Tagportland

Greetings from a Ghost Town

My friends who write newsletters tend to start them off by noting where they are. A coffee shop or a train or park bench. I don’t usually do that because I’m pretty much always writing from my desk in my home office since the only coffee shop within a mile of my house is a Starbucks in a shopping center. And because writing with my laptop in my lap, instead of on a table or desk, gives me shoulder pain for days afterword, which limits the amount of writing I can do on the go.

Warren Ellis, on the other hand, has taken to introducing his writings with variations on the phrase “Greetings from out here on the Thames Delta” when he’s writing from home.

“‘Out here on the Thames Delta” is starting to sound like my ‘Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown,'” he wrote in one newsletter. More recently he’s noted that the term is sort of a joke. But I like the idea of a personal codename for the place I live. I’m putting down roots here, and since I work from home and don’t get out much, I spend the vast majority of my time here.

But where is “here,” exactly? The obvious answer would my neighborhood: Park Rose Heights. But not only does that sound like a retirement community, but it also seems a bit too narrow. Parkrose Heights is just a few square miles of houses, apartment buildings, and, yes, retirement communities. What makes it a unique place are the areas that surround it, the context the neighborhood exists within.

Parkrose Heights is part of, or adjacent to, an area of town known as Gateway. “The Gateway area” is actually where I tell people I live, because no one has heard of Parkrose Heights. But that feels like it’s missing some context too. The gateway to what, exactly?

Well, it’s the gateway to East Portland, but this requires some explanation since when many people hear the term “East Porltand” they think it means all of Portland east of the Willamette River. And indeed, there was once a township on the east side called “East Portland,” back before it and the town of Albina merged with the City of Portland.

But today the name East Portland is used to refer to the parts of Portland east of 82nd Ave., which was the border of the city until the East Portland neighborhoods were annexed in the mid-80s.

But the name “East Portland” isn’t just confusing. Inner Portland actually feels like a port town. The name of the city is descriptive. Out here in East Portland, which looks nothing like the city you see in Portlandia, it feels like a misnomer.

So what about a more geographic name, like “Thames Delta” that describes the physical landscape? I live on the Columbia Ridge. Just south of the Columbia River, just east of Rocky Butte, a couple hours by car west of Celilo Falls, the site of what was, until 1957, the longest continually inhabited settlement in North America. Ah, now that’s a place.

And “Columbia Ridge” has a double meaning. It was the name of a proposed city that would have been composed of the then unincorporated neighborhoods east of 82nd Ave., as well as the closer-in Cully neighborhood, before they were all subsumed by Portland.

Columbia Ridge is a ghost town. Not in the sense of being an abandoned city inhabited by ghosts. Rather, the city itself is a ghost, a specter haunting the minds of the people living within its hypothetical borders even today.

Hello there from the Columbia Ridge.

This post was adapted from the Technoccult newsletter.

Mutation Vectors: East Bound But Not Yet Down Edition

Portland-Map

Portland neighborhood map from Home Team Portland

Status Update

We’ve been house hunting. As in, to buy a house.

Nothing quite lays class warfare bare like house hunting. It makes you aware of both your own privilege and knee-jerk prejudices, but also your place in the hierarchy of things as you find out just house much houses in certain parts of town cost — and how much money you actually need to make to live there. (Houses in the Alberta district are going for half a million dollars — who has that kind of money?)

It also makes more clear the less obvious, to me anyway, reasons that certain housing trends perpetuate themselves. For example: in general, buyers of single family homes don’t want to live near renters, or multi-family housing units. Affordable housing buildings are right out. You might not mind living next to an apartment building, but if you lose your job and have to sell your house, will you be able to sell it? Even if you find someone who doesn’t mind living next to an apartment either, that person has to also consider selling it further down the line. Even if you don’t mind living next to an apartment building, and you have a dozen people interested in the house interested in buying your house and also don’t mind, they might still pass on it, worried that if they have to sell it down the line, they won’t be able to find someone who doesn’t mind living next to an apartment building.

So other people’s prejudices and preferences end up influencing your own behavior, reinforcing development patterns in place for decades. Weird stuff.

Anyway, we’re probably gonna land in East Portland (the area east of 82nd ave). I’ve been obsessed with this part of town for a while now, even before I thought we’d end up buying a house there.

I could read stuff about East Portland all day, but here are a few starters:

If you really want to go deep, The Oregonian has an ongoing series on the area. And a couple years ago they did a series on how the Portland area’s subsidized housing has been clustered mostly in East Portland, instead of being distributed throughout the city — even though such clustering is against state law.

The place we’re likely to end up living is quite nice. It has paved roads and sidewalks and grocery stores and access to public transit. But I get worked up thinking about how badly other parts of East Portland got shafted.

Browsing

  • Adrian Chen argues that despite the hype, Anonymous hasn’t been particularly effective politically:

    Despite its anointing by Coleman, Anonymous is not a vanguard; it’s the relic of an already twice-failed dream. Anonymous is the latest and most dysfunctional marriage between a particular strain of countercultural utopianism and the boundless faith in technology that first appeared in the 1960s. Fred Turner, in From Counterculture to Cyberculture, traces the evolution of what he calls the New Communalism into contemporary techno-optimism. In the 1960s, the New Communalists became convinced that traditional political action wasn’t working. They attempted to create utopian communes removed from society in order to practice the “politics of consciousness.” The commune movement collapsed, but by the 1980s some of its most prominent adherents had seized on the burgeoning Internet. These idealistic geeks conceptualized the Internet as an “electronic frontier” on which they could create virtual communities that lived up to the ideals of nonhierarchy and total personal freedom and fulfillment they’d tried to implement in the real world. In this new formulation, information technology replaced agriculture and ecology as the tools that would liberate us from corrupt society. The Internet became, as Turner writes, “an idealized political sphere…in which authority was distributed, hierarchies were leveled, and citizens were linked by invisible energies.”

  • Christopher T. Fan examines the way the nerd identity has been racialized, and hits on a few other points as well:

    The conflation of whites and Asians uses diversity to dramatize a crisis of diversity. When we hear repeated that Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn are 91 percent white and Asian, be warned that Asians are being used as human shields. When it comes to leadership positions, there is no “white and Asian” problem. There, it’s a “white and male” problem. Where Asians are overrepresented is in “tech” positions. Whites lead, Asians code. Solnit has been absolutely correct in her insistence on the parallel between Silicon Valley and the Gold Rush era. Then, as now, California profits off coolie labor.

  • Paul Ford delivers an ode to retro computing

Listening

Check out my noise art installation at the Weird Shift gallery in Portland

Weird Shift installation

Above is a look at my interactive noise art installation at the Weird Shift gallery in Portland, Oregon. I call it “Experiments in Psychetecture.” I don’t want to give too much away, and I’m feeling lazy about trying to describe it. But here’s the basic idea behind it:

Typically, a Psychetect performance would consist of me playing with this ensemble in front of a group of people. But I’ve never been entirely comfortable with this arrangement, since to me the main work that goes into the piece isn’t the final improvisation that goes with a setup, but the construction of a setup. This installation gives me the opportunity to simply let the people formally known as the listeners perform for themselves, while cutting me out of this finally step entirely.

But if you want to hear a performance using it, Weird Shift co-organizer Adam Rothstein made a recording with it that’s available as part of the first episode of Weird Shift Radio, which you can download here.

To play with it yourself, visit the Weird Shift gallery:

201 N. Alberta St
North Portland, Cascadia
97217

Weekdays: 3pm – 9pm
Saturday & Sunday: 1pm – 4pm

It’s closed today to setup new works, but will be open again tomorrow and my piece should be there until the end of the month, or until it breaks, whichever comes first.

(Special thanks to Justin Landers for the use of the drum cymbal and Nolan Ashley for the use of the Korg NanoKontrol)

I’ll be giving a presentation on the Tarot at the Weird Shift gallery on Saturday

I probably should have mentioned this before, but I’ll be giving a “microtalk” on the Tarot this Saturday at the Weird Shift Storefront.” More specifically, I’ll be talking about the possible origins of the Tarot and the sources of the imagery from the earliest decks. No one knows for sure, but most scholars dismiss the idea that the cards were originally used for divination and doubt that it contained deliberately kabbalistic symbolism. But the alternate theories I’ll present are just as interesting.

The event will start at 7:30pm, but I don’t know when I’ll be speaking.

New Bonus Tracks Added to Psychetect: Extremism

I’ve uploaded three new bonus tracks to the last Psychetect album Extremism:

“Recalculate”: A new recording using some of the same instruments and effects I used for “Solar Rattle.”

“Perverse Intimacy with the Sun”: A sequel to “Thirst for Annihilation” from Return to the Wasteland.

“Sleeping Demon”: A short remix of “Aqua Demonic Operating System.”

If you’ve already purchased the album you should be able to download the new tracks from Bandcamp. Let me know if you can’t.

Weird Shift Con Portland 2013 Tentative Schedule

Weird Shift Con

Weird Shift Con is upon us! The gallery opens tomorrow tonight (June 7th) and there will be an opening party. The event is at galleryHOMELAND, which is in the lobby of the Ford Building, at 2505 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97202.

But the “real” conference starts on the 14th. I’m hoping to make it to the party tomorrow night and to the final day, June 17th.

Here’s the tentative schedule:

FRIDAY, JUNE 14

19:00 Todd Dickerson’s Soup Purse performance.

20:30 Zack Denfeld’s Nanoshare: Never Enough Eyeballs

21:00 Adam Flynn hosts Secret Twitter Film Club at our opening weird-reception.

SATURDAY, JUNE 15

11:00 Coffee, and an informal tour of the gallery.

12:00 First group of open sign-up Nanoshares.

12:45 Michael Reinsch performs on the subject of anthropology and human evolution.

13:30 Todd Dickerson talks about his Soup Purse performance from the previous evening.

14:15 Break

14:45 Second group of open sign-up Nanoshares.

15:30 LE Long talks about “Critical Fight Studies”.

16:15 Jeff Harris and group share their Twitter Targeting System.

17:00 Break

17:30 Third group of open sign-up Nanoshares

18:00 Suzanne Fischer does a walk and talk about powers of the mind and PEAR lab.

20:00 Center for Genomic Gastronomy hosts dinner.

22:00 Evening socializing at local watering holes.

SUNDAY, JUNE 16

12:00 Fourth group of open sign-up Nanoshares

12:45 Another presentation: TBA.

13:30 Break

14:00 Laura Allcorn leads the We’ll See Walking Company’s special “Weird Shift” tour

14:00 Other simultaneous field trip to Kelley Butte (possibly).

16:00 Fifth group of open sign-up Nanoshares

16:45 Kyle Drake explains how “We are all already cyberpunks”

17:30 Stephanie Simek performance (pending confirmation).

18:00 A performance by Weird Fiction.

Portlanders: Esoteric Book Club Will Discuss Illuminatus

I don’t know this group — Trevor Blake found the postcard downtown and sent me the scans. I don’t plan on going, but I thought I’d pass this along for anyone interested:

esoteric-book-club1

esoteric-book-club2

Portland’s Synchronofile Is Now Largest Archive Of Buckminster Fuller’s Work

synchronofile

Trevor Blake’s Buckminister Fuller archive, synchronofile, is now the largest in the world. This is a private archive, though, for better or worse so you’ll need to make an appointment if you want to visit:

In March 2013, Joe Moore of the Buckminster Fuller Virtual Institute donated his collection of Fuller papers to the synchronofile. Combined with the papers already owned by Trevor Blake, the synchronofile is now measured in tons of literature by and about R. Buckminster Fuller. An archive is rightly measured for its content as much as its volume, but access to this amount of material is significant.

Full Story: synchronofile: How Much Does Your Archive Weigh?

Todo In Portland: Weird Shit Con 2012

Adam Rothstein is organizing an unconference later this month here in Portland: Weird Shit Con.

Weird Shit Con 2012
Portland, Oregon, Cascadia, Western Standard Time, North America, Earth
August 17th & 18th

What is Weird Shit Con?

Tag cloud as suggested by survey responses:

Drone hacking / noise music / DIY transhumanism / graffiti divination / gonzo futurism / ritualistic architecture / geological timescales / cosmic order / the techno-peasantry / Follow the gnarl / math is cheaper than drugs / The Age of Horus / the New Economy / pseudo-coordinated motherfuckery / the color of a dead channel / various individuals and cells coming together to discuss their Great Work / a þing or folkmoot / gathering of the internet tribes, for real-world scenius-based hilarity / a supercollider for weird, spiky ideas / hoaxes / vapourware / paths not taken, and things buried or overlooked / the rough edge, rather than the bleeding edge / strong and weak signals / weird shit is weird for a reason, because it doesn’t fit into existing frames of reference / collecting and disseminating weird shit should be one of the first principles of any good network of power-weirdos / Solarpunk / robots / machine vision / technologies disruptive to society and government / insert the contents of our twitter comments to each other here, as annotated and expanded on by an orangutang that’s been subjected to several successive generations of cognitive enhancement therapy, who’s currently coming down from mushrooms and ranting about post-neoDarwinist Marxism / resilience / design fiction / futurism / sci fi / weird history / VARIOUS ESOTERIKA / systems / synthesis / solidarity

More info here.

I’ll be there.

Politicians Hiring Private Investigators to Dig Dirt on Opponents

Eric Ohlsen and his three staffers hang out in their new office space on Southeast Morrison Street in Portland, looking like guys with high-tech startup dreams.

Electronic gear is scattered about and it doesn’t look as if anyone has worried too much about the decor. Rounded and pale, Ohlsen looks like he spends a lot of time inside staring at a computer screen.

Ohlsen is indeed a tech geek, but his focus is unearthing the hidden backgrounds of political candidates, not figuring out another smartphone app. He owns an opposition research firm, these days as much of a must-hire for campaigns as media consultants and pollsters. […]

Ohlsen happens to work for Democrats, but opposition research is an ecumenical affair. While Ohlsen is working for the Oregon House Democratic caucus this year, Republicans hired an Oregon City private investigator named Scott Castleman. Financial disclosure reports show that both Castleman and Ohlsen are busy researching candidates involved in several House races.

Full Story: The Oregonian: Oregon opposition researcher finds paydirt in political dirt

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