13 December 2016

[Wy'East] Mt Hood On A Very Cold Morning

The weather forecasters say we are between snowstorms, which is a strange thing to say in Oregon but that's the new normal, we suppose, but this morning was crystal clear as the sun was coming up on my way home from The Job™.

Here's what the mighty warrior looked like:

What I particularly liked in the above shot was the way the foothills of the mountains were swathed in torn clouds, with Larch Mountain almost obscured.

The weather's supposed to get rough again starting tomorrow, and sometimes you have to pull over and take the picture.

The old warrior is swathed in snow, as well, but it's hard to see all backlit like that. But it's one of the benefits of the winter storms: of all the things we have to worry about in the coming year, it would appear that drought, at least, isn't one of them.

So it goes.

[pdx_liff] Arnold World, Paper Flower Man, In Silent Concert

I mentioned, in the last missive, the pleasure of watching Arnold World, he of the exquisite paper flowers, do his art in the middle of Powell's Coffee Room.

It's truly a treat. Submerged in his jam, he moves with he music and the world (or perhaps the world moves with him) and paper flies back and forth across his presence, almost as though they were blithe spirits of their own, being not so much made as negotiated to his inimitable, eventually irresistible will.

It's a public performance that's impossible not to watch.

And if you introduce yourself to him while he's working, he just might give you a blossom.

He also has a website: It's WorldPaperFlowers.com.

[pdx_liff] Powell's Books = Our Personal Sacrament

We have a nickname for our regular Sunday night sojourn to Powell's City'o'Books, or I do, anyway:

Book Church.

It's a sacrament, a worship. It can be as spiritual as you want, as worldly, or as profane. The Wife™ dabbles in metaphysics, humanity and puzzles, and I ascend, without fail, to the summit, to commune with all the art teachers in the art techniques aisle in the Pearl Room.

I adore the way this couple just hunkered in the corner of the landing going up from the Rose Room to the Pearl Room. So ineffably romantic.

… but then, Powell's exists for you to love and it loves you back, if you respect it. It's a store, and it's also a place to hang and absorb. Buch luft macht frei.

The Rose room landing area has gone through a bit of a rethink lately. The big rack of travel accessories at the landing is gone and the maps have moved about a bit, and instead of the old big desk the customer service people sat behind, there's this open, moddish S-curve now:

All Powell's employees are beautiful, of course. This woman's hairdo is one of the neatest things I can think of. Retro in the good way.

After I browse the Pearl Room (the afterlife should look like the Pearl Room, I should hope), I come down the stairs into the Rose Room ...

… and the next 'station of the cross' is the Blue Room, where literature is found. Here is where I met Marcel Proust, Annie Lamott, Adam Gnade, Raymond Carver …

And then it's rendezvous in the Coffee Room, where The Wife™ and myself have caffiene communion. Occasionally we share a shortbread host.

… and, sometimes, if we're lucky, Arnold World, the patron Saint of Paper Flowers, is coaxing paper towels into blossoms.

Our officiants now are hard at work behind the altar … a young woman with a delightful Commonwealth accent:

And a pleasant, intense fellah with remarkable ink.

We all take our God whene we find him.
To us, anything from Powell's is ex cathedra. 

10 December 2016

[SF] The OryCon 33 Souvenir Program Design: Horror Has a Jape

With OryCon 33, in 2011, the dark theme continued, script flipped to the side: the them was The Lighter Side of Horror. With Author GoH E. E. Knight, author of Vampire Earth, that premise was delivered on. The other side of the look'n'feel coin was, of course, and as always, the art.

Jim Pavelec brought his dark and disturbing vision to OryCon's Art Show and Souvenir Program and it cast a spell to good effect. I still can't look at the images for very long without feeling more than a little out-of-synch and wanting to see things in reality that aren't there … or are there, but shouldn't be.

If that cover illo don't make you kind of illo, I'll check you for a pulse, kiddo.

That's Jim's dark design. From his Artist's Statement at http://www.jimpavelec.com/artists-statement/:
I built up a body of work, at first consisting mainly of twisted figures that I simply called demons. I needed to call them something familiar as a jumping off point for the viewer. I wanted them to be iconic; modern day visions of godlike beings that existed in my imagination.  I pushed myself to incorporate jagged structures and impossible atmospheres which these demons would call home, thus fleshing out the world that had been in the recesses of my mind since my youth.
Most people and artists recognize their dark sides and incorporate them into their outlook and art. Jim saw his dark side at an early age and decided that when he grew up, he'd build a summer home there. He lets it drive him. This is the sort of art that, as Chekhov is said to have said, "break the ice within one, as a brick" (I paraphrase).

Disturbing? Yeah, you bet. Difficult to view? Definitely. Valuable? Totally, after taking a further look through his Artist's Statement, which dwells a moment on Jung's thesis that humans needed symbol and ritual, to arrive at an iconoclasmic statement of its own:
Through the work I am doing now I mean to create new symbols for others to cherish. I hope that people will take what I have given them and use them, as the word says, symbolically. In other words, use them as a spring board for independent thought. Use them as a marker for their frustrations with the status quo. Use them to strip the meaning and power from the old symbols.
Interpret that as one wills, but I see the idea of looking in as a way of looking back out and re-evaluating what one is certain of. The reassignment of symbol and creation of new as needed.


Now, like I said, this was the 'lighter' side of horror, and there was more than a little whimsy there. The work Zombei Atack, which I used as the back cover, is a great example of that:

It takes a zombie schoolgirl to really drive home how demons and grotesqueries can be funny and memorable.

The rest of the publication took the by-now-usual path. I drew unification by extending the type into the heads and subheads:

… and at this point I must point out that, despite my endless bagging on Papyrus, there are times that it works. The problem with such fonts isn't that they are used, it's that they are overused, thoughtlessly. Not every publication is going to be that important, so one may see my p.o.v. as rather overweening. Still, a second's thought can turn a document that is forgettable because the designer went with a fad or fashion or just accepted the default (a designer worth the term never accepts the default) into one that has a voice of basic good taste and a modicum of thoughtfulness. Type carries weight both visual and emotional; think of someone who formats a serious warning sign in that perennial villain, Comic Sans. Are you thinking of the warning, or are you thinking what kind of mind would joke around with a font like that?

But in this case, Papyrus, though overused it be, also struck the right note and, like The Dude's rug, tied the thing together.

Also, I'd like to point out one other thing. If you're likely (or hopefully-to-someday) to be invited to a convention, have at least one good promo portrait. E.E. Knight's was properly authorly and friendly, and Jim Pavelec's was well, well, done, I thought. The pose in front of the pagoda? Well composed and full of visual interest and intrigue.

Really, it would take you no time at all. If you think you might ever be a GoH at a convention, do this thing.

This would prove to be the last time I would do a OryCon program set. I can't remember what prompted me to let go, but I guess that I had figured that I had brought all I could to the form; not only that, after hoping only to do one, I'd managed to do not one, two, or three, but four consecutively. Not too bad, I thought.

I had a good experience and had delivered a labor of love for a thing I adored times four. I didn't think I'd ever be in the position to do this again.

Life, as they say, had other plans. 

08 December 2016

[or_liff] The Road To Boston Begins In Newport

This in over the transom: there is now a sign up on West Olive Street near downtown Newport, down on the Oregon Coast. And people may not know this up to now, but the longest continuous road in America begins here, and doesn't let up until it's gone through 12 states, and three thousand, three hundred and sixty-five miles.

That road is U.S. Highway 20, and after traversing all those states, strikes out across the heart of Oregon from the Idaho border at Ontario, pausing at places with names like Vale, Juntura, Burns, Hines, Brothers (a 'town' that goes on the market now and again), Bend, Sisters, Sweet Home, Lebanon, Albany, Corvallis, Blodgett, Burnt Woods, and finally Newport.

In Oregon it has enough adventure and terrain for the rest of the road, but it's awesome enough to go the rest of the way.

Today, The Oregonian posted a picture of the sign. It reads US 20 East, Boston MA, 3,365 Miles. A nifty picture and a short article are at the end of this link which can be viewed. An invitation to adventure, to tank up and go, or just to dream.

And, very soon, in downtown Boston, it's said, a sign will go up reading US 20 West, Newport OR, 3,365 Miles. 

US 20 is like the Force; it binds the Nation together.

At least the part that goes between Oregon and Massachusetts.

[SF] OryCon 32 Souvenir Program Design: OryCon Works Dark

The next year, OryCon 32,  I was back as publications again, and this was the first of two years when the theme went 'dark', as they say.

The Author GoH was P.N.Elrod, creator of The Vampire Files: the Art GoH was Chad Savage, macabre artist extraordinaire. What better them than The Dark Side of Fantasy?

This program was a bit of a new experience because, whereas the previous ComCons were content with my decisions on everything from headline fonts to layout, this year the remit included a bit of art direction via the con chair. She had a definite idea as to fonts for headers and headlines, and was obviously quite sensitive to the visual and emotional weight that the fonts transmitted to the content.

The GoH's, page, backed with a screened-back bit of his art, cast a certain mood. This was the first time I attempted this, and I thought it worked quite well.

The spread showing off the GoH along with a snazzy little ad for WorldCon 2013.

I must admit this was a challenge for me in more ways than one. The art directing, while minimal, was a factor I hadn't contended with in the previous two publications and it was a new experience, and a welcome one. The big up here was, as previously mentioned, the Con Chair clearly understood that thoughtful choice in cover design and typography is an essential starting-point to a successful overall design. She pointed me in a good direction and, as every solid graphic designer knows, when it's not necessarily your vision, it's your duty and job unify everything so it supports the client's look-and-feel. This succeeded very well on that level, and was a real creative workout for me.

The other part was ... well, in saying this, I don't want anyone to think that Chad Savage's art is bad. I don't. I think it's splendidly-done, and if I were 10 times the draughter I am now I'd be, at most, 1/100th the artist he is. That he has talent and vision cannot be gainsaid. The crux is that I don't find dark themes pleasant; they don't speak to me so much. So this really opened my mind to listening to an artistic voice that didn't quite transmit on my wavelength, and that was a real workout, and a valuable one, too.

I'd suggest that a good way to expand your design chops and your visual repertoire, as a publications designer, is work with edgy art that's not exactly to one's taste. I'm still not one with the macabre art, but I can hear the voice it speaks in and help it communicate when it must, and that's something else an effective designer does. 

Push ones' own envelope from time to time. After all, art shouldn't always stroke your happy place. A diet of art that doesn't sometimes disturb is just as stultifying to the visual health as eating the same thing is to the physical. 

The other notable thing about OryCon 32 was the loss of one of the granddaddies of the OryCon/PorSFiS community. John Andrews, a regular and one of the maintaining forces of the original OryCon crews, passed away at an extremely untimely age.

One of the ironies of my life is that my nocturnal-by-necessity nature means that I see some people in my own tribe, who live in the same city as myself, only once-a-year; necessity has made of me rather a recluse. But one of the signals that this was indeed OryCon was meeting John Andrews at the pre-reg table; as long as there was a John Andrews helping hold things up, everything was aright. 

He left us a legacy of a scholarship fund that sends a fan to WorldCon in his memory. We should all be so lucky as to inspire such a mark in Con history.

John only made it to age 48. The community he helped build continues with a newer generation every year, it seems: a posterity anyone would be thrilled to leave behind. 

07 December 2016

[pdx_liff] Portland: We Have Theremins In the Libraries

Here's one way you can tell you're in greater Portland: in Hillsboro, our neighbor city about 20 miles to the west on the edge of the greater Portland urban disk, the public library will let you check out a theremin.

It's part of the Hillsboro Public Library's "Library of Things" program, where they enable lifelong learning and exploration by providing access to more than just books. Dozens of items from tech to musical instruments to kitchenware are available.

But to me, nothing is more Portland than having a theremin available for checking out from the library.

Presumably, theremin player available separately.

What other nifties does the Hillsboro Public Library have in its Library of Things? Hie thee hence to YouTube and find out via video.