13 November 2012

[pdx_legends] KPOJ: The Death of A Radio Station

2890.This last couple of weeks … which I'm starting to think of as Portland's Fortnight of Suck … has taken many bits of wonder and sweetness away.

Losing Jack Ohman to the Sacramento Bee was bad enough, but at least we can read him as a syndicated cartoonist, as bittersweet as that will be. Does it need be said that I'll miss the incredibly fun Sunday stuff he did? Like I said, bittersweet.

Then we lost Kirk Reeves. That bittersweet note became a combo.

Now … KPOJ is pfft gone. Just like that. In a particularly graceless move, Clear Channel Portland, which is no Golden West Broadcasting, and I'll say that with conviction, announced, last Friday, that KPOJ was changing format (being 'flipped', as they say) to all-sports talk as of the following Monday, perhaps because they sensed that Portland was in desperate need of three 24-hour talk radio sports outlets.

The bittersweet combo went to full-effect bittersweet symphony.

I didn't see the need myself, but what do I know of advertising?

So, I log on about 4:20 PM. Somehow find this story at the WWeek announcing the change was two days out. Well. I turn on the radio, tuned to 620, of course, and there's Randi Rhodes as clear as you please.

And then I read the update: just to be whoever it is that they are, they decided to move the changeover to Friday. Which was, at that point in the proceedings, right now.

And, five minute later I was listening to FOX Sports Talk 620.

KPOJ hadn't just been flipped; it'd been taken out behind the back shed and shot, and I just got there in time to see it happen. Old Yeller was dispatched with more compassion.

So, really, if you want liberal talk in Portland … there's nothing. Seriously. Oh, I suppose I could lay out money to have satellite radio, but I'm naïve enough to believe in and remember a time when you didn't have to pay to have your radio (Isn't it odd that Americans would rebel against a BBC-style model but willingly put up with commercials or incur another bill from big bidness?) and news and information wasn't just another profit center.

And while KPOJ wasn't exactly the rockstar it was back in '04, when it started, it sure was solid, and had regular listeners and proud advertisers. All of whom, in the end, meant nothing to Clear Channel.

Well, there is some movement aborning to, if not bring back liberal talk radio to Portland, at least to prove there's a market here for it and that ignoring it would be foolish. The Facebook page Save KPOJ aims to prove there's a constituency, and Kari Chisholm (of BlueOregon) has started a campaign via the SaveKPOJ.com website.

Forlorn hopes at this point? Maybe. But in two days, the Facebook community has over 1,600 likes, and the petition at the website has amassed nearly 5,000 signatures.

It might not bring back KPOJ, at least not right away, but maybe there's a chance here to get in on the forging of a true independent and liberal tradition of news and information in Portland, which, being Portland, ought to have one.

Also you might want to like Carl Wolfson's page on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. Just sayin'.

[pdx_legends] Kirk Reeves: The Death of a Showman

2889.Last week, about this time, was when we first heard of it. Rumors, not in the sense of sinister whispers but of simple, unverified information, that someone was no longer with us.

Kirk Reeves has died, the rumors said.

None of us believed it at first; none of us wanted to. The first clue that we personally had, here at Haus ZehnKatzen, that it had been was a post on the book of the face that now appears was a share from this FB channel called 'Portlandism':

I am sad to report that Portland street musician and all around nice guy, Kirk Reeves is no longer with us.

To me, Kirk was a staple in Portland. Waving to motorists as they passed by, as well as interacting with the people on the street, it was hard not to smile around him. Kirk brightened my day on many, many occasions and I am sad he is gone.

I remember gathering with friends and meeting Kirk for sandwiches on Thursdays for a few years, he always had a great story to tell.

Rest easy, Kirk Reeves.

But it was rumor at that point and, as I mentioned above, we didn't really want to believe it. We didn't talk much with Kirk, but we ran in the same circles, and just knowing he was out there, struggling along side of us,  made us feel a little less lonely in the world.

Everyone who'd used the westbound approach to the Hawthorne Bridge from Naito Parkway northbound knew of Kirk. He was The Man in the White Suit, the enigma with the Mickey Mouse ears and the ever-playing horn; the street musician who is evergreen, providing the backdrop you expect in a city the size of Portland, the splash of absurd personality that leaves you smiling for reasons you will never put your finger quite on.

Kirk was a regular at OryCon, the science fiction convention The Wife™ and I have been habitués of for never-you-mind how long. We must have first run into him about ten years back. In that white tux and that amazing rock-star style and blazing white teeth, he was hard to miss. 

He had a 'con badge, and it read Kirk the Jerk. In later times he would be Working Kirk, but then, he chose to reference an obscure Trekism. The Wife™, who saw Star Trek: The Animated Series, got the joke immediately. On one episode, titled "The Practical Joker", depicts the hilarity that ensues when an alien intelligence infects the Enterprise's computer after the ship passes through a cloud. The ship begins playing practical jokes on the crew, nearly getting them killed by Romulans, and at one time, the ship played a certain goof on our captain:

Comedy gold,  I tell you. Well, at least I laughed 'till I stopped.

Wife and Kirk got into a pretty deep conversation about that episode and from there, a lovely friendly acquaintance was born. We ourselves would go out of our way to use that on-ramp to the Hawthorne Bridge to say 'hi' and occasionally leave a tip. 

There wasn't anyone who didn't like Kirk, from what I remember. He took the name Kirk the Jerk only as a joke, but jerk was the last thing he could ever be mistaken for being. He wanted to entertain. He was always entertaining to be with. He tried various things to try to make his fame; the street performing, the cable access show; we hear he had several unpublished novels, and even tried to get on America's Got Talent. 

His audition did not get him far. Their loss.

He did have a local show, cable access … it was called Low Comedy. He gave us a DVD to watch and we did and … while I did come here to praise him and not to bury him, it was … well, here's a clip found at YouTube. You be the judge:

For those who like this sort of thing, this should be exactly the sort of thing they like, as they say. Didn't fill my can'o'beer; maybe it'll fill yours.

But that was Kirk, to me. He knew what he wanted to do, and he went for it. He was quite good at the horn-playing, maybe not so much at the comedy thing, but consider – he got a lot of people together and they enjoyed it and they enjoyed his company and he, theirs, so in the end, it's all good.

He had no family in Portland, as far as we knew. A search was undertaken by the Portland Police to find any relatives and they did find a sister. But as tragic as the news was that he was no longer amongst us, even worse was the knowledge that he had taken his own life, ended by his own hand, in a corner of Portland so lonely – Bybee Lake, a shallow wetland which is about as far away from being part of Portland as you can be yet still being a part of Portland – was where Kirk chose to end the pain he felt.

While I wasn't infinitely familiar with Kirk (my loss, there) I am intimately familiar with suicide compulsion issues, having known some very passionate people who are very driven, and take failure just as passionately as they do success. It's hard for anyone who's never been driven that far to understand, still so for me, but the pain can get so great that you'll do anything to make it stop. The sad clown is a staple, a cliché; the entertainer who is smiles on the outside yet dying on the inside. It's one that's rooted in soberest truth though.

But still, I'll always remember him for what he gave me. Though I didn't know him well, the truth that he brought stays with me; the courage to be yourself, to strive for what you want to do, to try and, well, heck … maybe you'll get to where you want to go, but you only have the one life, so go balls-out.

And that Kirk didn't find the success he needed to sustain him … well, maybe he was just ahead of his time, is all. Like so very many of us.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work, Woody Allen is quoted as saying, I want to achieve it by not dying. And who can really disagree with that? Kirk didn't get maybe the immortality that he was shootin' for, but he did get it of a sort. Everything on the Internet is forever, as we all know, and on Google Street View, you can see this:

View Larger Map

That's Kirk, takin' a break y'all. Even the greatest have to rest occasionally.

He was a man; take him for all in all. We shall not see his like again.

05 November 2012

[SF_Lit] Wingrove's Back: Chung Kuo 01-Son Of Heaven

2888.Quite a long time ago (it'd seem) I'd fallen, and fallen hard, for a series by a British writer, David Wingrove, called Chung Kuo. Released through the 90s, it's a series that depicts a future history taking place starting at the fin de siecle of the 22nd Century and extending through the middle of the 23rd. In it, the Han Chinese had, with amazing technology in tow, ascended toward domination of the entirety of Earth, covering major sections of every inhabited continent with sealed arcologies - continental Cities - made of an impossibly durable and strong plastic material called ice.

The conflicts between the author's depiction of Han culture and European culture and the increasing demands of a global population exceeding 34 Billion-with-a-B provided the tension that drove the conflicts in the novel, both on the personal and the global level. This series extended to eight novels (seven very good ones and one unsatisfying concluding novel) and, though in reviews lauded with the best of Herbert's Dune, never got the lasting stature it deserved.

Well, Wingrove's back and he's rebooting Chung Kuo. To be honest, I'm a bit late to the party; he started this back in 2010 and I've only now gotten to read the first novel in the sequence, Son of Heaven. 

The original novel cycle started over 100 years after the conquering of the planet by the Tyrant, Tsao Ch'un, and his continent-girdling Cities of ice, with the advent of Han ascendency hinted at by flashes of backstory. This novel, in contrast, is set in two periods and places: a post-technological Dorsetshire of 2065, and a London of 2043 that is alternatively the land of the polished, glittering, technological elite and the lower castes who have been left behind by them.

The pivotal character is a man named Jake Reed, one of 2043's Masters Of The Universe; a financial wizard by way of William Gibson, a man who's equal parts 1-percenter and TRON. He worked in the 'datscape' (a word that perhaps suggests that all the good nicknames for the noosphere have pretty much been taken) managing the wealth of nations, taking a pretty cut for himself, and leading the charmed life, pretty much insulated from the incredible poverty that lies more or less invisible from him from his chauffeured 'hopper' flights and behind the security of the walls of enclaved communities.

The hammer falls through the actions, though the aren't apparent at first, of the Chinese named Tsao Ch'un, only hinted at in this first book. Essentially, everything is fine … until over the course of two days, it isn't. Well coordinated sleepers, infiltrated throughout the Western technological and financial strata, go off, rendering the West decapitated and vulnerable; nations collapse quicker than you can say "I can't load Facebook and I can't Google why."

The book itself is structured in three parts; In the first, we get to know Jake, his son, the community that took him in and the post-technological society of 2065 (essentially, S.M. Stirling's The Change with electricity); the second book portrays The Collapse starting just before its major inflection point (the assassination of the sixtieth American President, James Griffin, at Comiskey Park) through Jake's escape from a Collapsing London to the English countryside and his acceptance into a rural community; the third book portrays the coming of the Chinese and the invasion of the hivelike City onto the British isle.

As a beginning its particularly effective; as someone who was a fan of the original series, it's intriguing and exciting to explore the interregnum that gave growth to the globe-spanning society of the Han in the later books.  I get the sense that Wingrove has found a publisher and an editor who are sympathetic to him telling the story the way it always should have been told. The reborn Chung Kuo has the taste of a Director's Cut about it, a feeling reinforced by the author's own telling of how that book The Marriage of the Living Dark, was rushed out under pressure and made to be the end of a series that it was never meant to be. After reading this first book, I've got the feeling that we're about to see the story told the way he really wanted it to be told; in the beginning, I thought, why mess with what was already a great story? and now I can't wait to get my hands on the next volume.

Maybe now, Wingrove will get the world-building approbation he really is entitled to.

[pdx] T.S.O.PDX.

2887.Portland, they say, has a special 'sound'. Could be that that's at least a little because the dude at Ear Trumpet Labs, Philip Graham, does such a fantastic job of makin' microphones.

They're almost painfully Portland … many custom designs incorporate bicycle sprockets … and before you get a hankering to make Portlandia-esque jokes about it, consider that they've attained legendary status amongst performers, many of which are quite willing and eager to pay the prices asked for these hand-made works of recording art.

It's hard not to look at the Josephine model (illustrated) and not think of recording studios and performances of the 30s, 40s … the swing era.

The URL is http://www.eartrumpetlabs.com.

04 November 2012

[pdx] OryCon 34 - Portland Unicorns Got Legs

2886.So, as it is getting known, Portland, as we have said, is built on an ancient Unicorn Burial Ground™.

This is true. Just accept it.

But it's easy to forget that the percolation of this awareness through the general population can be slow. I was confronted, however, with a very cheering thing waiting in line for a panel tonight:

I made the mistake of taking this on my TracFone, so the resolution on the photos are crap; the lady was sweet enough to pose for me told me, exultantly, that there is such a legend. The motto on the shirt says, simply, Portland: built on an ancient unicorn burial ground. Trust me on that.

I let on that I was part of the cabal that was making it known to the wider world, so that Saint Unicorn is properly remembered. So, we haven't made it into the New York Times, but with sweet people willing to believe … can it really be that much longer?

And so it goes.