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Another Portland Blog

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Plutonium in my bushes

Check out what I found sitting in my front yard when I got home from work tonight:

So I did what any normal person would do after finding a mysterious cooler sitting just across their property line- I ran a Google search on "Metro MBI" and "Portland." The query results were all over the place, ranging from an office supply dealer operating out of Seattle and a company that sells concrete.

This wouldn't be the first time someone has dumped something unusual in my yard for reasons unknown. After a few seconds of careful contemplation, I headed back outside, ignored the owner's vague request that I leave the cooler alone and opened it. What was inside?

Six cylindrical metal tubes the width of tuna cans sitting in murky water. One word immediately sprung to mind: plutonium. I knew I should have put on my radiation suit before cracking it open. Now is probably the time to invest in a DeLorean and a flux capacitor.

There's a good chance that the cooler has something to do with a house being built across the street. Still, what practical purpose could it serve? Maybe the builders just like to keep their unlabeled, half-gallon cans of tuna lukewarm.

Creepy, no? If I start glowing in the dark or find myself on myself a prisoner on a mysterious island tomorrow morning, I'll know the reason why.

UPDATE: Thanks to Bojack and his readers, the likely owner of the cooler has been determined. It probably belongs to Morse Bros. Inc Quality Control and contains concrete test samples. Why it was placed in my yard instead of the construction site across the street remains a mystery.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Further dispatches from the Emerald City

Here's a few tidbits from the weekend that you may or may not find interesting:

  • The Seattle Museum of Art recently reopened after an extensive expansion, which includes a piece involving flying/exploding Ford Taruses located in the lobby. For reasons unknown, one of these is actually a Mercury:

  • This can be found in the "Art Ladder" wing of the museum. These two French girls really seemed to dig it:

  • Other notable modern art pieces: a Mercedes/coffin, a bust made out of dogtags and one of several Andy Warhol prints featuring Elvis dressed as a cowboy. Elsewhere: a Frida Kahlo painting of the two nude chicks hanging out with a monkey that could be found in every Spanish textbook I used during college and more Renaissance-era depictions of Baby Jesus than you can shake a handful of frankincense at. The new SAM gets an B++ from me.

  • The original Starbucks, located across the street from Pike Place Market, has a map on the wall. Each country includes the number of Starbucks locations in it. The US has 8,000+ but in Italy, the birthplace of "good coffee"? Zip. Zero. Nada.

  • After another trip to Cinerama, it's become obvious that Portland could use a movie palace that screens first-run films. The Baghdad just isn't cutting it. They hosted Pan's Labyrinth for, what, two straight months?

  • A daily commute on Seattle's ferry system would get old real quick.

  • Viaduct: a series of spans or arches used to carry a road or railroad over a wide valley or over other roads or railroads, typically impossible to locate after midnight while extremely tired.

  • 20th Century Fox finally licensed the Duff brand name to make an energy drink instead of beer? Weak. I saw a can selling for $5 at that comic book shop in the bowels of Pike Place.

  • Finally, the locals were going nuts over a place upstairs called the Daily Dozen Donut Co., staffed by a group of punk guys. There was a line 30-deep when we walked by. While I've been in the market a million times, somehow I've never noticed the place. According to this, it's been open for over 18 years. Their gimmick? Tiny "little bastard" doughnuts served hot and tossing out free samples to any kid that yells at the staff. We couldn't get near the place but I wandered back later to take a picture of their logo: a lightening-struck donkey pooping out doughnuts. It didn't come out so here's a blurry cell phone photo of their marquee:

  • You stay classy, Seattle.



    At Wits End


    Like most Americans, I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie over the weekend. Maybe it was the cocktails I had beforehand but, about 20 minutes in, I could have used a magical compass and/or a flow chart to figure out what the hell was going on. There's enough characters, backstabbing, love triangles, subplots and random returns from the dead to fill a hundred Telemundo soap operas. After talking things over with others who have seen the movie, I still can't figure out...

  • ...how Davey Jones hooked up with Calypso in the first place. Where does a pirate captain bag a sea goddess? At ARRRby's? In ARRRgentina? At the bar at ARRnie's House ARRR Puns? And what did he ever see in her in the first place, if all she really is an intangible spirit or a small army of crabs?

  • ...where the, er, "magic rock crabs" came from and why they decided to haul Jack Sparrow's boat out of Davey Jone's locker.

  • ...how escaping from the afterlife is as simple as tipping over a boat.

  • ....why the producers decided to kill off the kraken. The kraken was at least 50% cooler than that Lord Beckett dork. Why couldn't the kraken have mysteriously returned from the dead in the movie? Everybody else did.

  • ...Jack's a pirate lord? Since when? Who voted for him? How could a guy that daft ever get elected to high offi....nevermind. Still, since when do pirates need a governing body and/or labor union? Aren't they more like independent contractors?

  • ...why Keith Richard's character shrunk his wife's head.

  • ...if the "Pieces of Eight" notify the pirate lords of times of trouble, how did they find out about genocide in the Caribbean if Beckett had them all sitting in his office? If they weren't the real Pieces of Eight, why did the fake ones vibrate?

  • ...is Davey Jones a monster, a pirate, a ghost, the Grim Reaper of the high seas and since when can he walk through prison bars?

  • ...has there always been a Davey Jones? Who had the gig before him? Since when is tearing out your own heart and sticking it in a box a job requirement? Wasn't that a decision Jones made on his own to piss off Calypso and completely unrelated to his duties as a...whatever he is?

  • ..whether that was Will Turner's kid that showed up after the credits or Jack's. Take note of the eye shadow. I'm thinking it was Jack's. After all, how could Turner expect Elizabeth stay celibate for ten years with Johnny Depp within arm's reach?

  • Worst. Big-budget. Undead. Pirate. Movie. Ever.

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    Tuesday, May 29, 2007


    Wagons north

    This is where I passed part of the weekend:

    And let me tell you something: after spending a night in a covered wagon, you'll find yourself with a newfound respect for our pioneer forefathers. A kind of respect that can't be earned with a round or two of the Oregon Trail game. All in all, it's a supposedly fun thing you'll never want to do again, especially since, if you develop a habit, you might wind up dying from "the squirts."

    It seemed like a good idea at the time. With plans to head to the Sasquatch Festival officially squashed, I made plans to head to Seattle with my sister. Having never spent a night in a hostel, I wanted to try out the Green Tortoise but it was already booked. Not wanting to drop a bunch of cash on a downtown hotel, she tracked down the AYH Ranch Hostel on Vashon Island. Given the option of a renting a tepee, a dorm room or two wagons, we went the wagon route.

    After running around the city, we rode a ferry out of west Seattle and wound up back at the hostel right around midnight. The AYH Ranch clearly has a lot of love invested in it. A row of activities rooms is set up to look like a wild west strip mall. A barn has been converted into a rec area/kitchen/lodging/tv room facility with large murals on the walls. And, while it might not go with the Wagon Train theme, a giant tiki head sits smack dab in the middle of the grounds.

    None of the hostel's other wagons had been rented out and for a good reason. If you're going to spend a night in one, you can't be a light sleeper. The temperatures was somewhere in the low-50s when I finally jumped into mine. This was no REI, GORE-TEX-covered, fancy-schmancy wagon, no sir. Given my nonexistent knowledge of 19th century methods of travel, I can('t) tell you that this wagon was as close to the real deal as possible. A light breeze, which would have stood no chance of disrupting a night's sleep in a modern tent, kept me awake most of the night. After an early morning jaunt to the bathroom, I finally nodded off around 4 AM.

    I was up again at 6:30 after my sister began tugging on my feet, eager to ask me the single most annoying question I have ever been asked in my entire life: "are you awake?" After grunting a "no," she asked if I heard the rooster yet. I had not heard the rooster yet. The rooster had kept her awake since 4:30. Initially, she thought it was a girl in the woods frantically screaming out for someone named "Emily." Instead of rushing out into the woods with a lantern, she did what any sensible person would have done, especially since the screaming stopped shortly thereafter: she went back to sleep. Eventually, the real culprit dawned on her: a bird with no sense of common decency. It woke her again at 5, 6 and 6:30. Minutes later, a yellowjacket flew into her wagon and buzzed by her head several times before setting up camp on the ceiling.

    Around this time, she gave up sleeping entirely and snuck into my wagon to steal my keys. She was cruising the coastline in my $#$@#! car when I finally got up around 9.

    After a night on the ranch, this much is certain: we wouldn't have lasted long on the Oregon Trail.

    And the residents of Vashon Island have a passion for creepy statues. This one was dedicated to the memory of "Cool Gary," who, according to a nearby plaque: "loved to laugh."

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    Friday, May 25, 2007


    It Came From My Cell Phone Part 18

    Spotted on a phone booth somewhere on SW 10th.

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    Random Links: Star Wars Hits 30 Edition

    I've always wondered what it would have been like to have seen Star Wars in a movie theater 30 years ago today when it first opened. I grew up with it instead so I'll never fully understand how big of a deal it was. Practically since birth, I've known Vader was Luke's father and that it's completely practical to run off with a delusional old man bearing dangerous weapons after your adopted parents are murdered under mysterious circumstances.

    Awwww, original trilogy. I still love ya', regardless of all that BS George Lucas would cough-up a quarter of a century later. Happy birthday, little-sci-fi-movie-that-would-go-on-to-spawn-a-multi-billion-dollar-franchise-that-dominated-a-good portion-of-my-childhood. Now that you're 30, it's time for you to get a real job and a mortgage, you lazy bum!

    With that out of the way, here's another batch of random links:

  • I really wish I had thought of this first. LOLZ!!!1!

  • Now even CNN is criticizing MetroFi. I'm typing this up at one of the Blue Moon's outside tables near an access point. Their service isn't even registering when I search for nearby wireless networks. Four other unsecured networks though? Right there, ripe for the plucking. MetroFi's expanding into Hillsdale but it still can't a lock down on NW 21st and Glisan? Weak.

  • First comes Silver Surfer quarters, next comes billboards for Live Free or Die Hard on the White House lawn. Say, I don't know if I would be entirely opposed to that idea.

  • Sure, cocaine's back but no He-Man or Jello Pudding Pops?

  • Wilie Nelson? He's from Portland. Kinda.

  • Ok, so He-Man's back but what about those Pudding Pops?

  • Here, have some HARDCORE PORNOGRAPHY!

  • Fine, Jello Pudding Pops have been back for a while now but where's ALF?

  • Here's an obligatory, wistful Star Wars link.

  • I sure wish Chewbacca would start blogging again.

  • And finally...

  • Labels:

    Thursday, May 24, 2007


    High School: The Poopsicle

    There's a tradition at my old high school. Every year, a group of seniors takes it upon themselves to dig, paint or carve their graduating year into the side of the building or into the grass in the courtyard. During my graduating year, three groups made attempts to make our year a permanent fixture. A dug-out pair of numbers in the courtyard filled with cement was quickly undermined by rain. An effort to paint them onto a wall near the cafeteria was easily blasted off by a power washer on a Monday morning. Mere days from graduation, one group finally got it right. If you take a trip up SW Vermont and have a gander at one of Wilson High School's walls near the auditorium, you can still make out a faint '97.

    A year later, a Student Body President was nearly expelled when he and a group of friends broke into the school after hours to paint a '98 on the cafeteria's floor. Now, a decade after all of that, a group of seniors has outdone the pranks of their elders. Over the weekend, they dug a gigantic peace symbol into the courtyard and filled it with flowers alongside a "Wilson Seniors: '07".

    Click here for a photo.

    I'm sure it's a response to this, which made local news a few months ago. My sister and I headed over there last night to have a look. I'm surprised they managed to pull it off. Despite the reported number of suspects, 12, it must have taken them a while to put it all together. One of the kids responsible confessed yesterday and will have her diploma withheld until she repairs the "thousands of dollars" worth of damage.

    After wandering around the courtyard, we headed inside. It was Senior Awards Night and the school was still open. We were shocked by what we found inside. Our alma mater is a mess. The lockers are banged up and covered in occasional spots of graffiti. One stairwell reeks of rotting trash. Many of the ceiling tiles were missing or looked like they were about to fall at any second. All in all, Wilson looks like a class action lawsuit waiting to happen.

    But maybe we were looking at the past through rose-colored contact lenses. It was the first time either of us had set foot in a PPS building in nearly a decade. Have they always been like this or are kids just more destructive then they used to be? Or, more likely, did all the revenue from that 3-year county tax levee go to administrative costs instead of infrastructure? It should also be noted that we spotted new-ish iMacs in the yearbook room. That reminds me of an op-ed a former classmate once wrote for the school newspaper (if you're out there reading this, hi Sean). The title? "Throwing Macintoshs at the Problem."

    All in all, the visit was a not-so friendly reminder that high school did, indeed, suck. So much for nostalgia.


    Tuesday, May 22, 2007


    Please help me dress myself

    I've never purchased anything off Threadless before.

    I kinda like this shirt.

    What do y'all think?



    You snus, you lose

    For months I couldn't find the stuff anywhere, not that I was looking very hard. A few weeks ago, I ducked into Rich's Cigar Shop to ask a pipe-smoking cashier if they had any stock. He sneered and sent me on my way.

    Where could I find snus, a new type of chewing tobacco currently being test-marketed in Portland by Camel? Better yet, why did I want to try it in the first place? Curiosity, mostly. I'm not a smoker and I can't stand chewing tobacco. Still, I'll try just about anything once if it'll provide me with blog fodder.

    Snus, once enjoyed by folks across the Atlantic until it was banned by the European Union in the early '90s, is still a virtually unknown vice here in the states. I didn't even know of its existence until coming across a series of articles in the Oregonian back in January. Snus is odorless, smokeless, spitless, it doesn't stain your teeth and it won't give you bad breath (but it contains more nicotine than a cigarette and causes cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes). With cigarettes due to be banned entirely from Portland's public places any day now, snus could one day become the vice of local smokers still eager to get their nicotine fix. Snus, it's the hybrid car of tobacco products.

    During a random stop at Tobacco Town on SW Barbur (I just needed to use the ATM, honest), there it was, behind the counter and a few feet away from the NASCAR hats and the confederate flag lighters.: a neon display case filled with snus cans. I threw down $4.40 for can filled with tiny "spicy" flavored packets. Also available: "mint" and "original."

    I held off on cracking open the protective seal. I wanted to save the snus for an appropriate occassion, which presented itself a few hours later. I owed someone a favor and agreed to see Shrek 3 under the condition that I could get drunk first and pay for Spiderman 3 before sneaking in to watch the big, fat, unfunny ogre do his thing. After a "sushi pizza" at Mio Sushi on NW 23rd, a story for another time, we headed over to Ringler's Annex. As teenagers heading for prom strolled past, a market I'm sure Camel would love to tap, I downed several beers and a shot of tequila. Sometime before leaving, I slipped a packet of snus under my lower lip.

    As the directions on the back of the can advised, I waited several minutes for the "tingle" to kick in. Rather than getting a mouth full of gross tobacco, a sweet cinnamon flavor engulfed my tongue. The snus packet tasted more like a stick of Big Red than chewing tobacco. The flavor lasted about 30 minutes, much longer than a stick of gum, and dished out a tobacco buzz stronger than any cigarette I've ever smoked.

    I figured the booze and the snus would put me in the right frame of mind for 92 minutes of jokes with all the wit of a Mad Magazine parody and scenes featuring Snow White belting out Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." I was wrong. Halfway through the movie, I could take no more. The audience was howling at everything- the fart gags, the banal puns, the sight of a teenage King Arthur getting a wedgie. My head was pounding and my stomach was ready to stage a regurgo-lution I jumped out of my seat and fled for the bathroom.

    While I'd like to blame my stomach ache entirely on what could be the worst movie I've ever seen in a theater, I'm sure the snus played a part. And the sushi pizza. And the beer. And that shot of tequila. I'm happy to report that I did not vomit.

    Me: 1.

    Shrek, all his pals in the enchanted land of Far, Far Away, snus and booze: 0.

    That can of snus will probably sit on my desk for several months under a pile of papers before it winds up in the trash. So is this the future? Will snus save Big Tobacco? As I pointed out months ago, I doubt it. The main reason why people start smoking is because they think it makes them look cool. You can't look cool sucking on a packet of snus. Still, there's likely to be at least a small market once smoking is evenutally banned in public places nationwide. All those jonseing smokers will have to get their fix somehow.

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    Saturday, May 19, 2007


    It Came From My Cell Phone part 17

    This man, last seen leaving for parts unknown in Thailand, is the finest Ms. Pac-Man player I've ever known. He's pictured here playing a table-top version of the game at Bar of the Gods. Give this guy 25 cents and he'll rack up a 50,000 points in no time. Seriously, I've seen him lose an hour to the game on a single quarter.

    I suspect he's in a jungle somewhere as I type these words, teaching the locals of some small village the secrets of getting to the cut-scene where Ms Pac-Man bops around with Pac-Man and their newborn son..

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    Random links - You Can't Stop Progress Edition.

    Let's get right down to it.

  • Last week, developers revealed what's in store for the block that currently houses the Virginia Cafe. I'm not sure when but, eventually, the historic bar will be replaced with a 418 foot tall office/condo tower pictured in a conceptual image here. All things considered, I'd rather keep the Virginia Cafe, warts and all. These days downtown could use a few more places to get a drink than pay an arm and a leg for office space.

  • There's been a good amount of press and grumbling over the changes that are in store for downtown in the coming years. Last week, WW ran a cover story on the backroom deals that will eventually lead to the demolition of the Jefferson Theater porn house. Is downtown becoming a haven for yuppie retirees, a soulless extension of the Pearl District and the South Waterfront? Yeah, probably. Mark my words, once the bus mall reopens, civic planners, shop owners and editorialists alike will be scratching their heads, wondering "why don't people go downtown anymore?" Well, it'll be because no one who makes under $500k a year will be able to drink, eat, shop or, in the case of the Jefferson, jerk off in the heart of PDX anymore. Still, I don't think we'll be seeing any "Keep Downtown Cheap Enough for Middle and Lower Class Pervs" bumperstickers anytime soon.

  • After years of hearing about this game and keeping an eye out for it in stores around town, I finally got around to tracking down a copy online. It's supposedly one of the weirdest titles ever made. Here's hoping it will be compatible with the edition of XP running on my laptop.

  • The Smashing Pumpkins are getting back together but without James Iha or D'arcy, who reportedly keeps busy these days by running a horse farm and a few antiques shops in Michigan. The first single from the "band's" new album, along with cover art, is now up online. The song isn't half bad, in a guilty pleasure, Siamese Dream-throwback kinda way.

  • I think Shrek is lame and I hope his new movie bombs. There, I said it. Tbbbbbbbt! And the critics, for the most part, seem to agree. Looks like it pulled in $38 million at the box office yesterday alone. Lousy, unfunny ogre...

  • I've been getting lots of calls from 503-257-1466, sometimes two a day. At first I thought it might be my first stalker (!!!). But, alas, it's some sort of promotional scam orchestrated by a company back east. You can read more about the whole thing here..

  • Les Schwab died yesterday at the age of 89. Long live Les Schwab! May your legacy of free beef, amphitheaters, quality tires, high school sports invitationals and excellent customer service ring on for centuries to come. Good night, sweet tire tycoon.

    All together now, "When you're in the Northwest you're in Les Schwab country, quality tires at a low, low price!"

  • Labels:


    "I get it!"

    Is anyone out there watching the last season of The Sopranos? From what I've read, viewership is down and, for a show that was once considered the best thing on tv, no one seems to care that the Jersey crew's saga is drawing to a close. I haven't seen much press or promotion for the final season but maybe I haven't been paying enough attention.

    Regardless, with three episodes left in the series' run, and after two disappointing seasons, the show is finally back on track. The show's past two episodes have been knock-outs. After a major turn of events, Tony's house of cards is either back on solid ground or on the verge of collapse. Will the series close with a sitcom, "everything's back to normal" finale, leaving the door open for a big-screen adaptation, or a shock ending that will slam the door shut on the Sopranos world forever?

    I'm hoping for the later. This saga has run its course and should have wrapped things up by season five. It's clear that the writers were just treading water during season five and six. There isn't much gas left in this engine so why not end things with a bang?

    {Look out, spoilers to follow]

    With a major character dead at the hands of Tony, it's clear that this guy, despite being lovable family man, is an irredeemable monster. His actions last Sunday were those of a demented tyrant. WIthout giving too much away, the second half of the episode follows Tony as he flees from his guilt during a lost weekend in Vegas. He tracks down a former fling of his victim and quickly seduces her. Later, they make the wise decision to gobble a few peyote buttons and wander around Ceaser's Palace. I've been a sucker for Tony's dream sequences and hallucinations over the years and this one's a doozy. A revelation at a roulette table, occassionally refered to as a "Devil's Wheel" because all its numbers add up to 666, sends the mob boss to the floor in a fit of laughter. The episode closes with him and his mistress out in the desert, still woozy and watching the sun rise. As the ball of fire rises over a hill, it seems to wink at him. Tony gets up, raises his arms to the sky and shouts, "I get it!" into the canyon below.

    A wink from God or Satan? Has he finally come to terms with who he is? Does Tony know he's doomed but now couldn't care less? That's what I make of it.

    I suspect that The Sopranos will end with Tony dead or in prison but, all things considered, let's hope not. As a friend pointed out, "gone is the guy that once cared about ducks. His punishment [should be] becoming a pure sociopath." A sociopath with a destroyed marriage and no friends or family by his side? Yeah, that's more like it- a Michael Corleone, Godfather 2 fate for ol' Tone. At the top of his world but completely and miserably alone.


    Thursday, May 17, 2007


    Stumptown indeed

    I found these portraits hanging in the Stumptown Coffee over on SE Belmont.

    They creep me out.

    Now that you've seen them, they probably creep you out too.

    Happy to be of service.

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    Wednesday, May 16, 2007


    Ridin' that (sushi) train

    Sushi go-round restaurants: some people fear 'em, some people won't go near 'em. I regret to say that the first time I tried sushi, I was 21 and it was in one of these places. Looking back, it might have been the best place to start. After diving into the world o' sushi on one of its bottom rungs, anything mediocre tastes downright divine.

    If you aren't familiar with them, go-rounds are the equivalent of fast food in the world o' sushi. Patrons sit at a large, round bar on stools around a conveyor belt that carts around cheap items ranging from edamame to cucumber rolls to sticks of Pocky. A team of sushi chefs stand in the center and add new items as need be.

    I had my first bite of sushi at Marineopolis in Beaverton, which is to sushi what Burger King is to cheeseburgers. After years of making bad jokes about "how could anyone want to eat raw fish," a colleague dragged me out to there for a plate of unagi (freshwater eels). In hindsight, the rice was soggy, the unagi was lukewarm and it had probably been making the rounds for over an hour. At the time though, I didn't know the difference and I was immediately hooked.

    In the weeks and months that followed, I was averaging a trip to a sushi go-round every two weeks. Room-temperature edamame, rotgut California rolls, miso soup that consisted of little more than broth, spicy tuna rolls with all the kick of a dead donkey- I couldn't get enough of stuff that would cause a discerning sushi eater to weep if it touched their taste buds.

    Sushi-gobblin' isn't a poor man's game but there are those of us willing to play anyway. After Sushiland, my new addiction led me to Sushi Takahasi in Chinatown. In time since I discovered it, the place has become popular to the point where a wait on a weekend night can run over 30 minutes for a spot at the bar. Despite the cool tea house atmosphere and a toy train that carts around plates of sushi instead of a more traditional conveyor belt, you won't find it anywhere near any given list of recommended sushi restaurants in Portland. I'd rate the quality of the rolls down there right around what you might find in a Fred Meyer deli case with a red discount sticker slapped on the side. Despite my incredibly low standards, a trip to Sushi Takahasi back in February might be my last. The decor was getting shabby, I had to wait forever for a seat, the sushi was worse than usual and I was wedged between a drunk hipster couple and a fireman sitting next to his teenage daughter. They spent the whole time bickering about her decision to take a post-high school gig in a factory instead of enrolling at PCC.

    Sometime later, I made my first trip to Sushiville on NW 23rd. It's the best go-round joint I know of in Portland and it too is becoming more and more popular. Still, I can think of at least one local sushi snob that angrily headed for the exits after spitting out an avocado roll. If you go, give the caterpillar rolls a shot. They aren't half bad.

    Despite the low quality, go-rounds are popping up like weeds around town. Recently, two opened within a few weeks of one another downtown. Blue Fin Sushi on SW Broadway near PSU isn't bad but I wasn't impressed with their variety during a recent trip and the loud '90s dance pop pounding out of the restaurant's stereo system doesn't help matters. This painting I found in the mens room was pretty cool though:

    Better is the new Sushiland (part of a chain that also owns Marineopolis) in the Pearl District a block away from Powell's. Unlike its suburban predecessors, the sushi is higher quality and there's a bar upstairs. I headed down there on Saturday before a trip over to the Baghdad. When their conveyor belt ran out of unagi, a chef behind the counter cranked out another plate and had it over to me in two minutes flat.

    You can find sushi just about anywhere in PDX, some good, some bad and I suspect that a lot of people out there don't know the difference. It'll be a long time before I'll ever be a true sushi connoisseur. On the spot, the best roll I've ever eaten would have likely been the unagi at Bush Garden downtown. Can anyone out there come up with a reasonably-priced alternative here locally that can top their stuff? I'm sure it won't be much of a challenge.

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    Tuesday, May 15, 2007


    UK zombies on SW Broadway

    Over the weekend I caught 28 Weeks Later at the newly revamped Broadway Metroplex.

    They now serve pizza, which can be enjoyed on tiny tables wedged between the seats.

    I've never been in a movie theater with a feature like this.

    The one in front of me served as a handy foot rest (see above, not my actual foot, etc.).

    As for the movie, I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it hadn't stared the world's craftiest zombie/Rage virus-infected whatever. Even if a zombie with the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1977 and the brain of Stephen Hawking couldn't have found his way into that subway tunnel.


    Saturday, May 12, 2007


    It Came From My Cell Phone part 16

    From a tapestry that once hung in a now closed Thai restaurant in North Portland. In hindsight, I was I had offered to buy it. It would have looked great on the wall behind my couch.

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    Random Links - Mother's Day Edition

    Mother's Day.


    I have just one question: where's Children's Day? Oh, that's right. There *is* a Children's Day but it's celebrated just about everywhere but the United States.

    Is this fair?


    Should every child, young and old, refuse to celebrate Mother's Day in order to finally shine a light on this glaring oversight? Where's our brunch, people? Where's our awkward phone calls and last-minute Hallmark cards? Huh? Huh?

    Anyway, here's another batch of random links:

  • $665 million for a statewide emergency radio station? That money could be better spent on a bottle of whiskey for every man, woman and child in Oregon. If we're ever hit by a disaster severe enough to knock out communication statewide, which would you rather have by your side? A broadcast telling you we're all screwed or a fifth of Jack Daniels?

  • I think I'd rather eat a deep-friend Twinkie, honestly, than one of these.

  • Is this a grim portent of Portland's future? If so, this place is starting look worse than that alternate Hill Valley in Back to the Future Part 2. I mean, at least the middle class can afford to live and play in an urban war zone.

  • What would happen if Bruce Willis decided to show up semi-randomly on a message board overloaded with cranky film geeks to defend the next Die Hard movie? Click here to find out.

  • Here's a link to a blog post that offers a rundown on the greatest long tracking shots in cinema history, complete with clips. Those awesome shots from Children of Men come in somewhere in the middle.

  • Here's a great news story to bring up when you're eating brunch with your mother on Sunday.

  • Here's another one. You're welcome.

  • And finally...


    Thursday, May 10, 2007


    If you're only going to watch one drive-in bumper ad featuring talking Bic lighters this year...

    ...it may as well be this one, compliments of the 99W Drive-In. It's now open for the season in lovely Newberg, Oregon.



    But what if sexy doesn't want to come back?

    Dear JT,

    I appreciate it, honest, but you should knock it off. I mean, WTF? Things have changed. I've changed. Things are different now. OMG, I'm, like, 3 million miles away. The Peace Corp has been a great experience. It took a lot of time but we finally got running water going to the village where I've been the past three months. The latest shipment of medical supplies has arrived. You haven't lived until you've vaccinated a small child or handed out granola bars to a hundred starving people. I really feel like I'm making a difference....that after years of partying and shopping that I'm finally doing something with my life.

    Have you considered the fact that I don't want to come back? :p

    No matter how hard you tug, no matter how much you beg, no matter how many drinks you'll buy or the sweet nothings you're willing to break out, I'm not coming back. Just stop it.



    Anyone else tired of that song yet?

    Labels: , ,

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007


    A more progressive freeway

    It took me a few years but I finally made a trip down to the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. Like many of the civic improvement ideas that floated through City Hall in the late '90s and early '00s, it must have looked fantastic on the drawing board. A walkway along the east side of the Willamette with picture postcard views of the river, Waterfront Park, downtown and the West Hills? Sounds great, doesn't it?

    But then you head down there and find that millions of tax dollars went to build an elaborate, partially floating sidewalk littered with public art (the one pictured below is apparently a tribute to all the trash and random objects that have been tossed into the Willamette) juxtaposed between a roaring freeway, a river that's best viewed from a distance and underneath a series of congested bridges. Is the Esplanade picturesque? Sure, provided you keep your eyes firmly planted on Portland's skyline instead of I-5 or all the muck in the water. Is it serene? Nope.

    While it might not be as popular as its westbank cousin, the Esplanade seems like a big hit among joggers and bikers. It's not something that would or was probably ever intended to cater to people more inclined to have a picnic or lounge around. It's less a park than an elaborate bike and jogging trail, a freeway for people who don't commute in vehicles powered by combustion engines.

    It's goofy, it probably cost a lot to build but it works- mostly, but not as well as it could or maybe should. The Esplanade is a great place to bike or jog, provided you're willing to suck down exhaust fumes. Instead of chain link fences, a long, tall sound buffer wall, much like those you can find on the sides of freeways near residential areas, might do wonders down there.

    Vera Katz's reign as Portland mayor was littered with projects like these. The streetcar, the Civic Stadium/PGE Park overhaul (what else am I forgetting?) along with proposals to cap I-405 and place a cover over the Marquam Bridge, both of which never made it far. PGE Park has its downs and occasional ups and the streetcar, depending on who you ask, is either wonderful or the worst thing ever. The projects that became a reality: mixed successes, just like the Esplanade....

    ...and this bronze statue, which makes Vera look like Zira from Planet of the Apes.


    Tuesday, May 08, 2007


    Mad (I)MAX

    That new IMAX theater at Bridgeport? So totally not worth the extra $ for a ticket. Totally? Totally. Consider the evidence:

  • A recent screening of Spider-Man 3 didn't fill the whole screen while a trailer for the new Harry Potter movie beforehand did. A "floor to ceiling" screen? Sure, but a floor to ceiling picture? Hardly.

  • Despite opening a mere week ago, there's already what appears to be a large, cylindrical hole at the top of the screen.

  • Despite the height, the width of the screen is roughly the size of the cinemas' other screens. The large screens in Lloyd Cinemas' and the Tigard Cinemas' main theaters are probably significantly wider.

  • Due to the square shape, the overall experience feels more like watching an over-sized conventional TV screen instead of a movie screen.

  • Totally not worth it. Totally.



    The Last Temptation of Spidey

    Everyone I've spoken to that has sat through Spider-Man 3 hasn't liked it. Coworkers, two friends living overseas and family- they all agree that it was too goofy and overstuffed with characters and subplots to be a worthy successor to the previous installments in the franchise.

    While I'll agree that the movie could have been better, unlike them I wouldn't go so far as to say it outright sucked. In fact, I think the building blocks were there for what could have been one of the finest superhero movies ever made. But even at over two hours, the movie was too cluttered and rushed for its own good.

    Instead of another review, here's some thoughts on how I would have slapped this thing together, using the same general plotline. [IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE, DON'T READ THIS. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.]

  • The film's biggest problem is that there's enough material here for two films. So....why not do two films? While the concept of back-to-back sequels didn't bode so well for the Matrix franchise, a third Pirates of Caribbean will probably rake in another $400+ million domestic this summer. Time to play Monday morning Hollywood director (or, in this case, Tuesday night).

  • So the first 30 minutes of *my* Spider-Man 3 would be much like the real deal. For the first time in his life, things are going well for Peter Parker. Manhattan finally respects his alter ego, he's scored the woman of his dreams and he's finally figured out how to juggle his personal life, his studies, and his two jobs as a crime-fighter and a cameraman. Unfortunately, there's a new villain in town and he's unstoppable. There's nothing Spider-Man can throw at Sandman, an invincible man made of... sand . Meanwhile, there's a new photographer down at the Daily Bugle named Eddie Brock and he's eager to land the staff position Parker's been eyeing for years. Plus, Spidey's pal Harry has gone off the deep end and is following him around town launching bombs at his head when he's off the clock. To top it all off, Mary Jane's pissed at him for a dunderheaded publicity photo/PR stunt. It's all too much for one arachnid/human hybrid to deal with.

  • Enter, the space goo. Instead of landing right next to Peter Parker, it crashes down somewhere else in New York. Its weird powers and motivations are more clearly developed. The goo feeds off rage and vengeful feelings. The first thing it adheres to: something ridiculous, like an alley cat. We get a quick scene of a Venom Kitty kicking major ass on the city's pooch population. Then the goo jumps ship onto a petty thug that Spider-Man later sends packing to prison. Once the goo gets a load of Peter and his troubles, it follows him home.

  • Rather than have Peter go from normal to crazed vigilante in the space of 2.5 seconds, his addiction to it should grow more slowly. Better yet, it might be nice to know what the new black suit/space goo actually does for him, which isn't revealed all that well in the actual movie. The goo helps him get results, but Peter becomes steadily more aggressive and more of a prick instead of abruptly transforming during a super-cheesy montage set to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The city turns against him and J. Jonah Jameson at the Bugle has a field day lambasting this new brutal Spidey for infringing on due process.

  • Much like the movie, evil Spider-Man would hunt down and kill Sandman. Instead of defeating him with a blast of water (weak), I would go for something a little more brutal. Like, maybe having Spidey turn him to glass with a flame thrower or a broken gas line before smashing him to pieces with his fist.

  • Afterwards, Peter returns home and finds he can't get the suit off. It's stuck to him but he's not really all that inclined to get rid of it. Once he finds out Mary Jane has been messing around with Harry, he becomes unable to control himself and in a fit of rage he rushes over to Harry's apartment, attempts to kill him but knocks him into a coma instead. Then he heads over to Mary Jane's gig at a jazz club, embarrasses her with a new girlfriend and smahes the place up.

  • Cut to Spidey on top of the bell tower. His life is a mess and he's become a monster. Everybody hates him. Roll the credits.

  • Then, six months later or next summer, we get part 4. The city now lives in fear of Spider-Man and he can't get Mary Jane to return his calls. He's become a super vigilante, beating the crap out of anyone for the slightest of offenses. The cops can't do anything, the National Guard can't stop him, the president is one step away from putting in a call to the Incredible Hulk and Jameson has just purchased a new summer home with profits off papers covering the ongoing nightmare.

  • Finally, Mary Jane tracks him down and reveals that Harry is still alive but horribly disfigured. Out of guilt, Peter vows to tear off the suit. Desperate for a another host, it's attracted to Brock, who's busy drowning his sorrows after getting fired for liable. He becomes Venom.

  • Peter does what he can to patch things up with Mary Jane and Harry and hurries to earn back Spidey's reputation. Unfortunately, Jameson isn't about to give up his media blitz and does everything he can to keep the superhero's rep tarnished. Meanwhile, Sandman, who has spent these past few weeks laying around in a sewer, manages to pull himself back together.

  • Sandman and Venom, both unstoppable, terrorize Manhattan. Sandman, who originally set out to save his daughter's life with stolen funds, gets caught up in the madness while Venom's just happy to maliciously cause as much damage as he can. Both hate Spider-Man and set out to destroy him for good.

  • Now Spider-Man's up against two foes and he doesn't have any magical space goo to help him out. Mary Jane is kidnapped and the big, climatic finale places her in a cab 50 stories over Manhattan's streets, just like in the movie. But this time, the big rumble doesn't all take place on a construction site (*yawn*). It encompasses all of Manhattan as Spider-Man is flung through buildings and locals all over town. Billions of dollars worth of property damage later, a redeemed Harry shows up to subdue Sandman, leaving Spidey with enough time to get into a huge fistfight with Venom inside the Statue of Liberty. Spidey's on the ropes but manages to conquer Venom using soundwaves and Lady Liberty's acoustics. He offers Brock/Venom one last shot at redemption but he decides to go out in a blaze of glory.

  • Harry lives. Sandman and Spidey come to a truce, since he's a sympathetic villain but Peter never forgives him for killing his uncle. Sandman disappears, promising to change his evil ways. Instead of a brief, lame scene in the jazz club to wrap everything together, we cut to Spider-Man triumphantly swinging around NYC only to be interrupted by a call on a cell phone. It's Mary Jane and she's pregnant with Harry's baby. Roll credits.

  • Most importantly, my version of Spider-Man 3 wouldn't contain any combination of the following: crying, singing or dancing.

  • Now that's how you do a Spider-Man movie or two, dammit.


    Friday, May 04, 2007


    It Came From My Cell Phone part 15

    Currently available at your friendly, neighborhood 7-Eleven. The new Spider-Man-themed Slurpee tastes like a combination of cherry NyQuil and a box of sugar. In other words, somehow both fantastic and terrible at the same time.

    Does anyone else have a problem with this cereal box?

    Labels: , ,


    Random Links: Cinco de Spidey edition

    I thought about doing away with these random link posts but I can't resist their siren's call. For the time being, they'll continue to run every Friday.

    His movie opened in stateside theaters today but things are looking kinda shaky for ol' Spidey. The reviews for Spiderman 3 are the worst of the trilogy and my "contacts" in Asia, where it was released earlier in the week, say it outright sucks. A colleague living and working in Thailand described Revenge of the Symbiote, the international title for the movie in that neck of the world, as "lame-o." Another in Japan, well, click here. Despite their best efforts to warn me, I'll be front row center tomorrow night at the IMAX theater at Bridgeport (tonight's showings are already sold out, dammit).

    Anyway, here's another round of random links:

  • This first one is for any former members of the "Goose Hollow fellowship," now scattered throughout the world, that might be reading this. Remember Phil Busse? He no longer works for the Mercury but he's still around town. You may be interested to know he was mugged outside of the Amnesia Brewing a few weeks ago but chased the guy off, despite having a gun pointed at his chest. He wrote about the experience over here. As you might imagine, their Letters to the Editor page was pretty interesting last week.

  • On Wednesday, Portland was hit by a series of hail/thunder storms. As I was driving home, the suburbs looked like the first act of the rapture. The sky was pink with black clouds, lightening could be spotted on the horizon, hail was raining down and a gigantic rainbow, more vibrant than any I think I've ever seen, stretched across the rolling prairies of Beaverton's car lots. This video from earlier in the day over on the Oregonian's site isn't quite that exciting but it does offer shots of the marble-sized hailstones that attacked the city.

  • If you're going out for tequila and tomfoolery tomorrow night, take some time to learn about what it is you're celebrating. There will be a quiz. OK, there won't but, whatever you do, don't go around saying Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day.

  • This just in: Baker City is really boring.

  • Brandon Roy? Rookie of the Year? Eh, after another lackluster season it's better than nothing.

  • I, for one, miss the beaver. That new header is craptacular, guys. Endlessly linking to your blog has lost a lot of its luster in the last week. I blame a substantial lack of the beaver. I guess this makes me a beaver believer.

  • A reader named Kim would like you to watch this video and dares you to make it all the way to the end.

  • Oh Dog, You Sleuth! recently returned to Portland from NYC and took photos at a bunch of odd tourist attractions along the way. Here's a link to a Flickr gallery of shots, including ones taken at the incredibly creepy/cool "House on the Rock." We're talking about carpets on the ceilings, horror movie lighting and a room covered from floor to ceiling with organ keys.

  • Does Portland need a gigantic museum/aircraft carrier indefinitely plopped in the middle of the Willamette River? Yes, yes it does...or at least it does more so than a couplet on Burnside and Couch.

  • So PETA may get the spoils of the Schmauchers' collapse (i.e., a primo storefront downtown)? To the victor go the spoils, I suppose. I'll be spending the weekend harassing yuppies outside of the Chart House. Once I run the owners out of business? Four words: martini bar/video arcade.

  • The Flaming Lips recorded a song for the Spiderman 3 soundtrack. Survey says...it's not so good but it does include numerous shout-outs to Muhammad Ali. Judge for yourself. Click here to listen.

  • Remember, while Spider-Man may be whiny and neurotic, as least he isn't a dick.

  • And finally...

  • Labels:

    Thursday, May 03, 2007


    "Spider-Man 3 sucks"

    Or so says "QA," a colleague currently living and working in Nagoya, Japan where movie tickets cost the equivalent of $14.99 US. Spider-Man 3 opened over there on Tuesday, a full three days before American audiences will get their paws on it. Here are some of her thoughts with minor spoilers, complete with handy bullet points:

  • Kirsten Dunst sings...TWICE! My ears were bleeding.

  • Every character cries.

  • One of the villains, [Venom], became a villain in an all too coincidental manner.

  • The same goes for how Spidey became "Black Spidey." Just stupid.

  • The sand villain is absolutely unnecessary and I don't know why he hated Spidey so much in the first place.

  • They upped the cheese factor of the movie by 300%, which includes a lot of dancing by Peter Parker. You will see. It is soooooo bad.

  • Spidey rides in to save the day with a giant American Flag behind him. It was again...cheesy.

  • I liked the other movies. I'm not a Spidey basher...but the movie was terrible.

  • Dancing? Singing? Crying? This is starting to sound like a lame, Bollywood Spidey knock-off instead of the real deal. Say it ain't so, Sam Raimi, say it ain't so!

    Also, a question: why does Spider-Man get a hyphen? Does he really need it? Batman doesn't. Superman isn't "Super-Man." I guess this is just another example of Peter Parker's neurosis.


    Wednesday, May 02, 2007


    In defense of call center drones

    This morning Ben Popken of The Consumerist, a popular consumer activist blog, dropped me a brief comment in response to something I wrote last week. I made an assumption about his experience in the customer service industry and I was wrong. Ben, if you're out there reading this, sorry about that.

    I don't write about my place of employment on this blog because a: it could get me fired and b: my job is much less interesting than tedious anecdotes about playing tennis (believe it or not). Without revealing too much, I work in a call center. if you live in the Willamette Valley there's a fairly good chance you've talked to me on the phone and let's leave it at that.

    When I first heard about a contest on The Consumerist to record customer service calls and mock them on the internet, I cringed. I first heard about it in a memo that was passed around my workplace by management. We were to be on our guard because, at any moment, a random caller could be recording a conversation and attempt to goad us into losing our tempers as part of an effort to win a copy of Quicken (or, possibly, a toygar) from Popken and his call center hating cronies. The title of a recent post claimed that one company's call center was "staffed by retards" because a single customer had a bad experience. Nice.

    I've been in this business for a while now for reasons that should be obvious (I'm currently 0 for 2 in the "do what you love" department). I've been on both sides of the phone. I could tell you about a completely wasted two hours I spent on the phone with Apple's tech support one recent Saturday but I could also offer you a hypothesis as to why it happened, unlike the reactionary posts on The Consumerist. For what it's worth, they did run a retort written by one frustrated (and overly frank) service rep. It received over eighty replies from readers, many of them filled with vitriol and insults and eager to see the anonymous rep fired for the post. If you follow that link and agree with these sentiments, please keep reading.

    It should come as no surprise that call center reps, while they're better paid than you might imagine, are often poorly trained. Plus, the average rep is heavily monitored and their job performance is rated and ranked by a series of metrics, stats and goals that would make most people's heads explode. There's a good chance that the rep you're speaking to when you call Company X, regardless if they're sitting a block away or in Bombay, has to worry about: keeping the call under a certain length of time, solving your problem, keeping their voice cheery, other corporate competitors, getting mocked by their fellow employees once the week's stats are posted on a board where everyone can see them, the ringing in their ears from spending 40 hours a week with a headset on and, as the upper brass would have it, selling you more services and/or products you don't want and/or don't need. It's stressful work and just about the most unpleasant job you could ever hope to find in a cubicle, short of doing phone surveys or outsource sales.

    Turnover is high. Most people don't last long in this biz. It's not the sort of job you dream about after wasting four years and tens of thousands of dollars on a college degree. I've had friends on unemployment turn up their noses at a full-time job with benefits in my workplace, settling instead for part time temp labor that pays much less. One colleague opted to take a job handling blood and sweat-soaked activewear returns at Nike than apply for a position at my company.

    As such, I don't understand why The Consumerist is going after those of us on the front lines. We're not the problem and that even goes for the AOL rep that refused to cancel a customer's account in that old You Tube video. That guy was probably just following company protocol and he was fired for it after AOL received a bit of bad publicity.

    As Ice-T once opined, "don't hate the playa', hate the game." My coworkers and I don't make up the policies that are driving you and other customers crazy. We're not the ones that designed that annoying "phone tree" you have to spend dozens of minutes circumnavigating before you speak to a human being. And we definitely don't have a say in rate hikes. It's not like middle-managers come to us every year to ask our opinions on wether or not our company should jack up the price of your service. We're just the poor, dumb schmucks that were unlucky enough to find ourselves enforcing our companies' policies. Arguing with us is akin to bickering with a traffic cop about a posted speed limit or a teenager at a gas station about the price of a gallon of unleaded. Just like you, we're trying to earn a paycheck but we weren't lucky (or, yes, smart or motivated) enough to catch the breaks needed to land a decent gig in this big, bad world.

    So, please, think of all of this before you decide to tear into someone working the phones at the electric company over an outage they had nothing to do with or a rep at your cell provider because you're too lazy to read an instruction book and figure out how to set up your voice mail. As for The Consumerist, instead of petty muckraking, a better use of their time would be to go after middle-management, corporate policy makers and those really responsible for the poor customer service you've been receiving all these years.

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007


    Bring the Pain

    A few weeks ago I posted a poll asking readers to vote on a name for a drink a few friends and I created. The results are in, the people have spoken and the winner is....


    Yup. That's right, just "Pain."

    Not that a Pain is really all that painful to drink. It's just a dry martini with wasabi added in. If you're a fan of spicy foods, it's like a stroll through a park. A wonderful, magical park with trees that grow bottles of gin instead of apples and happy, bouncing critters made of wasabi that think nothing of you using their hides to spice up a cocktail.

    So, how does one make a Pain? Here's the recipe:

    - 4 parts gin
    - 3 to 5 drops dry vermouth
    - 1 olive. Remove pimento and replace with wasabi (adjust according to preference)

    If you give a Pain a try, drink responsibly. By responsibly, I mean stick to one or two and then move on to something else unless you're willing to create a drink/chaser with Pepto-Bismol or Alka-Seltzer as one of the chief ingredients.

    Say, that gives me an idea...





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