Tuesday, March 30, 2010

pacific northwest reader countdown #2

[i suppose for it to be an actual countdown it needs to do two things:

1. count down to an actual, set date

2. count down

but i'm ok with doing things backwards.]

Alright, I wanted to include an image of a train to go along with this very vivid paragraph from Melanie Colletti's essay in the Pacific Northwest Reader, but today Blogger won't let me upload any photos. Ah well, Melanie's beautiful description is more than enough to put that train in your head.

So here, to give you a second taste of the Pacific Northwest Reader is an excerpt from "Alaska Steam."

"Number 73 was alive, breathing smoke, spewing steam, plodding diligently up the steep grade of the pass. The engineer tended to her every whim, gently adjusting gauges, constantly alert. The history of the cars, the engines, and the route itself, was overwhelming. It seemed impossible to absorb it all but I tried, even riding on my days off. I can put myself there, in the first few miles of tracks, whenever I like. I hear the whistling of metal on metal when the cars come around a bend, the rattle of the wheels over seams in the track, the fluctuations in the tone of the engine as we accelerate or slow down. From the deciduous trees along the river next to the tracks, to the famous cantilever bridge and tunnels, to the perfectly placed pick-axes and horse skulls near the summit, I can remember nearly every inch of track, and the way the flowers and clouds looked depending on the season. I couldn’t imagine what the pass would have been like before the construction of the railroad. And to be honest, I didn’t want to. The tracks and the trains seemed to belong there."

Melanie Colletti is a librarian at the Denver Public Library’s Community Technology Center, but she continues to daydream about Skagway and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.

Have I said lately how amazing this woman is? Have I said it enough? And it's not just the avocados and vegemite.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

pacific northwest reader countdown #1

As we head toward the release date of The Pacific Northwest Reader, I thought it would be fun to post a quick taste of some of the essays that will be in the book. The book is part of a really lovely series. [Info on its origins and on the first title in the series, not to mention my own musings on what I would have written had I done a piece for the Great Lakes Reader (because with the whole circus clown thing, heck, I'd have material for nearly the whole country) here.]

The Pacific Northwest Reader covers Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Washington. For our first taste, here's a snippet from "Washington ID" by David K. Wheeler:

"Between Leavenworth and Wenatchee are stretches of road populated by apple trees with white skin and gnarled branches, the heart of Washington’s apple country. Washington has been leading the country in apple production since the 1920s. Once, while rafting the Wenatchee River, our guide pointed to some irrigation ducts just visible near the peaks of the surrounding hills. “We call that the apple juice pipeline," he said. “You know Tree Top?” The six of us in the raft nodded. I’m sure he meant it was for irrigating the apple orchards, but I couldn’t help but imagine gallons and gallons of apple juice being pumped around the state. Now, every time I pass through the sprawling Wenatchee valley, I think of that—that, and the unassuming chic of agri-tourism."

David K. Wheeler is a former bookseller at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, as well as a writer. His work has been published in literary journals such as The Wanderlust Review and Jeopardy Magazine. He is currently working on his first novel and contributes to the Burnside Writers Collective at www.burnsidewriters.com

David also has his own blog. You can check it out here.

More snippets to come.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


It's ten-thirtyish and we're sitting in bed talking. I'm about to go to sleep, and he's about to get back up and have some computer time. Before he does, he says, "Shall I read to you?"

Settle back, close eyes. A. A. Milne from 1924. When We Were Very Young. The famous first appearance (in book form) of Edward Bear (Winnie-the-Pooh) and one of Stephen's childhood books. Lovely to be read at bedtime when you're forty, going on forty-one.

James James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great care of his mother
Though he was only three.
James James said to his mother
Mother he said, said he:
You mustn't go down to the end of the town if you don't go down with me.

[lovely e h shepard illustrations, which stephen made sure to let me see.]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

making an alien

Recently I started reading the very wacky book First Contact by Evan Mandery. It's written in the tradition of--actually as an homage to--one of my favorites, Slaughterhouse Five. It's alien satire and social and political commentary, peppered with references to Woody Allen and the Simpsons (for instance, the greatest legal mind in the Orion galaxy is Lionel Hut-Zanderian).

Of course, I decided I had to do a display. Something that highlights First Contact but also touts other alien satire masters like Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. I decided to go with a sort of Area 51 theme with old UFO photos and "top secret" files proving that the evidence that the aliens have indeed made first contact with earth is found in these books.

So I needed to make myself an alien. Copyright and download issues limit where I can go alien hunting, and so I set out to create one using some graphics that were available to me. I'll post more of the display down the line, but first:

How To Create a Spaceman Out of a Cat and George W. Bush.

The reason I chose Bush is that a lot of the action in Mandery's book takes place in the White House between an unnamed President (who is the spittin' literary image of W.) and his assistant Ralph.

The reason I chose a cat is that... well, the original photo already looked a bit like an alien.

Love him. This cat is courtesy of Kaibara87 on Flickr Creative Commons.

He's so cute I almost hate to show what I did to him. But if you want a good looking alien you have to start with a good looking cat. First I had to remove the ears.

Aliens never have ears. Why do aliens never have ears?

Then some quick warping to make the eyes big and saucerlike and give the head that traditional alien shape.

[Once when I was a kid we were at the supermarket and saw one of those Weekly World News -type papers, and it said, "Is Your Pet a Space Alien?" We bought it. Not to do research--we already knew Sylvia was an alien.]

Alright, here's the part in our program where I have to bring in ol' George. This was a screen capture, I believe, courtesy of BlantNews.com, via Flickr Creative Commons.

Alright, using my intergalactic body melding method (clone brush), I borrowed the skin of W. for my alien...

Easy Peas-Yldarian.

A little less sharp since the picture of Bush is so much smaller, but no matter. It's workable. Those are George's smile lines.

Alright, now you find an old photo, craft the two together, make it all sepia and...

Voila--a decidedly feline spaceman caught on film.

More to come.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

When the alarm went off, Stephen, sleeping, said, "Oh, sorry."

Which somehow made me think the alarm wasn't supposed to have gone off.

So I hit the switch and went back to sleep.

Until he touched me light on the shoulder and woke me back up with a voice the same soft as the touch. So he could go back to sleep and I could get up and into the shower.

What day is it?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

it's a-coming

Prepare to be a tiny bit bombarded by "stuff" about the Pacific Northwest Reader. The book is due to come out the end of this month. My story "Finding Bayocean" is one of the handful on Oregon included in it.

First up, a quick pre-publication shelf talker I made with an image that appears in the cover art, and which the editors were kind enough to send me. Because the Reader project sprung from the book State By State (a great book of essays on the fifty states) I thought it would be good to do a bit of "if you like this, you'll like this..."

The shelf talker is on the shelf under State By State. A little piggyback merchandising. How could I not?

Friday, March 12, 2010


Every year Powell's City of Books puts on a very cool author event called Smallpressapalooza. It lasts from five to ten and contains a lineup of some of Portland's best small press writers and publishers. It's hosted by our grand sovereign of the small press, Kevin Sampsell. This year, it's on March 15th, and starting up the festivities will be Justin Hocking, the... [let's just use it again because I liked it the first time] grand sovereign of the IPRC.

Guess I'm being redundant since I included the graphic for the panel I made for the Powell's window display and most of what I just said is in there. Ah well. What can I say, I like the sound of my own voice. Here's some more redundancy, followed by some new information. Below: the rundown...

The second looks smaller because it's longer. It's not that I like any of those writers any less. It's just the way of the blog world. Come out on Monday evening! Fun!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

39 steps

On Sunday (yes, I know it was Oscar night), Stephen and I went out to Portland Center Stage and saw The 39 Steps. I didn't have any Thirties clothes that fit the season, so I had to go for the decade after. What a fun evening. I laughed so much I worried that I was annoying the people in front of me. The woman behind me laughed so much she annoyed me.

I have to admit, I have some issues with the movie. (Don't hit me.)



There's the two-fugitives-who-hate-each-other-so-they-will-inevitably-fall-in-love thing. And the mysterious 39 steps is a tantalizing question with a let-down of an answer. But seeing the story the way it was performed at PCS was completely satisfying. Not only because of the tongue-in-cheek approach or the fact that the huge cast of characters was played by only four actors, but because those actors did such an amazing job.

I think I'd only seen Ebbe Roe Smith as Scrooge in the last PCS Christmas Carol. I've seen Darius Pierce in... well, he seems to be in every production I see in Portland. They were both fantastic - hysterical deliveries, great physical comedy, some very good drags - and even in their quickest quick-changes, they really became different people.

Leif Norby made a great 1930s leading man. I don't know if I'd seen him on stage before. What I did know him from is the locally-produced web series Wage Slaves. Check him out. A very different character. And I hear Darius Pierce is now part of the cast as well. The new season starts this month.

Christine Calfas was perfect for her three roles. Funny. Sexy. Somehow creating full, alive characters even with as played for laughs as this play is. And giving us poignant, even, on top of everything else we got out of her. The brief encounter between the handsome leading man, Richard Hannay, and Margaret the farm maid (Stephen, you're right, she is played by Peggy Ashcroft in the film) is one of the spots maybe most ripe for being played for laughs - and it was funny, yes, but Christine also gave us sweet. And sad.

One more thing about the cast - but about the non-human part of the cast... The scenes in silhouette? Loved. Maybe one of my favorite parts was when the silhouette cut-outs of the good guy and bad guys go running across the landscape, the camera (yes, the play created a camera for us) craning up a mountain, to stop on the enormous figure of a.......n elk? And then, blink: scene change, and we see the hero riding that elk through across the countryside. So funny.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Alright, I have to post it here too. So nice to see it reviewed again after... how long? Yay.

Can I also say Portland Noir is still on our fiction bestseller shelf at the City of Books? #3...