Archive for September 11th, 2008

9/10/08: TBA:08

Word count: 538 | Since last entry: 538

We’ve seen some amazing things at this year’s Time-Based Art (TBA) Festival. This is TBA’s sixth year and the first year I’ve attended. In the past I looked at the glossy, over-designed festival program and figured it was too artsy. I was partly right, but partly wrong. Friend Janet Lafler explained to me that it is, in effect, the Portland Fringe; it’s full of amazing theatre, interesting lectures on architecture and urban planning, and hands-on workshops. There’s also weirdo performance art, tedious ballet, and strange art-like installations, but you don’t have to attend those. I’m sorry I waited this long to try it.

Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

MONOPOLY!, a monologue by Mike Daisey (probably best known for 21 Dog Years, a monologue about his time staffing the tech support phones at Amazon). This performance wove together the game of Monopoly, filming a training video with Bill Gates, the life of Nikola Tesla, one town’s surrender to Wal-Mart, and trying to create a one-man show about Tesla featuring a giant Tesla coil. Not all the pieces really fit together, but it was absolutely hilarious. At one point, when Daisey was describing Microsoft Word as being like a neurotic ex-girlfriend, the audience was laughing so hard we couldn’t even hear him, but his waggling fingers as he described how Word fiddles with your text just made everyone laugh harder.

A lecture by historian Carl Abbott and architecture critic Randy Gragg about the history of Portland’s South Auditorium District, which is simultaneously an urban renewal horror story (54 blocks of Italian and Jewish neighborhoods were torn down in favor of office parks and condos) and an urban renewal success story (three of the world’s finest parks were created). Lots there I didn’t know, much to think about.

The Portland tour of Tilburg. Okay, picture this: lay the map of the town of Tilburg in the Netherlands over the map of Portland. Now take a group of 30 tourists across Portland on a walking tour of Tilburg, hitting all the major historical and artistic sights, pointing out interesting features of the cityscape, and discussing the impact of urban planning and new development — all without leaving Portland. Our guide Khris Soden started us off with a brief lesson in Dutch, then led us at a brisk pace across “Tilburg.” He described a sculpture while gesturing at a parking meter, then opened an invisible door to allow us into a Tilburg shopping mall that in Portland was an ordinary street. (We were provided with booklets of photographs so we could see the Tilburg streets we were walking along, but they were optional.) It was a fascinating exercise. It was like watching one movie while listening to the soundtrack of another. It was a unique way of getting a real, physical understanding of another city, including its size, the relationship of its parts, and its overall “feel.” And after TBA winds up, he’ll be jetting to the Netherlands to present The Tilburg Tour of Portland! See Khris Soden’s web page for more on this fascinating tour. Note that the pictures in the “Greetings from Tilburg” postcard are actually pictures of Portland and vice versa.

On Saturday I’ll be attending an extemporaneous autobiographical monologue workshop with Mike Daisey, and on Sunday we’re going to an Al Stewart concert, which isn’t part of TBA but should still be very cool.


  • The wordcount above is for a new story about werewolves in suburbia, which I should really be spending much more time on than I have been.
  • Bathroom remodel planning is all done. We have obtained almost all the pieces it is our responsibility to obtain. Demolition begins September 17.
  • I’ve decided to try this “instant messaging” thing that all the hep kids are talking about. My AIM screen name is my email address (dlevine at spiritone dot com). I’m not online very much, but if you see me online feel free to chat.
  • Kate dropped her two-month-old iPhone and shattered the screen. The “repair” (a replacement phone) cost $200, which is exactly what the phone cost in the first place (better than buying a new phone over the counter, which is $400 if your two-year contract is not yet up). But the replacement phone seems to have a problem with its accelerometer and will be going back to the Genius Bar tomorrow. Argh.
  • We’ve decided, at about the last possible minute, to attend Foolscap.
  • Don’t forget that I will be giving a reading in San Francisco on September 20, part of the SF in SF reading series. Nick Mamatas will also be presenting.