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Monday, July 31, 2006
Long lost Goonies cartoon project
Cartoon Network and The Donners' Company were working on a cartoon version of The Goonies that would have picked up right where the movie left off. It was going to incorporate all the deleted scenes from the original (like the Gorillas, Leeches, etc.) along with new adventures.
Click here to look at a test sketch.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Nature, in all its two-color glory
It's fun playing Ansel Adams on a boring summer afternoon. I think I got too crazy with the "sharpen" option in Photoshop though. For more nature-y photos from Mount Neahkahnie and the coast, color and otherwise, click here.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
The best action movie of the summer
And it's the best Stephen King adaptation I can think of aside from The Shining and Carrie. For the past few weeks, TNT has aired hour-long, mini-movies of King's short stories every Wednesday night as part of their Nightmares and Dreamscapes miniseries. Battleground, a story King wrote back in the late '70s, makes for an hour of television that beats anything in Mission Impossible 3.
What happens when an aging assassin in a high-tech penthouse makes the mistake of opening a mysterious package filled to the brim with incredibly pissed-off toy soldiers? 60 minutes of atmospheric, dialog-free mayhem that plays like an R-rated episode of the Twilight Zone more interested in blowing up furniture and minibars than moralizing. A ten-minute scene where the assassin, played by William Hurt, takes on a tiny commando in a fight that leads from a swimming pool to an elevator is as ridiculous as it is incredibly entertaining.
I was expecting a low-budget, cheesy TV movie along the lines of those King adaptations that pop up on ABC every May. Despite its short running time, Battleground is worthy of a wide release in movie theaters and the special effects aren't too shabby either.
While the premise is mindless, that goes with the genre in general. Trust me on this one. This thing is pure, quality TV and better than most of what passes for action movies these days. If you're curious, Battleground should re-air a few times on TNT over the next month or so. Keep an eye out for it. You shant regret it.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Further down the rabbi...er, Shanghai hole
Back in June I went looking for documented evidence on the legends surrounding the Shanghai Tunnels that run under Old Town. Everything I found on the internet led back to Michael Jones, who runs the Cascade Geographical Society and arranges tunnel tours via the society's webpage. The initial post caught the eye of David Schargel from Portland Walking Tours who provided information suggesting that the tunnels were never, as the legends claims, used as opium dens, torture cells or to lure 19th century sailors into a life of servitude at sea.
I wanted to dive into the Multnomah County Library's online archives but I couldn't because I let my card expire years ago. I finally got around to getting a new one and spent part of the afternoon digging around. The first thing that turned up was a recent essay sitting in eLibrary's historical archives. The author claims that he tracked down a series of interviews conducted by a reporter at the Oregonian sometime in the 1930s. The reporter allegedly spoke with a few kidnapped sailors that lived to tell the tunnel's tales. An excerpt from the essay:
In a series of articles written by reporter Stewart Holbrook for the Oregonian newspaper in the early 1930s, Portland residents who had experienced shanghaiing talked about Turk. One interviewee, A.E. Clarke, told Holbrook about an incident in October 1891. Clarke was wandering down Burnside Street when he met a man who invited him aboard to a riverboat party. Clarke accepted the offer and spent the afternoon drinking and chatting with young women as the boat made its way to Astoria, a port town located where the Columbia River enters the Pacific Ocean. Once there, Clarke was told to sign a passenger list so the crew would know when everyone was back on board, and then he was taken on a "tour" of an iron-hulled, deep-sea square-rigger called T. F. Oakes. At that point, Clarke and the other victims were held at gunpoint, manacled and shoved in a dark hold. It was seven years before Clarke saw Portland again.
The essay also included a few historical drawings like the one above of a drugged sailor being hauled onboard a ship.
This one suggests the level of extreme drunkenness found in various 19th century taverns and how they made crimping/shanghaiing easy for kidnappers. I wonder if this drawing was used by Prohibitionists. Sheesh.
From there I used Newsbank to search the Oregonian's archives. Unfortunately, they old go back to 1987. The past few years only turned up a few rundowns on Jones' underground tours but in 1991 columnist Phil Stanford wrote a series of articles on the subject. While his primary source for information was Jones, the articles inspired a few locals to send in their memories. One recollection from a local old timer:
Carl Olson, Southeast: "I just wanted you to know that the tunnels you're talking about -- the Portland caves, I always called them -- really exist. At least they used to. When I came to Portland from Idaho back in the '30s, I asked this friend of mind who happened to be a policeman about the Portland caves. He asked me if I wanted to see them, and, of course, I did.
Stanford ended the series with an article on his trip into the tunnels with Jones. At one point, they wound up in the basement of Old Town Pizza and found themselves at a dead-end when one of their colleagues supposedly became "possessed" by the spirit of A.E. Clark himself. An excerpt:
"Robert, are you all right?" I say. Caught in the pale beam of our one remaining light, his eyes seem to be focused on something far away. "Robert, say something. Are you here?"
I imagine it was a practical joke at Stanford's expense or maybe he made up this part of the series to give his readers an historical lesson. Whatever it was all about, he never followed-up and the series was never finished [insert creepy theremin music here].
From here, I could run downtown to the Central Library and track down the microfiche copies of those articles from the '30s. I don't know if I'm that curious. In other articles in the series, Stanford claims he found historical recounts of the various no-good-niks that used the tunnels for their wicked deeds. My only goal here was to see if there was anything to the legends beyond Jones' claims and there's plenty. Mission accomplised.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
And then my blanket was raped by a small dog
I fled to the beach on Saturday. I was listening to the Jackson 5 and watching the sun slip into the Pacific when, out of nowhere, a tiny, white dog appeared, slobbering all over the place and apparently feeling pretty randy. Without asking my or my beach blanket's permission, he immediately began humping it. Thirty yards away, a woman rushed to the scene.
So this is what it's like to go from a pleasant daze to abject horror in three seconds flat. When the woman ran up, without skipping a beat, she said....
"BUT MURPHY, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HIM!"
Murphy, perhaps realizing his bad form, stopped sexually assaulting my property and darted happily off down the beach. The woman apologized and reunited with her husband, continuing their reenactment of those "Moment Like This" resort ads.
And the song on that was playing on my iPod during all this?
"The Love You Save."
Hiding out at the "meh"vies
As you may have heard or experienced firsthand, this past weekend Portland received an unprovoked bitch slap from the God of Unbearable Heat. Among other things, the high temps proved the inside of my house feels like its about to burst into flames once the temperature climbs into the triple digits. No amount of fans, open windows or Jello Pudding Pops can render that little shack inhabitable on a hot day..
So like many other Stumptown schmucks without A/C, I fled. On Sunday afternoon I theater hopped around Tigard Cinemas. Some might say this qualifies as stealing but I'll counter with "so is charging $6.50 for a matinee ticket that cost $3.75 a few years ago." My $6.50 bought me a Clerks 2 and Lady in the Water double-feature. Time to play movie critic again.
CLERKS II: You've probably seen plenty of movies that you wind up enjoying despite your brain screaming "THIS IS DESTROYING ME" the whole time. Stoner comedies, '80s action movies, "rom coms"- all of them fall into this category. Some might describe these films as "so bad they're good" but that doesn't apply to Clerks 2. Maybe it's "so filled with f-bombs and donkey sex gags it's good" or "so overtly earnest it's good." As director Kevin Smith is willing to admit, he went "back to the well" with this one and it was a safe move on the heels of Jersey Girl, his failed attempt to make a movie that falls outside of the Jersey-centered universe of his previous efforts.
The hit/miss ratio is high here. Many of the jokes in Clerks II, like the encounter between two Lord of the Rings fanatics are lazy, even by Smith's standards, and aren't even worthy of an Attack of the Show sketch. A Bollywood/Fame-style dance number is completely out of place and falls flat. Jay and Silent Bob are left primarily in the background and only pop up occasionally to make funny but aimless references to Silence of the Lambs.
That said, the movie's strength lies in its bittersweet sincerity and Clerks II actually works better as a coming-of-age drama than a raunchy comedy. It's a Sixteen Candles for the underemployed, pop-culture obsessed, 30-somethings, complete with montages that magically make everything turn out all right.
After all these years, Randal and Dante are still likable characters and, amazingly, the actors behind them make the movie's incredibly cheesy scenes work. Take this one for example, when Randal storms out of the burger joint after running into an old high school nemesis, He flees to a nearby go-cart track because it serves as a reminder of better time. The scene is set to "Raindrops Keep Falling On Head." The whole thing should be laughable but, against the odds, it works. Somehow so does a montage set to Smashing Pumpkin's "1979," one of the most embarrassingly earnest rock ballads of the '90s.
I won't reveal the ending but it's a perfect capper to Smith's rambling Jersey series and a much better conclusion than the one Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back dished out back in 2001. If you're a sucker for the director's movies, you'll love it despite your nagging brain's attempts to tell you the movie sucks. If you can't stand Smith's schmaltzy side or when he hits full-blown fart joke mode, you'll walk out right about the time Joel Siegel did.
LADY IN THE WATER: There really is no defending this movie. Everything the critics have said about it are correct. Lady in the Water is incoherent, self-indulgent, overlong and riddled with plot holes. I thought M. Night Shyamalan's Signs was a, well, sign of what happens when you give a high-profile director tens of millions of dollars and complete carte blanche over the final product. But at least that movie made sense and was entertaining up until the last twenty minutes.
Simply put, Lady in the Water is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Much like the fairy tale that allegedly inspired it, the film seems like the director is making everything up as he goes along. It's like listening to the creative writing project of a middle schooler obsessed with the Redwall series. I can imagine M. Night giddily explaining the plot to the suits at Disney before they laughed him out of the room and all the way to Warner Brothers. "You see, there's this underwater world inhabited by peace-loving aqua people. Every once in a while, they send a random, naked girl through a portal that leads to a swimming pool at a random apartment complex in Pennsylvania. Once there, the girl magically cures stuttering and inspires a single resident to write a world-changing political tome before flying back to her underwater world on the back of...an eagle, that's it, an eagle. Oh, and giant wolves with grass growing on their backs hate the aqua people for some reason but monkeys made of bark that live in a nearby forest hate them and protect everybody but a certain movie critic that lives on the fourth floor and..."
Two. Hours. Of. This. Shit. Hey, M. Night, why do the grass wolves hate Bryce Howard? And why do the monkeys hate the wolves? Did they pop out of a portal too? Why do the aqua people care about what's going on in Pennsylvania? Why can't Paul Giamatti's character kill the grass dogs with a lawnmower or a few gallons of Roundup? How can he possibly hold his breath for ten minutes straight when he dives into
Let me do you a favor by RUINING THE ENDING, thus elimating any reason for you to see this thing. Everything works out. The eagle swoops down and saves Howard, Giamatti comes to terms with the death of his family, M. Night writes his political tome, and the monkeys pop out of nowhere to kill the big, bad grass wolf. Giamatti falls to his knees and, overjoyed, cries in the rain as the film fades to the credits.
Don't go see this movie unless you've never seen another fantasy movie or have read a fantasy book. It's not so bad it's good or so bad it's gone from good back to bad again. It's just bad. Plain and simple. You will hate Lady in the Water and you will regret seeing it even if, like me, you snuck in on an otherwise boring and boiling Sunday.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Sometimes you win and lose
The temperature outside is quickly climbing towards 104 F.
I'll be spending the afternoon and most of the evening inside an air conditioned office, where it's a downright moderate 68 F...
...but within five feet of a coworker with a really bad head cold.
I'll be back next week with more of the same. Until then, here's a not-so-random You Tube video:
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Weird times in Old Town
As the Pearl District continues to creep its way towards the Willamette, many would say Old Town is no longer the semi-urban wasteland it was a decade or more ago. While sailors are no longer getting shanghaied down there and junkies that look like they stepped out of an early Gus Van Sant movie are becoming increasingly hard to spot, that isn't to say urban blight doesn't creep up every now and again. Take, for example, this anecdote from someone I know who works as a technician for Qwest.
This unnamed tech was working at a phone terminal on an Old Town sidewalk last week when a homeless guy and a dazed 20-something wandered up. A snippet of their conversation:
HOMELESS GUY: "This girl was just stabbed by a guy in a wheelchair and the cops don't care!"
DAZED 20-SOMETHING: "..."
She seems out of it but unharmed, except for a quarter-size hole in the shoulder of her t-shirt. The girl is clean-cut and looks like she might be a PSU student.
TECH: "I'll call the police."
HOMELESS GUY: "I already did that and they don't care! We've been waiting an hour for them!"
TECH: "I don't know what else to do."
At this point, the homeless guy wanders off while muttering to himself, leaving the tech and the girl to contend with her transparent wounds.
TECH: "Would you like me to contact the authorities?"
A long, awkward pause later...
20-SOMETHING: "I just want you to know that you're really cool, Mr. Phone Man."
She then turns and rounds the corner as if nothing had happened. After I heard the story, I assumed she might have suffered a head injury. Or may have been off her meds or on something far stronger. The tech, who has encountered his fair share of delusional pedestrians in his time, let it go at that and got back to work.
So, now a question: if you had been standing there, what would you have done?
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
No rock n' roll fun
These tickets may not have been worth three hours in line on a Saturday morning but I was already up at the crack of 7 AM. Why? Because of the construction crew that has spent the last two months sloooooooowly building a pair of houses near my place of residence. They like to get an early start, fully exploiting Portland's noise ordinances, which allow them to make as much noise as they like between the hours of 7 AM and 6 PM, Monday - Saturday.
7 AM! On Saturdays! What godless troglodyte came up with this?!!
My alarm clock for the past several weeks has been the shrill call of a mobile crane vehicle the crew trucks in every morning. I'm treated to fifteen minutes of "BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" before they finally get it into place. If they have a reason for endlessly throwing that metal beast into reverse and waking up every living thing within four blocks, it's a mystery to me. This is followed by ten straight hours of pounding hammers, groaning machinery and workers shouting at each other. I'm amazed that my neighborhood, which consists almost entirely of late-to-rise summer undergrads and stay-at-home-all-day retirees, hasn't run these Craftsman-wielding sociopaths out of town with torches and pitchforks.
As for myself, the situation would be easier to live with if it wasn't for my work schedule, which forces me to be semi-nocturnal. As it stands now, I have to be in bed by my equivalent of 8 PM to get a decent night's sleep. I also now make an effort to avoid the place entirely on my days off. My hammock has barely been graced by my butt cheeks this summer because of these....these....big, mean meanies!
And the crew keeps littering my yard with ice cream sandwich wrappers and Safeway bags. And I have to breath the fumes of their rarely-serviced Honey Bucket if I want to check the mail. And one of their trucks knocked over my mailbox last month.
Mailbox assault aside, the construction company behind this is well within its legal rights but my life has been seriously disrupted since they invaded the neighborhood around Cinco de Mayo. I now have to choose between six days a week of sleep deprivation or sitting around the house each morning while listening to the not-so-subtle sounds of noise pollution.
In short, this bites. Worse yet, the house that was torn down to make way for the two new ones was sitting on three lots. The third lot, which remains unsold, will inevitably be hit by another construction job in the future.
Yeah, I know. "Boo-hoo-hoo" I can hear you saying. "Take this opportunity to get up early, ya' bum. Rise with the summer sun! It'll be raining again before ya' know it." But, really, when you get right down to it, there's nothing to do at 8 AM on a Tuesday morning but putter around the house or lounge outdoors (with the noise and dust flying around). The only thing I'm getting out of all of this is a nervous twitch and the not-at-all reassuring fact that, in a small way, I'm helping maintain Portland's urban growth boundary.
After eleven weeks of noise pollution, I've become a full blown NIMBY convert. Tear down the forests! Extend Portland's boundaries all the way west to Oney's Restaurant and all the way east to Burns! Just, for the love of God, let me sleep in past 7 on Saturday mornings!
Monday, July 17, 2006
The time my grandmother went to Mary's Club...
So this is a belated tribute to the late, great Roy Keller, a local pioneer of a different breed. I can't say I ever met the man personally but, a few months ago, I watched his daughter and a bouncer break up a fist fight in Mary's Club, the old piano bar down on SW Broadway that he transformed into the region's first strip club.
While it may not be what comes to mind when you're slapping a "keep Portland weird" bumpersticker on your car, I'll go out on a limb here and say it's one of the most unique businesses in town. Take, for example, the black-lit mural of shipyards that wrap around the back wall. Mary's Club also shares a swinging door with El Grillo, the Mexican restaurant next door where you can order a beef tongue burrito.
Word to the wise, if you ever have to hit the bathroom while dining there, you'll have to head next door. To be honest, this is why Mary's Club holds the title of "First Strip Club I've Ever Set Foot In." They also have this really amazing stripper with a giant snake tattoo that spins around like a break dancer and, while hanging upside and slowly sliding down the stage's pole, can jiggle her...nevermind. The place is weird, you get the idea.
Also, as I just learned over the weekend, once upon a time Mr. Keller was my grandparents' neighbor. Somehow, back in the early '60s when Mary's Club was making the transition between piano bar and full-fledged strip club, my grandfather convinced his wife and his sister to head down there for a night on the town. As she regaled my mother with this story a few days ago, my grandmother reportedly told tale of a "shocking" cabaret singer on stage that evening. "She came out dressed like a man," she said. "A man! Can you believe it?!" And then, much like Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria, she sang a couple of songs and that was pretty much it.
I don't know if either of my grandparents know what goes on down there nowadays. Maybe I should call them up and tell them about the snake lady.
Here's to you, Mr. Keller. Thanks for helping to turn Portland into the city with the highest amount of strips clubs per capita in the United States. And for given my elders something to blush about all these years later.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Random links: geek edition
Getting straight to the point...
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Now you're playing with power
I made the call at 1 on the Friday afternoon leading up to Memorial Day weekend. There was a GameCube waiting for me in Eugene. All I had to do was swap it for my long-neglected Playstation 2. I was in Portland and its owner was 105 miles away. What to do?
The owner and I decided to meet at a rendezvous point halfway between our respective locations: the steps of the State Capitol building. Why not? We both had the afternoon off and nothing better to do. She had a ten mile handicap so I gave her a fifteen head start. It was a close race. I beat her by 45 seconds.
I'd never been inside before. My grade school made plenty of field trips to OMSI and that one Native American lodge that everyone remembers going to but can never recall the name of or location. Portland Public Schools denied me the opportunity to see Neil Goldschmidt's office at his height of his glory...not that's entirely a bad thing.
So we wandered inside. I played with the ostentatious, foot-pedal urinals in men's room (your tax dollars at work) and we embarked on a self-guided tour. At 4 PM on the day before a holiday weekend, the place was all but abandoned. With nary a lobbyist scampering about, we wandered into the House and Senate and took a look at the paintings of past governors in the marble hallways upstairs. The best one was a portrait of a former gov striking a Napoleonic pose on an Oregon coastline.
Then we passed Governor Kulongoski's office. In the reception room a bored intern (?) was killing time until 5 o'clock. "Go ahead and sit at his desk, if you want," he said, not looking up from his computer monitor. The double-doors leading into the governor's chambers were wide open. Another set of doors led to his inner-sanctum and were shut tight. "That's the desk where he signs bills," the receptionist said from the other room.
It's an opportunity no doubt given to every single school kid that passes through on a field trip but there was one chief difference: we had the place practically to ourselves. So what would you do if you were left unattended in the office of one of the most inconsequential governors in state history? Carve your initials into the underside of his desk? Write something obnoxious with finger grease on the windows? Try to smuggle the curtains past the receptionist? Dig through the drawers in search of Barbara Roberts' long-lost, little, black book?
I'll be perfectly honest: my little, black heart and completely indifferent conscious convinced me to try the drawers. Inside there could have been a parody bill, drawn up by Kitzhaber on an idle Tuesday in 1997, banning alcohol in the state of Oregon with a rider legalizing marijuana. Or another dusty draft urging the state senate to give the governor emergency powers and complete control of the Oregon national guard and statewide law enforcement, just for kicks. For all we knew, DB Cooper's stolen loot could have been inside, stuffed in the back somewhere.
Of course, the drawers were locked. So instead we took photos of each other acting like idiots in Kulongoski's seat o' power. I have no idea if it's the same chair that has played host to the derrieres of all of Oregon's past governors but it was creaky and certainly looked at least a century old.
After 45 minutes in the Capitol Building, we had learned absolutely nothing about state government. I wish I had possessed enough foresight to bring along a box full of Superballs. They would have looked fantastic bouncing off all those marble steps and the state seal in the rotunda.
"Spare me my life!"
This one's for Kenny. C'mon at'cha straight from the Nagoya underground, compliments of "AD." Thanks, "AD"!
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Everything I really need to know I learned from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Avast, thar be spoilers ahead but it's not too late to alter course. If you haven't seen the movie, poppet, now would be a good time to stop readin'. Arrrrr? Yarrrr.
Feline vs. feline
The Japanese didn't create game shows but this is further proof that they've perfected the genre. Not quite purrfected but they're getting there.
Monday, July 10, 2006
R.I.P. Nina's Italian Restaurant
No one heads to the coast in search of spaghetti. I've always imagined that only locals dine in the occassional Chinese and fast food restaurants that break up the monotony of establishments specializing in fried oceanic critters. While I've never eaten chow mein in a place with an ocean view, I was once and am forever a big fan of Nina's Italian Restaurant in Manzanita.
So I shed a tear when I pulled into their parking lot last week to find an entirely different restaurant had taken its place. Nina's lasted only a year in its new digs after moving up the highway from its previous Wheeler location in the spring of 2005. A lot of the place's charm hadn't made the move but, when I visted last summer, the owners were still cranking out the best meatballs I've ever had.
What made Nina's so special in its formers digs wasn't just the meatballs or the garlic breadsticks that tasted like mana from heaven. The inside was like something out of the world's most cliched gangster movie. Red checkered table cloths, ancient framed photographs of the old country and a straight-to-the-point menu consisting mostly of Italian staples. The lounge in the back was lit mostly with candles and resembled the set of a straight-to-vodeo Godfather knockoff. Nina's looked like it was warped into the 21st century from the 1960s and, as far as I know, Italian restaurants like this don't exist anymore.
In my book, wooden panneling, comfort food and imported beer with pictures of mobsters on the label go a long way. Nina's also played host to the first time I dug into a taco pizza. I don't think I made it past a single slice. There are some places where sour cream just doesn't belong and on top of a pizza is one of them.
Nina's, you will be missed.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Tickets going fast...
...er than the speed of light?
I tried buying tickets to Sleater Kinney's last ever show at the Crystal Ballroom about five seconds after they went on sale over at Ticketmaster's website.
They were already sold out.
So I put in a phone call. There were no pre-sales for the event. According to the guy I spoke with, sometimes shows like this sell out in less than three seconds flat.
I wonder what's going on down at local Ticketmaster kiosks. If people camped out overnight, it was probably all for naught. Do people still camp out for concert tickets?
At 10:18...the $12 tickets were already selling for $100 on Craig's List.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Dispatches from the north coast
As previously mentioned, I spent the better part of this week roaming the 101. Here are some scattered notes....
....but my own attempt to write "boob" failed miserably.
Lady Liberty. Barefoot. Possibly pregnant.
All's fair in love and explosives?
I'm back from a brief hiatus with a sad tale out of Vancouver. Since 1980, Blackjack's Fireworks has been ubiquitous with the Fourth of July. Every year like clockwork, starting the last week in the June, their advertisements take over Portland radio, guiding pyromaniacs across the Columbia River to take advantage of their two-for-one and occasional three-for-one specials on festive explosives not-quite-legal in Oregon.
The ads were back this year and I couldn't resist their siren's call. With the Blues Festival blaring live via KBOO, I headed into "El 'Couv-acabra" last Saturday. Along the way, Blackjack's minions were posted on overpasses over I-5, dressed in oversized Uncle Sam hats and holding florescent banners. After turning off the freeway, a group of teenagers with similarly-colored banners guided me towards what I thought was Blackjack's. They even had a guy in an official-looking orange vest waving a directional light, suggesting that the infamous fireworks shack's parking area had been relocated.
I wound up at small, white tent that definitely wasn't the place I was looking for. Undaunted, I rounded the corner and blew past their cunning ruse. After parking, I noticed another white tent, this one two stories tall, plopped in front of Blackjack's iconic pirate sign. This one was enormous and surrounded by rock walls and inflatable carnival attractions.
I headed inside, assuming Blackjack's already impressive selection had outgrown their former digs. This place had everything still legal in the state of Washington. Five different kinds of Saturn Missile Launchers stacked from the ground the roof. $500 kits that could only be hauled home in a pick-up. Then, off in the distance, I heard a voice erupting out of a loudspeaker. "IF YOU WANT A CARNIVAL, HEAD NEXT DOOR! IF YOU WANT BLACKJACK'S TWO-FER-ONES, KEEP WALKING PAST THE ROCKWALL TO THE LITTLE YELLOW BUILDING!"
It was another ruse. A group of interlopers had apparently rented the space in front of Blackjack's to leech off of their advertising budget. Who knows how many Oregon pyros had come up here, found the tent, bought hundreds of dollars worth of fireworks and headed back across the river, completely oblivious to Blackjack's actual location nearby.
Sure, that's capitalism for you. Regardless, this is pretty underhanded and the equivalent of Wal-Mart opening a franchise in the parking lot of a hometown market. I headed next door and Blacjack's, which once attracted crowds willing to wait for over an hour just to get inside, was clearly hurting for business. The last time I headed up there I had to wait 75 minutes to get through the front doors. This time I walked right inside.
As usual, there were plenty of ridiculously-themed pyrotechnics up for grabs. I snuck around and took blurry camera photos of as many of them as possible. Apparently, firework makers are now employing jaded ex-graphic designers from The Onion to create their packaging.
A "King of Kings" firework, with Jesus pictured wearing a crown on a white horse, was selling as part of a two-for-one deal.
Also available were no less than three redneck-themed fireworks implying the damage they could do the body parts of those wiling to buy them.
I'm convinced that whoever designed "Enduring Freedom" was making some sort of social commentary by placing the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Consider the evidence above.
There was also another one called "Munitions Dump" with a cartoon character holding a match on the seal.
Despite my moralizing, I walked away with only $2 worth of sparklers. Even the pregnant teenager working the cash register was disgusted with me. In my defense, I'm still sitting on a small cache from last year. Plus, I later spent the Fourth in locale that has not only banned fireworks but has officers and undercover agents roaming the area in search of patriotic firebugs.
Hopefully, Blackjack's will overcome its new competition and rise triumphant over Vancouver's annual fireworks free-for-all. If not, it's the end of an era.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
So this is Independence Day and what have you done?
Another month over
And a new one just begun
[scanning ahead here...]
War is over, if we can impeach the man in the White House
except not, we're never going to get out of Iraq....
A very merry 4th of July
And a happy...are there any other holidays in July?
Let's hope it's a good one
Hey, did you hear about the US troops that allegedly slaughtered an Iraqi family after raping and killing their daughter? And that they also set her body on fire? Makes you proud to be an American, don't it?
As you can probably tell, I'm not really in the mood to celebrate our nation's 230th birthday, even those it's my favorite holiday of the year. Every time it seems like our image abroad can't get any worse, another bit of news like this emerges. Those out there that still support this war effort can't even break out the old, reliable "they're protecting our freedom" line. The Bush administration is working hard to get rid of all those pesky civil liberties along with the freedom of the press, aren't they? Hi, NSA. I really hope you enjoyed that lengthy call I made to my cell phone provider to argue about my bill the other night. I hear you're monitoring domestic calls too now.
And what's Congress doing these days? Oh, yeah. Working hard on amendments to ban flag desecration when they're not bemoaning video games or pasing resolutions condemning the media. This is the same branch of government that got its tightie-whites in a bunch over Nixon's low-level shenanigans and Clinton's indiscretions but can't seem to muster up the courage to goaftertheworstpresidentinUShist....
...sheesh, I need to calm down. Take a deep breath. I sure am being a Grumpy Gus, aren't I? I think I know what I need to get into the holiday spirit. A nice, tall, cool can of...
....Ol' Glory, AKA "America's Best Energy Drink." Also stamped on the side of my can were the words "Keeping Americans STRONG." Let me crack this puppy open and take a sip....
....ahhhhhh, refreshing! What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah, the 4th of July. I'll be leaving town here shortly to spend the holiday in a place that has effectively banned fireworks, even those little cardboard chicken ones that spit out flaming eggs. I'll be back next week with another round of more of the same.
If you would like to buy your very own can of Ol' Glory, they're on sale at the Garden Home Thriftway. There should be a big display filled with them near the deli section.
Finally, here's a surreal photo of a coconut pirate trying to seduce one of the most misguided fireworks I've ever seen. I'm sure this will the strangest photo you see all day. If you're in the mood for more like it, click here or here.