I’m the kind of creature who would play air-hockey and buck-hunt every day of the week, if possible. Yes, I also like killing zombies, but what I really want to do is get my hands on a convertible and cruise through the arctic tundras and tunnels of Moscow. I even like the claw game because I often win and get to watch the tickets roll out, like a big long tongue wagging as the machine gets pet by its’ master. Yes, playing games at the arcade lights up my brain’s reward centers like a pinball machine. And the Avalon Arcade has got to be the best and last bastion of nickel arcades around.  

My plan consisted of buying a bag of nickels and burning through them as fast as possible. I didn’t know this was my plan, but my destiny unfolded quickly as I found myself pumping 20+ nickels into the Skeeball game. Skeeball is one of those worthless games that we can’t stop playing. It’s a cultural relic and thus cannot be passed over, but the quality is inconsistent and it doesn’t even pack a punch as far as tickets. After playing far too many games of this, I looked for the “shoot the clown with a cannon ball” game which is always nearby – however it was nowhere to be found. It’s a shame, I like me a clown with a cannon to the face.

Instead I found a mini bowling game that made an uninspiring visual first impression. However the game was redeemed as I quickly mastered it and then repeated ad infinitum until I had about 150 tickets. All around me there were 11 year olds swarming in herds, enjoying their one night of weekly independence. Meanwhile the ticket wads were coming out of my pockets like stuffing and this suddenly made me nervous as I suspected the hooligans were out to lift my stash. Yes, you read that right. I was worried the tweens were going to steal my tickets. Instead of fighting this irrational fear, I casually drifted into the next room.

There I burned through the usual games- drove some cars, added some coins to the ‘nickel mountain’ that never quite gets pushed off the cliff, and shot some hammerhead sharks with underwater artillery.

Following this, I played a game of air hockey with a friend. This is where it got interesting. I happen to be fairly good at air hockey. It’s a fast moving game that requires total concentration. A high speed cat and mouse chase to see who can get the cheese. When I play it, I go deep into my reptillian brain and engage in the tactics that I believe are fundamental to my survival.  As I saw my opponent – calm, controlling the puck with certitude, sometimes slowly – I saw myself in comparison. Frenetic, sloppy, warp-speed and brutal. “That’s my style” I thought to myself, “Sloppy and brutal. Total disorientation and chaos which leads to the weakening of my opponent. Then when they get dizzy enough, I slam them so hard they go unconscious…That’s my style”. Under the neon lights, this style seemed suddenly so obtuse, the certain harbinger of my general personal demise.  Even though I’m proud to say that in life I’ll always take fight over flight, the darwinian implications of my battle tactics did not escape me. As I was pondering this, my opponent scored on me again. And again. And again.

As I drifted away from the air-hockey game my brain was buzzing, still hot and smoldering in the iron forge of reward circuit stimulation. I found my way back to the bowling game where I mindlessly knocked down spares to watch the tickets zip out from the slot for awhile. It was a comfort to me that reward could be this simple, after the disheartening reality of my animal nature during air hockey.

Approaching the ticket counter ready to cash-in, it occurred to me that I hadn’t even looked at the prizes. Perhaps next time it would be prudent to look at the end-goal and work towards it, you know have a strategy. Because now, with the better part of the night waning, the inflatable baseball bats and sneaker keychains didn’t look so appealing. I came out with 340 tickets; just 40 away from the mini alarm clock. But I settled for a black light, a “cool ” pen and 20 tootsie rolls. I got a skull keychain too (with diamond eyes!) just to remind me of the ideals of human evolution. I couldn’t tell you why, but it all seemed worth it.

death

I’ve read enough Oregon Trail diaries to know the numerous ways you could die on the trail in the 1800’s. Among the most colorful ways that people met their fate:

1. Horse in quicksand
2. Drowned in the river
3. Indian Attack
4. Bad berries
5. Caught under the wagon wheel
6. Typhoid/Cholera/Dysentary

My knowledge of the trail was edified, of course, by the video game that all school aged children played in classrooms across the nation from 1992-1996. This game taught us things that every American should know: How to budget enough bacon for a family of 6, how to ford a river with your team of oxen, and how to shoot and kill with the click of a button.

As youth we spent hours captive to the pixellated screens as our wagon parties dwindled to the few remaining healthy members who could survive for weeks on flour until the next trading post. Oh what joy and jubiliation we found when we reached the long-awaited city.

                                                                                                                                           

Compare this now reader, to the “easy on the eyes” interface of the updated Oregon Trail game – which features cute gnarly little oxen and prairie munchkins who make their way along the lush landscape with cinematic gusto. Is this updated version truly teaching our children about the stark hardships of the trail life? Or does it make a mockery of our history?!?  It is my opinion that the 1992 version still better captures the spirit of those harsh and minimalist times.

But as distressing as it is, there is no use fighting modernity. The Oregon Trail itself is only a shadow of what it used to be. In Oregon, it mostly follows a highspeed freeway- winding through the mountain roads around Mount Hood and spilling into “oh-so-majestic” Oregon City. Having a longtime fascination with the trail I swayed one of my comrades out to the Zig Zag river this weekend to hike a portion of the infamous Barlow Road. It was not as simple as one would think. If a “Friends of the Oregon Trail” society exists, they have been truly slack. There are signs suggesting historic landmarks, but after hiking miles to that end, said landmarks are not apparent. Other times they are simply ski lifts where there should be historical markers. In one instance, we spent about an hour roaming around the foggy woods looking for Laurel Hill Chute. We finally found it thanks to a generous soul who attached blue tape to a tree branch marking the path that leads to the hill. Seeing that craggy descent did help me to appreciate the hardships the pioneers faced on their perilous journey. It also gave me an excuse to speak in a pioneer dialect for at least an hour. 

We never would have found these places if we didn’t have our own pioneer-driven determination. As usual, the signage in Oregon is poor and was clearly made by drunken townies on snowshoes. You have to look closely to find these special spots, but if you do, the charm and nostalgia of the Oregon Trail still remains.

I’m positive this is one of the most disturbing things you’ve ever seen….and if you think this is bad, there are at least a dozen more where that came from on the Sundance Channel. Watch the one on Ducks and Bedbugs – but only if you own a very good shower scrub to purify you afterwards.

 

Drug booklet for Japanese school children – warning guide, or identification tutorial? Seeing heroin in its’ plant form makes it look so natural and benign.

What we really need is a Maslow Hierarchy of Needs pyramid to identify which drugs we should be taking and which ones are ‘extra credit’.

Marie Antoinette, forever a symbol of noble frivolity and the sacrificial lamb of the class revolution. As a symbol of the status quo, she doesn’t quite make the Shortwave “Top Rebel Bastards” list. But the potency of her character has leant itself to considerable satire through the decades, so who was Marie Antoinette really? There are oodles of biographies on the subject, no doubt, but we prefer vain speculation. There’s something more savory about it….and so we wondered, what might it be like – a day in the life of a young and anachronistic Marie Antoinette?

Dear Diary,

by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1762

Today J.E. Liotard painted my portrait. They wouldn’t let Frau-Mau my poodle accompany me during the sitting, so instead I posed with the remote control to my throne – a nod to the omnipotence of my regal power. Plebian fools! They should have let me have my Frau-Mau. I still giggle about the fact that she is named after the pug-faced Duchess of Normandy, my arch nemesis and rival. Trust me, the dog is much cuter!

Anyway, the painting is for the Dauphin of France my current suitor. He will be asking for my hand soon and one day I will be the Queen of France! Even though I am only 14 they let me wear my gray curly wig for the portrait – it gives me an air of sexual sophistication.

yours, Marie

Hameau de la Reine

Dear Diary,

The palace is so grand! I have given it my own special touch, complete with many gold-gilded ribbons and diamond-encrusted bows.

You may recall  how I love dolls and miniatures so I had a quaint peasant village erected in the courtyard garden. Oh mon ami, now I can play at living the life of the lower classes! We have chickens and everything! It’s so realistic that it sets my heart aflutter. Dear Louie even got me the most simple brown burlap sack dress to wear so I may play the part convincingly. Perhaps I will bake bread! (Only kidding, mon ami, I would never do that…)

yours, Marie

cupcakes with Marie

Dear Diary,

Sophia Coppola visited me today at the palace. She wants to make a moving picture show of the grandiose life of Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Sophia is aware of the discontent of the French people with their foreign but loyal queen, so she wants to immortalize the grandeur in celluloid film. It is the best news I’ve heard all year! My public hates me and wants to tear me apart…But even if I die tomorrow at least Miss Sophia Coppola will pay hommage to my greatness and be sure that our legacy lives on with great splendor. I may die for the vain cause of the peasants’ “revolution”, but Ms. Coppola will set history right. The public will finally know the TRUE  M. Antoinette – in all the noble dignity befitting of an infamous Queen.

yours, Marie

To be continued…..

Some anecdotes from Saturday Night’s dinner party. Granted, they don’t possess the same amount of luster or clarity they did in the moment they were told, but they are documented here for posterity.

Strain your brains friends, this one’s a Koan:

Scene: Joe Lieberman and Blanche Dubois, coifing their manes on the couch in her parents’ basement
He said: “I’m all alone, rolling a big donut, and there’s a snake wearing a vest”
She said: “I don’t care if your hands don’t work. Just use your dick like normal boyz”
And then...they came simultaneously all over each others faces.

Scene: Cookie Monster and Barbarella, repenting for blasphemy on the plane of hell reserved for betrayers
He said: “I can make my penis disappear by sorcery”
She said: “WTF happened to your penis?!”
And then…he ran away from her angry boyfriend and hopped a train to the Alamo.

Scene: Pope Benedict and Marlanda, “pounding that shit into oblivion” in an adult arcade in Tokyo.
He said: “Why is this so confusing?”
She said: “It’s not THAT kind of dream”
And then…they jumped into a compost pile and decomposed.

The End.

Aleister Crowley

Influential member of the late 19th century occult group Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and founder of the religion of Thelema. Other hobbies included mountaineering, playing chess and seeing prostitutes. He began experimenting with magic after a break with Christianity while studying in Cambridge and left school to pursue his occult leanings.

Aleister doing his "magician look"

But Aleister was a bit of a spitfire and it wasn’t long before he was picking fights and starting rivalries in the Golden Dawn order. He had an ongoing rivalry with Arthur Waite, father of the modern day Rider-Waite Tarot Deck and also had it out for poet W.B. Yeats who briefly experimented with the occult. Crowley claimed Yeats did a black magic spell on him. This, among other contentions, led him to establish his own order: Ordo Templi Orientis, which was associated with Freemasonry.

Over the years Crowley wrote a lot of strange books, took a lot of heroin, and found himself embroiled in many public scandals. One of his disciples, for example, died after drinking the blood of a cat. Aleister himself carried around a talisman called “Segelah”, stained with male and female bodily fluids. With these kinds of biographical facts surviving, one can only imagine what his private life really entailed.

One experience crucial to Crowley’s magic experiences, was a pilgrimage he made to Egypt in 1904 in which he was exposed to the jarring combination of hallucigenic drugs and Egyptian mythology. Out of that experience he came up with an interesting theory:

Crowley claimed that mankind has lived through two great aeons: that of Isis, the prehistoric age of the dominance of Woman, and that of Osiris, the age of the dominance of the male principle and of the great religions. The present aeon was the commencement of that of Horus and self-will. The third age would be a New Age of Youth, based on union of female and male energies. Thus sex was central to Crowley’s magical practice, both in heterosexual and homosexual forms.”        – Pegasos

While Crowley might have been a hot mess of drugs, sex and magic he was a very liberated free thinker in a morally stifling and conformist time. His motto was “Do What Thou Wilt” which somehow justified the hedonistic rituals that ruled his tumultuous life and explains his subsequent infamy. Truly, his extremism was a reflection of the superstitious and severe society he was living in at the time.

So maybe he didn’t do much, but at least his tarot deck is cool. As Crowley put it “I may be a black magician, but I’m a bloody great one”.

For any of you who remember the 90’s– Virtual Reality was supposed to be a total sensory immersion, a fabricated computer world so convincing that it would nearly fool your brain into believing it was real. For most of the decade, and part of this last decade, Virtual Reality was always “just around the corner.” And of course, it never came. The technology was never really there.

WDITOT

I was an impressionable 11 year old when I first read about Virtual Reality in Monica Hughes’ teen thriller “Invitation to the Game”

If you can’t tell from the cover – the book was thrilling and filled with wacky “out of this world” apocalyptic storylines. I loved it. Ate it with a giant future-lovin spoon. Following that novel experience, I kept my eye out for this cutting-edge virtual reality technology that was “just around the corner”.

Sure…maybe if you live in Japan. Otherwise, virtual reality technology has pretty much been a string of embarrassing failures.

The “space pad” approach

The “helmet” approach

The “bubble boy” approach

Yep, 20 years and counting and this is about as far as we’ve gotten. Personally the closest I’ve ever come is my Virtual Dating experience which, actually, was extremely realistic. I mean, my date had terrible breath and my wallet was empty after the fact, which all felt very realistic to me.

Maybe there is a secret underground virtual reality scene that I just don’t know about. Is the army hiding this technology from us or something? I want to know who to blame. I know of at least one artist in the world who sympathizes with that fact that we were promised jetpacks and this Wii Bowling crap just isn’t going to cut it.

I’m sick of all these articles out about why Portland is so cool. They basically

amount to “eat at the food carts” and “go to Powell’s”. I had out-of-town guests the last two weekends in a row, and it’s got me thinking about the REAL reasons to come visit Portland. Reasons that I was completely clueless about until moving here. I moved here with a car full of crock-pots and space-heaters without ever so much as stepping foot in the Northwest. I didn’t even own a raincoat. But I’ve been schooled since then, friends. And let me tell you there are many reasons to live in Portland that are not getting enough press.

10 Real Reasons to be in PDX

some hippie street with good eats

1. The yin-yang existence between DIFM (Do it for me) and DIY (Do it yourself) culture. See, I’m more DIFM than DIY, but since other people are DIYing (clothes, backpacks, bicycles, beer). I don’t have to do it for myself. You can do it for me, locally, and I will buy it from you. Everyone wins.

2. You just found out your best friend from childhood moved here, as did your old boss, your favorite band, your uncle’s boyfriend, your cousin and your new best friend. You thought your dog ran away in college but it turns out even HE lives in Portland now.

3. Heated bar patios. ‘Nough said.

4. Cheaper than San Francisco. Your entertainment budget = “Donation only”

5. Charming regional activities such as getting stuck on a lifted bridge, on your bicycle, in the pouring rain.

6. Naked party people in the 24 hour hot springs @ Bagby, and pretty much everywhere else

7. Weed. Pure and simple. High-quality, med-grade, cheap. Abundant.

8. Can probably claim carbon credits just for living here

9. People are so friendly it’s a bit creepy, possibly a reason not to live here if you hate people. “Do I know that guy? Why did he hug me? Seriously, do I know that guy??”

10. Never drink the same beer twice.

That’s it. The Holy Commandments of PDX.