30 May 2014

[art] Step One: Dream Big

Our text is The Artist's Guide, by Jackie Battenfield. The homily should become apparent, I hope.

Dreaming big has always been somethingI've done really well. But effectively? Nope. I always go into something, like my two stints at Community College, thinking that if I just do my lessons with enough diligence and sheer sincerity, the rest will take care of itself. In as much the last course, at PCC, despite me graduating in graphic design, has gotten me exactly no closer to my goal of working in the visual arts than I was when I started (never mind how long I've been trying to figure it out), just working hard and earnestly, apparently, don't cut it.

That's a sad thing. The way I was raised, you worked hard enough and honestly enough, the way opened for you. Wouldn't be the first thing in life that turned out to be a bit of a lie (yeah, that's a harsh word, a sharp judgement, but sometimes you have to call it the way it looks. Life makes little hypocrites of us all, I've become convinced).

So, welcome back to the beginning. I've begun again so many times, I should rename myself Finnegan. Ahhh, Square One … we meet again. But what other alternative do I have than trying to figure it out again? Otherwise, I'm already dead … just waiting to be buried. So, we turn the puzzle on its side … for the however-many-th time it is, and try to figure it out again.

On page of chapter 1 on The Artist's Guide, then, we see this:

I always have done this. But maybe I need to try another time, and vary the angle of attack.

Dream big? Okay. Nothing I feel confident to put down on paper just this moment, but what's the best way to dream?

Today, why … I'll sleep on it.

[art] The Desk, Between Ideas

Where I try to come up with things. My 'studio' is in the basement, in a finished room that is outfitted as an office. It is made with a perma-desk and a bunch of cabinets and is a very fine place to just exist. Happiest place I've ever been able to call my own.

The two books open before us are, foreground, the everpresent diary, and background, the book The Artist's Guide. I'm going to use it to help guide me toward being a working artist, which is what I should have been going for all along.

I'm going to be sharing bits of this journey in days to come, time to time. Some details in the next missive.

We're going to try to get serious. Not just arting around any more.

28 May 2014

[artists] Donna Barr's Radio Blitzkrieg

Ever wonder what Donna Barr's (The Desert Peach, Stinz) like in person? Well, a show I'd not heard of before, Karl Show! (starring Jason), took on Donna Barr. That probably left a mark.

But in a good way.

Listen, dammit! : http://www.karlshowstarringjason.com/2014/05/artist-donna-barr/. Just do it. Don't argue with me.

27 May 2014

[pdx] I Bring You The Head Of Tom Peterson. Or, At Least, The Face.

Tom Peterson seems to be a trending item.

Interest has increased in the legendary salesman since it's been made public that his health is failing to the point he has to be moved into assisted living, as reported by KPTV's Andrew Padula last month. Considering Tom's commercial relationship with Yesterday's KPTV, that's only appropriate.

The signage remains memorable and, in its Portlandian way, iconic. When his visage delivered its smiling benediction to the corner of 82nd and Foster Rd, you knew just where you were, and it was a landmark. The building has been remodeled out of recognition, of course; gutted, made new inside and out, and turned into a corner strip center, "Peterson Plaza". I've been an Oregonian all my life and a Portlander the majority of it, and I know my granfalloon enough to know that we save things.

If we didn't exercise some restraint, this whole state could appear on Hoarders. That's how we get so funky and kitschy. We're drunk on it, up in here.

A couple of days ago, though, an acquaintance of longstanding who prefers anonymity at this time contacted me and said he knew where the old sign was. Really? said I. I'd be all over that if I could.

Get back to you in a couple of days, was the gist of the reply. Today, here's the payoff. Somewhere, secluded in a Portland back yard, I know not where (not even in confidence, and I understand why), rests …

The head … or at least the face … of Tom Peterson.

This is the most Portland back yard in Portland, wherever it is. And I'm not tellin' where it is because I don't know; and what little I know of whom took it I shall not divulge. He knows how some people are, and so do I.

But it's enough to know, just to know, that it's out there somewhere.

Now, that's Tom Peterson's.

[logo] What Obsessive/Compulsive Designers Obsess and Compulse On

Google changed its corporate logo a few days back, it would seem.

No? Looks no different, you say?

Well, peep this, posers.

[liff] Question Of The Day/Month/Year

If one can't be a brilliant success, why not be a beautiful failure?

26 May 2014

[pdx] Photos On Sunday: The Burnside Bridgehead

The block on the north side of the east end of the Burnside Bridge has something of a conflicted history. For a long time, nobody knew what its future would look like. Many people had some definite ideas, but in the end, none of them willed out, in a way that's funny in bike-friendly, liberal, weird Portland.

This block is bounded on the south by East Burnside Street, on the west by NE 3nd Avenue, on the north by NE Couch Street, and on the east by NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, once known as Union Avenue. I became a full-time Portlander in 1985 (with a break from '87-'91, but that's another story) but, by then, being a perhaps-too-avid watcher of the news, had familiarity with at least some of the issues surrounding that square block of Portland.

When I finally did come to the shining city, I knew there was a place of no small notoriety there, and that was sad, because they really did try to fix something. The building on the north side of the bridge was a place that looked disreputable but tried to have a good heart – they called it Baloney Joe's. It was a homeless shelter run by an organization that dissolved in a scandal involving the director, an organization called the Burnside Community Council, and that's sad because there were some good angels hard at work there, some of whom you might know if you hang around the good Portlandians online.

Sometime around 1990, due to the scandal, the BCC ended and Baloney Joe's operation was taken up by the Salvation Army, who renamed it the Recovery Inn, then developers got interested, and the Inn finally closed and moldered for several years while a variety of power and money centers vied for the opportunity to develop it.

Someone wanted to put a Home Depot store there. I, for one, still can't picture it.

Today, the battle has been settled. When whoever thought it was going to be a bonnie idea decided to turn Burnside and Couch into a one-way couplet east and west of the bridge, they needed a place to funnel the west-bound traffic on NE Couch onto the Burnside Bridge westbound. Instead of a Home Depot or lower-income housing or anything regarding the homeless, now, an S-shaped boulevard full of traffic runs through it.

In liberal, weird, transit-and-bike-friendly Portland.

Who says irony is dead? As long as this absurd city remains, thus shall it be. And the debate over what could have been shall 'ere be considered academic.

The skyline of the down, dirty, yet somehow fashionable
CEID looking south from the Burnside Bridge.

The Burnside Bridgehead exists in what was, and still shows many sides of, what we locals called the C.E.I.D – the Central Eastside Industrial District. It's starting to give way to converted loft work/live spaces, trendoid bars, and retail … which, one supposes, was just a matter of time, given that it was in sight of the city core.

The part of the block not given over to the Couch Street connection is carpeted over in long grass and wildflowers. The part of Couch that used to connect SE 3rd Avenue to MLK is now a very short stub which provides convenient and ready parking on a Sunday afternoon to the tyro photographer and his wife, and an opportunity to stretch the legs and look at the urban views.

We all strive for more than just the basics. This is not
Portland, this is universal.

The building on the south side of the bridge at 3rd Avenue has had a sign on it for decades: R.J. Templeton Co. Whatever R.J. Templeton Co, did, it's been gone perhaps even before your humble interlocutor came to town; one remembers the facade mostly bland painted wood where windows must once have been. The windows are back and whatever is going in behind them, you can bet it's going to be pretty spiffy and, no doubt, priced to match.

The area is popular now for skateboarders and bike riders, who have carved their own paths to and from Burnside down to the lower streets. Down closer to the river, along 2nd Avenue, is some of the last 'industrial' businesses in the area; some of Portland's oldest produce merchants are still there, a remnant of what was once so many that they named the area Produce Row. Set deep within the industrial haven, it took advantage of the quick freeway connections and rail access to be a break-in-bulk point for the fruits and veggies coming into and out of Portland.

The era is closing out so very slowly though. We do things in our own time here in Portland, and this is on a timetable of its own. Farther down 2nd, under the Burnside Bridge itself, is a skatepark that went from outlaw to legitimate. We saw murals (which I'll go back and get sometime) and people getting ready, complete with cameras for posterity's sake. We indeed have come so far.

The path from E Burnside down to NE 3rd Avenue.
You can go your own way, baby.
The building in the distance is the Eastside Exchange,
the building addressed with the No.123
rubric seen earlier in this post.

They say that weeds are wildflowers out of place.
Like the homeless people that used to shelter here, they'll
be evicted in their turn, perhaps.
Looking under the bridge at SE 3rd Avenue from NE 3rd Avenue.

Today, the old gives way to the new, a streetcar runs where once traffic did, and it all looks kind of the same, but something more than the obvious seems to have moved on. But this is Oregon, and that means …

… we'll always have the blackberry bushes.

ON EDIT: Fellow PDX Facebooker and curator of the Dead Memories Portland group, Michael Long, shares the news that they are going to put something in more than just a road there … and the idea is so very, very us. It's a real dumbbell …

[pdx] In Portland, When It Comes To Flaggers, YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!

… of course, I've never seen the actual flagger on duty, so I don't know. But I wouldn't want to push them, whoever they are. You know, liability, legal concerns, getting your ass fried off, and things of that nature.

Actually, you know what's really weird? The fact that this has sat there for over three weeks now, not chained to anything, and nobody's taken off with it. Earlier this very evening, while we were in the coffee room at Powell's, there was a police incident where someone was apprehended before they could get very far with a car prowl … but this sign has stayed in place.

It's gotta be the unicorns.

25 May 2014

[art] The Legend Of The Blackwing 602

Now, I'll start this out by saying that my jones for art supplies exists on a level second to nobody's. If I actually created as much art as I know I can with the supplies I have stocked up, I could fuel several musea for rather a few years. And I like what I like, like many aspiring self-made creators; it's hard to explain, but some things just work where other things … well, not so work. There are some tools and materials that, when I see them, my mind's all DADDY LIKE!!! and I have to use them somehow.

For writing I've always preferred pen (up until now the Pilot Precise V5 but I'm going in on my Cross Classic Century ballpoint in ways that bemuse me) because I like the tightness of the line and I love ink. The last time I used pencil for any extensive writing was during high school. And my compulsive diary-writing knows nothing but ink's unique benediction.

Still, even someone as preference-oriented as I continues to scratch my head at the religious intensity a certain pencil has inspired amongst literary, musical, and screenwriting titans. That talisman has a name: Blackwing 602.

The shape is the thing that originally gets your attention. The ferrule uniting the eraser with the wood case is unlike anything you've ever seen before. This is no Ticonderoga, you know this going in.

Above: The Palomino Blackwing.
Below: The Palomino Blackwing 602, a horse of a different color.

The ferrule flares and turns into something of a rectangle to support a uniquely-shaped (for the end of a pencil, anyway) eraser. 

About two weeks ago now, when we stopped by Muse to watch Meredith Dittmar work her mojo, I noticed a new display stocked with small, elastic-band notebooks and these interesting pencils. The ad copy on the side boasted devotion from unnamed screenwriters and Pulitzer winners, opting for the appeal to unknown authority and a flavor not unlike the campaign that got the Moleskine into the mass-market consciousness about a decade or so ago. 

Claiming credentials like those certainly piqued my interest. One shouldn't throw such support around in vain, so I looked into them, and the names of the people who would use them was simply stunning and as iconic as promised; Stephen Sondheim, Quincy Jones, and Vladimir Nabokov would apparently use nothing else, and John Steinbeck was quoted as exulting I have found a new kind of pencil -- the best I have ever had! upon discovering it. 

The general trajectory of its history has it born in the 1930s, produced by Eberhard Faber and then by its successor Faber-Castell until 1998. In 1994, the custom machine that created the unique ferrule was discovered to be broken, and in the merciless bottom-line accounting of the time it was presumably deemed that there was no percentage in repairing it. The backstock of necessary parts lasted another four years until the pencil was discontinued entirely; despite appeals from the creative elite which doted on it, proving that prestige doesn't always win the day.

Bona-fides established, I was intrigued enough to purchase two of them … the original Palomino Blackwing redux, and the Palomino Blackwing 602. They are available by the each not only at Muse but also at I've Been Framed in not only the original and 602 versions but a third version called Blackwing Pearl.

There's an interesting sensation in picking up a wood-cased pencil after years of using anything but. I felt as back in grade school … I never knew what the year would bring but there's something about about-to-be-used school supplies that suggests possibility. Smell, sensation, feel (and taste, if you're so inclined) … there's a gestalt going on there that's powerful good.

But I was going for the practical, not the poetic. I sharpened the two pencils and got down to my favorite thing to do in the library; writing in my diary. Here's the results:

Page one.

Page 2
That was quite an experience, actually. I prefer mechanical pencils, markers, and pens precisely because you don't have to spend time sharpening them. I like the tightness of line that never lets up. So writing with a pencil you have to sharpen induces a different set of perceptions: awareness of the dulling of the tip, awareness of having to sharpen, the tactile sensation of the graphite transferring to the paper, the visual sensations of the not-always-crisp line.

As far as the quality of the graphite, they are of a decent quality; I found the writing to be smooth and really quite silk. In particular, the redux Blackwing has a very soft lead; it doesn't stand up for long under pressure, at least my pressure, and I switched over to the 602 much sooner than I anticipated. The 602, on the other hand, was a much better writer than the basic Blackwing, with a firmer lead that still marked nice and darkly. It also required a finesse I didn't use much. The iconic tagline Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed, sounds a nonsensical as it scans memorably, but once I got on the pencil's wavelength, I found a bit of truth in that; it did require less pressure to make a satisfying mark, and I was able to write a bit quicker.

The detachable, replacable
The eraser, I found, is replaceable. Funny, no? The eraser itself, a rectangular object reminiscent of a bit of Chiclet gum, is held by a small metal clip which one inserts into that unusual ferrule. They sell extra replacement erasers; the reason I find it funny, I suppose, is because you're going to be using up that pencil. But then maybe the creators who are fans tend to use erasers faster than they use the pencil up. Seeing as one of the famous Blackwing fans was animator Chuck Jones, there's a case for that.

The Blackwing 602 was a more exultant writing experience than I thought it would be. It hasn't dissuaded me completely from my habituation to pen and ink, but it's a pencil I'd keep around for note-taking and art. The quality is high, and it's manifest. And, as a funky bit of 20th Century creative America it's, at the least, most delightful.

For further delectation, here's an article from The Hollywood Reporter that delves deeper into the legend: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/blackwing-602-why-is-hollywood-600265, and there's a whole website devoted to the pencil … The Blackwing Pages … here: http://blackwingpages.com/

If you can't get to Muse or IBF to buy some (what a shame that would be) you can, as just about everything short of the human soul these days, buy them online. $20 the box.

23 May 2014

[pdx] My Tom Peterson's 82nd And Foster Pic Communicates Hard!

Being the PDX lover that I am, I usually find my way to the great posts, one way or the other. Maybe it's net-magic, the way the intarwebz tend to remember what you like, I don't know. But I find them, or they find me.

Today's offering is a article at the real estate blog Movoto, which I have only just heard about. The reason is this fine article about sweet quirky Portland things that were. Pride of place, though, and number one of the 26 Things You'll Never See In Portland Again, is this:

Which uses this photo I have up at Flickr:


… which was taken back in 2005 and originally posted on this blog at http://zehnkatzen.blogspot.com/2005/12/logodesign-pdxhistory-now-thats-tom.html

I rock this town. With my blog. And if they think of this photo when they think of Tom Peterson's that was, well, that's about the next best thing to getting a ton of money for my opinions.

Which I'm still open to. Just sayin'.

22 May 2014

[pdx] Photos On Sunday: Inversion Plus/Minus

In Portland, Oregon, you tend to get spoiled, visually. Public art is so easy to come by you begin to tune it into the background. A lovely, texturally rich background, but a background never the less, and backgrounds tend to get taken for granted.

I'm somewhat fond of abstract art so, a couple of years back, when strange lattice-like confections of reddish steel started going up at the corners of SE Grand Avenue and Belmont Street and SE Grand Avenue and Hawthorne Blvd, then, I kind of disregarded them. They were interesting, but not compelling. Just another interesting excursion into outdoor art, and in a city that just looks great even when it just tumbled out of bed, nothing all that remarkable.

Or, as I assumed.

This, as they say, is my bad. Since I've been working out with my camera so much lately, I've put more effort into not only looking, but seeing. A side effect of all this deep examination is that you begin to see things in a glance that you didn't notice in a long gaze.

The sculpture, parts one and two of which are eight Portland city blocks apart, are called Inversion: Plus/Minus. It's courtesy Annie Han and Daniel Mihaylo, of Seattle's Lead Pencil Studio, and honors the idea that buildings were once in those spaces … they're ghost buildings really. The south wing, at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge, is more obviously referencing the idea of a building … it has an obvious shape and connectivity.

It was the north wing that had me going for so long. As we were heading to the Dutch Bros at Grand and Belmont for that sweet, sweet free birthday coffee (there is nothing in the world that is wrong with this, by the way), I look up out the front window of the car, look down the street, and see …

… the negative space underneath the steel lattice. It's a pitched roof, as clear as anything. And I had never bothered to notice before.

Again, as I say, my bad.

The area on the east side of the Willamette, as anyone who travels down Grand and MLK might tell you, seems to be a ghost of a big town that could have been, or should have been. It's still rather disheveled, which is good … too much of Portland has been polished to a blinding gleam. At SE Yamhill and Grand is a four-story skyscraper-styled building which has, for as long as I've known, been a home for a beauty-supply house. The Arcoa Building, it's called. We parked aside of it and I got out and snapped some shots of this thing I've finally figured out.

Near by to this and across the street is a spire called The Weatherly Building. 12 floors tall, it's the undisputed king of the eastside strip. No other eastside building is taller, at least not south of the Banfield. And looking at it, I get the idea that the hoped it would be one of many.

But then, Portland had not yet really become Portland, not yet, anyway.

The illusion shatters, but in slow motion, as you pull aside of it

It was quite an experience, that frisson of recognition I got when I finally looked and saw. I don't think I could handle more than twenty or thirty of them in a day. 

I hereby resolve to take no more outdoor art in Portland for granted. 


21 May 2014

[art] The Artist's Guide, By Jackie Battenfield

The Artist's Guide is a book by Jackie Battenfield that I've just acquired. It's a book subtitled How to make a living doing what you love, and is one of the many that you can find that claim to be able to show you a path from being a tyro artist to one that lives on what one makes.

This seems to be fine art. I'm looking to become an illustrator of some sort.

If anyone has read of this book or has used it and got any sort of result, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Leave a thumbnail review in the comments and later, when I'm done, I'll post again with my own thoughts.

20 May 2014

[branding] While You Eat McDonald's, Its New Mascot Will Consume Your Soul

McDonalds, that symbol of the modern age, has a new mascot intended to encourage kids to eat healthier versions of its Happy Meals™. I'm sure it will encourage them to eat something, but it will either be Burger King, or their own hopes and dreams in some sort of existential terror.

They call it "Happy". And what it's happy from, exactly, I don't want to know.

Where to begin? Those eyes, those dead, dead eyes, devoid of emotion? The arms, like animated strands of pasta horror, waiting to grasp you? Or that mouth, that entry to the utter void of ravenous nothingness, seemingly torn from the living, with a darkness within that seems to be struggling to come out, like some poisonous misama driven to smother the living?

Gaze upon the horror, if you can:

Say hello to their little friend. They say it's popular in Europe.

There are a lot of things that are popular in Europe that don't have legs here.

Not even legs like those.

I'm not sure which horseman of the Apocalypse this is supposed to be, but it is one.  I know it!

[pdx] The Age of Drexler: When Portland Was Glidetown

3089.What. A. Season.

I wish it hadn't ended in a rout-ish ending, but what. A. Season.

Am I right?

It would seem the Blazers are entering, at long last, something of a Golden Age. Depends on how much you know. If you started following them lately, or are under thirty, it may seem like the first time they were big, big, big.

Well, there were three Golden Ages of Portland Trail Blazers. The first, of course, started with the 1977 Championship, during the days of Dr. Jack. After Walton and crew won the prize, for a few years, while some of the magic remained and Walton stayed ahead of injuries, and then after the Mountain Man left, it seemed possible they could return.

Portland's always wanted a dynasty. Not yet.

This, the Third Golden Age, is dawning under the multiple suns of Aldridge, Lillard, Lopez, et. al., great players, a tight unit, great and winning personalities. It's aborning, but I won't speak much more of it. I don't want to make the soufflé fall, as it were. We're paying attention, suffice as to say.

The Second Golden Age seemed to have it all. A tight unit, winning personalities, and a glittering style. All led by Clyde Drexler. And if one isn't familiar with Clyde the Glide, allow me to introduce you:

The Glide may now reside in Houston, his hometown, but during the day, he was the floor general the Blazers needed. Charismatic but still laid-back and smooth in personal style, he made the team watchable and was, to this fan, the glue that made the Blazers into the most playoff-worthy version since the First Age.

Number 22 still holds court in Portland, though. On Southeast 9th Avenue, between Hawthorne Boulevard and Clay Street, on the south side of the building that includes CleverCycles and the Helium Comedy Club, amid black and white bolts of the lightning he commanded at whim, Clyde prepares to slam the dunk.

The bolts are appropriate to his style, which crackled with raw energy.

Timing, though, they say, is everything. During the days that Portland was Glidetown, Portland had two more chances to get to the top of the hill: 1990 and 1992. In '90, they fell to the Pistons, and in '92, Jordan and the Bulls. You couldn't feel that bad about they losing, though; they played with heart and soul and chemistry and it was fun to watch them compete hard even though they lost in the end.

It was more fun to see them win, however.

It was, in a gestalt way, satisfying in more than one way in that last game of Round 1, where Lillard nailed that three-pointer. Clyde is now announcing for the Rockets, and just before that clock started, with the Blazers two points down and nine-tenths of a second to play, and it came from the voice of Clyde Drexler:

"Definitely watch Lillard for three."

And he called it. Wizard, I tell you. 

19 May 2014

[art] Meredith Dittmar At Muse: Creative Process From The Inside Out

On Saturday, 17 May 2014, as the May offering in Muse Art and Design's Artist-to-Artist talks, Peter and the crew hosted an artist I'd not heard of before: Meredith Dittmar. This is Meredith:

Meredith Dittmar at Muse Art and Design.

She works in polymer clay: Fimo, if I remember correctly. She takes it and assembles it into the most enigmatic ways and shapes; view her website, the picaresquely-named CorporatePig.com. The splash page will give you a big ol' taste; click through to her homepage and thither to the portfolio. Cute characters cavort amidst abstract confections that are possessed of the hint of a mathematical reverence and resonance that is hard to put a finger on but tickles the imagination.

There's a reason for that. During her talk, she mentioned that her father was an engineer and her grandfather was a NASA rocket scientist. She didn't elaborate, but it's not hard to presume that she fairly swum in scientific verities as a youngster. Another anecdote seemed to suggest that she also has something of a suspicion of authorities; when learning vowels in school she was schooled up on the traditional five plus the sometimes-sixth, her father corrected this by saying that the sometimes-sixth was a full-fledged vowel, no sometimes about it, and furthermore there was a seventh*.

When relating this at school, this lowered the proverbial boom, and her father stuck up for her. I'm not sure of the eventual resolution, but bless that man, right?

Meredith struck me as a brilliant human who appreciated knowledge while at the same time rejecting the 'it has to be' structure that knowledge is sometimes unjustly straitjacketed into, at least by way of authority. She worked, by a sort of gestalt way, to cause me to come to the conclusion that while there is a great deal that is knowable, capital-E-Everything is unknowable, or at least not-quite-completely-knowable, which appealed to me on a Tao level. And my impression was that this was a tremendous informative data line on her own work.

She shared with us a lot of images of idea boards that she kept. Patterns, clippings, fractal patters, mathematical formulae scampered about on them in happy semi-anarchy. The genius expressed … the jelly somehow nailed to the wall and not nailed to the wall, all simultaneously, which is a heady experience for any armchair philosopher and aspiring artist trying to find direction.

In retrospect this formed a sort of base stratum for what was happening concurrently. Everytime I think of it, I get a little more impressed and in awe. See, she never showed off much of her work, but she showed off a great deal of her working, or at least her possibility. At the beginning  of the hour-long talk, she distributed small cut pieces of Fimo and invited us to play with them at will, but without taking our attention from her. She did her talk about her life and influences and work, and I kneaded my bit of Fimo about without taking it too seriously.

My bad there. A word on that presently.

At the end of the discussion about her and her work, she asked us to take part in two 'experiments'. They both involved yet another lump of Fimo, but we were to listen to two recordings of physicists discussing quite abstruse concepts: the first, from its discussion of spin and color was no doubt relating to quarks, and the second was completely beyond me, but I did recognize the word eigenvector, though about the only thing I currently know about that is how to spell it. The important part about working was to simply observe your hands working the clay into whatever shapes the environment moved you to create, to get into that zone, and if we slipped out and got too self-aware, to pause a moment and refocus on the process of molding.

This is the stuff she plays in the background when she creates and the idea, as it seemed, was to see what sorts of things her audience would create. Whether she was compiling any sort of result or even per se looking for one we weren't clear on, and I suspect that wasn't the point anyway. All we walked away from the experience with was the experience, left to do its subliminal work on us; photos of past exploits showed spirals, geometric patterns, interesting prettiness.

Just before she left I got the chance to chat for a few minutes and found her intellect quickly drew me into a sort of orbit in which I started actively applying the experience to where I hope my own artistic growth takes me. I know this sounds kind of crazy, but she would say something and it would start this whole intellectual cascade, or at least that's what it seemed from my point of view. At this point, it's hard to put it into any specific words (never mind how prolix I've gotten here) what effects this is having upon me. Every time I look over the experience, it opens up again like another level of a Matrioshka doll.

She did talk for a moment about fractals, come to think.


The experimental process that she took us through, though, suddenly gelled for what I think it was, and what it will forever mean to me: the most effective look at the fabled creative process that I've ever had and probably ever will. She, as nearly as possible, without excess motion, deconstructed her own creative process for us, let us in, then reconstructed it about us so that we were suddenly on the inside looking out. I can draw parallels between the way I create when I'm in the zone and what she does, and see where it's different, and I can't put any of that into any less than the most clumsy of ramblings, but it's there for me. Elegantly and economically, and it continues to have impact after the fact because it worked on so many levels that one can only see when in the rear-view.

She taught me something without actively teaching a thing. How rare is that?

Oh, and the 'bad' I was talking of? I realized, on review, that giving us the clay at the beginning was also an experiment, but with different terms. There's that Matrioshka doll opening, again. And every time I think I've come to a conclusion on a thought generated by this, no fewer than two paths shoot out.

Clay isn't my medium, but she just might be amongst the most important artists I'll ever sit in on.

And you'll please forgive the rambling; each time I go over the experience I am once again beMused. It's hard not to be distracted.

*The classic 5 vowels are, of course, A, E, I, O, and U. The sometimes-sixth would by Y, naturally. The unknown seventh was cited as W. It makes logical sense, when you think of the sound the Y makes, which is fluid like a vowel, not staccato like a consonant, and any Welshman or woman can tell you quite naturally that W is a vowel (consider that the Welsh spelling of the English house name Tudor is Twdwr). 

[liff] Clouds Before The Storm Over 122nd And East Burnside


This is Saturday, the 17th, and the atmosphere was quite active. Those local to Outer East Portlandia and the Greater Russellville Metro Area will recall that the day after was quite active with the thunderstorms and the rumbly and the boom and the FLAVENS!

I guess I'm a sucker for dramatic skies. They have been unusually generous lately.

Anyone can be inspired by a clear blue sky, I suppose; I certainly am. But there's so much variety and dynamism in a sky like this – I could look at it for hours.

Thank God for digital photography, right? You get to keep it and you can enjoy it on your camera pretty much right away.

The last two days have been of the Don't like Oregon weather? Just wait 5 minutes, it'll change variety. Seriously. Bright warm sun followed by fifteen minutes of frog-choker. Oregon weather is just as moody as the reputed slackers we're supposed to be overrun with, and has more mood swings than a hormonal teenager.

But, do note the gossamer sunlight shafts beaming down in the middle-distance here. This is my favorite of the three for that reason.

Is that you, God? It's me, 122nd and East Burnside.

[liff] At SE 122nd and Stark, It's Always Darkest Before The Daw, Whatever That Is

Spotted while going from there to here along SE 122nd Avenue at Stark, on Saturday:

While one can argue that, in Portlandia, it's always been the Age of Asparagus, one still wonders what dawing is, what is involved in this process (that's what we're assuming it is), or how it brought said Age to come about, exactly.

If you didn't see it on Saturday then you missed it; someone set up the spell check on it, and now all its dawing are belong to us, because I have the picture. of which I share.

18 May 2014

[pdx] One Does Not Merely Walk Into Hawthorne, It Is Said

From the Dept of It Could Happen Anywhere But You'll Automatically Assume It's Happening In Portland And You Won't Be Wrong Dept we have this gem (via KATU):
The last thing the woman from Northeast Portland probably expected when she got up Tuesday morning was that she would be attacked by a sword-wielding elf.But that's what happened around 7 a.m. as she drove her red BMW by the intersection of Southeast 7th and Morrison.A man dressed in chain-mail with a helmet, shield and carrying a sword and staff ran into traffic and started attacking her car.
She thought at first he was a pirate, but it turned out he thought he was a high-elf battling a Middle Earthian baddie. Follow the link to find out which.

The funniest, zeitgeistiest thing to me about it is the headline which said the man self-identified as a High-Elf. You see, that's the way we roll here in Portlandia; we don't 'call ourselves' anything, we don't 'think we are' anything (except for Lars Larson, who's a legend in his own mind, mostly), we self-identify.

We may not physically be the thing, but we never question each others' right to completely feel the thing that we know we are, pharmaceutical influence withstanding or not.

Heck, when I was a kid in Silverton they told me I could be anything I want.

So I became a Portlander.

We're a damn' silly place sometimes, but that's not actually a sin. Well, not until you start beating up on someone's BMW in your High-Elf kit, which we do not recommend.

And so it goes, PDX.

[writing] I Have A New Cross Pen. Bring On Your Sword.

Okay, so the title's a little grandiloquent. Or, hell, a lot. There was an alternative title to this posting, riffing on something Pete Seeger had written on a banjo as sort of an answer to what Woody Guthrie's guitar famously said: This machine surrounds facists and makes them surrender. 

But so what? It's my blog. You want me to be a shrinking violet about my bad self, you go write your own blog about me.


Licensed to carry in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
It's a First Amendment thing, yo.
It has latterly been my birthday, and I had recently lost my old trusty Cross Classic Century sliver chrome ballpoint. It's been a strange journey. I loathe ballpoint pens, generally speaking.  My personal favorite, aside from this unlikely hero, is the Pilot Precise V5. I like a fine line, not too fine, and the liquid ink from the Pilot is always perfect, has never let me down.

Sustaining a writing habit with the Pilot can be kind of pricey, though, and a little unsustainable to the personal economy, incomes being what they are these days. While I was in handwriting bliss with the Pilot Precise, in my daily work I actually consume pens. I leave them dry. I find excuses and reasons to write. When I was a kid I could scarcely be bothered; I thought pens lasted forever, or as near as practically so. As an adult, I exhaust them.

Ballpoints are also eminently practical, a truth so obvious as to be axiomatic. They travel. They rarely, if ever, leak. With a minimum effort of care, a ballpoint will keep going and going until the ink runs out. So a side quest was to find the perfect dependable ballpoint pen. Since I keep my personal standards in this area so high, it's been a long search.

Sometime in the last few years, I know not how, I battered Cross Century (judging by the style of the lettering, it was made before they started calling it Classic) fell into my hands. I was still obsessing on finding a dependable, affordable fountain pen (that was as I was getting acquainted with the Preppy) so it sat on the shelf for a while longer. Then, balancing the old Century in my hand one day I imagined that it was kind of a cross of two things; the desire to have a dependable modern writing tool and a well-designed object for daily use. 

And, heck, the thing just felt good. So I went to find refills, imagining it would be difficult. It was, a little, but I narrowed down Staples as the best source; not only do they have Cross-brand refills, and a more bargain-priced refill by Penatia that works acceptably.

There was a bit of a breaking-in period. The Century form factor was like a high-performance car: responsive, tight, giving if you got on its wavelength but unforgiving if you didn't (I tend to a vise-grip on my pen as I use it continually). So it's taught me a lot about writing with the pen rather than just dispassionately using it. You have to form a relationship with it, but once you do, it tends to reward you rather well.

Suddenly, it was gone. I have one suspicion as to where it might be, and that will have to wait until Monday to be followed-up. But I missed that pen a hell of a lot more than I thought I would, was obsessing on the fact that it no longer was available to me to use. So … what a perfect birthday gift! And so plans were made.

The purchasing experience was a bit more frought than I counted on. The display at Staples promises that you will get something from the stock room, all you have to do is bring a card from the little stack inside the little hole next to the display model and they'll run back and get one. I had, originally, the basic model, described as a Cross Classic Century Lustrous Chrome. Simple, austere yet elegant. it's the one with the black plastic tip on the clip end. But despite the inventory showing three there was not one. And yeah, we could get it shipped, but wanting it today made for an awkward moment.

How is it I was so obsessed over this silly ballpoint pen? I'm still more than a little amazed at myself. Well, if illiteracy is no virtue, then extremism in the acquisition of one's favorite writing utensil is no vice. That's what I always say (backdated).

The manager of the Staples was most kind and generous this day. After phoning Jantzen Beach and finding none in stock not there neither, and sensing, perceptively, that making me wait any further for this is punishment cruel and unusual, he found the next more expensive model and let me have it for the price we actually had already paid (payment processed before the inventory discrepancy had made itself known) for the cheaper model. And so I now have it.

The new pen is a Classic Century, but it's the Medalist. The biggest difference is the addition of 23-carat gold plate on the clip, the cowling near the business end and the end cap which was plastic on the Lustrous Chrome edition. It feels even better than the old one and it's a little more luxe without being blowout-ostentatious, so it's been easy to get to know and to use.

… even though, it must be said, it comes with a medium point rather than a fine point. It's acceptable for now; I'll not waste it. Writing is a sacrament and ink the consecrated wine. But what is it about pen companies that they think, unless you're looking for some fancy roller ball or gel-ink pen, all you want is medium? Irritating, is is.

But me and my new fascism-surrounding weapon will get along just fine I think.

This all may seem a little intense, but if being obsessive about my pen is wrong, then I don't want to be write.

Er, right.

13 May 2014

[pdx] When Soylent News™ Stops Consuming People, It Will Eat Itself

This just in, via Randy Stapilus, blogmaster at the Ridenbaugh Press:

Ai, yi, and and an ever lovin' yi. If Randy's source is correct then the circulation at The Formerly Big O is now about 63 percent of what it was … six months ago? 

Six months? 

Holy moly.

I make a lot of fun of the decline of The O. I do it basically to keep from crying and dying inside. Portland, Oregon is the 26th largest city in the fourth most populous country in the history of countries. Our 'daily' (not if you get it delivered any more, it ain't, of course), in its new 'fun size', once had bigger ambitions than the number of clicks it could get on a story at the website. It hurts, so I wiggle my ears and stick my tongue out and remind you all that Tuesday is Soylent News™ day, but I'm not happy about this. Not really. I daren't think they care, either; they stopped caring about my level of the socio-economic strata some time ago.

For a time, I delivered the pape, when I was a younger dude. True story.

A great American city deserves a great American newspaper. Sadly, The Oregonian is no longer that paper. Gone are the voices that used to make it great, and I see no Margie Boulét, no Phil Stanford, and certianly no Jonathan Nicholas (remember him, folks?), no 'appointment column reading'.

But the comics are in color, at least. Yay.

Maybe The Columbian can speak for us? They seem to still publish a newspaper intended for grownups, 7 days a week. The Statesman-Journal's looking better and better, all of a sudden, and at least it's published in the state capital. That ought to count for something.

In the meantime, the readership of Soylent News™ is apparently precipitously dwindling … but, don't think of it as deserting the paper.

We're just conciously decoupling.

Remember, Tuesday is Soylent News™ day.

12 May 2014

[pdx] The Autumnal City, By Way Of SE Division Street

In another missive, I said that sometimes I find the theme, sometimes, the theme finds me. 

This is true, and relevant. Also, living in the most violently adorable photogenic city on the planet, sometimes you go out for great vistas, and sometimes, you just stumble and fall flat on your face in front of one.

This is true, and relevant, and what happened later in the evening after our visit to Piccolo Park (see missive 3081, just previous to this one).

SE Division Street is one of those infinitely-long east-west straight (well, mostly) streets that give Portland's east side its structure, its intent, and its character. It's a sweet character, and remains so even though the rents on the inner portion have become, in some areas, precipitously lofty. The lowest end is a little tricky, though. Division Street from its true beginning … SE 3rd Avenue just south of Caruthers … runs diagonally, along the rail lines that have gone through the area since it was all industrial.

It's still mostly industrial, but it's changing, slowly. Good sides and bad sides to that. That's for another program however. While travelling west on Division, with no specific agenda except to get to Powell's Books ultimately and enjoy our time there, just west of SE 11th Avenue, where the street doglegs northwestward (actually, the line of the street continues as SE Division Place until it gets as close to the Willamette as it can) we're presented with this undeniable photo opp:

BAM, as they say. There's this thing about sunsets; while there are, statistically and practically speaking, infinitely more sunsets than I'll be able to biologically endure, each one is, like the notional snowflake, never to be duplicated. The mood that each one generates is as individual as possible. Never to be synthesized, and in the end, ineffable.

Very Taoist.

The funny thing is, I immediately put  my hand out the window and pointed the camera that way, and in adjusting my grip I fired the camera three or four times. I cursed loudly, thinking I had really got some unusable photos (well, at least for this wise). Turned out perfect.

The view that is named is not the view.

The amber tone, in retrospect, makes me think of the opening lines of the Samuel R. Delany epic Dhalgren. Maybe he wrote that because every big American town is something that consumes itself from within, at the same time replenishing itself from within, borning anew constantly, and will continue to do so until it eventually collapses from within because no fuel, no matter how regenerative, would regenerate forever.

It's a an echo of majestic ruin, while still being astoundingly vital. Kind of like people.  And humanity. We contain our salvation and our ruin in one, I think.

The area, as I said, is still very industrial. If you buy anything Darigold, it came, as likely as anything, from this dairy plant between Division and Powell between SE 8th Avenue and the river. That dairy complex has been there forever. On the left there, supporting the trademark Darigold sign, is a tall column which is limned in red neon. When we lived on SE 8th near here, we would most often come in on the Ross Island Bridge. The Darigold sign was a big nightline showing us the way home. Most reassuring. 

A big old building wedged (literally, that's its shape) between Division, 11th, and the tracks is the Ford Building. That's what it started out at … a place that sold Ford automobiles back when the most popular car in the world was the Model T. These days, it's been gentrified, which means that anything in the building currently is either so cute it's uninteresting or overpriced but I guess it beats decay.

Not decay, decadence actually. But I carp.

The area has seen massive remodelling as a result of the extension of the MAX into Milwaukie. The Tilikum Crossing is just one thing. Streets have been spruced, realigned (you used to be able transition straight east from Division Place onto Division Street, now that link is gone) and, as is our adorable wont, enigmatic public art has been installed. Just this one square of the new sidewalk pavement reads:


I was unable to deduce what the theme here was or the intended meaning, indeed, I couldn't find any other squares so adorned, so I was left wondering. Of course, given the verbiage … maybe that was the point.

The cloud above the railroad crossing here, The Wife™ called the "greater than" cloud. Why should be obvious.

The opening lines to Dhalgren look something like this:

to wound the autumnal city.
So howled out the world to give him a name.
The in-dark answered with wind.
All you know I know:


It's our city, but I know it differently than you. I see shining possibility and incipient decay; I see Portland triumphant over the ages and Portland deserted and ruined; you see a group of tall buildings against a setting sun and no more.

Each view is equally valid and invalid in the human heart.

The new MAX line, looking toward Milwaukie

SE 8th Avenue and Division Place. This is a new signal.

Day is ending; night is beginning. One death is another birth,
only to eventually die and cause rebirth in return.

The autumnal city. So howled out for the world to give him a name.
Putting ones' back to the above moody scene, growing in a vacant lot at 8th and Division, beginning to blossom because of or in spite of or both, this. The in-dark answered with wind.

All you know, I know.

The hack poet and blog author finally did make it to Powells, and just to prove that all is not darkling self-absorbed poetry, a sparkling view of NW Couch Street between NW 10th and 11th Avenues, where the upside is that, for better or worse, we're still here, there's grim news abounding but the world still seems to work, and a life where you can see things like this certainly isn't entirely broken.