04 August 2015

[pdx_comix] Artist Alley Comic Fest I, The Haul, Group Picture

We hit that Artist Alley Comics Fest I, last weekend, Sunday, August 2nd. If you didn't go, my friends, you missed out on a fine scene indeed.

I'll detail my favorite bits in subsequent missives, but for now, here's a group shot of the haul. There were things for every budget. Just because you didn't bring a pocket full of cash didn't mean you had to go away empty handed. Anyway, here's my stuff.

We'll take a little tour in a subsequent article.

All praise to +Spritely Bean.  Straight up.

30 July 2015

[liff] This Is The Week That Is, Oregon, The 4th Week of July 2015

After seeing the news and still enduring the weather this week in lower south Cascadia, this is all I can see; this is us, in a nutshell:

Now, how do we get out of this nutshell?

28 July 2015

[bloggage] Hallo, EU! Cookies Ahoy!

Today, when logging in here, I was blessed with a small orange bugle horn next to the "Overview" tab of my Blogger dashboard. This does not happen often.

Going to the dashboard, I'm presented with a notice that according to laws in the European Union, Blogger blogs have to display a notice that cookies are being used and give the end-loader a chance to acknowledge this. Since you're not in the EU if you're in America (though some would probably suggest otherwise), and Blogger insists that it's your (that's you, Mr or Ms Blogger, of Anytown, USA) responsibility to ensure the banner shows, you have to pretend you're not from here to see it.

Gladly, this is not a hard thing to do. If you have a Blogger blog and you don't have a custom domain, your blog's url ends in blogspot.com. To view it like a tourist, just change the url ending to an appropriate form. Instead of zehnkatzen.blogspot.com, for instance, I tried zehnkatzen.blogspot.co.uk and zehnkatzen.blogspot.fr. Easy as that.

When I did this, I got this big banner:

Clicking the Got it button caused it to shrink, thusly:

… and clicking the Got it button again caused it to disappear entirely, revealing the search bar. Back to normal.

Anyone reading this and who has a Blogger blog probably has seen the notice on their dashboard and all the links you need to make sense of this are thereupon. But, in the spirit of community, heads up.

[cats] Goodbye To Bet-Dog

We lost a friend of longstanding yesterday.

This photo was taken in 2004. The gray cat, "Keeeton", by name, passed away not too long after that. He is still missed.

Photo taken in 2004. For context, check out thisblast from the past.

That suave, debonair, handsome tuxie next to him we called "Bet-dog". Most of the time, we just called him "Dog". He was named after the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and was usually spelt without the 'h' so that people wouldn't call him "Beth". The '-dog' append kind of accidentally happened … he was doglike in loyalty, anyway. Affable. Damnably handsome, 'just another pretty face', we teased him.

He didn't notice our mockery. He knew he was badass.

Keeeton adopted him as BFF after he grew past kitten stage, and passed me on to Bet (Keeeton was my cat-BFF) when he passed on. And over 10 years, since, he grew to be quite the character. As he ascended into age, the Venerable Bet slowed down ever so imperceptibly. Two years ago, we found he was getting very scrawny indeed; the doctor said he was hyperthyroidal. We gave him Methimazole, 1/2 a small tablet 2x daily, and he put on a great deal of that weight. But over the past two years, he grew increasingly blind due to cataracts and rather confused.

Yesterday, after becoming ever more quiescent and weak, and losing all interest in food and even water, we all made the hard decision to do the compassionate thing. Born Portland, Oregon, Yom Kippur 1997, died, Portland, Oregon, July 2015 … aged 18 years, 9 months, and 5 days.

Make your furball an inside furball, and they'll always be happy, and be happy with you for longer … but, ah, life, I digress.

And as the vet … a Dr. Brian Behrends, Montavilla Animal Clinic, a soft and gentle a prince of a man as ever was born to care for an animal, and someone I'll not hear a sour word said about, carried the now-at-peace cat away and out of the exam room for the last time, he did a thing I shall never forget … he gave the cat's body an affectionate cuddle, and kissed him most tenderly on the head.

One of the greatest goddamn cats ever. 

06 July 2015

[SF] The Sad Puppies May Have A Point

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: The Sad Puppy news roundup at File 770 has linked to this blog. http://file770.com/?p=23595.

One of the most juvenile, at least to me, of the Sad Puppies' plaints about the trend of modern SF (you can fill in speculative fiction or science fiction, as is your wont) is elaborated by this point made by one of the leading opiners of the movement, Brad Torgerson:
That’s what’s happened to Science Fiction & Fantasy literature. A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.
These days, you can’t be sure.
The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?
And then it occurred to me that one of the cornerstones of this insurgency is apparently the right to judge a book by its cover. This is something that I was told never to do, that it was the sign of shallowness and unwarranted prejudice.

But then, I thought, what if there was a point to made here? Maybe I just work too hard at wanting an experience here. I mean, if I, as a consumer, should want to be guided with pretty shiny images, then who am I to complain? They do me a service, after all, in truth-in-labeling (as a liberal, I'm supposed to like that).

So, truth-in-labeling. Okay. We'll go with that. I hold in my hand a Berkeley 1981 re-release of one of my favorite novels, written by an acknowledged master of the form, one who went on to create iconic works of SF that inform the genre to this day. But, book-by-its-cover now … okay, I see an organically-formed, liquid, almost-melting edifice on a horizon under a hot yellow sky, and that edifice appears to be a building … after all, there's something that looks like a tiny figure standing in one of the openings (is it a window). On the whole, it looks like something Frank Gehry came up with in a fever dream.

In the sky, an eye orbits. Setting or rising, I can't tell, but there it is. to the right of the building, a small thing resembling a misconceived volcano seems to launching a weather balloon, or maybe Rover from The Prisoner. It's all on a purple plain resembling fused glass, with two rocks resembling rocketships in the foreground, and in the extreme foreground it appears that some poor soul has died, being embedded in the fused glass of the plain.

Needless to say, I expected a tripping-balls adventure about a science-fictional acid trip, but what did I actually get? Some lame story about an alternate past where the Japanese and Germans won WWII and divided up America between them.

Oh, by the way, here's the book:

And, to fit the Sad Puppy profile of undeserving novels, it won the Hugo.

In 1962.

Clearly, this conspiracy has gone on way longer than any of us imaginers could have possibly imagined. Wake up, sheeple!

And so it goes.

[photo] Gaiety Hill Alley, Salem, Oregon, February 2008

Just a moment in time that caught my eye:

This was taken in February 2008, and is of an alley in the Gaiety Hill section of Salem. That's the hill that the Civic Center is built onto the north side of, overlooking downtown from the south. Commerical, Liberty, High, and Church streets run over it; east to west you have Oak Street and Leslie Street.

When I was growing up in Salem, most of us didn't know that knoll even had a name, really. But it's a nice area (doubtless with mortgages to match). And this alley was always the kind of residential back alley that I've loved. The kind of urban interstice that radiates ineffable hominess and comfort.

Most likely this is an alley running between High and Church, just north of Mission … if memory serves me correctly.

That moisture on the ground? That's what we used to have around here called rain. Oregon used to be famous for having too much of it. We sure solved that problem though.

05 July 2015

[pdx_art] Bwana Spoons at Muse Art & Design, May, 2015

I have been unfairly keeping this to myself. Bad on me.

Muse Art and Design, the splendid art and inspiration supply store at SE 42nd and Hawthorne, has been holding the occasional demo and seminar. And they get better and better. The one back in February stays in my memory banks, and the one I've dithered on reporting on, this one, in May, was simply fun.

Bwana Spoons, Muse Art and Design, May, 2015.
The bespectacled man in the picture above should need no introduction if you exist in any of the intersections of art and illustration worlds currently percolating around the Portland area, but if you do, this is Bwana Spoons, and he produces trippy illustrations, but he works in chaos.

But more on that anon. The subject of this visit was the release of a line of acrylic gouaches, Acryla Gouache. This, a line of utter vibrancy by Holbein, was something of a revelation. I hadn't imagined that gouache could be anything but a watercolor, but here it was, a gouache created of acrylic … a resin color.

The wet consistency is lovely, thick, rich, creamy, creamier even than water-based gouache. The colors are memorable, and, amusingly, the assembled salon was going in big on a color called Opera, a brilliant pink-orange that is to your eyes what strong citrus is to your mouth.

I make no judgements by saying this; oversaturating your color response just might be the object you're going for. I found a cosmic humor in the way such a color was getting such an overwhelming, gut-level response.

The event was intended to demonstrate the color, and demonstrate it did. But it was also given over to a sense of pleasantly-chaotic play where people just dabbled with mixing the colors or came up with chaotically-inspired pieces. My favorite amongst the group is possibly this one, done by Peter, who runs the place. It started out as clouds and an abstract sun-not-sun in the sky … but it evolved into the most delightful flying snail I've ever seen, riding the air on a trail of fabulous:

You know not where it goes, all you need knowis that Rainbow Flying Snail wants you to be
Me and The Wife™ of course, had some fun. I was a little dry on inspiration today so we got Supernatural Orange Cat and Red Superhero. Wife did Rainbow with Shazam Outline. It was fun.

But, as to Bwana Spoons and chaos? Let me put it this way. We all fancy we can take a few disconnected strokes, pencil marks, what-have-you, and evolve something interesting out of them. Bwana started playing in his sketchbook with just a big, serpentine wave of color. Little-by-little, a detail there, an extension there, an overpaint in another place, and the fabric of that painted space began to take on depth and meaning, as though it was evolving itself through him. 

Skill, he has. I was watching the changer changing the changed and the changed changing the changer, though. It was something on a higher level. And this …

… is the utterly amazing (and maybe a little disturbing) result. The original fat squiggle is on the verso side of the spread and, like a sort of strand of DNA, it gave birth to the rest. And the real reward for the viewer is that it looks so accomplished. That's the true polish of skill. 

Bwana Spoons' website is: http://www.bwanaspoons.com/
Muse Art & Design is, of course, http://museartanddesign.com

30 June 2015

[logo] Have You Seen The New Portland Streetcar Logo?

I noticed this one a few weeks back. The Portland Streetcar, enjoying expansion to the east side and the prospect of actually closing a loop once the Tilikum Crossing is finally open, has a new look for its logo. Before, it look thusly:

The old look, with the city silhouette and the crossing tracks, is still on the stop's signs. It's a nice logo, pretty basic, rather flat. Gets the job done, though.

But then I saw this, now appearing on the streetcars themselves, though not at the stops yet:

Kind of nifty, no? There's more thought and deliberation with the type, which has an echo of Underground and Gill Sans. The logo has, rather refreshingly, avoided the driver to have something obviously Portland-esque in it, and has gone for a total abstraction. It reminded me of something more than a clever opened-circle and an abstract S. Not that I wasn't enjoying the suggestion of tracks effectively communicated by the break in the S-form.

And then I thought of the German S-bahn, and it's standard S-in-a-circle logo, which you'll see right here. The S-bahn is comparable in service to the Portland Streetcar; the Stadtschnellbahn provides more local and street level, perhaps you'd say 'tram' (in the European street-train sense rather than the American gondola-hanging-from-a-great-height sense) level service … much like the Portland Streetcar, which connects with its community in much more intimate way than the MAX, meant to pick you up here and get you out there, does.

A variation on the S-bahn logo, or the S-bahn logo being in inspiration? Sure. Why not?

We find the Portland Streetcar logo upgrade worthy. 

[pdx] NW 11th and Davis, Sunday Afternoon

Last Sunday afternoon we were back on NW 11th, and instead of going straight into Powell's, we walked up a block.

This building, on the NW corner of NW 11th and Davis, now largely contains something called the "Pearl Auto Park". It's the sort of building you used to find throughout this section of town … this was part of the brewery district when Blitz was still being brewed here.

I can still smell the smell of brewing happening, in my mind. We've been haunting Powell's for that long, yes.

In front of us, now, The Arrmory, and the Gerding Theatre; much play happens there. The ziggurat beyond didn't exist ten years ago. This is such a different place now.

… but the buskers are still the same.

… and we have rail.

The block of NW 11th between Burnside and Couch, which I rhapsodized about last week, from a remove, with the Streetcar. The new-old debate of the geography is joined in earnest here. Whether or not it belongs, it's all here, now. 

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.