So, I may have mentioned that I’m in Portland and loving it. There’s been so much to report and talk about, and I’ll have to parse it out over the next few days as I post more (promise!), but for this one, I want to report on the best week ever!
Where to begin….
A week ago last Monday I got to see one of my favorite authors and journalists and modern thinkers, Cory Doctorow. I won’t go into too much about him and who he is and what he’s done, it’s extensive! But I’ll just say his book Little Brother is necessary reading, his first novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is my favorite of his and helped influence my wonderful experience in Disney World myself, and I love the blog he co-edits: Boing Boing, and am a huge supporter (in all ways except financial *sad face*) of the organization he was a huge part of: The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF). He’s an avid proponent of open source and of taking the power and control of commerce away from the middle-men and lock-makers, and back in the hands of the creators and their audience.
Anyway, he’s out touring for his new book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, and came to Powell’s City of Books in Portland. I’ve been reading his articles and listening to him on podcasts and watching videos of him for nearly 14 years — he’s an amazing and magnetizing speaker! — and he did not disappoint on Monday! He held out attention rapt, entertained and informed, and just looked cool. 🙂
After the presentation, and Q&A, he signed books. He signed both the new one and the Down and Out of mine I’d brought, and wrote, “For Liam, With all my wuffie….” Hella cool he signed it that way! (I’ll leave it to you to figure out why.) I asked him if I might take a selfie with him, he said, “Sure, but you need to put a quarter in the jar for saying ‘selfie’.” Heh, fair cop. It was an amazing experience! Afterward I got a crazy-tasty gyro from a food truck and floated home.
Then, Wednesday, William Gibson came to Powell’s introducing is new novel, The Peripheral. (I’ve mentioned him before; be sure to check out my brief post: “William Gibson, The Art of Fiction.”) His influence on me and my appreciation for both SF and how I look at the world of corporate power, the power of marketing, the power of the classes that live at the edges of society, has been inestimable!
I read a couple of chapters from his new book and did a Q&A. I asked him: “In the documentary ‘No Maps For These Territories,’ you talk about nanotechnology and being able to make anything from anything as the way to a post-scarcity world. But even in that, you spoke of nanotechnology as an abstract idea, something fantastic. Now we can literally print objects. (Weirdly reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s story ‘Pay for the Printer‘!) Do you feel that now, being able to do that, we’re finally on the cusp of that post-scarcity, post-capitaliam world? Or do you feel that capitalism will be able to appropriate that and make it harmless, just as it has all cultural movements that have challenged it? Also, what the heck was it like to film a documentary in the back of a car for hours!?”
He and the audience got a good chuckle out of that last. He said, he was duct taped to the back of someone’s limousine over the course of days… It was tedious and anything he said in that should be taken with a giant grain of salt. He didn’t remember saying those things, and if he did say them, he probably had no idea what he was talking about. That got lots of laughs.
But then he did go on to talk about technology not being able to save our sorry asses, that if we’re on the cusp of something, it’s a very long cusp. Technology might make things better, but it won’t stop us from being assholes and doing terrible things.
I asked to take a selfie with him and he was very gracious and polite.
Then Friday I went to the PSU and attended a talk and sort of debate between my living philosophical legend, Slavoj Žižek and a really interesting scholar I’d not heard of before, Jean-Pierre Dupuy. It was a weird talk, with them discussing two very different topics and then debating a combination of their separate points. But it was still fascinating! I tried to get him to autograph my worn copy of The Sublime Object of Ideology, but while he used my pen to quickly sign someone else’s book, he was rushed away by his handler before he could sign mine. Heh, oh well. 🙂
And then finally, an amazing way to cap the week off: I bought tickets for Tracie and I and two friends to see The Tea Party in concert in December in Seattle! They have been my all-time never-fail mostest favoritest band evar since I first heard them in 1994. Their album Splendor Solis remains, in my mind, one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. They’re very popular in Canada and Australia, so they don’t tour the US too much. Then they broke up some years ago, and I thought my chance at ever seeing them was gone for good. They got back together a year ago and just released a new album! And are touring. And Seattle and NY are, as far as I can see, their only US stops so far! So, deciding we could live on ramen noodles for a week or two, we jumped at this chance. Seattle is about a three-hour drive from Portland, about what driving to St. Louis would have been from Springfield… but Tea Party (at least, not the very liberal musicians known as the Tea Party *eg*) would likely never come to St. Louis. I’m jumping for joy!
After some very, very rough weeks for me, I finally feel like I’m here.
Oh! I almost forgot. While on the topic of seeing people I never would otherwise, a couple of friends took me to a reading for a new book by a couple of slam poets they know. Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz researched and wrote an absolutely fascinating non-fiction, Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine. She talked at Powell’s about how she came to write it and the research behind it and some of the stories and this fellow and his life and times, and she was amazing! Incredibly entertaining and vibrant, she had me laughing uproariously. To help read some from the book, she brought up Portland native and champion slam poet (yes, that’s a thing it turns out), Anis Mojgani. He’s my friend’s favorite poet, and he was so very nice at the reading. Check him out on YouTube, especially his (I gather) most famous work, “Come Closer.” My daughter’s high school “varsity” reader’s theater group performed half of it in a montage of similar themed poems for competition last year.
I love this city!