Neon Frontier on KZME 107.1FM: Food Pioneers

The American system for producing food seems pretty broken at this point. In the October food and drink issue of NY Times Magazine, food writer Mark Bittman said that for people to eat well, live well and be healthy, for agriculture to be sustainable, for life in rural areas and even the way we live in cities to be sustainable, the food system has to change.   This summer, I drove out into the dry flat grasslands down five miles of bumpy dirt road in the High Desert of eastern Oregon to go to a party ranchers Doc and Connie Hatfield were having at their house for people interested in the ranching cooperative they founded, Country Natural Beef, that supplies Burgerville, New Seasons, Whole Foods, Higgins Restaurant and the Japanese restaurant company Kyotaru to name a few places. I talked with Doc and Connie and award-winning chef, Greg Higgins, on pioneering new ways of producing local, affordable, sustainable food that also is economically viable for the small producer.  The Hatfields' story of how a cooperative of 100 Northwest ranchers has made it work since 1986 for themselves, for the land, and for the people eating their beef holds out hope for how food is made in this country.

Listen on the air this Sunday the 11th, 5PM, on KZME 107.1 FM.

For the reading series segment podcast, listen here.
For the Crow Arts Manor segment podcast, listen here.

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Plazm joins Urban Honking

Hi friends -

I am very happy to announce that we are migrating our occasional blogging to one of my favorite sites, Urban Honking. Urban Honking is a community of visual artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and other great humans. We are happy to become a part of this collective of great content makers.

The Plazm page can be found here. All of the content in the blog you are reading right now has been migrated over. Join us!



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Artist As Activist: Politics + Creativity

Art can either instigate or reflect political movements, but once social change is accomplished, it’s hard to get the toothpaste back in the tube.  This Thursday the 10th at PNCA, New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler (author of Oil and Water on the oil spill in the Gulf), editorial cartoonist Matt Bors, author/activist Lidia Yuknavitch, novelist Monica Drake, God Is Disappointed in You author Mark Russell and a climate change expert sit down with Nora Robertson to dig into how art can lead to political action. Community discussion to follow the panel at 7:00, door at 6:30.

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Making Faces Tonight

About ten years ago Plazm had the honor of doing a joint lecture with Jim Rimmer. Jim was a Vancouver, BC based artist and typographer. He had rooms and rooms filled with old type machines. He created limited edition artist books, made fonts in both digital and analog format, and, I found out during the presentation, designed the classic Heart logo. Jim passed away a few years ago but not before he worked to create the first simultaneous release of a digital and metal letterpress typeface. This is documented in a film screening tonight at the Museum of Contemporary Craft.
The film, Making Faces, by Richard Kegler documents the lost art of pantographic type making. It will be screened twice—at 7:00 and again at 9:00 pm, with a Q & A session with the filmmaker after each showing (doors open 30 minutes prior to each showing).

Here's the poster that I designed for the Plazm / Jim Rimmer talk in Seattle.

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If you love trees and want to do something about global warming...

It’s Autumn. It’s a time of change for trees. The growing season is coming to a close, though in walking around one can see some species are just now coming to fruit or seed. Leaves are beginning to turn and fall. It’s the end of wildfire season. Forests that have burned stand scorched and too dry. It’s Autumn. This is also a time for human reflection as the year slows down and moves to a close.

Just two days ago, I read an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, its author someone once again debating, disputing, and attempting to debunk the science of proof of global warming. I’ve moved on; I’m not going to waste my time debating the reality. Instead, I’m going to look at what works to solve the problem.

As I look out my window, I see foliage that I know will be gone in a month, leaving my view barren and cold. At this glance, I’m reminded of what trees do; I mean, how they function as part of the system of nature. In the simple version, the sixth-grade science version, humans breathe out, and trees breath in. It is the most basic symbiotic relationship. To add a layer, trees breathe in the carbon dioxide cars breathe out. The mechanism of trees breathing in carbon and storing it is called carbon sequestration. As I reflect on this changing season, I see a solution to climate change—reforestation, you know, tree planting.

The city in which I live, Portland, Oregon, has a tree-planting—or urban forestry—program. It is a partnership between The Bureau of Environmental Services and a local non-profit, Friends of Trees, for the simple purpose of increasing the city’s canopy cover—the portion of the city covered in trees. This program grew out of a study conducted through Portland State University—a thirty-year inventory (1972-2002) of the city’s urban forest. The recommendation from the study is a 47% cover in residential areas and 12% in commercial/industrial areas. This means Friends of Trees has to get planted 16,000 trees in three years. Each of these trees can absorb as much carbon in a year as a car produces while driving 26, 000 miles. One benefit of urban trees is that the grow more quickly than rural trees, so can start storing carbon more rapidly. Friends of Trees operates as a Citizen Forestry organization—volunteer, outreach-oriented. Residents purchase trees for a small fee, participate on a planting crew for a day, and weekend after weekend, the city becomes more lush and leafy.

Portland also has a Climate Action Plan, with a component for Urban Forestry and Natural Systems. This plan suggests canopy coverage (by 2030) of 30% of the city, with special attention given to streamside coverage. The city’s approach is much broader than that of Friends of Trees. It includes safe-guarding against tree loss during development; treating trees as part of the infrastructure of the city; putting in place codes and policies to maximize preservation; expansion of private and public urban forestry programs; removal of regulatory obstacles. As well, the city’s plan sets the goal to reduce what is called the urban heat island effect.

The relationship between trees and global warming is much like shade and open areas on a hot day. When the sun is blazing, people and animals become too hot, and will seek shade under a tree, to cool off. Same thing for cities, and for the planet. The sun is beating down, and trees can help with cool-down—all the while taking in that extra carbon dioxide. Not only do trees sequester carbon, helping to keep global temperature from rising, trees also provide other services to humans and nature. Trees trap storm- and rain water, helping with flood control and keeping rivers clean. Trees help to regulate heating costs and protect from wind. Trees are beautiful. They provide habitat for birds and small animals. They produce oxygen as they breathe out, which in turn humans breathe in.

I’m an Oregonian, so I can speak to the notion that, in a colloquial sense, it’s loggers, ranchers, and city folk who comprise the population here. We pride ourselves on clean rivers, big trees, clear skies, and good salmon runs. All of these things come from healthy forests. Even so, Oregon forests are suffering the effects of over-logging, wildfires, and other forms of human impact and degradation, just like anywhere else. Even though our state is pretty green and lush, recent reports speak to the need for a denser tree buffer along streams where logging occurs so that salmon can spawn, and to bigger and more frequent forest fires on the dry side of the Cascades. Researchers at Oregon State University continuously look at the long-term effects of tree harvesting for wood products.

Before the idea of sustainable forestry came into practice, about 88% of our forests were considered degraded. Because of these past acts of over-use, the Northwest Forest Plan was enacted in 1993, largely to protect old-growth forests, mainly as non-human species habitat. Since then, harvests have decreased 82%. A newly released study by David Turner of OSU takes a look at carbon dioxide sequestration in Oregon’s forests since the NWFP was put into action. Turner and his team found that private forest lands are now close to carbon-neutral, and that the forests in the study area absorb almost half of the state level of carbon emissions from fossil fuel. In contrast, the national average of forest carbon sequestration is about 15%. Again, the give-and-take mechanism seems simple; plant trees where they ought to be, and let them breathe.

Even though the idea of carbon exchange is simple, the situation of trees living on earth isn’t. While many places have vibrant urban and wild forests or thriving tree plantations, many have been cleared, over-logged, deforested to the point of harm, as happened here in Oregon.

Scientists, climate change experts, and policy-makers around the globe are studying how to use trees to stave off further global warming. A part of the Kyoto Protocol, developed in 1997, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) works to pay developing countries for afforestation and reforestation efforts. Recently, a similar program called REDD—Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, was established. The difference between the two programs is that CDM pays for stopping logging and for replanting of logged areas; REDD pays for forestry that allows for harvest of logs, but within a rate that still maintains carbon sequestration. In simple terms, industrial nations are buying carbon sequestration from the countries that are planting trees, creating and managing forests as CDM and REDD projects. This is called carbon mitigation. These projects, in general, are called Community Forestry. A study conducted by Daniel Kloosterat, at Florida State University, and Omar Masera, Department of Ecology of University of Mexico, concluded that community-based forest management programs address social and economic sustainability as well as provide carbon mitigation.

The Green Belt Movement in Kenya was one of the earliest such programs, started by Dr. Wangari Maathai. She began planting trees in response to government corruption and over-cutting of trees, and as a way to create income, clean water, and fuel for people in her village. She created a work force of women, many of whom were arrested for planting trees. For this work, Dr. Wangari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Friends of Trees had this to say about her, upon her recent passing, “she left a legacy of peace and women’s empowerment through her tree-planting movement in Kenya.” One woman with a simple idea created change across her country and for the world.
Community-based forest projects are happening successfully in Nepal, Tanzia, Mexico, and Cambodia, as well as other Asian, African, and Latin American countries. Common features of such programs are that they work with traditional practice, local and territorial knowledge to create social arrangements from which the forests are managed. As Klooster and Masera explain, “community forest management must remain a central component of strategies to create synergies between carbon mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and rural development.” Supporting agencies such as the East-West Center also cite these common factors; for community-based forestry projects to work, they must operate from localized control—the systems of which will look different from place to place, provide economic return to the forest dwellers and communities themselves, and must foster carbon sequestration. These forestry management practices are distinction different than the Business As Usual (BAU) concession model, in which an outside company leases the land from the forest dwelling community, plants and manages a stand of trees, makes the harvest. Maybe replanting for another round, maybe not. In this model, the forest community serves as a low-paid, expendable workforce, and the profits go to the concession-holder. This is none other than a form of colonialism.

Klooster and Masera’s paper, “Community Forest Management in Mexico: Carbon Mitigation and Biodiversity Conservation through Rural Development, gives encouraging statistics on the socio-economic and environmental benefits of the community forestry model in San Juan Nuevo, Michoacan, Mexico. From 1988 to 1997:

• Local employment tripled, with permanent jobs increasing from 571 to 950;
• Infrastructure improved from a saw mill, carpentry and workshop to those attributes improved, addition of a chip mill, furniture production, and chemical processing plant for resin;
• Social infrastructure of a community store and tortilleria to include a library, four buses, farm supplies store, technical advise station, and a recreational facility;
• On the 814 acres of forest, production of seedlings increased from 140,000 to 3,200,000, while protected areas increased from 155 to 459 acres.

These figures, along with all of the research, affirms the effectiveness of community-based forestry projects. As well, it confirms the need for policy that supports this model. Largely, projects that fail do so because of government systems that favor the BAU model and sabotage community efforts—just as the Kenyan government saw fit to imprison women for planting trees without a permit…because it infringed on the big-business, un-localized profiteers who were over-cutting and degrading forests there. Projects in Laos have also fallen prey to systems of government corruption that would rather keep the people poor and dependent on outside economic powers than self-sufficient and ecologically effective.

Here in Oregon, we have a pioneering spirit; it’s the philosophy the state was built upon. By no accident, the state motto is, “Under the power of her own wings.” So it was no surprise that I found two community-based forest management projects:

In 1966, the Warm Springs Indian tribe bought back the forestry concession on their reservation land to create Warm Springs Forest Products. With the moniker of, “Striking a balance between quality lumber products and environmental pride,” WSFP bases all marketing decisions on the principles of the Chain of Custody Certification of the Forest Stewardship Council. As well, they are Rainforest Alliance certified.

The Siskiyou Project focuses on the non-commercial restoration, enhancement, and climate-change resiliency of area forests. It operates with an ecological focus, developed from local input, with the aim of creating jobs as it builds forests.

While these policy negotiations can be detailed, and BAU can get in the way, the route to action doesn’t have to be. As is stated on the OSU Forestry Department homepage, “Humans are a forest-dependent species.” This unites us—all of us—around the globe.

This morning, on local community radio, I heard commentary from Anodea Judith, author of, Waking the Global Heart: Humanity’s Rite of Passage from the Love of Power to the Power of Love. Judith spoke of the need for people to find these reconciliatory and democratic—as in the participatory power of the people—kinds of models for business and living. Citizen- and Community- Forestry offer a new kind of civic duty. One in which the power structure serves the people doing the work, serves the place in which the work is done, and telescopes out to positive global effects, such as carbon sequestration as part of the solution to global warming. While listening to Judith, I was reminded of an author I read as an undergrad, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Kenyan author and scholar. One of Ngugi’s over-arching themes was that Africans, and I’ll change that up to mean people, need to decolonize the mind; to let go of those systems of power and corruption that serve some and disadvantage many. Today, that message has strong environmental implications, as Dr. Wangari Maathai understood. As global citizens, we can no longer let our trees be chopped down simply for big-company profit, and with no plan for the future.

People and forests are symbiotic in nature. Even though I can’t single-handedly stop climate change, I can plant trees.


Dan Attoe featured in Plazm 30 and GQ - for realz


Portland-based artist Dan Attoe was featured in this Matthew Williams video and in the current issue of GQ magazine. Video above. Some images of the GQ spreads here.

Plazm #30 features an actual size 2-sided pull out poster of Dan's Accretion series.

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The New Oregon Interview Series: Linda K. Johnson

Finding the Forest.  Image: Julia Keefe and John Klicker.

Taller than the Other Trees:
An Interview with Linda K. Johnson

In 2008, I sat down with dance artist Linda K. Johnson in her shady Portland bungalow. Johnson moved around her kitchen with a loose gait, dressed in a hoodie and yoga pants, to make us tea. In the ‘90s, Johnson was intimately involved in the early beginnings of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA). PICA’s Time Based Art festival, an international performance festival, had in the fall of 2008 just presented collaborators Johnson, Randy Gragg and Third Angle Music’s City Dance, an installation of over 30 dancers in the four downtown fountains designed by architect Lawrence Halprin. City Dance celebrated how Halprin drew on the participatory performance work of his wife, the modern dancer Anna Halprin, to avoid the gutting of the urban center typical of ‘60s urban reform and instead invited participation by passersby going about their daily lives. Lawrence Halprin’s innovation became part of the common vocabulary of public space today. Johnson’s work shares many of these concerns with how we use our spaces.

Learn more about the fertility of Portland's creative space and our new national relevance after the jump.

Read more »

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Wordstock Weekend: Go Here Now.

Plazm and New Oregon-related Authors at Wordstock

*2 pm Saturday, Oct 8: "The Death of Print and Humanity in the Digital Age." Join Plazm editors/creators Tiffany Lee Brown (moderator), Jon Raymond, and Joshua Berger along with Born magazine's Anmarie Trimble and Urban Honking's Mike Merrill. A New Oregon Arts & Letters adventure. Wieden+Kennedy Stage, Oregon Convention Center.

*4 pm Sunday: "From Playboy to the Bible: Adapting Writing for Screen and Image." With Andy Mingo, Mark Russell, Nora Robertson (moderator), Shannon Wheeler. A cartoonist, a humorist and a filmmaker sit down to discuss collaboration between writers and artists in visual mediums.A New Oregon Arts & Letters joint. Oregon Cultural Trust Stage.

12 pm Saturday: "My Censor, My Self." Plazm contributor and "Chronology of Water" goddess-author Lidia Yuknavitch with Ben Moorad, Kerry Cohen, and Lynn Connor. Writers often suppress their own work before reviewers, readers and relatives have a chance to pass judgement. How to get around the snarkiest critic of all? Wieden+Kennedy Stage.

5 pm Saturday: Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis. Author and illustrator of middle reader book "Wildwood." Maybe you caught their very first Wildwood appearance at the Plazm 20th Anniversary VIP event. Mr. Meloy (of the Decemberists) read, and Ms. Ellis donated a drawing of the book's cover. So we heart them. If you missed it then, catch it now! McMenamins Stage.

1 pm Sunday: "Mean Girls." Plazm contributor Lisa Wells joins, Chelsea Cain, Moira Young, and Karen Karbo to discuss: What is it about mean girls that we love to hate? And how do writers make a mean girl we care about? Wordstock Community Stage.


Neon Frontier on KZME 107.1FM: Reading Series Get National

People often have mixed feelings about readings. Readings can be long and boring, Or they can be performances, parties, political rallies, scenes. Portland, like a lot of other cities, has a long history of underground readings through many cultural moments, from Ken Kesey's Poetry Happenings to today, when Portland is on the national tour circuit. Nora Robertson sat down with 90's slam host Reuben Nisenfeld, Smalldoggies' Matty Byloos and Carrie Seitzinger, Bad Blood's Zachary Schomburg, Literary Mixtape's Erik Bader, and Loggernaut's Erin Ergenbright, Jesse Lichtenstein and Paul Toutonghi on Portland series then and now. Neon Frontier is a segment of KZME radio's Artclectic show and explores Oregon's evolving cultural space. Check out the broadcast on 107.1 FM on Sunday, October 9th, 5PM.


Plazm at Wordstock - The Death of Print: Humanity in the Digital Age

Plazm at Wordstock

The Death of Print: Humanity in the Digital Age

A discussion with Joshua Berger (Plazm/design), Mike Merrill (UrbanHonking), Jon Raymond (Plazm/screenwriting), Anmarie Trimble (Born magazine online), led by Tiffany Lee Brown (Plazm/New Oregon).

2 pm on Saturday Oct 8

Culture, and the means of distribution and communication that spread it, have grown increasingly attached to and mediated by digital technology in the last couple decades. As we glide into yet another decade of social networking, global democratizing, and uploading cat videos to the interwebs, how has the ubiquity of technology changed us as individual humans and as a collective mass we can call “humanity?"

This discussion builds on the series of interviews that Tiffany conducted in Plazm #30 with seven experts in the field: Bruce Sterling, Nicholas Carr, Amber Case, Erik Davis, Kevin Kelly, Sherry Turkle, and Douglas Rushkoff. The resulting discussions touch on the printed word, ambihumanism, corporate consumer culture, nostalgia, cyborg anthropology, and, of course, Twitter.

More info at Wordstock

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> Whatever it takes to have a nice day: James Franco, Gus Van Sant screening + artist talk!

> James Franco is everywhere. Including Portland! "Milk" collaborators Franco and director/Portland darling Gus Van Sant are gonna show up together at the Hollywood Theater this Sunday to screen Franco's assemblage of outtakes and dailies from Van Sant's 1991 film "My Own Private Idaho," a River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves odyssey with loose ties to Shakespeare's Henry IV plays and strong ties to John Rechy's City of Night. As the project's title suggests, Franco leaves Reeves out of the collage for the most part-the film functions as a two-hour homage to Phoenix's dramatics in the role of gay, narcoleptic street hustler. What we'll witness is a mere fraction of Franco's 12 hour editor's cut entitled "Endless Idaho," which has screened, in New York and LA, as an installation audience members may enter and exit at will.
> Elaborated Franco via The Paris Review, "[Van Sant's] films now are much more spare in story and dialogue; they involve longer takes and fewer cuts. We were naturally led to wonder what Idaho would be like if he made the film now, and Gus offered to let me make my own cut. It was overwhelming to be able to cut the raw material of my favorite film, a film that had moved me, that had helped shape me as a teenager. The only way I could justify cutting such material was to do what Gus and I had discussed: I cut it as if Gus had made it today."
> $35 bucks to see all these favorites in one room ($30 for Hollywood Theater members), and if that weren't plenty R.E.M.'s Michael Stripe contributes the soundtrack! Holding our breaths for "My Own Private Reeves-12 hours of "Bill & Ted" outtakes!
> September 25, 12:30 P.M. (12 P.M. Showing sold out.) Hollywood Theater 4122 NE Sandy, Portland, Oregon

> Links:
> http://vimeo.com/29396555
> http://hollywoodtheatre.org/one-night-only/private-river-gus-van-sant-special-guest/

Plazm 20th Anniversary Event photos

On a Plazm schedule, it's been a month - here are some photos from the 20th Anniversary event. Album on Facebook:

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Flying home on 9/11.10

Flying home on 9/11.10

This year, my route home from residency in Vermont took me to the skies on the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Last year, my route home was on 9/12, metaphorically the day after. Last year, I sat in the Burlington airport and watched two families await the arrival home of servicemen fathers. I had to choke back tears, watching the emotions of the reunions and thinking about the symbolism and all the meaning behind those uniforms and where these men had been.

This year, there were a few people in the airport dressed in flag ensembles, and a snippet of news coverage was overheard in passing. On one flight, the attendant asked for a moment of silence in remembrance; most complied—except for a few people who were laughing. Really? Yes.

Given my long lay-over, I had time to think about my own feelings on this war. I am adamantly opposed to war, so the fact that this one (or two, but who’s counting?) has lasted so long when we the people were promised it would be six months, tops, is inexcusable. I can’t really say much more than that. Well, I can, because I can debate the socio-political what-not of the situation, but I won’t. I did remember some writing I did just after the attacks, and want to share it.

This piece incorporates a motif from Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. In the novel, the patriarch, Jose Buendia, goes crazy at the time his son goes to war, for an indefinable cause. In Buendia’s words, the time machine has stopped. Here are my words, originally written in November of 2001. It is a patchwork sort of piece. The lack of capitalization, minimal punctuation, and random paragraphing are intentional:


My mind has been quite disjointed in it’s flow since the outbreak of war. I see a dangerous cycle that has been with man since time, and in parallel contrast I see a movement toward other ways of living side by side, of resolving conflict, of getting along. Is terrorism, in any way, right or excusable? No. Yet, I believe in Peace. Those are the two voices in my head—the fear and the longing. So, in writing this piece I wanted to organize my words around this cacophony. I wanted to convey what my heart feels on this day—the day on which the time machine broke.


It’s a beautiful morning it’s a beautiful morning a beautiful morning it’s a beautiful morning. I’m on my bike to school. birds sky clouds cracks in the street leaves begin to turn leaves fall…leaves it’s fall. whisssh whisssh my tires on the road.

I can’t believe this is happening…did you hear? A bomb the towers are down we’re at war. leaves fall in my heart. two months later I would remember the war planes fly by the window as I teach. two months later friends and I walk to the park I would see flames in the leaves of the trees—the colors of the WTC explosion must have been like those of the beautiful maple trees. flame orange and red that I saw with Sean & Sophie on the way to Wilshire park.

Leaves fall buildings crash life ends and my life goes on. those trees the reds so translucent so vibrant a melon-rich red orange flame orange and the next day and the next as I bike by the leaves fall and fallen are on the ground. I would remember that day when dad told me, Neva even the oldest trees must die.

Wednesday morning I awoke, I stepped onto the back porch into the singing of backyard birds, I watched the squirrels and it was calm just like any morning I choose to check. it was calm and peaceful.

I’m trying to hold onto the Dalai Lama’s notion that peace begins within the person. imagine all the people living in the world…war is over if you want it…give peace a chance…it’s been a month and I watch the tribute to John Lennon and NYC and cry.

It was a beautiful morning. the time machine broke. it will always be Tuesday in America.

I’m on my bike again and with the whissh whisssh of tires this echoes in my mind thou shalt not kill thou shalt not kill and we chant at Christmas…let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

It’s a blue, blue sky (the same sky covers Afghanistan).

Back on my bike and I remember watching MASH last night the episode ended with Colonel Potter blowing out a candle on a cake and wishing peace on his staff.

Peace I see the message everywhere peace whsssh leaves fall it’s a beautiful morning birds cracks in the street whssssh peace peace peace whssssh it will always be Tuesday peace can begin with me as leaves fall the spring brings new growth and even as the oldest trees die war will end peace whssssh whssssh peace.


..the list line of the last song on the last Beattles album: the love you take is equal to the love you make…