Monday, August 10, 2009

Meet Joe Grant

Here's how writer John Bennett describes his choice for most fascinating person, Joe Grant:

He's a phenomenon in his own right ... how many people do you know who in their 70s (or at any age for that matter) smuggle pianos to a music school in Cuba on a sail-driven schooner? Not for money, just because he loves music and they needed the pianos... That's the tip of the iceberg...He recently got back from spending time in China, where, of course, he had a few run-ins with the authorities around human-rights issues. He has been known, in his 70s, to jump on his bicycle and ride a thousand miles or so to pay a friend a visit. He's almost 80 now. Until very recently he had hair down to his waist--the Silver Fox. Ask him to tell you his Peggy Lee story.

Welcome, Joe.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

The book I fell asleep reading the night before. Late breakfasts with morning dailies. and blogs.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?

Books and old movies. Trying to get organized and never accomplishing it - which bothers me not at all. Obsessions? None.

3. What do you struggle with most?

Avoiding struggle and spending more time with family.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

Be Charitable.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

“In the defense of freedom and literacy, libraries are the most powerful weapons we have. Use them.”
The Adventures of the Incredible Librarian)

Joe Grant was born in 1930 to Norwegian and Scot immigrant parents. Here's how he described himself to John Bennett: I was 71 when we took the pianos to Cuba on a 110’ Cargo schooner. I heard about it in Tampa and found out who the Capt. was. Contacted him because I wanted to get it on videotape. He said NO. Only room for crew members. No passengers. Suddenly his crew quit. He contacted me and asked if I had sailing experience. I offered him my crew: a translator in her 60s who had never been on a sailboat, my cameraman who had been on an 8’ sailboat twice, and yours truly who'd been on a sailboat one time. Here’s what I told the captain: “I have experience sailing and my camera man has twice as much as I do. We’ll crew.” I told him I was 60.

I was born 09-01-30. Kicked around in radio, tv news – some entertainment. Published a pro-union weekly newspaper in Iowa for a few years. Anti-war activity. Many demos. Did some time. In 1970 founded Prisoners Digest International in Iowa City. Monthly anti-war publication providing support to prisoners and the families of prisoners. It differed from most underground newspapers since I had applied for and was given a Second Class Permit (for mailing) which is the same as the NYTimes has. This allowed us to mail issues for 1/8th cent per copy. Testified before Congressional Committees twice on the issue of Parole and the use of solitary confinement as a behavior modification tool. We exposed the use of torture by an experimental program in the Federal Prison System.

Used our home in Iowa City as offices and a halfway house. We were the first in the country to have juveniles, men and women, a home environment. The State of Iowa even placed two young teens – a boy and a girl – in my custody. Odd part of this situation was that I was also on probation.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Meet Steven Overton

Upholsterer and puppeteer Daniel DeMoy named another puppet maker as the most fascinating person he knows:

Steven Overton created the Olde World Puppet Theatre and continues to create amazing puppets. He fostered my creative side teaching me many things that help to pay my bills today.

Welcome Steven.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

For the past three years, my partner & I have been working to create a 1/2 hour DVD film producton to seed the way for an international DVD production studio utilizing the medum of puppetry. This project has been extremely daring and exciting, and each day brings new challenges as we bring to DVD a medieval adventure series for elementary school age children using elaborate giant hand crafted marionettes. The studio will be Portland-based, utilizing local talent and will be dedicated to the art of puppetry on film, eventually utilizing other puppeteer's work as well.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?

I'm a night owl. It's generally not keeping me up, it's trying to unwind so I CAN go to bed. Trying to get the American public to realize that the art of Puppetry is not just for children, but is rather an art form, thousands of years old that reaches out to people of all ages.

3. What do you struggle with most?

The lack of a real, full-size studio, with technicians to handle the parts I hate (like lighting), limited space, crouching on the ladders over the set and not being able to stand upright to perform, and the knowledge that whatever we do on this pilot will have to be reshot for eventual DVD release.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

Believe in yourself, have the courage to stick by your convictions, and not let people dissuade you from what you feel are your true goals.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

If its a dream worth dreaming, then its a dream worth persuing. It starts with yourself, and flows down the river picking up momentum. Yes, you might hit a couple of rocks along the way, but keep heading for that goal.

Steven Overton and Marty Richmond, partners for over 30 years, have owned and operated the Olde World Puppet Theatre and Renaissance Creations in the Portland area since 1992. During that time, they created the "Wonderful World of Puppets" for OMSI's reopening after the flood, several award-winning Starlight Parade floats, and a Broadway-quality giant puppet production of "The Wizard of Oz" for Portland's Gay Pride Festival. They also operated St Wolfgang's Bavarian Guild, performing at Renaissance faires throughout the Western US. Part of their new DVD pilot film, "Witch Key," can be viewed at their website. A historical perspective of the Renaissance Guild can be seen here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Meet Jeff VandenHoek

As the founder of Donors Resource, a non-profit that distributes thousands of goods to worthwhile organizations, Della Rae knows a thing or two about giving. So, it caught us off-guard when she described Jeff VandenHoek this way:

Jeff is an amazing, brilliant and giving soul.

Welcome Jeff.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

The fact that I have a new day to live, breathe, love, learn and serve is motivation enough to get out of bed. It does require an alarm clock some mornings as I enjoy sleeping as well. Having a job that I enjoy where I can give back to my world and invest in our future is also a compelling reason to wake to a new day. Each day is an adventure and I remain always ready to be surprised!

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?

The only things that keep me awake late at night are a really good concert, a really good conversation (family, friends or growing friendships) or a night under the stars in the beautiful outdoors....mesmerized by creation and my Creator.

I'm obsessed by good music, creative thought and thinkers, and my wife and kids who love me regardless of my foibles.

3. What do you struggle with most?

Drinking too much coffee...reading too many books at the same time...staying focused, and being present at all times.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

To speak only when necessary and only if I can improve on the silence.

To never underestimate my human potential for moral depravity and to pursue the various options that exist in such instances.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

To WALK. To DO. To LOVE. To LOVE mercy. To DO justly. To WALK humbly.

Jeff VandenHoek joined the George Fox University’s School of Management in January 2007 as an assistant professor of business and director of the Full-Time MBA program. Prior to this he was the Program Director at Tilikum where he directed summer camp programs for 3,000 kids each summer and managed a challenge/rope course. As director and assistant professor for the School of Management, he teaches and facilitates the Community Consulting and Learning course that partners all MBA students with Not For Profit organizations for a 7-12 month experiential learning project. Jeff also provides leadership for various team learning exercises including the orientation program that invests a full day of experiential team (cohort) learning in an outdoor challenge course environment. Jeff has spent the last 11 years directly involved in this type of experiential learning. Most recently, he traveled to India to participate in three two-day Train the Trainer sessions, teaching about team learning, transformational leadership and experiential teaching.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Meet Daniel DeMoy

Dr. Beverly Serra-Brooks sent us a copy of her CD, Song of a Country Priest, and we were blown away by the sensitivity of her piano playing. So we're very excited to be introduced to her nominee for Most Fascinating Person, puppeteer and fabric designer Daniel DeMoy. Here's how Dr. Beverly described Dan:

Dan is another creative soul who crafts his art in cloth and has an interesting entrepreneurial spirit. He's also a great example of reconciling one's art to the 21st Century. He knows success is finding a way to make $$ from your creativity. We both enjoy creative gardening to get the juices flowing and he's even introduced me to WII Sports!

Welcome, Dan.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

That depends on the morning...I am more of a night owl and will often work into the night..however sunny weather gets me up early so I can go outside and play...I can always work at night.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?

If I have a project that gets involved, I will construct it over and over again in my head...sometimes I get the epiphany when I am lying there trying to sleep. My obessions well...right now its being the best friend I can be and to make my corner of the world a brighter spot.

3. What do you struggle with most?

Many times its motivation. It can be hard working from home. When there are flowers to plant and walls to paint....Of course I can always work at night.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

Never underestimate what you can acomplish. Never let your friends underestimate themselves.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

Knowledge is the key...strive to learn something new everyday of your life and you will never have wasted a day.

Dan DeMoy has always had a thread of fabric running through him. For 18 years he ran his family's dry cleaning business learning the ins and outs of fabrics. During this time he ran a non profit acting group teaching kids history via recreation and then packing them off to Renaissance fairs where custom costumes and puppets were the fair of the day. Being faced with a life changing moment he took his love of fabrics and creating amazing things with them, opening a custom decor workroom making the finest in custom drapery and fabric accents for the home. Keeping with his love of creation he still delves in fantastic marionettes for performing and to make custom for clients. You can find him at

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Meet John Bennett

Giraffe Heroes Project founder Ann Medlock meets captivating people all the time; the kind who stick their necks out. With cred like that, when she named John Bennett as the most fascinating person she knows, we paid attention, even though John's a man of few words. Here's how Ann described him:

The person I came up with is on my computer screen daily and I've never laid eyes on him. John Bennett came in a new-family package when I found a long-lost son. Said son's wife is John Bennett's baby sister. I started getting such extraordinary emails from Bennett, that I had to find out who in the world he is. He's a literary giant, writer of novels, poems and "shards," editor of an avant-garde journal, a bad-ass, pedal-to-the-metal voice of truth. Everything he writes is fascinating and he's stunningly prolific, hurling his creations daily to an audience of online readers. His gravely voice is great at performing/recording his stuff--he plays a mean harmonica, and his photo is so tough, I was afraid to let him read any of my work. When he liked it, I felt like I'd been allowed into the guys-only treehouse. Bennett supports himself washing windows in Ellensburg WA. An honest man.

Welcome, John.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

I've had enough sleep.

2. What keeps you awake at night?

Hot sex. Being deep into writing, playing music, brooding...I try not to obsess...

3. What do you struggle with most?

I try not to struggle...

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

It would be a contrivance to single out a single event/influence/experience...

5. What is your personal philosophy?

It used to be "What else can you show me?" I was young then. I more or less turn each moment in my hand as it arrives.

John Bennett is founder of Vagabond Press. Labeled by Booklist as King of the Mimeo Revolution he's the author of four novels, numerous short-story collections, books of poetry and Shards (a genre of his own design). "Seventy years old and just getting up a good head of steam," he earns his daily bread cleaning windows and has played harmonica with Moving Mountains, The Frantic Titanic and Sharky's Ivory Tower Trio. His web page is

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meet Della Rae

Performing 1000 mitzvahs makes hip Jewish mama Linda Cohen an expert on do-gooding. So we got very excited when she suggested another do-gooder as her most fascinating person. Heres' what Linda had to say about Della Rae:

Donors Resource is an online service that connects donors who have stuff to give away with non profits that need their stuff. It's an immediate connection. Kind of a Craig's List but one that goes both ways and is a bit more specific. She found a need in the community and met it. She is definitely a do gooder but also one of the most "real" people I have met in a while. No pretention. Just the real deal.

Welcome Della.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Morning is my favorite time of day and the thought of being able to have another chance to learn, be of service and further mold the print I plan to leave behind motivates me.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?

I practice meditation and I can’t say that much obsesses me or keeps me awake at night. Sure, I mull over things, some more than others, but at the end of the day I sleep!

3. What do you struggle with most?

I struggle with being the focus of It’s not about me. It’s about the connections being made. It’s about the people who want to give and those in need. It’s about the opportunity where anyone can pay it forward.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

The past several months left me faced with three significant hardships that presented in different forms but led back to the same two lessons; “The first law of the jungle is self survival” and “We give our power away when become concerned with other peoples opinions.”

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

In 2005, Della Rae realized the magnitude of poverty in the Portland area and co-founded Sisters of the Community, a nonprofit organization committed to distributing household goods to families in need. After distributing over 20,000 items within 18 months she realized the need for an online solution and created, an online hub that connects people who want to give in-kind donations with nonprofits that need them.

Della’s professional awards include ’07 Regence BlueCross BlueShield Hero Award, ’08 Portland Business Journal 40 under 40 Award, ’08 SAFECO Foundation National Hero Award and ’09 Delta Sigma Theta Woman of Excellence Community Service Award.

A Portland native and jazz enthusiast, Della is passionate about bringing people together and providing an arena to pay it forward.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Meet Beverly Serra-Brooks

With her velvety voice, Songbird Tahoe Jackson knows about music. So when she suggested pianist Dr. Beverly Serra-Brooks as the most fascinating person she knows, we sat down and listened. Here's what Tahoe had to say about Beverly:

I met her at a society of classical players that get together and do their pieces of rare music. My god... amazing ... new to Portland...She is the Jay Z of classical players....She can call Steinway anywhere in the world and have it delivered..pimp. She teaches at Marylhurst University and her husband is her manager.

Welcome Beverly.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Well, so many things to do! But, really because I'm interested in light (especially morning), it's movement & varied color and how that intersects with my work as a pianist. So much of Impressionistic (Debussy & Ravel) piano music is centered around aspects of light & noticing that in everyday life helps me gain ideas of how to craft that in sound.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?

Mostly I hit the hay, and go right out. Unless its 24 or a good Law & Order. But seriously, the plight/oppression of women around the world, the negative atmosphere we seem to live in. My students & the crazy things they do. Really, how to challenge them & protect them--art is a fragile thing.

I'm obsessed with music--piano in particular and thinking deeply about music, and how sound works as a metaphor for life's experiences / hopes and despairs.

3. What do you struggle with most?

Giving up & letting go. You can't change everything & you can never go back!

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

Don't live life as a consolation prize. Once I realized that, a whole new sense of adventure in life opened up. Don't borrow trouble, keep your head down and think positive. And LIGHTEN UP! Keep working on your dreams, they go through various stages, so don't give up early; you might miss the best part.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

"A Person who says it can not be done should not hinder a person doing it."

PS: Forgive me for the sameless self-promotion but artists got to eat too! CD's available @, and all over internet music sites. Or by googling my name.

A favorite with audiences for her sensitive and exciting interpretations, Beverly Serra-Brooks hails from a long line of Romantics. Ms. Serra-Brooks made her New York Recital Debut at Carnegie Hall and her West Coast Debut at the Japan-America Theater in Los Angeles, and, since then, has been performing in concert halls across the United States and Europe. Featured on nationwide programs such as NPR's Performance Today, Ms. Serra-Brooks was inducted into the International Who’s Who of Music and Musician’s, Who’s Who of American Women and the 2000 Most Notable Women In America Millennium Award.

She is a concert & recording artist for Eroica Classical CD Recordings: and has two new CD releases coming out this summer: one of music by Haydn for the 2009 anniversary year, and another of music by Brahms, Schoenberg, Robert Schumann & Clara Wieck-Schumann.

Photo by Howard Stapleton.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Meet Linda Cohen

Entrepreneur and all-around fascinating guy Harry Aldrich introduced us to Linda Cohen. Harry said:

Linda is a member of Toastmasters, a great person, very smart, dynamic, outgoing and a loving mother and overall fun personality. She was a tour guide at the Portland Japanese Garden and now volunteers at the Willowbrook Arts and Drama Camp

Welcome Linda.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Life is meant to be experienced and savored. Recently my life has been filled with strange miraculous occurrences each day. I don't need more than that to get out of bed. It doesn't hurt, that I am also a morning person so my eyes pop open and I am ready to bound out of bed the minute I wake up.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?

Truthfully not much. My days are full and I am usually pretty exhausted at night, perhaps a captivating movie but hand me even the most enthralling book and within 15 minutes I'll be asleep. I'm obsessed with stories of do-gooders. I love to hear them and share them. It makes me believe in the power of people.

3. What do you struggle with most?

Negativity. I hate that people are willing to listen to it and spread it around. Perhaps I am a bit of a Pollyana but I don't want to live my life thinking about the glass being half full. Don't tell me every god awful thing that happens everyday in our world. Our popular media is obsessed with the negative. I'd rather obsess in the do-gooder.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

Everyone will die but death isn't to be feared. We don't talk much about grief and dying in our society and for many people it is a scary subject. I have changed my belief about death and dying and want to know how others have coped and survived through their own loss. We have much to learn and share around grief.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

Stop complaining. Get involved. Do something about it. Or if you prefer Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to be.”

Linda Cohen considers herself a young, hip Jewish mother who does what modern Jewish mothers do. They bring the traditions into the the 21st century. They take care of their families, their communities and get involved with organizations they care for passionately. After Linda's father died she committed to doing 1000 mitzvahs or acts of kindness in his memory. Her blog has recorded this project. After more than two years, she has learned life lessons about grief and dying. She has discovered the secret to life: give freely of your time and energy and you will benefit in more ways than you imagined!

Linda feels blessed to be married to her insightful "renaissance" husband, whom she certainly would nominate for one of the most facinating people she knows if it wasn't against the rules. She's also the mother of two spirited and exhuberant children who keep her laughing and always keep her humble.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Meet Ann Medlock

Here's what artist and entrepreneur Goody Cable said about Ann Medlock, her selection for most fascinating person:

Ann runs the Giraffe Project out of Whidbey Island, Washington. For 30 years she's been rewarding people who stick their necks out. Her life has always been fascinating, from early childhood on. And recently she published her first novel which is fabulous. (and awfully autobiographical). I love her poetry. She's about risk, and choice, serious reflection and profound joy.

Welcome Ann.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Right now, after a long visit from the Black Dog, I talk to myself about the things I'll do to make this one day a beautiful one. The combination of Winter aught eight/aught nine, and this stunning economic crash had me sunk in the big unanswerable questions--you know, Why are we here? What's the point? Who the hell is driving this bus? Now the jonquils are up, despite surprise hailstorms, and I'm settling for making one day as fine as I can make it. Instead of the big questions I'm asking if I can send out a good Heads Up by afternoon; Have I got the ingredients to make popovers, which I dearly love; and Where's my favorite sweater, because I always feel good wearing it. Answerable questions. Much better. (Heads Up is a mini e-zine I write every week or so. People tell me that reading it helps, so it's one way to serve.)

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?

Nothing keeps me from falling asleep. I distract myself at night with good novels and movies--other people's stories. But I sleep lightly--small noises wake me. Then it can be Game On. "Why are we here?" "What's the point?" etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum.

3. What do you struggle with the most?

Thinking I'm not doing enough. There's this nun in my head telling small-girl me that God-given abilities have to be used. Took me so long to realize I had some of those, I'm way behind in using them. And Sister Eulalia really mouths off if/when I'm just amusing myself. Someday I'm going to strangle her.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

That I do have something to offer.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

Funny you should ask--I only recently figured that one out (and I'm old). It struck me that the Golden Rule is over-rated even though it's said to be at the core of so many religious traditions. There's a threat in it that if you treat others badly you're gonna get it. I find it cleaner and less self-serving to say----It's hard being here, so the Prime Directive is to help each other through.

Writer Ann Medlock founded the nonprofit Giraffe Heroes Project to honor people who stick their necks out for the common good and to encourage others to follow their lead. Her driving force is a deep concern for the health of the body politic, which she is certain will die without engaged, courageous citizens.

Giraffe Heroes materials for kids are in kindergarten-through-high-school classes in all 50 states and in American schools abroad. The Project is now partnering with Teachers Without Borders to distribute civic engagement materials to teachers in 117 nations.

Medlock blogs at the Project’s website, at her own and on Huffington Post. She’s been speechwriter to US politicians and to the Aga Khan, and has spoken, written and/or taught in Kobe, Kinshasha, Saigon, Beijing and Moscow as well as in Chicago, Washington DC and New York City.

She now lives, leads the Giraffe team, and writes (heroes’ profiles, blogs, opeds, fiction and poetry) on an island in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Meet David Steven Rappoport

Visual artist David Rosenak nominated David Rappoport as the most fascinating person he knows:
David Rappoport and I met when we were fifteen. I had never met anyone like him; it seemed as though David had already read and done almost everything; he was already a published playwrite with the talent, skill, knowledge, ambition, and -- most impressively -- the work habits of a professional. Fifteen! I was used to thinking of myself as being advanced for my age because I had a little talent and loved to look at art books, but I couldn't conceive of the life of a professional artist -- wasn't one just carried along on a cloud? So meeting David was a real eye-opener for me. This wasn't inspirational, exactly -- it was impossible to emulate -- but it was instructive. And fun. I was very lucky to meet him then. And, yes, later he had some well-deserved success in New York; but he got burnt out and gave it up. Our loss. (But rumor has it he's writing again -- stay tuned).

Welcome David.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?
I'm sort of a nihilistic candy bar, optimistic at the center but coated in darkness. Rare moments of positive cataclysmic change -- such as the fall of the Berlin Wall -- are motivating as they remind me that once in awhile, impossible good happens and thus, we should continue to seek improvements.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?
Self-recrimination and self-improvement, even though I don't hold grudges and don't think people fundamentally change. As an aside, why are we generally surprised when people are self-contradictory? People ARE self-contradictory.

3. What do you struggle with most?

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?
Let me frame this as a contest in which a number of valuable lessons compete for the diamond tiara. The winner is that the greatest danger is human rigidity. By this, I mean to include all variants of religious, political, and scientific certainty because these tend to be the original causes of most of the suffering in the world. The first runner-up is what I call David's dictum: "It's perfectly all right to have limitations, but God help you if you don't know what they are."

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?
Spencer Tracy's comment about acting, "learn your lines, and don't trip over the furniture," might be applied more broadly as "know your shit, and don't make things worse than you found them."

David Steven Rappoport has had different foci at different times in his life. Currently, his primary interest is writing mysteries under the name of Ezekiel Weaver. His blog is Ezekiel Weaver’s Shaggy Bunny Blog. David also works to improve access to, and the quality of, health care services for the underserved and disenfranchised. He currently lives in Chicago, but has previously lived in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and rural Maine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Meet David Rosenak

Our previous most fascinating person, visual artist Brittany Powell, says that David Rosenak is the most fascinating person she knows:
Mainly, I'm fascinated by David because he continues to create amazing paintings without input from others. His work doesn't sway with the trends of the times; it is just consistently stellar. He lives a good life--friends, animals, a beautiful garden, his studio, and a rather normal job.

Welcome David.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?
Can't nap, otherwise.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?
My art brain is active all of the time, though I'm usually not aware of exactly what it's doing. Even when I'm watching Love Boat I suspect that it's generating forms (and that the forms in some way correspond to the layout of my brain's wiring, which -- I know -- I probably shouldn't say out loud).

Most of my artmaking activity is problem solving. First, a ton of looking -- sometimes over a period of years -- goes into the development of an idea for one of my cityscapes. Then, in the studio, I try to figure out -- again mostly through looking -- how to shape it into a form that is unified, balanced, dynamic, and purposeful so that its effect might be vivid enough to seize your mind through your eyes the way my favorite paintings do mine. I don't need to force myself on these problems; they pull me in and won't let go. I have to get it just right, if I can. It's a slow process, feeling my way along, taking as long as it takes -- two tiny paintings in a good year, maybe. Slooooooow.

3. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?
Adulthood turns out to be largely concerned with fixing things, most of them boring. I'm disorganized and I get overwhelmed and dispirited but I've learned that if I'm productive in what's most important I prevent everything else from driving me too crazy.

Actually, I always knew that. And it's a good thing there are benefits to pursuing my interests at the expense of other things because it's what I was always going to do anyway, valuable lesson or no.

Okay, what I've really learned is that I should try to make myself check my mail at least once a month and put the envelopes marked URGENT somewhere where I'll notice them....later.

4. What do you struggle with most?
I'm always fighting against, "Life's too short to spend cleaning the house; to hell with it -- I'm going to go paint," so my house looks like a museum of my character flaws. (Please give me a week's notice before you drop by. Thanks.)

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?
Life's too short to spend cleaning the house; to hell with it -- I'm going to go paint.

David Rosenak comes from "a family of very determined people." His mother Carol and his sister Adrielle (Rose) were both hardworking artists. His father Ted is -- at the age of 78 -- "a professional international do-gooder with a tendency to paint flowers on his walls until there's no room for more (it's amazing how much more you can accomplish in life if you don't balance your checkbook or make your bed)." His brother Jake was persuaded to give up bull riding but he still breaks horses. David says "The most well-adjusted person in my family is my brother Max, AND HE'S AN ACTOR, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD." His hyper-realistic paintings were featured in the 2006 Oregon Biennial and are now displayed as part of the Portland Art Museum's permanent collection of contemporary Northwest art.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Meet Brittany Powell

We first encountered Brittany Powell when her work was on the wall of the Portland Art Museum in the 2006 Oregon Biennial. And when we say “on the wall” we mean it literally because Brittany works in contact paper. That’s shelf lining to you and me. 

She covers a wall with the sticky stuff, then painstakingly cuts out designs so that the negative space (the part that’s removed) forms images from her childhood. At the Biennial she recreated a donut shop from her native Albany, Oregon. A year later, she recreated her basement rec room on the walls of a downtown gallery, then invited friends to join her in Sweating to the Oldies with Richard Simmons. 

Brittany is someone who, unlike most people, actually acts on her oddball impulses. 

She brought food to Sears so it could be photographed in those dorky settings. She sent her favorite musical artists a form letter (Dear_________, you are my favorite artist/group...) asking them to write a song about her and several of them did. Whether it’s creating a quilt made of squares copied from an in-flight magazine or framing cooking utensils and hanging them on the wall as art, Brittany treats life as an endlessly engaging tale of whimsy that makes you want to tag along.

Welcome Brittany.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?
Rufus J. Powell, the Boston terrier who wakes me between 7:00 and 8:00. He literally wakes me, demands snuggles, and takes me for a walk every day, but he also provides my first reason to smile in the morning, sparks my mind awake, and gives me moments to think wihtout concentrating while we're on that early tromp around the neighborhood.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?
I’m not a “kept awake at night by all of my serious thoughts” kind of person except for the rare times I drink coffee, so my answers will refer more to my obsessions. Mostly, these are things around me in my daily life. I like to notice. These are some items that get stuck in my head repeatedly, like annoying songs:
  • Products, labels, packaging, lettering, signs
  • Food, eating food, preparing food, restaurants, the way food looks
  • Skirts, nautical clothing
  • Horses and ponies (I’m not around them now, but spent most of my life obsessed by them, so I guess old habits die hard)
  • Furniture, home d├ęcor
  • Lists
  1. To-do lists
  2. Inventories (most of my artwork is inventories of categories in my brain)
  3. While not strictly a list, anything with compartments or multiple parts that go together, like food in a bento box, kits, drawer dividers, advent calendars, etc.
  4. For the last few months, I’ve been naming all 50 US states in alphabetical order to put myself to sleep. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten good, so it doesn’t have the intended effect.

3. What do you struggle with most?
I want things my way. Now. I must’ve lost patience with other speeds and styles of living as I’ve gotten older. This is really tough. I’m trying to shut my mouth a little more often, and the results are pretty good. Other people do things differently sometimes because that is what works better for them—who knew? A friend shared this neat little trick—when someone insists on their way, say, “Isn’t it great that there are so many right ways to do the same thing?”

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?
I’ve learned to live how I want to live. I’m extremely lucky and have a very fine life—I’m not going to spend my time wishing it were different or waiting for the good part to happen. My parents have always demonstrated this, so it must come from them. When we were poor, I didn’t even notice because we had so much else. When they finally had the funds, they started traveling as often as possible instead of deferring it for some far-off retirement. My boyfriend and I try to exist that way, as well. We have goals, but we enjoy ourselves on our way towards them rather than constantly hankering for a finished product. We constantly surround ourselves with our amazing friends. We spend quality time with our dog.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?
Prepare. Work hard. Get things done early. That may not really be a motto or philosophy, but it’s what runs through my head. So I don’t panic at the last minute, I leave room for mistakes and surprises. I’m mildly terrified by the thought of being unproductive; I like to think of it as a healthy panicky-ness. I like to blame my horse trainer. She taught me to prepare as much as I could before a horse show because there would be so many factors beyond my control once we were in the show arena. “Control the things you can,” she’d say.

Brittany Powell is a native Oregonian. Her parents were hippies who became educated liberals, and they raised her and a sister in a conservative town. Needless to say, kids teased them about the sprouts on their sandwiches. Brittany saved up for her first horse and bought him when she was 12; she tripled her money the next year when she sold him. From ages 19 through 24, she trained horses professionally. Next, she enrolled in the MFA program at California College of Arts and Crafts. She lives in Portland, OR, with her boyfriend, Michael, and dog, Rufus.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Meet Goody Cable

Goody Cable lives her life like it’s performance art. We got to know her during the year she lived the alphabet—with 26 letters and 52 weeks, she spent each two weeks only eating foods that began with that letter, or choosing corresponding music or books. Or driving down certain streets.

During C week she told us, “I was in the CAR listening to the radio and Offenbach’s CAN-CAN came on. So, naturally, I had to pull over and do a can-can on the CURB.”

Naturally. If you’re Goody Cable.

Now she’s busy collecting first-hand stories for every country in the world. Every single one. So that her grandchildren will have a more personal connection to the world.

Like us, Goody is committed to knowing the most fascinating people to be found. Her employees at the Rimsky-Korsakoffeehouse in Portland once found a customer so scintillating they tied him up so he wouldn’t leave. And her guests at the literary-themed Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport must share the choicest bits of their lives by playing Two Truths and a Lie.

Goody has an endless supply of bits to share. We knew her five years before she even got around to telling us the story about Jesse Jackson sleeping in her bed. (Note to her grandchildren—she wasn’t in it at the time.)

And, no, she’s not a character in The Crucible. Goody’s her real name, short for Gudrun.

Welcome Goody.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?
What motivates me most to get up in the morning has changed throughout the years. As a child it was helping dad milk the cow and sharing our dreams. In college it was getting to the cafeteria when the cutest guys were there. As a young mother it was crying babies. As my children grew older it was getting them off to school so I could have the house to myself (and often go back to bed). Since then one of my main motivations in life is to have nothing compelling me out of bed. All about choice.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?
What keeps me awake at night is trying to squeeze every moment out of the day that I was hesitant to get up to in the first place! One more page to read, one more thought to think, one more idea to discover, play through and reject, perhaps! I am obsessed with ideas. It doesn't matter if they're trivial, fruitless, ludicrous, stupendous or mundane. They each receive the same amount of initial enthusiasm, juice and either tender fizzle or a year or two of obsession. Once in the holds of the obsession I can still run (a loose word) two businesses, spend time with 5 grandbabies, play with friends, fall in love with new friends, and do all the I-it survival stuff. But the obsession keeps my playing field happy and healthy.

3. What do you struggle with most?
I have to answer the next three questions out of order.

My personal philosophy is what I call the 90 and the 10 per cent. We have a lot of living to do. I would say about 10 per cent of it is important and 90 isn't. So I give my all to my 10 per cent. That means energy, time, emotion, effort. I sort of let the 90 slip. That gives me a lot of time and energy to give to the things that matter to me. The trick is: I have to respect the 10 per cent of the people I love. And I love a lot of people. That is probably my greatest struggle.

I'm always learning valuable lessons. I think the most important is to ask yourself the most important questions and be true to yourself with the answers. Keep the Joneses out of it.

I created the idea of a hotel for booklovers as a trap for me to meet interesting people because I decided that's what I wanted most in life. The question wasn't: What do I want out of life? It was: How do I want to spend my time each day?

I know how to keep myself happy. It involves tricks and games and not looking at life head on a great deal of the time. I see an awful lot thought the corner of my eye. When a person brings me great joy, as many people do, I cherish them. And I know how to fend off nay-sayers. That can even be fun!

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?

My name is Gudrun Cable, I go by Goody. I own a coffee house called the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House in Portland, Oregon, and co-own The Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. Professionally I'm an assimilator of the mundane. And a really good one. My children are Marya Aslakson, Trevor and Austin Cable. My grandchildren are Tor, Jules, and Leo Aslakson, and Xander and Dante Cable. They are very young and I'm preparing with great diligence the view of the world I plan on showing them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Meet Harry Aldrich

“I’ve got an idea…” So begins almost every conversation we’ve had with entrepreneur Harry Aldrich, our second candidate for most fascinating person in the world--who speaks English.

Harry’s always got a project, whether it’s creating a mobile knife-sharpening business called Blade Runner or having the inspired notion to shrink-wrap three planks of cedar and sell them for $12.95 as the Oregon Cedar Grill. “It’s just a plank of wood,” his critics say. To which Harry replies, “No, it’s a plank of wood with a logo.” (And, yes, you could go to the lumber yard to get three planks yourself, but you don’t.)

Harry’s traveled around the world for Converse on an international “cool hunt,” slapping athletic shoes onto cliff divers, street musicians, and a woman who normally ran barefoot around the ruins of Angkor Wat. But our favorite project of Harry’s is when he bought an abandoned town. As police chief, he would arrest speeders and take them to church, where violators would be required to listen to a sermon by the local preacher—who also happened to be Harry.

To spend an evening with Harry and his endlessly understanding wife Kim (pictured) is to be constantly stimulated and inspired, to think about what’s new, what’s next and what’s up.

Welcome Harry.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?
Knowing I can and will make a lasting impact on my life, and I hope someone elses. I like to think of myself as meaningful. I really am grateful, yet I push myself to 'do good'.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?
Not having done enough, I am basically a person driven by 'guilt'. It is a motivator and a deterrent to my Woody Allen outlook on life.

3. What do you struggle with most?
Senseless 'Mind chatter'. I try to be moving at all times so my mind can't catch up.

4. What is the most valuable less you've learned?
Stay true to yourself.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?
Work Hard, Play hard, Stay Hard.

Harry Aldrich, a high to highly evolved human and business person, is fortunate to be surrounded by 85 year old to 16 month year old family members and a giant cast of others who play a significant and influential role in his life. He likes to think of himself as a 'player' in his daily practice of life where he enjoys eating, exercise, work and being entertained by life. Namaste.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Meet Tahoe Jackson

Our first Most Mesmerizing Person, Portland rock diva Storm Large, named soul singer Tahoe Jackson as the most fascinating person she knows:
"Tahoe nearly died from a rare lymphatic disorder and underwent a dangerous surgery that had only been done ten times before. Out of those ten times, only three people have survived it....Tahoe being the third. She lost three hundred pounds and now has such a raging glory around her, it is impossible to not love her immediately. She attacks the stage with a drunken freedom that sucks you to your feet and shakes you out of your old self."

Welcome, Tahoe.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?
The fact that there is a possibility to live the life that I want. The fact that I create my own reality...and coffee at Extracto..doesn't hurt.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?
I am a poet/ songwriter
Words..and the human condition.

..but a good S.V.U. marathon (Ed. Note: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Tabitha Take-Over on Bravo...getting lost in Powell's: "Where is that damn Rose Room?"

3. What do you struggle with most?
Balance of my life, letting go...letting someone love me.. in due time. no patience and when I am hurt to let someone help and take care of me.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?
That I am not this body...I am not my color, I am not just a woman, these are the things that house me but they are not my home...I am spirit, that will always define me. There is no space and time...nothing can hold me back, only if I think I live in that house, because it means I have to live in a world that's manufactured for me...No sir not for me.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?
I am busy, I 'm partying...whoa

Love in the deep creases of your soul you will find solitude and peace.

Try to wake up and say "I am perfection..." therefore I can shine on everyone I meet...
let it be known... everyone is of worth..

You have this idea: then you're not going around "I 've got to work on this and that".. you can say" i am polishing what' s under all that guckey of life"...still got to put elbow grease in your life, but now instead of thinking "what will i find",.. you can say, "i clean up pretty good"..and extend your hand to another...I am still polishing....can you help me, got one of those polishing rags...

Miss Tahoe Jackson originally hails from a musical family in the Bay Area. Her brother Paul is a bass player with Herbie Hancock and the Head Hunters, and sister Joyce is a flautist with such groups as Tower of Power and Weather Report. Tahoe has been gracing Pacific NW club and concert stages for almost a decade with her distinctive, (and instinctive) voice and passionate live performances. Many have compared Miss Jackson’s voice to the plaintive growl of Etta James mixed with the majestic grace of Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. Known mostly for her powerhouse vocals and brash stage persona, Tahoe is currently writing songs for a solo project, tentatively titled “The Love Bully Diaries.”

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Meet Storm Large

Our first nominee for most fascinating person in the world--who speaks English--is Portland rock star Storm Large

Sure, Storm is fierce—an Amazon warrior who makes slaves of her audiences by dint of a talent so ferocious that fans Googling her name after she appeared on national television crashed And, yes, she’s outrageous—the kind of thoughtful dinner guest who pulls off her shirt to show you her boob job. And, of course, she’s beautiful—so arresting you can’t stop staring at her, even more so when she’s not wearing make-up.

But what fascinates us most about the aptly monikered Storm Large (her real name, by the way) is her completely original mind. No matter the topic of conversation, you can guarantee that Storm will reinterpret it with a rock ‘n roll perspective that’s equal parts sex, violence and the edge of insanity.

“Everyone has a mouth cop,” she says, “but I think mine was killed in the line of duty.”

We chose Storm to inaugurate the Mesmer Project because this rock star orbited in and out of Marc’s Do Something New Project as his muse, an inspiration in the audaciously unapologetic way she lives with the volume turned up to eleven.

Welcome, Storm.

1. What motivates you to get up in the morning?
To get up and be awesome .... strong coffee and good ideas are also motivating.

2. What keeps you awake at night? What obsesses you?
I didn't do enough. I didn't do it well enough. I hurt someone's feelings. I let somebody down. I'm running out of time.

3. What do you struggle with most?
Laziness and worrying about others.

4. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned?
I'm a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.

5. What is your personal philosophy or motto?
"I fucking rule , thank you very much."

Storm Large is an entertainer of Wikipedian proportions. Before her turn on the stage as Sally Bowles in Portland Center Stage's "Cabaret," she strutted through America's living rooms on CBS's "Rockstar:Supernova." Previous to her television debut, Storm was already a Portland icon of song and horribly inappropriate stage banter. With her band, The Balls, she has rocked, rolled and ruffled feathers all around this great country, all across Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, The Philippines and Singapore. She is currently working on her one woman show, "Crazy Enough," slated to open March 31st in PCS's Studio theater.

Monday, December 8, 2008

In The Beginning

The German physician Franz Anton Mesmer introduced "mesmerism" in 1774. His ideas and practices led to the development of hypnosis.

One who mesmerizes is one who keeps us spellbound with their stories and ideas. These people captivate our imaginations and propel us in new directions.

We started by asking the five most fascinating people we know five questions. Then we asked who the most fascinating person they know is.

Thus began our journey to find the most fascinating people in the world--who speak English.