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Friday, January 30, 2009
Battlestar Galactica at the Baghdad
I missed last week's episode of Battlestar Galactica at the Baghdad but I did catch the season premiere. The place was packed, I barely made it in and I wound up sitting on a folding chair in front of the front row.
Critically-praised sci-fi television really is best viewed with around a thousand people in a brewpub theater. Tears were shed, audience members screamed "what the frak?!!" at the screen and a certain misguided KFC promotion was roundly ridiculed. If you didn't know already, KUFO and the Baghdad will be hosting screenings of BSG's final season every Friday night at 10 PM until the show wraps up later this winter.
Just following orders
A souvenir, and a coffee table conversation piece, from last week's quiz night at CC Slaughters.
Now did I post this photo just to freak out various family members from the south that occasionally read this blog? No, of course not (hi, guys!).
Not that these fine folks are in any way morally conservative or naive when it comes to city life. Why, just this past week my dad was talking with one of my aunts who lives in Georgia. At one point, she asked if we have "actual hobos that sleep in doorways" up here. In her neck of the country they apparently don't encounter too many homeless people.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Now I have a press pass. Ho. Ho. Ho.
I've been stuck with an unusual work schedule since right around Labor Day. Through the middle of February I'll continue to be trapped at my office every Thursday through Sunday, which isn't exactly ideal for someone like me who enjoys things like occasionally seeing friends and family.
While it's allowed me plenty of time to do laundry while everyone else I know is at work, I'd have to say my "weekend" is almost completely useless and annoying. That was until Tuesday afternoon came along.
The good folks organizing the 32nd Annual Portland International Film Festival have agreed to let me cover this year's fest. I've attended the annual festival for years but this will be the first time I've been involved as a member of "the press."
On Tuesday I was given a shiny, new press pass enabling me to spend the next three weeks sucking down as many arthouse and indie films as I can handle on all these otherwise worthless days off. Naturally, I plan to use this pass only for good and I have no intentions of revealing what goes down at the fest's press screenings, complain about the lack of vampire movies, attempt any gonzo journalism stunts or write about what Shawn Levy talks about before the movies start. Not that I've been eavesdropping or anything.
So far I've seen four films that will screen for the public once the festival kicks off with the premiere of Coraline at the Schnitz on February 5th. I'll start posting reviews the early part of next week. I hope to see as much as I can but the festival is a Unicron-sized cinematic behemoth (click here for a rundown on this year's selections). Even the Oregonian's staff has a hard time keeping up with the dozens upon dozens of movies, shorts and documentaries that will screen over the course of the next few weeks and I am but one bored blogger with a craptacular full-time work schedule.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Is this Portland?
I'd like to think that the folks who live along, oh, say SE Powell might take issue with this smug representation of our fair city. Yes, world, everyone in Portland rides around on bicycles wistfully staring into space while dreaming of baguettes and crepes. Please also take note of the inclusion of the streetcar, which is soooooo totally just like the one in Amsterdam. Yup, the only thing Europe has up on Portland is that whole "2,000 years of rich cultural heritage and plenty of iconic architecture known throughout the world" thing.
Let's be honest with ourselves. As much as some of us might like to think that this is America's most European city, Portland doesn't have much of anything beyond bikes, the weather and a small assemblage of soccer fans in common with the old world.
The ad is part of a campaign organized by something called the Downtown Marketing Initiative. I'm all for civic pride but have a look at the ad titled "Snow." Is it obnoxious? Yes. Is it embarrassingly twee? Yes. Does it make the average Portland resident out to be some sort of Dr. Suess denizen? At least kinda.
I don't think we're going to see any ads coming out of the DMI devoted to the seemingly endless array of construction projects that clog downtown, the growing homeless population or random acts of senseless violence but wouldn't that be something? "Hey, potential tourists and shoppers! Come downtown for the interactive seasonal art displays, stay for the flying bullets and stinky, overpriced parking garages!"
Are Portland and its central core really that bad? No, but they're not Disneyland Paris either. I guess I'd just like to see a little more reality in our localized propaganda.
Let's see if you can answer the following question. The answer can be found at the bottom of this post.
What common garden insect can be born while pregnant with its own grandchildren?
This question cost my team over $100 in prize money a few weeks ago. We made it into the Final Jeopardy round of trivia night at the Green Dragon only to get tripped up by our lack of knowledge when it comes to all things invertebrate.
I'm a relative newcomer to the world of pub quizzing. My friend Adam invited me to join his team a few weeks ago. He's a veteran on the circuit and organizers still tell tales of the time he landed in second place at a quiz night at the Bridgeport while playing alone against over a hundred opponents. The man is, quite simply, a force of nature when it comes to pub trivia and is kinda, sorta like whoever got the A-Team together. He's been known to recruit two-time winners of actual Jeopardy to his fold.
My first night we landed in first place, earning everyone at our table a whopping $22 bucks. Not so bad for around 90 minutes of drinking...er, high-stakes competition. The following week we wound in second. Last Monday we had to settle for third place after getting tripped up by a final question involving Millard Filmore. Did you know that in the 1856 presidential election he failed to win as the Know Nothing Party and Whig candidate? Well, neither did we.
Quiz nights like this typically run just short of two hours and are hosted every Monday through Friday in bars around Portland. The first round consists of twenty-five questions followed by a bingo round for bonus points. A third round offers a series of rotating themes. Along the way teams can earn extra points for completing games like crosswords and bringing in stuff based on each week's central theme. Since I began, quiz nights have been devoted to questions centered around babies, presidents and smoking.
Is all of this fairly geeky and somewhat reminiscent of bingo nights in a church basement? Sure, but it beats sitting around in a pub on a weeknight and not potentially getting paid to be there.
Unfortunately, Pub Quiz Oregon was recently ousted from the Green Dragon. From what we've been told, the new owners weren't keen on the number of quiz players taking up tables on Monday nights. Or, to put it in other words, they're convinced that chasing dozens of customers away from their establishment on a slow weeknight will somehow boost business. Yet another reason to rag on Rogue Ale's takeover of the Dragon? Absolutely
PQO has since relocated their Monday night trivia game to CC Slaughters' "entertainment complex" in Old Town. Let me tell you, the bathrooms down there? Way more interesting than the ones at the Green Dragon. One sign advises patrons that the mens room is "for men and women who like to stand." The ladies room? "For women and men who like to sit." The establishment's light-up, trough-style urinal? Pure, unfiltered, freak the hell out of uptight straight gents like me, class. Another nice touch: table clothes that you can color on with Crayons. Local hetero bars? Take a tip from CCS. More Crayons, please.
Anyway, if you'd like to learn more about the world of pub trivia, feel free to check out the PQO's website.
ANSWER: Aphids. To learn more about aphids, click here.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I guess I blogged too soon
In light of recent events maybe that post I wrote in defense of mayor Sam wasn't the best idea in the world.
Over the past few days, Adams has ostracized at least one member of City Council, new allegations have emerged, his spokesman has resigned and it's become obvious that his "mentoring" of Beau Breedlove may have led the poor kid down more than a few dark paths. This scandal isn't going to fade away and it's probably time for Adams to call it quits before months and months of recall efforts get underway.
What a mess.
Cynicism triumphs once again
These two Portland blogs debuted last summer. At the time, I wondered which of them would last the longest. I put my money on Things About Portland That Suck and I was right. The last post to appear on Portland is Awesome was last September.
It's a shame but, given the collective disaffection that's been growing like a fungus on this town lately, I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise. C'mon, Portland. Chin up. The local economy may stink, our streets may be clogged with flying bullets and our mayor may very well be a sociopath but at least we're still sitting atop an ever growing supply of the best locally produced beer and liquor in the country.
I think I'd pass on the fried insects
A colleague of mine from high school spent the holidays running around southeast Asia and put together a blog about his travels. Among the things I learned from reading it:
Recommended reading? Definitely.
Blitzen Trapper at the Crystal Ballroom
On Sunday night at the Crystal Ballroom's 95th birthday celebration Blitzen Trapper made the same mistake the Decemberists made during a show there a few years ago. If you're going to play a set in a venue with a bouncing dance floor you'd better not select a song list consisting almost entirely of your mellowest ballads.
The place was packed at the beginning of Blitzen Trapper's set but, about halfway through, the crowd started heading for the exits. Never a good sign, especially during a free show. I guess they were expecting 90 minutes of this. In their defense, many of the tracks off the band's latest album Furr aren't exactly what could be called dance songs. Guitarist Marty Marquis even apologized for their laid back set before launching into a few acoustic numbers. It's a shame that more people didn't stick around to hear the band play "Sleepy Time in the Western World" and the album's title track, one of the best (and oddest) songs released last year.
Maybe Blitzen Trapper should have played more songs from their crazier Wild Mountain Nation but the crowd sitting in the balcony didn't seem to mind. It was pretty hazy up there, especially during Blue Giant's solid opening act. It's nice to see that some local venues haven't gone entirely smoke free (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, etc).
While the response of many in the audience have been a solid "meh," an older couple tore up the dance floor. They each had to be well north of 60 and didn't take a single break during Blitzen Trapper's set. They really had some moves and the husband pulled off one of the best robots I've ever seen.
One last thing: if anyone can tell me what this instrument is, I'd be much obliged. Marty Marquis, the band's keyboardist, broke one out for a few of their songs.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Random Cell Phone Photo # 41
They don't get much more random than this one.
Labels: cell phone photos
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Should Portland let this slide?
Everyone else in this city is stating an opinion so I might as well too.
I don't like Sam Adams.
I don't like his policies. I don't like his recklessness. I don't like the fact that he mercilessly panders to the city's green community. I don't like his seemingly endless passion for lame-brained civic projects and publicity stunts. I don't like that he's a cold, calculating career politician in a bike-commuting sheep's clothing. And I don't like the fact that he never returned one of my phone calls asking for a quote when I was working as an intern at a certain local weekly publication (not that I'm still bitter or anything).
Despite all of that, if Adams is finally telling the truth about his relationship with Beau Breedlove and that everything they did together was consensual and legal, then this city needs to let it go. Fine, so he lied about what could very well have been a perfectly legal personal affair between two adults. What would you have done in his shoes with a mayoral bid on the line? Tell the truth about your private life and watch the political career you fought and clawed to build out of nothing go up in flames?
Bill Clinton lied while under oath and the nation gave him a pass. Not every public figure has been so lucky while caught up in similar circumstances. Should there be an investigation into whether or not Adams had sex with a minor? Absolutely. If those allegations can't be proven, well, then let me pop the happy collective marshmallow and gumdrop bubble we've all floating in while caught up in the wake of Obama-mania. Politicians lie every day about all sorts of things and, as we should all know, politics are a filthy, filthy business.
Taking a politician's word for anything is like convincing yourself that a stripper is really charmed by your personality and lame one-liners. Everyone in a position of power, be it the president or a manager of a Build-A-Bear Workshop, has had to fib, toss some skeletons in a closet and step on a few very nice people to get there. Does that make it all OK?
Of course not but this whole bloody country was built on lies, huge ones and little white ones and ones the size of Beau Breedlove too. I don't like it either but that's just the way things are.
So Adams was stupid enough to let his guard (and his pants, let us not forget the pants) down long enough to become smitten with a poor guy whose parents were spiteful or oblivious enough to name him Beau Breedlove. Even worse, he got caught lying about it. If Adams couldn't see a Grand Canyon-sized political liability like Beau coming from a thousand miles away then maybe he isn't so shrewd after all.
Still, attack our mayor for his political views. Hound him for his ridiculous bridge toll proposal and the horrible Burnside couplet plan that he keeps pushing. If it can't be proven that he had sex with a minor then this city needs to stop the cries for his resignation and let Sam go back to doing what he does best: giving Portland much more legitimate reasons to regret electing him mayor.
And don't blame me, I voted for Sho.
FYI: The photo above was copied from a Flickr pool. It belongs to a Flickr user named "dontbecreepy," whose great photostream full of shots of Sam Adams caught in several awkward poses can be found here.
The problem with Benjamin Button
Two words: the hummingbird.
I finally saw the film the other night. With the exception of the bird, I didn't think it was all that bad for a remake of Forrest Gump.
A too-late consumer warning
Flame, the novelty body spray that east coast Burger Kings were selling over the holidays? It does not actually smell like cheeseburgers, grills or anything else burger-related.
And now you know. I ordered a bottle online as a gag gift and it didn't show up until well after Christmas.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Inauguration Night in the Slammer
Here's a few blurry cell phone photos from last night's Inauguration party at the Slammer, the former cop bar turned hipster haven on SE 8th. I was told there would be people dancing on the roof but maybe that all came together after I left.
Yesterday was a great day for national politics but not so great a day for local ones, obviously. I'm not going to state an opinion here but I overheard this joke at the Horse Brass Pub last night:
How do you spell "Blagojevich" in Portland?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
About the bear photo
The photos that appear at the top of the blog always have a Portland-connection but this one could probably use some context. It was taken at Ground Kontrol in Chinatown and it's a screen shot of The Simpsons arcade game. I figured it was fitting since Another Portland Blog recently survived its own near-death experience.
Thanks for nothing, old server.
At the Meh-vies 2008
As New Years rolls around publications and blogs around the world run their reviewers' "best and worst movies of the year" round-ups. All those movies that fall in the middle though? They may wind up at the top of Netflix's most-rented list but they never receive year-end kudos to call their very own. Where's a most mediocre movies of 2008 list? Right here, that's where. This may be belated but here's a run down on the ten most middle-of-road, uninspiring but not terrible films I saw last year:
1. Iron Man- Take away Robert Downey Jr's great performance and what are you left with? Yet another super hero origin story filled with banal action sequences, comic book cliches and generic terrorist bad guys. Here's hoping the trump card Tony Stark throws down in the film's last scene will make for a superior sequel.
The best movie I saw in a theater last year- The Dark Knight. I wish I could say the best one was something more respectable or an Oscar contender but The Dark Knight was the film the geek in me has been waiting to see for decades. It was as deadly serious as The Godfather as tragic as a Shakespeare play and had its feet rooted in reality. It didn't have any big robots, no super-powered mutants, just a bunch of great, incredibly screwed-up characters all thrown together in a nasty series of mind games and morale quagmires that eventually brings the city of Gotham to its knees. There will never be another comic book movie this good.
The worst movie I saw in a theater last year- Twilight. Do I really need to explain why?
And here's last year's list.
That was quick
Within hours (minutes?) of this going to press someone registered this domain.
Update: And now there's a blog.
Or maybe I should have gone with the "you killed my father, prepare to die" scene
I thought about writing-up a lengthy blog post about the twilight of the Bush administration chock full of Hunter S. Thompson-inspired venom or at least some imitative Matt Taibbi-esque vitriol. Then I realized that this clip from The Princess Bride sums up my thoughts and feelings rather nicely.
May George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the rest be blessed with longevity. May they live for decades and even centuries to come like that creaky, ancient knight at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I hope they all survive long enough to fully realize every last one of their mistakes and that history will neither redeem their actions, nor justify their means. Or, to paraphrase Westley, "It means [they're left] in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever. "
2001 - 2009
May your idiocy and arrogance serve as a cautionary tale for epochs to come
Looking ahead, good luck, America. You're gonna need it.
Monday, January 19, 2009
A weird night at PCS
I think it was around the time that an actress dressed as Hitler came out on stage to dry hump a German scientist and wave around a plastic rocket/phallus that I realized that not inviting my sister to go with me to Apollo had been a good idea. The production left me feeling like the Dude in The Big Lebowski when he makes the mistake of attending his landlord's "dance cycle" at a community theater. I felt perplexed, uneasy and craving an In-N-Out burger. The person I wound up going with may never speak to me again and I don't know if I can blame her.
Apollo, which runs through February 8th at Portland Center Stage, is full of overly-earnest imagery like this as it struggles to make connections between America's Space Race, Nazi rocket scientists and the Civil Rights Movement. During its nearly four-hour running time, actors pantomime floating in zero gravity, lust after the personification of the moon, recreate the darkest moments of US history and dance to Frank Sinatra tunes. A Mickey Mouse puppet even shows up to discuss the unlimited possibilities of using the medium of television as a propaganda tool.
The production rolls like an old episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy mashed together with an avant garde student movie and a Sociology 101 lecture. Character development and any real sense of plot are chucked aside in favor of endless sermonizing and dialogue that sounds like it was Xeroxed straight off random Wikipedia pages. Actors dive out at random to loudly announce they're Oliver L. Brown or LBJ before speed-rushing through random historical tidbits.
That's not to say it's a complete wash. With some heavy-editing, at least one part of the play might be salvageable. Apollo is almost redeemed by the second act, which slows down long enough to focus on a Justice Department investigation into one scientist's involvement in the deaths of thousands during World War 2. For around thirty minutes, Apollo dives into a mostly-forgotten bit of American history and elegantly exposes a bleak morale quagmire deserving of a better play to call its own. It's a shame that the rest of Nancy Keystone's script feels like a C- essay from a high school history class. The production is elaborately well-staged and the actors do the best they can with what could be the most scattershot material I think I've ever seen performed live. And this is coming from someone who once sat through an entire Phil Collins concert.
At one point, the cast stops in their tracks to answer their cell phones before sneering disdainfully at the audience. How meta! How bold! How daring! How cheeky! How very much like a pre-movie "turn off your phones, please!" ad at Regal Cinemas! The joke received groans from the crowd up in the balcony who had been invited to live-blog and tweet Saturday night's performance as it unfurled. I did the best I could with my iPhone but more or less gave up somewhere in the first act. I decided I'd rather watch the play than stare at my phone while struggling to come up with snarky comments. The other members of Portland's "new media" who showed up were much more game. Click here for The Mercury's write-up.
Up and running
So the blog is now (mostly) operational. The archives need to be fixed and a few of the pages still lead to dead links but, finally, I no longer have an excuse to avoid writing. Huzzah.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
A bold experiment in live theater or a prebaked debacle?
Given the economy, changing trends, rapidly evolving technology and shifts in socioculturalvaluesdemographicalsomethings it's not hard to understand why theaters and orchestras all over the world are having a hard time pulling in crowds under the age of, oh, say, 65. Locally, Portland Center Stage has recently come up with a slew of events designed to, let's be honest here, slowly replace their aging customer base with a younger audience.
Over the past year, PCS has hosted indie bands and has released $10 rush tickets to their productions. Now for Saturday's performance of Apollo (check out the trailer below) they've reserved the balcony for Twitter users to report on and critique the performance online as it unfolds. Because, as we all know, everyone under the age of 30 in this country can't go anywhere without keeping their Twitter/Facebook/Blogger/MySpace followers constantly informed of their thoughts, actions, whereabouts, bowel movements and every funny thing they've seen on the internet in the last five minutes.
It's a bold experiment and one that, all things considered, I can't see going over very well. The limitations of live theater demand silence and a respectful audience. A while back I caught a production of Macbeth in London. A bored husband sitting somewhere behind me had the gall to sneak in a large bag of Doritos. The sound of crunching chips and slurping was enough to irritate half of the balcony and, while a brawl didn't break out, enough sighing and glaring erupted to rival the lobby of a couples counseling center. The actions of one completely indifferent and oblivious individual just about ruined the evening for a hundred theater-goers.
Now imagine what it's going to be like up in the balcony at PCS on Saturday night. Dozens of bloggers, Twitter users and tech-head narcissists with short attention spans will be packed up there running amuck with their Blackberries, laptops and iPhones. The light of a single cell phone is enough to distract several rows of viewers in your average movie theater. The collective glow coming off of all of those electrical devices will inevitably drive the cast crazy and the bluehairs on the main floor up a wall.
Some of the tickets to this event were comped, others were discounted. What sort of Twitter user would show up for something like this anyway?
Well, a Twitter user like me, for starters. I'll be there on Saturday night with my iPhone and a friend. I'm told that we members of the Twitter crowd will begin the evening with a lecture from the staff on how to best avoid annoying the bejeezus out of the entire theater. The two of us will no doubt be on our best behavior (honest!) but what about everyone else? Maybe I should bring along some Doritos if things get interesting.
I do sincerely hope I'm wrong about all of this but, given how most of the Twitter users I follow aren't accustomed to pulling their punches, the odds aren't in PCS' favor. Given how self-important the production looks based on the trailer, I'm expecting an all-out debacle on Saturday night, especially if everyone starts acting like the sort of crowd that turns out for free movie screenings. This event could become the theater-management equivalent of smearing oneself in tuna guts and running into the Sea Lion Caves.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Slowly coming together....
After a few hours on hold with tech support and lots of headaches, things are slowly starting to come together around here. The URL is still redirecting to a temporary address but at least I was finally able to get rid of that annoying blogger search bar at the top of the page. There's work left to be done but at least everything's limping along now. I'm sure all of this could have taken a tech person about twenty minutes but I'm not about to reveal how much time I've
I hope to be back to regular blogging sometime next week. In the meantime, if you have any complaints or comments, feel free to share. In the interim, here's a photo of the Frank Zappa shrine at the Laughing Planet on NW 23rd.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Pardon the interruption....
2008 was not the best of years for Another Portland Blog. Readership numbers sagged, comments dwindled and the quality of posts around here dropped from their usual level of Absolute, Unequivocal and Unquestionable Excellence. Last spring, the company that hosts the blog decided to not bother fixing a glitch with Blogger's software, forcing all future updates to publish at a Blogspot address, further complicating matters.
So I'm in the process of trying to fix all of this and, more or less, build a better blog. In addition to switching things over to another server, I'm looking to revamp the sidebar and replace those dusty Flickr links with a Twitter feed. There's also several new Portland blogs out there that need to be listed and around ten posts in the works that are growing moldy as we speak.
To put all of this in other words.....
During the course of 2008 Another Portland Blog's management has made a few well-intentioned judgments (the chicken videos immediately spring to mind) which, with the benefit of hindsight, might regrettably have been, in some respects, ill-advised. Fundamental systemic errors concerning the blog's layout and publishing have further hampered the author's ability to bring you quality material suitable for all audiences and economic backgrounds. These mistakes are regretted and will be corrected as soon as possible. Until that time this blog will remain effectively on hiatus.
So, long story short, give me a week or so to track down the monkey-wrenches that have been clogging up the works for far, far too long. If you're curious, updates will be posted on the Twitter feed. Until this blog is up and running again here's a photo of the steak and kidney pie I ordered at the Horse Brass on the 31st. That evening marked the first and last time I'll be able to enjoy such a meal at the pub while smoking a cigarette. Lousy, terrible, no good smoking ban...
Maybe it's for the best, all things considered. *urp*
And, as always, advice and critiques on layout and content are always welcome in the comments section below.