I’m standing in M.’s tiny pink and yellow kitchen. His kitchen is like a galley on some really whimsical ship that has a puppet of a vulture in one corner and fabulous kitchy bird statuettes tucked into the bookshelves that don’t hold books but puppet-building supplies. We are talking about food again, and M. gives me a food challenge.
Food is one of my favorite subjects. I’m turning it into one of his, I think.
We’ve been on a kick lately of seeing what we can make out of absolutely everything. Not just the normal stuff, like leftover rice and chicken or stale bread. Things like bacon grease. You know what you can make out of bacon grease? Bacon-flavored soap. I kind of want to try it. Maybe dogs will like me better.
So M. turned to me in the frame of his pink and yellow kitchen and stretched out his strong arm towards me. His arm is the arm of a normal muscular guy that has this additional expressive muscle in his hands, so when he stretches out his palm to me there’s an extra level of funny to it. I guess that’s what happens when you are a puppeteer. Everything you do is a little funnier than a regular person.
“What can you make with THIS?” he asked me.
In his stretched out palms were balancing two or three curls of orange peel from our lunch.
“I do know something you can make with those,” I said.
And I did. Though it made me swallow hard to think about it. This was going to be a different kind of food challenge. A secret challenge. Like Proust’s horrible cookie, it took me way back to a trip I took with my ex-husband to Barcelona almost ten years ago. (more…)
When I was about ten, Mom was convinced that we would win a car in a raffle at the used car dealership down the road in Auburn, California, this tiny little town where we lived for a year up in the Sierra Nevadas. At this point, I had just about given up that sense that you have as a kid that your parents are gods. That they are infallible. My mom had done a lot to get rid of that idea. Her string of bad boyfriends, some of them just heartbreakers, some of them violent or controlling or creepy. Her constant moving around. Her fits of crying and anger and suicide threats. But still, I wanted to believe my mother knew what she was doing.
By the early 90’s, skateboarding was in a slump again. The sport had really gotten to a new level in California in the 70’s when skaters brought surf-style moves to the empty swimming pools and decaying urban infrastructure that littered the edges of towns like Venice Beach. But then, street skating ran into a lot of community opposition in most parts of the country, and skate parks were having liability issues. Mark Scott, Dreamland Skateparks owner and one of the original builders of the Burnside skatepark, sat down with me to discuss how it took a DIY community of Portland skaters building an indie skatepark under the Burnside bridge, in cooperation with the local business community and retroactively approved by the city, to kick off what Mark described to me as the skatepark revolution.
Check out the podcast on 107.1 FM here.
The American system for producing food seems pretty broken at this point. In the October food and drink issue of NY Times Magazine, food writer Mark Bittman said that for people to eat well, live well and be healthy, for agriculture to be sustainable, for life in rural areas and even the way we live in cities to be sustainable, the food system has to change. This summer, I drove out into the dry flat grasslands down five miles of bumpy dirt road in the High Desert of eastern Oregon to go to a party ranchers Doc and Connie Hatfield were having at their house for people interested in the ranching cooperative they founded, Country Natural Beef, that supplies Burgerville, New Seasons, Whole Foods, Higgins Restaurant and the Japanese restaurant company Kyotaru to name a few places. I talked with Doc and Connie and award-winning chef, Greg Higgins, on pioneering new ways of producing local, affordable, sustainable food that also is economically viable for the small producer. The Hatfields’ story of how a cooperative of 100 Northwest ranchers has made it work since 1986 for themselves, for the land, and for the people eating their beef holds out hope for how food is made in this country.
Listen to the podcast on 107.1 FM here.
Art can either instigate or reflect political movements, but once social change is accomplished, it’s hard to get the toothpaste back in the tube. This Thursday the 10th at PNCA, New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler (author of Oil and Water on the oil spill in the Gulf), editorial cartoonist Matt Bors, author/activist Lidia Yuknavitch, novelist Monica Drake, God Is Disappointed in You author Mark Russell and a climate change expert sit down with Nora Robertson to dig into how art can lead to political action. Community discussion to follow the panel at 7:00, door at 6:30.
People often have mixed feelings about readings. Readings can be long and boring, Or they can be performances, parties, political rallies, scenes. Portland, like a lot of other cities, has a long history of underground readings through many cultural moments, from Ken Kesey’s Poetry Happenings to today, when Portland is on the national tour circuit. I sat down with 90′s slam host Reuben Nisenfeld, Smalldoggies‘ Matty Byloos and Carrie Seitzinger, Bad Blood’s Zachary Schomburg, Literary Mixtape’s Erik Bader, and Loggernaut’s Erin Ergenbright, Jesse Lichtenstein and Paul Toutonghi on Portland series then and now.
Listen to the KZME podcast here.
Neon Frontier, my new radio segment on KZME 107.1FM’s Artclectic show, debuted on September 11th with an interview with Sid Miller, Burnside Review editor and director of Portland’s newest writing/arts center, Crow Arts Manor. Neon Frontier will explore how Portland’s cultural space has evolved through conversation with the artists and makers who have shaped it. I sat down with Sid to talk about what it means to start a DIY instituition, kind of by pulling up your own bootstraps.
Take a listen to the KZME podcast here.
From Playboy to the Bible: Adapting Writing for Screen and Image
New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler, writer Mark Russell and filmmaker Andy Mingo sit down with writer Nora Robertson to discuss collaboration between writers and artists in visual mediums. Get a look at a sneak peek of Mingo’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s short story “Romance” that recently appeared in Playboy, images from Wheeler and Russell’s adaptation of the Bible, God Is Disappointed in You (Top Shelf in 2012), and Robertson’s poetry film with Jason Bahling, The Humble Egg. Wordstock, Oregon Convention Center, Sunday the 9th, 4PM, Oregon Cultural Trust Stage, presented by New Oregon Arts & Letters.
From God Is Disappointed in You:
God had but one rule: do not eat from the two magic trees which he’d planted at the center of the garden. Why he put them there to begin with is anyone’s guess. But, having received this cryptic admonition, Adam and Eve’s curiosity was piqued. And having a talking snake constantly coaxing them into eating from the trees certainly didn’t help. Eventually, they succumbed to temptation, eating the magical fruit and unlocking its secret power, which seemed to consist mostly of making them uptight about nudity.
Their blatant disregard for his one and only rule introduced God to a new sensation, one he would experience many times during his long association with human beings: God was pissed off. Furious, God evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, forcing them to fend for themselves in the surrounding wilderness. To add to their misery, God also ordered them to become parents.
When I started the New Oregon Interview Series in 2009, formal discussion of the local creative culture was in decline. My editor Tiffany Lee Brown had been a panelist in Vera Katz’ 2001 talks on Richard Florida’s ideas about the creative economy. In the meantime, a major recession had made a lot of creative economy theory seem irrelevant. A more intimate approach that let the artists speak about their experience of the cultural space seemed more relevant. It was also more in touch with a new form of entertainment: the evening of conversation. A mostly spontaneous discussion between a moderator and participants in a casual space like a bar or restaurant, the evening of conversation is more lively because it reverses some of the traditional power dynamics of public speaking. It’s a real conversation, and promises something any fertile civic culture needs—a public forum. Writer Matthew Stadler told me in an interview for the New Oregon series that “public space is an action, it’s not a piazza. It’s a set of actions that give strangers common ground.”
Photo credit: Craig Sietsma
“Narrative and pictures are the core of the artistic project these days,” Art Spiegelman told moderator Joe Sacco in front of a hushed crowd at PNCA recently. Part of PNCA’s Focus Week, the evening was held in the long concrete hall of the Swigert Commons, and was packed from the floor to the balconies with students and representatives of the Portland arts community. Sacco, himself the author of American Book Award-winning graphic novel Palestine, was understated and collegial—the format was one of my favorites, a renowned artist having a conversation with another well-known artist. Spiegelman, casual and slouched in his chair, said this experimentation with words and pictures “is what became the graphic novel.” In fact, Spiegelman is often described as the father of the modern comic novel. To which Spiegelman said in a Literary Arts talk the next night, “If so, I want a paternity test.”