Monthly Archives: October 2009

PDX Pop Now! Benefit @ Mississippi Studios, 29-Oct-2009

Last night I made it to the PDX Pop Now! benefit at Mississippi Studios, with a nice bill of locals.  PDX Pop Now! puts on a free local music festival in July each year for all ages.

Headlining was Britt Daniel (lead man of Spoon, who lives here), with openers the Robinsons (aka Portland rock couple Viva Voce), and IOA (Amanda from the band Point Juncture, WA & friends).

Britt Daniel – He said Spoon has finished recording their next CD, and played a few new songs along with lots of older ones.  One new long one was called ‘Mystery Zone’.  He mostly played solo, and did a few with drummer Janet Weiss.
The Robinsons – Kevin and Anita both played guitars and sang – a nice set with emotional songs.
IOA – pronounced ‘iowa’ this was the first ever performance by the seven-piece band led by Amanda Spring.  Cool sound with two horns and two percussionists!

Stewart Brand – Whole Earth Discipline

Long Now chief Stewart Brand comes to Portland tomorrow night at Powell’s to talk about his new book Whole Earth Discipline.   Here’s how Peter Schoonmaker in the  Oregonian introduces him:

Futurist Stewart Brand spoke to nearly 1,000 committed environmentalists in Portland several years ago and offered three solutions to the world’s environmental problems: slums, nukes and genetic engineering. The crowd was not receptive. Dozens walked out.

Brand loved it. Now he’s written a book, “Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto,” expanding on these solutions. Environmentalists should read it.

I look forward to hearing more on this debate.  Here’s more from

Update:  Brand talked over a slide-show that emphasized what he terms eco-pragmatism.  His big themes are around the growth of cities, use of nuclear power as a better alternative than fossil fuels, and use of genetically modified agriculture.  He faced one persistent questioner very concerned with the effects of eating meat, after admitting that he’s a committed carnivore.  I was interested to learn about multiple commercial efforts to develop small, modular nuclear power reactors that could be deployed quickly.  There’s one producer in Oregon by the name of NuScale.

Fall Colors 2009

I picked up a new digital camera today, because I wanted to capture a few shots of some of the stuning fall colors on display in Portland.  Here are a few samples:

Jazz News

Somehow after living here for over four years, I only managed to come across Portland jazz radio station KMHD this week.  It’s good stuff, jazz and blues 24/7, non-commercial.  I’ll be tuning in regularly.

Also on the jazz front, saw a good review for a new biography of Thelonious Monk, and I decided to pick up the book.  Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Robin D. G. Kelley, in his extraordinary and heroically detailed new biography, “Thelonious Monk,” makes a large point time and time again that Monk was no primitive, as so many have characterized him. At the age of 11, he was taught by Simon Wolf, an Austrian émigré who had studied under the concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic. Wolf told the parent of another student, after not too many sessions with young Thelonious: “I don’t think there will be anything I can teach him. He will go beyond me very soon.” But the direction the boy would go in, after two years of classical lessons, was jazz.

How Much Velvet Underground trivia do you need?

I popped into Powell’s today to pick up an interesting book on painting and alchemy, but before I get to that, I had to note something that surprised me.  On the new music books shelf, two new books covering in intense detail, the doings of the sixties New York band the Velvet Underground.

The first is by Richie Unterberger, and it is called the ‘White Light / White Heat – The Velvet Underground Day by Day‘ – it’s a chronological history of the band, documented in amazing detail, going back to Nico’s appearance in La Dolce Vita and before, going all the way up to about 2007.  I only had a chance to quickly flip through, but it appears to be definitive – apparently covering just about every gig the band ever played, lengthy text writeups day-by-day through the band’s active years, lots of b/w photos.

But then right next to it was Jim DeRogatis’s book The Velvet Underground – An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side.  This one is much more graphic, with lots of color reproductions of photos, posters, etc.  (But didn’t ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ come out from Lou Reed solo, after the band broke up?).  Here’s a nice interview with DeRogatis.

I had no idea there was a market for this level of documentation about a band that was clearly very influential but really never sold many records, and whose heyday was 40 years ago…

I remember when I first found Velvet Underground music, it was on a double LP compilation in the late Seventies sometime, when the original albums were very difficult to come by.  It looks like this, and I’ve still got it:

At the time, I was about 17, the band  had been broken up for about6 years, and so to me this was like an ‘oldies’ band, rumored to exist but hard to track down.  Now thirty years later, all their music is readily available, and we can apparently read all about what they did on any given day in 1967.

Odds and Ends

I spent a few days in San Francisco this week, for work meetings.  Nice to catch up with a number of old colleagues, some of whom I had last seen both years ago and continents away!  Not much time to do ‘fun’ stuff, but I did stop by the SF MOMA store, and found a new book of work by Neo Rauch, German artist (which I picked up and then proceeded to leave in my hotel room! so I hope it gets successfully sent up to me here).

Something I had been waiting for from the library came in while I was away – Herbie Hancock’s Blue Note Sixties Sessions, a 6 CD set.  I have just started to delve into it.

Then today I popped into the annual Wordstock festival here in Portland.  I was not terribly interested in any of the visiting authors, but I did enjoy seeing some of the small press offerings.  One press from Seattle had a number of nice works available – they have two areas of interest: Japan and New Orleans.  They’re called Chin Music Press, and they do really nice production quality books (the old-fashioned kind – they have a t-shirt that says they’re Seattle’s alternative to the Kindle!).  I picked up a title called ‘Goodbye Madame Butterfly’ by Sumie Kawakami.

Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses

As a follow-up to the last post, I’ve been enjoying ‘Twenty Minutes in Manhattan’ by Michael Sorkin.  Unsurprisingly, he mentions Jane Jacobs a number of times – she’s the author of the 1961 classic ‘Death and Life of Great American Cities’ which was a brand new look at the diversity and density and in some ways inefficiency that makes cities vibrant and livable.

There’s a new book out on Jacobs and her nemesis, Robert Moses, city development planner of New York City in those days.  Moses was a proponent of so-called urban renewal, and a big believer in highways.  The book is ‘Wrestling with Moses’ by Anthony Flint – subtitled ‘How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City’. Flint comes to Portland on Oct. 15 at Powell’s on Burnside, and I look forward to it.  Here’s a link to a short review at Metropolis magazine.

As a side note, the Portland Mercury recently ran a story on some of the urban development plans that had been drawn up back in the 1960s and before.  And in fact Robert Moses was involved with a 1943 plan for Portland which has been made available electronically; the link is here on the Mercury’s blog.

David Byrne's 'Bicycle Diaries'

A couple nights back I went to a book event for David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, which is a kind of travelogue of what he’s seen around the world on tour – he brings a bike along and gets a closer look at many cities where he plays.  The event at the Bagdad Theater in Portland featured four speakers, David starting, and then bike planner Mia Birk, bike culture pioneer Timo Forsberg, and bike activist/journalist Jonathan Maus (of – where you can read about the event here).

David spoke with accompanying photos, of urban utopian dreams of Le Corbusier and others, and he recommended a few other books along the way.  I picked up one of them that I had considered previously, Michael Sorkin’s Twenty Minutes in Manhattan.  Sorkin’s a professor of architecture, and his book is a collection of musings triggered from his walk to work – the initial chapter orients around stairs!