Monday, April 1, 2013

Portland: The First 48 Hours.

I have been literally all around the world, and never have I seen a place as downright self-contradictory as Portland, Oregon. Every stereotype possible is found here, often in close harmony to a polar opposite viewpoint. Oddly enough, this cacophony of grinding gears works somehow, as the entire city has yet to collapse into the Willamette River. Businesses, bands, trends, and ideas come and go faster than a speeding blogger- by the time you’ve read the yelp review for a new restaurant, its gone baby gone.  I’ve surmised that this city is rather like other cities, except no-one EVER tells another person here “you can’t do that.” I can only imagine the Portland business bureau green lighting both a person who wants to hand-carve artisanal canoes and another who would like to open a crystal healing center for the gender disenfranchised.

If you’ve ever seen Portlanda, you’ve definitely found the mouth of the rabbit hole; from what I’ve gathered in my first two days here- the truth is often stranger than parody. From practicing Death-Metal Jazz bands to Interpretive Tofu dances, Porland “tis a silly place.” I have seen more indescribable wackiness from what appeared to be otherwise sane people than ever before. Every malady or perceived slight is a ‘cause,’ every pamphlet handed out is a success. Beer is literally cheaper than water, and more likely to come free with every meal. Speaking of meals, while finding ethnic and even American mainstays is common, more often than not you’ll run into some conglomeration of two, three, or, four varieties. For instance: spicy Japanese meat-glazed, Alaskan reindeer sausage tacos with a side order of Irish Colcannon.

At this point, my brain is exploding with conflicting “Oregamma Waves,” from the raw, untapped madness that is downtown. The PSU campus stands as a nexus for whatever beat these people dance to. Be it world issues, the state of food in America, or some obscure form of antediluvian throat singing, Portland not only cares about these things but broadcasts them to the world via the internet (social media) and a multitude of streetborne physical methods. Flyers for everything pepper everywhere and the less legitimate media such as sticker art and spray-paint cover every inch that doesn’t actually convey a traffic message. Twitter and Facebook are the law of the land here, fired off as only the fastest smartphones can manage. All and all, the constant din of raw, created information is a metaphysical wave which once must occasionally ignore or ride it to insanity.

I have quickly realized that I’ll have to master control of space-time to take all of Stumptown in during my limited time here. Meanwhile, several things have dawned on me as being the most “off” things presentable in my life, much less Portland. Here they are, the top 20 contradictions, equal in magnitude of how cray-cray they struck me, though perhaps I’m a wee bit old fashioned.

20) Starches and Breads are merely the ships that help delicious food immigrate. Any type of food can be forcibly mounted on top of Sourdough, Tortillas, Pitas, Bagels, and occasionally something called a ‘yeaster basket.’ Seriously, what are Hungarian nachos anyway?

19) Bike > Walking > Bus > Train > Car > TriMet > Skytram > Helicopter > Boat. There is a litany of transportation methods available to Portland commuters, though the human powered ones are often the best, by both time effectiveness and cost. Though I suspect this is on a curve. Perhaps on an hour-by-hour basis. This requires further testing…

18) Despite free beer coming with everything you buy, I have yet to see any substantial amount of drunkards. My haircut came with beer. A donation for autism care came with beer. I bought a 2-dollar bottled water, and got a beer! The people of Portland must have some magical tap into the wellspring of brewing because the streets flow with it on a daily basis. Through bonus-beers attached to every charitable act, I believe Portland could conquer every ill of the world, merely by catering to one of them.

17) Every variable that defines a person is on a sliding scale. Republi-crucian Tranny Bakers Guild. Yeah, let that sink in, it’s a thing.

16) Architecture, Architecture, Architecture. Despite being a relatively ‘new’ city, with modern high-rises, an effective highway network, and mass transit, it was built on the bones of a very, very old city. Ancient brickwork and iron jut boldly though the glamor- and the dark and grittier areas never allow themselves to be forgotten, no matter how brightly the lights shine.

15) Though the young and over-educated go to Portland to retire, music comes to Portland to be reborn immortal. This is the few cities I can think of with a healthy hip-hop crowd actually persisting alongside a bourgeois chamber music scene, ska-rockabilly clubs, and goth-country followers. Layers of concert and venue handbills litter every telephone pole, a constantly replenished layer of skin advertising every genre and tempo.

14) Business ease of access is incredible here. “Buy X permit, and off you go!” You can legally do just about anything, with the city’s blessing, merely by shelling out a few bucks on a point-of-sale permit. I can be an honest-to-god crab fisherman for 7 bucks. I can OWN my own business location for 500 a month. Should the urge seize me, I can become a legal panhandler or busker (there’s a difference) for the cost of a combo-meal.

13) Organic, granola-eating super hippies are not the norm. Nor are mega-pretentious hipster d-bags. Though the two are here in numbers certainly, they are well-buffered by well meaning folk that just want a beer and some peace. Quite possibly it’ll be the non-stereotypical people here that surprise you the most.

12) Portland loves Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs. Portland loves Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs. Portland loves Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs Dogs.

11) Pot smoke is prevalent. Not the oft-caricatured clouds hanging over each and every resident, but certainly, it’s here. I would even go as far to say more common than standard tobacco smoke too. Being that it’s decriminalized for use on private property, and the bulk of the property here includes porches, you’re gonna smell indo at some point or another.

10) Hand made everything. Clothes, bikes, buildings, vegetables, music, tools, boats, liquors, cheeses, etc. Yup, if it can be made, the folk here make it the old fashioned way, just like grandma used to. Anyone need a hand-blown rooibos decanter? A hand stitched puppet? What about a box of hand-picked skipping stones? Seriously, all of these things and more can be found here, though occasionally my consumer tendencies take a blow to the ‘sticker-shock’ gland.

9) I can rent one of those tiny lil’ smart cars! And park it for free! Vroooooom!

8) Japanese peasant food from a jovial knife-wielding Asian costs less than laundromat does to wash my average load of laundry. For 4 bucks and change, you can have delicious okonomiyaki or any number of relatively uncommon feasts from all over the world. You can obtain such food miracles from booths, carts, outdoor cafeterias, or even odd men with one eye, serving it out of newspapers.

7) Anything you can do or see in Portland, you can do or see naked. Seriously. Disney Princesses on Ice? Yup, naked. Jai Ho Bollywood Review? Yup, they have a naked version of that too. Wives of Janos Horticulture Happy Hour? OF COURSE there’s a naked horticulture happy hour. Sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, Portland is a city where ‘naked’ frequently happens.

6) The Sun changes everything. Portland and its denizens spend an average of 222 days under cloud cover each year. The few days that Sol pops out, EVERYONE hits the streets, the parks, the river, and pretty much anywhere. 70 degrees is hot for Portland, and the citizens cluster around the fountains and bubblers as if water has suddenly become rare.

5) Corn Mo is alive and well in Portland. Dream of the 90’s indeed.

4) I may not know art, but I know crap. Portland has both in spades. From artisan-welded decorative embellishments to the hotglued craft-hour garbage that you find on etsy- both are readily available. The fake often costs more than the real, though often the quality difference between the two is obvious. Don’t insult anyone’s ability however; the luthier’s craft is measured almost equal to the weird old lady that glues pom-poms to everything. (Put a bird on it.)

3) Nature and Structure in conjunction happens unconsciously here. Carbon-offsetting greenways, gardens, and courtyards definitely lend themselves to the idea that this is the greenest metropolis on Earth. Seems like every building has greenery, solar panels, grey water collectors, or some combination of all of them. Perhaps it’s the prevailing water system cutting through town, or the undeniable presence of Mt. Hood. Either or, concrete meets living flora here, perhaps more harmoniously than in anywhere else.

2) Book and Antique shops are grand epic affairs that belie the actual nature of the business they do. How can the nicest building in town be the one that sells old stuff, literally for pennies? 35 cent paperbacks and moldy old lamps somehow fund amazing, glass-fronted buildings that would make the Rockefellers crap a ton of bricks.

1) Despite being the mecca for non-violent peaceniks, Portland is the home to a lot of hurt-ey things. Farmleague roller-derby matches, amateur cagefighting, and city-sanctioned dodgeball all leave these huggy Oregonians bloody and bruised. There are almost as many celebrated full-contact events here as there are vegan food options.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the e-Office…”

Few can argue against the idea that the invention of the microprocessor has forever altered the evolutionary path of mankind. With the exception of fire, no other discovery has so quickly and completely inserted itself into every aspect of our existence. Computes continue to change not only how we interact with our world, but the definition of what our world consists of. Our entire concept of what a thing is has been rewritten, and is continually altered based on technology improvements. In essence, computers have completely redefined what is, and what isn’t.

In 1986 my entire music collection consisted of tapes and records, their cases/sleeves, the shelves they were stacked on, as well as the space in my bedroom where the shelves were placed. This menagerie filled a gap roughly 3’ x 4’ x 1.5’ and weighed close to 150 lbs. With each new format released, my collection shrank in weight and required space without any decrease in content. Flash forward to now. My music collection is roughly 100,000 songs from several thousand albums. The strange part is, it doesn’t really exist in any physical form. Sure there are some ones and zeroes in a mostly non-existent place, riddled with electrons that make up the data of my music collection, but for the most part, my audio library doesn’t exist in any 3 dimensional sense. It doesn’t end there, several hundred books, most of my movies, 3 boxes of recipe cards, and nearly everything in my filing cabinet have vanished into thin air as well. Not to say that I can’t access them whenever I want, rather I no longer have to lift, store, or maintain them in a real sense.

In the future who knows what else will join my media in the unreal cyberreality it exists in today. Scientists constantly use digital copies of matter, DNA, and even the basic forces that allow us to exist in the first place to run simulations, or create electronic models. Who knows? In one hundred years or so, the digital realm may reclassify what life is in the first place, just as soon as we fix that global warming thing.

Literacy Memoir (Or how I learned to love the WORD.)

There are times when I truthfully believe that no person on this planet has ever loved reading as much as I do. There is no romance novel or date movie in existence that can ever accurately portray the love affair I have with the written word. During my childhood, either through my relatives’ influence or my first schoolteachers’ prompting, both reading and writing clicked with my juvenile brain in ways few other things have. I believe at times, I am so infatuated with literature I would marry it if I could: priest, honeymoon, and everything. This writing assignment is just the self-reflective vehicle I need to take a nostalgic trip to my early literary days.

I remember in the first grade, the Bookmobile would visit my school. The teacher would shepherd the whole class into the thing, so we could each borrow a book until its next visit. During one such trip, almost as if by magic, the books containing no pictures started to appeal to me. Compared to the other first graders, this was highly abnormal, but nevertheless tolerated. At least it was, until I dug into the large cache of pulp horror novels, and started reading the works of a Mr. Stephen King. Whether it was the subject matter of those stories, or the fact that I was reading at a higher level than some adults, I was strongly encouraged to read books more appropriate for my age. This turn of events only spurred me to consume even more books, with ever-increasing numbers of pages. I thank the literary gods that my parents had the sense to empower me with my own county library card, allowing me to read to my heart’s desire.

Little did I know, much like crack cocaine or ceramic clowns, reading is an addiction. I’m sure there are important moments in time that I was completely oblivious to, my nose buried in a book. Long past my one genre days, I devoured any and all print media that came across my path. Sadly, this horrible affliction continues to this day, though I have learned to balance my ‘disease’ with the saving graces of physical activity, and terrible take-out food. Jests aside, the act of reading has probably caused as much trouble as it has kept me out of. I believe during the sixth through ninth grades, I probably would have been less of a miscreant in the eyes of my teachers, if I had simply acquired several tattoos, and a smoking habit. By High School however, my reading endeavors had been curbed immensely by the joint distractions of organized sports, and the opposite sex (in no particular order.)

Following graduation, with little career or college prospects, I was all but forced into the Military by the powers that be. Not to say that enlisting was anything but a blessing; my hometown was too small to contain my ambitions anyway. It was during my service tenure that I not only rediscovered reading, but found other like minded soldiers with whom I could discuss books. The constant “hurry-up-and-wait” pace of training and deployment leaves many idle moments to enjoy a page here or there. Should you ever find yourself without written material to enjoy, the Department of Defense was more than happy to provide some of theirs. From the moment I stepped into the recruiter’s office, till my day of discharge, I can only speculate at the forest worth of pamphlets, reports, and bulletins I’d been inundated with.

After my promotion to Sergeant, I quickly came face-to-face with another aspect of literacy, one I had somehow shammed my way through during my prior school years. Of course I can only refer to the act of writing. As a NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) I was expected to write and proofread hundreds of reviews and reports, on every aspect of my unit. I came to the sudden realization that I was not only a terrible writer, but I’d miss mistakes in reports more obvious than an 18-wheeler in an “expectant mothers only” parking space. Don’t get me wrong, any person with a pencil and half a brain could write the basic performance checks, and day to day activity reports that my branch seems to thrive on. Writing training outlines and other drafts, meant for the higher grade officers of the unit would all but leave me broken out in hives. I would literally draft something months in advance, edit it dozens of times, and stay up all night polishing it before submission, only to have it thrown back in my face for obvious punctuation errors, or clownish wording. It took me an eternity before I could whip out even a page with any sort of timeliness. I’m thankful for the volume and repetition of these reports, eventually with practice, I started getting them right.

Unfortunately, how the U.S. fighting forces writes, and how the rest of the world writes are two different things. Following my enlistment, I became a civilian contractor, hoping that my past experiences would somehow put me on a higher rung than others in the same field. I was shocked by the fact that very few “Military Support Personnel” have spent any time in the actual military. More surprising however, was the vernacular used in the writing of reports that accompanied any and every project with which I was involved. It was almost like my officemates had learned a completely different form of English than I had. Daily I would ask myself if this was truly how professionals wrote. Turns out it was. I have never felt more outclassed as my proposals were benched by better written ones time and time again. At this point, I had that gut feeling that only a proper education would get me where I thought I needed to be, writing wise.

Flash forward to today. Like many others, I’ve discovered that both the reading and writing level in this country have taken a turn for the deplorable. Who among us doesn’t receive some manner of alphabetic travesty in our e-mail inboxes daily? If the downfall of the English language is in our near future, then put me out to the pasture right now. I have no desire whatsoever to be part this trend, quite the opposite. I’m hoping that through college English courses, my writing will not only be understandable, but respected as well. Yet old apprehensions arise. Just to get to this point took me over three decades, how much longer will becoming a coherent writer take? Patience with my own shortcomings has never been a virtue I’ve held in quantity. Perhaps I’ll satisfy these questions by the time I receive my degree from whichever academic deems me capable enough to hold it without severely paper cutting myself. In the short term, I would like to know the real deal with that semicolon thing.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

10 Albums you probably missed. (Or not.)

I understand music can be the touchiest of subjects. People are passionate about the sounds that they willingly subject their ears to, and often react to musical suggestions in much the same way Dracula would to the suggestion of a suntan. If you are uneasy about exposing your fragile auditory receptors to possible trauma, read no further. Compiled here are the 10 albums (for 2010!) that I think are most overlooked, or bypassed entirely.

Please, don’t crucify me for making the effort, my intentions are wholesome. Or not.

#10 - Ric Ocasek, Troublizing (1997 Columbia)

The Cars are easily one of the greatest bands of the late 70’s to early 80’s New Wave Era, remaining AWESOME even after the glam of fancy shoulder-suits, and neon knickers was washed away by reality – aka emergency cocaine rehab. The Cars success was due in part to their Singer/Rhythm Guitarist Ric Ocasek. This particular solo venture of Ric’s is by far the best, borrowing the talents of Billy Corgan, Melissa Auf du Maur, and Brian Baker. Troublizing rides the pop line hard, but not in a bad way. “The Next Right Moment” is perhaps too catchy, remaining stuck in your head for weeks afterward. Can I stress any further how awesome this is?

#9 - Ours, Distorted Lullabies (2001 SKG)

Jimmy Gnecco can do no wrong. If he were to drive over 20 old nuns with a school bus, the act would immediately be declared a new national pastime. This may or may not be a good thing when coupled with the fact that he is quite creepy. Given that his best friend was Jeff Buckley, and he actually spends time with Steve Lillywhite, this man’s life is off-putting to say the least, like some sort of Bizzaro Jesus with a penchant for forlorn screaming. Weirdness aside, he writes some damn fine music. Moody, scary, and strange, but damn fine nevertheless.

#8 - KoRN, Unplugged (2007 MTV/Virgin)

This looks totally out of place doesn’t it? Hear me out, there are diehard, Jonathan Davis fanfic writing, posters/stickers KoRN fans that have no clue this exists. I have on several occasions, broken the very soul of these unfortunates. Perhaps it’s the ability of any Unplugged album other than Nirvana, or Clapton, to slide under the radar. Nevertheless, KoRN con Acoustic is a tasty plate indeed. Radiohead covers, Robert Smilth duets, Spanish interludes, and Japanese Taiko drums round out the regular KoRN musical fare. So if you’re a KoRN fan, and just now hearing about this, please; don’t start running for the sleeping pills or razorblades.

#7 - Laura Veirs, Year of Meteors (2005 Nonesuch)

Eek! A LADY! Yes, not all of my music has testicles. Well, I can only assume that Miss Veirs isn’t packing a satchel of plums. She is however slinging some ‘nads of a musical nature. The clean yet weighty guitars on “Galaxies” kill me every time. Laura’s vocals are the exact tincture for whatever soul malaise you happen to be experiencing at any time. Yes my fellow dudes, it would be momentarily permissible to slow-dance with your Gal Friday to a Laura Veirs song. Just as long as you listen to Judas Priest immediately afterward.

#6 - The Ditty Bops, ‘Self Titled’ (2004 Warner Bros.)

How the hell am I supposed to describe these gals? Folky-Ameriofusion? Early Ragtimejazz? Plunkadunkadumplins? Like, a lot. I have no musical heritage or background in my library to base any sort of criticism of the ‘Bops on. Either way, Abby DeWald, and Amanda Barrett seriously make my tap my feet. So much so, that I fear for the structure of my flooring. When they’re not playing with Bob Dylan, covering songs from 1919, or getting married, the DBs are fighting hunger, or bicycling for energy conservation. Surely to accomplish this all, they have mastered time travel as well. You shrewd dames…

#5 ½ - Liza Minnelli, I Peed on the Floor and Fell into it. Again. (2010 Bullcrap Records)

Not only does this album not exist, if it did, it would suck. Just like everything else this vulture does.

#5 - Desert Sessions 9, I See You Hearin Me. (2003 Ipecac)

If you are unaware of Desert Sessions by now, you are dumb. Because even deaf people have the 411 on this shit. In a nutshell, QotSA frontman Josh Homme drags a bunch of his musician buddies out to the Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, CA to improv the most badass set of tracks to have ever been recorded onto a CD. Seriously! They just show up and start making up songs on the spot, and fling ‘em onto disc RIGHT THERE! I kid you not. Dean Ween and Alain Johannes wrote “Creosote” on the front porch of the place within 4 MINUTES OF MEETING EACH OTHER! There are more legendary stories of sex, drugs, and rock associated with the ‘Sessions than any other musical collaboration, EVER. The best part: there are 10 volumes of the Desert Sessions! Josh and friends have been doing this since 1997. I chose vol. 9 because if “I Wanna Make it Wit Chu” doesn’t hook you, nothing short of meth will.

#4 - Miho Hatori, Ecdydis (2005 Rykodisc)

This is one of those albums that everyone knows a song or two, but NO ONE knows the artist or album. Both the singing voice of Noodle on Gorillaz debut, and one-half of the awesome that it Cibo Matto, Miho has already paid her musical dues in spades. In fact, nowadays, we owe her. If you remain unconvinced that this is a must have, youtube up the video for “Barracuda”. Besides, if a chick is into bugs, mean fish, and the karmic physics of the universe, you don’t question things. You just buy her albums.

#3 - Rivers Cuomo, Alone & Alone II ‘The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo (2007/2008 Geffen)

It’s been said that prior, and during his albums with Weezer, their frontman Rivers has recorded nearly 800 tracks. That statement alone makes him not only a one-man musical army, but worthy of a double entry here as well. His wiki entry states that he had over 100 stock songs going into the recording of Weezer’s “Make Believe” alone. Imagine if for every album you recorded, you had to write 100 songs, and only keep the best 12 or so. The worldwide quality of music would increase exponentially. Lesser musicians would die from exhaustion, and only the truly devoted would remain. In such a kingdom, Mr. Cuomo would hold a post something akin to Pope. Between the two albums there are 37 tracks, I shudder to think how other tracks lie on the cutting room floor, post-edit.

#2 - James Kochalka Superstar, Spread Your Evil Wings and Fly (2006 Rykodisc)

If Jimmy Gnecco is Jesus, and Rivers Cuomo is the Pope, sometime Writer, Teacher, Cartoonist, and Rocker James Kochalka would be the acting State Televangelist of Rockland. The man keeps his cult following placated with not only a 9 album library, but daily updates to his legendary comic. ( To see him live is to love him completely, to read his works will make you hate yourself for not discovering him earlier in your life. Spread… is such a wonderful unknown that Rolling Stone Magazine named “Britney’s Silver Can” one of the 100 best songs of 2006, not to mention his “Hockey Monkey” (co written with the Zambonis) became the theme song for The Loop. I’ll forgive you if you never saw it. But that is the ONLY Kolchalka infraction I’ll look the other way on.

#1 - PJ Harvey, Is This Desire? (1998 Island)

I love Polly Jean in a fashion that is borderline religion. She holds such a pure spot in my psyche, that I refuse to think ‘unclean’ thoughts about her for fear of tainting Our Lady of The Kick-Ass Rockblues with the other horrible crap in my head. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan. And though there are millions that have discovered PJ’s songs, very few of them actually have this album. Seriously, it’s like me, the tech that pressed the discs in the first place, and some weird cave-dwelling hermit in Cambodia. Check your friends; If one of them has it, they are a rare (perhaps too rare) individual indeed. Trust me though; this badboy (badgirl?) is worth paying a wee bit more for on the online auction site of your choice. In a turn I can only describe as Reznorian, Polly Jean churns out some very atmospheric and slightly disturbing tunes. In this case, it’s good to be disturbed. Very good. “Catherine” nearly brings me to my knees every time I hear it. I’m not alone in my love for …Desire? To this very day Harvey herself claims it is her best recording.

Well, there you have it, if I haven’t bored you to death, then maybe you’ve taken something of value from this. Perhaps you will go on to write your own list, that others will inadvertently bitch about. Funny how no two people care about the same thing.

Except music that is.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Reverse Pheyden is my new GOD.

There are few motivational forces in the universe quite like nostalgia. The fond memories of things long gone can inspire people to create, plan, build, and above all dream. Seldom do any two individuals have quite the same experience with a given item or event from the distant past. Only by sharing our experiences does one truly realize just how much certain things matter in the grand scheme of things. Our childhood toys are probably the best reminders of this.

Remember your first Big Wheel? First Hotwheels Racing Track? Remember your very first He-Man vs. Skeletor backyard battle? Chances are your memories, while unique, are grounded in the very toys hundreds of thousands if not millions also had similar memories with. Me? I was always an action figure man. To this day I remember some of the epic Transformers vs. G.I. Joes vs. Lego Men vs. Star Wars guys 4-way battles for control of the entire known living room. Foremost in my action figure hierarchy were warlike little fellows that measured 3-5 inches. Star Wars, Joes, Micromen, X-men, and any other number of figures were the best. My compatriots and I hoarded, traded, and cherished them till the days when 40-hour workweeks and finals eclipsed our previously prized childhood treasures. Today I ask you to bear with me as I rave about one of the GREATEST finds a former action-dude aficionado could ever come across.

Called the GLYOS line of figures, they are the grassroots labor of love from Matt Doughty and Co. at Onell Design. In essence, Glyos figures are a series of stylish “Spacemen” that come in a myriad of colors, including transparent and glow-in-the dark parts. Roughly 3 inches tall, and built from injection molded PVC. They contain 13 articulated parts which all share the same pop-apart joint system, allowing for all manner of building customizations. The wiki article on Glyos describes them as “a cross between an action figure and a LEGO set.” There are 4 main characters in the line Pheyden, Exellis, Buildman, and the Crayboth, with more than a few limited releases, customs, and extras that the Onell crew regularly highlights on their blog. Each main figure costs a measly $8.00, a 2-pack of Crayboth will only set you back $6.00, cheap! The characters individual stories are open ended enough to allow any person with half an imagination to come up with all sorts of plots and happenstance for each of them. Apparently, that’s the way Matt likes it. For instance: Rebelling against his tyrannical creators in the Glyos System, Prototype Sincroid Exellis battles for the freedom of his mechanical brethren as leader of the Lost Sincroid Revolution. And: Hailing from the fabled Edge of Space in the mysterious Glyos System, Space Traveler Pheyden journeys through endless dimension securing the order of the infinite universe and patching holes in the fabric of time.

Though a latecomer to the Glyos thing, I became instantly enamored with both the product itself, and the ideals behind them. In this economy, any small business that can create such a high-quality, low-cost product for all the right reasons, and generate such nostalgia in all to whom they sell, deserves more than just our money. My first purchase included Reverse Pheyden, 2 Crayboth, and a three-figure set from the “Junkshop”, roughly 3 Glyos guys comprised of different colored parts from a myriad of other figures, chosen at random. To my surprise, included in my box was an additional Crayboth, as well as 2 Phase arm sets, an additional arm weapon for the Glyos figures. As awesome as the bonuses are, I am not alone in this regard. Matt and his wife Michelle are notorious for tossing in all manner of extras, including little notes of thanks. So impressed with every aspect of Glyos, I jumped back online and ordered Pyros Exellis, and Ballim Pheyden. Others have been stricken by the Glyos bug as well, making a small order, only to enjoy them so much that upwards to $300.00 was spent on a second! Shipping is extremely inexpensive, every order $10.00 or less costing $3.00 additional. I’ve been told by others that orders in the $100.00 range have cost less than $20.00 in shipping. I’ll take their word for it.

I simply cannot describe the euphoric wave of 80’s toy nostalgia I get every time I toss one of these guys in my pocket, before engaging in some task or other. Glyos have become little ‘life batteries’ to many, bringing joy in otherwise mundane or dreary situations. Don’t believe me? Head to the OctoberToys, and read it for yourself. The little guys are responsible for pulling people out of slumps, and generating friendship, and discussion. Heck, I almost wouldn’t be surprised, if scientists found they cured cancer. Can you tell I like these things yet? I suggest however, that you ignore any 4chan or forum hype you may have read about the Glyos system, and discover them in the same way I did; holding one in your hand. Go to the Onell store, buy an Arquem Pheyden, a Sentinel Exellis, and a Buildman of your choice and call me in the morning. Doctors Orders.

Eat if you can: Boiled Crab with OLD BAY seasoning.

Hear if you can: "Kitchen Fork" - Jack Conte

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

With the prospects for a (mostly) self-employed concrete finisher dwindling every day here in Bend, one often finds themselves looking into other venues as a means of survival. It’s no mystery that the construction market here is WAY down from where it previously rested, even four months ago. If you live here you don’t need me to tell you that. And if you work in construction here, then you too have seen the cobwebs on the bid wall at Bend Plan Center. I think it’s pretty safe to say it could get a lot worse; the previous month being probably the best indicator of things to come.

Thus my merry crew and I have broken into another realm: Paver Stones. Y’know, the pretty bricks that cobble the walkways and drives of some of the upper crust areas of Bend? I have to admit, that this time, the yuppies have got it right. Pavers LOOK GREAT, age in roughly the same fashion as concrete, and require less demolition to replace than a cement sidewalk. Cost wise, they’re a bit pricier per square foot, but you get what you pay for. I think paver stones are an option that anyone installing a small walk or drive needs to look at, as I can’t stress enough how good they look. The downside to these wonderful bricks is the time/labor of installing them. A large drive that could be completed in a day of concrete pours might take a week or more using pavers. (assuming a small crew on both.) The labor toll is heaver on the pavers as well, though you wouldn’t think it. While laying the mud down, and screeding it on a concrete pour might seem fairly labor-intense, it doesn’t hold a candle to pavers. Every aspect of laying paver stones involves hauling something, somewhere.

First the area has to be graded, (you move the ground around) then you lay your base material, (you move rocks around) followed by your compaction sand. (you move sand around) Finally, you lay out, and set the bricks. (yup, you move them around too) Afterward, you sweep in your mineral compound, (move it around) and spray the whole thing off. (I guess, you’re moving... water around?) Unless you hire a team of specially trained labor-monkeys, we’re talking tons and tons of moved material, per man. Not the best practice for people that love the long term health of their spines. Another closely related factor is the effort required to repair small mistakes along the way. Regarding concrete, any small mistakes can be cut/filled, and generally troweled out. Whereas with pavers, any mistakes that occur along the way can only be remedied by taking the misplaced material out, and replacing it. (again, moving things around) At no point, during any of the large building projects around Bend that I’ve been a part of, have I come home as dead dog tired as I did after one day of busing paver stones. It’s that rough.

Though I consider myself a better tradesman for having the knowledge of the paver process under my belt, it’s not something that I enjoy doing in the least. The inevitable fact that at some point, I’ll be laying the damn things gnaws at my psyche like a splinter working itself slowly under one of your fingernails. Each one I do gets a little bit easier mentally, but the physical beast that is pavers lies there, sleeping. Dreaming of when it will awake from it’s slumber, and wreak havoc upon the poor denizens of lower-backsville.

So if you’re considering using pavers in your next project, I don’t want to dissuade you from considering them as a valid option as they’re both practical and beautiful. But at some point during your decision making process, please, please, please -

Think of the spines.

Now Eating: Pr├ęsident Brie on some ol' grocery store baguette.
Now Listening To: "The Mosquito Song" - Queens of the Stone Age