29 September 2016

[cartoon] Major Tom, Blasting Off For Feline SF!

And, this just in: I'm helping promote a good thing by lending my modest artistic talents to a friend who needs illustration.

A few entries back I mentioned that I had created a comic character, kindasorta accidental like, a space cat named Major Tom. My friend Amanda, starting up a small press named Wolfeangel Press, has pressed him into service.
Major Tom, the glamour puss.

And his new mission.
Major Tom is the mascot of Wolfeangel Press' first anthology effort, No Opposable Thumbs. The effort is for reals, as is the website: http://www.wolfeangel.net. Amanda plans on beginning crowdfunding this very soon, and any one of my faithful interlocutors who stop by this blog can help by spreading the world.

Amanda's a good person with a fierce intellect and a lovely heart, and deserves all the support she can get. And if this goes as big as I hope it does, that means I'll take a step toward one of the things I've really wanted to do with this life:

Art. Being an illustrator. Something I should have listened to my heart telling me when I was a kid. 

George Eliot said it best: It is never too late to be what you might have been. 

[Out122ndWay] Olivia And Sam At Rossi, When The Sun Came Up.

Today wasn't so much for specifically getting a good Wy'East photo, but more about capturing the sunrise, as we actually were able to do.

The view from Olivia:

Reach out for the sunrise, as Simon LeBon once sang.

Mt. Hood, Wy'East, almost as preserved in amber.

How we do sunrises out 122nd way.

28 September 2016

[VW] Olivia Visits Rossi Farms

Well, it's not the first time she's rolled by, but it is the first time she's paused to let me take some pictures.

This, in case I've not formally introduced you all, is Olivia. It is part of the VW Beetle Owners' Code to dub your 'Dub with a nickname; they don't take away your VW lover's card if you don't, but they all look at you like Dude, don't you know how to have fun with this thing? Is, like, an intervention in order?

So, I thought a while. I loved the fact that this was our little yellow Vee Dub. And, rising out of that little collection of syllables came a tone poem: Our LIttle Yellow Vee DubYA.

Phonetically, that's OLYVYA, but I prefer the classic spelling of Olivia. I also think it's a very pretty name, and wholly appropriate to a cutie-pie, sunny yellow 1972 VW Beetle that just makes me smile whenever I look at her.

Olivia you shall be until your wheels come off, my lovely little happy car.

But, to cases: today, to get the pictures in the previous posting, we stopped in the usual place we stop to take such pictures: the west side of NE 122nd Avenue, just south of the intersection with NE Skidmore Street, in front of Rossi Farms, one of the last (if not the last) working farm east of 82nd Avenue, an area that used to be nothing but small farms, from Portland all the way out to Gresham and around.

Today, the area between the two city centers is carpeted with tract homes and serpentine suburban streets laid out bit by bit between the 1950s and the 1980s, but it was once a farm-dotted prairie. And Rossi Farms still grows flowers and produce … I well remember the colorful lines of kale and the stalks of corn waiting to be harvested then the remains plowed under.

The fall colors are vibrant in a patch where flowers are being grown along Skidmore Street, a literal stone's throw from Parkrose High School. The sunflowers were even trained to the east, eagle-eyeing the rising sun!

Meanwhile, Olivia waited patiently for me to cease the silliness, get back into traffic, and sing along with the tunes on my commuting CD until I got home.

Life's developed some interesting-in-the-wrong-way factors over the last few months, but as long as I have Olivia, I'll be okay for at least a little while in the day. Even if you're running late, it's impossible to feel sad when you're driving a car like this.

I have extensive experience with dysthymia. Believe me, if anyone should know of the anti-depressant powers of the classic VW Beetle, it's me.

And so it (and she) goes.

[Wy'East] Mount Hood of the Day: In the Bright Sunrise

It was April when Ole Red met his unfortunate demise, which took a couple of weeks to figure and then a few more days to process and accept.

The total check, it will be recalled, went toward acquiring Ole Red's successor: Olivia, Our Little Yellow VeeDubya. She's a cutie pie, as has been confirmed and recorded, and she now gets me to and from my work.

The last piece of a gestalt puzzle was finally given me this morning with a molten gold sunrise which compelled me to pull over on NE 122nd Avenue in front of Rossi Farms, as is the proper protocol, to snap an atmospheric view of the grand volcano to our east.

It looks very much like a summer sunrise, although it's a few days past Vern and his old equinox.
The reason we've not snapped anything like this since Olivia came to live with us is because, despite the clear and hot weather of late August/early September, the mornings have tended to diffuse the sunlight all over, leaving the peak nearly invisible in the glare.

But today, the air was most kind and generous, and seemed to be made of gold. Just me, the sunrise, all the people on NE 122nd Avenue, and my friend, the green lens flare.

Here's more of a panoramic view:

Oregon does sunrises right. With a mountain like that on the horizon, you know you're in the right place.

27 September 2016

[drawing] Another Manga Girl

This one was given the character archetype of "Mean Girl". Maybe she just knows what she wants.

She comes off more as a Wednesday Addams type to me, though. But I'm practicing. 

26 September 2016

[Out122ndWay] Just A Few More Photos From Midland Library's 20th

It's hard not to share every photo I took there. Here's just a few more of the best, though.

Cupcakes! These were seriously scrumptious.

Lovely little buttons for the collection.

The circulation clerks are like a rock band to me in this photo.

You want information? They got information. At that desk … and all the
shelves and computers beyond it.

Parents and kids, doing all the library things.
You can't not like that.

What was cool about the Aaron Nigel Smith band is what was cool about all
rock bands … the drummer was as unto himself, holding down the rhythm as
though he was taking his cues from a higher plane.

Midland staff: You want it (library-wise), they got it.

A luminous sunset over Midland Park caps the day.

I'm depending on at least 20 more years of awesome from this library. 

[drawing] Manga Schoolgirl, Drawn At Denny's

The Wife™ and me dined at Denny's tonight. She had the beef kebab, and I had a sriracha bacon burger; the burger was superb, I must say.

Then there was some diary prolixtude followed by a bit of drawing. I hauled out a book on manga I had with me and used it to draw this:

I also found out that I should check the markings on my pencil a little better; a lifetime of pencil writing means I have habituated to HB and draw best with that; I drew with a 2B and was bemused as to why my point was dulling so fast.

Well, in some ways I've not had a point in literally years, So There's That™.

[Out122ndWay] The Midland Library Clock Tower At Night

In the piece on the Midland Library's 20th, I mentioned the clock tower over the main entry and how nice it was, how it makes me feel just to look at it, and how it's the kind of landmark you can say you can meet someone under, say, Meier & Frank style (you'll get what I mean there if you've been a Portlander long enough).

The spouse and myself went by there to drop off some book returns and it was well after dark; I realized that, lit-up, it was quite pretty, and that I hadn't had a single picture of that. So, here:

Isn't it beautiful?

And a gently hilarious thing. Look just to the right of the word LIBRARY there and you'll notice a white light. That's the OPEN sign.

It's after 9 PM when this photo happened. Why should you taunt me so, library.

But … I love you, Midland Library. I could never stay mad at you. 

25 September 2016

[Out122ndWay] Aaron Nigel Smith Plays The Midland Library's 20th

I did mention that, in my previous missive, there was music to be had. This was a moment of discovery.

I was told it was going to be reggae, but it wasn't, not really, at least not when I stepped in. There was this energetic quartet playing poppy music to a group of parents and kids who were eating it up. The parents were entertained and the kids just couldn't not dance.

This was the Aaron Nigel Smith band, and they were there to please the parents and get the kids happy and they knew what they were doing. I wasn't sure how I would receive the music myself but the style was infectious and pretty soon I was tapping my toe as well. Of course, many many years ago a man wise in the ways of musical appreciation told me there was nothing like live music, and this was one of those moment when I realized how right he was.

Aaron Nigel Smith
His mission is stated on his web page thusly:
Aaron Nigel Smith's “Call To Action” is to get kids and families to sing, dance and play together. In 2002 he founded FUNdamentals of Music and Movement, an arts program which is now the     program of choice to over 100 early education centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, NewYork and Boston. His fun, inspired, and lively show is guaranteed to get the audience off their feet.

That is one seriously gorgeous 5-string bass!

It was all fun and games until the Simon-says.
After that it was fun and games too,
Just slightly more fun fun and games.

The full-fathom four. Seriously? That was some confident musicianship going on.
They were very enjoyable to watch.
The website for Aaron and his band is http://www.aaronnigelsmith.com. There's videos. 

[Out122ndWay] The Midland Library: It Was 20 Years Ago Today …

This is yet another series of love letters to a place. And it's also an anniversary card. Because it was 20 years ago, 1996 (was it REALLY that long?!?!), that the center of a neighborhood and a landmark of the heart went up on SE 122nd Avenue at the corner of Morrison Street.

Midland Library, then.
The history of the branch suggests that there's been a library branch on this corner for the better part of the last 60 years. Midland branch is the second largest branch in the mighty MultCoLib system and is second only to Central in the number of patrons it service. And, in 1993, amid increasing pressure and demand from heavy Eastsiders thronging the location, plans were set, and in 1996, in September, construction was completed on the current building.

The new building was, at 25,000 square feet, three times the size of the old one, and graced with a modern-design clock tower with a very witty 'OPEN' neon sign in the side, was a true landmark for the neighborhood.

When the new Midland was being built, The Wife™ and I were actually residents of Brentwood-Darlington, what was once called Errol Heights, and we called Woodstock our home branch. Even then we were well on the way to having a tradition of weekly Library Days which were to become the pole star of our week; we even endured through the rebuilding of the Woodstock branch into a much more modern one. By the time we found our home the Mill Park area, the library had been in place for a handful of years. Just getting broken in, you might say. It wasn't too long after we'd become heavy Eastsiders, Bedrock residents, that we'd tried out the new branch.

I can't remember what it was like, the first time we'd walked in, but I'm sure it was love at first sight. When it comes to libraries, we're easy that way. I mean, this is truly a large branch; smaller towns would call it their main library, and this is is the city that's home to the Multnomah County Library system. A branch here is a universe in other towns. And a signature clock tower, the kind you can meet, Meier and Frank-style, under. Just seeing it when we pull in releases the kind of endorphine rush that requires pharmaceuticals in any other happenstance.

Moreover, Midland's a regional branch. There is a library hierarchy, and it goes three deep; Central, regional, and local branches. In the ranking order, branches like Capitol Hill, Holgate, and Rockwood are local branches. Midland's a regional, and you know it the moment you step in. The energy and life in the building is palpable. It's nearly always busy, and it's a good busy. although the slight overwhelm when things like Dia de los Ninos happen is also a good kind of overwhelmed.

Also, there's great mariachi music when that happens. Never ceases to delight me how that comes off.

There was music there this day, but I'll get on to that presently. The real keynote for today was a festive atmosphere and just that ever-present energy, restorative, healing, that Midland always has. We go there to recharge, and there's a reason, and that's it; for me, there's The New Yorker and looking for whatever art books they have for inspiration and motivation in my new drive to draw and cartoon; for The Wife™, catching up on The Oregonian; for me, investigating new-to-me fiction and literature and periodicals; for her, obsessive drilling-down on whatever the current interest is (and food, always food!).

Very restorative.

At the entry there were happy friendly neighbors and delicious cupcakes (with superb frosting, I'd eat a cupcake made out of that frosting, honestly) and a little spin-wheel to take home a little memento from the event. I lucked, and got a legacy pin; it was apparently supposed to be an early logo for the branch incorporating the talking-leaf motif I've commented on in an earlier missive and including the clock tower from the architecture. This'll be a keepsake.

The staff was out in force, doing the all the library things. We've known them all for so long, they're friends to us; we've seen staff members come, go on to greater responsibility, the friends we fondly remember; the staff that's still there now, just getting better as the years go by; the Sheriff's deputy that patrols the place has always become a good pal, and there are some that have gone on to promotions or other assignments that we also miss greatly.

On the right as we go back there was the children's section, doing what it does so well. If smart kids come out of this place, I can show you were some of them got their start.

The theme of the building, as I may have pointed out before, is talking leaves; that's what the Cherokee intellectual, linguist and philosopher Sequoyah called books. The theme is keynoted by the great, large, wonderful acrylic work in the foyer area at the east end of the building, Lucinda Parker's Talking Leaves, complete with a sketchbook-style explanation of what's going on at the bottom of the painting. That's an especially fun thing to look at; I must have looked at it a hundred times, but the vibrancy of the handwriting and the confidence of the sketching never get old for me. Even the outside of the building functions as a sort of book; quotations from literati such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Oregon's own William Stafford form a meta-connection between the contents of the building, the function it serves, and the link between it and its environment. All of that can be viewed at the Midland Library history page. It's a very thoughtful and apt selection.

We love our Midland Library. At age 20, it's coming into a maturity both rooted and vital, still the beloved heart of a community that it loves right back.

On the way from there to here and perhaps back again.

It's busy, but it's the good kind of busy. There's electronic
and paper media. You're very well-rounded here.

The weekly The New Yorker and Dutch Bros.
It's and excellent job, but someone has to do it.

If you see Gordon at the desk, tell him we sent you.

Juan and Yuriy are just two more of the Midlanders we've grown
fond of over the years. All the the Midland staff are just about the
best friends a reader can have.

Doing what it should be doing, this is the way you library in Portland, Oregon, 2016.

The mighty MultCoLib is at http://www.multcolib.org. May we remind you that ours is the original and genuine? Accept no substitutes!

24 September 2016

[liff] How We Do Affirmations Around Here

I've always held a very skeptical view of the affirmation. As implemented around me, I seem to interpret it as people passionately wishing to the aether which contains some immanent presence that answers them if they ask hard or long or passionately or artfully enough.

That doesn't quite work for me. I don't think there will ever be any conclusive answer to the question of is there an animating force to the universe and if so, it'll be different for each and every person who answers. I, however, do realize that we human people seem to be configured with an metaphysics plug-in, so I try to keep it, at least, fed in some way. What I have for a psyche seems to work a little better that way.

All that said, the properly-worded affirmation seems to have a positive effect on the mood. I seem to wilt less in the face of travail that way. So, taking my cue from an 80s song by The Sherbs, and arraying certain tools about me, I acknowledge that I am worth believing in by myself, and it helps.

Ain't no magician, no miracle maker. True, that. 

23 September 2016

[cartoonists] Why Was Morrie Turner Important?

Yesterday a dear friend shared with me a personal treasure, they'll let me publish it here. It was a  delightful thing, something that made my heart sing with joy a little; I want her to add her memory in her words which will make a finished piece of the thing.

Until then, I need to set the table for it. For those of us who still might not know.

Chances are about even, my gut tells me, my faithful interlocutor has only heard of Morrie Turner on his death in 2014 at the age of 90. You heard he was a pioneering black cartoonist who created a strip called Wee Pals, and you heard that he was the first national cartoonist to have a strip with such a integrated (what we said when we mean 'diverse' back in the 70s) cast.

Oliver steps up; Nipper shows him
where he stepped in it.
Shades of Milo Bloom here?
Aspirational, book-smart,
bespectacled, good-
natured and stocky, Oliver
was my dude.
All of which are true. Wee Pals, which ran from February of 1965 (and is still online at Creators' Syndicate) had an armful of characters which represented just about every outlook you could expect to find. The Rainbow Gang included several black kids, a Latino boy, an east Asian boy, a native American, a few young ladies of more than one color who dealt in 'Girls' Lib', and a bookish bespectacled know-it-all white kid named Oliver who, for me as a reader, was my avatar there. There was even a bigoted white kid. The kids lived life, played together, planned and schemed together, and occiasionally smash-talked each other.

It was, in other words, like life with real people.

Morrie Turner in 2005
(via Wikipedia)
Morrie Turner came up from Oakland where he was raised by a Pullman porter father and a housewife mother; learned cartooning via Art Instruction Schools, served as a mechanic for the Tuskeegee Airmen and had art published in Stars and Stripes, was a member of the Oakland Police Dept, and was inspired down the road to create Wee Pals when, the legend has it, he noticed there were basically no minorities in popular comics at the time and his mentor, Charles Schulz, suggested perhaps he should create one. The strip was eventually carried in more than 100 dailies, and in 1972, moved to TV under the Rankin-Bass aegis as a 17-episode season of animation called Kid Power, which was where I came in on it

This was where I came in. I ate it up like I ate up every other Saturday morning 'toon.

And I told you all that to tell you this: there is a moment that sticks with me, and I don't know if it's where something started with me or not, but it must mean something, because at one point, the gang was trying to resolve some situation or other, and Oliver, in his good-natured, smarts-proud, well intentioned way, boasts "We'll find the chink in the armor".

At which point his friend of Chinese descent, George, points out that he should perhaps watch how he throws that word chink around.

Life is a series of beginnings, and in 1972, in whiter-than-white Silverton, Oregon, someone had one of the many necessary beginnings toward the realization that other people of differently-colored skin are people, too; that words matter; that the best intentions don't mean that arrogance still doesn't hurt, and to learn from those casual mistakes. George didn't hate Oliver for it, they came to understand what that meant, and Oliver grew from the experience. It wasn't just that one moment, of course, but it probably is a single thing from which can come much humanity.

Turner did this all while we thought he was just making us laugh with sassy kids. That's why he's important and why is legacy still matters.

Stay tuned to this channel for a splended Morrie Turner memory from a dear friend's past coming up very soon.

[cartoon] The Story of Major Tom, the Space Cat

I am involved in the project of a very good friend who gave me motivation to draw, at last.

You can look a lot of places to find motivation, and sometimes, when it's pressed upon you, that's the best thing.

Anyway, her name is Amanda, and as a friend, I love her lots; she's got an idea for a work involving cats in SF (I won't say exactly what, it's her baby, and she deserves to aborn it. I'll not steal that thunder). It requires cat cartoons.

Now, a cartoonist or an illustrator is something I've always fancied becoming. So when she asked me if I could draw cats, well, I can draw anything I set my mind to, even if the muscles are out of practice, so I jumped at this chance. Science fictional fuzzbutts? Totally sign me up for this. So, after a bit of experimenting, I came up with this spacesuited guy. If he seems bewildered, well … what cat hasn't?

Meet Major Tom. Tom Cat, of course.

He kind of named himself. When I grew up, you had to be in the military to pilot one of the big birds. And, well, 'tom' cats are a thing, and after I had him inked in, I knew it was Major Tom I was looking at.

His last known transmission?

My Dog … it's full of 'nip …

When he gets back, he'll certainly be a happy guy.

22 September 2016

[liff] Views Of The City Of Lviv, Ukraine

Here's a curve ball for y'all.

My beloved makes interesting friends online; she has an intellect that makes people open up to her. Recently she made the acquaintance of of a fellow in Poland who has recently made a sortie into the city of Lviv.

Wikipedia has this to say about the seventh-largest city in Ukraine:

Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine and the seventh largest city in the country overall, is one of the main cultural centres of Ukraine. Named in honor of the Leo, the eldest son of Rus' King Daniel of Galicia. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia (also called Kingdom of Rus') from 1272 to 1349, when was conquered by King Casimir III the Great who then became known as the King of Poland and Rus'. From 1434, it was the regional capital of the Ruthenian Voivodeship in the Kingdom of Poland and was known as Lwów. In 1772, after the First partition of Poland, the city became the capital of the Habsburg Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and was renamed to Lemberg. In 1918 in a short time was the capital of the West Ukrainian People's Republic. Between the wars, the city was known again as Lwów and was the centre of the Lwów Voivodeship in the Second Polish Republic. After the Second World War, it became part of the Soviet Union (Ukrainian SSR) and in 1991 of independent Ukraine. Administratively, Lviv serves as the administrative center of Lviv Oblast and has the status of city of oblast significance. Its population is 728,350 (2016 est.)
So, it's an important city of regional stature, kind of like a San Diego or a Twin Cities or Memphis. And it's seen a lot of history, and crossed more than one border more than once.

Since my chances of travelling that far are nil, we eagerly adore pictures sent by overseas friends. The following are sent by our correspondent Tomek Kurcz, and are posted with his permission. I find them most delightful. And since I don't have anything more to add, I'll let them do most of the talking:

How they do coffee in Lviv. Tomek would feel quite at home here in Portland, I think,
though I've never seen a coffee around here as delectable as a parfait.
(copyright Tomek Kurcz, used with permission)

Slack time at the kitteh cafe.
(copyright Tomek Kurcz, used with permission)

Strollers on a cobbled Lviv street.
For what it's worth, the demonym of a Lviv resident is Leopolitan; the
Latin name of Lviv was Leopolis. It's the city of the lion.
(copyright Tomek Kurcz; used with permission)

Just a beautiful old building in Lviv.
(copyright Tomek Kurcz; used with permission)

This one has a surprise. Look directly out from the POV at the red tile roof in the middle
distance; then just above and to the left of that on the roof of the building just beyond,
notice that there is a car chassis on that roof. And there are people dining there.
I believe that's suppose to be a rooftop cafe. Classy.
(copyright Tomek Kurcz; used with permission)

Lviv streetcorner; note directional sign in center.
(copyright Tomek Kurcz; used with permission)

Another Lvivian roadsign. (copyright Tomek Kurcz; used with permission)
That's it from Lviv, Ukraine. Thanks to Tomek for sharing these delightful photos. Until such time as we can actually travel to Europe, they'll do.