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The Song of the Little Hobo Bird

Leonard Knight's Salvation Mountain

published in The Riveter, July 11, 2014

   This desert, the Colorado Basin in the southeastern corner of California, is known for its illusions. The appearance of water pooled up in dips along the long straight highways through this valley is so realistic that on occasion I have slammed on my brakes, only to find myself coasting through empty air. People have seen all sorts of things out here. Spanish galleons and Viking ships floating across imaginary expanses of water, tangible enough that people still look for their ruins. Tall trees on barren plains where cholla cacti and scrawny, low-hanging greasewoods are the only breaks on the flat horizon. Entire mountains disappear upon approach. “Who of the desert has not spent his day riding at a mountain and never even reaching its base?“ wondered John Van Dyke, a writer who explored this same desert in 1898. “This is a land of illusions and thin air.“ But one particular mountain, which rises in a riot of color out of the horizontal sepia landscape, covered in trees and wet, shining flowers on fat yellow stalks, is not an illusion. Its waterfalls and pools of bright blue water are what I would imagine, if I had such an imagination, if I was dying of thirst in the 120 degree heat. But it’s not a mirage. It’s a dream.

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The Rumpus Film Review

published in The Rumpus, May 30, 2014

    The film opens with darkness and the sounds of seagulls, of waves breaking on sand. It fades in on a young woman lying on her side, dressed in a red sequin gown. Her back to the camera, you can just barely see her breathe. I see piping for electrical wiring that snakes up towards a wall-mounted light fixture—you can’t see it in this shot, but it’s there. I remember it. She breathes in and out, and the waves keep crashing.

     This isn’t someone’s home, someone’s bedroom. It’s a motel room. I believe that this fact might be apparent to anyone, that the details of this stage set are enough combined to make the specificity of this place obvious, even if I hadn’t personally spent a month on my own in this exact room, studying the cracks and smudges on these same walls. But I don’t know that, just like I can’t un-know what it felt like to be lying alone on that same bed, listening to the weak hum of the air conditioner, looking outside at the harsh, hot sunlight that kept me inside in the dark. 

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Investing in a New Worldview

Life will never be the same for study abroad student Seth O'Malley
published in Portland State Magazine, Spring 2014


     ON A WARM NIGHT this past January, 22-year-old Seth O'Malley walked across the border from Bulgaria into Serbia. O'Malley, a Portland State student, was hitchhiking through Europe from Turkey with a friend, and while they had a rough idea of when they would get to their final destination—Prague, where his traveling companion teaches English—they left the other details of the journey open to chance. The sky was clear but it was pitch black in the Serbian countryside, and O'Malley's friend became nervous. After spending the past five months studying abroad and traveling throughout Turkey, O'Malley had learned to be comfortable with uncertainty.

   "I was just so glad to be standing on the side of the road in Serbia, drinking plum brandy and waving at truckers to stop and give us a ride," says O'Malley. "I told him, 'Maybe we won't catch a ride tonight.' And we didn't. But I was just happy to be there." 

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Cinematic craft

The University's film program is attracting the next generation of cinematographers.

published in Portland State Magazine, Winter 2013

     BACK IN THE DAY when movies were made from film instead of pixels, many entry-level cinematographers could only afford to hone their craft in film school. The apparatus of motion pictures—complicated film cameras, editing equipment, and untold reels of film to buy and process—were expensive. Today's digital filmmaking equipment is affordable enough that children are shooting, editing and publishing their own movies while in grade school. But even with new tools, there's much about filmmaking that can be learned in a university setting.

     Dustin Morrow, PSU film faculty, says that students often enroll with years of experience in DIY digital film production, but the essential characteristics of successful filmmaking still need to be taught.

     "The point is learning how to use those tools to effectively tell stories, to understand how to use sound and image together, how to edit in such a way to provoke thought or create feeling," says Morrow. "Those are the things that they're learning, and those are the things they don't really know."


Brewing Big Ideas

New program on the business of making and marketing craft beer and distilled spirits

published in Portland State Magazine, Fall 2013

   FROM THE OUTSIDE looking in, craft brewing looks pretty simple. Just take grain, hops or fruit, add a little time and maybe some flavorings, and through the alchemy of fermentation you have beer, whiskey, or hard cider. It's a trade that can easily be done out of a basement or garage, and many enthusiastic home brewers start there. But wait until the time comes to sell your product—that's when things begin to get tricky.

   This fall, Portland State's Center for Executive and Professional Education is offering a new online certificate program called the Business of Craft Brewing. While a few other colleges have programs in beer or wine production, this is the first course of study to focus specifically on business operations.

   Classes will cover regulations, operations, accounting, and brand development among other subjects as they relate to craft beer, distilled spirits, and ciders.  At the end of the program, students will have worked out their own business plans.

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Reimagining Lombard

Students and neighbors create a safe, pleasing and even enviable plan for busy North Lombard Street
published in Portland State Magazine, Fall 2013


   VACANT LOTS overgrown with weeds, and business fronts splattered with sloppy graffiti dot a two-mile stretch of North Lombard Street between Chautauqua and Martin Luther King boulevards. The four-lane corridor in north Portland feels more like an unsightly obstacle than a neighborhood hub. Urban and regional planning graduate students set out to change this by working with the surrounding community on the plan Lombard Re-Imagined.

   "The street really acts as a barrier between neighborhoods because it's such a highway. When you're walking on Lombard, you don't feel like you're anywhere," says Kathryn Doherty-Chapman, project manager for the student team, which named themselves Swift Planning Group after the historic Swift Meatpacking Company that once owned the entire area.


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