WARD CUNNINGHAM may be one of the most influential computer programmers of his generation, but when it comes to the clocks ticking inside his Garden Home house, he is indifferent. I arrived to interview him on an overcast Saturday morning in July, and as we moved from his living room to his basement studio, time seemed to slow down. Way down. Our conversation wandered richly from the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s notion of the decisive moment to architectural theorist Christopher Alexander’s “pattern languages” to the tribal nature of computer hackers. Yet the clock on the wall remained forgiving, the hands slowly waving toward 10 a.m. and then 11. I recall thinking to myself, “Ahh. For once, time is giving me a little back.”
My head bulging like my stomach after a six-course meal, I finally bade farewell and turned on my phone in the car. Flash: 1:30 p.m. What I had earnestly assumed was a little over two hours had swelled to four and a half. I’m not sure which was more impressive: the depth of my plunge down the rabbit hole or the intellectual generosity of the Mad Hatter who broke the fall. To an e-mail of thanks and a gentle chiding about the state of his clocks, Ward responded, “Oops. I gave up dealing with daylight savings in any methodical way.”
Ward is just one of the 12 Oregon visionaries who graciously opened up about the inspirations, drives, and eccentricities of their creative lives for a novel collaboration between Portland Monthly and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). Called “Brain Storm: Exploring the Genesis of Innovation,” it will take three forms: you can read profiles of the selectees; on the first four Monday evenings of October, you can hear them in conversation with a merging of OMSI’s popular Science Pub and Portland Monthly’s Bright Lights series; and, beginning October 3 in OMSI’s lobby, you can experience the constellation of their inspirations and influences in an interactive display designed by Portland studio Fashionbuddha.
The goal? To celebrate the creativity of some of Oregon’s greatest minds in technology, health, engineering, food, and art. Whether it’s the wily open-endedness of Ward Cunningham, the discipline-hopping discoveries of brain expert Larry Sherman, the testosterone-fueled aesthetics of electric motorcycle developer Craig Bramscher, or the inspired interpretation of Psalm 93:4 of wave energy pioneer Annette von Jouanne, the creative energies could not be more diverse. Yet one common factor links all of these innovators: a comfort with—indeed, often a driving need to explore—the unknown. Much as Ward Cunningham reminded me of the simple, energizing pleasure of a morning exploring ideas off the clock, he and the 11 other innovators of Brain Storm will almost certainly open doorways, if not a rabbit warren, into your own creativity. Please join us for a tumble.
Editor in Chief