feelings than are the words. We can influence those developing habits in certain directions when the child comes across language we dislike…or we can do as you choose and shelter our children, effectively preventing them from developing deliberate thought patterns that could leave them unswayed emotionally by other people’s negatively intended language…or anything people intend negatively for that matter.

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    • pengo August 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      I think whatever story is here would be more accurately conveyed by the headline: “Unicyclist seeks attention; receives it”.

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      • Jeff August 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

        Now we’re talking!

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      • Caleb August 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm

        I had this same perspective of nearly everyone when I was in primary, secondary, and even post-secondary school, applying most my thoughts to being selfless, humble, and other such traits I attributed to the positive side of humanity. Maybe Jeff was seeking attention and maybe he wasn’t, but even if he was, making posts to show we apparently know what people like him are up to rarely does anything to discourage such behavior or to diminish the frustration we feel in observation of such behavior. I can confidently tell you now that people seeking attention hasn’t bothered me for a long time. Instead what bothers me these days is people seemingly sharing their observations of others in an effort to negatively impact perception of those others. Would that be what you were up to here? If so, I’d encourage you to get over attention seeking and enjoy yourself. Life has been much more enjoyable the less cynical I’ve become. Join me, if you’d like.

        As an aside…if somebody is in a state where they are distraught without attention, how much harm can it do for us to give them attention? That depends upon many variables, of course…sort of like the effects of words.

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        • pengo August 26, 2012 at 11:44 am

          It’s a post that shows what I obviously think someone’s up to, not what I apparently know. However, you’re free to speculate on my intentions in the same way that I’m free to speculate on and make jokes about the intentions of the Unicycle Teachable Moments, and we’ll all be okay.

          I’m glad though, that this has given you the opportunity to reflect on how enlightened you’ve become over the years and would like to congratulate you on imagining that you enjoy life more than people who don’t think like you do. Cheers!

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          • Caleb September 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm

            Well I’m sorry you see my efforts in such a way, especially if any of my intentions went unchecked by myself and your perceptions are indeed accurate. You’ve miss my intended points if you think I sought to gloat or find affirmation, and if this misconception is due to my communication, then I guess I have changes to make once again. Thanks for being honest.

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  • Steve Scarich August 24, 2012 at 8:33 am

    OK…this is slightly off topic BUT I have wondered about the media throwing around the name of the band Pussy Riot. I know they justify it by saying “Well, that is their name”, but is it really appropriate to be using it in public discourse? Calm down now, I am not a prude, but what is next, c__t being used in public discourse? What is the line?

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    • wsbob August 24, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Can’t exactly recall the explanation, but I have heard it explained that the word c__t has historic origins and that it wasn’t always a word with bad connotations. Nowadays of course, that word wouldn’t be appropriate in a school playground, and isn’t particularly appropriate much elsewhere either.

      The word, ‘bastard’ isn’t comparatively as bad, but it’s kind of amusing if the unicycle dudes and dudettes imagine they have a ghost of a chance in getting people to allow PPR to place their name with that word in it, in a kid’s park.

      The group photo accompanying this story has them looking to be a kind of good natured group of people…and they probably are…but if they’re really want to display a genuine support for the park, they’ll probably have to find a different way of doing it. Or change their name slightly…’Unicycle Dorks’…’Single Wheel Sillies’…or something like that.

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  • o/o August 24, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Unicycle Bandits?

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  • Sunny August 24, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Unicyclists must be very angry people — Serious Juggling, Unicycle Bastards.

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  • Tommyonewheel August 24, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Having read through this here list of yay sayers and nay sayers. My stance in the scenario is this….

    To all Nay Sayers, thanks for supporting the distruction of our basic rights to freedom in reguards to freedom of speach.

    To all Yay Sayers, thanks for understanding that this is just a name. I’m sure when these children go home and turn on the television there minds will be warped much worst than the word bastard….

    Maybe some of these bastards on the playground will someday want to be bastards themselves. I for one don’t know my father and it doesn’t bother me one bit, so yes I am a bastard…. But you know what else I am? I am an AMERICAN, not an AMERICAN’T.

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    • Paul August 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

      It’s not about the right to free speech, it’s about my expectation when I take my child to the playground.

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      • Caleb August 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm

        You mean the playground where children might end up doing cruel things to each other, anyway? I have wishes for everyone to practice only positive intent toward each other, but what benefit would expecting anyone to do that provide? I’ve found limiting my expectations to my own behavior to be a much more constructive practice.

        The longer we shelter our children, the longer they take to develop the mindset required to withstand hardship. If we make them dynamically tough and understanding when they’re young and resilient, they might thank us in the end rather than wish we had prepared them for life outside of their/our/anyone’s expectations.

        But now that I think about it, I doubt I’m getting to the core of any concerns here. So…what concerns do you have for your children? For what reasons do you not want words like “Bastards” to be in the playgrounds they use?

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  • mark kenseth August 24, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I’m for the UBs printing their name on the paver. It’s so sad that we’re afraid of words. If anyone reads it, they might realize it’s not the end of the world to read such a word. Unless of course we want to change the nursery rhyme to: “sticks and stones may break my bones, and words will always hurt me.” I know discourse and the use of words is very powerful, but let people judge for themselves while reading.

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    • wsbob August 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

      “I’m for the UBs printing their name on the paver. It’s so sad that we’re afraid of words. …” mark kenseth

      Fear of words is all you think this is about? The question about the use of this groups name in the setting it was proposed for has to do with decency and responsibility to youngsters.

      It also probably wouldn’t have been a good idea for this group to have their name on a park brick if the name of the group were ‘Unicycle S**theads’, or Unicycle F**kheads. Doesn’t seem like a good idea for kids to be reading that kind of thing in their park, being left with the impression that it’s acceptable language for them to be repeating.

      The word ‘bastard’ isn’t quite as negative a word as those I implied above with asterisks, but I’ve not had the impression it’s not a word most parents would like or think was a good idea for their kids to be using in public.

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      • Caleb August 25, 2012 at 5:31 pm

        Words aren’t inherently “negative” or “positive”. Such an orientation on any word varies by individual emotion and thought. The same goes for “acceptable” and “unacceptable”, “decent” and “indecent”, and basically any other qualitative directional terms we can think of to describe words.

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      • Caleb August 25, 2012 at 5:38 pm

        Further…what exactly would make the impression that such language would be acceptable? Does the phrase “Unicycle Bastards” directly translate into “‘bastards’ is an acceptable word for you to use in any given situation”? Would there be anything in the park to say such a thing? If the children are assuming they can use words written on a park brick anywhere they please, then perhaps the issue their parents should be focusing on is teaching the children to “think for themselves” as many would say.

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        • wsbob August 26, 2012 at 12:17 am

          “…If the children are assuming they can use words written on a park brick anywhere they please, then perhaps the issue their parents should be focusing on is teaching the children to “think for themselves” as many would say.” Caleb

          It’s strange that you would imagine the latter word of the UB’s name could be some kind of acceptable ‘think for themselves’ lesson for kids, on an official PPR paving stone in a kid’s playground. The latter word of the UB’s name is the kind of language that kids and their parents should not have to deal with in a children’s playground.

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          • Caleb September 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm

            I imagine there are many things I would accept that you wouldn’t, and many things I wouldn’t accept that you would. It’s such observations and imaginations that prevent me from thinking of things in terms of “acceptable”. I merely acknowledge things I like and things I don’t like, without considering them acceptable or unacceptable.

            My stated perspectives come prompted from a mindset of intending on positivity in the midst of supposed negative situations. People can continue to be bothered by the diction of others in any possible way, or they can take the time to reflect on that recurring bother and possibly develop a mental and emotional state impervious to such bother. But this won’t happen if they continue attributing that bother to words, and categorizing words as acceptable/unacceptable or language anybody should or shouldn’t have to deal with.

            It’s my opinion that nobody should have to deal with anything harmful imposed upon them by others, so I think I’m with you when you say “bastards” isn’t something kids and parents should have to deal with at the playground. I’m not in agreement with considering the specific word itself a problem, but I do wish people wouldn’t do anything intending to antagonize anybody. Is that not why you encourage people to use certain words over others?

            Whether the word is “bastards” or “bananas”, does the word itself do the antagonizing? I think it’s what we believe the words represent, rather than the words themselves, that actually troubles us, and the related changes I’ve experienced in myself motivate me to encourage others toward such a perspective. I’m not saying people “should” use this as a lesson for their children. I’m saying that if anybody ever has to face anything similarly troubling to their child, I hope they will think of a way to turn what they see as a negative situation into a beneficial one, rather than just focus on their annoyances with others and miss out on such an opportunity.

            Just above, you and others have given me thoughts on why you thought “bastards” and similar words shouldn’t be in playgrounds. Would it be so impossible or harmful for parents to have similar discussions with their children? I tend to think it could be quite possible, and quite beneficial. How is it that parents leave their children to acclimate to all kinds of negative situations in schools, day cares and wherever else, but still feel overwhelmed or annoyed by the idea of letting a child read any word in their own presence?

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  • NW Biker August 24, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Seriously, people, it’s just a word. It’s a means of expression. There are no “good” or “bad” words. People who get their knickers in a twist over a word need to realize that there are far more important things to worry about.

    And it’s their name. They have every right to use it. If the park doesn’t want to use their name on a paver, they should give the money back.

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    • Caleb August 24, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      I’m in agreement with you that there are no “good” or “bad” words, but if we’re going to adopt that mindset, we can’t ignore the fact that nothing is “important”.

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  • Sunny F August 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Just to clarify, I am the wife of one of the uni bastards and our family including three kids fully support them. I am also NOT the Sunny posting above. Thank you

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  • CaptainKarma August 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    This is just another example of a Portland affliction called “LookAtMe-itis” and should preferably be ignored. They don’t have to accept the donation, it’s not a free-speech issue. Sounds like some sanctimonious ne’ere-do-well is already threatening retaliation and vandalism, which of course = more attention for the “LookAtMeeees!”…. I’d say thanks, but no thanks and drop the conversation. Someone will complain to the city to have it removed, like the car-eating dinosaur intersection painting that was “too political”. sigh, another day in pre-apocalyptic Portland, OR.

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  • Case August 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Next thing you know they’re going to be asking for separated unicycle lanes. Bastards.

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  • drM August 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    They are listed among the donors on Harper’s Playground website. Funny how it is appropriate there.


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  • kp August 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    By the bye: For anyone that would like to participate in the pavers fundraiser for the new playground (it’s an amazing project) you can do so online now. 1 week left I believe. You can use your name, quote, what have you… *almost* anything you want : )


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