April 2011

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Another Portland Blog

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Needs more placards

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Strange, new worlds at the Las Vegas Hilton

Last summer, a sibling and I went on a 10 day road trip that took us to Yellowstone, down to Las Vegas, over to Disneyland and back again. The Las Vegas stint was fairly uneventful. We drank cheap margaritas, we gambled a bit and we watched other people drink cheap margaritas and gamble a lot. One afternoon we headed over to the Las Vegas Hilton, expecting more of the same but with a Star Trek theme.

In the parking garage we encountered two guys dressed in full Trek regalia. Did they work for the casino? We had no idea. If so, patrolling a 110-degree parking garage in a military uniform and Klingon makeup had to be painful. Near the entrance, a readerboard told us everything we needed to know. A Star Trek convention was in town. Thousands of geeks from all over the world, many posing as employees of the United Federation of Planets, were clogging the casino's corridors. Just past the doors we could spot three dozen of them redeeming meal vouchers at a Pizza Hut.

Rather than turn and flee back to the MGM, I ran back to the car and fetched an Ewok doll that had served as a totem throughout our journey. What better way to spend an afternoon among 15,000 Star Trek fans than taunting them with a piece of merchandise from a competing franchise? With the Ewok held high, or at least partially visible, we confidently headed inside.

Now I'll be honest, I don't know much of anything about Star Trek and my sibling would be hard pressed to give you the name of Captain Kirk's heterosexual life partner with the pointy ears. I've seen the movies but I've never caught a single episode of any of the shows. When it comes to enduring sci-fi franchises with "Star" in their titles, I swing more towards Wars than Trek.

Our first stop was "The Star Trek Experience," a portion of the Hilton converted into a pseudo-theme park. In addition to a gaming floor with spaceships hung overhead, two rides, a museum, employees wandering around in alien suits and a gift shop that sells Klingon beer, there's a restaurant called "Quark's Bar." Around fifty Trekkies were lined up ahead of us. Nearby, stood a husband and wife dressed as upper brass in Federation uniforms. Quark himself (Wikipedia tells me he's a "Ferengi" bartender) was working the crowd and eventually wandered up to ask the husband for his name and rank. Without skipping a beat, he threw out information detailing his work history in this imaginary universe. The husband was the captain of a Federation Starship that had seen action in the past but, in recent years, was stuck on Earth patrol, apparently a shit gig in the Star Trek universe.

Quark didn't offer us a second glance. If there was a social order in the Las Vegas Hilton that afternoon, our t-shirts and the Ewok had earned us a spot on the bottom rung.

Once seated, we ordered a pizza shaped like a Federation logo and a large, glowing cocktail filled with rum and dry ice. All around us: a table of Vulcans, a heavy-set Klingon dripping sweat, a booth full of lieutenants and a guy dressed as LeVar Burton's character. I wonder what Hunter S. Thompson circa 1972 would have made of a Vegas scene like this. Dozens of people in Hollywood make-up and immaculate space fatigues, all drinking heavily and pretending like they were living in the 23rd century. It was loud and I couldn't make out their conversations. How far were they taking this cosplay stuff? Were they talking shop? Discussing warp drives and the tactics Captain Pickard used in the same way Civil War buffs bicker over Sherman's March to the Sea?

Our waitress, an undergrad who looked she would have been more comfortable working a register at a Hot Topic, acted like she was embarrassed to be there. I remember her saying, "Yeah, they come through in droves once a year, every August, for this thing." She told us she once worked at a restaurant at Treasure Island. Who are the better tippers, the norms on the Strip or the Trekkies? Her answer: the Trekkies.

We spent the next hour in "The Experience." A spin on the Borg ride would have run us $30 a head. We passed and took pictures of the Ewok instead. I didn't have the nerve to butt through a small ocean of photographers to get a shot of the doll with four Klingons wielding plastic swords. This gal was willing though. I never did figure out if she worked there or was a random fan.

The Ewok also spent some time mingling with a display case full of furballs called "Tribbles" in the gift shop. The Klingon beer I bought is still sitting in my fridge.

We eventually made it up to the convention floor, where Trek Christmas was going full throttle. Many of the key players from all of the shows were in attendance. Giant banners covered the walls: Scott Bakula 20 feet tall. Near the entrance sat a recreation of a bridge from the original series. Sweet Jesus, this stuff covered every surface. Sure, they were Xeroxes but even the "no smoking" signs had Trek plastered all over them.

Inside a large banquet hall, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were doing a Q&A. We snuck in and caught the last question. After triumphantly bowing like a pair of Caesars, they headed into another room to sign autographs. We had nothing on the agenda for the rest of the afternoon. Getting a photo of the Ewok with Spock and Kirk suddenly became a mission worth wasting several hours on.

The entrance and line leading to the two of them was blocked by several guards. We asked an employee what it would take to meet Nimoy and Shatner. We would have needed to purchase a day pass for $60 and another $30 "Meet and Greet" pass that wouldn't guarantee us anything. $180 all together and the the very real possibility that three hours in line wouldn't get us jack squat. Common sense kicked in and we decided to head over to the Hard Rock Casino instead.

But not before a geek who had been eavesdropping on our haggling could toss in his two cents. He was disgusted by the two us, by the Ewok and our ignorance of all things Trek. For him, it was as if we had wandered into the Super Bowl and couldn't name either of the teams on the field. A snippet of the conversation that ensued:

TREK JUNKIE: "You had no idea this was happening today?!!"

ME: "Uh, no."

TREK JUNKIE: "You didn't see all the advertising on the internet? On TV? I know people that have been looking forward to this since Thanksgiving, for...their...their....whole lives!!"

ME: "Oh, that's nice."

He couldn't process our apathy. We might as well have cluelessly wandered into Haj or the inner sanctums of the Vatican for an out-of-the-clear-blue chat with the Pope. What was $180 in exchange for thirty seconds spent in the presence of living gods like Shatner and Nimoy? From his perspective, we were squandering the opportunity of a lifetime. We were going to leave all this, an event 1,000 times more important than the birth of Christ, to look at one of Keith Richard's guitars down the street and maybe stop at a Starbucks afterwards.

Either his head was going to explode or he was going to declare jihad on the two of us. We headed for the exits before he could decide on the best course of action.

Click here for more photos from the Hilton.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Gerald Ford...

...is dead.

Long live Gerald Ford?

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Christmas in the Northwest

Every year, local radio station K103 switches to an all Christmas format between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Between songs, the staff runs bumper station IDs wistfully describing what makes the season so magical in the Northwest. One run ad-nauseam is completely Portland-centric and goes a little something like this:

"It's the Christmas ships floating down the Willamette,
it's the lights on Peacock Lane,
it's the chill in the air in Waterfront Park,
that's Christmas in the Northwest"

I'm not sure who spends a lot time in Waterfront Park this time of year but I don't think K103 has quite captured what it's like to celebrate the holidays in Portland. Here's my revised version...

It's the Christmas ships that look like tiny little dots if you're not standing down on the marina or over near OMSI...

It's the still open supermarket on Christmas afternoon....

It's the Santa window displays at the downtown Macy's...

...and the realization that the creepy Siberian Santa could totally kick Russian Santa's butt...

It's going to the Festival of Lights, even though you're not Catholic, standing around trying to feel all spiritual before heading over to the petting zoo to feed that one sheep that jumps over all the other sheep and will steal food right out of your hands...

It's getting trapped in a traffic jam in a parking garage at Lloyd Center on the 23rd...

It's the unintentionally pornographic Abominable Snowman display on Peacock Lane (sorry, you'll have to take my word for it or head over there to see it for yourself)...

Ok, so I'm terrible at writing radio bumper ads. Happy Xmas, everybody.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Random Links: 368 Days Until Christmas '07 Edition

'Twas three nights before Christmas and all through the office,
everyone was swearing, because the company scheduled,
a major project before a holiday weekend

Sorry for the nonexistent rhyme scheme. My corporate overlords aren't helping the ol' muse today. Anyway....

  • Gus Van Sant: drunk driver Still, I can't imagine that he called anyone "sugar tits."

  • Looking for $100 ideas? Millions of them? You can find them over here at MoHDI.

  • I wonder how long it will take them to turn these into condos.

  • If you were born between 1975 and 1983, you may have fond memories of this and not even know it.

  • Now even Disney has declared war on the holiest and jolliest of holidays. If Fox News is to be believed, the Baby Jesus just can't get a break these days (thanks go out to Pete for passing along this link).

  • But I think the Smurfs are on his side. Or completely neutral. Their holiday celebration seems pretty non-secular. Honestly, they might swing either way in the ongoing War on Christmas

  • Everyone else is linking to this so I guess it means I have to do the same.

  • Well, this was inevitable.

  • I'm a fan of his Halloween special but Garfield also had a Christmas one at some point in the '80s. Hmmm, you learn something new every day.

  • Simon Sez Santa is back this year and he's even more surly than the '05 model

  • Not to end this on a sad note but it's a shame that the Alpenrose family decided not to bring back "Christmas in Dairyville" this year. The festival was an annual tradition going back decades. Unfortunately, they made the tough decision to pull the plug this year because of low attendance. I have a lot of warm/fuzzy childhood memories of heading over to the dairy with family to watch cartoons in the opera house and visit Santa. Here's hoping it makes a comeback in 2007. If not, I'm happy to say we headed over there one last time in 2005. If you're unfamiliar or in the mood for a walk down memory lane, click here for a Flickr gallery.


    The Christmas compilation

    While the chances of it rattling any pillars are slim, I did slap together a Christmas compilation last week. I tracked down 100 songs and whittled them down to two hours worth of material, filling two CDS. Some of the highlights:

  • Run DMC: "Christmas in Hollis."

  • '80s-era Xmas commercials for Fruity Pebbles, Oreo cookies, the NES and Chicken McNuggets.

  • The Ramones: "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight)."

  • Speedy Gonzalez: "The Sombrero I Got For Christmas Is Too Big."

  • Canned Heat/Alvin and the Chipmunks: "Christmas Boogie."

  • Bob Rivers: "Santa Claus Is Foolin' Around" (a great parody of that grating Bruce Springsteen song that litters the FM dial this time of year).

  • Johnny Cash: "Blue Christmas."

  • Weird Al Yankovic: "Christmas at Ground Zero."

  • Tom Waits: "Silent Night."

  • The Smurfs: "Christmas With the Smurfs."

  • Another thousand ideas are springing to mind. I wonder, are these discs weird/annoying enough? Do they each pack enough obscure novelty songs and '80s kitsch to sufficiently irritate my folks as we trek out to Peacock Lane on Christmas Eve? If I'm driving, we will NOT be tuning in to K-103 to listen to Amy Grant and Kenny G, dammit. Or that Starbucks Xmas compilation!

    I wonder what typing "Mr. T" and "Christmas" into Soulseek would have turned up. He cut a few albums in the early '80s. If he did a Mother's Day song, I'm sure he slapped together a Christmas one at some point. I guess there's always time to whip together a volume 3 by Sunday.

    Thursday, December 21, 2006


    It's Christmas all over the world

    Earlier today I received an email from Pete, a colleague who will be spending the holidays in Thailand. Currently, he's hanging around Koh Samui. I doubt that Christmas is widely celebrated on the country's second largest island but, after spending some time on Wikipedia, I know plenty of other factoids about it. Including:

  • Reflecting Samui's growth as a tourist destination, the Cunard ship MS Queen Victoria (a 2000-plus passenger ship) will dock at Samui during its 2008 world cruise.

  • Muay Thai boxing takes place regularly at the island's stadium in Chaweng.

  • Numerous animal attractions are dotted around the island, including a crocodile farm, monkey theater, elephant trekking, a snake farm, an aquarium and a butterfly garden.

  • Big Buddha is a twelve-meter high statue of the Buddha, which lies at the top of ceremonial dragon-steps at the Wat Phra Yai. Samui also has a number of other impressive temples, including Wat Khunaram, where the mummified body of Loung Pordaeng, a monk who died in a meditating position, is on display.

  • The Grandmother and Grandfather rocks close to Lamai beach are an occasional source of amusement for tourists, due to their striking similarity to a penis and vagina, male and female respectively.

  • Monkey theaters, elephant rides, kickboxing and geological formations that resemble "naughty parts"? A "Christmas in the Northwest" has nothing up on a Christmas spent in Southeast Asia.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006


    Where science meets imputation

    A while back, a few colleagues and I headed down to OMSI. They're currently hosting a traveling exhibit called "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination." As children of the '80s, there was no chance we could resist the siren call of getting to see the Chewbacca costume up close.

    While the exhibit does mix in a few displays linking emerging technologies to the Star Wars universe, it's mostly an excuse to trot out props and miniatures from the original trilogy. Oh, and they also had a teenager in a Boba Fett costume around to pose for photos.

    The A-ticket attraction is a full-scale recreation of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. For $5 we could have sat in Han Solo's seat and hit a few buttons to launch ourselves into a green screen hyperspace. Unfortunately, tickets were sold out for the rest of the day.

    Oh well, at least we were able to stand within three feet of R2D2 and Luke's Landspeeder.

    And these programmable robots were pretty gosh darn swell. It took a few tries but we finally managed to coax him across a patch of bumpy terrain and across a finish line.

    All in all, it was at least 15 times cooler/geekier than the Star Trek exhibit that came through town years ago while I was still in grade school. I'm averaging about one trip to OMSI every eight years. It's nice to see they've held on to a few of the old classic exhibits. It's getting tougher and tougher to get in and out of that old lunar module with each passing decade.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006


    On the first day of Christmas, my car gave to me...

    ...a breakdown at 2 AM...

    ...a white-knuckle tow truck ride...

    ...and a massive repair bill.

    Last week I stopped by Voodoo Doughnut on my way home from a six-hour stint at the Rose Garden. As far as I was concerned, everything was right and good in the world. I had spent the evening watching an arena rock show, two episodes of The Colbert Report were waiting for me at home and a Captain Crunch-covered doughnut was riding shotgun.

    I should have known that whoever operates the Wheels of Fate would consider this a perfectly appropriate time to bring the hammer down. At the intersection of 3rd and Washington, my car's engine, as if struck by a Bolt O' Death from a bored deity, completely shut down. I had just enough inertia to get off the road and into a parking spot. I returned fire with my AAA card and put in a call for a late-night tow.

    Thirty minutes later, a jittery tow truck guy arrived at the scene. Still half-conscious and in a zombie state of mind after rolling out of bed minutes prior, he hitched up the car and we headed west. He looked like he had been awake for days and confessed that this wasn't his night to be "on call." Eager to get back to bed, the driver put the pedal to the metal, blasting through downtown's one-way streets at no less than ten miles over the speed limit. After running a red light he said with a laugh, "that didn't just happen."

    At 3 AM on a rainy December night with few options, what would you have done? I double-checked my seatbelt and began a silent prayer to God, the Spaghetti Monster and whoever else might be up at that hour as the driver chugged an unknown substance from a Big Gulp cup. The rain pounding on the windshield, he hurtled the truck towards the US-26 onramp. Weaving over the lines, he hunched over the wheel like a video game junkie snared in the middle a Command and Conquer binge. His eyes were blinkless. Heading into a tight turn onto the 217, he made another confession. In his haste to get downtown, he accidentally dumped gasoline all over the back of his truck and on one of the tires while filing the tank. The truck was now, officially, a Deathmobile. "Things are pretty slick back there," he said with a snarl. "I should probably take this 260 turn a little slow."

    Expecting to see the restraints holding my car to give way, he hit the brakes and eased into the turn. We made it to a repair shop in Beaverton without further incident.

    Whatever he had been drinking finally kicked in. Alive and alert, he offered to haul me back across the westside to my house (and further jack up the bill he would be sending to AAA in the morning). The rain had reached monsoon levels. Even if I tracked down the number for a cab, there's no way the operator would hear me over the downpour. I jumped back in the cab and we headed back towards the river.

    Two days later, on my way home from work, I noticed smoke coming from the car's engine. I put in another call to AAA. The second driver was a 20-something who had come to Portland with a degree in Criminology. This was his way of killing time until a police academy came calling.

    The verdict from the repair shop: the mechanic had used a cleaning chemical known to evaporate once the engine heats up, thus the smoke. They threw in a detail job to make up for the inconvenience. The inside of the car now looks like something you would see on an Armor All commercial.

    Now that it smells like a new car, I hope it drives like one for a while.

    Monday, December 18, 2006


    In place of actual content...

    ...here's all twenty-two minutes of A Fat Albert Christmas.

    Thursday, December 14, 2006


    Death Camry For Not-So Cutie

    A conversation from last night:

    ME: "Hi, Mom. The Camry died again. I just called AAA for a tow."

    MY MOM: "What?!! Again?!! After you dumped all that money into getting it fixed?"

    ME: "Yeah, I know. Uh....er...hmmm...there's smoke coming out of the hood. I think the car might be on fire. Yeah....I'm pretty sure it's on fire."

    Needless to say, it's been a helluva week in my neck of the City of Roses. It could be another day or a week before you see me around here again.

    Meanwhile, "The Storm of the Decade" is raging outside my office window.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006


    Rose, hold the guns

    On Monday night I found myself sitting in the upper decks of the Rose Garden. Down below, a mostly nude, tattoo-soaked Suicide Girl had just taken the stage. As she gyrated to a Led Zeppelin song and waived around an Indiana Jones-style whip, I took note of a father and son sitting in front of me. The father was staring across the arena, his blushing face visible despite the darkness. The kid, all of ten, passed the time by staring at the floor, occasionally stealing glances at the stage. They looked like they had just rolled in from a trip to buy Xmas presents at Best Buy. Later, three other girls trotted out dressed in stewardess uniforms. They tore off their clothes while acting out the instructions in a flight manual. By the time they poured chocolate syrup all over themselves, the father's head had exploded and the son had climbed over the man's corpse to move down to the 100-level for a closer look.

    Of course, that last bit is completely made up. Still, I'm sure the evening is one that will live long in their memories. This incident reminds me of the time a friend's father made the mistake of taking a group of fifth graders to OMSI for a Guns N' Roses laser light show sometime in the late '80s. During "Paradise City," a nude woman drawn with a green laser ran around the dome. All the man could do was bury his head in his hands.

    Here's hoping that someday the father and son will be able to laugh about Monday night's opening act. I wonder what they told the mother this morning when she asked, "So, how was the Axl Rose concert?"

    Let there be no mistake about that. On Monday night, Guns N' Roses didn't play the Rose Garden, Axl did. And, just like in the old days, he took his time getting on stage. The "sold out" crowd sat through three opening acts: the Suicide Girls, a local metal band called Helmet and Sebastian Bach. After Bach finished his lame, wannabe David Lee Roth act, complete with a five minute tirade about a security guard, Axl showed himself around 10 to midnight.

    As everybody knows, where Axl goes, confrontations and controversy are sure to follow. You might think middle-age would mellow him but, in the last year alone, he started another feud with ex-bandmate Slash, bit a security guard, got into a fight with Tommy Hilfiger and, well, the rest can be found here. Despite the delay, the once legendary frontman behaved himself. No temper tantrums and, together with his new band, he played just about everything anyone in the audience could have hoped for. This latest incarnation of Guns N' Roses covered every song on Appetite for Destruction, with one huge, notable exception, along with beloved chestnuts like "Used to Love Her (But I Had to Kill Her)." Perhaps more amazing: Axl can still screech like a cat attached to a car battery. The fact that he can still hit the high notes on "Welcome to the Jungle" is either a testament to the wonders of modern medical science or rampant drug abuse and misogyny.

    The crowd was stuffed full of aging metal heads and stoned teenagers. They made up for Axl's good behavior with their own brand of low-level debauchery. I counted no less than two puddles of vomit in one stairwell. Two guys in their forties killed time during the opening acts drunkenly shouting obscenities. A teen sitting behind me threw up in the row behind him. Around that time, I decided to sneak down to the 100-level. As Axl and his band began "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," someone sitting in a sky box decided to throw a full beer at my head. I immediately broke out the appropriate tactic in response: I ran over to a security guard, whined like a little girl and talked him into letting me move down another seven rows. Or maybe storming the sky box would have been the right move?

    Axl's set was pompous, pretentious and overblown. All things considered, that's what I was hoping for. If he hadn't brought along the fireball machines for "Live and Let Die" I would have left disappointed. During the long intermission between acts, the road crew raised banners with Mandarin symbols behind the stage to help promote the likely never-to-be-released Chinese Democracy, now reportedly the most expensive album ever recorded. When the lights went down, search lights scanned the crowd. During the encore, propaganda films played on the stage's view screen. A shower of sparks spiraled down onto Axl's piano and the band during the closing riffs of a note-perfect "November Rain." Around 2 AM, the band began the opening cords of "Patience." Now approaching their sixth hour in the Rose Garden, those remaining exhaustedly waived their lighters back and forth in the air.

    Then came the encore. I suspect that most of us had stayed for thing and one thing only: "Paradise City." Instead, Axl returned to the stage to break out two tedious Chinese Democracy tracks. The later, which included a lengthy audio excerpt from an MLK speech, was so self-aggrandizing that it not only bordered on parody, it delved into full-blown Spinal Tap territory. Bleary-eyed and dreading their alarm clocks, the angry crowd headed out into the miserable December Rain wondering "No 'Paradise City'? WTF, Axl, WTF?!!!"

    Axl Rose: still pissing everyone off after all of these years.

    Monday, December 11, 2006


    A Christmas compilation to rattle the pillars of Heaven

    Last week while listening to the streaming Christmas jukebox over at X-Entertainment I decided I "need" to put together a mix CD of offbeat, semi-obscure holiday songs. I'm looking for suggestions, if anyone out there has any, but nothing you can find on the radio this time of the year. So no "Feliz Navidad" or John Lennon's ghost singing about how it's all our fault that the Vietnam War didn't come to a more timely conclusion. Instead, I'm looking for stuff that would somehow fit snugly between Tom Waits' cover of "Silent Night" and Speedy Gonzalez's long forgotten lament about the year Santa Claus brought him a hat three sizes too big. If that's even possible. Anything spring to mind?

    Click on the first link above to have a listen to what inspired this little project. XE's online compilation consists of the old time favs you can find on the radio along with decades-old novelty songs like "Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey" and another about what it's like to spend Xmas with the Smurfs. I recommend Twisted Sister's cover of "Come All Ye Faithful." It pops up about halfway down the playlist.


    A report from part one of SantaCon '06

    Outlaws is the perfect place for Santa. Cowboys love a drunk. Even more, they love profane drunken holiday icons. And lucky for Santa, the third floor is a strip club.

    But there were no strippers. Santa remedied that. Three lady Santas took to the pole and began to do a pretty good job of twirling and shedding their clothes — maybe too good of a job, because a large security guy got on stage and removed the topless Santas so a "real" stripper could perform. Surprisingly, the Santas were better dancers.

    Click here for more.

    I was in the Virginia Cafe around 11 and, amazingly, one Santa was still going strong in what had to be his 12th straight hour of drinking. A tip of the hat to you, good sir.

    Friday, December 08, 2006


    If you ask the internet a question...

    You may remember Brian "Rocket Guy" Walker, the Bend inventor that became a media sensation six or so years ago after attempting to build his own spaceship. When his launch deadline came and went, he seemingly disappeared from existence. I wrote a post about him a while back. At the end I asked "are you out there, Rocket Guy?" but never expected a response. Well, it took a while but I finally got one.

    Of course, Walker never got the message but at least one other person out there has been wondering the same thing. In this month's issue of Portland Monthly there's an article by freelance writer Tim Neville titled "The Rise (and Fall) and Rise (and Fall) and Rise of Rocket Guy" that explains the hurdles that have prevented Walker from launching himself into the stratosphere.

    And, yeah, my old blog post about Walker landed a mention in the article. Well, kind of. Tim contacted me a few months ago and asked if he could use a quote. Here's the excerpt:

    By 2004, not only had Walker failed even to test his prototype rocket, but he had stopped posting updates to his web site and stopped answering most of his fan mail; the man who called himself Rocket Guy had simply fallen off the face of the earth. Fans, however, still wondered where he was. "Is Walker still working on his dream to fly to space?" one Portland based blogger recently lobbed into the blogosphere. "Are you still out there Rocket Guy?"

    Portland Monthly doesn't post its stories online but a copy can found on news stands around town. Walker's life story is sure to become a part of Oregon lore, the sort of real-life tall tale that I imagine people will still be talking about decades from now ala the exploding whale. At the very least, it's the only story you'll find in a local publication this month involving spaceships, Russian brides, millionaire toy inventors, assault rifles, the Alvord AND Snoop Dogg.


    Random links: SantaCon Eve edition

    All the links and news for you to peruse that you probably can't use:

  • First off, if running around Portland while drunk in a Santa Claus suit with likeminded others is your idea of a good time, you're in the luck. The mayhem beings Saturday at noon at Skidmore Fountain. Further info can be found by clicking here.

  • What could go on to become McMenamins' first debacle is set to open its doors on Tuesday the 12th. The Chapel Pub will be housed in a former mortuary on North Killingsworth. A wonderful use of an historic building or the worst example of crass gentrification imaginable? You be the judge. I won't be surprised if the Chapel Pub receives the same sort of welcoming as another restaurant over on NE Alberta. A few weeks ago the place was damaged by vandals who sprayed "gentrification - this way" near the front door. Good luck, guys. Further discussion about the pub's opening can be found over at Metroblogging Portland.

  • Looking for the perfect Xmas gift for the megalomaniacal supervillain in your life? This submarine is a steal at $2 million. The original price? Twice that.

  • Click here for the top ten Biblical verses that are rarely mentioned in church. My favorite? Number four.

  • If the real Mary Poppins movie were more like this maybe I wouldn't have slept through it as a child.

  • Only in Vancouver?

  • The proposal to revamp West Burnside and divert traffic on NW Couch could be a disaster but, if it comes together, at least it will look pretty.

  • Click here for a rundown on the ten most bizarre people on Earth. Included are a man that spent two years eating an airplane and another that discovered, after an operation, that the swollen stomach he was born with contained the remains of his mutated twin brother (!!!).

  • The current football team over at Jesuit High School could be the best in the history of the OSAA. Really?

  • Some users have already found a way to get around the banner ads on Portland's new Wi-Fi network. Neat.

  • And finally click here for the commercial that introduced Ronald McDonald to the world. I actually prefer this version to the current "xtreme" sports incarnation of the clown. I wish I had a magic tray/belt that could make burgers appear out of nowhere.

  • Tuesday, December 05, 2006



    I had my first can of Schlitz beer while I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. Sure I could have gone with a Fat Tire or a microbrew but none of those seemed right for a bar like Shorty's.

    Take one part Nick's Famous Coney Island, one part Ground Kontrol and one part the old Carnival restaurant and you'll wind up with something along the lines of this cool little bar in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. Inside, a creepy circus mural archway leads to a blacklight-soaked pinball lounge. A chunk of an old carousel hangs over a stage. A row of old vintage arcade games lead up to the front door. Best of all, the tables in the booths are made out of old pinball machines and they all still light up.

    While we were there, "Possum Guy" made an appearance. He was nice enough to wander over to our table and let us pet his new friend, a critter he rescued after it was hit by a car. We chatted with him for a bit. The possum was still recovering and he was planning to eventually release it back into the wild. He headed back outside to a table underneath the heat lamp and chatted with passersby while sipping a pint. All the while, the possum contentedly sat on his shoulder like a pirate's parrot. I'm pretty sure this is the same guy I spotted playing a guitar at Pike Street Market a few summers back. How many Possum Guys can one town have?

    Afterwards, we headed into the pinball lounge where I had my ass handed to me courtesy of a "Champion Pub" machine. It's the first I've encountered where one of the goals is to make the ball "skip rope" in an area at the top of the playing floor. Neat.

    As for the Schlitz, I think I'll stick with Miller Hi-Life when I get in the mood for 12 ounces of corporate suds. I don't care if it's "the beer that made Milwaukee famous.

    Thanks for the swell time, Shorty's.

    Monday, December 04, 2006


    Black Friday in Seattle

    I spent Thanksgiving weekend wandering around downtown Seattle. On Black Friday the streets exploded with a predictable slew of bored cops, panhandlers and shoppers totting Nordstrom bags. It's the same scene you can find in malls and city centers across the country. But I wonder if everywhere else attracts the same brand of rebel rouser that Seattle does on this day of the year. Sure, there was the ongoing power struggle between protesters and Schumacher Furs but did any of them run around in prison jumpsuits as part of a presidential chain gang? And on Black Friday for that matter?

    I'm almost always in Seattle during the holiday weekend. One year a small army of protesters stormed into the Bon Marche (now a Macy's) and staged a sit-in up in the fur department. "Buy Nothing Day" once attracted a large crowd of demonstrators crossing no less than two generational gaps, along with them a cluster of grandmothers who sang rewritten Christmas carols. Black Friday '99 was pretty quiet, maybe because everyone was saving their energy for the WTO riots that would follow a few days later.

    From what I observed, Black Friday '06 was pretty quiet. Although the protesters that did roll out were weirder than I've seen in past years. First off, this guy spent the morning holding a "Free Hugs" sign near the Qwest carousel. By the afternoon he had recruited a dozen others to help him spread awkward good cheer. At least one passerby took them up on their offer. I initially figured this was a "Seattle thing" but, nope, it's national. I wonder what would happen if a crowd of "Free Hug" people encountered a pillow-fight flash mob. Or Santacon (FYI: this year it's slated for Saturday the 9th here in Portland). Or Wolverine. Or all three. That would be something to see.

    I guess this is all the remains of Seattle's annual "Buy Nothing" brigade. This guy stuck it out all afternoon, enduring the indifference and avoided eye contact of people passing by with overstuffed shopping bags. Based on the smiles on their faces, their Old Navy bags chock full of $8 t-shirts were bringing them at least a little bit of joy. And what exactly does he expect a few bucks worth of cotton to do anyway? Dance? Develop the ability to love unconditionally? Some of us are just happy to have something to keep our bloated American guts out of sight and soak up the occasional bit of drool that escapes from our maws while gobbling down a half-pound burger, a basket of cheese fries and a 24 ounce Coors. On the other hand, maybe a t-shirt once broke his heart and he hasn't quite recovered. Maybe it was this one. Poor guy.

    This guitarist wasn't protesting anything. If I'm mistaken though, he must have been engaged in a one man demonstration against unenthusiastic street musicians. This guy had more panned expressions and "hell yeah" grimaces than a dozen bluesmen or a few hundred Eric Claptons, depending on your point of view. He started a guitar solo around 10 AM and didn't finish until 3 PM. There might have been a break or two in there but that's still pretty damn impressive, especially while standing on an amp in the freezing cold.

    OK, have a look at these two. What sort of people do you think are under those costumes? If you guessed a middle-aged mother and her own 60-something mother, you would be right. I was chugging a cappuccino in a coffee shop when their Suburu Outback pulled up outside. Out popped the grandmother, the mother and a 14-old son that looked embarrassed to be there. After an argument, the mother balked. He took off his prison duds and (probably) wandered off to spend the afternoon at the Game Works a few blocks away.

    To be honest, I can't blame him. Initially, the matriarchs tried to get him to play the Condoleezza role in their White House chain gang. They managed to get the mask on him for roughly 30 seconds before he tore it off in disgust. Rumsfeld didn't show, apparently. They set up shop near the carousel and made the best of things. Later in the day, I spotted a couple struggling to get the Condi head on their six year old daughter for a photo. I wish I had gotten a shot of that for the cover of my Christmas cards.

    But the real missed Xmas card opp. of the day came when a burly Santa Claus/prison warden wandered down the street leading eight "reindeer" dressed in Guantanamo Bay garb. Unfotunately, my batteries had run out of juice by that point. A damn shame. I could have put the photo on a t-shirt, not that it would have made me happy or anything.

    Friday, December 01, 2006


    The return of random links

    It's been a long time since I've posted a series of random links. For a while it was a Friday tradition. But like many recurring features that came before it, the random links series was brought to an untimely end. Now it's back because I can't think of anything else to post today. If this proves popular, (i.e. at least one reader comments on it), I might just bring it back next week. How exciting. Let's get started.

  • Human slavery? Bad, bad, bad. But forcing your human slave to raise your kids and work 90 hours a week? In Salem? That puts you on the Official Evil Scale somewhere between Dick Cheney and the minds behind Happy Feet (George Miller notwithstanding).

  • He's mocked numerous Congresspeople, declared bears a threat to national security, lightsaber dueled with George Lucas and has fought Nancy Pelosi via Wii Sports. Now he's going after the Decemberists. Oh, Stephen Colbert, you are one cheeky monkey.

  • Here's two more links from The Last Boss worth mentioning. What does a PS3 look like going over Niagara Falls? Click here for a video. What would the opening scene of The Big Lebowski look like if Jeff Bridges and crew were replaced with Miis? Click here for another video.

  • Lars Larson is set to appear in an upcoming episode of Penn and Teller's Bullshit! Just one episode? I wonder if he'll wear his new elk jacket during the segment (scroll down to the reply that mentions New Seasons).

  • IGN has cobbled together the top 50 loose ends in Lost. My favorite: the ridiculous four-toed statue that popped up in the season two finale. But the one they left off the list: whether or not anyone will still care what happens to the survivors after the writers come up with another 50 when the series returns in February.

  • This R2-D2 toy, which is capable of working as a security alarm, could very well be the coolest toy in the history of the world. Or at least it's cooler than that new Elmo doll everyone's going nuts over. Oh, and Dog Poop Barbie.

  • Click here for the definition of "bitterness" (click here for some context).

  • Click here for the definition of "luck."

  • And click here for the definition of "WTF?"




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