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Friday, July 31, 2009
And I wonder, still I wonder, who will stop this heat storm?
After a week of what most of us here in Portland consider unbearable summer weather, this much is certain: heat does not improve the average Oregonian's driving skills. I spent around an hour trying to get from the east side over to my house near Lewis and Clark this afternoon. The freeways were jammed and I was somehow detoured all the way to Washington Park. Ugh. It really felt like mid-August in LA out there.
If they can, most locals escape to the mountain or the coast during weeks like this. Fortunately, a while back a few colleagues and I arranged a hiking trip for this past Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't much cooler in Douglas County.
But there are plenty of great swimming holes down there. Our friend Pete works in the area as a ranger for the US Forest Service. After spending yesterday attempting and failing to scale Mt. Thielsen (AKA "The Lightning Rod of the Cascades"), we went to a spot along the South Umpqua River dubbed "11 mile. The water temperature was just right and there was plenty of rocks to jump off into a large pool at the base of a small series of rapids.
Before the slog back up I-5 north, we stopped for milkshakes at Ken's Sidewalk Cafe in Canyonville where a guy ahead of us in line had a parrot on his shoulder. The gal working the counter felt like she hadn't put enough cookie dough ice cream in my shake so she tossed in another scoop on top.
Cybercrime along the I-5 corridor
It seemed like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters played for months in various theaters around town back in 2007. After a detour that lead him into the Hollywood holiday hell ride that was Four Christmases, the director recently filmed a six-part online documentary film series about the perils of internet fraud called H*Commerce: The Business of Hacking You.
The film centers around a victim down in Sweet Home named Janella Spears who fell prey to a Nigerian 419 scam. She and her family eventually lost $440,000. H*Commerce also covers different types of hacking attacks and correlating information, featuring ex-hackers, law enforcement officials and industry officials.
The whole thing can be viewed over here. Eeep. Stay safe out there people.
Monday, July 27, 2009
A few friends and I recently hiked along Eagle Creek. It's one of the dicier but most picturesque hikes to be found in the Columbia River Gorge. The trail is notorious for its vertigo-inducing cliffs and cable hand railings. While it's hardly as crazy as these two, accidents and even deaths have occurred along its steep drop-offs. The New York Times "Frugal Traveler" also wrote an article about the area back in May.
On a sunny Saturday though, Eagle Creek doesn't have much of a "Suspension Bridge at the End of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" vibe. While we were up there the trail was littered with hoards of backpackers, families and kilt-clad school groups.
We never did figure out what was up with the kilts.
Still, these photos may make the area seem empty and serene, especially the one of Punchbowl Falls. It served as the inspiration for the back cover of a Styx album in the '70s. A few hundred yards down from the waterfall there was an area deep enough for cliff-diving, not that any of us took the opportunity to give it a shot. We stood across the way while one swimmer took around five minutes to summon up the courage to take the leap.
The trail goes on for dozens of miles. We made it as far as Tunnel Falls before turning back. The 120-foot waterfall drops past a man-made cave. Passing through, it seemed like the walls were going to give way at any second and water was leaking through cracks in the ceiling. Exciting? Hair raising? Eh, maybe a little bit.
Yet another reason why I'm not a professional movie critic
The good folks at Beyond Beyond Enterprises sent me a screener copy of the locally-produced film Bumps a few days ago. I was hoping to watch it and post a review by the time it screens this Thursday, July 30th, at 9 PM at the Clinton Street Theater.
Unfortunately, the disc is currently stuck in the DVD drive of a MacBook and it refuses to come out. I've tried all of the troubleshooting tips available on Google and tonight is the only night this week that I'll have time to watch it. So let me tell you what I know about Bumps without actually having seen it.
Directed by Bob Moricz, Bumps is about a group of teenage girls that made the not-so-smart decision to form a pregnancy pact. They all manage to get, well, knocked-up and things more or less get pretty rocky from there on out. The film is based on a true story about a group of students at Gloucester High, a school in a Massachusetts fishing town, who's similar pact made it into the pages of Time Magazine in June of 2008.
The Oregonian's Stan Hall wrote a short review about the film in the paper last week. Here's his quick take: "[it] mixes Larry Clark-style exploitation, 'Heathers'-like satire and a willfully cheap aesthetic pioneered by the Kuchar brothers and Kenneth Anger."
Friday, July 24, 2009
Bye and Bye
Bye and Bye is a vegan bar over on NE Alberta I've been to a few times over the past couple of weeks. It's a hipster place with a nice vibe that could quite possibly qualify as "chill." There's a giant portrait of Evel Knievel on a wall near the bar and the smoking deck out back is a good place to kill a summer evening. Bye and Bye's signature drink is served in a mason jar and packs a punch.
Despite all that, the rabbit mural in one of the bathrooms is fairly creepy. Check him out. Is that a face you can trust?
Beck to the Future
A few weeks ago, Beck began posting songs from his "Record Club," a series of collaborations with other musicians and producers where they attempt to cover classic albums in a single day. First up is Velvet Underground & Nico (one of my personal favs). Given the fact that they allow themselves little to no time to rehearse, the project is a mixed bag so far. "Sunday Morning" and "Venus in Furs" are both pretty solid but their run-through on "Waiting for My Man" isn't so hot.
A new track will be posted every week and the most recent was "All Tomorrow's Parties." Have a listen over at beck.com.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The Decemberists at Edgefield - 7/18
It seems like the only time I go to a show anymore is to see the Decemberists. I know, I know. A few friends were in Portland from out of town and we went to Edgefield to see the band play the first of two nights out there.
Much like their set at Eugene's McDonald Theater back in May, they played the entirety of The Hazards of Love before returning to the stage for a run through of tracks from their older albums. Sadly, the show wasn't equal to that fantastic barn burner a few months ago. Colin Meloy held back from staging any historical reenactments with members of the crowd and, at no point, did the band descend into the depths of a lengthy acid-rock jam session in the middle of "The Chimbley Sweep."
The cover of Heart's "Crazy on You" though? Fantastic. Maybe the venue has to wrap up concerts at a decent hour in order to avoid pissing off the neighbors at the correctional facility next door or the hotel's guest.
Oh, well. Maybe next time. I'm still hoping that one day I'll get to see the Decemberists stage a reenactment of the Boston Molasses Disaster.
Scattered notes and photos from Cannon Beach
Every July I spend a few days at Cannon Beach with family. It's a tradition that goes back to an era before I was born. Here's a few photos and tidbits from this year's trek.
A neighborhood in the center of town has become swarmed with wild rabbits. We were driving back from Pizza a'fetta when we came across four of them munching grass on the edge of Hemlock Street. I spun the car around and we counted about two dozen others romping around on various lawns. The next morning, on a drive back downtown in search of coffee, my sister and I counted another dozen tearing their way around the area. There's a few moles that rip through my yard every summer. I think I'd rather contend with a bunny infestation. Much more adorable.
My mother bit the bullet and asked. They're a club. Of Scottish Terrier owners. That walk along Cannon Beach. The scotties swarmed a larger dog as we passed, acting like a fur-covered gang from The Warriors. Awesome. I guess the beach is their turf.
As far as I know, until a few years ago, surfers were a rarity at Cannon Beach. Now every time I head down there I see at least four of them navigating the waves several hundred yards down from Haystack Rock. This dog followed his owner out into the Pacific up to its torso and diligently kept himself at a safe distance while he surfed.
I can only assume that this guy was working up the courage to jump in. It was around noon when I took this photo. The temperature was somewhere in the 60s and the water was as cold as ice.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Dave Chappellle in Pioneer Courthouse Square
Twitter and PDX Pipeline are lighting up with rumors that comedian Dave Chappelle is slated to appear at midnight in Pioneer Courthouse Square tonight for a surprise stand-up gig/party/ice cream social/brouhaha. Some are saying it's a sure thing and that they heard it from the man himself, others are saying that the square closes sharply at midnight and, if Chappelle shows up, anything he has planned will be quickly shut down.
Place your bets. I've got $5 on "it's just a rumor, he won't show." I drove past the square about 45 minutes ago. There were a few people and some cops milling about. At a stoplight on Broadway I had to wait beside a pedicab driver wearing bunny ears. Honestly, I think that guy peddling past the square is going to be the most exciting thing that will be happening down there tonight.
UPDATE: I flew downtown at the last minute after a colleague sent me a text message saying that over 4,000 people had shown up in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Dave arrived around 1 AM with a mic and a tiny amp. An impromptu attempt to set up a sound system was nixed once no one could find a place to plug it all in. Watching dozens of spectators stretch a long extension cord across the square was pretty surreal. Altogether, it was one of the oddest and most spontaneous events I've ever attended. Oh, and two people put on a strip show on the top of Starbucks and were promptly taken away by PPD. Photos and a play-by-play from last night can be found over on the blog's Twitter page.
One more OCF-related thing...
This guy should serve as an inspiration to us all. I'll let you decide how much of his frustration was all an act and if he really meant to bring that flaming whip so close to his own head. Whatever your opinion might be, keep in mind that he did all of this in the pouring rain.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Two days at the Oregon Country Fair
I spent the afternoon of Independence Day swimming out on the Wilson River. I mentioned to a friend of a friend that I was heading to the Oregon Country Fair the following weekend. He shook his head. "Don't you know what goes on down there," he said with a sneer. "It's a bunch of hippies running around naked."
Well, yeah, there is a bit of that.
He'd never been and admitted that he'd never get caught dead in the place. This is usually the sort of reaction I get when I tell acquaintances and coworkers where I've been spending the second weekend in July in recent years. There seems to be this impression that the fair is a Dionysian frenzy of "blissed-out" stoners dancing in drum circles. To clear up any misconceptions, during daylight hours at least, all of that is kept to one corner of the fair grounds called the Drum Tower.
More or less, the Oregon Country Fair is a mix-up of an arts festival, a rock concert, a food cart melee, a family reunion and the organizers' attempt to build an idyllic society out in the woods over the course of a three-day weekend. Or at least that's my take. Ask someone else and you'll probably get a different response.
I spent most of Saturday wandering the grounds and loafing around at the Main Stage watching acts like the March Fourth marching band. At one point, a guy in a Gumby costume was led out with his head hung low. I'm not sure what he did to get 86-ed. After the band's set, a few stilt-walkers kept the show going in the middle of the crowd while a guy in a unicorn costume danced alongside them.
Sunday was a different story. A thunderstorm hit right around noon, stuck around for a few hours and turned the fair's dusty dirt paths into a series of treacherous mud bogs. Some fair-goers left while others decided to stick it out and cheer every time the thunder rolled over head. I hung around long enough to catch the Nowhere Band cover The White Album with a group of performers from the Wanderlust Circus. The guy with the flaming, firecracker whip and the unicycle? Very entertaining.
If you click over onto KATU's brief rundown of the fair you'll find a slew of complaints in the comments section about the fair "selling out" and being overrun by suburbanite gawkers. I just started going a few years ago but I'm sure naysayers were muttering the same thing two decades ago. Rather than cover myself in mud and roam the fair alongside a traveling band of would-be Neanderthals, I stuck to the sidelines.
Maybe next year I'll get my freak-on proper. Regardless of these complaints, I'm happy to report that, even after two days at the fair, I still felt like a stranger in a strange land. And that feeling is why I'll probably be back again in 2010. During my time in Veneta, I watched a woman with a pumpkin on her head brave a storm, two musicians massage three people with the waves coming out of a pair of didgeridoos, a guy feed his pet parrot Thai noodles, a paint-covered woman allow a tourist from the south to take a photo of her provided "they won't put it on Facebook," and a band perform a cover of "Blitzkrieg Bop" on a giant stage in front of an empty field.
It's nice to know that, in the 21st century, there's still a place I can go and spend an uncomfortably long period of time explaining to a mud-covered man dancing in a puddle that the folks at the burrito stand have been trying to tell him his order is ready for ten minutes.
Many more photos of this year's fair can be found over here in a Flickr gallery.
Friday, July 10, 2009
An email about the fair
A reader sent me a link to this great post on the Powells Books Blog about the Oregon Country Fair yesterday and asked if I was going this year. She currently lives abroad, has never been to the fair and wanted to know if it's really as crazy as all of the stories she's heard over the years.
Here's what I wrote back:
I'll be down there for two days this year, provided Sunday isn't rained out. It's the fair's 40th anniversary and the final day will be capped off with a performance of the Beatles White Album, in its entirety, on a stage borrowed from the Burning Man Project.
Also: If I can get cell coverage out there I'll probably be posting photos and updates on Another Portland Blog's Twitter account. Sure, why not? It's the 21st century.
Hemp burgers, ahoy!
The video for Blitzen Trapper's "Black River Killer"
A creepy video for a fairly creepy song. But why does the killer wind up on a Seattle talk show? Isn't Blitzen Trapper supposed to be a Portland band?
The Voodoo Doughnut Burger
The Voodoo Doughnut Burger at The Original, the newish "dinerant" downtown, earned itself a recent blog post on the New York Times website. Having never eaten a beef patty wedged between two glazed pastries, I headed down there for one last week.
And you know what? The Voodoo Doughnut Burger is actually pretty darn tasty. It's a burger greasy enough to warrant eating with a fork and knife and it will probably take a good three days off your life. Meat. Cheese. Doughnuts. That's it. The Original's kitchen staff aren't about to let a few slices of lettuce or a tomato sneak in and detract from the oodles of cholesterol packed in this little monster. I recommend ordering one medium rare.
The PB & J Monte Cristo sandwich doesn't hold up as well. A colleague ordered one and said that it tasted more or less like a jelly doughnut without enough jelly. It was too much like a dessert item and not enough like a lunch entree, especially considering the price.
But the Voodoo Doughnut Burger? It walks that line with ease. In fact, I think it's a burger worthy its own sonnet. Quick, somebody get this burger a sonnet!
Monday, July 06, 2009
The Saddle Mountain Experience
It took me two trips to finally cross the "saddle" of Saddle Mountain and ascend its second peak. The first attempt with my friend Dan resulted in the two of us turning back once we encountered heavy wind gusts, drizzle and fog up top. We headed back up the first peak's rocky trail just as a rain-soaked woman and her genuinely terrified yellow Labrador Retriever were coming down it. Her male companions were about two hundred yards ahead and determined to conquer the mountain. I still wonder if she managed to catch up and talk some sense into them.
Saddle Mountain is a cruel joke on your shins. The last few miles of trail consist mostly of rocky terrain and steel grating. Once you pass over the top of the first peak and down into the saddle you find yourself up against a few hundred more feet of winding, slippery inclines. If you make it all the way to the end of the trail your reward is a breathtaking view of the western horizon and the Oregon Coast Range.
Not that I would know. On my second attempt I made it up the second peak but clouds rolling in off the coast obscured all but 120 of the 360 degree view.
Saddle Mountain is one of the more epic hikes I've been on in Oregon and it's a photographer's paradise. It's covered in wildflowers, boulders, jagged cliffs, forested vistas and trees that lean at odd angles. My Canon PowerShot A710 couldn't even begin to do the place justice but here's a Flickr gallery regardless.
When I go on a hike I tend to bring along a backpack filled with water, food and a change of clothing. As I was coming down the second peak I felt like I had just conquered Everest. My aching legs were covered in dust and my leather Crocodile Dundee hat was soaked with sweat. Then I ran into a woman in her 60s, her daughter and the daughter's adolescent kids. They were all dressed like they had gotten lost on the way to the Seaside Outlet Mall. The grandmother was casually drinking a can of Sprite as if climbing Saddle Mountain was about as difficult as a walking from her living room to the refrigerator.
And maybe that's the trick to beating Saddle Mountain with ease. Just act like the 2.5-mile, 1600+ foot elevation gain is like walking from a mini-van to the Dressbarn.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
The taste of victory
An excerpt from a recent series of text messages:
ME: Yep, it's what I was afraid of. We're gonna need a garden gnome. Maybe an adorable miniature windmill too.
ME: Just got to A-Boy. The windmills are $65. I'm heading to Rite-Aid.
SHANNA: $65?!! Whaaaa.....?
ME: Ok, they've got half-priced gnomes here. I bought an $8 Doc...er, "Seasonal Garden Gnome [That is in NO WAY A Rip-off Walt Disney's Snow White]."
SHANNA: Didn't they have normal gnomes? Like David the Gnome? WHERE'S DAVID?! >:I
ME: Doc's serving as his understudy. David is, uh, spending the season on the SS Steve Irwin fighting in the whale wars.
ME: Doc's smart. He'll be able to get us a federal subsidy if the crops fail. Maybe get Neil Young and Willie Nelson to play a concert in my yard too.
What's this all about? Well, back in April my sister Shanna asked me if she and her boyfriend Kyle could build a "victory garden" in my yard. They currently live in an apartment complex where the owners frown on tenants growing onions in the middle of the parking lot, even if Michelle Obama endorses the concept.
It seems like everyone I know is into gardening lately. If they don't have a box full of veggies sitting in their backyard, they're renting a plot in a community garden. So I agreed to the plan under the condition that Shanna and Kyle A: pay for everything and B: let me dig into the lettuce whenever the mood strikes.
Over Mother's Day weekend, they made a run down to the Portland Farmers Market for starter plants and built a garden box in the front yard. My contribution: a pepper plant and a hops plant from the Livingscape Nursery.
Nearly two months later, the garden has, surprisingly, not turned into a complete disaster. Shanna and Kyle come over about once a week for maintenance and I keep everything watered. If I slack off, four water-filled wine bottles placed around the garden keep things from getting too dry. What's really amazing? Everything's still alive. Apparently, doing research beforehand, buying the right materials and not rushing things really does wonders when it comes to these sort of home improvement projects.
Unfortunately, there was no room for the hops plant so it's currently taking over the flower bed and the side of my house. Since it was planted, it has shot up to the roof and is now working its way around my rain gutter. Honestly, I was expecting this thing to die within a week. If the planet actually flowers, we'll have hops at our disposal (unlikely during the first season in the ground but this thing seems to be some sort of super-mutant). What the bloody hell are any of us going to do with hops?
Trying economic times or not, I was still initially skeptical about the renewed popularity of home gardens. Were the hassles of watering and weeding really worth it? Then, a few weeks ago, I walked out into my yard, grabbed some Romaine lettuce and dug in. Once you've tasted produce that fresh it's tough to go back to eating the pre-packaged salad packs from Fred Meyer.
Labels: the joy of gardening