April 2011

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Friday, June 30, 2006


New York, just like I pictured it, skyscrapers and every-thang

A friend and I spent some time in New York City back in 2003. After wandering around Central Park that first day we inevitably wound up at Tavern on the Green. We were underdressed, two decades too young for the crowd and completely out of place among the restaurant's usual clientele of rich widowers living on Central Park West. After being shunned by the staff, I tracked down a kindly bartender who kept us supplied with booze.

We spent the rest of that late summer evening chain-smoking in the garden, which was allowed but heavily frowned upon, and making a mess. If memory serves, we eventually established a perimeter of empty tables between us and a conference of business people that arrived later on to dance to old jazz standards. Oh, and Richard Gere was there for some reason (or at least some guy who looked exactly like him).

With all due respect to the late Rodney Dangerfield, I'd like to think it was like a scene out of Caddyshack but, of course, it was nothing like that. At the end of the night when I went up to get the bill, I found that the bartender had given us a 50% discount. We had somehow consumed $150 worth of gin in a little over three hours. All things considered, this wasn't an accomplishment given their prices but it was the largest bar tab I'd seen up to that point.

"Welcome to New York City," the bartender said with a shrug before turning back to the bar. Maybe he was trying to be nice but I took as an insult- a "go back to Oregon, kid. You're too ugly, too slovenly and too poor for this town." True as that might be, NYC is the only place I've ever seen that I'd rather live in than good, ol' PDX. Of course, the Manhattan I saw was the Mickey Mouse-version. In five days I was only asked for change once on the street. All in all, the city felt more like an EPCOT-version of New York than the real deal.

Oh, I also took photos. Each of the ones included here has been tweaked in Photoshop and done up in black and white to make 'em look all artsy-fartsy. I think they're swell. I've included a few of them below. The rest can be found here. If you came here in search of black and white photographs of robot dinosaurs, 9/11 memorials and props from Beetlejuice, today is your lucky day.

I'm still infatuated with New York so I've decided to write a song about it here on the spot. Here goes....


New York

(guitar solo)


(trumpet solo)


It's a very big town
With a lot going...

(full orchestra kicks in, builds to a crescendo ala the Beatles' "Day in the Life")


Thursday, June 29, 2006


Free million dollar idea

Far back in this blog's history, I started a recurring series of posts called "Free Million Dollar Ideas." Of course, I only came up with two and promptly forgot about the whole thing. That's not to say that I don't come with the occasional amazing idea that would be sure to net the right person a million or more bucks, just that I don't think to write them down. Sure, they're completely ridiculous (the two I've posted here consist of Viking funerals for the wealthy and a syndicated comic strip called "Chairman Meow") but in this crazy, mixed-up country with massive amounts of disposable income floating around, they're sure to "make bank."

But today while reading an article about Rockstar Games most recent slew legal troubles and later watching John Stewart's take on Congressional hearings on the industry, it hit me. A Grand Theft Auto spin-off from the perspective of a police officer would sell like hot cakes and/or Slurpees in the Sahara. A title like this would be sure to convince parental groups and senators that would rather harp about immoral video games than do anything worthwhile to lay off the controversial development company.

From an outsiders perspective, this would be a good-hearted game that lays waste to rampant nihilism and criminal melees that have served as centerpieces for the series so far. Players would start out at a police academy and work their way up to beat cop. From there they could on "missions" to bust thugs or, much like the "do anything" gameplay of past games, pull over speeders, eat doughnuts, go to the shooting range, etc.

Sure, this sounds bland but, much like those Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, players would be able to play it straight and work their way up to police chief or, become a corrupt cop and...work their way up to police chief.

Really, the possibilities for fun and Rockstar's patented brand of subversive social commentary are endless. Players could opt to "clean up the town" or become the most viciously corrupt law enforcer imaginable. Going down that second path could lead players to form ties with the mafia, redistribute drugs from the evidence room, free criminals from jail, scare off good cops, solicit sex from underlings via email (thanks, Dan!), get slapped with sexual harassment suits and/or form their own criminal empire right from their office in police headquarters. If the moral majority starts to harp, the makers at Rockstar only need to point to the "good cop" option, which would also allow players to crack down on their corrupt superiors and fellow officers.

I guess there could also be a pizza delivery boy side-quest ala San Andreas and a cute, little barbershop mode where players could modify their character's crewcut.

I'm telling you, this is a million dollar idea. This can't fail. In fact, get me Rockstar's phone number. I want to pitch this myself. The only thing left to decide is what to name the game...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


A sad day in local music history

Sleater Kinney is going on "indefinite hiatus"? What? Huh? Why?

I guess the news broke yesterday and the band hasn't given an official reason. Their tour dates this summer are likely to be their last. While it hasn't been announced yet, they're planning one final show in Portland with the date TBA.

While I have all of their albums post Dig Me Out, I've always been one of those people that could never get their name right. The spelling on "Sleater" always threw me off. No matter how many times I was corrected, I always pronounced that first bit "Slay-ter."

I saw them play a show at the Crystal Ballroom right around Xmas 2003. The all-ages section was clogged with a few hundred adoring teeny-boppers. I'm still amazed that they never hit the big time. In a better world, every American girl would have spent the late '90s/early '00s obsessing over Sleater Kinney instead of 'N Sync or Britney Spears' endless yokel pratfalls.

Sadly, the band never even received serious radio airplay here in Portland. Everyone at KNRK? You should be ashamed of yourselves. Your continued efforts to prove that things really *aren't* "different here" continue unabated. While many listeners could never make it past Corin Tucker's wails but at least some found them preferable to Christiana Aguilera's. Or Beyonce's. Or Trent Reznor's. Or a good portion of all the solo artists or lead singers ever recorded. As good as those last few albums were, Dig Me Out is still my personal favorite.


In other Portland-affiliated band news, Modest Mouse cancelled their August show at Edgefield earlier this week. A damn shame but the good news is that they did it in order to continue recording their next album in the far away land of Mississippi. More details, along with a creepy animation, can be found here.


It's just too heavy for Superman to lift

As a tyke, Superman II was one of my favorite movies. I had an old VCR copy taped off HBO sometime in the early '80s, which I must have watched at least once a month for years. With the exception of a few ridiculous moments (Superman somehow turning the logo on his chest into a weapon, Superman magically erasing Lois' memory at the end), it's just about as perfect a superhero movie as a preteen dork could hope for.

Then along came a glut of new superhero movies starting with X-Men in 2000, all directed by critically-lauded, filmmakers know for critically-lauded, low budget features. These new cinematic versions of Professor Xavier's mutants, Spiderman, the Hulk, and Batman were a good deal different from the sort of ones you'd find on The Superfriends, the cheesy afternoon cartoon show that introduced a lot of people my age to the DC universe. Pathos and gravitas replaced spandex and all of these films were dead serious, avoiding the campiness of what had came before. Sure, there was Tim Burton's first Batman movies but even those are pretty cheesy in hindsight (the Joker dancing on a parade float to Prince? Please...).

Given the success of all of these blooming franchises, it was obvious another Superman movie was going to appear at some point. The decade-long boondoggle that finally led to Superman Returns has been widely reported and, if you're curious the whole, strange saga is recounted here. It's been 19 years since the last Superman movie with Christopher Reeves and Warner Brothers spent millions bringing the Man of Steel back to movie theaters. No one seems willing to fess up but, given the lengthy production and all the money dropped on previous attempts to jumpstart the franchise, this could be the most expensive movie ever made. Was it all worth it?

Yes and no.

Officially, this isn't a remake or a complete reboot, it's a direct sequel to Superman II. It's a loving tribute to Richard Donner's two Man of Steel movies. The opening credits are just like the ones from those films and director Bryan Singer even resurrected old footage of Marlon Brandon playing Jor-El. Stylistically, Superman Returns is caught somewhere between the '30s and modern times and it looks like a classic comic book. There's even a scene where Superman catches a car and brings it back down earth, striking the same pose that the character did on the cover of his comic book.

They couldn't have found a better guy to play the title role than Brandon Routh and, as much as I can't stand him, Kevin Spacey does make a great Lex Luthor. Superman Returns is a great-looking throwback to the old days with just enough "issues" to bring the character up to speed. While the bittersweet ending effectively paints the developing franchise into a corner, it's a great conclusion for a stand alone movie. If only Reeves had been able to star in this movie back in the day rather than subject himself the comical debacle of Superman III and the ill-fated, low budget Superman IV.

But it's the little things that drag what could have been the best superhero movie ever made down several notches. One problem is Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. She looks all of 18 and there's nothing to her performance. As miscast as Margot Kidder was in the original movies, at least she was sarcastic and plucky like her comic book counterpart. The only time Bosworth makes any attempt to capture Lane's cocky persona is during a scene when she argues with the editor of the Daily Planet. Listening to her throw around phrases like "c'mon, chief" is like watching a little kid play reporter.

From here, I'm going to dive heavy into SPOILER territory. If you haven't seen the movie or plan to, now would be a good time to stop reading.

PAT BOONE SHOWS UP AND THE LAST HALF OF THE MOVIE FOCUSES ENTIRELY ON HIM WRITING A SONG WITH LOIS! Except....not. The comic book above has nothing to do with anything. I just stuck in here to create a break between the non-spoilers and the spoilers.

There are plotholes in this thing big even enough to drive a dozen of the film's space-shuttles through. The most glaring hole, and one that will be long lamented by geeks for years to come, no doubt, is Lex Luthor's big plan to conquer the world and defeat Superman in the process. He sneaks into the Fortress of Solitude and makes off with all of the crystals used to construct the place, planning to use them to create a new continent and destroy most of North and South America.

So what we've got here is another real estate scheme along the lines of the ones Gene Hackman's Luthor launched in the first film. When Lex launches a kryptonite-ladden missile with one of the crystals into the Atlantic, it conjures up a small island, roughly the size of Superman's pad down in Antarctica, instead of the one the size of the Louisiana Purchase he outlined earlier in the film. Even if he tossed in all the crystals, he would get a continent the size of, maybe, Manhattan. This might cause a huge earthquake in Metropolis and some minor flooding on the eastern seaboard but it's hardly going to bring the world to its knees. Plus, Luthor's pint-sized continent is completely uninhabitable and, had his scheme worked, why does he think he would have soul-ownership of all this unusable real-estate? And what's to stop the US government from storming in and easily killing him and his handful of goons with a few missiles? If this guy's a criminal mastermind, why, after five years, could he only come up with a plan that could be foiled by a single army helicopter?

Other things that bugged me while watching Superman Returns:

  • Why was Lex Luthor in prison? Was it because of his attempts to suck up to General Zod in part 2? He was already serving a life sentence after his scheme in part one. He was tried and convicted by the opening credits of the sequel. How does Superman not showing up to serve as a key witness at a second trail reduce his first sentence to a measly five years?

  • Why did it take Superman five years to get to Kyrpton and how did he build a spaceship to fly back? And what did he eat the whole time?

  • If Superman doesn't need to breath in the vacuum of space, why does falling into the ocean present such a big threat?

  • A single shard of kryptonite can bring Superman to his knees but after a brief rest he can somehow lift an entire island made of the stuff and launch it into space?

  • As the characters in Mallrats pointed out, wouldn't Superman's "super sperm" kill a human?

  • If Lois' kid is half-Kryptonian, why doesn't the kyrptonite affect him? And if he can kick a piano across a room, why can't he break a simple lock on a kitchen door?

  • If Superman was in his late 20s in the first film, and he's been off in space for five, why does he suddenly look like he's 25? By all estimates, this would put Lois in her early to mid 30s but she's played by an actress ten years younger.

  • If Superman II took place in 1980, this movie must take place in 1985. So what's up with all the cell phones and super-duper space shuttle planes?

  • I could keep going but it's obvious that no one out there is reading this. Aside from the plot holes, there's too much going right in this movie for the little details to ruin the whole thing. The cannibal dog, Marlon Brando's monolog, Superman flying up into space and listening for any signs of trouble before blasting back down to Earth, John Williams' old score, Lois saving Superman from death, Superman slowly lowering a plane into the middle of a baseball stadium, the most powerful man in the universe being powerless to get the only thing he wants, a final shot reminiscent of all the ones in the Reeves' saga, that shot of Superman snatching a guy out of mid-air and plopping him on a sidewalk in one swift swoop, the cannibal dog getting its just deserts - all ingredients in a pop classic.

    Anyway, for no particular reason, here's where I would rank Superman Returns in the recent glut of superhero franchises:

    1. Batman Begins
    2. Spiderman 2
    3. Superman Returns
    4. X Men 2
    5. X Men
    6. Spiderman
    7. The Hulk
    8. Fantastic Four

    Oh, and, uh, you should see this site if you haven't already.

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006



    Last week, an anonymous post from a reader led me on a midnight wild goose chase on Google in search of information on the legends surrounding Portland's Shanghai Tunnels. As they pointed out, every reference on the topic I could find all pointed back to the Cascade Geographic Society's ghost tours. I wrote about the search over here last Wednesday

    I later poked around in the online archives of Willamette Week, The Portland Mercury and the Portland Tribune. I didn't find any useful information aside from this article on a local group called the Northwest Paranormal Investigators and briefly recounts their encounters with the spirits that supposedly haunt the tunnels. Just about everything else led to outdated info on drink specials at the bar of the same name down on 2nd Avenue.

    Then a colleague ran a search through Info Bank's Oregonian archives via the Multnomah County Library's site and found a few articles written by Portland columnist Phil Stanford, who tackled the subject back in the early nineties. Supposedly, he even talked to a ghost down in the tunnels at one point. I'd like to dig into the articles but Info Bank requires an active library card and mine expired after I left town for college nearly a decade ago. Those will have to wait until I can get a new one at my local branch.

    Then along came David Schargel from Portland Walking Tours who responded to my post on the tunnels with a good chunk of information. He's even more skeptical about the legends than I am and even goes so far as to say that they were never used for shanghaiing or, as it was more commonly known back in the day, "crimping." We've been going back and forth on the topic over the past few days. You can read the whole conversation via a link at the bottom of last week's post (sorry, it won't let me do a direct link) or the highlights below. Here's what he had to say:

    On the tunnels:

    "There was never an extensive tunnel system for people to travel in, but there *were* tunnels under Portland. No question about it. The City archives even has a 'underground district' map. It was done by the Portland Railway Light & Power Co. that shows the 600 volt system that powered the old Streetcar system

    Most towns cities had tunnels. So what? Here at Portland Walking Tours, we learn about them with the acronym of 'FLUMES':

    F - Flood control
    L - Loading cargo at 2 river levels
    U - Utility tunnels for Streetcar electrical supply
    M - Movement of goods for connector buildings
    E - Escape routes for gambling parlors, bordellos, etc.
    S - Steam Tunnels."

    On crimping/shanghaiing:

    "OK: Shanghaiing. Yes, it happened in Portland. The proper term is 'crimping' and it's almost as ancient as the shipborne commerce of nations. On the west coast of the US (with San Francisco's Barbary Coast being the main crimping town), it was a very elaborate system that involved 1. a sailor landlord, 2. a drayman, 3. a longshoreman, 4. a sailor lawyer, and 5. a shipping master.

    To over simplify the ideas for this posting, suffice it to say that men jumped ship when they arrived at a port city like Portland. Sometimes ship captains (who were not involved in crimping) couldn't pay men when they were in port, so they released them. When a ship needs to leave, they hire a crew. In a port city, that was almost never a problem. But, on occasion, a shipping master could not get enough men on board by the time for sailing. Hence, the elaborate system for tricking and coercing men onto a ship. It didn't happen that much from what I understand, but it did happen. The practice came to an end by the 1880s when Steamer Ships did not require large crews and sailors were easy to come by."

    On the legends:

    "I haven never seen evidence (or even a need for that matter) of holding cells, broken glass, trap doors (even though they existed for other purposes like moving goods from basement to upper floors). Sorry to burst any bubbles, but the Shanghai Tunnels did not exist.

    I'm with you on the potential for prison cells and captured sailors and I could suppose that prison cells would be the only evidence. But I don't think there *are* any cells down there. I've seen bars in windows, but they separate large rooms. I personally think that those barred windows underneath Old Town Pizza are merely for separating the basements of different businesses. Kind of like old-time room dividers.

    A good portion of the history of any illicit and shady activities is through oral history and I'm pretty sure that's true in Portland's case too. If you go back to Stewart Holbrook's earliest writings (1930? 31?) about crimping in Portland, it's all oral history. Good stuff too. I was once told by Richard Engeman, the Public Historian at Oregon Historical Society , that he surmised that Spider Johnson (the person quoted by Stewart Holbrook) may be an amalgamation of folks."

    My own inconclusive conclusions:

    David makes a strong argument but not completely convinced. I, along with probably a lot of other people here in Portland, would like to think there's a shadowy network of tunnels running all the way from the West Hills to the Waterfront. Folklore and a "good story," regardless of how implausible, are almost always more interesting than the facts.

    I'm reminded of an old episode of The Simpson where Lisa tracks down some ugly truths about Springfield's beloved town namesake, Jebediah Springfield. Instead of ruining an annual Jebediah-themed festival with the real story, she opts to keep quiet and perpetuate the widely-held legend. Of course, in the case of the Shanghai Tunnels, the preferred version of history surrounds kidnapping, sex slavery, tormented souls and opium dens. Yikes.

    Since little of the legend was ever put in writing and presumably most, if not all, of the current information available on the Shanghai Tunnels exists as oral history, we'll probably never know exactly what went on down there. The truth could fall somewhere in between the shanghaiing stories everyone's heard and...zip. Maybe the tunnels were used for crimping, maybe they weren't. At the very least, all those basements hosted a substantial amount of illicit activities back in Portland's past.

    As for the ghosts, well, I didn't see any when I toured the tunnels last year. Are they down there? There's plenty of people that would probably tell you otherwise. I'm curious to read Stanford's stuff on the subject but, as I said earlier, I've got to get myself a valid library card first.

    Monday, June 26, 2006


    Welcome to the surface of the sun

    If you live somewhere else and haven't heard the news, the sun has a vendetta against Portland. Maybe it's because a lot of people here prefer rain to balmy summer days and a pint of stout to a cool lemonade. Whatever the motives of that ball of fire in the sky, we set a record on Sunday and earlier today. It's friggin' hot in this city, even at this late hour. It's nearly midnight and it's 87 degrees in my living room right now. Bleah.

    But that doesn't quite put things into perspective. How hot has it been in Portland these past few days? Well, lemme tell you...

  • ...it's so hot that more locals are biking to work because the steering wheels of their SUVs are hotter than Joe Mikulik's forehead.

  • ...people are beating the heat by swimming in the Willamette.

  • ...members of the homeless population have stripped down to their sweatshirts and wool pants.

  • ...why go see An Inconvenient Truth when you look outside any given window and see the same thing instead?

  • ...the strippers at the Acropolis are taking off their clothes...just to keep cool.

  • ...local yellowjackets won't leave their hives for even the most rancid Ball Park Frank.

  • ...potheads have been saving matches by pointing their pipes at the sky.

  • ...The Mercury has only accused Willamette Week of plagarism once in the past week.

  • ...ice costs almost as much as a gallon of gas
  • .

  • ...no one is drinking coffee. Anywhere. In Portland.

  • ....everyone is complaining about the weather but the blogger from Jersey.

  • ....lava monsters are thinking of moving up here, if only to piss off all the expats from California.

  • Feel free to comment on which of these you feel is the lamest. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go stick my head in the freezer.

    Friday, June 23, 2006


    The delicate art of cat naming

    Someone I know is about to move into Eugene's Whitaker neighborhood. It's hardly Detroit but she's lived there before and has had her fair share of unpleasant encounters with the various anarchists, acid-casualties and meth-head thieves that populate the area. She's thinking of adopting a kitten and what better way to keep no-good-niks at bay than with a badass battle cat?

    Now obviously she'll have to "raise 'em up right." For the first six months, she'll have to keep this feline on a steady diet of red, raw meat, Rockstar Energy Drink, dietary supplements and lots and lots of eggs. In addition to being trained in jungle combat and various martial arts, she'll also have to make her new pet watch the entire series run of Thundercats, both versions of Walking Tall and that episode of South Park where Cartman breaks up the "hippie jam festival."

    But before all that, she'll have to pick the right name. Something that will strike fear into the hearts of anyone who dares riffle through her trash, steal her bike, wander into her house and/or pass out on her lawn. Something that would look awesome on an adorable cartoon nametag shaped like a mouse. Here are my suggestions:

  • Puss-In-Steel-Toed-Boots

  • The Eviscerator

  • Batmancat

  • The T-1000

  • Cthulhu

  • Samuel L. Jackson

  • Doomsday

  • Dirty Hairy

  • Count Von Mofo

  • Authoricat

  • Apollo Creed

  • The Enforcer

  • The Claw

  • The The

  • El Diablo

  • IT!

  • Johnny Rage

  • Snookums: Destroyer of Worlds

  • Darthfield

  • Marshal Will Kane

  • Sergeant Slaughter

  • Lieutenant John McClaine

  • No, Captain Chunk

  • President James Marshall

  • Kitty McKickass

  • Or maybe she should buy a really big dog instead.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006


    The Shanghai Tunnels- just an urban myth?

    Earlier tonight this anonymous message popped up below a comment on this old post about the Shanghai Tunnel tours beneath Portland's Chinatown:

    The only references that I can find to the storied "Shanghai tunnels" and the supposed trade are those that have come to light by way of the Cascade Historical Foundation, it is almost as if they are making it up as they go. It is simply the basement of an old building that is probably 100ft by 100ft in area... I did not see any tunnels... Makes you want to learn more, but the disappointing thing is when you try to, all references come back to the company that runs the tours.

    This blogger is also skeptical. Further mixed reviews can be found here. Here's what I know, annoymous poster person:

    I took the same Cascade Geographic Society tour in the November of 2004 and, indeed, it only covered the basement area below Hobo's Bar and the surrounding block in Chinatown. I haven't seen the tunnels with my own eyes but I've heard plenty of stories over the past few years from multiple sources, including a freaky account by Chuck Palahniuk in his book Fugitives and Refugees that told of a tour that began in basement of the Matador up on West Burnside. From what I've heard, a good portion of the tunnels down there has collapsed over the past century and there's been no real reason to fully excavate them. There's no doubt that they're down there but what about the legends surrounding them?

    I've lived in Portland for the better part of my life and, honestly, the first time I heard the tales of all those Shanghai'd sailors, opium dens and ghost-clogged tunnels under Chinatown was sometime in the late '90s. As the poster claims, a lot of what's on the internet leads back to the CGS and tour leader Michael Jones. The top twenty searches on Google either mention him or the society.

    Admittedly, all of my information on the tunnels comes from the tour and internet sources all dating back to the late '90s. Does anyone have any more solid info on the tunnels' sordid past or at least something that dates back a few decades? Obviously, this was a shadowy criminal network and not something that's going to be well-covered in Portland's history books. A quick search on powells.com turned up nothing on the topic. Surely, there's something out there. An old, first-hand account of a sailor that was kidnapped or a few turn-of-the-century Oregonian articles, something. This article dives a bit into the history of shanghaiing but comes up with few answers. An excerpt, complete with a revealing quote from Jones:

    Michael Jones, my affable guide, freely admits that there's still a lot we don't know about the history of shanghaiing in Portland. "I'm always probing, always searching. Nothing is nailed down for me." He also admits that the tours are meant as entertainment. But when I bullied him about his sources, I discovered I had underestimated how much of the tour is based on fact.

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines shanghai as "to drug or otherwise render insensible, and ship on board a vessel wanting hands" and cites an 1871 New York Tribune article for the first published use. I found documented cases of shanghaiing on the West Coast, including Jack Black's 1926 memoir, You Can’t Win, and a printed sermon from 1855 in which the minister warned, "Hence to get ‘crews’ for Shanghae . . . [captains] depended, almost exclusively, on drugging the men."

    The Shanghai Tunnels could be fact, folklore, 100% fabrications or, more likely, some combination of all of the above. If much of what we know is just myths and legends passed down to or made up by Jones, then how to explain the ancient cell in the basement of Hobo's, with the bars too small for captives to put their fingers through? Or the pile of century-old dusty shoes? The tour also leads to a tiny closet with what look like fingernail scratch marks in the woodwork. According to Jones, it was used to break the spirits of kidnapped women being forced into a life of prostitution. There's also an alleged opium den in that basement but, honestly, what right-minded group of naredowells would plop an opium den next to a torture closet and a cell full of kidnapped sailors?

    When I went on the tour, Jones told stores ranging from shanghaiers sprinkling broken glass through the tunnels to sway would-be escapees to a highly implausible anecdote about a recent excavator that reached into her pocket and found it full of ectoplasm ("ghost pee," as he described it). Included above is a photo of an Native American statue that supposedly moves around by itself and is haunted by a shadowy specter. Jones also told stories of guests on the tour seeing figures in historical garb out of the corner of their eyes only to turn around and have them vanish. The "spirits" also allegedly make a habit of tugging on hair and like to play with the clothing of guests on the tour.

    This photo is of a haunted baby carriage known to attract the spirit of a mournful mother. It was stolen a few years ago but was returned shortly thereafter. The tunnels recently made a list of the top ten most haunted places in America (sorry, couldn't find the link), at least partially due to the Society's year-round tours but how much of it is true and how much of it is bunk from Jones' imagination? Or mere hogwash that's been handed down by generations of Portlanders? I wouldn't bet on the ghost stories but surely the shanghaiing is grounded in some level of truth, however embellished.

    I signed a waiver on the tour promising not to print stories or photos. If you're out there reading this, sorry, Mr. Jones. I mean no ill-will and I'm not out to disrupt your lively-hood but my curiousity has gotten the better of me.


    Nude bike attack

    Now there's a music video [WARNING: video contains copious amounts of bare-butt'ed bicyclists and the random downtown drunks who love them]. Best part: when a roaming squad car half-heartedly tells them all to put their clothes back on. The accompanying theme song isn't too shabby either.

    Brought to you by the good people at PDXK Productions via Metroblogging Portland.

    Tuesday, June 20, 2006


    Indiana Jones and the Dairy Section of Your Local Supermarket

    I've got proof that Indiana Jones shops at Fred Meyer. Look! Look!

    OK, so based on this blurry photo, that could be Indy or a cut-out of Orson Welles circa Touch of Evil.

    Time for some context: a few months ago I purchased RAZR cell phone with a psuedo-spy camera feature. I now have the ability to covertly snap photos just like James Bond, Ethan Hunt or Kim Possible. This phone is snazzy! It's stealthy! It's, uh, something that may possibly qualify as slick.

    That is, if you can call awkwardly holding up a closed cell phone and vaguely pointing it in the right direction while ducking behind a wine display "slick."

    I have absolutely no use for this feature but it came in handy while I was at Fred Meyers a few weeks ago. In walked a guy in full-blown Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. mode. He had a fedora, a worn-out leather jacket and the whole look going. The only thing he was missing was a whip and Kate Capshaw.

    You don't see this sort of thing every day so I broke out the camera phone and took a few spy cam shots. As you can tell, they're pretty worthless. If I can't pull off a clear photo in a Fred Meyer, there's no way I could get one while precariously hanging from a wire over a booby-trapped floor.

    But I guess it could come in handy again if I ever need any more blurry, 1 megapixel shots of extreme geeks buying large quantities of Country Crock.

    Monday, June 19, 2006


    Yard work haikus

    On Saturday I spent eight hours running around the jungle surrounding the perimeter of my rental cottage with an electric hedge trimmer and a strange, Japanese weed dagger with cartoon disclaimers stamped on the sheath. Believe it or not, this isn't how I typically spend my weekends. I only break them out when the yard becomes so overgrown that it starts to attract panthers and toucans.

    I collapsed around dusk. Frankly, the yard looks even worse than it did before I began. Now a few days later, there's still leaves and limbs (the vegetation variety) all over the place. Apparently, I also only managed to trim half of one of the bushes. I may have been trying to trim it into the shape of a hippopotamus but, admittedly, those final hours are still a blur. At least I didn't inadvertently burn the lawn down.

    Still, it looks bloomin' awful out there. This can only mean one thing: I may have to do yard work again in the near future. %$%@$!

    Now I must vent my frustrations via haiku.

    gawd, friggin' yard work
    why must grass and bushes grow?
    weeds make Jebus cry

    it's 2006
    yard work in this future time?
    weed dagger activate!

    piles of plant trash but
    what to do with it all? toss
    in neighbors yard? YES!

    this isn't a yard
    it's a jungle with a porch
    tarzan on vine? jerk

    weeds, sticker bushes
    audrey II, roaming squirrel gangs
    where's a flame thrower?

    weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds,
    weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds,
    weeds and more weeds. shit.

    what's that gurgling noise
    I think this very, big bush just
    ate the neighbor's cat

    yard work, with its cruel
    tormet- god's way of saying,
    "rent an apartment"

    Friday, June 16, 2006


    Random notes, random links, random hearing damage

    It's Friday and I somehow have both too much and too little to blog about. Let's get right down to it.

  • Johnny Depp sold his stake in the Viper Room, his Los Angeles nightclub, after a lawsuit between him and co-owner Anthony Fox? And Fox mysteriously abandoned his young daughter, disappeared a few years ago and is presumed murdered? You learn something new everyday...

  • Also: there's now a Viper Room knock-off on SE Hawthorne that serves actual reptiles on its menu. According to the Wikipedia entry linked above, the current owners of the one in LA are threatening a lawsuit. A little piece of the seamy underbelly of Tinseltown, right here in Portland. I'm going to have to check that place out sometime.

  • Speaking of Johnny Depp, have a look at the conceptual drawings for his robotic doppelganger. It's set to take over several scenes in Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride when it reopens later this month
  • .

  • First we oppressed them by weighing them down with random objects. Then we forced them to compete in battle royales o' cuteness. It's no wonder they hate us. Unsurprisingly, they've revolted by taking over our sinks and then our baskets. Now they have their eyes on world domination. Yes, there is now a website devoted to cats that look like Hitler. Eeep!

  • This reminds me of an idea virtually guaranteed to earn someone millions of dollars. I came up with it last year while being worked to the point of exhaustion between a full-time day job and an internship. Imagine a Garfield-like comic strip centered around Chairman Mao reincarnated as a housecat. The title of the strip? Chairman Meow, obviously. Unfortunately, I don't have the time, talent or resources to turn the concept into a cultural phenomenon or an evolving movie franchise starring Bill Murray and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Unfortunately, these folks may have the idea copyrighted.

  • The Mountain Dew logo contains a subliminal communist message. Watch out!

  • This Honda commercial is pretty neat.

  • You've probably already seen this post and its subsequent mp3 files that work like dog whistles on people under the age of 25. I couldn't hear much of anything on the first track but the second one sounded like high-pitched television feedback. I had to turn it off after about ten seconds.

    Naturally, I had to use my younger sibling as a test subject since she's still under the 25 year benchmark. After hearing it, she claimed that the subsonic noise on the second track was so awful that it made her ears hurt. When I played the same file for my mother, she heard nothing. Meanwhile, my sister, who was on the other side of the house at the time, could hear it and demanded that we immediately turn it off. Even weirder: the volume on the computer speakers was barely loud enough for me to hear it as I was standing a few feet away.

    In short, have fun driving everyone you know crazy with these mp3s. If anyone asks, or if you seriously damage the hearing of a loved one, you didn't get them from me.

  • Thursday, June 15, 2006


    Little Italy in Portland?

    I've been living in the dark these past few months. I cancelled my subscription to the Oregonian, thinking I could instead navigate its free, labyrinthine website for its coverage instead of shelling out $14 a month for a print edition. Of course, I haven't clicked over there in weeks and finding a copy of Willamette Week, the Mercury or the Tribune in SW Portland is like trying to bump into a Bush supporter on Hawthorne. I hate reading newspapers on the internet (no photos or movie listings).

    Long story short, I have no idea what's going on around this bustling backwater burg anymore. Take, for example, the presumably ongoing controversy surrounding Saturday Market. Last time I heard, the market was about to be kicked out of its current location surrounding Skidmore Fountain to pave the way for a bland extension of the Pearl District (which I predict will eventually engulf all of downtown and the entirety of Portland by 2040). Now comes word via this website that the area may be converted into a cultural district.

    Including myself, I suspect that there's a lot of people in Portland that want Saturday Market to stay put, even if they only go down there once a year to buy incense or a vase for their mother's birthday. But a Little Italy? In Portland? With cobblestone streets, putt-putting Vespas, sidewalk bistros, wannabe mafiosos lounging in said sidewalk bistros and Drea de Matteo clones strutting around? Hot damn!

    Now a Little Italy, done-up Portland style, is probably going to be a lot closer to a white-washed Bridgeport Plaza than the real-deal one in NYC or the fantasy-combination of The Godfather, SE's old Monte Carlo restaurant and the million other Italian cliches I have pictured in my head. Have a look at the proponents' conceptual drawing. Pretty neat, in a Marie Antoinette's Versailles country village or New Orleans Square in Disneyland sort of way. Here's part of the description from their website:

    Surrounding your every step in Old Historic Portland, you will experience the sights, sounds and smells of Italian cuisine and culture. The romance with Italian life begins when you walk through the entrance of grand Roman columns and cobblestone streets. Roman like structures enhanced by the ancient looking arches will lead you to the center courtyard with an old world fountain in the heart of the Piazza.

    Wake up in the morning with the warm smells of a welcoming Pasticceria with homemade Italian pastries and hot espresso.

    Delicatessens and restaurants for lunch are there to offer you a full world of choices. Brick oven pizza... a hearty glass of Chianti... fresh pasta..

    Still, my cynical, little brain predicts that the proposed district would probably consist of little more than a Pottery Barn, a few scattered art galleries and another Pastini Pastaria.

    But since the closest I'll ever get to Italy is the fake version in EPCOT, I'll pull a Portland's Future Awesome here and say "bring it on." Let's have a Little Italy in Stumptown. If Saturday Market has got to go, a cheesy cultural district is preferable to another few blocks of the Pearl District. Ideally, the PDC, City Council or whoever gets to make the ultimate call would leave Saturday Market in place and stick Little Italy somewhere in the Pearl. Since that's never going to happen though, the choice here is obvious: plant some Vespas and possibly a fake Leaning Tower down there and let them bloom.

    Given the inevitable, it would great if Saturday Market received a permanent spot somewhere down there in an indoor structure out of the elements. I'd like to see something along the lines of Seattle's Pike Street Public Market, complete with a comic book shop and a brass statue of a farm animal. Since Pastini Pastaria has the potential to turn into a global franchise, it could even plop a location out front ala the original Starbucks in the Emerald City.

    As Tom Petty might put it, "the future [is] wide open and I'm freeeeeeeeee!, Freeeeee fallin'!"

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006


    Google Maps mystery

    Compatriot "WWB" has a question for any locals out there familiar with the "goings-on" in Pioneer Courthouse Square. He's putting together a post for his DC-based blog, The Washington Canard, and needs to know what event has been captured in this satellite image from Google maps:

    The copyright on the photo is 2006 but I have no idea how often Google Maps updates its imagery. There's leaves on the trees surrounding the square and it's sunny outside. My dunderheaded guess is that it was taken sometime last summer, regardless of the date on the copyright. If not, that must mean that it was taken in the last few weeks. Given all the umbrella tables in that corner of the square, it's probably some sort of beer or food festival.

    Anyone out there have any idea?

    UPDATE: Three cheers and a raised pint glass to David from Portland Walking Tours. He determined that the festival in question is Festa Italiana, which takes place every August in the square. He even went the extra mile and took a look Google Maps' photos of the Pearl District. Based on the state of various buildings, he estimated that the photo was taken in the summer of 2002. Also, a thanks goes out to "M" and Marla for their confirmations. Case? Closed.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006


    A fitter, happier, more productive Fun Center

    A Portland Tribune cover story on Friday focused on 18 - 34 year olds and their complete lack of interest in the Rose Festival. An excerpt:

    A good deal of their focus, he said, is on the amusement center at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park now known as Pepsi Waterfront Village because of its status as an accessible, centerpiece event that runs the duration of the festival.

    Maybe a design and engineering competition, sponsored by the Rose Festival Association, to design floats, rides and other features. Maybe changing the tone of that central feature — Waterfront Village and its Fun Center — to still appeal to children but offer a wink of irony and a flavor of hip kitsch to that different class of young people. Maybe highlighting more of the reasons people of all ages move to Portland without ever having been here before.

    "I'm sorry, but they have the same rides as at the South Dakota State Fair," said Brian Libby, 34, of Southeast Portland.

    A freelance writer and amateur photographer and filmmaker, Libby said he walks through Waterfront Village once every year during times it’s free. He doesn’t spend a dime while he’s there.

    "I have nothing against going on The Scrambler and having a corn dog," he said. "But it's not uniquely Portland. There isn't much about it that tells me where I am at the time."

    The story quotes organizers and their desire to add "vibrancy," "localness" and "relevance" to the Fun Center in order to boost revenue and draw in artsy-farsy types (or, as the buzz phrase around Portland puts it, "young creatives"). The obvious choice would be to add a music stage with an emphasis on up-and-coming local and indie bands but that's been attempted in the past and has drawn "the wrong element" to the Waterfront. Sheesh, how would a few thousands hipsters attending a Decembrists show be any worse than the crowds and that turn out in droves every year?

    Aside from music out of the mainstream, what else do 18 - 34 year old Portlanders enjoy? I myself fall somewhere into the middle of the bracket. I visited the Fun Center again this year but I'm the sort of person that enjoys kitschy carnival rides, skee ball, elephant ears and misguided corporate parade floats (the floats were parked outside over the weekend. If only you could have seen the Qwest one dedicated to the "music and people of New Orleans" with nary a reference to Hurricane Katrina).

    Supposedly, young creatives enjoy kitsch and the Fun Center has that covered. During my trip down there it was all over the place. Check out the mural on the side of the "Spaceship 3000":

    Murals lifted from old Ralph Bakshi movies count as "kitsch," right? There was also a stage set up where actors in pirate costumes were firing a cannon repeatedly for no apparent reason. Who doesn't enjoy explosions? There was also an Animal Planet walkthrough kiosk filled with...

    ...animatronic animals and...

    ...this robotic fellow and his simian pal. The kiosk also had an interactive gorilla robot but I neglected to get a photo. Long story short, I felt like I got my money's worth. For $20 I ate junk food, spun around on two carnie rides, witnessed a series of loud explosions, won a stuffed dog and played with a robot monkey. Still, somehow I get the feeling that I'm not the best representative for my demographic. So in an effort to help out the organizers of future Fun Centers, I have a list of more cliched suggestions that might help pull in the "young creatives":

  • Give the music another chance on the grassy knoll south of the Hawthorne Bridge (where the Blues Fest usually sets up). This would be out of the way and keep those in the park strictly for the bands away from the carnival rides. Every ticket would come with a free pass to the Fun Center, so those willing to opt out of the opening acts could drop cash on a spin on the Ferris wheel.

  • Add an area for local independent businesses. Restaurants go nuts over the annual "Bite" festival so a similar area for "uniquely Portland" vintage clothing shops and record stores might pull in crowds.

  • Toss out half of the burger stands and replace them with stands selling Stumptown Coffee and vegan-friendly items like tofu corndogs and organic popcorn. Free-range burgers couldn't hurt for the meat eaters.

  • Keep the classic rock and heavy metal on the puke rides but gear the soundtracks on the weirder ones towards area hipsters and emo kids. A track from Spirtualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We're Floating in Space is more appropriate for something like the "Spaceship 3000" than Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" anyway. Gogol Bordello, Air, Death Cab for Cutie or any given band on the Garden State soundtrack would go well with a trip on the Ferris wheel.

  • The kids still can't get enough of body modification. Five ride tickets buys an eyebrow ring, seven for a tattoo.

  • For urban activists, there could be a "ride" where for five tickets they could dress up as a suit and play City Council. Those skillful enough to come up with a certain amount of ridiculous civic improvements in ten minutes could win a talking Sam Adams doll. The coveted top prize? A trip to Coffee People with Erik Sten. For that one, players would have to blow $150K in publicly-funded Monopoly money on their political campaigns. The super-secret, ultimate top prize? If a player can manage to waste a few million on purchasing a local utility, they automatically get Sten's seat on the council.

    For the more "take it to the streets" types interested in vicarious retribution, there could be a bounce house filled with balloons shaped like riot cops. Or, even better, a Whack-a-Cop stand with miniature protest signs instead of mallets. The top prize in a player bops enough plastic PPD officers on the head? A "Is it 2008?" bumpersticker, a barrel full of Ben and Jerry's and an immediate end to the war in Iraq.

    For young millionaires already living in the Pearl District and young Republicans, organizers could throw in a Dick Cheney shooting gallery (*groan*) or some sort of Ron Saxton-themed ring toss. There might also be a way to work Karen Minnis theme into the goldfish game but I'm out of ideas. Top prize for all these? No state taxes for a year, a measure 43 claim and dibs on an acre in the Siskiyou National Forest. If they throw enough money around they might also land a free casino in the Columbia Gorge.

  • The addition of an area for local job recruiters not associated with Starbucks, the military, retail or the customer service industry would attract local 20-somethings in droves. Even better if they're willing to hire those with bachelor's degrees in Graphic Design or English Lit.

  • Free Pabst and Voodoo Doughnuts with every paid admission.

  • One last one: make the Fun Center bike friendly, run everything on biofuel and make pants optional. After all there's nothing in "no shirts, no shoes, no service" that says anything about pants.

  • If the mood strikes, feel free to offer up your own suggestions in the feedback area below. What would you like to see down there next year?

    Monday, June 12, 2006


    The scourge of the muliplex

    So I'm searching for a solution to an age old problem. When you're in public and someone's child is misbehaving and the parents won't discipline them, what can you do?

    Here's the scenario I encountered on Saturday night. I went to an 8:30 PM screening of Cars at Bridgeport Village. While the movie is geared towards animation lovers of all ages, a tot sitting ten feet away was bored out of his skull. No amount of NASCAR in-jokes or Volkswagen "bugs" could deter him from loudly babbling through the whole thing. His father made a few half-hearted attempts to keep him quiet but completely gave up during the final 30 minutes. At the point, the brat started banging on a metal barrier in front of his seat. I could contend with this sort of thing if I'd made the mistake of going to a weekend matinee but an evening show? What sort of sociopath brings a grumpy child to a movie past his bedtime?

    Fortunately, the theater's sound system drowned out most of the brat's running commentary. Unfortunately, neither myself or the predominantly adult crowd in attendance did anything to discourage his endless banter. Dealing with his inconsiderate parents directly would have only resulted in a "HOW DARE YOU TELL ME HOW TO RAISE MY CHILD" or a similarly outraged response. Usually I would change seats but the theater was nearly sold out.

    So what would you do, given the circumstances? Complain to the management? Leave and demand your money back? Hog tie the kid with Red Vines?


    The War on Drugs hits the Fun Center

    Every year a line of military ships line up on the banks of the Willamette River during Rose Festival. Their crews storm downtown Portland where they hand out Navy hats to vixens and generally get drunk and loud while local, nude bicyclists take to the streets.

    But consider what I spotted on the side of a Coast Guard ship in this year's fleet. You've got to draw the hell-raising line somewhere and our brave, fighting Coast Guard troops apparently place it between full-blown, drunken lechery and hash pipes.

    Beware all potheads who spend time at sea...

    ...the USS Steadfast is patrolling our nation's aquatic borders...

    ...and its crew has no vested interest in "legalizing it."

    They're also braggarts.

    I wonder if the Steadfast's crew spent their long weekend promoting "abstinence-only" education at area schools while making sure to get to bed by 9 PM. Oh, I keed, I keeeeeeed...

    But, seriously, doesn't most of America gets its pot from basement hydroponics gardens, pseudo-communes out in the sticks and, uh, the entirety of northern California? Or are there speedboats cruising up and down the west coast with loads of South American Mary Jane in their cargoholds? Or do these X'd out marijuana leaves indicate the number of "eighths" the crew has smoked? Take note of the lack of a red X over the golden leaf on the ship's (ganja?) smokestack. The "Steadfast" could be a reference to the crew's steadfast refusal to leave their bongs at home.

    There's so much I don't know about the Coast Guard...

    While I'm asking stupid questions, does anyone out there have any idea what that second symbol is supposed to represent? What else has the crew been cracking down on and/or smoking? My guesses:

  • Slurpees!

  • Crystal meth.

  • Poached ice from the Arctic.

  • Crates of stolen zambonis.

  • An international criminal organization headed by Mr. Freeze, the Coca Cola polar bears and Santa Claus.

  • Ice pirates.

  • UPDATE: I finally found the answer in an article on about.com. It looks like the snowflake symbolizes drug busts in general. The addition of a mounted bullet casing over a snowflake indicates that the crew shot out the engines of a smuggler's boat. As a metalhead teenager living in the year 1991 might put it, "WICKED!"

    Friday, June 09, 2006



    Being the consumer whore that I am, I rushed out and bought a Superman Slurpee yesterday. The 7-11 I hit only had one of the two Man of Steel flavors available and it was Kryptonite Ice (AKA Mountain Dew, Slurpee-style).

    All in all, not too terribly exciting but what should I have expected for $1.99? Then a reader chimed in with a response to yesterday's Slurpee-related post:

    So when can we expect the post about your efforts to mix these new slurpees with unusual/dangerously cheap liquor?

    While I didn't have any "unusual" liquor lying around, I did have a bit of vodka. By this time the remaining, no-longer-super Slurpee had been reduced to slush. I broke out a shot glass and got to work.

    But first, how to describe the taste of Mountain Dew? It's the Captain Crunch of soda. The taste of both is elusive. Mountain Dew is tart but it doesn't taste like the artificial lemon and lime flavors found in the likes of Sprite, Slice, Seven-Up and other sodas with names starting, coincidentally (?), with the letter "s." Maybe Mountain Dew is supposed to recall a flavor suggested by its name: dew that has gathered on the leaf of a majestic tree on an idyllic Rocky Mountain vista at the start of a clear spring morne with chipmunks, eagles and xtreme sports people bouncing around all over the place.

    A single ounce was all it took to turn the fading Slurpee into a concoction worthy of a dusty shelf in a 19th century pharmacy. The vodka completely eradicated the Kryptonite Ice's sweet flavor, leaving what can be easily classified as "ickiness." What remained tasted like lemonade made with too much water, zero sugar and a single Starburst. The vodka hit later, leaving an aftertaste no doubt similar to a bag of abandoned Ricola Cough Drops that have been sitting in a storm drain all winter.

    In short, it was a waste of a perfectly mediocre and melted Slurpee (and don't forget the shot of vodka). Maybe I should have tried Bacardi instead.

    And now here's a video of a kitten getting into a fight with a laptop. And here's a video of a cat getting into a fight with the kitten fighting with a laptop. Minboggling, 'tis.

    Thursday, June 08, 2006


    Slurpee vs. Slurpee

    A few weeks ago I stopped by my local 7-11 to pick up a Slurpee in cup promoting X-Men 3: The Last Stand. It had a nifty 3D design and came with a cool, little Professor Xavier hologram coin. All in all, drinking iced Coca Cola out a cup with Kelsey Grammer's face stamped on the side wasn't as much fun as I was expecting. But the coin? Let me tell you, hours of entertainment.

    Now just a few weeks later, the X-Men promotion has been usurped by Superman-themed cups and not one but two Son of Krypton-themed Slurpee flavors: Kryptonite Ice and Arctic Blast. How many flavors did the X-Men get for their efforts to quell a full-scale mutant revolt on Alcatraz Island? Zero. Superman though? Two flavors and all he'll probably do in his new movie is beat up a shaved Kevin Spacey.

    An oversight like this was sure to come to blows and it already has over at the offices of the Portland Mercury. Click here to see the whole Slurpee saga unfold.


    The devil made me do it?

    In a post yesterday I claimed that the gin and tonics at Dante's are overpriced. Frank Faillace, the owner of the downtown club, dropped me a line last night to set the record straight. A quick excerpt from his email with all the pertinent corrections:

    Expensive gin & tonics at dante's??? Gin & tonic actual prices: $3.50 11 am to 9pm, $4.50 after 9pm...helps pay for entertainment on the stage.

    Based on my experiences, $3.50 - $4.50 is about average for a downtown lounge. But, then again, my memory isn't what it used to be. Lately, it's only correct 66.6% of the time. Sorry, Frank and thanks for the head's up.

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006


    A night of evil

    Seeing that "666" only comes once a century, I felt an immoral obligation to acknowledge it somehow. So last night I rolled downtown while blasting "Sympathy for the Devil," "Running With the Devil" and "Yummy Yummy Yummy" (compliments of KISN) to see what sort of people roam the streets on a hell-iday.

    Ok, that should be a sufficient amount of lame wordplay.

    So how do the citizens of Portland celebrate 666? From what I could tell, the same way they celebrate any other Tuesday- by sitting at home and watching TV. 2nd Avenue was pretty dead but that's not to say I didn't encounter any displays of satanic tomfoolery. Here's a rundown of various incidents with an accompanying "level of evil" meter:

    DANTE'S: The sign out front said "666! The end is coming!" Since the world didn't end yesterday, maybe it was referring to the ancient, rust spotted Pinto sitting in front of West Burnside's infreno-themed nightclub. I wouldn't bet on that thing to survive another year on Oregon's roads. A guy in a blue jacket covered with stars was standing out front. Other than that, it looked like business as usual down there.

    Level of evil: Undetermined. I didn't actually go inside but if the gin and tonics at Dante's are still as expensive as my last visit, I give the club's 666 celebration an 8 out of 10 plastic pitchforks. [What's with the line? See the correction above this post.]

    GROUND KONTROL: The folks at Chinatown's vintage arcade celebrated 666 with horror movies and live music. Zombie was screening when I first got there. So far, so.... good (?). But as I plopped on stool in front of Mrs. Pac Man, a local band jumped on stage and began what would become the Worst Live Show I Have Ever Witnessed. They had their amps set to 11 and spent the first 15 minutes of their set alternating between tuning their guitars and rushing through minute-long, one chord blitzkriegs. They were even worse than a band I saw open for Modest Mouse a few years ago that spent an hour banging on cookie sheets while screaming "YOU'RE ON MY LIST!" Because of last night's act, I failed to get Ms. Pac Man past the fourth maze. My attempts to patrol the moon in Moon Patrol were equally futile. Getting past Ryu with Blanka in Street Fighter 2? Not even an option. Thanks, jerks. Sure, you've got the 666 spirit but how about some guitar lessons?

    Level of evil: Zombie and Ground Kontrol in general? 0 out of 10 talking Krusty the Clown dolls set to "evil." What can I say, I consider the place heaven on earth. But the unnamed band's set? 9 copies of Slayer's Reign in Blood out of 10. Almost pure evil.

    POWELL'S BOOKSTORE: Out front I spotted a guy standing out front reading a copy of the Portland Mercury. He was dressed in a red suit, was sporting a cliched devil goatee and had his hair gelled up and dyed red to look like a fireball.

    Level of evil: 2 out of 10 satanic puppies piddling on million dollar rugs. He was trying a bit too hard, no? Now if he had been reading a copy of Lady's Home Journal, that would be another story.

    THE TACO BELL ON BURNSIDE: I wound up in line at the drive-thru behind a Jeep Cherokee with a pentagram bumpersticker. The jeep's custom plates? They read: "WYTCH." The witch/wytch behind the wheel spent a full five minutes ordering twenty dollars worth of gorditas and got into an argument with the clerk working the register.

    Level of evil: 5 out of 10 "Pit of Ultimate Darkness" sketches. This one would have ranked higher but this sort of thing is par for the course at this particular Taco Bell. Since "Pyscho Safeway" and "Psycho Burger King" have faded into the pages of Portland's book of yore lore, I think it's time this fast food franchise realized its destiny and offically become "Psycho Taco Bell."

    THE HOLLYWOOD VIDEO ON BARBUR: They had The Omen parts 2 and 4 in stock AND Rosemary's Baby but nary a copy of The Omen parts 1 or 3.

    Level of evil: 10 out of 10. Aside for not keeping more than one copy of each movie in stock, there's little fault to be found on HV's part. But whoever went in there on 666 and snatched not only part 1 but part 3 as well, which follows a satanic Sam Neil's quest to take over the world?

    Pure evil, pure and simple.


    Indiana Jones factoid

    The things you learn on Wikipedia...

    River Phoenix, who played young Indy (aged 13) in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was originally offered the title role in the series [The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles], but turned it down, since he didn't want to return to television. It was originally planned that after The Last Crusade, a second trilogy would be made with Phoenix as the young Indiana Jones and Ford as Henry Jones Sr. (effectively playing his own father). It became increasingly difficult for all parties to fully realize a second trilogy and so a TV series was thought of as the next best thing and a way to test if a prequel set of films could work. However, Phoenix's untimely death in 1993 changed all that.

    A long lost trilogy that never made it off the drawing board? And still no part IV? The Goonies sequel will probably get here before another chapter of the Jones saga does.

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006


    Apocalyptic Tuesday?

    It's 4:16 PM here in the Rose City on the sixth day of the six month of the sixth year. Hey, wait a second. 6/6/06. O?!! That works out to 6,606, not 666. If you really want to be nit-picky, it's 6/6/2006. The only way I can see this number scheme working in favor of doomsayers is if today's date were June 6th, 6 AD. The kid who called in a threat to that high school in Eugene is off by at least two thousand years. What's all the hullabaloo about then? Could GW be responsible?

    So far I haven't seen any rivers of molten lava rolling down the streets out here in Beaverton. None of my coworkers have mysteriously disappeared and the sky isn't yet filled with black clouds or horsemen. If Satan works normal business hours, I think we're in the clear. All things considered though, I'd much rather be in Hell right now. I guess they're holding a shingig out that way today.

    Monday, June 05, 2006


    Pirates of the Willamette

    The Rose Festival has received a substantial amount of flack over the past few years. Recent fests have lost money and the annual fest is earning a reputation for becoming an archaic holdover from an era where women didn't wear white after Labor Day and beatniks, communists and Dennis the Menace were considered America's gravest threats. But instead of looking for ways of updating the it for the 21st century, maybe they should look backwards- all the way to the days when buccaneers ruled the seas.

    This year the organizers somehow coaxed the owners of two "tall ships" to sail down the Willamette and dock on its banks near the Fun Center. I woke up at the crack of noon on Sunday to cruise down there, expecting that rain would keep the crowds away and I could jump on board for a tour without a wait. Instead I found a long line stretching down river past the Hawthorne Bridge. It was hard to tell how the Fun Center was doing, behind its rows of booths and $5 entrance fee, but a crowd had definitely turned out to run around a pair of pirate ships.

    One of them, the Lady Washington, was supposedly* used as "The Interceptor," Captain Jack Sparrow's beloved ship in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. After a hour long wait, I found myself standing on the same spot Geoffrey Rush once stood in! W-O-W! *The* Geoffrey Rush. Johnny Depp? Keira Knightley? Legloas? Meh.

    The Lady Washington had a crew on deck and, surprisingly, not all of them were local actors. Several were actual sailors that ride the ship up and down the west coast as part of a continued effort to educate school kids on history of merchant trading (but probably not the seedy underbelly as depicted in any given Decembrists' song). A set of stairs in the middle of the ship led to a lower deck filled with cramped bunks and a tiny kitchen where one of them was washing breakfast plates.

    While all of the "pirates" were dressed in historic garb, their commitment to the past only stretched as far as clothing. The bunks were filled with modern-day sleeping bags and backpacks. One of them broke out a map of ship and gave me a quick rundown. Another hatch towards the back led to a captain's quarters and an engine room. I don't remember one of those in The Pirates of the Caribbean.

    I wonder if the crew actual drops down the sails and lets the wind carry them on any of their voyages or if the masts are just for show. Maybe they fire up the engine and fly up and down the coast like Don Johnson's speedboat in the opening credits of Miami Vice. They also had at least one operable cannon on board. While modern day piracy is probably more along the lines of the machine gun and three-legged dog-wielding buccaneers featured in The Life Aquatic, the Lady Washington had enough firepower and crew members on board to take down at least the Sternwheeler or the Portland Spirit.

    The later was parked behind the Lady Washington and if only one of the pirates had been willing to fire a cannonball over the Spirit's decks. Not to do any damage, per say, just to scare the hoity-toity passengers that were about to set sail down the Willamette for what appeared to be a wedding reception. If I ever get married and manage to rent a yacht, I'll stubbornly insist on working a battle at sea into the mix. The Spirit blasted its horn several times before heading down the river, forcing everyone on board the Lady Washington to cover their ears. A smug Spirit crewmember, laughing at all of us, was practically begging for a musket ball up his port bow but the pirates only glared and mumbled amongst themselves.

    Before heading out of town, the Lady Washington and the other ship on display set sail on Sunday afternoon for a "battle cruise." If I'd been willing to part with $50 and if it hadn't been sold out, I could have watched the crews of both ships stage a mock cannon fight. I'd be more upset if that $50 would have also bought a shot at the riverside landmark of my choice. Firing a cannon at one of the (still unoccupied) South Waterfront condo towers would have been downright cathartic.

    * The Portland Tribune's edition from last Friday claims it played the part of the Black Pearl. Wikipedia and the Lady Washington's website both say it was used as the Interceptor.

    Friday, June 02, 2006


    A Welcome to Blog **exclusive**

  • This fall Beck is set to release a new album produced by Nigel Godrich.

  • Not much is known about it. After a search around the internet, the only thing that turned up was what you see above.

  • On Sunday night Beck performed a new song called "The Information" at the Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington.

  • As far as I know, it hasn't been released anywhere else on the internet.

  • The You Tube link above leads to video footage of the song being performed.

  • A review of Beck's set can be found be scrolling down to the post below this one.

  • I wonder if posting this will lead to my first "cease and desist" letter.

  • Enjoy!

  • Thursday, June 01, 2006


    S2: Sasquatch United (day 2)

    Part one of this indie fest saga can be found here.

    I woke up at 7:30. The temperature had risen from "friggin' cold" to "friggin' hot" in the space of three hours. Sleeping was no longer an option. The hipsters next door were already awake, may have stayed up the entire night, in fact, and were chattering like magpies. Whatever they had put in their 16 ounce cans of Pabst, I needed some. I finally gave up around 9. Festivities around the camp had shut down around 4 AM the night before but already it was awake and alive at this early hour. Distant drum circles were already in full effect and dozens of groggy eyes were lined up in front of the Port-a-Potties. It was now obvious that none of us would be sleeping more than six hours, total, this weekend.

    The organizers had packed us in like businessmen on a Tokyo subway. Our 15 x 10 foot spot was littered with cow pies but, as my colleague noted, bovine waste is preferable to a single pile of dog feces. Indeed, our site's two pies didn't smell and were easily avoidable. Still, crawling out of a stuffy tent and being greeted by the crap of a beef stick is no way to start a day of live music.

    Fortunately, it wasn't a harbinger of things to come, unless you take into account Queens of the Stone Age's performance. On to the set reviews....

    PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES: High noon on a sunny Sunday isn't the time or place for this sort of thing. Although the edge of a cliff is probably the proper local for Graves' brand of gloom rock. The band's music is caught somewhere between Bauhaus and Sleater Kinney so I can't get away with any goth jokes here. All I can wonder is how the band wound up at an outdoor rock fest. They seem like they'd be a better fit for a smoke-filled club after midnight. This isn't to say they were bad, just that they were out of their element.

    NADA SURF: I really liked their "Popular" song when I was 16. If memory serves, it was one of the first songs KNRK played to death back in the day. The band came out, it was their first song and I spent the rest of their set staring at all the pretty scenery behind the stage. To be honest, I can't tell the difference between Nada Surf, Fountains of Wayne, Weezer or a million other middle-of-the-road rock bands that debuted in the mid-90s. Did they do the song about Buddy Holly? The one with the video set in the diner from Happy Days? Yes, I'm being snarky but, seriously, all those damn bands are interchangeable.

    A FEW, QUICK NOTES ON THE TEENAGERS SITTING IN FRONT OF US: We spent the day in the middle of the amphitheater, overlooking a section of large, grassy steps prefect zoning out on. Directly in front of us was a group of five teenagers who spent most of the concert sleeping. At no point were all of them awake at the same time. The most life we saw out of them was during Death Cab for Cutie's set, when three of them rose to watch the show. One girl, wedged in the middle, didn't open her eyes the whole time. The middle-aged couple sitting next them, who spent the entire day chain smoking joints, may have had something to do with their semi-comatose state. More on them later.

    THE DECEMBERISTS: At one point, Colin Meloy jumped into a tiny area between the stage and the crowd, letting those in the front rows play a guitar solo. This is the first time I've ever seen twenty people try to play a single instrument at the same time. I wish I had seen the band during their last tour when they performed "The Mariner's Revenge Song" during encore with a large, whale puppet. The crowd at a show at the Roseland last year tore it to pieces. Towards the end of their set at the Gorge, Meloy somehow convinced everyone in general admissions to crouch down and pretend that they were all sleeping, only to wake them up with a blast from his guitar. This band is a national treasure and don't let anyone tell you different.

    ARCTIC MONKEYS: Easily the luckiest teenagers on the face of the planet. I envy their fame but I wouldn't dare sign the same contract with Satan it took to skyrocket them from internet obscurity to the top of the UK charts. And they're talented to boot. Have you heard that "You Look Good on the Dance Floor" song? Impossibly catchy. This was to be the band's first show in an outdoor venue. Much like a few other rags-to-riches British supergroups, they were cheeky as hell and spent every second between their songs dropping one-liners on the crowd. "I don't think I've ever seen such lowly attempts at moshing. You should really work on that." "Ok, we're going to play one more song and then leave all of you to get rained on." Rich, famous, young and incredibly obnoxious? I knew I should have spent more time playing my guitar instead of studying chemistry in high school. What has the periodic table ever done for me?

    MATISYAHU: Reggae is my kryptonite. Tie me to a copy of Bob Marley: Legend to my leg, drop me in a pool and I'll sink like a stone. But coming out the mouth of a hyperactive Hasidic Jewish guy from White Plains? Now that's sumethin'! When I first heard about Matisyahu, I figured the whole thing was a joke- a novelty act along the lines of Tenacious D. Based on his set on Sunday afternoon, he's the real deal; completely sincere. Matisyahu took to the stage, jumped up on a speaker and spent his entire set running around and waving his arms like he was from Compton and it was still 1990. It started raining halfway through and he started rambling about Genesis. "Once upon a time there was Noah and he built an ark because the world flooded. God won't ever do that to us again. He won't drown us today!" And with that a rainbow appeared over the amphitheater. The timing was perfect.

    No, seriously.

    Matisyahu, eager to prove God's benevolence, pointed at the sky. "YOU SEE! He won't drown us! He's here right now, smiling down!" The rain stopped shortly thereafter and didn't make another appearance the rest of the weekend. Divine intervention? Was God sitting in his heavenly La-Z-Boy and toking on a big, fat bowl while pushing buttons on a mystical rainbow machine? You decide. I don't think I'm quite ready to turn in my agnostic membership card. Here's a photo of the good Lord's contribution to Matisyahu's set:

    And here's a photo of Matisyahu jumping up and down. I've never seen anything like all this and I probably never will again. I wonder how many people converted to Judaism or at least Christianity after his set.

    QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE: And then we went from hair-raising spirituality to the depths of alt-metal hell. My colleague fled in search of an elephant ear. I buried my head in a magazine, resigned to saving our seats but completely unwilling to watch a minute of their set. I looked up only once when the lead singer decided to give a security guard a piece of his mind for not letting a girl in the audience sit on her boyfriend's shoulders. "That's not what rock n' roll is all about." Sorry, pal. You don't get lecture anyone on music when you're cranking out material that's one part Foo Fighters, one part Tool and twenty parts pure "bleeech." I wonder what he would have thought had the girl fallen on her head and suffered a concussion. He probably would complained about the security staff not doing their job in an Vh1 interview. The singer continued ranting about the guard after another song. Rather than watch him continue to pose away, I headed in search of food.

    A FEW, QUICK NOTES ON THE BOOMER POTHEADS NEARBY: They spent the day sitting on an old blanket chain smoking joints and blowing it in the faces of the teens. They had two pre-teen sons with them, who probably spent the entire time roaming the grounds or hanging out in the Xbox 360 tent. When they occasionally returned for more cash to buy junk food, the father quickly lit up a cigarette to mask the smell. They were both in their mid-to-late 40s. What were doing in the middle of this crowd? Why had they come? Did the kids know what their parents were doing? The father looked a lot like Ron Perlman? Could it have been him? I'll never know the answers to these questions, will I?

    CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH: I caught half of their set while standing in a half-mile long line for yakisoba noodles. They were crammed into a tiny, secondary stage set off in the middle of the concession stands. A fairly big crowd abandoned Queen's set to stand on picnic tables and swarm the area. After being snatched from nowhere by Pitchfork, they're the hot, new thing, I guess. Sure, their music sounds like regurgitated early-Radiohead but I found myself nodding my head to "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth."

    DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE: The hearts of every hipster in the crowd swelled as they hit the main stage. I liked We Have the Facts... but gave up on the band after The Photo Album. Repititious songs about break-ups and ennui get old after awhile. I wonder if anyone in the crowd would have heard of them if it wasn't for The OC. Ben Gibbard made a joke about feeling like a "pussy" after coming on after Queens of the Stone Age and I forget what else happened but that has absolutely nothing to do with all the pot smoke coming wafting in courtesy of the boomers.

    BECK: One word: Team America-style marionettes. A few more words: live puppet accompaniment. As Beck and his band blasted through an hour-long set, four puppeteers mirrored their actions with a band of tiny doppelgangers on a miniature stage near the drums. Even more amazing, they kept time and sang along nearly in sync with their larger counterparts. When the band replaced their instruments with silverware on a dinner table brought on stage, the puppets did the same. The whole thing left me wondering, "How did they pull this off? How can the puppeteers keep an eye on the band and the puppets at the same time?" It was all pretty slick.

    But now that I think of it, Beck's looked more like Tom Petty.

    "Puppetron" was projected onto the Gorge's monitors. Beck was scheduled to play for two hours but cut his set short for unknown reasons. At one point, the band left the stage and let the puppets "perform" "Loser." The song was cut-off halfway through and a previously recorded comedy segment of the puppets ran. After it concluded, two people in bear costumes took over the stage. Meanwhile on the smaller stage, the puppeteers broke out a pair of teddy bears to keep up.

    Beck later returned for a quick, one song encore. I don't know if the band was backstage playing "Loser" when the management told them to hurry things up because the roadies wanted to go home. For what it's worth, that's what it seemed like. I saw Beck under worse circumstances last summer and, puppets aside, it was pretty much the same set. I've seen him live five times now and he's never disapointed. I just wish he'd cranked out another 50 minutes of music.

    Click the play button above to watch Beck and the puppets perform the end of "Summer Girl."

    I woke up Monday morning to the sound of our hipster neighbors shouting "AND THOSE GUYS ARE BASTARDS!" It was 7:15 AM. For all I knew, they hadn't slept in days. I don't know who they were talking about but I get the feeling it was us. We had nothing but put up with their boistrous, per-dawn giggling and endless arguments about Weezer with muttered, inaudible (to them) insults. Immediately enraged, I thought about sneaking over and letting the air out of their tires or telling them exactly how much all their favorite bands sucked.

    Instead of that, I stewed in my tent and enjoyed the effects of continued sleep depravation. Nobody said this outdoor festival stuff was going to be easy. I hope they're still washing cow pies off their camping gear. To misquote the Dead Kennedys: "[Emo] punks, [emo] punks, fuck off.




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