26 June 2015

[liff] The 21st Century Kind Of Officially Got Under Way At Last Today …

… when America finally joined the rest of the planet.

Of my gay friends, I don't want to hear anything but you going off and enjoying your lives together.

Of those who don't feel as though marriage is something gay people have a right to … I just don't want to hear anything from you again. You have been proven wrong. History has proven you wrong. The Constitution proves you wrong.

And so it goes.

24 June 2015

[teh_funnay] How One Sometimes Feels When Watching The News Out Of Salem

Tomorrow's another day, Jake.

[liff] My Wife Says Things: Know Present, Know Future …

Whereas I kind of drone on, when it comes to philosphical matters, The Wife™ tends to save it up and then give it out in a burst of light:

This impressed me, so I share it here. I don't know about anyone else, but I read it as Know Present, Know Future … No Present, No Future.

Your mileage may vary. Let it do so. 

[pdx_art] Gwenn Seemel: The Legacy of Charlie Hales

Gwenn Seemel, who did the amazing Kirk Reeves mural on NE Grand Avenue at Lloyd Blvd in the Lloyd District, has her doubts about the legacy of Mayor Charlie Hales.

I find I have the same thoughts, feelings, and impressions. While people like me stew and worry and argue within ourselves and amongst ourselves, she arts it out.


The legacy of Mayor Charlie Hales from Gwenn Seemel on Vimeo.

Get a closeup of that picture, go to her blog: http://www.gwennseemel.com/index.php/blog/comments/legacy_charlie_hales/

23 June 2015

[pdx] SW 11th And W Burnside … A Flash Of What Was

The first few blocks of SW 11th Avenue, looking south from West Burnside Street, are amongst my favorite views in town … and not just because seeing it in this light, on a Sunday evening, means we're about to spend a blissful few hours in the litmosphere of Powell's.

It's just so delightfully close to my idea of urban, the ideal I formed growing up in Silverton. There are a lot of things to recommend it, in my view. The old façades of the buildings, reminding us of a time when Portland was a bit more affordable. One building down that block is still an SRO cheapass place, the Joyce Hotel.

The angle of the street a block up is a geographic detail I adore about Portland: the original city grid's alignment and the alignment of the old Couch DLC mesh at this point, giving interesting bends, beguiling views, and interestingly shaped blocks and buildings.

But there's a lot of old Portland still echoing from these blocks. It's a charming view and one you can lose yourself in, and resonates with my rememberances of all sorts of Big Towns on the television, in old movies and half-hour comedies and dramas.

And if you pull in and frame just right …

There really is a kind of down'n'dirty magic to such a view. An urban view. An American view. You can hear the echoes of the town that was … calling you. Old Portland and New Portland are having an argument over what kind of Portland will be going forward from here. Here, at SW 11th and West Burnside, it hangs in the air, a palpable thing.

[pdx_art] The Spritely Bean Comics Cafe … A Grand Opening Six Months in the Making

It is true of some places that, even though they have a certain inception date, they can't help but start sharing the awesome before they're actually open

Such is The Spritely Bean.

The Spritely Bean (http://www.spritelybean.com) is a little comic cafe and a brand new thing at 5829 SE Powell Blvd, in an area of Southeast Portland that is, quizzically, nearly devoid of decent coffee places or bookstores of any kind. So a need is being answered here, and answered with a really delightful, very Portland approach.

Coffee, zines, and comics. We see nothing the matter with this.

You step inside and the place is comfortable, appropriately lit, inviting. It's got graphic novels, zines, and comics in the back, and a wonderful place you can spread out and enjoy quality time in the neighborhood all around. It's the sort of place you can spread out in and enjoy your coffee, your comics … or a really nifty selection of cheap eats and delightfully unexpected finds like Vietnamese iced coffee.

Adam (pictured left) and Huynh are two of the most affable and warm people we've met in a while. They run the place and are its friendly heart and soul. How affable? I'd met Adam once … just once, mind you … and when we crossed paths in the dealer floor at Linework NW a couple of months back he recognized me instantly and greeted me as an old friend.

You can't fake friendliness like that. Free hot dogs too!

This last Sunday was the official Grand Opening. Spritely Bean has been open for about four or six months now, but they had to make it official some time, and now it is. I was happy to see the people coming through on mostly a constant basis … it's a destination place, obviously (we happily ran into Bwana Spoons, who happened by and spoke with the proprietors for a while, and left with the most delectable looking frappé), but also a neighborhood place in a neighborhood that needs a place like this. The patronage was steady, which is always a good sign.

We looked at what they had to offer and what they have coming up, and this is really a place more people should work into their regular haunts. There are figure drawing sessions that have been held and will be held; you'll see a rich and exciting selection of zines (see the picture right); I discovered Modest Medusa there (a couple of books are still on offer). There is very much the indie and the local spirit there, everything that Portland's supposed to be famous for, artistically, is all here in microcosm.

It's not in our neighborhood but it's not too far out of the way, and it's something that that particular neighborhood has needed for a very long time. I'm happy to see it there, the neighbors are happy to see it there, and I'm hoping it has a long happy life in that area.

I'm not one for foreshadowing and omens,but finding a 2B drawing pencil in the middle
of an open table is significant somehow.
We're going to go by there on a regular basis, and I suggest everyone does.

18 June 2015

[pdx] What Good is Weird If You Can't Afford It?

We here at Home Base have been following the upwardly mobile cost of having a place to sleep in Portland with more than a little alarm. And while we're nowhere near retirement age, we do remember when one could find a place to hang in most areas of the core of Portland without having to pay more than half of ones' monthly poke.

We ourselves lived in a lovely one-room/kitchenette with a shared bath in NW Portland … NW Flanders between 21st and 22nd Avenues … for $150/month. And the same apartment we had near SE 52nd and Flavel until '04 … and was paying a mere $600/month for it (860 sf/2br/1bath) now leases for a year at more than $1,000 a month.

That's insane.

I love Portland's weird. I like helping to keep Portland weird. But if there's a sign at the city limits that says "You Must Be This Wealthy To Enter", then what good is weird? 

17 June 2015

[pdx] The View Of The Stadium From the Stadium Fred Meyer

For a very long time now, tucked into the tony area around NW 20th Ave and West Burnside Street, there's been a Fred Meyer store … the Stadium Fred Meyer. Adjacent to what we now call Providence Park, which was called Jeld-Wen Field, which was called PGE Park before that, the structure was once known as Civic Stadium, a rubric I still think of it as.

Too, the Stadium Fred Meyer store has been through an immense amount of change. It's recently completed a re-re-re-invention, and is quite a comfortable place to watch the city go by.

It has comfortable places to take your food you just got from the deli and look over the intersection of 20th and W Burnside. And it frames the 20th/Burnside gates to Providence Park handsomely - and somewhat intriguingly. There's a dystopian vibe in the way that low tin structure (with two of our ubiquitous street-food trucks in front) kind of distresses the view. Kind of like a scene out of Soylent Green, but with much, much fewer people.

The gates to the gladiatorial arena we love so much. The Timbers do an interesting thing. They get fans to pose for pictures every year and the best go on billboards and such. The fellah on the left of the clock has a rather witty jersey which tells you how much pity an opponent will receive in an ideal match. Ideal matches don't always happen, of course; that's why sportswriters are still so important.

The 5/40 logo is all about team history. In 1975, the Timbers heralded the coming of Soccer City USA, and that's been 40 years. 5 years ago, in 2010, the Timbers joined the ranks of MLS.

History. There's always more of it. And I actually love the way a football club can make abstruse symbolism out of it all. Portland's love of soccer seems very European in this regard.

Immediately west of this intersection is a wedge-shaped block bounded by SW Morrison Street, 20th Avenue, and West Burnside. That building above is one of my favorites. The lower floor is the Kingston Saloon, a long-time fixture in the nabe and, as one can see (and cannily so), a local headquarters for Timbers fans on match day.

The city grid south of West Burnside from the river to about 21st Avenue is canted to follow the river. The grid north of that aligns pretty close to the North Star (which is why it's tilted ever-so-slightly off plumb). The collision of the two grids results in a fun, interesting pattern, dog-legging streets and wedge-shaped blocks which makes for a singularly-interesting place to roam. It's long been one of my favorite parts of town for this reason.

My favorite signs are the non-standard ones.  And, a big no-no in design is stacked type, but there are places where it's appropriate. Here, for instance.

Fred Meyer's type style has changed over the years, but in the modern age, it's always been italicized, bolded, and red. It's a familiar approach and comforting … Fred Meyer has essentially been Kroger West for quite a while now, and just to show I'm not throwing too much of a shade on them, I'll give them credit for maintaining the look, feel, and atmosphere of an honored, Oregon-born-and-bred brand name.

Portland without Fred Meyer really wouldn't be Portland anymore, would it? Kroger seems to understand this. That's responsible brand stewardship I can respect.

Photo by The Wife™; one of inner Portland's ubiquitous streetlamps … now, as I've said many a time, I was born in Silverton and spent the majority of my teen years in Salem. Portland's always been a little more proud of its patina of age than cities down state, and for me, the wonderful streetlamps exemplify that.

It might not be Portland's signature …  but it could be one of them.

Sunday afternoon, May 30th, 2015. Dateline, Portland, Oregon … my home town.

[pdx] Anonymous Urban Vista, NW Portland, NW 11th Ave By Powell's

This photo I enjoy and snapped because of it's photographic non-specificness. This could be anywhere, in Anybigcity, USA.

To be exact, it's a bit of NW 11th Avenue between Burnside and Couch Streets. That building is, of course, Powell's City'O'Books … the 2nd floor and up of that building is the parking garage which is old, respectable, and, sadly, no longer as affordable as it once once. Sic transit gloria mundi, I suppose.

The Coffee Room, where so many cozy Sunday nights are spent, is just visible on the extreme right of the picture, in windows overlooking the rear-end of that red car. It was lensed in March of 2014.

My hometown is special, but it's also got things every other big town has. And I love those too. 

[pdx] Looking West From Laurelhurst, Sunday Afternoon

Pointed west, into the long afternoon, at 32nd and East Burnside, the Burnside portal to the Laurelhurst neighborhood:

They say Portland's east side is 'flat'. I've always laughed at that description. In some places, not even comparably flat serves the topography. It's level in spots but well makes up for it in others.

Several places offer these long, lovely vistas down eastside streets. In the distance, you'll see the US Bancorp Tower (Oregon's 2nd tallest building) and backing that up, the West Hills area approximating King's Heights. These views are particularly intriguing to me because the large blocks of mass depicted by the trees and the road resolve into nice simple shapes that suggest an impressionist painting. 

16 June 2015

[teh_funnay] It's Either This Or Your Next Favorite Character Will Die


[pdx] Burgerville Souvenir Pencils

In doing a bit of micro-tidying I came upon this, which we still have.

Burgerville USA's 50th anniversary was two-three years back. At the time much swag was to be had. We grabbed a handful of these:

There are still fourteen of them. With all the pencils and pens that have collected here as Chez Klein, there's no need to use them just now. Though I will, eventually. But that day's a while off, I wot.

[pdx] A Touch of Pride at Powell's City of Books

Also, this last Sunday was the apex of Pride Weekend in Portland, and the joie de vivre was manifest throughout the downtown area. Holiday spirit was pervasive. Naturally a lot of those people we saw at Powell's but I didn't get too many pictures … but I did get one.

The couple walked into the coffee room and the black-dressed one stood out immediately, as much for height as anything else; slender and easily 6-foot-5 plus in height, they were what we, back in the day, would call a 'tall drink of water' … although the slim-fitting black-and-mesh outfit added a strong dash of spirit to that glass of water.

I tried to get an unaware photo of them, because they moved with such an easy way, very comfortable in their world, I found that quite attractive. But, as anyone can see, someone had my number. Ah, well … you can't win 'em all.

I didn't have the courage to walk up and say hi; I wanted to showcase the casual gestalt, and that would have ruined what was left. But The Wife™ did approach our tall friend as the couple left the coffee room, and complimented the hair color.

My wife has a certain ebullience. It was a positive boon here. I hope the rest of their life is as casual as the ease at which they carried themselves there. That would be a sort of bliss, I think. 

[pdx] The Napkin Flower Guy at Powell's City of Books

Somehow, over time, the Coffee Room at Powell's City of Books has become a regular haunt for our Sunday evenings. It's started to feel like a part of our home; even if we don't plan on buying a book that day, we're there, drinking in the atmosphere, seeing the people, and enjoying the still-affordable Portland downtown sunset, which can be had in abundance through the newly-replaced and capacious windows.

Our home from home, late Sunday afternoon
The coffee there is excellent, I don't mind saying.

Occasionally, you'll see, if you're of the right timing, pale flowers left behind. If they seem to be made of the same material as the napkins, that's because they are; and though they seem to appear as if by magic, they're the product of this fellow:

He works patiently, sometimes conversing with people beside him, sometimes intently focussed. His technique is immaculate and precise and he never makes a bad move. All of his creations are beautiful, otherworldly, and somewhat haunting.

Sometimes he lingers 'till quite late and then leaves a few works behind. This particular Sunday, he packed up fairly early, lovingly placing each finished blossom inside a plastic box for protection in transportation, and left with the lot.

He wears a black cap with the legend WORLDFLOWERS upon the front.

I was happy to catch him in the moment of communication.

30 May 2015

[art] One Thing Bwana Spoons Did At Muse Art and Design

On Wednesday we were privileged to attend another one of +Muse Art and Design 's increasingly powerful demo-seminars. We went to one in February that I'm still unpacking, not because it's complex, but because I'm a mess. But I'll get to that one in due course. This dude abides.

Last Wednesday's event was about demoing the Acryla line of acrylic gouaches. They're good ones, and more on that to come. The featured artist was none other than Bwana Spoons, a man whose name is fun to say and is worth coming just to see him work. And he demoed the gouaches by doing so. A more complete write up is to come, but, for now, let me give you a taste of what he did do.

The man dances with chaos. But, like I said, more on that anon. Stay tuned.

[Out122ndWay] Early '50s Nash Ambassdor Custom-SE 122nd and Market

This is the kind of vintage autos we grow out here.

At SE 122nd and Market, on the SW corner, there's a small strip center. It was anchored for a very long time by a 7-Eleven store whose franchisees, earlier this year, removed to the Milwaukie area. A Plaid Pantry (we are thrilled to learn) is going in there in its time; we know this by the OLCC liquor-license applications posted on the door. There's been minor construction activity in that old store space.

The rest of the building is home to a handful of Latino businesses; there's the most delightful tienda, where we get pan dulce to die for; a seafood restaurant called Luna Azul, and a couture shop where you can get all sorts of ranchero style mens fashions and quinceañera dresses and such. Parked out front of the tienda, there was this old-man-of-the-road, in beautiful condition:

What I know for sure is that this is a Nash Ambassador Custom. I suspect it's a 1952 or 1953, but which year, I can't be certain.

But isn't that one sweet ride? 

[Out122ndWay] 122nd and Stark … Goodbye Strip Club, Hello Church

I consider this the mother of all real-estate flips.

The building you'll see in the next illustration is very close to 122nd and SE Stark; it's address is 333 SE 122nd Avenue. It corners on 122nd and SE Oak. For a very long time, it's been a strip club or lounge of some sort; it's most recent invocation was a place called Soobie's, a place which was mostly responsible for low-quality food and the occasional gun battle. Some months back, it went through the traditional stages of Portland-strip-bar terminal disease; loss of OLCC liquor permit, conversion to 'juice' bar, and closure.

But look at it now. What a … conversion.

She's doffed her sexy red dress, put on more sombre, Sunday clothes … and she's now a church. The Shepherd's Gate Church, to be exact. It's not that large a building … I can't see it being that big of a congregation.

Going from a den of remarkable iniquity of a den of extreme morality must have twitched the fabric of space-time just a bit.

The most cosmically humorous point occurs on the current configuration of the new church's reader board, displayed with its existentially-tracked message perforce:

GOD IS NOWHERE seems to me to be a counter-intuitive message for a church, but what do I know from theology?

And so it goes. 

21 May 2015

[art] #MtStHelensArt35 : Gridding Out the Picture

The object so far is to make this print into a form that I can copy. Bigger is better; you have many little details that you want to reproduce as faithfully as possible, and in order to see them well, you go big. Everything because more easy to cope with and draw that way.

If you're doing any kind of visual arts these days, technology is your friend! The above picture shows the graphic, which I had gridded out with a pencil and scanned back into a digital file. This TIFF is then loaded into Photoshop, where I made guides along those pencil grid lines. Then, making sure the snap was on and set to guides, it was pretty easy to copy out individual squares and paste them into another 8.5x11" document, then scale up the individual squares until each was about 3 inches on a side. Each square was individually labelled so I'd know where to put them on the final drawing grid, which I've not drawn out yet, but that should be my next step … selecting the size of Bristol I want this on then positioning the grid to visually satisfy.

The grid is 10 modules wide and 8 modules deep. The squares are all 1-inch square, except the bottom rank, in which each is 1/2 inch tall and 1 inch wide. I'm holding in my hand right now a print of the E3F3E4F4 sheet, and the detail is big and lovely and reproducible.

The two main concepts at work here? 1) Lift something complex out of context, obliterate that context, and the complex tends to simplify, and 2) a big drawing like this is best accomplished the way you eat an elephant … one bite at a time.

One bite-size square at a time, in this case. 

19 May 2015

[liff in Cascadia] Drawing Mount Saint Helens on Her 35th Anniversary

I adore the anniversary of the Mount Saint Helens eruption. So much archival footage. So available via the internet. So many gratuitous apostrophes.

It's Mount Saint Helens, not Mount Saint Helen's. Just so we all know. Now that I've said that, I feel better; I can move on.

Specifically, I'm going to be taking up an art project that I've attempted once already. I've printed out, courtesy of the intarwebz, two pictures of Loo-wit in full-throated roar from May of 1980, thus:

I'm going to rendering one of these in graphite, more than likely on Bristol board. The idea of these monochrome studies are intriguing and beguiling because I can picture the techniques I'd use to do it; the laying down of the graphite, the blending out, the marks I might make for details; the lifting out of layers of gray with kneadable eraser; I can see every technique I might use. I've used them all before in smaller, much less consequential drawings. I've never used them all in such concert, though.

The thing is, I'm intentionally swinging for the fences here. I will either come out of this project clearly punching above my artistic weight or making of it a beautiful failure. I don't think I can wait until I'm ready for this, though. I've got to do it now whether or not I'm ready. Cannot explain why that is, but I'm sure it's evident in one form or another, if only ineffably.

I'll post status updates as I work through the various stages, and the hashtag will be #MtStHelensArt35. 

[pdx] The Past Tense of Hung Far Low

This can be found at the corner of NW 4th Avenue and Couch Street, one block north of the Chinatown Gate:

It's notable for a couple of reasons.

About half a decade back, this sign matched the reality. Moreover, it was in a sad state. That supporting structure there was of a frailty, and the whole thing had pretty much become the Damoclesian sword of NW 4th and Couch, ready to transfix and/or obliterate any random pedestrian. The sign was perforce removed and refurbished, and successfully crowdfunded back into its rightful place above that corner of Chinatown.

It no longer has neon, but it's never looked better. Close examination of the sign gives delightful continuing gifts to the viewer, from the lovingly-restored type to the delightfully-detailed pagoda architecture of the sign's capital. Like some parts of Portland, though, it represents not the Portland that is, but the Portland that was.

Hung Far Low, the restaurant, still exists. Like a great deal that used to characterize what I remember as Portland, it's removed to the more affordable part of town, the Heavy Eastside. Some say it starts at 82nd Avenue, but my dividing line is a north-south line going more or less through the summit of Mount Tabor. West of that line, you're in Portlandia; east, more the real world. And HFL is out here, now, in a low-slung building on the northeast corner of SE 82nd and Division that has vague art-deco touches and was once home to a place called 88 Hongs.

They're calling that area of 82nd the Jade District now, which causes me torn feelings, because I don't like it when things move on in this way. I decidedly like having a center of culture like this much closer to me, though in return for that I sense that Chinatown is slowly evolving from an actual name with true resonance into a insincere brand for a certain area of Portland that used to be Chinatown but really is only that in name … kind of like, at Disneyland, Futureworld isn't really in the future, it just pretends to be. Trading on palimpsest charm to attract partiers on weekend nights.

At least we still have the Republic Café and the House of Louie and a few social clubs and a place or two that still evokes the down and gritty nature that that area had as recently as a decade ago.

But how long will those be there?

[pdx] Powell's City Of Books: Where We Keep Our Excess Culture

In the Orange Room in +Powell's Books, Inc. , there's a sign near where they now stock the journals and cards and such. Here's what a part of it looks like:

Sometimes it makes sense that there's excess culture, and it's made of recreation and misfortune, and you can find it at Powells.

This is probably the most meta thing I've ever seen.

24 April 2015

[creativity] A Pilot Program Promoting Perfection of Practice

After a great deal of reflection, I'm going to try an experiment to instill the one quality that I desperately need and have never quite mastered.

It goes by many names. Persistence. Patience. But the facet I'm most concerned with is Discipline. 

The big D. The hafta-hafta. What must be done, sine qua non anything else.

I have had skill. I've let them atrophy for a variety of reasons. I'm starting over in many many ways. But so far, every attempt to channel my boredom and rounded edges back into a sharper mien has fallen flat. Every single one. I was writing in my diary, just now, and something common to a few inflection points … the Muse seminar in February, Linework NW and meeting Lisa Congdon and her book, Art, Inc., the idea behind SARK's MicroMovements, an evolving commitment to more deliberation in my everyday things … everything coalesced in a single idea, as simple as can be.

Starting within the next few days, I'll decide to stake out a 30-minute block for creating something. Writing, drawing, either throwaway or persistent. In the beginning, diary writing (I should be writing every day; that's something I don't do, and to me, that's a pure shame which I'll not hide from), but there are ideas of things that have been pestering me. But my superpower is inertia … and you all know how that goes.

Every plan has a gimmick. Here's mine. The first day, 30 minutes. The second day, 31. The third day, 32 … by the end of the month, I'll be logging a minimum 60 minutes a day of creative calisthenics. Since I'm starting with 30 minutes … hell, I can endure 30 minutes of anything. And I can always, always do another sixty seconds on top of what I've already done. And the repetition means to encode the new habit into my psyche's DNA.

If I miss a day? Still increase it by that minute. If I can hold out for sixty extra seconds, I can certainly do 120.

It's a manageable goal. A manageable execution. A manageable evolution.

I'm a believer in evolution on more than one level. Managing ones' own is always best if you can arrange that. 

23 April 2015

[art] One More Linework NW Post: Brett Carville and Fifty Licks Ice Cream

As though the experiences in the last posting weren't memorable enough, there were two others and I can't quite comprehend how I forgot to mention them, so I'll make up for that remission here and now.

Brett Carville is a rather affable fellow who lives here in Portland and works at Laika (the lucky bastid). He does inspired, edgy cartooning bordering on the grotesque; the characters he draws arrest the attention and make you wonder about the leaping creative mind that can hold that sort of chaos within it, never mind transferring it to a drawing of any sort. He's an incredibly affable fellow, and chatted gladly with my wife about his drawing and his characters. What really drew our attention was the card he was handing out  promoting himself and his Life of Craig comic book.

The characters (clip on right) are lined up, impassive, posing against a white background. It reminded us of nothing so much as the lineup of aliens from Barlow's Guide To Extraterrestrials, that legendary book by the equally-legendary Wayne Barlow, whom should need no further introduction round these parts. Can you feel the echoes of Barlow informing this work, even indirectly? We fancy we can. It gives Brett's work extra resonance, because it speaks to us from the same place of fancy. We love it. To see the whole lot, surf on over to the project on Brett's Behance portfolio.

The other (clip, left) is as perfect a piece of whimsy as we've seen in a while. Keep Portland Weird then like to say, endlessly, ad nauseam, round these parts. But when the banner is being paraded down West Burnside Street past Powells by a mastodon-like tusked beastie on stick-y, stilt-y legs, the whole idea of Portland being weird takes on new dimension. Or, just maybe, something's come to town that means Portland will have to up her weird game to the next level. Are we up to it? The passing traffic on Burnside assents by its mere tolerance: we are Portland, and we are awesome. It delighted us so much that The Wife™ bought a lovely print of it, and Brett produces quality-product … it's printed on photo paper and begs to be framed. You can see the whole of this not-so-wee beastie by following this link here.

The last thing was a bit of epicure in from the building. We'd missed Kim Jong Grillin', but +Fifty Licks Ice Cream was still there, and The Wife™ can't say no to a taste of ice cream. But Fifty Licks challenged us. We hadn't gotten on board the artisanal, gourmet ice cream wagon yet … were we ready? We decided to take the plunge with a scoop of Salted Carmelized Honey flavor. A warm, brown color that spoke of summer hillsides, we approached cautiously; the guy who served us educated us on what 'carmelized honey' meant, and I was duly impressed. The taste was divine; we had no reason to be apprehensive. Savory-sweet with notes of burnt sugar and a delightfully bitter-bite finishing note that made me wish that we weren't sharing a scoop.

Any time we get into discussions about flavors like this with people we usually dish a little on the hoard of so-called 'chocoholism' that's swept the country since we can't remember when it started. It's not that we don't think people should like chocolate, but there's so much bad, blah bland chocolate (and if there's any indictment of our current culture, it's that it should have rendered chocolate, one of the boldest tastes out there, bland) out there that everyone seems to go mad over, we sometimes wonder if chocoholism is some kind of pose. Well, the Fifty Licks guy shut us up but good with a taste of a wonderfully complex and nuanced chocolate-fudge concoction that had both notes in a wonderful balance with an almost coffee-like finish. 

Those who love good ice cream can go thank whatever gods there be for Chad Draizin and Fifty Licks Ice Cream.

And that's it for now for the Linework 2015 report. Check in next year, when we go both days. 

20 April 2015

[art] What We Saw At The Linework NW, This Year

I must say, in the short time it's been extant, Linework NW has made strides in seven-league boots.

Last year was its first. Reviewing what I wrote then, It's plain we had fun. You certainly couldn't beat the price. And it was a charge being able to enter the Norse Hall, over by NE 11th and Couch.

Last year was such a success, they did it again. And they did it better. This rocket, my friends, is taking off. Whereas last year they made do with the big room downstairs and had the palmful of panels in the bar over a single day's proceedings, this year, it was two days worth of niftiness, more panels, and more space (the panels moved up to what was called the "Lodge Room"). And, instead of just one day, it was two.

About the only thing that suffers is the air circulation in that place. Not that it checked the velocity of the feeling in there one little tiny bit. At Linework NW, the air was also filled with this palpable electric charge … the community feeling, the creativity was almost so solid you could pluck it out of the air. And this was late on the second day.

We came in later on that second day. And it was so busy that I found myself regretting missing the first (if for no other reason than we missed one of the big-time guests … none other than Daniel Clowes (talk about punching above your weight. This is only the second iteration of Linework NW)). But the cosmos seems to be paying attention, and rewarded us handsomely for just showing up.

To wit:

We sat in on one panel. Hazel Newlevant, Taneka Stotts, Tristan Tarwater, Lucy Bellwood and Kory Bing led a witty, knowledgeable talk about crowdfunding, touching on Kickstarter, Patreon, execution, what to expect, and how to expect the unexpected … no matter where I go personally with my art from here, I didn't necessarily see a crowdfunding step in the mix, but I have a good idea now why I might do it, and may at some point take it on.

A creator I muchly admire sat in on the talk; none other than Barry Deutsch, long time proprietor of Alas, A Blog, and creator of one of the winningest heroes I've ever run across, Mirka, whose adventures are chronicled in Hereville (of which I've exulted before), a brave graphic novel series about a brave young woman who takes on adversaries that none of us could frankly handle. I got to meet Barry, well, actually, my wife roped me in (gladly!) not knowing I'd heard of Alas, which was a moment of married-person comedy. Barry's a truly nice guy.

You don't get away from one of these without scoring something memorable, and since the event is still free, that's free as in Beer (top that, ComiCons) there's that much more money to spend for the tightly-budgeted on a goodie or an experience. For me, that came from the fertile mind of Lisa Congdon, who was a very nice person and sold me one of her books … one with danged useful info in it … Art, Inc …

And then she did me an extra blessing, and signed it.

She chatted me up for a couple of moments. Not only did I listen to what she said, I listened to what I said back to her. I've always believed in paying attention to myself as well as others, because sometimes I find the most wonderful things. And this time, I found something. I need to unpack it, so I won't go on about it right here, at least not yet. I will. May be next week, may be next year. But I will expound. Eventually we all like sharing our epiphanies, and I'm no different from that.

The Wife™ had herself a sort-of-a-cosmic experience. She decided to plump for the delightful book D.I.Y. Magic, by Anthony Alvarado, who's also a thoroughly delightful person, as we found out because he, was, of course, there. There was a little bit of human humor over the fact that, at first, she didn't realize the guy behind the table was the author; she wondered aloud that it was possible for us to get the book signed and he acknowledged that it was; to the question in the air, I opined  that The answer is yes. 

Well, as it happened, he'd made a habit that day of writing a bit of what he'd heard snatched from the air as appropriate … and there it was, inscribed just south of the title and just north of his byline, on the title page … THE ANSWER IS YES.

Which is appropriate, in an existential way. When it comes to Linework NW, for us, the answer will always be yes. 

11 April 2015

[Address_Nerd] In Passing: Two Interesting Salem Street Names

While I've not called Salem home for many a year (and at this point feel myself more of a Portlander than I've ever been of anywhere else), I'd be lying to myself if I said I didn't still feel somewhat at home there.

You can take the boy out of Marion County (or he can), but you really can't take Marion County out of the boy. The strawberry patch has set its stamp upon me, aye.

Since I don't get back to Salem as often as I ought, Google Street View is my friend betimes. And since the street level photography has gotten so damn good over the last few years, I indulge my urge to see what the street names and blades look like and how they have changed over time. There are two interesting bits of nomenclature that have stuck with me. I delved and found, and I'd like to share them now.

1. The Cutoff at the end of 12th Street.

12th Street, SE, is a major access backbone to the area of southeast Salem east of Commerical Street but west of the Salem Airport. For over 2 and a half miles south of State Street it distributes traffic and commerce to those inner south-east side neighborhood areas, climbing the hill south of Vista Avenue, and then swerving southwestward to merge with Commercial Street at about the 3800 block, just north of where Sunnyside Road SE peels off.

What is easily missed, though, is that the road stops being 12th Street SE at that point. There is a 12th Street SE south of this point … but it lines up with the main stem of 12th and goes from Duffield Heights St SE south to Hilfiker Lane SE, in the small neighborhood just east of Commerical, south of the 12th St light. That diagonal section connecting 12th at Oakhill Avenue SE to the big traffic signal plenum at Commerical Street is actually known as …

12th STREET CUT-OFF SE. A real mouthful of a name. But it lends itself to, perhaps, the most intriguing looking street blades Salem can boast. The above blade blends the signage for Ibsen St SE and 12th Street Cut-off due to the interesting angle of the intersection, and the extension across the main road that allows southbound 12th Street traffic to access Commercial Street northbound … a dendritic ramp affair that also connects to Promotory Place SE.

Another interesting thing is that the signage is not consistent. There are two other cross streets to 12th Street Cut-off, Doris Ave SE and Oakhill Ave SE, and both the signs shift the "ST" generic to above the block index, leaving the "CUT OFF" kind of dangling there.

The street name is most prosaic, as the cut-off does provide a shortcut to Commercial Street. Giving it a variant name also prevents a duplicated street name, as the southern third of 12th Street Cut-Off is somewhat parallel to the southernmost extensions of 12th Street SE, just a few blocks to the east.

2. The One And Only Link You Need.

The other interesting blade happens in West Salem. I lived near this place for a very short time. There is a street that links Kingwood Dr NW and the place where Hillcrest Dr NW and Riverview Dr NW come together. This is a very short street, on the order of only about 180 feet in length, and in honor of its functional position of being very near three streets but not actually being part of any of them, it's simply (and also prosaically) called …


The "ST" generic seems to be a later addition; when I lived in that neighborhood, maps and the street sign simply called it The Link, NW. Latterly, I've noticed, post offices and city planners abhor a vacuum in the generic spot (Witness here in Portland where SE Reedway (a per se street name sans generic) is increasingly posted as SE Reedway St, a misnomer. So, the awkwardish The Link Street NW it is for them. I'll always see it a little different.

At least the word THE has been retained, giving a memorable presentation. 

09 April 2015

[map] A 1955 Portland Map Reproduction You Can Afford … At Powell's Books

As time goes on, one has a hard and harder time finding old maps of Portland. Either you've seen them before or they're just too expensive.

Powell's City of Books to the rescue. In a bin just to the right of the elevator doors in the Red Room, for less than five dollars a pop, you can find this:

It's the map on the right, of course. It's a "Map Wrap" from Nu-Vue Studio, a Minnesota company that does a rather admirable range of them. On 60# Text, it's good for wrapping things … or makes a nifty poster.

The detail is honest and pure and lovely to look at. Particularly delightful is the incomplete Banfield Expressway … the entry to which at the time was at what we now call the 43rd Avenue offramp. The future still lay ahead.

Remember, what we today call US Highways they then called Interstate highways. They were the interstate highways.

And that was the way it was in 1955.

Red Room. Powell's City of Books. Less than $5.

You can't go wrong.

[logo, art] Seb Lester Don't Need No Digital Design Program

As anyone who spends time with a pen knows, it can do anything. Just takes practice, and effort.

As pointed at by this article at Sploid,  Seb Lester is the sort of pen artist many of us should like to become. Him and his ink can create visually-perfect versions of logos without resorting to one digital tool.

Now, don't get me wrong here … I love digital tools. Photoshop is one of the greatest things to come from the mind of man and woman; I'm in sloppy love with Illustrator, and have had successful and fun interactions with GIMP and Inkscape. I'd never want to completely do without computers. But ink and pen is the sine qua non of design, that without which we wouldn't have what we have. And just like pen and paper arithmetic is good to know, pen and ink design is a fundamental. You just don't get the physical feedback with computer design … there's a reason, I think, that when every digital designer I know of has the chance, they get a tablet and a digital pen. And it's no accident that computers have evolved toward a pen-and-tablet form factor.

You can get a lot done on a keyboard. The most human interface looks like what we've been using for, literally, thousands of years.

This video is about three minutes time-lapsed worth of Mr. Lester doing his astounding best. There's more links to more awesomeness at the Sploid article linked previous.

[liff] Nerdmasté … A Salutation For All My Nerd And Geek Friends

Whatever else we feel about the nerd in society … most of my true friends are. I would not have this any other way. I love my tribe.

07 April 2015

[art] Doing A Small Mucha Thing

It took me a shockingly long time to decipher, for myself, that I love the poster art of Alphonse Mucha. I come to certain realizations rather late. I've recognized that this is my way and I've made a sort of peace with it; I'm not down with it, no, but it is what it is. We ship the information and move ahead.

Once I realized that this was one of my visual loves I've read about as much as I possibly could. I've assimilated the central legend of the man, how a chance meeting with Sarah Barnhardt would catapult the man to the sort of overnight success that you so frequently hear about, that artist who worked patiently on his art until the lightning bolt struck and when it did, he so happened to be ready to catch it.

His posters are, of course, justifiably gorgeous and give the eye back all the love it offers. Gismonda is memorable, La Samaritaine gorgeously intriguing. One wonders what sort of career La Barnhardt would have inscribed with today's supernovaesque media behind her. For my emotional money, though, the girl in the Cycles Perfecta ad has my heart, the way she beckons with her eyes and her open expression from the page.

In the book I checked out from the Multnomah County Library, I found a photo of the rough sketch for Cycles Perfecta and, reduced to its opening pencil marks, it looked like something I could do … or at least, something I should attempt. I haven't drawn anything for a very long time.

It was worth a try.

Cycle girl courtesy Mucha and Multnomah County Library. GraphiteCourtesy Cretacolor; Bristol ATCs courtesy Strathmore; Ink courtesy
Stabilo (and Copic (not shown)); all courtesy my hard-earned bux.

When you neglect your artistic jones for a long long time, you enter a sort of strange stasis. You start to feel as though you're keeping it in a box for just the right time. Then you open it and it feels awkward, stiff, but you use it anyway, because you've told yourself you've been away too long, and some people you love, who know you're shorting yourself until you do this thing, have never, oddly, given up on you even though you have, in a way given up on yourself.

So, the drawing itself feels stiff and awkward. It's quite rewarding, actually, even though you don't get it done the way you want to get it done. Of course, it'll be work. You knew this already. Same thing as happens with someone whose let themselves get out of physical shape after being in great condition. You're lugging this weight.

So, false-start here, bad line there. No matter. Do it anyway. And the result isn't great, but what did you expect? Mucha worked for years and did it every day. the result, seen below, does not satisfy me, but … but … I am happy for it. I did this thing. And the eyes are too wide and crabby; the curve of the face, comically-tragically asymmetrical. The mouth doesn't look anything like the mouth of the original.

She looks like a rank beginner, which is what I'm back to being. I have only myself to blame. You use it or you lose it; but if I didn't have it to begin with at some time or another, it wouldn't have got me this far.

Ahh, Square One. So we meet again.

And so it goes. 

06 April 2015

[Out122ndWay] The Sign At Powell Villa

Out 122nd Way we do kind of fancy that we safekeep the pre-Portlandia Portland (not that I dislike them or anything like that, but they do get a bit smug about reinventing the city). And two of those things are pre-sign code signs. There's one on NE 122nd Avenue in front of the legendary Ron Tonkin dealership. And there's this one.

Powell Villa is a shopping center from back in the day that's still operating. Of course, the anchor grocery store, whatever it was, hove out some years back; there's an Oregon Department of Human Services office filling that space. There's a few small business in an outbuilding on the NW corner of the property. Our favorite Ace Hardware store is there (Love Powell Villa Ace, and they love us back). There's a billiards hall. There's a Baskin Robbins. There's a 7-Eleven (one of the new ones). And there's this sign.

Standing tall and holding court over the landscape just south of SE Powell Blvd on SE 122nd, it seems to defy time. It's very well-kept … the neon isn't often out, and when it is, it's not out for long. It's charming and friendly and reminds one of the time when east county was still east county.

Squint a bit, and you can almost fantasize about the less-gentrified time that it was attached to. Most of the business around this intersection seem a bit careworn by todays bright'n'shiny standards … there's a dive bar or two, a clearance shop that still selling VHS tapes (a dollar a toss) and a veterans thrift store that looks like it was upthrust about the same time as the Boring Volcanics erupted (it even has the big U sign that tells firefighters don't go in here if it's burning.

I dread, as most of us out here might, I imagine, that the hounds of gentrification and condo-bunker building might eventually come out that way. Until they do, it's a nice area full of good people who are doing what they can to get by. And doing fine by that, thank you.

And we even have a pole star to guide us.

[Liff In OR] Where some Oregonians come from

Spotted in passing a few weeks back, a refreshing take on the now-tired (and a little oversharing) practice of iconically displaying one's family unit on the rear window:

Hadn't though of this one. Nicely done. A Californian marries a Texan and moves her to create two little Oregonians.

No matter what you think of Californians and Texans, you have to salute the good taste they had to come here just to do that. My hat's off to you, whoever you are.