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.

Tuesday, October 28, 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.

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.

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).