28 September 2015

[pdx] Superbloodmoon of 2015, Washington Park, Portland

It was harder to find a good vantage point for the SuperBloodmoon than I thought. Or maybe I just underestimated the popularity.

Me, like (apparently) many … oh, so many … of my fellow Portlanders figured that the east lawn of the Pittock Mansion would be ideal. And, as far as views go, it is. And so also though about 6 million of my fellow Portlanders, who blocked up NW Barnes Road and NW Pittock Avenue nearly all the way back to Burnside, and had people parking their cars on Burnside and walking all the way up that hill just to get to the mansion.

The free day about two years back didn't get this much traffic. Throngs of people all wandering about in the narrow roads, making it impossible to get any where without wondering if the next thing you were going to hear through the car's chassis wasn't the sound crunch.

So. Re-emerging, after some travail, where NW Barnes Rd debouches onto West Burnside Road, I get the idea to try the Washington Park Rose Gardens. And why not? As something to shame me, despite my oft-boasted about adoration of my own hometown, I go to the Rose Test Gardens astoundingly infrequently. This problem was about to to solved. Quite easy to get to, actually … turn south off West Burnside onto SW Tichner Drive, then hang a right on SW Kingston Avenue. That leads you right in. A fortuitous parking spot opened up just as we got to it; a very patient TriMet Bus 63 driver gave us the leave to wait a minute or so while the car cleared the space, and we parked it.

The time was about 7:15 PM, Pacific Daylight Time, Sept 27th, 2015. We had my tripod and our Canon S100 PowerShot, which isn't the most ideal camera for astronomical phenomena without a great deal of help but we were going to put her through her paces.

The moon took a long time to emerge. It rose from the haze on the horizon, and more or less materialized into being. It did look noticeably larger than usual.

It was a good spot, though not ideal. The layout of the gardens, on the side of the hill, afforded a number of good vantage points, and the people were polite and nobody crowded us. It was actually pretty cool just to be there, and there was an intangible bonhomie in the air. People were at ease, casual … kids going down the stairs anyway but the steps … I remember an adult telling a 13-year-old girl that she was going to be an old fogy like him someday as she ran up the steps.

"Nooooooooooo!" she retorted.

I got a big of a glimpse of Mount Hood just before the sun went down. The poor mountain is looking so denuded after the hellish summer we've had. Barren and sere.

Toward 8:00 PM, we finally got conditions that gave the best opportunity for some memorable pictures, at least as good as my Canon would give.

It would have been a little better, I suppose, if we didn't have the bright lights behind and in front of us. But I opened the aperture as far as I could, set the exposure for as long as possible, and this is what we got, and at least we have a memory to show for it.

It was a good experience. We need to go to the Rose Gardens a little more often, The Wife™ and me. After, all, they are why this is the Rose City. And perhaps I'm just a poser if I can't say I've been there.

This last one, just above here, was the whole, uncropped scene … and the 15-second exposure time made wonderful ghosts of the many people who were there with us to see this thing.

Superbloodmoon over Portland, September, 2015.

22 September 2015

[pdx] The View From The Stadium Fred Meyer Overlook, 3rd Floor

We've been to this view point before, but one level down.

I miss some things about NW Portland. I lived there at one time, long before things got fashionable and expensive, in a house between 21st and 22nd on NW Flanders Street. It was a good time. I can't go back to this area without thinking about it.

My first drawing board, real drawing board, was bought at Stadium Fred Meyer. I still have it; it's my wife's now. It was an entirely different building then. Now, of course, is the days of Trader Joe's (formerly the Thriftway on NW Glisan), conveyor belt sushi in the Stadium Fred Meyer, and a luscious 3-floor viewpoint in that Fred Meyer that you can see good things from.

The earlier vantage, the 2nd floor was good enough. The third floor?

"Get that western sky, said Wife™, meaning this view to the southeast (well, it's a Western sky, no matter which way you look, innit?). That tallest building is the lamented and overdue Park Avenue West, about to be the 3rd tallest building within the boundaries of Oregon, at 31 stories. And it's almost done.

Some people are pretty lucky. You look west and south at the hillside, and you see some of them:

The Wife™ noticed this aspect and zoomed in on the house on the right; I chose a wider angle. The big askew building is the grand old Vista Saint Clair apartments, named for the street they sit at the corner of. The cornice in the foreground belongs to the home of the Kingston Tavern. That house and the motel-like apartments to the left of it, those are located on SW 21st Avenue, and they look out (obvs.) over all those buildings and get a great view - or blinded when the sun reflects off the Wells Fargo Tower. Either way, with rents being what they were in this area … it'll cost you.

One corner that seems marooned in time is the corner of West Burnside and SW 21st Avenue, seen here:

Unlike most signs which stand for their historic value, the VOLVO isn't up there for the sake of atmosphere. That glossy teal building is still, to this day, the home of Jim Fisher Volvo, was probably since before I was born (a point we shan't explore apresent). The little brown building in front of it is Levine's Dry Cleaning, which sports the same sign it had back when I lived along NW Flanders back in the 80s. 

Like I said, good times. Behind the cornice on the lower left? Down that street used to be the studios of KPTV, Channel 12, back the in glory days. 735 SW 20th Place. Classic Portland, right there.

At least you don't have to pay rent to watch the view from the Stadium Fred Meyer, not just yet. And, if you look up NW 20th Avenue, just over the trees …

Yep. The arch of the Fremont Bridge. 

Real Portland.

21 September 2015

[liff] The ZKT Mailroom: What Jim Horwitz Sent Me

This is another thing I've been holding back for a while, and once again I am remiss; I think a public thank you is in order for this man.

Jim Horwitz draws Watson, a comic which is has fierce fans, of which I am one. Sometimes it seems that Jim is as much of a fan of his fans as his fans are of him. I've come to know him as a correspondent with an incredibly generous heart.

Last year, he sent me a book that was important to him, and I've grown to love it too. It's this:

It's Helen DeWitt's The Last Samurai.  It tells of the journey of a young, preternaturally intelligent boy being raised by a single mom and in search of his father. It speaks to genius, the creative process, the restorative power of art. It's also a fiercely-good piece of fiction, provided to me at a time when I was growing out of being just a genre reader and falling in love with the idea of literature at large, its power to create little words that are very very real as we need them.

I'll be reading this again soon, between books on writing and creativity and Pynchon and Proust, because I have a feeling that it hasn't delivered its full message to me. A great novel, I've found, is that way, just like a favorite movie, it's a flower that opens a little more with each reading.

Jim wrote a personal message to me on one of the pages. I won't share it now; it's that personal to me, but I never took the opportunity to thank him for sending it my way, just the right thing at just the right time … how he knew it, I don't know.

But he knew.

I won't share the message, but I keep this post-it on the page facing:

Watson should be a guide to everyone trying to find their way … as I still am.

[liff] The ZKT Mailroom: Paint By Numbers From Donna Barr

We get sent stuff occasionally from cartoonists. This is a delicious awesome hazard which comes from being acquainted with people with ebullient and generous spirits.

Today, we got this in the mail from Donna Barr:

Now, this is ever appropriate since I've blogged about PBN here, and Donna is famous for doing drawings like these:

Donna knows horses. If I'm looking for culpability, here's some evidence for that …

… which is a good translation and better than mine, because she actually speaks German, whereas I just make a jab at it betimes.

This made my day, need it be said?

[pdx] People of the Eastside: The Division-Midway Festival of Nations

Sunday was the day of one of Portland's numerous other street fairs, this time, one quite close to home.

The Division Midway Alliance for Community Improvement … a business group centered along SE Division Street between SE 117th and SE 148th Avenues … is in our back yard. Hell, it's just as good as being our back yard. A few of our favorite merchants are within its demesne. And, each year, it celebrates the astoundingly awesome diversity that the David Douglas community has become with a little thing they call the Festival of Nations.

This year's 'do was held in the most welcoming and accessible spot yet … the western half of the parking lot of the Division Center shopping center, located at 122nd and Division. It happened from noon to 4:00 PM on Sunday, and it contained as much as it could in that small space of time. Nepalese and Karenni folk dancers (which we missed) and Grupo Latitudes (which we did not miss) provided the international flair; Latin and Somali food provided the spice. Here are some of the things we saw there …

An artist, masterful in the use of colored pencil:

Grupo Latitudes played music of the Andes.

We missed the Asian folk dancers performing … but we didn't miss seeing them in their gorgeous outfits, enjoying the food and the Andean music.

There were other crafts, too, such as the metalworker that was there, who had a most attentive student.

Some of the organization's volunteers, flush with the enthusiasm of a successful and interesting event:

We even imagine there were some "good guys" hanging around. Makes perfect sense to me.

The only real problem was that there wasn't enough of it, really. Four hours is a tough time to hold a really super street fair, and the location of it seems to hint at the challenges that our side of town has in creating community. Because of demographic shifts, the area around 122nd Avenue, the spine of the David Douglas school district and the increasingly vibrant David Douglas community.

It's a good place to be, but a place with its own challenges and obstacles that, perhaps, communities east of Mount Tabor don't share. When there are community positive organizations such as the Division-Midway Alliance and people-positive events such as the Festival of Nations that acknowledge the varied complexion of the community, though, how can one not love living out 122nd way? And how can one not have some sort of hope that a positive vision for the future of our neighborhood will prevail?

We had fun, and we hope it will get even better in the years to come. 

[writing] Harlan Ellison, Crafting the Short Story, and "Night of Black Glass"

Finally found a copy of Harlan Ellison's "Stalking the Nightmare, in paperback, for my HE shelf. The high point on this collection is the short, eerie "Night of Black Glass". This is a story which stuck with me, particularly because of Harlan's exploration of survivor's guilt and how he poses it as an existential question with a real cost; also, if anyone (and I know most of you in The Harlan Ellison Facebook Fanclub have) has ever seen the documentary "Dreams With Sharp Teeth", it was apparently written as the product of an exhibition …

The picture is of Harlan sitting down in a bookstore's front window on Fifth Avenue in NYC in front of his trusty Olympia typewriter. He is then delivered an envelope with a single piece of paper, NBC letterhead, which he then opens, reads, and then gets to typing. In a voice-over, the late Jessica Savitch, from a clip from the Today show from March of 1981, states that he was given an opening idea written by Tom Brokaw: "A man walking on a rocky beach in Maine in August, finds a pair of broken sunglasses". Five hours later, "Night of Black Glass" was finished. Not only was it a demonstration of the man's almost-preternatural ability to prolifically create, it showed that creative pursuits, to paraphrase HE, was a job of work, not something dainty and airy, fit only for occupants of ivory towers.

I read it in a magazine then and didn't see it again for many years. Now I have it on my HE shelf to read when I please.

Old novels and short-stories have become like totems of existence to me. Having them on hand physically makes me feel better about being here.

And so it goes.

And here's a link: An archival page, noting the title indicates a school resource for teaching literature, but it contains the entire transcript of Harlan's interview with Jessica Savitch on NBC's Today Show from March 24th, 1981. Very insightful reading at http://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview?cuecard=34831 (if you search the NBCLearn site you only get a 15-second preview of the video, or you have to sign in to see it, and you probably have to be in school or be an educator or pay a fee for it. But at least you can read it.)

20 September 2015

[comic] The Modest Avengers

Best five dollars I ever spent, here …

I love crossover spoofs, and this one is one of the best. The Modest Medusa cast as, of course, The Avengers.

From the left:

Modest herself as Tony Stark, a/k/a, IronMan, though Iron Monster Girl and Snakes is more appropriate … if awkward;
Marah as Captain America;
Charles as Thor:

One of the Carlos's as Hawkeye;
The Knight of Chains as Black Widow (interesting choice … and appropriately badass)
Deb the Bad Mermaid as Loki; (wrong ... I've been advised the mermaid is actually Nick Fury)

A. Snake as … okay, guys, I'll fess up, I don't know who that is. I'm guessing Ant Man. (I guessed wrong. This is Loki)
And, of course,
Jake himeself, as The Incredible Hulk.

It's fun being a born-again indie comics fan … even if I pull the occasional minor fail here and there. 

[comic] In Which We Visit Modest Medusa's House

There's a lot to like about southeast Portland. The rents are (well, relatively speaking) still cheap there. There's a lot of old buildings that hold on to the longtime working-class character of Southeast and a lot of new stuff happening, too. There's a big interesting diagonal road … northeast Portland has Sandy Boulevard, but southeast Portland has the mighty Foster Road. And every year there's a street festival called Fun on Foster.

Curiously, this year, Fun on Foster seemed kind of MIA. But there was fun to be had on Foster Road. You just had to know where to look.

We knew where to look.

On the north side of SE Holgate Boulevard, just east of its' highly-acute crossing with Foster Road, and across the street from a wedge shaped green space called Laurelwood Park, is a strip of older storefronts. On the corner is a tango studio. Next to that, an old-school barber shop. And, next to that … SharedSpace. This is a storefront with a distinctive and unique sign and what appears to be a wonderful mission … desk space rental for those of us who want to run a creative practice but don't really feel ready to go for the whole office nine-yards. For a long time, going from here to there in Southeast, we've driven past it occasionally. The only thing I had to recommend it was that funky typography in the sign … until now.

When I got turned on to Modest Medusa over at The Spritely Bean more than a year ago, I had yet to meet or get to know the creator. Time and events have healed that breach, and I've since found that Jake Richmond is just as smart and witty as the comics he creates. In the void that was the apparent lack of Fun on Foster, he went ahead with a plan to have a table sale and a semi-open-house, and if only for that, this was put on our calendar. From noon there was a table of merch of many prices. Not only was there Modest Medusa, there was also a RPG that is crazy weird and brain-bending that you doubtless hadn't heard of called Tokyo Brain Pop! (Manga schoolgirls with superpowers), and Jake's two other comic creations (the superhero comic Ghost Kiss and his Legend of Korra fan comic Asami Loves Korra) as well as some posters (one of which I have, about which more perforce), and some giveaways (little Modest Medusa pins for the lapel, yes, thanks!)

The space itself is funky, filled with great posters and buzzing with ebullient fans on this fine day. In the above picture, that's Jake there on the left. The red-haired lady was a particularly delightful person, and was inspired in not only her fandom of Modest but in the funny and passionate fan art she produced, a few items of which were in an etagere to one side of the counter, and a couple of which she brought in. Colorful bead art:

… and a whimsical bit of preparedness:

You can never be too sure.

The chatter when you are in a scrum like this talking about a favorite comic with its creator is a little hard to classify and retain, but there were some high points. I'm late to the part on Modest, but learning about how much of Jake goes into the creation of Modest's world impressed me in the way that it's got to be a very brave thing to do, to take things from one's own life and recast them into a fictional realm. It's Proustian, in a certain way. Some great drama and story results. Jake's work, as the characters in Modest Medusa have come, gone, and evolved, and the reasons why, are axiomatic there.

The real high point of the conversation for me was where Jake and I disagreed on something. In speaking of of a certain work whose comic tropes didn't speak to him, I found a lot of value … I like what I like, but I don't require anyone else to like it. Attempting to view it from the point of view of someone who spends the majority of their time creating, especially when coming from the point of view of someone who mostly takes in those creations, throws an unexpected illumination on the subject. On a personal level, I like anyone who is going to be candid about whether or not they find something speaks to them. Art is personal, storytelling art even more so.

So, Jake is a sharp and witty creator … and I was grateful for the chance to have met him and talked to him a bit more.

Anybody reading this who didn't take the chance to go down … you missed out, my friends.

Also, free chocodiles. We shall brook no further argument there.

Chocodiles, and their bouncer.

17 September 2015

[liff] A Koan On Success

If one can't be the stunning success one hoped to, can one at least be a beautiful failure?

[pdx] Portlandia, Where You Bound?

Some time ago, I forget where, I opined that so many people think Portland wants to grow up to be Seattle, but they're wrong … Portland actually wishes it were San Francisco.

Following the news about the techsters taking over there, and the boho, artistic SF culture that the city was famous for being driven out in some sort of human expression of Gresham's law, and following the current news about rents whizzing upward towards some sort of physical escape velocity that is currently driving lower-income workers and renters toward the margins (and perhaps even beyond in the near future), it's hard not to, at least, disagree with my own past thoughts. Portland is becoming SF-like, in all the wrong ways.

On SE 8th, just off Hawthorne, is a basketball backboard, It's in the shape of the state of Oregon, but says Welcome to California. It's gotten some legs. Inspired by that, I offer this little bit of agitprop.

14 September 2015

[What We're Loving] Brett Carville's "Life Of Craig"

There are a few things I've been holding back because reasons, and one of them I really regret holding back on is anything Brett Carville does.

We met him again at Artist's Alley Comic Fest. We'd met him previously at Linework NW and started liking what he did then. He showed us more of what he did, and we must say we like it much.

Life of Craig: A Planet Called Wilma is the first chapter in what promises to be a SF epic, seen through a cracked glass with a layer of satire. The story opens as we approach a desolate place of apparent doom … a planet called Wilma. The population, aside animated skeletal beasts that walk about cracking wise, are the Cougars, a line of rather grotesque female aliens, and their male counterparts, who are, well … useless.

The Cougars are dying out, with no virile-enough male to provide the sufficient spark. They have a problem, and they know it, and begin to come up with a way to solve it … they've tried every male species they can find, and none are good enough. They come from a galaxy far, far away but, as foreshadowing might suggest, not sufficiently far enough away to keep them from coming our direction. Striking out on an expedition, they depose their autocratic queen, but not before she, in an indirectly literal way, puts a stick in the spokes of the plans of the remaining Cougars … and that's where the fun really starts …

Looks like someone's not goingto be seeing Good Morning God

Meanwhile, in Sarasota, Florida, our soon-to-be hero, Craig, is living, and … he's afraid … dying there as well …

Living the dream, such as it is, in Sarasota

… trying to find some direction, getting his first kiss from Elizabeth, and trying to make sense of the legends that cats are killing and eating people, and how those play into his dreams.

The most remarkable thing about Brett's comic is the style. The produced book is very slick and finished, and reading it gives me the feeling that I'm reading one of those strange stories that I used to read in Heavy Metal when I was a teenager … the style really took me back. The sensibility of the story, with its grotesque characters and its compelling strangeness, could certainly have leapt out from between the pages of that magazine. It's intense, but in all the right ways. 

The depth of technique and the accomplishment of the work is all too evident in the landscapes and wide views, which sort of speak for themselves, as this page shows …

The work is something that's clearly ready for prime time, and a work I'd like to keep an eye out for. Brett and his co-writer Jason Thibodeaux are clearly talents to be reckoned with, and bold enough to stand out. I hope they do.

A Cougar of Planet Wilma.Also, a time to worry.

08 September 2015

[art] "I Got This": When The Wife™ Cartoons

My spouse likes to hide her light under a bushel in some ways. When it peeks out, it tends to be delighfully amusing.

The job of the bon mot in this house is typically left to me. I'm not just boasting here; of the two of us, and she'll back me up on this, I'm the one much less likely to be left to the so-called 'wisdom of the stairwell'.  She's brilliant, just not exactly in the ways where I'm clever, and that works the other way too.

So, a few weeks ago she dashed this out on a slip of paper over coffee at Powell's. The spots are my fault; I stowed it between two books to keep it flat and somehow it got damp there. I am a crap archivist. But the wit is all hers. This kept me laughing the rest of the night.

Just a simple whimsical thought, deftly accomplished.

I'm not the only wit around here. 

[art] Found At Powells: The Modern-Day Paint-by-Number

Coloring books have suddenly become chic, as we can see from the sudden proliferation of ads for such … but not so much for kids. Adults have become the new market for coloring books.

We shouldn't wonder, really. When we think of the value in nostalgia alone, the appeal is perhaps evident. But there's more to it than that. Our experience, as well as those of the people we know, is that while coloring outside of the lines is fun and liberating, sometimes coloring within the lines is called for, even therapeutic. My personal experience with designing heraldry in the Society for Creative Anachronism suggests that, in the power found in gaining command of an artistic mode of expression that is strictly circumscribed, a certain sense of freedom, oddly, pertains.

You know it when you get it.

On Sunday night, during a recuperative episode which required me to be in bed most of the weekend (what did not kill me should have tried harder), we trekked to Powell's City o'Books , and I did something I don't do so much anymore … browsed the art techniques section in the Pearl Room (as much for the exercise of climbing all the stairs as seeing what was on the shelf). It's not that they don't have a great selection, they do, always have, and always will, but if anyone ever saw the collection of art technique books I have, you'd know why I don't see the need to collect many more maybe.

Anyway, when browsing that wonderful aisle, I found this …

Yep. A Paint-by-Number set. The packaging presentation alone caught my eye. I brought it down to the Coffee Room so we could look it over … it wasn't sealed, was being sold used, and had all its parts.

I originally brought it down because The Wife™ had recently had some fun playing with PBN, and I figured it would delight her. Turned out, it spoke to me, which surprised me … I didn't expect that. But there it was, daring me to try it, and being used, it was at a great price. So it went home with us.

And I got it home, and here's what it had:

One brush, twelve acrylic paint pots, eight textured boards on which the patterns were printed, and a charming little book.

This little book has content written by Dan Robbins, who seems to be credited with creating the concept of PBN, which grew out of his work with producing coloring books for kids, realizing that if you put a paint brush into an adult's hand and gave them the same sort of thing, it would kick the whole thing up the the next level. So, with Leonardo da Vinci whispering into his ear, he sold, per ardua, the idea to his boss and they worked out the technical problems, and PBN, during the 50s and 60s, took the nation by storm.

I remember doing these as a kid, ruining more than one shirt with permanent acrylic highlights, much to my Mom's dismay, and them coming out pretty sad looking. That was, as they say, then.

I enjoy creating, but here, the call to imbue something already started for me with the art of my labor is intriguing and enticing, something I can lose myself in and not worry about innovating. And the vintage nature of the designs is similarly beguiling.

Sometimes, even for self-styled iconoclast, following directions is the best kind of therapy.

You'll notice, in the above display, the boards are pretty white, at that resolution, positively blank. There are lines there, though, you just have to throw a lot of light on them. I suspect that this is probably why it was returned for store credit; the guidelines are printed at a contrast that would challenge one with good eyes … never mind mine. Here's a closeup:

The lightness of the line is for real, the blur because I got the camera a little too close. They aren't really that blurry. But! I have a drawing board and a nice desk lamp with a big old magnifying glass in it. I should be able to take this on.

My goal in working any of them is to make them as perfectly covered as possible. I've now worked with acrylics; they don't scare me so much anymore. The instructions straightforward: each color is either a single color from the acrylic paint pot, or a mix of two colors (sometimes three). Fill in the lines, and take your time is the general idea.

The designs do appeal. From the Eifel Tower to the clown to the retro spaceship, I'm looking forward to how they'll look completed.

The publisher(s) are Princeton Architectural Press and Chronicle Books, and the ISBN is 0-8118-4788-8, for those who are perforce inspired to find one for themselves.

01 September 2015

[logo] Google's Moving Finger Writes and, Having Writ, Moves On …

Should our society and civilization survive past the year 2100, the furore regarding each Google Doodle (or lack of furore thereupon) will probably be seen as some sort of barometer.

We watch with bated breath to see what the netiverse makes of the first major Google logo change in many years

Before …

… during …

… and after.

This is the new look of Google, introduced with little fanfare on the 1st of September, 2015, 17 years, more or less, after Google was just a graduate project that Larry and Sergey came up with … which then, more or less, conquered the world.

The doodle is rather playful. A hand reaches up from behind the search box, wipes the old logo away, and redraws the new logo in colored chalk … one color stick per letter. The chalk letters change to floating dots, which converge into the new multi-colored G monogram, which resolve back into dots, then re-rezz into the finished new logo … which requires one more insoucient poke with the hand to go all into line.

Journey? Destination? Does it make a difference? Google reinvents itself pretty much whenever it feels like it, and usually does it in an entertaining way.

1 Sept 2015 is no exception.