22 February 2017

[PDX_liff] The Temporary Lakes We Grow Out Here

A local friend and author, Cyn Ley, gave me permission to share this with you all … here in Outer East Portlandia, and especially with the glandular rainfalls we've been getting lately, for being an area nowhere near a creek or a brook or a stream, we seem to have our share of seasonal lakes in streets and parking lots (and basements) and some pretty cockamamie reasons for them occurring …

Every time it rains significantly, the parking lot of our local Post Office develops a lake. No small seasonal depression, this; this miracle of Nature is at least a foot deep, and will most happily dampen your axles as well as your mood. Known affectionately as Russellville Lake, it is a wonder to behold. When the weather is dry, it takes several days to return to the skies from whence it came, unless it rains more.
Here's the odd thing: it develops over a sizable storm drain.
The other day, I visited the Post Office thinking to get stamps, and the subject came up. It turned out that one of the mail clerks knew the secret of this precipitous wonder.
For reasons as yet undetermined, someone had blocked the drain in years past with a concrete slab.There's no moral to this story, only a possible future inquiry into the mind of Man regarding the proper functioning of storm drains. As yet, no trout have been spotted in the lake.

But, if there's any time when there is trout in the lake, we may be there to report it for you. Because in Outer East Portlandia, that's our kind of quirk.

Thank you to Cyn for allowing us to post this. 

[art] Motivational Drawing Board Art Courtesy of Fanaticon

Two weekends ago the Klein Force traveled across light years (not as heavy as actual years) to a teen-run micro-comicon that had it's second iteration this year. Advised by the inimitable Jake Richmond (Modest Medusa), Fanaticon is a microcon organized and run by the teens in the Manga Studio art class he facilitates through Portland Parks and Rec. We went to last year's and found it inspirational, and the same with this years. Some old friends, some new treats, some quality face-time with Jake, some great fun chatting with Pharoah (really looking forward to the next episode of Black Fist, my friend) and a couple of bits of inspirational art for postinga bove the drawing board.

I just now realized that I'm evolving the long-neglected drawing board into an altar of sorts; whether or not the universe cares about it, our human psyches need ritual, even an informal or brief one. My religion, such as it is, has only one sacrament, and that's the pursuit of art in the form of word and drawing.

The assembling altar has a totem and and two affirmations here; the cat, our main spazz Mason, comes as a fuzzy gray bonus. His mind is elsewhere. Possibly on Mars.

The single line, I HAVE THE SKILL, is a line from a song by a band who called themselves The Sherbs and was done in 1980 on their album The Skill. It's affirmational in a down-to-earth way: the first verse and chorus run thus:

Ain't no magician, no miracle makerI am the shoreline, you are the breakerAll I can say, if this life that we're livin'Is a death-defying thrillI have the skillI have the skill
We're not supermen and superwomen but each day we live, we defy death. Why am I so afraid? But it continues in that straight-on, straight-ahead style. It's a great pep-talk of a song. The line is set in Micrgramma Extended because that's the headline type on the album cover design.

The other two bits of art came from Fanaticon, and speak to me in different ways.

That cutie of an orange fox with the pink ears is a representation of my totem, the fox. Just like many other metaphysical symbols, I didn't choose it, it chose me; I've always been fond of foxes, and the more I thought of foxes, a few years back, the more I saw them. I figured my local universe was giving me a role model. So I went all in on the fox as that point, and this one, by local artist Jillian Lambert (jillianlambert.com) I fell for instantly; the cute cartoon rendering, but most of all, the texture of the coloring … that made it real, authentic, and very seductive to the eye. And the fox is happy for no particular reason. Acquiring a cheer like that, both practical and motivational, would be a boon. It's a lesson I can take.

The type on the right is a dynamite design by Robin Casey (rozdraws.com) and has the right combination of resolve and irreverance that makes me smile, and not just because of that. The type is fun to look at, reminding me greatly of the elan with which sign painters sometimes go to town when they kick out the jams. You can paint great pictures with type, and this is a great example of how.

And I'll look at it every time I sidle up to the drawing board and push to create something … anything.

21 February 2017

[logo] Seattle's Public Radio KUOW Re-logos

KUOW, one of the Puget Sound area's two NPR affiliates and, by reputation at least, one of the most listened-to NPR stations in the nation, has been on the air since 1952.

It's a historic blowtorch on the FM dial. Up until now the logo look has been like this:

It's also more recently used this look, which eschews the Futura for a bit of timeless class:

KUOW has changed its look again, going for something that's a little futuristic, a little hip, and a little retro:

I see all three, here. The abstraction of the letters into 3-d space gives me a retro-future feeling. The red lines giving volume to the letters while only serving as a transparent skeleton speak to me somehow of the past. The starring role of the call-sign continues a trend I've noticed of broadcast stations taking the focus off the frequency and bringing the call-sign front-and-center, to become more of a brand: here in Portland we have KBOO, which everyone knows by name even if you can't call the frequency to mind immedately. The type shows features of the hip, mechanically-drawn lines I've seen quite a bit of lately, that seem to have visual resonance even with an old-fashioned type lover like myself.

Not everyone I know is enamored of it, finding it busy, or with too much visually going on. I think I can see that. I'd be interested to know what other people think.

[liff] Mackenzie Phillips at Powell's Books

Seen in passing: During our usual Sunday night sacrament at Powell's Books, the actress Mackenzie Phillips appeared to promote her latest book, a series of essays on life, recovery, and addiction titled Hopeful Healing. 

I was up in Pearl browsing the art books, as is my wont; The Wife™ was mildly apprehensive that I would be invading a closed level, as celebrities such as Mackenzie create rather a stir in our still-parochial burg.

But there was no problem. Indeed, the few moments I spent seeing someone I used to crush on on TV when I was much younger than I am now were rather calming. The audience was attentive and she was engaged with them. There seemed to be a calm chemistry going on between them all.

I always thought that it was ironic that someone should speak so authoritatively on addiction and recovery should have once played in a production titled One Day At A Time. 

It was an interesting moment. There really was a sort of serenity emanating from the group that was calming. I didn't stay long, but I'm glad I went by.

Brush with greatness again, my friends.

18 February 2017

[lit] Proust On Film

A great deal of Proust's life is known about; he left a surfeit of information about himself behind, and a great many photographs. But we may now actually have him on film.

The following clip, of a high-society wedding in Paris in 1904, shows an unaccompanied individual proceeding down the steps on the viewer's right, in the 37th second:

Des images de Proust retrouvées ? by LePoint

This via France24 (http://www.france24.com/en/20170215-france-literature-marcel-proust-footage-wedding-clip) is a clip of the wedding procession of Armand de Guiche, being betrothed to Elaine Greffulhe, daughter of Countess Greffulhe (whoever they may be). De Guiche was a good friend of Marcel's.

There are a number of tells that make it extremely likely this is Marcel Proust. From the article:

The clip from 1904 shows a single man dressed elegantly for the occasion. The gay French writer was one of the few unaccompanied guests at the Greffulhe-de Guiche marriage ceremony.

The clothes also correspond to Proust’s sartorial tastes. "The clothes he wears, elegant but distinct from those of the other men at the wedding, correspond to what he wore at the time, when he was a dandy in the English fashion,” said Sirois-Trahan. Proust was then a young man of 30, a socialite who was admitted into aristocratic circles due to his reputation as a spiritual, reclusive man working on a massive book project.
So, Marcel Proust, rescued from lost time … on film.

Hat tip: Friday Valentine. Thanky! 

17 February 2017

[Wy'East] Mt. Hood With His Cloud Cape On, and Calendar Talk

Last minute overtime at work again had me coming home after 10 AM. Now, I know the lights going to be better, the farther we go into the year, and the weather hereabouts being so chaotic, added up to this:

Wy'east towering over the eastern verges of Portland, dominating the old Rossi place, and with a blanket of clouds casually thrown over as though Nature dropped a cloth.

Most dramatic.


Now, as to calendar matters: The last three-four months have really done an enervating thing on the spirit. Yes, political matters have us discouraged and anxious. The chaotic winter weather Oregon has experienced has visited its own travail, as I recall a recent Sunday, where we might otherwise have gone to book church at Powell's, was completely spent when a stationary front parked itself over Portland and our now-somehow-faulty guttering and drainage dumped on the order of 200 or more gallons of cold rainwater into the basement where I try to do my art, but did it on a constant basis throughout the day, making me way too intimate with the wet-dry shop vac.

Over 200 gallons, 9 gallons at a time. It was better than mopping or bailing, but I will tell you, my interlocutor, that I was one crispy critter afterward. Not even Denny's coffee could put the spring back in my step.

For the past two years it's been a evolving practice of mine to put together some of my pictures into a calendar which I then invite my friends to purchase through Lulu.com. After November, my creative energy and drive for even putting something as modest as that together went away. I was out of gas. So, this year, so far … so far … there is no 2017 calendar.

But I am going to go ahead with it. My calendar will start in March, which is a bit out of the box, but eventually I'm not happy unless I'm doing something a little bizarrely different.

Watch this space. I'll be updating your soonly.

And so it goes. 

16 February 2017

[OR_liff] Bill Hall Nails The Tao of Tom McCall With McCallandia

The Wife™ has informed me that seeing local things with the grammatic form -landia appended has become tiresome. I'm beginning to agree. If you see anythinglandia in Portland or the environs these days, it's long since lost its punch.

The upside to this is that when something is given the rubric and deserves it, it wears it so very well. I have just met with such a thing.

Bill Hall is a man of much ilk who has been involved in Oregon politics for a while; he is currently a county commissioner in Lincoln County, down on the coast. As a younger fellow, he volunteered to help elect Oregon's then-quondam governor, Tom McCall, to a hoped-for third non-consecutive term. Old Moe Mentum had swung the other way by then, and it was not to be, but clearly it left the seed of a story that eventually demanded to be told.

Oregon politics and politicos are strange things. At once parochial and world-aware, we tend to have a laser-like focus on the local that tends to obscure the fact that, in the back of our minds, we have a solid idea of how it connects to the world around us. I fancy they are a breed unto themselves. From the late 1960s through the mid 1970s, that breed of human was crystallized into a 6' 5" man from Massachusetts by way of central Oregon who taught us … and is still, by his legacy, teaching us … how to Oregon better than many natives. McCall is a legend in Oregon politics for good, solid reasons, leaving us a legacy of logical, sensible land-use planning and a way of cherishing the environment and our natural treasures that acknowledges that if Oregon's special because of them, Oregon will no longer be special if she sells them out as wealth and plunder.

But he was also a man of seeming contradictions, because as progressive as he was in many important ways, in other ways, he was your standard-issue 1970s Republican. Author Hall has taken the measure of the man, all in all, and given us a romp of a utopian novel in McCallandia, published by Matt Love's Nestucca Spit Press. The book imagines what would have happened if, instead of elevating Gerald Ford to the vice-presidency on Agnew's resignation in 1973, Nixon instead chose The Man From Oregon as an unexpected safe chair-warmer. Of course, Watergate happened after that. And after that … President McCall. And The Oregon Story goes national.

This is, as the tagline in the upper right corner of book has it, a utopian novel, and those who would say that what happened in the book couldn't possibly happen in reality would be well-advised to look up that word and understand what it means. Because a book in which the Bottle Bill and the Beach Bill went national, the President temporarily heads the EPA, Vortex II happens on the National Mall, and Barry Commoner becomes vice president couldn't possibly happen in reality. Being a utopian alternative history, though, allows you to kick out all the stops.

Where this book really clicked for me, though, whas the way Hall made everything work. By his authorial pen, McCall achieves full measure as an Oregonized sort of Lyndon Johnson, who had one foot in tradition and one foot in daring to do the right thing against any and all odds. All the positivity and even the hope for change that McCall represented to many of us was captured utterly. The novel is saturated in all the Oregon you could ever want to read about; no less than James Cloutier contributed a Hugh Wetshoe cartoon as one of the opening gambits.

Hall's McCall fairly strides though the novel, which is set up as a series of episodes interspersed with narratives from other supporting characters and 'what might have been' media pieces. The life of President McCall doesn't deviate from the actual history of the times; "Squeaky" Fromme makes an attempt on his life in Sacramento in 1975, Vic Atiyeh still triumphs over Robert Straub to become Oregon's last GOP governor; McCall still succumbs to cancer in January of 1983. What also impresses is the way Hall weaves the facts of what actually happened with the idea of a McCall presidency and makes it all seem as though, if McCall had actually gotten into the White House, this all might actually have happened.

And any Oregon political novel that has Ken Kesey as a character? That name-checks Callenbach's Ecotopia? Whose roll-call of Oregon political names rings down the Capitol corridors like animating spirits? Whose second chapter is a notional Rolling Stone piece that channels Hunter S. Thompson? How could I not say yes to that?

The book is a wonder and a romp  and a manic bit of fun and as Oregon as it gets and a decided anti-depressant to the current times we're in, and if anyone ever wonders why McCall was revered by Oregonians Of A Certain Age and why he should be even now, you'll find the answers here.

I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone interested in Oregon get a copy of this book. It may well turn out to be one of the best-remembered and cogent books on the Oregon scene ever written.

It certainly nailed the McCall I remember.

07 February 2017

[pdx_liff] Me Talk Portland One Day

Stumbled on this at Oregonlive.

It's not a comprehensive list, but there are certain tells that alert the local Oregonian that You're Not From Here. We don't say "the" before the freeway number, we don't say "on line", and Jo-Jo's are a delicious potato thing you can get at the convenience store (well, at least you could in the 80s and 90s).

The Oregonian gives you a basic Oregon-English/English-Oregon dictionary at this link.

[design] Return To OryCon: The OryCon 37 Souvenir Program

I return to revisiting my program design work for OryCon with the design for OryCon 37. Coming away from its dark period, I re-entered the fray with a con that had a SF, adventure-y feel: The Quest For The Ultimate Artifact.

Tanya Huff was the Author GoH, and Alan M. Clark was the Artist GoH. As anyone who's seen Alan's work weill recognize, there's an atmospheric quality to it as he lets some of his materials play a chaos game in the background while he lets intelligence guide the foreground. The combination usually imparts a near-incomparable air of mystery to all his works, be they SF, horror, fantasy, or anything else he does.

The cover illustration, Buckets of Bad Weather, is a thing to get lost in:

The steampunk-y construction is inscrutable, it keeps its own counsel; it appears to be siphoning something off and sending it somewhere else, but while it's guessable, it's unclear what or where or why. It may be an unwelcome thing, taking from the local environment but giving little or nothing in return, and you might think otherwise, but the title has a sinister note to it. Also, it seems rather ancient; the parchment revealed seems to imply that but it, like the construction, holds its secrets well.

The portrait of Alan illustrates the sense of mystery, stress, wonder, and tension which seems to be his main art materials.

The idea of a quest inspired me to find a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" style font, and that may seem an uninspired, perhaps even lazy choice, but the type used for that movie is a brand that connotes intriguing, mind-expanding, crazy and just-dangerous-enough-to-be-interesting exploration. The Creation Station people really went to the wall with that one.

It's an example of type supporting the message, and again, the type and the art merged to create an atmosphere and feeling for the rest of the book.

[liff] What My Cat Googles

I have a big, black floof of a studio cat, Kiki, as I have introduced her in times past, and she's kind of my art director, and she loves to wander in front of me and, of course, walk on the keyboard of this computer.

She did and spawned a new window and, well … I think she was Googling "purring", but she may also be a scientific genius:

I'd ask her, but she's a cat, and doesn't handle English well. Or at all, actually.

02 February 2017

[Diary] Eight Good Reasons To Write

Today just now I was ruminating on diarizing and stumbled on this article at Lifehack:

These 8 Good Things Will Happen When You Start Writing Diaries

All the eight points mentioned I've experienced to some degree. I like the idea that I've saved my life offline in a form that can't go away when the power dies. I find the somatic component of writing what I feel in and of itself therapeutic. And as I work toward my moment of Proustian catalysis, I know I've gotten good practice in writing voice.

I've tried many phrasings, many ways of saying the same and different things.

[Wy'East] The Mount Hood For The Day Is St Helens

In anticipation of the coming wintry mix (Winter? Stahp!) I looked to the sky this morning and there was that gorgeous salmon-pink again.

The eastern sky pretty much obscured Hood, but the pink framed Loo-wit … Mt. St. Helens as we white folk call it … memorably.

This shot was taken from the hill overlooking the area of Parkrose that contains the old Rossi place, just east of 122nd off NE Fremont Street, where there are a handful of short cul-de-sacs which afford an even better view.

St Helens is, sadly, remarkable for what she looked like and what she did back in 1980. The real treat is found on the north side, the great crater with the lava dome which has entertained us muchly over the past decade.

But it is something to look at from the south side, knowing what happened there in a lifetime a great many of us share.

31 January 2017

[literature] I've Read Proust, And Here's The first Things I Thought About That

Just over two years ago I took up what, for many readers, is Everest: Reading Marcel Proust.

The work, many of you have heard of, if only as the punchline of a Monty Python joke (one of its most memorable, which is something, as this was part of the tag end of the series, after Cleese had left). "The All-England Summarize Proust Competition", which is absurd as a title in and of itself, was skit in which three entrants (two individual men and a chorus collectively as the third) attempted to cogently summarize the sweep of the seven-volume masterwork of the modern novel, In Search of Lost Time, a single novel in seven parts actually, in only 15 seconds.

How long is ISOLT (or, in French, A la recherche du temps perdu)? Wikipedia gave the following stats: 4,215 pages; 1,267,069 words. Perhaps needless to say, the prize went not to any of the contestants, but to the 'girl with the biggest tits'.

Sex sells.

Anyway, reading it was not always easy. There were stretches of days which I didn't crack open the volume I was in. It's called an 'oceanic' work; sometimes it was like swimming one. I'd never seen sentences that long, a writer so involved in describing every nuance of a thought, and, in places, as dry as the Sahara. ISOLT hits some beautiful highs and some very, very self-indulgent lows and middles. In more than one way, it's not one book, but several.

But was it worth reading? Definitely. My opinion of this book will probably evolve over the years to come, so this is far from the last word on it. But here's what I think, thus far:

The book is a great journey. It's much like life itself, within the mind; who amongst us doesn't have incredibly highs, low lows, all connected by banal betweens? In the more abstruse sense, though, the book tells of the paths that a person can take through life, and how they seem different, until that one moment when the epiphany happens and you see all the ways of your life as different versions of the same way, or two ways that intersect in more than one place. These observations we frequently miss, because we are looking for other things at the time.

In the course of the novel, Marcel is striving. He wants to create, to love and be loved, to be successful and celebrated as an artist. For many years, it eludes him. He wants to be a writer, but just never has all the pieces to start the story he feels he has in him.

At the end, though, understanding that time holds all the lost and wasted years in the folds of the ages to be revisited if one wants to take the time to look over them all, and seeing the evolution that time imposes on the very world he sees, and seeing that Swann's Way and the Guermantes Way are unified in the person of Mlle. Saint-Loup, he realizes, as the joke goes, that the material for his art was in him all along. The experiences of a lifetime that have not only aged his generation towards death but which have also made of him an old man. There he is, near the end of his own days, and all of a sudden, at last, with the enlightenment that the change of time provides, there are all the tools in front of him to create the art he had within him all that time, and knew it, and couldn't yet coax out.

At this point, it's the last 100 pages of La recherche that speak to me the loudest. I've tried to compel myself down avenues of artistic absorption and expression only to have every one of them sputter out before I've gotten very far. In that part of the book, the fictional Marcel is aging, and after years in sanitaria is aware of the heavy hand of mortality upon his shoulder. He's not at the end of his world, but he feels he can see it from there, and instead of frightening him and making him despondent that human life is a limited thing, it only fires his enthusiasm, with a brief plea to fate that he should live long enough to encompass his art, he energizes and digs in joyously.

The record of the research of his artistic material up to the point it attains critical mass is the six and a half books up unto that point, it all matters and enters into it: Bloch, Elstir, the Guermantes clan, the little clan of the Verdurins, Balbec, child hood, the madeleine, the relationships between all the people he knew, Charlus, Robert de Saint-Loup, the little band of girls, Albertine, Swann, Odette, everything united by his epiphanies about time's passing and catalyzed by the realization that Mlle. Saint-Loup united Swann's Way and the Guermantes Way into a grand unified whole.

At this point, as a starting point for my integration of the experience of reading Proust into my intellect and life, I'd say that the cogent thing for those of us who have tarried at realizing our own art to the point of thinking that we may as well give up, we'll never be the artist we fancy ourselves to be, is that we may not have hit that catalyzing moment just yet. We must be ready for it when it arrives, be watchful and aware, but try not to be too despondent or too aggravated that our motivation and firing up hasn't happened yet.

That … that's a troublesome thing on its own. You have to be ready, but you can't be too desperate or it may continue to elude you. Like the thing that runs from you until you stop looking for it, and then it comes to find you, you lose time while you define the terms and limits of your struggle.

It's like this, in a way: I, as many SF fans, adore Dune, that inconic Frank Herbert novel. But, for many years, it was beyond me. I found the beginning dull and densely worded, and couldn't get past the first 50 pages or so. Then, one day, it took off with me, swept me through it, and left me wanting to read it again. And I did. I've reread it many times since: there was a year, not too long ago, where most of my reading for the year was rereading Dune. 

I wasn't ready for a long time, but then, suddenly, I was.

And the last part of La recherche reminded me hard about that. I must be ready, I must keep prodding and searching until the suggestions my wife have given me, the way she and other people look at me, the way I look at myself, the talents I know I have within me just out of fingers' reach … there will be a catalystic place where all of a sudden they fall into the place.

But I have to keep pressing. Gently, firmly, maybe not too frantically, but continually.

There's a feeling of Zen in that. At least, Zen as I understand it.

But that's why sticking to the whole of In Search Of Lost Time, despite some of its dryer parts, is important. It all matters, in the end. It all becomes a perfect whole. 

[pdx_liff] Welcome To Portland. Please Drive Tenderly.

Seen late Sunday night, eastbound on E Burnside St, just coming up to the Laurelhurst gateway at E. 32nd Avenue:

I'd never seen that one before.

Now, I know heartbreak is different for everyone. But what's just ahead is Portland's legendary Music Millenninum store (as called out by the sign), and just beyond the traffic signal, deepest, darkest Laurelhurst. I don't see how MM is anything like a heartbreak, but Laurelhurst may be one if interest rates are your monkey.

I do know that "Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead" is the title of a hit pop music single first interpreted by the Marvelettes in October 1965, but just because it's just down the street from MM, that must be coincidence.

Still, drive tenderly, Portlanders. The love you save may be your own. And buckle up.

28 January 2017

[pdx_liff] Burgerville Existentialism

The reader board at the David Douglas Burgerville, which surveys the corner of SE 122nd and Stark, asks an eternal question:

I have obtained BV waffle fries, but do I actually get them? Do I understand everything a tasty Yukon Gold BV waffle fry implies? The subtexts? The meanings.

I can only philosophize for a limited time. I can only get waffle fries while they last.

Which pretty much sums up existentialism for me at this point.

I totally understand Walla Walla sweet onion rings, though. I must go on the record there.

[Wy'East] Two Mount Hood Sunrises

< I haven't posted any Wy'Eastage for you all lately, so here's a couple of shots from the past two days. This first one was from 122nd in front of Rossi Farms again, and got me for the salmon color of the clouds which gradated into blue with the thinning of the clouds themselves.

This one, looking east on NE Killingsworth Street just west of the I-205 entry. I enjoy the play of emotions brought on by the intersection of the natural world and the artificial world, looking through our artifice into the nature we tend to build over.

I enjoy the interplay of emotions, of which, thinking about this, are incredibly torn.

27 January 2017

[art] Cartoonist, Caricaturist, Best Kept Open Secret: Dick Gautier

The actor and entertainer, Dick Gautier, who died last week aged 85, was, as is glibly bandied about, known for a few things. He incarnated, so to say, the robotic CONTROL secret agent and KAOS defector known simply as "Hymie" in Get Smart. He also memorably embodied Robin Hood is the far, far too-short (as in less than one season) Mel Brooks-created TV spoof When Things Were Rotten (a show which needs no introduction or explanation to people I know, which should clue one as to what sorts of friends I prefer to have). He also, through the 70s and 80s, appeared innumerable times as a TV guest star, either in a drama or comedy or as a guest on a talk show or a panelist on a game show. He was kind of everywhere for a while.

What was elided from the obituaries and not commonly known seems to be that he excelled, in his way, at caricature, and had more than a modicum of talent as a cartoonist. He also, from 1985 through the 1990s, produced a number of how-to-art books, starting with The Art of Caricature in 1985. I found two of his several how-to books at Powells last weekend. Here they are.

The Creative Cartoonist is a general approach to cartooning for pleasure and possibly for profession, and Drawing and Cartooning 1,001 Caricatures further expands his record of knowledge of that particular art.

Both books are really quite delightful. Gautier has a casual, self-deprecating style of writing that wins over the reader by presenting the text as though it was being spoken by a very nice acquaintance who loves to draw, loves to talk about it, and likes to show other people. His style is very low-pressure: he wants you to draw but he wants you to draw at the level that'll make you happy. And though his directions are simple, they aren't simplistic. Gautier clearly was someone who loved to draw and loved to think about about drawing when he wasn't.

The book The Creative Cartoonist starts, as many of them do, with the head. He shows you simple ways to construct a face and how many shapes you can make one of …

… a simple yet broad catalogue of standard facial expressions …

… and basic instructions on how to make it realistic and how to make it cartoony. There is nothing complicated here but if you follow his directions and practice and have fun at it, he gets you started on a good foot.

There are people who draw for accuracy and realism, and people who just want to draw, have a little fun, and people who want to draw just to impress their friends. The Creative Cartoonist is a fine book for anyone who wants to start casual.

For those who want to kick it up to a certain level, Drawing and Cartooning 1,001 Caricatures has a lot to offer as well. Reading the text, I got the idea that Gautier had a certain sensitive spot about caricaturing; it is a lampooning of the subject and, as such, has to be handled with a soft touch. It can be a great and funny homage or jump a fine line and border on an insult with a touch of viciousness. Gauthier needn't have worried, though: these caricatures of actors Dennis Franz and Roy Scheider come through with a sense of affection for the subjects:

And, of course, what book of caricature is complete without Jay "Why the Long Face?" Leno?

All drawings were, of course, made by the author, which is why I like that back cover above so much. The portrait of Leno in the upper left, the realistic one, is outstandingly well-done, I thought. The distortions, while expected, bring a certain sense of style to the caricature … they show an artist who is confident in his materials. That's what I expecially love to see.

Gauthier's caricaturing system works by studying the face and deciding what are the most remarkable features (what he calls 'dominant') and the less remarkable features (what he calles 'subdominant') and working within that hierarchy. Accentuate the dominant features and have the subdominant work with them. The result is a caricatured face which, while looking little like the reality, has enough of the reality in it so that there's no mistaking the identity of the personality.

He also introduces us to three levels of caricature. The first, portrait charge, is clearly caricature but is only slightly distorted. These would make a good cartoon character version. The second is the straight-up caricature, and the third would be an impressionistic rendering, where the dominant features command and the subdominant all but fall away.

To show he's a good sport, he did himself: Here is Dick Gautier in portrait charge version:

… And here he is in caricature and in full-on impressionistic mode.

By his reasoning, his face is full of dominant features save the nose ("but I'm working on it", he mocks himself in the text), so in the impressionistic version, the nose utterly disappears.

Dick Gautier wasn't widely known for his art, and that's kind of a shame, because he has much to offer the beginner. His friendly style and accessible instruction are the perfect approach for someone who's afraid of doing their own art. He's no Andrew Loomis, but Loomis is the Holy Grail. Gauthier is a pal who you can hang around with … and who will take you into the art world gently, with no pretensions.

They're books I'd give any beginner.

26 January 2017

[film] It's Time To Let Buckaroo Banzai Go

There is one thing in life that I will brook no things which one has to brook when one attempts to brook one is my love of Buckaroo Banzai.

The full title of the movie, made in 1984 is, of course, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension. In this movie, the title character, a Mentat-level scientist-neurosurgeon-rock and roll guitarist and band-leader (seriously. I'm not kidding) born of a Japanese father and American mother, finds himself as the pivot in a cosmic war between two colors of reptilian ET called Lectroids when he figures out how to pierce matter itself and access a place defined as the 8th dimension.

It's not a place I'd go on a vacation, unless I took a mortal enemy there, and left him. Them. Whatever.

Anyway, Dr. Banzai's piercing of the 8th dimension gets the attention of Dr. Emilo Lizardo/Lord John Whorin, played with scene-chewing glee by John Lithgow. Whorfin, who had been biding his time in the Trenton Home for the Criminally Insane since 1939 (not long since Orson Welles's famous War of the Worlds interpretation, not entirely co-incidentally), knows that since the Earthling scientist has made the breakthough, returning to the 8th dimension to rescue the remainder of their trapped comrades has become possible, and he goes on a rampage, gathering the Red Lectroids who did escape with him in 1939 to either steal the technological key to interdimensional travel (the oscillation overthruster) or get his own version to work and complete the revenge upon the Lectroids who stranded them there to begin with as punishment for insurrection, the Black Lectroids.

To human eyes, the Black Lectroids look like Rastafarians and the Red Lectroids look like uptight white men. And unless Banzai and his crew stop the Red Lectroids, the Black Lectroids will gull the Soviet Union into a nuclear first strike on the USA.

But, no pressure. It's all in a days adventuring for Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers.

And if I keep trying to explain it, it'll be all about explaining it, and I feel myself getting farther and father away from the point. It's a crazy, fun movie which tried to revive the spirit of pulp adventure and SF and largely succeeded. causing a group of cult fans (of which I am one) to take the movie to their hearts more or less permanently. Anyone wishing to question my bona fides need only see my BB patch collection, hither:

I am, in my heart, a Blue Blaze Irregular.

I mean, I even have a vintage copy of the BB novelization. Doubt me not.

I told you all that, to tell you this:

Over time, because the movie was presented as just one story in the many adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, like all franchises, fans have always wanted more. The end of the movie boasts the encouragement to Watch for the next adventure of Buckaroo Banzai: Buckaroo Banzai against the World Crime League. Fans have hungered for decades, now, to see this notional movie. Sadly, though, for many reasons, most of them apparently having to do with who owns which rights to what, it's never happened. But, for a brief time last year, it looked as though it would have a rebirth.

Kevin Smith, to whom anybody who is savvy enough to follow me this far should need no introduction (but if you aren't savvy enough, he did Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) got in touch with W.D. Richter and Earl Mac Rauch, respectively the films director and the story's writer, and began the ball rolling which should have resulted in the property becoming an Amazon original series. Should have been, but the rights monster eventually came round and burned down Tokyo; in May, 2016, on my birthday coincidentally, the creative collaboration was announced; but then, just four months later, in November 2016, Smith bailed, leaving the project in limbo.

2016 killed not only David Bowie, Prince, Chekov, and Gene Wilder, it also killed Dr. Buckaroo Banzai. Lethal.

It was after I heard the news that I thought for a while about it. I was one of those fans who thought maybe a little more BB would have been welcome. I was.

I'm not anymore. I tell you why.

Buckaroo Banzai was a thing of its time. The actors defined the roles; I can't think of BB without seeing Peter Weller's face; Penny Priddy will always be Ellen Barkin; Perfect Tommy will always be Lewis Smith, and nobody could carry off New Jersey the way Goldblum could. Those actors are more than thirty years older now. It wouldn't be the same.

But it's not just that shallow observation that makes me think that Old Moe Mentum has swung the other way. In the 80s, we had one foot in the the future but the other was dragging its reluctant way out of a rather hoary past, the sort of past that the seemingly relentless Gerry Marshall nostalgia factory was making a ton of money repackaging and selling. Buckaroo Banzai was crystallized out of a modern world that had rosy ideas of a certain past full of tall, noble, mostly white heroes who were pure of heart, sharp of mind and unimpeachable of intent. And a reimagining of the pulp-hero aesthetic then made a certain amount of sense then; these days, having an arch-enemy named like Hanoi Xan comes off like a dented can that's been left on the shelf about 15 years too long (I saw a clip in which Ellen Barkin's Penny Priddy character accuse the Lectroids of being tools for Hanoi Xan (who is, incidentally, the head of the World Crime League) and hearing the name just made me cringe somehow.

Even the idea of a group calling itself the World Crime League sounds trite.

It was at that point I realized, my friends, that the ship has sailed. We BB fans may want to see a new extension to the BB mythos, but the things that make it nifty to us, don't really apply any more. Truly, we can't go home. It's a different world now, and BB, along with the things we cherished as kids in the 80s, don't really apply anymore. Well, not as they were, anyway. These days, BB would be rebooted, rethought, reimagined, recast, and turned into some odd, dramatic gritty thing that took itself far too seriously, and maybe that would sell … but it wouldn' t be Buckaroo Banzai.

But we do have this lovely little gem of a perfect cult film, a thing of guileless charm and manic wit, which saw the old pulp franchises thought an 80s lens, lightly, with beloved actors playing unironically idealized characters. Whenever I watch it, I imagine that this is a thing that's part of a fictional franchise that could have been, if the parameters of the universe were tweaked, just so.

I'm for letting Buckaroo Banzai be Buckaroo Banzai. I mean, look at the brobdignangian top-heavy thing Star Wars has become. Sure, it's enjoyable, but I'm seeing some big time stretch marks.

But, of course, that's just me.

24 January 2017

[Out122ndWay] Goodbye, Tina's Corner: The Very Last Day Of A Very Good Diner

I come to you today, my friends, in something of a state of mourning. I lovely place has been, and now, a lovely place is no more.

I'm speaking of a little family-run diner that I've spoken of before. Tina's Corner, at SE 122nd Avenue and Harold Street, has permanently closed.

Tina's Corner, the diner

It sits, a smallish blue building with five big picture windows in the north face, on a lot that seems rather large for it. Inside, despite the perspective the camera gives it, it's actually kinda small.

The bathrooms were nigh-microscopic.

Against those picture windows, six rather spacious booths. next to that, a counter with six stools. In the back, free-standing tables … a handful of two-tops that could be slid together and a couple of six-tops.

It was always busy, but never overwelmed. But this was different. We were there on the 21st of January and, after the 22nd of January, after eighteen years of making locals damnably happy, Tina's Corner was to close, permanently.

This was, for me, the very last day of a very good diner.

Foreground: Paying the bill.
Background: the archetypical diner kitchen. For real.

There was nothing fancy, haughty, or elite about it. It was come-as-you-are dining of the kind you used to find all over Portland. It was charming and quaint, decorated a little like your grandma's house. And it felt like it, too.

Festooning the walls were skilfully-done graphite-on-bristol portraits of people, taken from photographs. They always were delightful, and the artist was presumably available for hire.

Goodbye, on the edit. 
The windowsills along those picture windows held the most adorable batch of knickknacks, and there you were, back in your grandma's kitchen again. Little bears holding up skillets that said TODAY'S MENU on them. Those little bobbly things that ran on solar power. Happy little animals and kitchen things. 

On each table was a tray with an embarrassment of condiments: three kinds of hot sauce (Tapatio, green and red Tabasco), little jam and jelly packets, salt and pepper. The reason I thought Tina's Corner was a li'l ol' slice of heaven, was this:
The taco omelette that argued there is a God,
and God wants us to be happy.

There was a lot of regulars saying goodbye that night, and I was saying goodbye to this. The Tina's Corner taco omelette. This took me back to the days of Quality Pie on NW 23rd. And it amazes me that more breakfast places don't have it. Seasoned ground beef, cheese, a bit of salsa (this time, not), cheese. But just try finding one. Now, there's one less place. The taco omelette pictured above, of course, was superb. The hash browns were ideal, that moist, pillowy mass of fried and shredded potato that is so very satifying.

I did not go away from this hungry. I am melancholy; there will never, likely, be another one like it in my life (my waistline may thank me for that, but my soul will be a bit harder to satisfy).

The most interesting customers were a family behind us in the very last booth before the wall. At one of the six-tops, four Portland Police officers were taking a break and celebrating the one-last-meal at Tina's; the kids in the booth were big face of Portland's Finest, and the supervisor who brought up the rear greeted the kids though the window, and were rewarded with one of those Jr. Cop badge stickers the police give out.

What I liked the most, outside of the simple, sincere fare was the feeling of sitting there. You didn't feel like you were in outer Southeast Portland so much as you did you were at a roadside diner on some highway going into the mountains. It's right on the edge of town, right on the edge of forest. Just a little north of Foster Road, where the wilderness (or at least what passes as such, within the Portland city limits) take up. You feel way out on the edge but you aren't so far out, not really. But the view was unsurpassed.

It's said that the new property is going to be yet another in the interminable march of marijuana shops that seem to be springing up in more places that are absolutely necessary. No longer will area pot-smokers have to make the harrowing trek all the way to just north of Division on 122nd. I mean, it's probably all they could do to get there without getting dysentery.

But, Tina's Corner is gone, now, and we shall miss it.

Maybe it's time to get round to the Gateway Breakfast House. I mean, if it's good enough for Presiden Obama …

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.