Friday, July 30, 2010

the body show

The below post is off of the website of my writer friend, the lovely and talented Nora Robertson - an update on a very cool event she's starting to put together for November, which I'm excited to be a part of. I'll let her speak for herself...


The Body Show Benefit + shoot at home of Bad Monkey Productions

Very excited to announce that video artist Jason Bahling and myself are in the planning stages for our benefit screening and cabaret of our short film The Body Show adapted from my 2007 Pushcart Prize-nominated poem “How to Boil an Egg,” to be held at the Someday Lounge November 3rd. The film’s premise is a cooking show gone awry with a Julia Childs meets David Lynch sensibility. Themes: food, sex and identity. Performers will include Back Fence producer Frayn Masters and Nathaniel Bogness telling stories, Portland Noir contributor Gigi Little and Oregon Literary Fellow Margaret Malone reading fiction, MTV How’s Your News? director and writer Arthur Bradford telling a story to the accompaniment of this guitar, and Paschal Coeur frontwoman Danielle Fish will play food/sex-related covers. A doughnut contest sponsored by Voodoo Doughnuts and judged by owner Tres Shannon, Plazm co-editor Tiffany Lee Brown and New Yorker contributing cartoonist Shannon Wheeler will include categories such as “Best Use of Hole.” Contestants include a Stumptown representative, Brody Theater principal Brad Fortier, Danielle Fish, The Pragmatic frontman Karl Kling, and Village Voice cartoonist Matt Bors. A limited prepress edition DVD will be available, and there will be a food/sex-themed raffle at the end of the evening. Should be a hoot! Here’s a few stills from the shoot of the 60′s dinner party scene we did at the home and offices of painter David Delamare, the artist behind Bad Monkey Productions.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

jeff grader's snake

Discovered a children's book in a box of advanced readers--I should say that it says at the top that it is "a story for all ages," which is a little bit of a red light for me--but the cover illustration made me open it up.

It's called "Change," which is another red light for me. In fact, a lot of the book is a red light. Its theme is just too baldly laid out on the page. I don't think either child or adult wants to be spoonfed theme--it tastes too sweet.

That said, the story itself, the snake so afraid to lose her beautiful skin that she stops moving altogether, is good.

But the art! Lovely lovely lovely! The ink and gesso sketch-pad style is full of movement and the snake is sharp and alive in it. The coyote is fluid and detail-less, like a shadow, like an icon. Scary. Sumptuous.

An amazing bit of poetry with stars in a two-paged spread of the first encounter between snake and coyote. Not to mention the deep, tiny poetry of the snake's eye on that same spread.

Circle of sun, circle of moon, circle of snake: poetry. Shadows of birds and dartings of small animals: poetry. Cold nights filled with "other dangers": poetry.

Artist's name is Jeff Grader. Check it out here.

metropolis word cloud

A friend of mine, Rick Jolly, who is a poet sometimes takes his writings, or the writings of others, and sticks it in the website Wordle and makes a word cloud. A word cloud through Wordle removes the most simple words and takes the rest and arranges them at random. The more often you use a word, the larger it comes out. It sounds like fun, but if you're a word junkie like me what you get is something amazing and beautiful.

On impulse one day recently, Rick stuck my Metropolis ramble blogpost in and zipped me up two separate word clouds...

Look at this thing! Tiny bits of poetry just randomly sprayed all over it. "Doubting created irony" "Flood silent machine" You can run your eyes all over the page and find beauty created by sticking a few words together. This may sound strange but looking at this word cloud, after having composed the original post with all its structure and connections, made me "get" poetry in a way I don't know that I have before. "Time distanced distended" Yow, lovely!

He did a second that ran the words up and down as well as side to side...

Look how "blink" sits in the cup of "story."

Something beautiful happens with the tiny, single words just sitting by themselves here and there.




And next to Machine: oh

The first cloud puts "god" next to "archetypes." The second puts "god" next to "reality."

Every time I start looking, I fall inside and can't get out. Plus I love the fact that this little exercise combines past (language) and future (computers) kind of the way the movie does.

I planned to post these over the weekend and then had trouble with the scan. I'm glad I waited because I got a bonus for the waiting. Rick looked at those word clouds again and decided to compose a poem based on them. Take a look--and then click this link to take a gander at Rick's poetry page on MySpace!

those two represent a much needed uprising
creative maria served a nice lunch of irony
the way forward for a future awaits a bit of dialogue
leaves on feel, films absorbed, neglecting the god archetypes
always on feel for the burnt stake places
the writers machine effectively opens a human maria
winds the watch face moment
irritates a silent ramble for the good maria's soundtrack movie entrance
takes the least world away from history
theater screens stake to waves an actress
as something really human floods the silent machine
conducts a string of electricity stripped
a thinning, stylistically alone man
cracks a look back at something too long past lovely
gives rotwang's music fiend a full hair of
feeling fabulous in time's tenements
constructs a cool sequence of
iconic metropolis upended-
the distance of a night distended often our
beautifully lifting but strange discussions
whole from a brilliant film
like a black wish robot who seems to stop
for profound desk discussions
slick floor needs get an excellent ooze on
happens to fredersen's favorite machine
keeps the cityscape going for the thin Thursday soul
saying oops! at yoshiwara!

That lush scene needs may be doubting their burnt theater parts
That fredersen saw the distanced archetypes watching the night feeling inside them
Like a robot who somehow absorbed all the film's dialogue-
the story maker blinks as waves take maria's friend
slick icons swim back on feel
time lifting abel's tenement moments
fuel the movie problems
the artist constructs a god of cityscapes
witnesses see the reality matched
wished enough to leave the actress
a huge experience of broadness
music machine on course, going to lunch of course,
the iconic creative cracks the day
as rotwang's electricity yipes the flood
of the least long people
stepping often on one lovely illusion
the dirigibles of soul fully manifest a wink world thing
like writers rambling past for the big film discussion
ended alone, each soul takes the outside entrance back in
beautifully thinning, a sort of opening for a
powerful, screen face moment, neglecting all the hair rules,
the lights look strange when they run in rotwang's parade
to their own personal city soundtrack
as strange children double watch the way
while they seem to sit for a cool sequence,
a string of silent moments
stirring a black desk uprising
touching ooze happens

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I'm neglecting my ramble about Metropolis. There's always so much going on. As it is, I feel like I'll need to just let this ramble... ramble a bit and not worry so much about making great, brilliant statements--so I can at least get it out there.

I saw it twice at Cinema 21. As exciting as it was to see it on the big screen, I did what I always do when I see old films on the big screen. I kept trying to stop myself from being absorbed in the movie so that I could experience the moment of seeing it huge. Somehow, I get so sucked into a film that in a way it doesn't matter whether I see it big or small. I had to

oh wait. spoilers.

I had to just tell myself, stop--Machine Man Maria's about to get burnt at the stake--watch this--really watch this. And then I'd try to really watch it and would sit there doubting that I was really seeing it fully. On that screen. Outside of my head.

Had a nice discussion today with a friend who was saying the broadness of the characters and the silent movie acting style distanced him too much from the human story. I totally get that, and often have problems when I'm distanced from the human story, but there's something about silent film. Instead of feeling distanced I feel... the whole thing is iconic. A parade of archetypes. And maybe because of the lack of much dialogue and maybe because silent film was that one step away from theater, I think a good silent film can give you that parade of archetypes in a way that's really effective and satisfying.

It's like not just stepping back from a story but lifting off from it, as if you're in one of those biplanes or dirigibles floating by means of string through that spectacular Metropolis cityscape, and you're seeing the story of something bigger. Not Freder and Maria but what they represent. Every very personal story of people is also the story of what they represent, of course, but there's something cool that happens when those details of reality are stripped away. If it's done well.

Style is part of it. These years down the line, the look of Metropolis is a part of history, and seeing it, you get the illusion of touching that part of history. Which is all about icons too.

I love how that past takes its vision of the future and creates its world. Metropolis is lush and extravagant. And the music! So beautifully matched, stylistically, and so effective. I have to say, toward the end, the soundtrack didn't seem to be matched up with the movie. We'd leave Yoshiwara, blink to another scene, and we'd have the Yoshiwara theme go a second or two past where it should have ended. There were moments where I liked what happened with this--where the music took on an irony with the scene, but the cuts in strange places were irritating. Especially since I'm so focused on the music when watching. Some of my favorite moments come when the music and the visual fit together beautifully, like when the waves of electricity are running all over Rotwang's laboratory and up and down the Machine Man and there's such surprising beauty in the music. Or just the opening when the title sort of constructs itself on the screen and then morphs into the pumping of the machine. That is so powerful.

Favorite moments. Robot Maria laughing as she's burnt at the stake. Robot Maria conducting the uprising--her distended arms and the famous "wink." The very start of the flood when, in this version, the music is silent for a moment and this slick, black ooze of water starts through a crack in the ground. The moment when the first two children step down out of one of the tenements during the flood. So, so chilling. The whole Moloch sequence, of course (here's the name in Hebrew: מול), and the fabulous cityscapes (double of course). The moment when Fredersen sits at his desk and you see the crazy swimming lights of the city all over his face and the space around him. The moment when he runs his hands through his thinning hair... had a lovely discussion with a friend who's an actress who was absolutely floored by Alfred Abel's Joh Fredersen. Wish I could bring back all the discussions I've had, especially Thursday night--such an excellent (champagne fuelled) discussion--two writers, one actress, one film maker and one fine artist--that night alone was enough to fuel my creative soul for the rest of summer. Where was I? Moments. Rotwang's entrance--hair, hand, eyebrow. Maria's face--my god, who is the Renaissance painter who created her face? I mean it. When I look at her, I know she looks like she was painted by some specific master, but I can't place it. Anyway, Maria's face isn't a moment. Where was I?

Oops, what time is it? This is a long lunch. Yipes. Better get back to the machine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


In early to work on the huge chalkboard in Powells' coffee shop. Scrub off the old chalk, apply the new chalk with goings-on around Portland and in Powell's. No matter what I do, the old chalk doesn't scrub clean. Half of my chalkboard time is spent scrubbing, and there are always ghosts left behind.

Soon those ghosts will be stacked one on top of each other until they're an indiscernible faint white scribble just under the surface (kind of the way you sometimes picture heaven when you're a kid and believe in those things but worry that if people keep dying there won't be room for all the ghosts) but the chalkboard is pretty new right now so you can still read some of the old words.

The first month I worked the chalkboard, we had an art show in the gallery based on the book Dear Andy Kaufman, I Hate Your Guts. The book and the exhibit were a collection of letters girls wrote to Andy Kaufman to apply for the chance to try to beat him in a wrestling match on live television in 1977. This month's art show is a collection of broadsides created by participants of Write Around Portland. But on the chalkboard, the ghosts of Andy Kaufman and his girls are still floating around. I like the accidental poetry of chalk and ghost duetting: "10 Artists Create [by female wrestling contenders]." And no matter how much I scour the board with water and with cleaner, still, under where it says, in fancy lettering, "In the gallery this month!" it says, oh so faintly, almost politely: "I hate your guts."

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Freudian slip of the day.

Sharing an elevator at Powell's with an employee who was admiring my sandals. He said:

"I've been looking for a good pair of sandals for my wife ever since her mom ate her last pair."

I said, "Her mom ate...?"

"Her dog," he said. "Her dog ate her last pair."

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I'm so excited! Metropolis on the big screen at Cinema 21--now through next Friday. I first saw the film when I was in high school. During the height of my high school silent film fanatic period. I was so excited to see it, and the only thing I remembered as an adult from that viewing was a glimpse of Maria doing that thing where you put the back of your hand to your forehead, and sort of writhing against walls as she ran from some pursuer. I didn't see it again until last summer when I rented it and watched it three times in three days.

I've been waiting waiting waiting for this newest Metropolis--a lovely restored version of a surprise nearly-complete print found in Brazil--twenty minutes of new footage!

Here's the frenetic blog post love letter I wrote to the film last august, complete with kooky homemade graphic.

And here's a review of the newly restored version of the film by excellent writer Jamie S. Rich.