April 2011

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Another Portland Blog

Friday, November 30, 2007


I wonder if this is what it's like to meet a stranger in the Alps

The initial wave of this winter's first "Storm of the Century" is due to arrive overnight, my house is above the 500 foot mark and I've got to be at work in the morning. Due to weekend routes, transportation on Tri-Met isn't an option and neither is calling out for the day. In my line of work management doesn't close the office for something that typically shuts down 95% of all services in Portland. It might sound strange to anyone else who lives in this city but it's the nature of the business.

It's going to be an interesting weekend and I can drive in the snow about as well as any native Oregonian. That means my skills are just a hair about this guy's. A predicament? You could say that. Nothing to do now but hunker down with the last few episodes of Battlestar Galactica's third season. If I don't get lost in the two inches of snow due tomorrow morning and provided my little house isn't blown down in phase two of the storm set to hit on Sunday, I'll be back around here with more of the same next week.

Until then, somehow I think this random You Tube clip is oddly appropriate. I've heard that there's a cleaned-up, broadcast version of The Big Lebowski that has several terrible edits that cover up the movie's numerous f-bombs. I'd never seen so much as two seconds of that cut until someone passed along this:

Finally, here's hoping this is the only Tin Man anyone in the Willamette Valley will come across in the next few days.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Random cell phone photo # 26

This doesn't seem like the sort of bumpersticker you'd typically see on the back of a VW van. I spotted it down at Cannon Beach a while back. Maybe the owner's advocating the welfare state because they receive a monthly check? I can't tell what level of irony this sticker is supposed to be working on. Perhaps that Swedish flag offers a vital clue...

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Salt in the wounds

Saturday's Ducks game against UCLA was painful. While I should have been in front of a TV to catch every agonizing minute of my alma mater's defeat, I was elsewhere. I can blame my lack of commitment on my status as a casual fan.

For example, I didn't know what the "Toilet Bowl" was until about two hours ago as I was going through a week's worth of local news I neglected over the holiday week(end). If you're still in the dark, it was a 1983 Civil War game that ended in a 0 - 0 tie on a dark, rainy day at Autzen. This and other factoids can found in last Wednesday's Willamette Week cover story that delves into Ducks fandom.

Speaking of the U of O, this is a great idea for a protest.



A different kind of cookbook

A friend of mine from way back is now the author of his very own cookbook. But this isn't just any cookbook. It could be the holder of the weirdest title for a cookbook in the history of cookbooks. The title of this tome? Whisking With Chlamydia.

I'm happy to say that the book doesn't actually touch on what it's like to prepare elaborate meals while suffering from the effects of a nasty STD. "Chlamydia" is the name of an oversized whisk the author bought several years ago. What kind of a cookbook writer names a phallic kitchen instrument after a venereal disease? A cookbook writer with a sense of humor, that's who.

The book includes sections on quick meals and an appendix on how to properly prepare pasta. Adding oil to the water is apparently a serious no-no. I had no idea. You can download your very own copy of Whisking With Chlamydia by clicking here.


Monday, November 26, 2007


When Christmas tree lighting ceremonies go bad

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Courthouse Square- it's either a magical event that brings the community together for a festive kick-start to the holiday season or a hellish spectacle you'll regret going anywhere near. Which version you experience probably has a lot to do with where you wind up standing.

I took my parents downtown on Friday for the ceremony. Our first mistake was a stop at one of the Starbucks in Pioneer Place. The two baristas running the machines were completely overwhelmed by the line of customers stretching down the mall. It took us thirty minutes to get our drinks, putting us on the edge of the square ten minutes past the scheduled start time for the ceremony.

20,000 spectators showed up, which meant there was no standing room left anywhere but on the edge of a sidewalk along SW Morrison by the time we got there. Among the large, ever-growing mass of people standing with us: a pregnant lady, a couple with a baby carriage and a large, multi-generational family with small children in tow. We and the dozens of spectators alongside us weren't blocking the sidewalk exactly but our presence created a bottleneck. Rather than cross the street to avoid the mess, commuters shoved their way past, muttering obscenities or shouting "move!" Further adding to the ugliness, a half-hearted holiday speech by Tom Potter and throngs of late arrivals that shoved their way through the crowd into the already filled-to-capacity square.

My parents have lived in Portland for decades but they'd never been to the tree lighting ceremony. While a situation like this might send more sensible people to the closest bar with a happy hour menu, it had become a challenge. Could we endure the elbows and pushy spectators? The freezing temperature and the glares? Would we at least last longer than the pregnant lady who was getting repeatedly nudged into a wall?

Answer: yes. Her husband and her decided to flee around 6 PM, as the Portland Jazz Orchestra rolled into minute ten of an endless cover of "Blue Christmas." The crowd was turning uglier. All around us people were looking at their watches and complaining. The temperature was hovering somewhere in the mid-30s. Small children were crying. Long pauses between songs suggested that the band was stalling. Were the organizers ever going to get on with it and free us from our voluntary holiday masochism? And where was Santa, the MC who usually lights the tree? My best guess at the time: drunk. Possibly drunk in traffic, drunk at Mary's Club or drunk in traffic on his way to Mary's Club.

Right around 6:15, after 30 minutes of staring at the courthouse clock and trying to devise a plan to toss my Starbucks cup on the ground in a way that no one around me would notice, Tom Potter rolled back onstage to a chorus of boos that had to sting, even for an "irrelevant" lame duck like him. The crowd might have stormed the stage and lit the tree themselves if Santa hadn't hopped up there with him. Our collective morale immediately soared and Santa got right to point. BOOM! The tree was lit and two seconds later we were on our way towards 4th Avenue.

"Never again," my Mom groaned on our way back to a Smart Park garage. I'm not sure if her squished holiday spirit had more to do with the dragged-out ceremony or the trustafarian panhandler who yelled at me after I meekly apologized for not having any change. Either way, thanks Portland. From my family to yours, happy holidays!

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Thursday, November 22, 2007


Giving thanks

What am I thankful for on this most glutenous of American holidays? Not for getting suckered into going into work today, that's for sure. As of right this second, I'd have to say I'm thankful for X-Entertainment. Recent updates to the site include an article on the 1991 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and another full of excerpts from a 1985 toy catalog (wow, I remember that He-Man playset with the weird snake puppet). Hooray for childhood nostalgia and its ability to help me kill time during an incredibly depressing workday.

I'm also thankful that Bono isn't building this in downtown Portland.

Merry Thanksgiving, everybody.



Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic then they originally predicted

Last weekend I tried to go see No Country for Old Men at the Fox Tower. This was a stupid idea for at least two reasons. First off,the movie had just opened in Portland. Second off, I showed up ten minutes before it was going to start, along with every Coen Brothers fan in the city between the ages of 15 and 105. The line outside was around the block and 200 hipsters deep. The place was a madhouse and I kinda, sorta took advantage of the situation. I saw my chance and darted up the Fox's stairs without buying a ticket. I saved myself around $10 but my plan was quickly thwarted by two ushers guarding the door to the theaters screening No Country.

Undaunted, I settled for something else and that something else was Southland Tales, Richard Kelly's follow-up to the cult-hit Donnie Darko. ST was nearly booed off the screen at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and it's not hard to see why. For most viewers, the film is bound to come off as an incoherent mess, a ramshackle heap of elements lifted from a hundred sources ranging from David Lynch to Robert Frost to The Big Lebowski.

Imagine a movie that rampantly drifts from scenes featuring Jon Lovitz horribly miscast as a bloodthirsty cop to a bizarre musical sequences set in a Venice Beach video arcade starring a disfigured Justin Timberlake who's too busy chugging cans of Budweiser to lip sync as he's surrounded by dancing combat troops and army nurses. At any given moment, there's no less than two character actors from a random '80s movie like Revenge of the Nerds or The Princess Bride on the screen at the same time. One second Southland tales is a would-be satire of post-9/11 life in America, the next it's sci-fi comedy and the next it's a musical. Toss in an impossible-to-follow plotline about the world ending, a zeppelin powered by the ocean and a flying ice cream truck and you've got yourself a movie that bursts past awful into some new, uncharted territory of "so bad it's good" filmmaking.

Did I enjoy Southland Tales. I don't know. Would I see it again? Maybe. Would I want to see it again? I think so. I'm pretty sure I've never sat in a theater with such a sharply-divided audience. There were a lot of walkouts but there were also a lot of people laughing and enjoying every minute. Is it the sort of thing that may one day develop a rabid fanbase eager to make sense of it all? I'd bet on it.

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Monday, November 19, 2007


Movie Madness revamp

What happened to Movie Madness over the summer? I went there looking for a copy of Hellraiser (I'd never seen it) a few weeks ago. The owner has remodeled the place. The new Movie Madness is bigger and makes more efficient use of space. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of the store's charm has been kicked to the curb. Most of its DVD and video library is now held in a big, empty room and the store's iconic hallway mural has been put behind glass.

Sure, the baby carriage from The Untouchables has been added to the store's museum of movie props but it's just not the same now that I don't have to squeeze past hipsters reeking of week-old BO as I make my way to the cult section.

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Big in Egypt

What happens when your profile is the first thing that pops up when someone types "Facebook" into Google's image search? Suddenly everyone from Turkey to Thailand wants to be your friend.

Click here for the rest of the story.


Italian Flickr gallery

Click here for photos of gondolas, bidets, graffiti, Holy Grail cigarette machines, street art, St. Peter's feet and what both Pac-Man and Harry Potter look like on the Italian peninsula.

As for The Big Lebowski novel (?) above, I have no idea what that's all about. I saw it sitting on a shelf in a bookstore in Florence. As you can tell, the Dude abides, even over there.

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Friday, November 16, 2007


Possibly also the best wi-fi spot in Portland

Have a look at this photo posted on Blogtown earlier today. It's a pretty great shot but I wish I knew the following:

1. How did that guy gain access to the roof?


2. Will I be ripped to shreds by hobos ala an extra in a George Romero movie if I try to try to get up there for a nap?



I just hope this will also include depictions of dogs and cats living together, in addition to considerable amounts of mass hysteria

Ok, I'll need to get an Xbox 360 between now and next fall but not for Halo 3, Bioshock or whatever other big games come out between now and then. I'll have to make the investment for this, a Ghostbusters game produced with the cast of the two movies. That even includes Bill Murray. Supposedly, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis are also writing the script.

There's some preliminary test footage of the game that can be found here (thanks for the link, WWB). It looks pretty gosh darn swell. This thing is sure to beat Luigi's Mansion (link) for the title of "Best Video Game of All Time That Involves Sucking the Souls of the Dead Into Vacume Cleaner-like Devices."

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My Big, Dumb Trip to Europe Part 4: Fifty Bears Flying Out of a Whale's Mouth

Venice is sinking...under the weight of Carnival Cruise Line passengers

The temperature doubled as we headed south from Munich in a train carriage full of elderly Germans. At a stop in Austria, I jumped off the train to buy a Kit Kat off a Russian snack vendor. The grand total of time I've spent in that country? Two minutes and I didn't even catch the name of the town we stopped in. As we dropped into Italy, the man across from me fought to control a floodgate of tears and memories, staring wistfully out the window the whole way. I still wonder what was going through his mind.

You already know the stories about Venice, about how the city is sinking and how foreign travelers have driven away the locals, effectively turning it into a clogged tourist swamp-trap. What you might not know is that when you walk out of the Santa Lucia train station you're right there in the middle of it all. The gondolas, the Grand Canal, the whole bit. We jumped on an overcrowded water taxi that dropped us off in front of a hotel with an inflatable, ten-foot tall gecko out front, both about a block down from the Rialto.

My sister Shanna and I were only there for a night but I'm convinced the city should be saved at all costs. Cancel the rest of the war and divert all those billions, whatever it takes, there's no other place like it anywhere. Oh, Amsterdam. I guess there's Amsterdam but it doesn't have the tiny alleyways and gondolas. No ancient glass shops or gelato stands or beautiful Italian hostesses that lead you down tiny streets to another hotel because the room you booked has a wall that could collapse at any second due to nearby construction. This is what happened to us and her hotel covered the additional cost of the switch to safer lodgings. A Bob Dylan portrait was hanging outside our room. The window inside overlooked a tiny courtyard. A tiny woman at least 80 ran the hotel's breakfast nook and spoke to us softly in Italian before screaming and throwing silverware at a bellhop who dared enter her kitchen in search of soap. She even yelled "MAMA MIA!" as he made his escape. What I wouldn't give to take up residency in that place for a month or five.

We spent the night going up the Campanile in Saint Mark's Square and wandering Venice's corridors with giant bottles of Moretti in our hands. Gorgeous people were laughing in courtyards around every 500 year-old corner. I went to sleep that night thinking Venice was a paradise, overpriced cafes be dammed. Millions flock here every year for a reason.

Then the next day we headed back to Saint Mark's and found it jammed to the walls with tourists. There were thousands of them, everywhere. Hundreds of thousands. All of them, all of us, like rats on the tail end of a sinking life raft. Two Carnival cruise ships had dropped anchor that morning and all those great little alleyways were jammed with hoards of Americans, all of them slowly waddling, staring at maps and avoiding eye contact with gypsy beggars. It took ten minutes to walk a block.

What little room was left in the square was filled with pigeons. Thousands of them, all scrambling to tear apart anyone who dared drop a Euro on a bag of birdseed. I watched one girl, maybe 12, scream in terror as a dozen of the feathered monsters jumped onto her shoulders, desperately driving towards the bag. Another tourist dropped to the ground for a gag photo and found himself covered in them. The hunger of the pigeons in Saint Mark's Square rivals that of an army of starving vampires.

If the rising water and pigeon poop don't destroy Venice, the tourists will. One July day a few years from now the main island will suddenly and spontaneously sink under the weight of one digital camera too many. At least there will be plenty of snapshots to remember the place by.

Frenzy in Firenze

On a boiling Saturday night we found ourselves sitting in a laundromat two blocks down from the tiny hostel where a man who looked and acted too much like Roberto Benigni was working as a manager. Two recent college grads, one from Toronto and the other from DC, decided to swap tales of travel woes with us in a game of one-upmanship. They were both unimpressed with our night on the train to Munich. The DC guy had spent the previous night on a freezing hillside overlooking Firenze (AKA Florence). He had hoped to sneak into a convent with a girl he met while gazing up at the schlong of Michelangelo's David. His plan was quickly foiled. A nun caught him at the main entrance and chased him off down the street.

The kid from Toronto made the mistake of flying into Paris and heading to the nearest bar. After getting extremely drunk, he missed the last subway of the night back to his hostel and made the wise decision to pass out on a bench. He woke up twenty minutes later with his backpack and his shoes missing. In socks, he headed off towards his hostel and found himself being followed. His pursuant kept drawing closer and closer until the Toronto kid whipped out a large hunting knife, the click of the blade ricocheting off a quiet street. His would-be mugger took off running. Never screw with a Canadian with a large knife.

He broke out the knife and flipped it open to offer a visual aid to his anecdote. Not that he needed it. He won this contest at "my shoes were stolen."

The museum workers of Florence went on strike the next day so no David or Venus on a Clamshell for us. Instead, we had to settle for the fake David with the huge hands in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (see above) and a chalk drawing of Venus created by a teenager. Shortly after I took a photo, he broke out a bucket and washed his art away. I'm assuming there's some sort of local ordinance that requires him and his fellow street artists to destroy their hard work at the end of the night.

We wandered the streets in the Tuscan sun, smashed a pair of sunglasses in the Giardino dei Semplici (long story), drank coffee at a cafe as a marathon passed us and ate pizza in the strangest restaurant I'll ever set foot in. In addition to a pizza oven made of clay, there was a side room with walls and a ceiling covered in newspapers. The men's bathroom was oddly decadent with Asian decor and a square steel toilet. Imagine an Italian McMenamins with owners that are nuts when it comes to selecting decor. I can think of no better place to eat Neapolitan-style pizza for the first time.

In a market near everything in Florence there's a statue of a pig. If you rub his snout and toss a coin at his feet, the powers-of-fate will grant you a return trip one day. I gave it a good rub. Florence, I want a rematch.

Zebra-stripped mosquitoes rule the Tower of Pisa

We decided to make a side-trip to Pisa on our way to Rome and somehow pulled the whole thing off. Pisa is a fairly small city but the tower stands on the opposite side of town from the train station. We walked the whole way. It took about 30 minutes and our route led us past disturbing amounts of anarchist graffiti. Red letter A's in circles covered nearly every blank wall. It was here that I spotted a "Yankee go home!" tag.

As we neared the tower, suddenly everything was bright and shiny. We each drank an Italian mocha for a Euro apiece. Over there, "mocha" means a shot of chocolate-flavored espresso served in a tiny cup. We waited an hour for a run up the tower by watching tourists from everywhere pretend to knock it over. As you climb up it, the tower seems to lean further and further, creating a disorienting effect as you head up those ancient stairs. At the top, everyone was hanging onto the railings and walking around like Captain Jack Sparrow.

The bumps materialized right around then. At first they were the size of dimes but later they grew to the size of a sand dollar. Shanna's legs were covered in them. Where did they come from? Who was responsible for these injuries? The swarms of black and white-stripped mosquitoes that apparently rule the top of the Tower of Pisa in the middle of the September. At one point, I found myself taking in the landscape by jogging around the top of the tower in circles. Bugs or no bugs, I was going to enjoy that view, dammit. Somewhere on Shanna's camera, there's a video of us discussing the bumps while I hummed the theme song to Super Mario Brothers for reasons I can't remember. No, you will never see it.

All Slow-Moving Eurail Trains Lead to Rome

The mosquito bites and the boiling temperature on the train to Rome resulted in an increasing level of naive paranoia that filled my skull as we headed along an impossibly gorgeous coastline. Twenty minutes from our stop, I read a lengthy entry in a Lonely Planet guide that had me convinced we would be torn apart by gypsies by the time we found the subway. So we whipped together a swift plan of attack. We would hustle straight to the train and to our hotel, pausing only when absolutely necessary. At one point I found myself yelling, "GO! GO! GO!" like a crazed platoon leader in a sweltering stairwell. What a sight I must have been, with my 60 pound backpack and an overpriced Fidel Castro-style army hat on my head. A cartoon of an American tourist getting assaulted by a robber on a monitor on the train didn't help my mood.

We calmed down when we discovered that our hotel was two blocks from a military base. Four hours later, we were drifting around the deserted streets circling the Roman Forum. The only people still out at that hour seemed to be teenaged goths. What do teenaged goths in Rome do on Tuesday nights? They hang around what remains of Caaser's old digs and drink liquor from poorly concealed bottles.

We missed our train and nearly found ourselves locked in a subway station. We eventually grabbed a cab. The gray-haired driver took the long way back, buzzing through Rome's tiny streets at speeds of upwards of 60 miles an hour while blasting Justin Timberlake's Future Sex/Love Sounds because I guess he thought that was the sort of thing two exhausted Americans would want to hear at that hour. At one point we burst out into a plaza with a giant fountain in the middle and crossed three lanes of traffic in a second flat. He could have had us back at the hotel in five minutes but it took fifteen. I don't care. No ride at Magic Mountain comes close. The very next night, the same damn thing happened after the subway mysteriously shut down three hours early.

A city like Rome tests your patience like a screaming toddler. The drivers don't care about you. Street peddlers attack you at every tourist sight hawking everything from roses to plastic screeching cockroaches that they will hold up to your ear with no warning. Gypsy beggars dressed better than you throw themselves at your hands in coffee shops or lay on the street like cancer victims struck by lightning, their shaking arms clutching cups. People in $500 outfits storm around the streets with complete indifference to anyone and everyone around them, their tongue's whipping over black cell phones and their eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses. Supposedly, 30% of men over the age of thirty in Italy still live with their parents so they can afford high-priced living and fast cars.

I don't think the Romans are rude like the French are rude. I just think they're completely oblivious to their surroundings 95% of the time. In addition to all of that, if you do anything that could be perceived as slightly stupid or rude, a local will make a weird noise that sounds like "TSST!" It's the Italian equivalent of a sigh or an eye roll. I've never been worked over by a dominatrix but three days in Rome will leave you feeling something like that, I'm sure. It's all oddly pleasant but it hurts.

We missed a chance to see the Pope babble at his followers but we did spend a stormy afternoon touring the Vatican City. I sent a dirty postcard from the post office that isn't going to win me any brownie points with St. Peter. I got in line and rubbed the feet of his statue (see above) in the Basilica along with everyone else. I'm hoping that made up for the slight. The building is impossibly huge, an immortal testament to the overreaching power and pompousness of organized religion. I can say with some certainty that there is no other structure on the planet as epic and capable of pummeling a person's spirit into submission. The size of a dozen football fields and chock full of dead Popes and amazing architecture, no mere mortal can process a place like it. In the basement, people weep on their knees at the tomb of Pope Jean Paul. There's a section for them to do so, separated from a walkway by a velvet rope.

In a slow-moving battalion of physically-drained Italians, we made our way to the Sistine Chapel. It's a big room with not enough guards to scream at everyone for taking photos. Heading for the subway afterwards, I felt like all the planet's opulence had been shoved into my brain in the space of five hours. That night we ate pizza in the city's oldest pizza parlor, a place called Ricci's, where I discovered sardines ain't so bad.

Fun factoid: once upon a time, the Roman Colosseum hosted an unusual battle involving a gigantic mechanical whale, a group of gladiators and fifty live bears. The whale was raised from the floor and the bears poured out of its mouth, hurtling themselves at their adversaries. That would have been something to see. For reasons I have yet to research, the Colosseum is currently undergoing repairs. When we there, the walls of the upper decks were under construction. Even odder, someone is paying to rebuild the stadium's wooden playing field. While I don't know if I could get behind rebuilding the Coliseum, if they start staging battles like that again I'd buy a ticket.

Fifty bears flying out of a whale's jaws. Can you imagine a scene like that? Something else I learned: the aristocracy of ancient Rome would routinely get together for 15-course meals. Between courses, servants would bring them feathers and buckets to purge their guts and allow for more gorging. And Europeans think we're decadent and wasteful. These people invented gluttony.


Thursday, November 15, 2007


I hate Dennis Dixon's left knee


Oh well, there's always the Rose Bowl.

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Bad ideas

Bad idea:

Renaming Interstate Avenue Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

Worse idea:

Renaming SW Fourth Avenue Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. First of all, doing so will completely mess up the street numbering system in downtown Portland, which will inevitably result in all of us being asked "where's 4th? What's the matter with you people?" by tourists and expats every ten minutes. I can see the rationale of an all-white city council throwing down a "see, we're not racist!" trump card in the middle of a situation like this but why not redub one of the side-streets that run alongside City Hall instead? Wouldn't that be a bold enough gesture? Plus,I don't think James Madison's ghost wound mind giving up his street for this. Worse yet, the proponents of the Interstate name change hate the proposal.

If it finally goes through, I call dibs on running the "Portland Citizens Committee for Renaming SW 6th the Bruce Lee Parkway." I'd also be interested in joining up with a potential "Portland Alliance of Occasional Voters Eager to See SW Broadway Switched to Clyde Drexler Boulevard Even Though He Already Has a Street Named After Him Over by the Rose Garden."

The Worst Idea of All:

Why are Tom Potter and Bud Clark clearly wearing shorts in this photograph? And why do they seem more interested in each other than Vera and her statue? Ooooooooh...

Some photos tell a thousand words. I think this one has at least 750 in it. More here, if you haven't already seen the rest.

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Blogroll revamp

I just completed a revamp of the sidebar. I moved a few things around and tossed in several sites that should have been added months ago. I think I may now have the longest blogroll in the Portland blogosphere. Now there's an accomplishment I wish I could stick on a resume.

FYI: there is a blog out there devoted entirely to rating Portland's hamburger joints. It's on the sidebar but here's a direct link.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


"Stop talking about the future and start talking about now"

In front of a sellout crowd the Blazers just beat the Detroit Pistons, one of the NBA's best defensive teams, ending a 4-0 run of wins at the Rose Garden. Even Paul Allen was on his feet and clapping. Sure, his face was as emotionless as the T-1000's but at least he was clapping.

Will they make the playoffs? Let's see if they can win a game on the road first.



And what happens after three glasses, Oscar?

This New York Times article on absinthe has been making the rounds on a few local blogs over the past few days. Supposedly, the murky legal barriers banning its use in the states are falling and two companies now successfully export it from Europe. Unfortunately, the good folks at Metroblogging Portland have yet to find a bar or liquor store here in Portland that sells the stuff.

The author of the article tried absinthe and says it induced "a kind of relaxed alertness" but skeptically cautioned he may have just been drunk on over a century of hype and hysteria surrounding the drink. I tried a glass recently and I'd like to think there's more to it than that. Thankfully, it didn't inspire me to write any poetry though.

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Monday, November 12, 2007


Got 30 minutes you need to get rid of?

Then just click the play button.


Saturday, November 10, 2007


Tech support, War on Terror-style

In the US a problem with an email account might lead to a tech support call or contacting the company that hosts it. The same rule applies to our brave fighting men and women overseas but sometimes they vent their frustrations in ways not considered kosher stateside.

I wish I'd had a gun with laser targeting around when my iPod went belly-up in January. I spent four hours on the phone with Apple tech support before they finally agreed to replace it.

This photo is compliments of "M.I.A." He's a former college roommate currently serving in Iraq and, yeah, those are really his initials. He was having problems with a spam filter blocking his outbound emails. After getting the issue resolved, he took the process a step further, thus creating his own special brand of troubleshooting.

Let this be a lesson to all the spam and overzealous spam filters out there.

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Be true to your own self-interest

Local developers now have their eyes on the spot where Lincoln High sits. Their proposal: tear down the aging school and replace it with condo towers. Where will the kids go? To a new facility on a vacant parcel of land owned by freight company Con-way in NW Portland.

There are a lot of problems with this proposal but the biggest one I can see is that many of Portland's schools are getting long in the tooth and are in poor shape. My alma mater, Wilson High School, once referred to as a "country club on the hill" when it first opened in the '50s, is falling apart. I visited the campus back in May and found tiles precariously hanging off the ceiling, walls with chipping paint, ancient lockers covered in poorly washed-off graffiti and a stairwell that reeked of rotting garbage. One locker with a missing door on the third floor looked like a bomb had exploded in it.

While I haven't set foot in Lincoln in a decade, I'm sure it's in better shape than Wilson. Long story short: a few crowded hallways and an aging building seems like poor reasoning for a costly move. Lincoln has been standing for 55 years and its projected lifespan is at least 80. Con-way has already considered selling its parcel of land to developers. Plus, would it even be big enough for a high school and an accompanying football field like the one Lincoln currently has? While neighborhood ordinances would prevent a condo tower from going up in NW, I'm sure there's cash to be made off building smaller housing over there.

In the days to come this is likely to be sold to the public as a win-win situation for everybody. The developers will be able to make big bucks off the Lincoln's downtown spot and the kids will get a new facility somewhat nearby. Still, I can't help feeling that PPS will be sold down the river and its other schools will continue to deteriorate, all to pave the way for a cold-hearted land grab.

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Friday, November 09, 2007


Random cell phone photo # 25

It's been a while since I've done one of these. This one comes from the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove.

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The Pipettes at John Henry's - 11/2

John Henry's is a weird place. Located in downtown Eugene, the nightclub looks like the result of a head-on collision between a dive bar and Portland's Dante's. There's a tiny dance-floor and a small stage near the entrance, the walls are the color of blood, a plastic monster baby hangs over the bar and they serve 32 ounce bottles of Miller Hi-Life for $4. It's not the sort of place I thought I'd ever see a girl group like the Pipettes perform on a Friday night in November.

While much of their act is sprinkled with irony, the three British girls that make up the Pipettes dress in polka dot skirts, perform choreographed dance moves and sing songs that lean back towards the glory days of Phil Spector before his 'fro grew three sizes too big and his soul shrunk four sizes too small. There's a blond Pipette (the nerdy one), a brunette Pipette (the moody one) and a redhead Pipette (the one with the hungry eyes that seem to say, "I'm going to ditch the other two ASAP and start my own career). The later is supposedly working on a solo album as we speak.

The Pipettes played an hour-long set in front of a crowd of around a hundred people and kept their clear disdain for Eugene, Oregon in check. Who knows what size crowds they're used to back home. While there was no encore, the girls were nice enough to come out and pose for photos with members of the crowd after the show. Or at least their manager sent them back out. After all, you can never tell when there'll be an influential journalist or blogger (no, not me) in the crowd, even at whistle-stops between Portland and San Francisco.

The real find of the night was the Pipettes' opening act, Nicole Atkins and the Sea. Out of Neptune City, New Jersey by way of NYC, the band sounds sort of like Rilo Kiley and sings songs about doomed love. living in cars and wrecking balls. Atkins has already appeared on David Letterman and seems set for a long career in the indie rock world if she sticks with it. Between sets, Atkins mingled with the crowd at a merchandise table. While talking with my friend Sho (AKA as the proprietor of Cup o' Noodles), she asked to take a photo of him and his 32 of Hi-Life. In return, she posed with the beer. Now that's one way to earn yourself a regional fanbase.

If only more bars outside of Germany were willing to sell beer in such large individual quantities. Thanks for passing along these photos, Sho.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007


"Er, somethin'..."

I remember seeing Joe for the first time outside of my dorm room window on my first day of college. He was laughing his ass off with Bill, a friend since high school. I can't describe my first impression. I'm sure it's the same sort of thing that went through the head of someone who ever had a chance to meet John Belushi before he became famous- a little bit of disgust, a lot of awe and a desire to get in on the joke he was telling.

Joe went through a phase between our Freshman and Junior years in college when he would steal a beer, one of your beers, stick it down his pants and rub it against his bare crotch to claim ownership before offering it back to you. Why? Because he was thirsty and because it was funny. Simple as that. He would do this in front of anyone- friends, uptight jerks like me and even any female goodly and brave enough to spend time with our circle of friends. Like many comedians, I think getting a laugh was like a heroin buzz for him- irresistible and he was willing to do just about anything to get a fix.

Joe was basically a student of Chris Farley and probably shouted the words, "LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING, JACK" while hiking up his pants more times than anyone on the planet. He adored The Simpsons and could impersonate nearly every character on the show. His Professor Frink was perfect. His favorite movie? As far as I know, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which he would quote often and claimed to have seen twelve times at Lloyd Cinemas the summer he moved to Portland.

But Joe wasn't a cliched class clown or a mindless pop culture-spewing dormrat. Sure, we spent our undergrad years on the same campus Belushi stomped around while filming Animal House but he was hardly a Xerox of the comedian's Bluto Blutarsky character. Joe was one of the most fiercely intelligent individuals I've ever met. I always envied his almost mystical ability to retain knowledge. Going up against him in a game of Trivial Pursuit was always an exercise in futility. Watching Jeopardy with Joe was always enough to make you wonder exactly how time you wasted starring out windows in American History back in high school.

He could keep up with anyone on just about any topic, jumping from an obscure South Park or Mr. Show reference to James Gleick's "chaos" theories in the space of five seconds. If he didn't know what you were talking about during any given late night BS session in a college dorm room or a tavern, he'd suck up every bit of information you were willing to offer. Then, years later, the same topic would inevitably come up and he would remember more about the subject than you could.

I'll always remember the time he nearly got me fired from a volunteer gig as a DJ on KWVA FM in Eugene. He called in to the station and wanted to talk, live on air, about what it would be like to light up a tampon and smoke it. Did I put him on? Of course. Why? Because we thought the topic was funny and this is the sort of stuff two undergrads talk about on college radio at 3:30 AM on a Tuesday in February when no one is listening. Unfortunately, someone was listening that night and it was the station's Program Director. She didn't see the humor in our dumb conversation and ordered me to "kill the mike and put on some goddamn music right now." And I'll always remember the time I got incredibly angry at him for playing Abbey Road endlessly and for eating all of my Oreos, an entire package, over the course of a single night in the summer of 2000. Our time together as roommates lasted all of thirty days.

I'll always remember his chuckle, the way he'd nervously fiddle with his hair when he thought no one was looking and his tendency to blurt out, "I said 'NO CAMELS!' That's four camels. Can't you count?!" during an awkward pause in a conversation. Why did he do this? Because, somehow, for reasons that would make sense to few, it was funny. With his wit and bloated brain he could have been anything. A chemist, a professor, or a super-smart hobo that hangs around outside the library at Harvard and dispenses precious wisdom and advice to frustrated students. A Theater Arts major, Joe wanted to be another Belushi or Farley but he never got the chance. Instead, he was our Belushi, our Farley and he'd probably hate me for writing such sappy shit about him in a public forum.

Joe's life began taking a bad turn during my senior year of college. In the final years of his life he saw and endured things I wouldn't wish on anyone, some of it self-induced, a lot of it not. Throughout it all, in the darkest of hours, he somehow retained his sense of humor, making light of whatever vicious card fate had dealt him. I last saw Joe outside of Mary's Club after a night out with friends in March of 2006. The last time I heard his voice was in the background of another friend's phone call last Christmas.

Joe was a good friend and I was not. I'll always regret not being able to take his jokes, for not being more patient with him, for not realizing the full gravity of his situation, for not doing more, for getting too wrapped up in my own problems and for not setting things right while I had the chance. I always thought there would be more time to patch things up, that it would all naturally come together at some get-together at the Goose Hollow Tavern or down at the coast, that I wouldn't have to suck it up, make a phone call and awkwardly try to make amends. I suspected but never actually thought that God would cut him off well before his time, dead and gone at only 30.

For what it's worth, Joe, there's a candle burning for you in a little cabin up by Tyron Creek tonight. One of those cheesy Catholic things you can find at places like Winco with the Lord's Prayer written in both Spanish and English on the back next to a UPC symbol, like the ones that were always burning around the house down on 32nd street in Eugene. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is on mute in the background as I type this. Elsa just dropped into the crack and now Indy's reaching for the Holy Grail. If there is a heaven, I hope you're there kicking back tequila at Farley's corner booth at the bar and laughing at this blubbering, guilt-ridden chump pounding out belated apologies and tossing them into the internet.

In closing, for no other reason than I thought they were funny, here's two goofy haikus you wrote for The Oregon Commentator what seems like a million years ago...


Good God, can you fee' the funk?
Step back, kiss myself
Movin' it, groovin' it. HEY!

Git' naw da sagga gibley...
git' ret' do ma thang...
unh, two, thee, fo'HAW! Aw 'ight!

1997 - 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007


How much is too much for college football?


That's the price I watched two Ducks fans pay to get into Saturday's game.


For a regular season, college football game. That's a mark-up somewhere in the 500% range.

Two colleagues and I hit the footbridge in front of Autzen Stadium with an hour to go before kick-off. The scalpers were out in throngs but unwilling to let even the worst seat in the place go for less than $130. We headed off to a nearby Dutch Brothers, figuring that if we returned right as the game was starting they'd be more desperate and willing to let three tickets go for a lot less.

Hey, it was a plan that made sense at the time.

And we were completely and utterly wrong, of course. This was a major match-up between two of the nation's top tier teams. Ten minutes after kick-off we got down to some serious haggling with a scalper. He had three tickets thirty rows up from the field and was eager to be rid of them. We tried to talk him down to $80 a head but he wouldn't go a penny below $100. We passed. Within seconds, another fan wandered up and snagged all three for $350.

So instead of sitting inside the stadium we wandered the parking lot through throngs of RVs and lingering tailgaters. Someone in a Mr. Hankey costume was patrolling the grounds. We passed other fans content to sit next to their Winnebagos and watch the game on portable TVs.

We eventually ventured over to the Cooler, a barn-shaped bar near the stadium with a wall-to-wall TV but it had fans packed to the rafters. How a college football game, even a big, important one, can attract 58,000 people to lil' Eugene, OR. and untold numbers of others to local bars and stadium parking lots is beyond me. Then again, I'm only a casual fan.

So we settled for nachos and artichoke dip at a local McMenamins and watched the second half basically for free on a 22-inch screen. We saved ourselves $300 and saw the game anyway, which you've got to admit got pretty damn dull during the fourth quarter.

And I look forward to doing it all over again for the Civil War game. Maybe.


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Friday, November 02, 2007


When a Nova collapses into a black hole

Back in 2001, five months removed from college and desperate to find a job, I interviewed with a Japanese company called Nova. At the time Portland had the highest rate of unemployment in the nation and I'd just been turned down for a job dusting off DVDs at my neighborhood's Blockbuster Video. A recession is no time to go looking for work with a liberal arts degree. Exhausted and humiliated after months of fruitless interviews, running off to teach English on the other side of the planet seemed like a brilliant idea.

After two weeks of studying up on the company and Japan at large, I blew the interview after spending a day getting picked apart by three of Nova's scouts in a downtown conference room. I still remember the miserable ride back home on a Tri-Met bus clogged with commuters in business suits. It's a day that still haunts me. Six months later, I moved to Yellowstone for an ill-fated job at the park's Canyon Lodge. Six years later, I'm still wasting away in Dead-End-Job-Ville, still searchin' for my lost shaker of self-respect.

But what if I had landed the job? Like most, I would have likely lasted six months to two years in Japan before burning out and returning to the states. On the other hand, many expats make a career out of such gigs and there's always the possibility I'd still be overseas right now...reduced to pickpocketing on the Tokyo transit system.

If you haven't already heard the news, Nova went belly-up this week. Once Japan's # 1 source for English tutors with 924 branches nationwide, it's hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. The head of the company has vanished and thousands of former teachers are stuck in a country where they barely or outright don't speak the language. According to a Wednesday cover story in the Oregonian, many haven't been paid in weeks and others are on the verge of eviction from their company-sponsored apartments. The article also reports that one entrepreneurial former teacher has set up a website offering advice on how to steal wallets from commuters. The past few years have been horrible for a company that has buckled under the weight of lawsuits, mismanagement, government regulations, over-expansion and the bizarre murder of one Canadian teacher.

Further reading on the mess can found on Wikipedia. It's for the best that I never made it over there but I still can't shake an ongoing case of "What Might Have Been."

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The last Halloween-related post of the year, I swear

The family and I went out to Lake View Farms over the weekend to buy pumpkins. I'm now a convert and will be going there for all my pumpkin-related needs in the years to come. It has all the same attractions that can be found on Sauvie Island (corn maze, pumpkin patch, Honey Buckets, etc.) but without the traffic jams to get across the bridge. Plus, they've got pony rides (pony rides!), a small train that transports visitors to their pumpkin patch, an annual pumpkin "chuckin'" contest and a boat that cruises along the lake past a mechanical sea serpent.

This year I bought a green pumpkin. It took over two hours to carve. Thirty minutes of that was spent trying to get the top off. Maybe this was because green pumpkins are tougher than their more common orange cousins but the size probably had a lot to do with it. At 28 pounds, it was probably the largest piece of fruit I've ever eviscerated. I went with a Frankenstein face. Here's how it turned out. It's the one on the left.

Here's Shanna's effort: a double-sided pumpkin. A ball of flames on the front, Mrs. Pac-Man on the back.

I'm not sure what the juxtaposition of the two is meant to represent. I suspect it's something related to feminism and/or a desire to see Pac Man's wife shoot fireballs ala Mario. But could the digestive system of a yellow-ball-with-a-bow like her handle a fire flower?

Also: I took a picture of stuffed animals getting drunk on "Vampire" brand wine imported from a vineyard in the distant, mystical land of....California. Here's how that turned out:

Piglet? Total lush.

Que tengas un feliz Día de los Muertos, todos.

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