What is a true eclectic to do when her passions lead her in different directions?
This is a blog for the unfocused, the round pegs in the square holes, the short-attention span types, and all those who just can't bring themselves to join the ranks and adhere to a single category of activities or interests...whether sketches, drawings and comics, fixing an old farmhouse in Oregon, or whatever else strikes my fancy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Oh, the haunted houses... (ca. 10-08)

Here is a fun little découpage project, a house from my imagination.
In pyschoanalytic terms, houses are believed to be symbolic of the self. They represent the psychological extension of our identity, our innermost self.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cleveland High School Choir Concert (10-30-08)

Some experiences are so enjoyable they are difficult to describe. We went to the Choir Concert at Cleveland High School tonight, and once again were treated to a great, great concert.
Despite a challenging first year, Sam Barbara, the new choir teacher, has really done wonders with the kids. It was a tough job stepping into long-time CHS choir teacher Steve Peter's shoes after the latter's leaving, but Sam has grown into the position, even winning "State" for the last two years.
Of course, I may be accused of being enthusiastic because my daughter J., -in the drawing, she's the girl between the two young men wearing top hats,- is in the "Daires" Concert Choir, but regardless of J.'s (charming) presence, it was a nice feeling to see the auditorium full of people, and to hear these talented young people sing, and to find them equally good at early medieval songs, African songs, gospel hymns or plain sappy love ballads.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

...And here is the original (10-29-08)

I took this photo in 1979 or 1980 in Belgium.I saw the house every time we drove into Namur and every time we passed it, I pestered my mother's common-law-husband (I don't want to get into that story here) to slow down, so I could look at it. Finally, one day, he agreed to stop, and I took the photo.
This house is the inspiration for the drawing in my sketchbook. I love the sinister, abandoned look, the wild, unkempt yard, the thorny bushes, the overgrown trees. My kinda place.
I didn't see the house again until last year when I went back to Belgium, for a visit. My brother kindly drove around the neighborhood until we located it and then patiently waited as I spent 15 minutes gazing at it through the cast iron fence.
I'd love to say it's still exactly the same, that nothing's changed, but it has been turned into a school. And although it still retains some of its Victorian elegance, it has been fixed up, the property has been cleared and gravel pathways replace the overgrown jungle. It now looks like a school building (ahem, Belgium-style). Stern, but not gloomy anymore.
Things could be worse: old houses get torn down all the time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wanted: Old House (ca. 2001)

This is an old but favorite drawing of mine from 2001: it's the type of house I've been desperately seeking for years, but here are no old brick houses like that in Portland. As my daughter V. would say, the elusive house of my dreams must be "gloomy, but slightly impressive."

From Imagination: Woman Face (ca. ???)

My favorite from the imagination pieces. There is something capricious about her expression that I really like.

Maxine's BD: A Search for Meaning (ca. 10-08)

...Where Maxine reflects on the years passing by.

From imagination: Woman Face (ca. ???)

It's funny how the simplest tasks become an ordeal. For example, the minute something goes awry with the computer, I know it's going to take a bunch of time to troubleshoot and resolve. What I need is 1) time and 2) a computer and scanner that won't give me grief.

Anyway, here is another one of those imagination pieces done with a brush pen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Proposal for a flag design (ca. 10-08)

In October 2008, Portland's Oregonian newspaper organized a contest to design a new flag for the State of Oregon, to suggest as a replacement for the present one.
Many people entered, with entries ranging from the quasi-heraldic-based to crayon-colored projects. I was delighted to find my entry published alongside many others in a full-color double-spread in the Sunday paper a few weeks later. But, as typical in our household, the paper ended up in the recycling bin before I remembered to save the page...

Definitely not original as far as the subject is concerned, but my flag design represents the two great currents of thought that seem to dominate around Civil War time: Oregonians are either Beavers (Oregon State University) or Ducks (University of Oregon) fans... I wanted to show the state as a unified place, and the choice of green as a background symbolizes the overall focus on the environment.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ralph Nader at the Bagdad Theater (10-20-08)

Ralph Nader came to speak in Portland several years ago and was impressed enough by his message to vote for him in 2000. Still bruised over the last two elections, I had just about made up my mind that I wouldn’t pay attention to his candidacy this time around. Everyone said the stakes are too high.
Originally a Hillary Clinton supporter, I was very irritated when Obama didn't choose her as a vice-presidential candidate, despite Biden’s extensive...blablablah…record, etc. In addition to having some residual grudge over the Hillary issue, I wasn’t thrilled by Obama, since issues that matter to me were never mentioned in his speeches, but I was resigned to vote for him, although, really, the whole process has been a drag and I’ve been getting to the point where I couldn’t care less. When it comes to politics, I think that one must be either crazy or out of his mind to want to be president anyway, so anyone running for office in today’s climate is suspicious (case in point: the last eight years).
When I heard that Ralph Nader was coming to Portland, I decided to hold off my vote until I heard his speech. After a mix-up at the Denver airport, which made him miss a connection to Eugene, Ralph Nader barely made it to Portland on time to speak to a full house at the Bagdad Theater. Nader, always a great speaker, gave numbers, statistics and facts off the top of his head. It was really impressive to see him go from one point to another, and to give a speech with substance and devoid of fluff. No surprise he has been kept off the debates: he may have called attention to issues plaguing the country, such as poverty, low wages, lack of insurance, corporate greed, etc.
It was refreshing to finally hear points that I care about brought up in Nader’s speech, which had for the most part been left unmentioned by both Democrats and Republicans: military and corporate withdrawal from Iraq, national health insurance, the reduction of military budgets, a national minimum wage, solar energy, crackdown on corporate crime. Thank you, Mr. Nader for having some clear objectives.
Unlike past elections, I filled out my ballot early this time, and dropped it off at the elections office the day after the Bagdad rally. I know the way I voted will result in some people feeling like that they have the right to lecture me about how my vote is going to count for the other guy, etc. I heard it all in 2000. Don’t blame me for voting for a person with integrity and principles. Blame the Republicans who voted for George W. Bush in the first place. And if Obama doesn’t win, people ought to look at the corrupted election process, not at my vote as the reason.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Busy last few days attending cultural events (10-18-08)

In the last two weeks, I have seen Art Spiegelman at the Bagdad Theater, Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics at Portland State University, Paul Theroux, also at PSU, and Ralph Nader at a political rally at the Bagdad Theater.
I am going to post my thought about each event, along with the sketches I made, if any, in my sketchbook. Note that if any of the personalities drawn signed the sketchbook, the scanned image will have been doctored in Photoshop to remove said signature, for privacy reasons.

Paul Theroux at Portland State University (10-18-08)

The world changes, and the travel writer rarely revisits places he may have written about, but in "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Railway Bazaar, his latest book, well-known travel writer Paul Theroux tells of his returning to places he documented in "The Great Railway Bazaar" in the 70s.
Theroux's visit to Portland State University was the main event of PSU Week-End. As soon as the doors to Smith Ballroom opened to the general public, baby boomers and PSU alumni ($10) and students ($5) filed in early for a chance to get a seat close to the center of Smith Ballroom to hear Theroux.
His speech to a full room with nary an empty seat, was somewhat disjointed, like, say, it was a speech he may have prepared for a generic college graduation, but reworked for the old folks (Class of 58) who were sitting at the front of Smith Ballroom, eating a $125 lunch served by PSU Catering services, -and based on the food served by at the English Department’s “Meet and Greet” event a couple of nights before, a frightful prospect if there ever was one.
Despite the many conversational-style pauses and hesitations in his delivery, Theroux told interesting anecdotes, confirming that a travel writer would certainly experience the unusual during his trips.
I was particularly thrilled to get him to sign one of my favorite books of his, “The Collected Stories,” and, of course, my sketchbook.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Maxine's BD: Shopping for a bra (ca. 10-08)

...Where Maxine tries on several different sizes with little success.

Mike Richardson (Dark Horse Comics) at PSU (10-16-08)

Portland is home to comics giant Dark Horse Comics. Company founder and owner Mike Richardson recently made a generous gift to his Alma Mater’s Library: a collection of Dark Horse comics to be used for research purposes. Consequently, and in conjunction with PSU Week-End, Richardson gave a presentation to an attentive audience in packed Smith Ballroom, about how he got into comics and how he founded Dark Horse Comics, the evolution of trends in comics, etc., taking time to answer questions afterward.
The audience mostly consisted of male geeks or nerds in their late twenties to mid-thirties, the type with jet black hair, torn grey hoodies, and ill-fitting dark blue jeans and Converse shoes, people that one would picture as staying in dark basements, playing video games, who came up to the surface en masse for the occasion.
As soon as the Question/Answer session was over, I ran to the front to talk to Richardson. He was friendly and very approachable. I showed him a sketch I'd done of him in my sketchbook and he graciously signed it, telling me an anecdote about once signing another person's autograph album in Italy.
For a long time after the room had emptied, fans were still patiently waiting in line to talk to Richardson. Each and every person who had been waiting got to talk with him, and, like I had been able to, tell their story, and engage in a conversation in which he actually participated, listening, telling anecdotes, giving tips and information.
What a contrast with the other one (the Superstar).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The way I see her: Moso (ca. ???)

Another piece from the imagination series; this is a brush pen drawing I did while thinking of "Moso," my (funny) daughter.

Monday, October 13, 2008

From imagination: Woman Face (ca. ???)

This brush ink pen illustration is part of a series of imagination-based work. I would post the other ones, by it looks like my scanner gave up the ghost today...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Weight Off My Shoulders (10-12-08)

I finally applied for graduation and signed up for the two 1-credit Education classes to get my diploma. It's funny, but when I initially signed up for distance education courses, I thought it'd be no big deal, quickly over and done with. I had plenty of time, -one year,- to work on them, why rush into it? The year came and went, and I did nothing. True, it wasn't all due to slacking: I was busy; I was under tremendous stress over other issues, etc. So, in January last year, after determining that I didn't even want to bother again with the one class out of three distance education courses I had vaguely look at, I dutifully signed up again (and paid tuition) for the two remaining courses... And now, even though the one-year completion time hasn't elapsed yet, I feel strangely free after deciding that I will not finish this round of courses either... The lesson in all this? Don't choose subjects you have no motivation to investigate, and stay away from distance education courses.
And what after the diploma? Oh, the inner satisfaction... and more.

Maxine's BD: Maxine gets an award! (ca. 10-08)

...Where Maxine gets the "Arte y pico" award from Arty Velarde.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Art Spiegelman at the Bagdad Theater (10-09-08)

Despite a lack of proper lighting in the Bagdad’s auditorium which resulted in only his silhouette showing in the dark space, Art Spiegelman, author of "Maus" graphic novel, gave a great and very interesting presentation about the evolution of the comic genre and its influence on his early life, illustrated by many images from his new book.
However, the book signing session afterward soured my positive initial impression of the author and of the event. Totally jazzed up by the presentation and pleased with myself for getting my 15-year-old to attend, as people were still filing out of the auditorium, I marched straight to the Powell’s table in the lobby and, without a second thought to such matters as whether I could even afford it, bought a copy of the new book, telling myself it was a bargain, on sale at the event for $19.95 rather than the regular $27 retail price. But that was to be the end of my elation.
While waiting in line for the book signing to start, daughter J. told me how enthusiastic she was at the prospect of meeting the quasi-legendary author of “Maus”; she was hoping to get his autograph in her notebook. Sometime around then, one of the Powell's Books employees managing the event announced in a loud voice that "Mr. Spiegelman" would ONLY dedicate the new book. I was disappointed to then realize that we wouldn’t even get an autograph in our well-worn copy of “Maus.”
I asked the Powell’s guy-in-charge if I could bypass the autograph in the new book I’d bought, and which was pre-signed anyway, and get Spiegelman's signature in my sketchbook instead? The Powell's guy said that he wouldn't even entertain, let alone pass on, any request. I could tell J. was disappointed. Not only had we paid $5 a person to get in the Bagdad Theater, but it now looked like, to even get an audience, one had to have a new book to present, a book which was looking less desirable by the minute. I started having regrets for making a foolish purchase.
As always lacking any sense in these situations, rather than return the book right then, I stayed on, waiting in line, like a dummy. There was something very strange about the set-up: the Master sitting at a table midway up on a level part of the ramp to the second floor of the Bagdad and we minions, waiting in line at the bottom of the ramp, until a Powell’s employee motioned for people to walk up the ramp, one by one.
I showed Spiegelman the sketches in my sketchbook, but not wanting to get a refusal, I didn't even bother asking for his signature. He was a short, harried-looking bearded man with huge thick glasses; he looked fragile and nervous at the same time, like a gruff post office worker or a stamp collector, or someone who stays indoors all the time. As Spiegelman hurriedly scribbled my name in the new book, I realized that, gosh darn it, I now couldn't even return the book for a refund anymore. Our one-minute meeting over, J. and I both walked out of the Bagdad, totally disappointed and already jaded about the experience.
And as for the book: spare the expense; it's very thin, even skimpy, filled with a lot of Robert Crumb wanna-be stuff from the 70s, and the essay at the end is equally disappointing. Looks like I’m going to post it on eBay.

Monday, October 6, 2008

From old sketchbooks: Food (ca. 05-03)

I tend to remember food I ate, even from years ago... and sometimes, a meal is memorable enough to record!
About the first page, note that there are no diet or healthy foods on this list of favorites. (ca. 07-01)
As for the second page, it was a gallery show for a wood craftsman (nice furniture), but the food, oh, the food was extraordinary. (ca. 05-03)

A Day at the Beach (ca. 07-01)

A page from my sketchbook, a reminder of an unusually sunny day at the beach in Waldport, Oregon. The weather was invariably overcast every time we went to the beach house leased by my husband's employer, so this visit was a pleasant surprise. I had a small pocket-sized box of watercolor with me and painted the beach. In retrospect, I am glad I took the time to do this, since, due to a change of circumstances, we stopped going to the beach house, and the memory now seems all the more precious.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Horrible Massage (ca. 02-04)

A few years ago, I decided to treat myself to a massage on my birthday. Anticipating that I may be going through one of those depressive moods that seem to strike around the date, I wanted to do something preventive that would soothe me into my next age. So I called one of the local Massage schools. The student assigned to me, they assured me, would be a senior soon to graduate. I gathered up my courage (I hadn't done this before) and made an appointment. This was going to be a special birthday.
By the time I got to the Massage school for my appointment in the late afternoon of my birthday, I felt tense and harried. I was wearing black. The day hadn't gone so well and a massage was just what I needed. I felt secretly pleased with myself for anticipating my needs.
I went in the school building and was directed to the upstairs waiting room where my student was waiting for me. A tall, lumbering man holding a towel stood at the top of the stairs. I looked around and realized that this had to be my student. Here I was expecting a perhaps bookish, but nevertheless efficient young woman, and I got a lumberjack! My heart sank. He led me to a large gym in which other students were busy providing massages to people lying down on their backs or stomachs on foam mats directly on the wooden floor. I was increasingly apprehensive.
The big guy, -a giant, really, took me to a corner of the room. I set my things down on the floor, took my shoes off and eased myself down on the mat. The student gave me a small hand towel to place on my chest over my sweater. I closed my eyes and ordered myself to relax. The massage was nondescript and clumsy. I was surprised that a senior student could be that ineffective. I was resigned to get through the session and be done with it.
But as time went on, I felt myself pulled out of my self-induced semi-meditative state by some grunts and panting sounds that became increasingly loud. I opened on eye, to see what was going on. The student was now working on my legs through my clothes. He looked uncomfortable, his bovine face looked grey and pasty, and large beads of perspiration were forming on his forehead. I was alarmed. The man may have a heart condition, I suddenly thought. What would I do if he fell on top of me, like a great tree falls in a primeval forest? He kept on kneading my legs, working his way upward in an erratic manner. Through my half open eyes, I could see him strain to keep on task. What a stupid way to die, I told myself, crushed to death, and on my birthday of all days possible! I was frozen by fear, with visions of myself squashed, flattened like a bug on the floor, blood pooling under me.
I kept hoping that, perhaps, he would move aside, and give himself s few minutes to recover. Not so. He was now directly over my head, massaging my shoulders, then my neck. I quickly opened an eye again. There he was, haggard, breathing like a bull charging through a field, sweating away, right over my face. I closed my eye shut quickly. I felt a drop of sweat splash on my face, right under my right eye. Paralyzed with horror, all I could think was "Body fluid!" I could feel every hair on my body stand straight. What if it had fallen in my eye! I tried to calm myself down; there was no need to panic; there was no reason to overreact. I carefully wiped the wetness off my fingers. I was busy thinking up an excuse to stop the ordeal, when I felt the towel being picked off my chest. What was he doing this time? I opened both eyes at once, to see him rolling the towel in a ball, wiping his forehead with it, and, once done, placing the wet towel back over my chest.
To this day, I still wonder why on earth, I didn't simply put an end to the séance the instant I saw that things were off, but too often, my reaction to something weird going has been one of surprise, disbelief, then magical thinking: if I close my eyes, it'll disappear or pass eventually. Of course, nothing ever does.
In any case, the drawing was done a few minutes after leaving the school with encouraging words to the inept clod who inadvertently made this birthday one I'll always remember.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My New Year's resolution...a few months late (10-02-08)

I decided to get serious about my writing, but there is a major obstacle in my way. I want to finish my Master's degree.
The last year was spent wasting my time and mulling over the two online classes I had signed up for and left undone on my computer, but I learned something through the process: I don't do well at all with self-managed distance education courses, an expensive lesson to learn. So today, after one year of inactivity, finally determined to get my diploma, I went to the Graduate office at Portland State University and turned in my graduation application. The plan is as follows: to sign up for the two credits I need and to get whatever class I choose over and done with. And no matter how tempting they may seem, to stay away from online courses from now on.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Maxine's BD: P.'s Life (ca. 02-03)

...Where it looks like P. (aka Maxine) is ready to lose her mind. (ca. 02-03)

Party in the Street at People's Food Coop (ca. 09-08)

A few weeks ago, I was walking home from downtown and, walking down 21st, I happened upon a large street party at People's Food Coop. The farmers' market was winding down, to make place for square dancing. It was fast getting dark. As I walked up Brooklyn holding the dozen farm-fresh eggs I'd bought, I thought that it's nice to live in a lively neighborhood with a large variety of people and interests.