Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Every once in a while you encounter something just simply wonderful and absurd. John Travolta as a person is hardly wonderful. But add a squeeze toy frog and you have something kind of magic. I think this counts as a Scientologist hazing ritual of some form. But you have to sell your first born child, a kidney, and earn membership on a giant UFO first to find out for certain.

In the meantime, I leave you with this video...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Oregon Caves...a Glorious Hole in the Ground

As the legend goes, a man chasing a bear in Southern Oregon first found the Oregon Caves. The hunter, out with his dog on, trudging through woods about ten miles away from Williams, Oregon, watched as his dog chased a bear into a small opening into the side of a hill. He followed in after some time lighting matches along the way until all his matches were gone.  Well, eventually he was stuck in complete darkness, with a bear in a cave, and well...This is what he would have seen if he had electric lights.

Oregon has its share of natural wonders; Multnomah Falls, Crater Lake, Gresham, all rank as places of unique beauty. But I think the Oregon Caves must be the most spectacular site of them all. Stalagmites and stalactites still hang in their frosty, drippy, alien-like form as they have for centuries. 

Of course man has made his mark on this geological formation. The odd scribbles here are the names of students and of a geology professor who visited the cave in the 1930s. Mineral deposits have coated the names over the past decades leaving a preserving glaze over this mark. 

As for the hunter, he managed to find a shaft of light that eventually led to his escape from the three miles or so of passages in the cave. There he also found his dog waiting for him. Given that there were two ways out that the hunter knew of, he decided to set up camp and wait for the bear which eventually came out of the cave and was shot.

So the moral of the story...If you follow a bear into a cave bring a riffle. That and the Oregon Caves are worth visiting.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Live Life as an Ewok

Out N' About Treesort is one of those things that only hippies in Oregon can dream up and make work--a small-scale resort of tree houses.

Located in the wilds of Southern Oregon, this little oddity hosts the nicest tree houses that I have ever come across. It is really a little bit Swiss Family Robinson and a little bit Ewok Village. Given the copious amounts of body hair you are likely to see and that resort has its own zip line set-up, it is more like an Ewok village.

I can't do anything but wonder what it takes to insure a place like this. A drop from the bridge could be maiming at best, fatal at worst. 

And look they make hand-made maps in Elfin language! This place is FUCKIN' AWESOME!

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Urban Farming

The Goats of Southeast Portland have become somewhat famous by now with articles featured in the Oregonian over in the last week. But I can't help but giggle a little bit each time I drive by and see these animals.

The vacant lot they are clearing was originally the site of the Monte Carlo and Lido, an old Italian restaurant and nightclub that had been around for ages until an adjacent warehouse caught fire and burned the entire block down in 2002. I recall the day of the fire; I was working at a local grocery store about six blocks west of the building and could see the huge columns black smoke rising in the air.

So for the past eight years, the land has remained vacant. The addition of goats has been a more vibrant attraction compared to the usual flotsam that accumulates in most vacant lots.

I once commented to my folks that I would like to raise goats and they said I wouldn't be able to do it. Well damn it, looking at this, I want to do it even more. I will have a small herd and I will milk them and make cheese, damned fine cheese too! And it will be awesome.

Okay. Bye.
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

350 and Counting...


Well, for a year-and-a-half, the Wonderful World of Clutter has been plugging away at that thing it does best. No one is quite certain of what that thing exactly is, but who cares! We have reached a milestone of sorts with a 350th post. Kind of special when you think about it. That means that you could read one post per day for almost an entire year, that is, if you skipped reading on important holidays like Arbor Day or Flag Day or Pearl Harbor Day.

But enough with the accolades and introspection. Today, dear readers, I plan to write about the act of creative writing. A friend of mine taking a beginning creative writing course found herself struggling with creating a story. This is something that happens to all writers at some point in their career. I recall a period when I felt stifled by the act of writing after reading Joe Gould's Secret by Joseph Mitchell. Joe Gould had perpetrated perhaps one of the greatest tragic literary hoaxes of his day and it devastated Mitchell when he discovered the story behind the fraud. What struck a cord with me and why did it cause me to put down my pen from sketching out ideas into my notebooks and eventually force me away from typing out my tales and yarns? It was the inability to tell the grand story that we had believed was out there.

There is a misconception that all beginning writers hold as a golden truth--that a writer should write what they know. Let's face it, most of our lives are pretty boring and only punctuated with mildly interesting anecdotes here and there, if we were to write what we knew from this, we would have very boring stories. Hints and incidents don't amount to a good read. However, when we stretch out experience out to the uncomfortable boundaries, itches we won't scratch in public, or other unsightly messes, we end up with something far more interesting.

Another reason why I advise people against fictionalizing their own experience is the risk of writing for  therapy. Writing for therapy is a wonderful thing, if used for therapy. But when brought to the public audience it reads like a therapy session and is ultimately an unenjoyable and tedious experience. For example, I recall a course I took while working on my master's degree in which a woman wrote exclusively about the suicide of her lover. In three separate stories we had three different tellings of the guilt she over a loved one's purposeful death. This was very cathartic for her, but almost impossible to critique or criticize because it was her own experience put under a creative lacquer. No matter what we would say to try and help her improve the craft of her tale, everything was going to have a gloss giving it a tacky shine. One of the worst books of nonfiction I have ever read was a 224-page exercise in therapeutic writing by Jo Ann Beard titled, Boys of My Youth. I will summarize the book for you as thus: Whine whine whine...poor me...divorce...whine ex...Whine whine school ex...poor me...I wrote a book...Look at me! Not too enjoyable.

But if a beginning writer is unable to write about their own lives and draw from their own experiences, how can they learn to create vivid experiences and convey them to the reader? This question was presented to me many times over and over in the course of my conversation with my highly opinionated yet prose-challenged friend. Imagination. HA! Simple, I know, we always are creating narratives about other people and those narratives whether accurate or not is the basis of a story. We see a man at a bus stop with a can of beer in a paper bag--immediately a story forms in your head. How did he get there?why is he there? is the beer warm? is he homeless? et cetera, ad infinitum. Translating line of questioning and assigning answers those questions to paper is the challenge.

Do I write what I know? Yes, sometimes...But I try to keep my blog from being an emotive diary. Blog literature, be it nonfiction narrative or something else has a tendency to be, well, ill-conceived and mean-spirited. People use these online forums as a public diary, sometimes as a pubic diary as well, and yes, the typo is intentional. Blogs are filled with either therapeutic writing or an even more annoying form of text, what I refer to as the snark. Snarky writing can be fun, but the mean spirit of it gets old. Wit, satire, and well crafted irony is great, however, few people know how to execute these things in a artful manner; often it just comes off as rude and ill-informed. Writing humor is more challenging that one might think. A crack fall or a sight gag doesn't always work when spelled out. That is why people revert to childish name calling and the dick and fart jokes we see to often. I too am guilty of these things because they are easy fruit to pick.

So what is the point of this little diatribe on the act of writing? I do not profess to be a skilled writer. But over the years of study I have invested in the craft, I have picked up a few bits of knowledge of what works and what doesn't work. Often, very little of it works--so you throw it all away and you start over with a new idea. Words are impermanent. It is the wonderful thing about writing when you create something like this. Unless it is published or made public, no one needs to see it again. All of your drafts can be thrown away, burned, pulped. Kafka wanted all of his unpublished works destroyed...they weren't. But who remembers most all of them; we remember Gregor Samsa.

Just a few ideas to think about...

Tomorrow more clutter...and poorly edited sentences...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things Found in Forests

While I would have liked to have spent a fair amount of time in the woods of the Illinois Valley foraging for various edibles, I didn't have the opportunity for a few reasons. First being how remarkably dry the area was at this time which tends to make conditions difficult for mushroom growth.

The other reason why I didn't spend a great deal of time in the woods was harvest season. This particular region of Southern Oregon has been known for years as being a pot growers haven. And while mushroom picking might not be prime, weed harvesting is very productive.  The changing social dynamics and the economics of drug culture have pushed growing ventures to much more challenging feats of chemistry. The meth culture of this region has waxed and waned in recent years in the majority of the state, but here you can see the impacts of this nasty drug very clear.

Sooo....because I am not too fond of being shot by drug dealers in the wilderness, I decided I would not wander through the woods looking for things for dinner. However, at the rare instances I did have a chance to look at the fungi growth, I took these pictures.

No idea what this just looks cool.

Pretty certain, the picture above is of a mastutake. However, given I don't know this species with absolute certainty, I left it in the woods.

This one is a lobster mushroom. Basically a fungal parasite on a russula mushroom. Pretty easy to identify, but I am not a fan. I left this one behind.

And finally, these are Angel Wings, if I have my identification correct. These are closely related to the oyster mushrooms you can find commercially.  The pickings of these were way too sparse to make a meal so I left these behind as well.

I did find one single chanterelle. Kind of sad, but still kind of rewarding. And I didn't get shot.

Meat Eating Plants!

Audrey II in the 2006–07 West End productionImage via Wikipedia
Remember those horror movies where meat-eating plants come from outer space and devour men whole? Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors insatiable desire for blood? The Triffids strangling blinded humans and they sucked the life out of them? Well, they are real and they are in Oregon...sort of...kind of...well, not really. 

Well, let me explain...

Southern Oregon contains many unique forms of rare and valuable flora special to the Northwest. No, not the wacky grass that they like to grow in Cave Junction and Takilma but, unique species of pitcher plants indigenous to this region of the Oregon Coast Range, but a unique plant known as Darlingtonia californica, aka, the California pitcher plant...or by the even more metal name Cobra Lily.

Near Florence, on the Oregon Coast, a fairly large peat bog supports the unique conditions that host this plant. However just outside of Cave Junction you can find a few isolated patches of this plant. 

The plants' hooded funnel shape forms a trap that catches insects. With the insects trapped, enzymes secreted by the plant digest the captured insects allowing the plant to absorb much need nutrients absent from the bogs in which they grow. While the trapping mechanism varies between difference carnivorous plants, the same biological principals apply, when nutrients are absent from the soil, obtain them from other sources.

These pictures are of the bog of pitcher plants. The whole area in which they grow is probably about the size of a baseball diamond of sloggy earth. 

While considerably less glamorous than the sundew or the venus-fly trap, it is still a unique plant. A quick aside on the venus fly trap, if you hadn't put two and two together, the name of this plant is quite misogynistic in nature, as the "Venus" refers to the vulvar nature of the trapping mechanism. The Darlingtonia is still fondly appreciated by those in Oregon. It's a strange plant...what else is there to say?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Repeating Images: Evolution Proved

Bare with me a minute. I know I have posted this first image before of me standing in front of the T-Rex at The Prehistoric Gardens in Port Orford on the Oregon Coast. But this is a repeating image...and a chance to prove theories of development over time. Ergo...

I present me standing next to the same dinosaur, twenty-five years later and about two-feet taller. 

During this period of time, the tyrannosaurus has evolved as well. The basic frame has been untouched, but the skin texture and color is definitely different. We now have scales that were absent from the beast so long ago. And now, the glorious green eye stares at you before the tyrant king decides to eat you in one swift gulp.

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Western Literature...

Some book titles just speak for themselves...others make you scratch your head and wonder. It's amazing how words lose one meaning and gain new ones over time.

Well, enough of that...
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Knotty Wood...Naughty Wood

Southern Oregon is a land of contrasting taste, opinions, and art. On one hand you have the high class Shakespeare Festival in Ashland on the other you have the a gallery dedicated to strange wooden growths in Kerby. So before we get too far into the realm of high versus low art, it makes sense to explain what a burl is and why people would use it to make wood sculptures.

Basically, you can think of a burl as a tumor on a tree; when you see a lump on a stump or a limb, and it is filled with knots and strange shapes, thats a burl. Ultimately, it changes the texture of the wood grain giving a more decorative look. And well, a more suggestive look in some situations.

In Kerby, Its A Burl (yes I know, they made a typo with their name) highlights this woody malignancy with all of the glory that showing wood can provide. They have long pieces of wood with knots. They have glorious woody holes. 

And they have wood carvers able to shape and shave these pieces into whimsical pieces of nautical erotica. It's hard to see in this photo but the craftsman took time make sure the nipple and areola of the mermaid was well defined.

They even let you know, that "You are the Babe," if you were unaware. 


In anycase, Its a Burl [sic] is a unique complex of wooden art, tree houses, and the esoteric workings of hippies that never quite left the acid behind. It is kind of refreshing to see this in a land where the Tea Party reigns supreme and meth is more popular than God, Jesus, and Country. 

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Friday, October 8, 2010

On rainy days and windy storms...

Image from
 Growing up in Oregon, there are certain legends that become so common place that we tend to overlook them as we get older. One of those being the Columbus Day Storm of 1962.

My grade school teachers would tell stories about this cyclone blowing through Portland and the massive damage it created. People would be driving down roads as powerpoles toppled, dumpsters were pushed across parking lots by massive gusts of winds.

That event was almost fifty years ago. My "storm story" involves the Floods of 96. The Willamette was two three inches from going over the sea wall down town, basements in SE were filling with the backflow of the sewers, and many places lost power as mudslides brought down powerlines across town. By no means was it a massive storm, but just a constant rain that kept piling upon itself.

We have had wind storms since and the coastal towns and and mountain streams still flood. But each prediction of end-of-days type weather around Oregon has failed to arrive. That is what I love about this city and this state. An inch of snow will cause people to abandon cars on a highway and walk home. A hail storm will draw everyone to the window to watch the pelting of cars with ice. We want sunny weather but when we have three days of weather warmer than 76 degrees, we have a heatwave and we start to complain. And we all want to see the wind blow.

And of course there is this great gloom that will hit people in about three more weeks as the sun goes into complete hiding and the rainy season comes in full force. You can tell who the natives are and who are the newcomers by who uses umbrellas and who is truly depressed by the weather...


This is Portland weather...sort of...kind of...sometimes...

Well, maybe...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Medical Objects

The recent Archive Crawl brought to my attention an overlooked mini-museum in Portland, located at Oregon Health Sciences University. The Historical Collections and Archives holds a number of different artifacts of Oregon's medical history from the early pioneer days to the institutes break through research years.

While I have yet to visit the actual facility, I am intrigued by the notion of this collection.

It brings to mind an odd reference I came across in a book about a malaria outbreak that occurred in Portland in the mid-1800s. As the story goes, documented in journal entries of early settlers, it was an unusually wet spring followed by a warm summer which brought out mosquitoes in massive swarms. The disease decimated the remaining native tribes that lived on Sauvie Island essentially eliminating some of the last remaining clusters of indigenous peoples of the region. While malaria was not outright named in these old diary entries, the symptoms described, recurring fevers, sweats, punctuated by brief moments calm and eventual death were all indicative of the illness.

The prospect of a malaria outbreak so far north seems very strange in contemporary society; we usually associate this disease with tropical and subtropical regions of the globe. However, if the conditions are right and the vectors that spread the disease aren't contained it is possible for a myriad of diseases to travel. 

While we panic over West Nile Virus and yet don't heed warnings about swine flu amazes me. But this is not an epidemiology rant, I just like the curiosities of nature and of our collective history.
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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Batman Variations

In my twitterfeed, I recently placed a challenge to my five regular readers to come up with new Batman concepts. Many different artists have given their own spin to the Batman concept, he has been in Victorian England fighting Jack the Ripper, a Vampire, even Eliot Ness was Batman in one book. So I figure, we need some new Batman creations. Thus I came up with the idea of Draw This Bat #drawthisBat

Piñata Batman is a concept I came up with in face of the growing violence in Mexico. This vigilante ventures out into the streets in slipping across the American border into Mexico to fight the ongoing drug war. In his colorful papier mache costume, Piñata Batman tries to win the hearts of children by giving them candy, however evil forces keep beating him up with a wooden stick. As a result, the growing violence south of the border still increases.

Donner Party Batman, drawn by my friend Khris Soden, is the story of a man wanting to head west in the 1800s. Bruce Wayne tries to find a new life and wealth during the California Gold Rush. However, he gets caught by a freak bilzzard with his traveling companions in a snowy pass in the Sierras.  Unwilling to die as his other companions had due to exposure to the extreme cold, he destroys his covered wagon, fashions a suit that is fitting of a creature of the night, and well, becomes the Batman of Donner Summit. The story doesn't go well, Bruce ends up having to eat his traveling companion after donning the suit of sorrows. 

Walter Matthau Batman likes to yell at kids. This one is also drawn by Khris Soden you should see the other stuff he does because it is better than my shitting drawings. 

But there are more Batmen to be drawn. So far he is my list of Batman that need to be made:

  • I-Have-an-Uncomfortable-Itch-I-Can't-Scratch Batman
  • Hotdog on a Stick Batman
  • Easter Bunny Batman
  • Kim Jong Batman
  • Ziggy Stardust Batman
  • Dental Hygenist Batman
  • Life Coach Batman
  • Mexican Free-tailed Batman
  • Lumberjack Batman
So if you like these Batman Variations, let me know...Or if you have even better Batman ideas send over a message.

And much thanks to Khris for the drawings. 

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