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The Portland Mercury (arts & culture)


An Interview with Media Maven Shaquille O'Neal

...I saw you on The Daily Show discussing your new Ph.D. What prompted your move into higher education?

O’Neal: In this world we live in now, the experts get proper respect. I’d rather be respected as a basketball player who has now got his Ph.D. I'm a doctor in leadership. I've done research.

Do you ever think about becoming a professor?

O’Neal: No.

You don’t like the sound of Prof. Shaq?

O’Neal: Not at all….



The guitarist and super-producer look back on a extraordinary career of collaboration with some of the world's greatest musicians.

…The 1959 historical film epic Ben Hur tells the tale of a Jewish prince, played by Charlton Heston, who falls from grace in ancient times and gets condemned to the galley of a Roman warship. There, in a pivotal scene, the boat’s commander Quintus Arrius speaks these memorable words to Heston: “We keep you alive to serve this ship. So row well, and live.”

It’s a line mired in the dark subtext of ancient Roman slavery, but Chic co-founder and disco-era guitar visionary Nile Rodgers, who has a knack for turning negatives into positives, looks back on it in a far more hopeful light: “I always have adopted that strategy,” he said. “I live to serve the project. While I’m working with you, you’re my artist and I live to serve you and everything is about you being perfect. That’s just how I think regardless of who I’m with. It could be Bowie, it could be [Lady] Gaga, it could be a completely unknown person. I look at that person the same way as I would Duran Duran or Madonna. I look at it as, ‘Okay, they’re the most artistic person I ever met.’ Let me see how we can create something together…”


The master key-art photographer looks back on his storied career shooting for FX, AMC and many more of television's boldest storytellers.

…Before Frank Ockenfels became a go-to key art photographer for FX and AMC’s culture-shifting dramas, and before he became a chameleon- like promo artist as adept at capturing with an image the sinister historical fantasy of Starz’ Da Vinci’s Demons as he is the goofy nonchalance of Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management, and before he received an Honorary Key Art Award from The Hollywood Reporter for a distinguished career taking pictures of TV shows that are often as memorable as the shows themselves – he was a music photographer on his first TV campaign in Texas, shooting on a chilly day on a deserted road somewhere outside of Dallas.

It was the early ‘90s and the production was the ABC movie-of-the-week Murder in the Heartland, which chronicled the serial spree killer Charlie Starkweather (Tim Roth) and his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate (Fairuza Balk). Grey Entertainment was then the agency of record for ABC Television Movies, and a woman who worked there named Kimberly Rock “put her job on the line to hire me,” said Ockenfels…



Wherein the Author Buys an All-Day Pass on Tri-Met, In Order to Learn Some Basic Truths about Life

…5:00 AM. The corner of SE 20th and Burnside. I stand, bleary-eyed, waiting to be picked up by the #20 bus as I try to load a roll of film into my camera. The cold makes my fingers shake and I drop the canister. It rolls toward a goateed man in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. He shifts his cigarette and stoops to retrieve it for me. I try loading again, successfully this time, and flash a picture of the bus stop.

"Did you get a pitcha' a da moon?" the man says, pointing to the sky. I look, and through morning fog, framed between streetlights, I see a silvery crescent.

"It's beautiful," he says. "Almost makes it worth gettin' up early for."

I nod in agreement. On any other day, it would be worth getting up for, but today, it is merely a reminder of the night, of a time long past, when I was safe and snug under my blankets.

The bus rolls to a stop in front of us. I let Goatee first, so I can fish four dollars out of my wallet.

"An all-day pass, please," I say, and move to a seat near the front...



How the renowned neuroscientist discovered the first mammalian circadian rhythm gene, and what it meant for human health.

…Circadian rhythms, and the disruptions imposed on them, play an increasingly vital role in human health. This role is evident in sleep medicine, and in fields as far-flung as metabolic disorders, mental health, and even oncology. Awareness of the influence of circadian rhythms is rapidly rising, a significant development for a characteristic of the body that even today seems mysterious to many: the built-in 24-hour cycle that monitors everything from our sleep patterns to our digestion.

As with most medical advancements, there was a tipping point in the mystery factor surrounding circadian rhythms, when our vague knowledge of the body’s innate ability to regulate its own timing gave way to a precise understanding of where that ability resides and how it functions at the molecular and genetic levels. It happened in the mid-1990s, at Northwestern University’s department of neurobiology and physiology, where a laboratory research team led by Joseph S. Takahashi, PhD, isolated and cloned the first mammalian circadian rhythm gene—otherwise known as Clock…"



Justin Sanders noticed your light was on. Can he come in?

…At nighttime the world goes dark, and the lights come on. Shadowy husks of buildings and houses line the streets, broken only by randomly illuminated rooms. Like an astrologer studying distant stars, I am infatuated with these twinkling windows that hint at the secret activities of human lives.

For a writerly type such as myself, who hungers for the stories of, well, everyone, I want to see what's on the other side of each and every one of those millions of lit windows — but the sad truth is, I'm never allowed... until tonight, that is. Tonight, my photographer Heather and I are seeking out the lit windows and doing whatever it takes to find out what's inside. Call it an atmospheric ode to the inner workings of our fair city at night, or call it rampant self-indulgence of a nonsensical obsession. You can also call it kind of creepy. In any case, we're doing it…



Talking titles with Elastic creative director Patrick Clair

...Australian motion designer Patrick Clair had already made a name for himself with stunning design work in film, television and video games. But when Season 1 of HBO’s True Detective hit the airwaves in 2014, it was like a bomb had gone off in the title design community, blowing all other contenders out of the water. (They would crawl back later and sift through the rubble for pieces they could take away and put in their own work.)

While it's doubtful True Detective's convoluted yet rote serial killer storyline and pseudo-philosophical dialogue will be remembered years from now, fans will never forget the brooding crime drama's palpable feeling of desolation and despair -- an unsparingly dark tone that began with Clair’s magnificently sinister main title sequence…”



Menachem Roth, DMD, MMSc, moves fast in life and at the track

…In Europe, where motorcycle racing is a popular, even revered form of competition, one of the most famous sports figures is the dashing Valentino Rossi. A multiple World Champion in the MotoGP class of the illustrious Grand Prix division of motorcycle racing, Rossi is flashy and bold. The superstar has even been known to exhibit a graphic of his nickname on his gear, spelled out in brightly colored, blocky lettering. The origins of the moniker are up for debate, but many believe it is the cold, calculating way in which Rossi dismantles his opponents that has earned him the nickname “The Doctor.”

Meanwhile, in Brookline, Mass, where motorcycle racing is an obscure form of competition practiced by a small but enthusiastic group of devotees, one sports figure is a man by the name of Menachem Roth, DMD, MMSc. A loyal hobbyist looking to participate at the fun and rewarding club level of motorcycle racing, Roth is humble and kind. The family man has been known to exhibit a graphic of his nickname across the back of his racing jacket, spelled out in brightly colored, blocky lettering in the style of Valentino Rossi. The origins of the moniker are clear, and everyone who knows Roth knows it is his day job as a skilled dental practitioner that has earned him the nickname “The Orthodontist…”