June 2007

Video for Blitzen Trapper’s song Devil’s a-Go-Go off their album Wild Mountain Nation. Frickin cool.

Listen – Wild Mountain Nation (mp3) really good.
MySpace – Blitzen Trapper
Review – Pitchfork
Review – Mercury

Oh yeah they play tonight at Holocene.

They are the Holy Model Rounders reincarnate (whereas Wilco is the Dead) with the clangy bangy foot-stomping camaraderie bonhomie. The blogs are uniformly hot on these guys.

Consider the list of active Portland bands – The Thermals, The Decemberists, Menomena, The Gossip, Stars of Track and Field, Quasi, The Shins, The Blow, The Minders, Viva Voce, The Shaky Hands – and more. Right now is definitely the best music scene in the city’s history.


About 25 years ago Chris Chester and I were figuring out how to be poets as a way to remain human, both and often together. We met in bars and coffee shops, read our scribblings to each other, were mutually disgusted, played chess or debated the concerns of finer poets.

Chris was fascinated with words and word jugglers, how tone could change mood; Chris took Camus’ truly serious philosophical problem to heart, and together we listened and laughed to how “It’s Hell to be Poor,” and prodded the shy and forlorn to vet their souls at the open mike.

Chris died of cancer on April 17. He was 54. He was the author of Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds which won the 2003 Oregon Book Award for nonfiction.

A Bum Proposal – by Chris Chester

With bodies and minds exquisitely garbled,
you slump in your leavings and fermented clothes
to dream of an Eden
of dumpsters with club cars.

Missing teeth, legs
and bits of your ears,
you are slack-jawed,
bleeding from the scalp,
non-vertical even while standing.
You were the drunken rabble,
the groundlings, the inadvertent sinkers
of wooden ships;
O, receivers of knife wounds,
you are local color.

So, I think you should be paid,
applauded in your work
for the skills you bring
to the pageant of dying.

Picture and poem from Chrischester.org, a great memorial website by Chris’ nephew Marc Mowery.

The Sorrow and the Sparrow: The Life and Death of Chris Chester – by Inara Verzemnieks, from May 21, The Oregonian. About the nicest obit I have ever read.

Life with Feathered Tenants – Oregon writer’s memoir engages – Eugene Weekly, 2002

From the University of Utah Press

Providence of a Sparrow – from Powell’s

Chris Chester RIP – from Stoney Moss

A piece of prime real estate destroyed by toxic waste lies at the Willamette River’s edge below the University of Portland bluff and just North of Swan Island. For about 40 years, starting in the late 1940s, McCormick & Baxter used creosote, a coal-tar derivative; pentachlorophenol; and arsenic on the site to pressure-treat railroad ties and telephone poles. The chemicals are toxic and cause cancer in humans.

You can access this area via several public roads off N Willamette. There are areas which are open to the public, and areas where rust on trampled fencing shows perhaps several years of easy access. And there are areas where both signage and common sense say NO. We saw rabbits, heron, ducks, mice, crows, grackels, raccoon droppings, snakes, squirrels, a hawk, feral cats, teenagers and a deer.

Portland, neat and tidy environmentally friendly Portland, has several EPA Superfund sites in the city limits. They’re all fun to visit – but there’s more wildlife, and lost opportunity at the McCormick & Baxter Creosoting Company Superfund site.

“Is graffiti art?” is not an interesting question. The interesting question is, “If graffiti becomes art, will you recognize it?”

Yay! McCormick & Baxter is listed as one of the Worst Places In The World by Sprol.com.

I like the junk on top of junk on top of junk style. And from the look of the water, I suggest no one eat fish which swim downstream.

More about McCormick & Baxter at NOAA, EPA, University of Portland, and at Scorecard.org.

Sculptor Frederic Littman (1907-1979) was professor at Portland State University for 30 years, and made Mother and Child in 1956. Littman also made Farewell to Orpheus which sits in a small fountain outside of PSU’s Smith Center in the South Park Blocks of Eurydice swept away and back down to the Underworld, and Seat of Wisdom which is pinned to the facade of the University of Portland library.

Mother and Child came from a bequest in 1949 by Florence Laberee, widow of George Laberee, a Portland homebuilder.

Briefly married to sculptor Marianne Gold Littman (1907-1999) Littman taught thousands of students, including longtime PNCA teacher Manuel Izquierdo.

In 1990 the statue was stolen by vandals (drat!) who sawed Mother at the ankles then dragged the 270 pound bronze down the hill. Cops found it in a house in NE Portland after an anonymous tip a few days later.

From the Oregonian – On Saturday, a man and a woman walked slowly by the black marble base of the statue, looking puzzled about its disappearance.

“I wonder who would do such a thing?” the woman remarked. “It was so pretty how it used to stand there. It’s almost as if we’ve all been robbed.”

The man shook his head and sighed.

“It doesn’t surprise me, the way things like crime have been going on in Portland.”

Learn all about the Council Crest Trolley at PDXhistory.com!


The lean coyote, prowler of the night,
Slips to his rocky fastnesses,
Jack-rabbits noiselessly shuttle among the sage-brush,
And from the castellated cliffs,
Rock-ravens launch their proud black sails upon the day.
The wild horses troop back to their pastures.

The poplar-trees watch beside the irrigation-ditches.
Orioles, whose nests sway in the cotton-wood trees by the ditch-side, begin to twitter.
All shy things, breathless, watch
The thin white skirts of dawn,
The dancer of the sky,
Who trips daintily down the mountain-side
Emptying her crystal chalice….
And a red-bird, dipped in sunrise, cracks from a poplar’s top
His exultant whip above a silver world.

Charles Erskine Scott Wood

Felipe Gonzalez, 22, died May 31 in a car crash at SE Clay and Grand in Southeast Portland. Winked out. According to police reports, his girlfriend Emma was driving. She’s been charged with manslaughter, reckless driving and driving under the influence.

His obituary is spread out on MySpace and taped to the fatal telephone pole. These photos are of the roadside memorial left by his friends and family.

Peace by Piece: Youth Take Action – is a 2001 documentary, made by Green Fire Productions and paid for by the Oregon Peace Institute. The film, shown to the Dalai Lama on his May 2001 visit to Portland, showed how “real” kids cope with conflict and personal violence.

Felipe met the Dalai Lama and was featured in the film, described by Inara Verzemnieks of the Oregonian this way,

“And there’s Felipe Gonzalez, a 16-year-old Lincoln High School student who dreams of a hip-hop career but thinks back to the days he roamed North Portland streets with a pack of friends, “assaulting people for no reason,” and to a friend who was shot and killed.

“I’m the ultimate cliche — ex-thug turned rapper,” says Felipe. He laughs, then turns serious. “I started rapping for all the wrong reasons. What I was writing about before was guns, basketball and corner stuff — ‘I got an AK- 47 in my pocket’ — dumb, ignorant things. It had no meaning. Basically, when I noticed people were actually listening, I thought I had to change so I didn’t make people more violent.””

Art doesn’t transform. It just plain forms. – Roy Lichtenstein

The great documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s State Legislature plays tonight on OPB at 9 PM. It will replay at 2 AM on June 22. Wiseman doesn’t like to hurry, he typically makes about one film each year – this one is fairly short for his work at 217 minutes.

From jaw droppers like 1967’s Titicut Follies and Domestic Violence, to essays of civic wonder like Central Park, Near Death, and The Store, Wiseman has spent his life considering one question – how do large organizations make decisions?

Titicut Follies remains the only film officially banned for public showing in the US, shows the Bridgewater State Hospital, a prison for people with mental illnesses and their keepers. You can see it in some graduate programs (in courses with time to burn + tenured profs) or find a bootleg copy. I have one and will send you a copy if you are currently in a state hospital (working or living).

State Legislature considers the Idaho legislature. It “shows the day-to-day activities of the Idaho Legislature, including committee meetings, debates of the House and Senate, informal discussions, meetings with lobbyists, constituents, the public and the press. The workings of a democratic government are not of interest solely to Americans, but, because so many countries in the world are currently trying to adopt a democratic form of government, the issues presented have relevance on a global scale. The film is an example of the achievements, values, constraints and limitations of the democratic process.”

The participants in Wiseman’s films often look, in retrospect, to be insane, cavalier, ignorant, dangerous. We’re reminded of Foucault’s point that institutions are created to discipline and punish. So why would gatekeepers let Wiseman have the most intimate of access?

I would bet most – if not all – would employ a defense to make Foucault (and other postmodernists) squirm – “we were doing our very best.”

Making Sausage: Legislature documentary on Idaho Public Television worth the length – Boise Weekly

Doing the People’s Business, in All Its Somnolent Glory – NY Times

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