April 2011

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Friday, October 30, 2009


More creepy Portland bathroom decor

Is this old Harrison Ford beer ad creepier than the Alexander poster over at the Opposable Thumb Gallery and Cafe? I report, you decide.

This one can be found in the bathroom at Binks.



The Day of the Dead came early this year

A few photos from last night's Day of the Dead celebration over on Alberta Street.

I missed the procession but I made it over there in time to snag a few alien-themed cupcakes. The street was still lined with people in costumes strolling along to the beats pouring out of a drum circle. One bloke was totting around his toddler in a small coffin welded to the front of his bike, both of them done up as skeletons. A few blocks down, an angel of death was walking around on stilts attached to both her arms and legs. She nearly knocked me over when she threw open her wings to pose for a photo.

Also: one of the galleries was giving out free pumpkin candy. Swank.


Friday, October 23, 2009


In memoriam: The Cort & Fatboy Show

I just heard the news on Twitter a few minutes ago that the Cort & Fatboy Show was canceled today by the suits over at Alpha Broadcasting. Despite the co-host's cheesy moniker, the show was a geeky oasis in Portland's endless sea of boring, bland corporate radio. Each week, the hosts brought in local media figures like Byron Beck, Mike Russell, David Walker and W.M. Steven Humphrey to chat about everything from the Sam Adams scandal to exactly how painful it is to sit through Transformers 2. Cort and Fatboy's podcasts have served as a soundtrack for plenty of my tedious jogging treks through Tryon Creek State Park. Without the show to serve as my exercise fuel, I'll surely become a 700 pound shut-in by Christmas.

Believe it or not, The Cort & Fatboy Show was the most consistently entertaining and witty program on Portland radio. Their lengthy conversations with Russell about movies always nailed each week's biggest Hollywood release. Their evisceration of Inglorious Basterds back in August perfectly outlined all the problems with Quentin Tarantino's near masterpiece.

The show will be missed but hopefully the hosts' monthly late night movie series at the Bagdad Theatre will continue. October's screening of Beetlejuice, with a pre-show reel of '80s commercials and cartoons, was a blast. Last winter, they also arranged a series of live-screenings of the final season of Battlestar Galactica and even managed to get co-star Katee Sackhoff to appear at one of them. There were plans to screen the final season of Lost at the theater as well in 2010 but there's no telling what will become of that.

This is a huge mistake on the part of the powers-that-be and here's hoping that Cort and Fatboy will be able to find another home on Portland's FM dial.

Further eulogies for the show can be found over on Blogtown and Portland Sucks.



Still specializing in both movies and, presumably, madness too

My DVR doesn't let me get over to Movie Madness much these days but I did make a trip there last week. The rental shop's selection of film props keeps getting better and better. One of the newest additions is the bar of soap Brad Pitt is seen holding on the poster for Fight Club.

It can found sitting next to the baby carriage from The Untouchables in a big display case in the center room.



August: Osage County

August: Osage County is one of those stage dramas that centers around a family quickly tearing itself apart. Everyone stomps around a living room while revealing terrible secrets about one another, much in the vein of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or Death of a Salesman. After three hours of bickering and venom-filled remarks, one by one, the characters all storm off into the night in separate directions. You know you're in for a grim trip to the theater when a character coughs up a T.S. Elliot quote within the first five minutes and throws themselves in a lake shortly thereafter.

I saw the touring production at the Keller a few nights back. The play follows the bitter squabbles of the Weston family in the days after the death of their professorial patriarch. The mother, played by Estelle Parsons (AKA Roseanne's mom on Roseanne), is addicted to pills and her three daughters are equally troubled. Drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, dysfunction, sexual harassment, pedophilia, aging, racism, incest, infidelity, loneliness, depression, underage exposure to the Turner Classic Movie channel...there doesn't seem to be a domestic problem the Westons aren't saddled with.

August is good for what it is, and worthy of its Tony award for the sharp-as-a-samurai-sword dialog, but it's nothing new or original. At the very least, I'll never be able to hear Eric Clapton's "Lay Down Sally" again without flashing back to the play.

It should come as no surprise that August ends with another Elliot quote, a particularly nasty one, sung over and over again in a lullaby. The quote smacks the audience upside the head hard and I think it's too vicious to lay on them after an evening of ugliness. I think another quote by a different canonized author would have been more befitting. I would have gone with this age-old chestnut from Kurt Vonnegut....

"There's only one rule that I know of, babies— God damn it, you've got to be kind."

August: Osage County continues through October 25th at the Keller Auditorium. Tickets and further info can be found here.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The worst bathroom decor in Portland?

Most places, if they put anything up on the walls, go with a pastoral print or a few photos. This poster can be found in the restroom at the Opposable Thumb Gallery and Cafe.

I guess this is one way to discourage vandalism.


Monday, October 19, 2009


Ben Franklin: Unplugged

One morning while shaving monologist Josh Kornbluth came to the realization that he bore a resemblance to Benjamin Franklin. After a chat with his opportunistic aunt about this, he eventually landed himself a gig playing the founding father in a series of MSNBC commercials. While prepping for the role though, he learned some things about Franklin that hindered his efforts and left him wondering if he might not have been the flawless sage portrayed in uncountable history books.

This is the basis of Ben Franklin: Unplugged, Kornbluth's one man show, which continues through November 22nd at Portland Center Stage's Gerding Theater. How many Americans can tell you much about Franklin beyond his scientific achievements, his involvement in the Revolutionary War and his reputation for being a cantankerous lady's man? That was the extent of Kornbluth's knowledge before he cracked open Franklin's autobiography and discovered that he devoted only a few paragraphs to his involvement in the war and his famous kite experiment.

Kornbluth was fascinated by this and went off looking for an explanation. Along the way he met up with an eccentric Berkeley bookseller, an even weirder Franklin scholar and had the opportunity to cause a ruckus on the Yale campus. The answers he found center around Franklin's illegitimate son William and their estrangement.

One of the central themes of the show is how a person's perspective can mar their memories and opinions, especially when it comes to historical figures. Kornbluth's links all of this to his own relationship with his deceased father and his mother's peculiar idolization of Joseph Stalin.

Kornbluth's a great story-teller and Ben Franklin: Unplugged, despite the cheesy title, doesn't get too marred in historical factoids or familial pathos. It also shines a light on a side of Franklin that further exposes the complex man behind the lovable legend.

Ben Franklin: Unplugged plays in the Ellyn Bye Studio in Portland Center Stage's Gerding Theater through November 22nd. Tickets, info and more can be found here.


Friday, October 16, 2009


The art of seduction, Wild Things-style

I was over in a cafe on Belmont last week when a guy sitting near the window grabbed a to-go box and stuck it on his head, wearing it like a crown. Then he started humming a certain Arcade Fire song from a certain movie trailer for a certain movie adaptation of a certain universally beloved children's book that opens in theaters today. And then he started dancing.

His date seemed to appreciate this and they later walked out of the place, hand in hand.



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Thursday, October 15, 2009


Monsters of Folk at the Schnitz

I saw Monsters of Folk at the Schnitz last night. Here's a quick rundown, in a convenient, bullet point format:

  • The crowd was incredibly polite and acted like they were at a symphony. They politely sat in their in seats and nodded along to the music. The band even commented on how low-key they were and thanked everyone for behaving so well. Mosh pits? No, there were no mosh pits.

  • Monsters of Folk are a Traveling Whilburys-type "super-group" composed of (Portland's own) M. Ward and members from Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket. Despite the talent on stage, the Schnitz was only about 1/3 full. It's a shame because it was a pretty good set. Maybe it was because Star Wars: In Concert was going down over at the Rose Garden. Can folk rock really compete against the awesome power of a full symphony orchestra, Anthony Daniels and Queen Amidala's headpiece from Episode 1? Guess not.

  • One of the guys from My Morning Jacket pointed out that the ornate columns that overlook the stage at the Schnitz look like two giant fish that are about to swoop down into the crowd. I never thought about them that way but, yeah, that's a pretty good description. What are those things?

  • That M. Ward? He can shred on acoustic guitar.

  • You can't kill folk n' roll. No matter how low-key or poorly-attended a set might prove. The band was still playing after being on stage for over two hours and thirty minutes.

  • Labels:

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009


    La, la and more la

    I can't seem to stop listening to Up From the Below, the debut album from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, in particular the sixth track "Home." The version that wound up on the final release is tighter than the demo version linked above but I think it's still worth a listen, if you're curious. It's a swell duet and a downright neat soundtrack for a road trip to a cider mill on an autumn day. Oregon has cider mills somewhere, right? Anyway, here's hoping the song doesn't wind up in a Prius commercial.

    The album delves a bit too far into Polyphonic Spree territory but it's just the sort of '60s throwback ear candy that can serve as an antidote for a day of blustery, gray weather like the one we had in Portland today.


    Tuesday, October 13, 2009


    Pluck it

    Back in April, my sister and her boyfriend talked me into letting them build a garden box in my front yard. I'm pretty sure my place was officially the last non-student residence in the neighborhood to get one. Gardening is a big thing around here. Remarkably, this project didn't immediately turn into a complete disaster. The vegetables they planted actually grew, proved edible and all of this gave me the opportunity to buy a ceramic gnome.

    Gimmie a break. It was on sale for $8. Check out the photo below. Doesn't he look both adorable and patriotic with his little American flag? His name is "Unsanctioned Knock-Off of Walt Disney's Trademarked Doc Character From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

    That's not to say that this whole thing wasn't without its setbacks. A grasshopper snuck into the house in a batch of romaine lettuce back in June. It got loose and may be still roaming around in here like that nasty bugger from Alien. While the moles in the yard never went near the box (because moles prefer earthworms, according to Wikipedia), plenty of bugs nibbled on a few of the plants. We never did figure out an effective way to keep insects at bay that didn't involve hosing the garden down in chemicals.

    Some of the plants thrived, others sputtered and one them may or may not have teamed up with the moles as part of an elaborate conspiracy plot to kill me. Now that our first season has drawn to a close, here's a harvest report:


    Tomatoes: In fact, it's mid October and the plant is still cranking them out.

    Eggplants: There always seemed to be one eggplant that caused the entire plant to lean to one side or the other but it never sustained any permanent back injuries. The eggplants wound up in a few pots of spaghetti and one batch of ratatouille. Interesting factoid about ratatouille: it takes no less than 15 billion hours to prepare. The scriptwriters at Pixar failed to mention that little detail in their movie about that French rat who cooks.

    Carmen peppers: They grew like mad and thrived in the heat but we made the mistake of thinking we'd purchased a mislabeled green pepper plant instead. While they can be plucked and cooked while they're still green, we never let any of them fully ripen to red. I let one of the last peppers keep growing. It's finally turning red after six weeks on the vine.

    Spaghetti squash: We almost tossed this plant in the box with the others but we actually read a guide online beforehand. Good thing because the squash completely overtook a flower bed on the side of the house and tried to strangle a sunflower seven feet away with its vines for no discernible reason other than that this particular genus is the curmudgeonly, flower-hating jerkface of the squash world. A plant with that much gusto and contempt is to be both respected and feared. It's also tasty.


    Cherry tomatoes: The plant was going strong until, mysteriously, in September its fruit took an odd turn. While the tomatoes looked OK and weren't mushy, they suddenly began tasting awful and sort of like hamburger patties. My sister's boyfriend supposedly purchased the plant from a student botany program at OSU. I can only assume that the plant was some mad genius undergrad's pet project along the lines of a tomacco plant.

    Lettuce: Every bug in the yard couldn't get enough of them, they were high maintenance and they keeled like a transplant from Fairbanks within ten minutes of July's heat storm. It's a shame because super-fresh Romaine lettuce is the deep fried Oreo of the vegetable world.

    Cascade hops: I remember the day I walked into Livingscape Nursery and saw it sitting there. It looked harmless enough, cute even, sort of like a kitten that can be bred for the express purpose of one day dicing it up and tossing it into a batch of lager. Not really knowing what I would do with the hops, I bought the plant and placed it in the flower bed in front of the house. Two months later, it was crawling across my roof. You could practically watch the thing grow. One day in late July I made the mistake of trying to organize its vines and direct them along a series of hooks. Big mistake. Little did I know that I had set up the ladder next to a mole hole. The ground gave way, I slammed into the side of the house and performed a pratfall that, thankfully, no one witnessed.

    No one except the hops plant, which really shouldn't have grown so well during its first season in the yard. Typically, these plants don't take off until they've been in the ground for at least a full year. So its still out there, no doubt biding its time until spring when it can grow all the way to Lewis and Clark...and possibly apply for the legal program. If I don't intervene, this thing could seriously have a license to practice law in the state of Oregon by 2013. AND THEN IT WILL BE UNSTOPPABLE.

    In hindsight, maybe the three of us should have taken up kayaking instead.


    Friday, October 09, 2009


    Elvis lives

    I found out a few weeks ago that the 24 Hour Church of Elvis has reopened in a new location along NW 4th and Couch. I can think of no less than a dozen kids at my high school who owned t-shirts emblazoned with the church's logo.




    How I Spent My Summer Vacation

    It's right around midnight and I'm standing in the middle of nowhere waiting to climb into the belly of a 40-foot tall art-deco rocket ship. People covered in neon lights are rappelling down the side and I'm hoping I'll get to do the same but there's a long line and it's barely moving. Behind me, someone is cracking jokes with an accent that sounds like it belongs to a Bond villain.

    It's a rail-thin woman dressed in a white bikini and a long, fur jacket. Standing next to her is David Carradine. Sure, Carradine supposedly died a few months earlier in a bizarre accident in Bangkok but there he is standing in front of me. Whoever this man is, he's the spitting image of the late actor. This guy even sounds like him. He's wearing a bowler hat and a jacket that matches his date's.

    Carradine's doppleganger says his name is Happy and I spend the next twenty minutes locked in one of the more...interesting conversations of my life. At one point, the woman takes it upon herself to coach me in the "art of proper hugging." Apparently, the trick is to squeeze the other person as tightly as you can and she demonstrates this repeatedly. Before I head up into the rocket, she gives me a lighter and Happy hands me a necklace with a shiny, brown stone pendant. I have nothing to offer these people in return but bemused bewilderment.

    Encounters like this are par for the course at Burning Man. Anyone who attended the event in the '90s will tell you that the current version is a Disney-fried, overly compromised mockery of its former self. I wish I could have seen the old days when Black Rock City was supposedly "completely unhinged" (a description offered by one long-time Burner I spoke with) but I still feel like I got my money's worth. I was jostled awake at 4 AM one night by a nearby theme camp blasting Daft Punk's "Around the World" so loud it made the earth shake. According to the rumors floating around the next day, those responsible were actually Daft Punk, who had shown up at the festival for an impromptu, late-night concert.

    I still haven't bothered to confirm if the electronic duo was really behind it all. I guess I'd rather not know.

    I went to Nevada expecting to find something close to Barter Town in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. After all, there's an actual Thunderdome that's built every year where combatants bounce around while whacking each other on the head with giant foam mallets. Instead of spending six days wandering around in a faux-post apocalyptic orgy, I spent that week mesmerized by an annual event so overloaded with good intentions, overall weirdness and contradictions that a 1,000 page tome could never cover the whole thing.

    The goal of Burning Man is to bring 40,000+ people together into the middle of a godforsaken playa covered in corrosive alkaline dust to build a temporary utopia for a week and then wipe it all away in order to preserve its natural beauty (and avoid hefty fines from the Bureau of Land Management). While the efforts of the volunteers who clean up the mess afterward are nothing short of extraordinary, it's hard to argue that the festival is green, despite its high ideals and "leave no trace" policy. The amount of fuel and resources required to bring everyone together in the middle of nowhere could power a battleship battalion for a thousand years.

    So it's easy to scoff at Burning Man until you actually spend a week out there. Environmental impact aside, the general good vibe is nothing sort of magical, man. I was won over when a woman from the UK flagged me down one morning and invited me to attend a free pancake feed/dance party. There's this sort of thing going on at all hours. Free clubs, free food, free mini-golf, free drive-in movie theaters, free admission to a "death camp" featuring hundreds of suicidal Barbie dolls and free, ummmmm, this thing. Once you shell out the price of admission, money and bartering are verboten and the city operates on a "gifting system" that I never did quite get the hang of.

    And on Saturday night everybody gathers around a humongous effigy and watches the thing burst into a gigantic fireball before running circles around it. Last year, someone fell into the flames and later sued the organizers.

    It all falls somewhere between the Oregon Country Fair, a never-ending rave, Las Vegas and a modern art show but with explosions, "mutant vehicles," and 12-hour dust storms. On the day the festival's namesake went up in flames, I found myself stuck out in the middle of the playa, far from my camp and getting pounded by dust and wind. I could see, maybe, eight feet in front of me. Somewhere in the haze I spotted a giant shadow and made my way towards it. It turned out to be a Victorian house on wheels. I sought shelter inside and spent part of the afternoon chatting with two German guys and "Professor Birdbath," the pilot of this strange vessel. He was waiting for his colleagues to repair the engine.

    The question friends, coworkers and family all asked me when I got back was "is it worth it?" Going to Burning Man involves buying or borrowing all sorts of camping equipment that will forever be tarnished by playa dust and subjecting oneself to a week of nonstop noise, extreme weather, freaks on stilts dressed in bondage gear, rank body odor and the potential for grave bodily harm. The back of every ticket essentially states "you could die. No, seriously." I don't regret going out there for a second but I can't see myself ever doing it again. Ok, maybe, if I could borrow an RV.

    I was left with the impression that most of the people who still attend Burning Man go to, well, get smashed and stare at weird shit. Still, there's a spiritual side to the festival that some attendees take Very Seriously. One of the event's reoccurring centerpieces, "The Temple," is a 3-story tall wooden shrine that sits along the central Esplanade. Every year, attendees head out there to write on the walls, leave tributes to their dearly departed and sometimes mourn for hours at a time. The outpouring of emotion the structure endures over the course of the week is incomparable. On the last night of the festival, long after most of the crowd has hit the highway, the temple goes up in flames in a solemn ceremony.

    Reports of life-changing experiences and transformative moments are easy to come by online. While my week lacked any sort of huge epiphany, there was one incident that will haunt me for years to come. I'd love to share it with you but this sort of thing is far too embarrassingly earnest to go around posting on the internet.

    So instead I'll wrap up this overlong blog post with this anecdote: I set my tent up near a group of Australians who had filled their camp with Christmas decorations from the land down under. One morning while I was jump starting a neighbor's RV, I chatted with one of them about an incident that happened the year prior. They were camped out near the festival's air field when a 21-year old woman wandered over from a plane that had just landed. She was wearing a bathing suit, a cowboy hat and a pair of boots. The only thing she had with her was a small bottle of water for a week in this ragged wasteland.

    She had hitched a ride on a plane that had flown in from Reno and they were all aghast that anyone could be so daft as to display such a complete disregard for their own personal safety. After lecturing her, they immediately asked around for supplies. Slowly but surely their neighbors offered her an extra tent, food, clothing and enough to get through to the end of the festival. You can probably guess the punchline to this story.

    "We were wrong. Actually, she brought everything she needed with her."

    Also: here's a link to a prerequisite Flickr gallery.

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    Monday, October 05, 2009


    Five days in California summed up in four photos


    Mono Lake.

    Yosemite again.

    Take a guess.


    Sunday, October 04, 2009


    Workin' on it

    Slowly but surely this blog is coming back to life after a month on ice. I spent part of the morning posting new links to the sidebar and fixing a few broken ones. The photo of the month archive has been updated and a scan from Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel [link] will have to do for October's photo since I botched the shot I was hoping to use. I have a few new posts in the works and they should go up sometime later in the week.

    In other news, my day job is being outsourced. Can you believe it? I KNOW. Outsourcing is soooooooooooo 1998 but, apparently, the higher-ups at the Mega Corporation That Everyone Loves to Hate where I work don't concern themselves with such matters. My entire division, nationwide, is getting the axe. Some of our daily duties will be tossed onto the already overworked shoulders of other departments, while the rest will be shipped off to the Philippines. Our last day of operation is set for mid-November.

    This may mean that I'll have plenty of time for blogging in the somewhat near future. The coming weeks will be a mad-scramble to find another position at the company amidst efforts to rush off college and job applications. For the first time in a very long while I have no idea where I'll be in a year, let alone St. Patrick's Day.

    Ok, I have a pretty good idea where I'll be on St. Patrick's Day. Or, at the very least, what I'll be ingesting on St. Patrick's Day.

    Hint: it rhymes with "snail."

    I hope to keep this blog going, one way or another, through what's sure to be a rocky end to an already boulder-clogged 2009. Thanks for reading.





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