Mar 27 2012

I did that!

A few weeks ago I participated in Sunshine Week (a semi-coordinated national event aimed at bringing transparency to all aspects of government) by visiting a local TV station and reviewing their public records. Wow, writing that makes it sound very boring. I guess the work itself was actually somewhat dry, but it was cool to be a part of a larger organized effort to unmask shadowy SuperPACs and pull back some of the layers of obfuscation between citizens and the methods of democracy.

I was reminded of it today because FreePress gave a shout-out to it here (the star labeled KOIN, was all me!!).

Mar 20 2012

Portland Plan Update

Yes! After years of work, the Portland Plan is finally being passed to the City Council.

Here’s the recommended version (not final because the City Council will likely make some changes): Recommended Draft.

Also, here’s a cool video that they made to highlight the proposals.

I will definitely be going on 4/18, if you’re in Portland you should come!

Oct 20 2009

Another video

I swear I’m not going to be Dan Phiffer and just post links to other things all the time, but my friend Mr. Fetter passed me this video today and it’s worth sharing.

I hope you enjoy it.

Jun 28 2009


Tonight Stasia and I saw “Rent: The Broadway tour”, which was a touring version staged with the same leads that were in the original show (and in the soundtrack, and film, and who I saw in a version in London, and… etc).

For much of the performance I couldn’t help but think about familiarity. Seeing Rent now had a totally different impact on me than it did a decade ago, and as I watched, I wondered how much of that was about how much I’ve changed vs. how much everything else has changed. I guess there were three entities that I was really thinking about during the show: myself, the actors, and the audience.

For high-school James Ofsink the essence of Rent was something about freshness and activism and the power of theater to engage people and encourage them to reexamine their lives and live them the way they would if they were dying (which we all are). I suppose I went in thinking that somehow the ticket I purchased was signing me up for reliving those same emotional reactions that I had listening to the soundtrack over and over again when I was 16.

Overall, I felt like an outsider at the show. There’s no way for me to know for sure if I was projecting this onto the audience or not, but my sense (based on audience reactions and participation) was that the majority of the people there were, like me, fans of the music and had seen the show or movie before or were just generally familiar with the music and plot. Thinking about this made me wonder if instead of being there as I had thought to see the world the way I did when I was a teenager, if I wasn’t instead there to see the incantation or performance of this one slice of my memory. The effect was exaggerated by the fact that the two leads were the same people as on the soundtrack and whom I had seen in London, and they hit every line and every note exactly the same as on the CDs.

I began to think of the event not really as theater because the actors weren’t there to challenge the audience or make them think about things in a new way, they were there to recite this one shining moment, when in the American popular culture AIDS was an issue on the forefront. It was more like a snapshot, frozen in time. As the play progressed I wondered if this was really how most people thought of theater, not as something dynamic and alive, but rather a place where you go to see something that you already know enacted. This got me thinking about things like Shakespeare where people already know the basic plot. Unfortunately (for Rent) I think part of why Shakespeare is so timeless is because the script is so sparse. The sets and actions that are described allow for a lot of room for interpretation and the themes presented can vary widely within the confines of the same script. As I watched nearly the same sets and performances play out in front of me as I had seen in the film version and my previous viewing of Rent, I feared that this musical may not make it to stimulate future generations of Americans. It is so tied to popular culture, which is part of what made it so popular, that it’s hard to see how it will stand up to aging.

I also thought a lot about what it must be like for the actors to be in the same roles more than a decade later and trying to play their younger selves. I heard that they had not been doing this show straight through, so it was weird for me to think about them leaving these roles and then coming back to the performances that had made them famous. I guess in musicals it’s more common for a certain performer to play one role ad infinitum, but I can’t imagine how it could be fulfilling. I’m sure there is always room for minor improvement, but it seems like the primary goal would be to keep yourself as static as possible. Like tonight: give the audience exactly what they want, what they came here for. Down to the pitch. It was surreal. Like seeing a tribute band where there’s no possibility of new music, just the performance of old favorites. Is this what people want?

I personally am still yearning for the freshness and inspiration that Rent once incited in me.

Jun 10 2009

Small work triumph

I just became the person I want to be.

Ok, not really, but I made a good step in the right direction when I became one of those people who didn’t use the disposable silverware at our office potluck and instead brought my own reusables. Sweet! Small victory!