If you've somehow managed to trick people into letting you write about film for a living (hi, Steve!) but you don't do a year-end top 10 list, I'm pretty sure the vengeful ghost of Gene Siskel shows up in your bedroom, Jacob Marley-style, and, snickering maniacally, brutally rips off your thumbs, damning you to a hell of being forever unable to render verdicts on movies. Them's the rules of being a film writer, folks—vengeful, snickering Siskel doesn't make 'em, he just follows 'em.
In an effort to stave off that fate, I've put together a list of the stuff I most enjoyed in 2008. It's not a top 10, because there aren't 10 of them, and it's hardly authoritative, since I'm not sure how one's supposed to declare what the best films in a given year are if they haven't seen every single goddamn one of 'em. I, for one, am lame, and still haven't gotten around to seeing Frost/Nixon, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, Let the Right One In, Waltz with Bashir, Gran Torino, Che, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, or The Wrestler—a slew of films that're on a lot of top 10 lists, but that I've either been too lazy to go out and see or that haven't screened in Portland yet. But after the jump, you'll find my favorites out of the kajillion things I did watch this year, and no doubt some fodder to quibble over and complain about. Plus! Because I'm petty, I'll throw in a quick list of the stuff that angered/disappointed me the most in 2008, from Wanted to Wendy and Lucy to The Happening. Which reminds me: Hey, The Happening? Fuck you.
2 PM, Club 21
The closest dive to the Mercury office is also one of the more fumid bars in town. Again, there's that whole problem with slinking back to the office after lunch smelling of scotch and the fires of Hades. It seems that as the day wears on, there's no longer a need to ask about the ban. As soon as I sit down at the bar, Anette the tender sighs and announces, "I can't image what it's going to be like to walk into the bar tomorrow and not put the ashtrays out." This prompts a conversation that last the length of my lunch.
Topics covered: the impending smell, the noise of outdoor smokers, chain-smoking video crack addicts.
And during the entire dialogue, a gentleman with a small brown poodle ("helper dog," he grumbles) sits off to the side, gurgling with every breath. It's like a percussion section made entirely of wet gravel. It may be the best argument in favor of the smoking ban.
2:45 PM Mary's Club
"I'm mixed on it," says bartender Kelly. "As a bartender I'm happy. I have a newborn and I'm tired of going home and reeking of smoke. But as a smoker I'm not happy."
I sit and watch one of the dancers sets and in a dark corner of the bar a man's face is suddenly suffused with light as he strikes a match to light his cancer stick. Last time I'll see that in a bar.
Kelly tells me that a lot of the dancers have complained that they'll have to dress and go outside to smoke. It's a scary thought. Burnside, for what it's worth, is not necessarily the best place for a young woman to be smoking alone on the street.
An anonymous dancer tells me that she's excited about the ban. "I can't wait to quit," she says. "I lie to my son about smoking," she explains, telling me that she'll be happy to be a better example. The topic then moves to spit cups, which will likely increase. There are many disgusted face made.
But Mary's Club is often so smoky that I can only imagine dancing here is more like swimming through a light blue haze. Still, everyone hopes that business will increase as people who may have shied away from the smoke take a chance.
As I'm leaving I hear a man shout, "Smoke up, motherfuckers."
4 PM, the Matador
Bartender Elizabeth also has mixed emotions about the ban. "I definitely think we enjoy the fact that we're a smoking bar," she tells me, but she doesn't think it's going to affect business because all bars are going to be non-smoking.
As far as her customers are concerned, "A lot of people feel like we have too many laws as it is," she says. "It should be a choice. Maybe we should just have better filtration." But she agrees with just about every bartender I've talked to. "It'll be nice not to have to empty ashtrays," she says.
Elizabeth tells me that the cigarette suppliers are betting on a run tonight. The Matadors machine is fully stocked at this moment.
So, here I am. A Bushmills and a dwindling pack. Intermittently, I can overhear sad patrons saying things like, "It should be the bars choice,"
But it's not. Not anymore.
Up next on the Black Lung tour: Dot's, Reel em' Inn, Clinton Street Pub and others
Cigarettes smoked thus far: 16
Happy New Year's Eve! And happy Smoking Ban Eve!
What're you up to tonight? Maybe your New Year's Eve is going to look a little something like this:
And if he catches you breaking the smoking ban, he'll throw you into the stratosphere. Circa 1981…
Perhaps you're not one to make resolutions about getting in shape, or you've grown fond of the extra girth acquired during the cocktail parties and butter-based meals of the season. Maybe you're just realistic about managing your expectations. Well then, I give you the Waistband Stretcher:
When your waistband feels too snug, reach for the Waistband Stretcher. You don't have to get rid of your favorite jeans, skirts or slacks thanks to this simple waist-band stretching device that lets you add from 1-5 inches (depending on size of garment) to the waist of cotton pants, skirts, and shorts. Just moisten the garment's waistband, insert the waistband stretcher, extend the garment to the desired size and let dry - voila, a more comfortable fit! Easier and more economical than taking tight-waisted clothes to the tailor for alterations. The Waistband Stretcher is constructed of durable plastic, and can be adjusted to fit waist-bands from 21" to 45 inches. Order today and make those clothes comfortable again!
Okay, so maybe that's not an exact quote. Circa 1989…
All week long, I've been considering whether or not I'd write a long, heartfelt goodbye post on Blogtown. Now that the time has come to write that post, I just can't. It would be impossible to sum up the three years I've spent here—and the many years at the Stranger prior to that—in a blog post, so I won't try.
Instead, I'll invite you all to drinks after work on Friday night at (the newly smoke free at that point) Club 21, at NE 21st and Sandy. It's your last chance to make disparaging comments about something I've written—and in person, no less!
Otherwise, I'll see you around. Thanks, everyone, for these incredible years.
"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."
9:30 AM, Lotsa Luck
I've sat down in one of the cushy captain's chairs in the lovable dive known as the Lotsa Luck. I've got two packs of cigarettes in my car and one in my jacket pocket. I order a cup of coffee and light up. The first drag of my first cigarette of the day catches in my throat and I shudder a bit. It's not necessarily pleasant, but as I chase the second drag with a swig of joe everything coalesces and all is right with the world.
It's my plan today to tour the hazier dives in the downtown area and document the final day of the cities smoky dives. Consider it live blogging the smoking ban.
Here in the Lotsa Luck, a cast of regulars huddle at one end of the bar, laughing, drinking, smoking, and watching the Armed Forces Insurance Holiday Bowl (or whatever its called). I ask bartender Carol what she thinks of the impending ban. She grimaces.
"No one's looking forward to it," she says, "All of the bartenders here smoke." She tells me that the owners are worried about how it will affect the gambling business. Right now, there aren't any lottery machines in the Lotsa Luck, but they are coming back latter this month to line the walls. It's common to find all of the video crack machines full on any given night in the Lotsa Luck. Carol points out that most of the lottery players chain smoke, and wonders what will happen when that vice is disconnected from the other.
Carol used to live in Eugene and remembers when a city wide smoking ban went into affect there. She tells me that many small bars closed their doors because they lost business, or couldn't comply by building smoking sections.
More than that, though, Carol worries about policing her clientele. "No one's looking forward to being the enforcer for this," she says. But with every storm cloud there is a silver lining, "At least I wont have to clean out all these ashtrays," she says grudgingly. Cold comfort.
10 AM, Jolly Roger
Bridget, who has tended bar at the Jolly Roger for two years, has a different take. "It'll be nice," she says, "because when I get sick, I can't get better," on account of the smoke. She also notes that the Reggae nights on the weekends might just get a little more bearable. "It's full of hippies," she says,"With BO and smoke and the doors closed, it's hard."
She throws out a rhetorical question for all the whiny smokers, "How hard is it to walk your lazy ass outside to smoke a cigarette?"
Musician Jake Ray, who's sitting on a bar stool beside me enjoying a smoke with his breakfast, chimes in. "It's a slap in the face of basic freedom," he growls. He says it's all well and good to walk outside and smoke, but as a musician, when he's playing a set he doesn't get that luxury. He was considering a bit of rebellion. "I thought about seeing how many bars I could get kicked out of," for smoking.
Ray is hoping for smoke-easies. He remembers living in Cedarville California and patronizing its one bar, which was only open two days a week. "All of the regulars smoked there," he said, telling me that at least in one hard scrabble patch in California, the ban remained unenforced.
The view from Holman's and Beuhlahland, after the jump!
Cat videos are so completely, totally 2008. The new wave is viral videos of extremely attractive French kids who have Vimeo empires created by their doting parents. Capucine is the starlet of this scene, a precocious little French girl with gigantic eyelashes whose videos have become so popular that she's using her fame to fund a children's library in Mongolia. Here's one of her earlier films, entitled "Too Much Candy":
Word to Muntedkowhai.
The smoking ban starts tomorrow… but why not stop smoking today? No matter what you think, C3PO is right when he says that smoking doesn't make you look grown-up at all!
To have no talent is not enough. You gotta have a gimmick.
After considering a truce, Israel decides to keep bombing the shit out of Hamas for awhile. But don't get them wrong! They're totally open to not bombing the shit out of them at some point in the future.
Senate democratic leadership have three words for Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Roland Burris: OH, HELL NO!
And as for Roland Burris, while he thinks the governor's behavior is "reprehensible" there's no taint on him! (Heh. He said "taint.")
Comedian (?) Dane Cook's half-brother is charged with embezzling millions from the entertainer (?).
Every Zune 30 media player in the world froze up last night and refuses to work. The terrorists have struck again!!
An 88-year-old Troutdale woman fends off a naked attacker by squeezing his testicles. And not in a sexy way, either! (Please stay with this story, just to hear the suspect's name!)
Do you know what happens in the game industry on December 30 of every year?
How am I supposed to feed my family of 7 on the meager scraps The Merc throws my way if I can't find content to offer the most attractive readers in Portland? Wm.™ Steven Humphrey lives in a golden mansion made from the bones of the Elephant Man and I'm forced to kill ducks at Laurelhurst park to make sure my 12-year-old son has an interesting hat.
Life is bullshit, but at times like this I can always rely on ninjas to help me momentarily forget that I'm a 25-year-old whose life consists of huffing dishwashing detergent and writing dick jokes on the 'net.
That's three minutes of gameplay from Ninja Blade, an Xbox 360 game that seamlessly blends the world of ninjas with the wildly dissimilar world of blades. Included in the vignette is our hero Ryu (not Hayabusa) sprinting down the side of a skyscraper, cursing a giant spider to a painful battle with lymphoma (via patented Ninja X-ray Vision), and an answer to the age-old question "What happens when you cut a spider's legs off?"
Hint: They grow back explosively!
The game doesn't yet have an American release date, but Japanese ninja fans (read: everyone in the whole damn country) can snag this Ninja Gaiden rival on January 29.
Don't let the current lack of a gaijin-specific version dissuade you entirely though. If you happen to know the art of acquiring stuff from the Japanese version of Xbox Live you can play the just-released demo for Ninja Blade faster than you can say "Izuna Drop."
Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers meet the Boston Celtics in a
preview of the 2010 NBA Finals moderately competitive basketball game. The last time these two teams met Kevin Garnett got on all-fours and barked like a puppy, Glen "Big Baby" Davis lived up to his name and cried like an infant, and the Blazers got whupped by the current NBA champs.
Will tonight be any different?
Brandon Roy is sitting out the game with a bad hamstring. So prepare yourself for lots of Rudy Fernandez, rookie Jerryd Bayless getting solid minutes, and a rare Shavlik Randolph sighting.
Oh dear god.
There was an article in the New York Times yesterday about Freedom of Information 2008, a New York-based project that invites dancers across the country (ideally, one from every state) to participate in 24 hours of continuous improvisation while blindfolded and earplugged. The project, conceived by choreographer Miguel Gutierrez, is intended as a "contemplative act of solidarity with those displaced by the wars [in Afghanistan and Iraq]."
From the Times article:
Mr. Gutierrez, 37, will represent New York at the Barn in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This is not his first foray into endurance art but an expansion of “freedom of information,” which he performed by himself in 2001. Reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan and what he described as “this Bush thing of just creating a state of terror,” he followed his gut.
“I just had a strong instinct to be moving,” Mr. Gutierrez said recently in his Brooklyn apartment. “The idea of what it is to be a refugee or a person who’s disrupted by an armed conflict is so terribly abstract to me, really. I had to create some sort of thing that created a very weak, perhaps, but somehow partial analogue to understanding what that is.”
He emphasized that he was not attempting to equate, even indirectly, his willed action with forced suffering.
“What I can be direct about is a sense of solidarity with the other artists who are doing this, and this, at least, notion of a shared commitment to saying, ‘We will take these 24 hours together to go through some intense state of contemplation,’ ” he said. “I’m inviting people to consider displacement and war. I am sure a ton of other things will enter people’s thought processes: about their lives, about death, about life, about all kinds of things.”
Oregon is represented here by local choreographer/dancer Tahni Holt, and her performance begins at midnight tonight at Performance Works Northwest. Stop by anytime before midnight tomorrow, or watch a live stream of the performance on Holt's website.
Smoke and booze. Booze and smoke. To me, they are inextricably linked. But as we look across the country, the smoky bar is becoming a nicotine stained memory. Soon, all that will be left will be so many thousands of yards of browned wallpaper and grungy beer signs that will never be clean, no matter how vigorously they are scoured. That’s comforting somehow.
When I was a kid, I wrote every day. I wrote poems, plays, essays, you name it. I let my imagination run and what came out was the usual introspective, “why me,” crap common to the age.
When I was fifteen, I started drinking. I drank stolen booze from fruit jars on the cool midnight golf courses of the southwestern high desert. With a bevy of drunken friends, we howled through the night, waking with stupors that we couldn’t explain to our parents.
I smoked my first cigarette around that time. It was stolen from the convenience store owned by a friend’s parents. We’d gone camping and managed to boost a carton of Marlboro reds, Camel menthols (I’ll never smoke them again, ever), and maybe some Kools or something. We worked through those packs meticulously, our heads swimming by the fire; feeling cool and rebellious and grown up and nauseous. All bullshit, of course, except for the nausea.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that all of these things were finally joined together in a small dive bar in Ashland, Oregon, known as the Beau Club. My employment at the time allowed me four days off, and I made the Beau my living room. The place was quiet in the afternoon, and between pool games I’d drink and smoke and write; feeling artistic, bohemian, smart. All of it bullshit, of course.
Yeah, it was derivative. Yeah, I was ripping off dead drunken heroes. Yeah, it was more bilious than Bukowski-esque, but it was the way I lived for years. From that time on, bars, smoke, and writing were forever connected in my mind. Hell, as I write this, I’m sitting in one of my favorite dives with a Dewers on the rocks and a pack of American Spirits.
The poetry has gone to the wayside, so too has the hero-worship (for the most part), but that fucking feeling still lingers; that feeling that this is something special and nothing special at the same time.
Come Thursday, it will be over. And despite all my gushing, I’m not so sure I’m sad to see it go. Things change. Still, it won’t stop me from heading to someplace close and smoky tomorrow afternoon with a couple packs of cigarettes and notebook just to see it off. I plan to smoke all night in the dives around my hood, and stumble home reeking for the last time. The people have voted, who am I to raise a fuss?
All that aside, what I fear deep down is the impending smell of my locals. Say what you will about cigarette smoke, it cloaks the more offensive smells present in a bar. I worked as a bar tender for some time, and anyone who’s ever opened a bar will tell you that when you open the door in the morning, the first thing to hit you is the smell of stale beer and sweaty drunk ass.
This will be the smell we’ll have to contend with for years, people. I’m not looking forward to it.
So here’s to booze and smoke. Smoke and booze. May they never be able to scrub the walls clean.
So tell me, Blogtownies, what smoky dive do you intend to go to, and burn that last cigarette to its filter?
See the NSFW full version after the cut. Also, this one is on the latest issue of Purple.
Hoo-RAH! It's another leaked song from The Lonely Island boys (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone), and this one arrives just in time for all you "sportz nutz" who will undoubtedly spend your entire New Year's Day jizzing in your pants over football. (Why, that's right… The Lonely Planet are also responsible for the hilarious SNL digital short "Jizz in My Pants.")
Check out "We Like Sportz"—which would be hilariously awful, if you weren't jamming so hard on it by the end.
Here we go again. The 2008 Hot Men of Medical Research calendar has been taken down and the 2009 Vomitoriums of the Rich and Famous calendar is waiting in the wings (wow, look at Mario Batali's gold inlaid porcelain jobby). It all feels a little bit arbitrary if you ask me. I mean, if we were committed to this thing we'd mark the New Year on a solstice, but that's just my inner pagan talking.
Either way, there are certain rights and rituals that must be observed on New Years: sipping champagne, kissing your love at midnight, getting shit-faced, blowing horns, watching the ball drop, eating black eyed peas on New Years day.
But the most dreaded of all traditions is the New Year's resolution. I guess the new year is a good a time as any to turn over a new leaf. It's like a psychological blank slate. You are given permission to toss off the person you were and be the person you want to be. It's not as if you couldn't have done that at any point this year, but at least now everyone is doing it. In that way, the inevitable sting of a failed resolution is lessened by the fact that you're not the only one who will fail. Neat trick.
So this is your chance to make it public, Blogtownies. This is the time to have your resolution scorched indelibly into the soft pliant flesh of the Internet, to be revisited at some future date.
I, for one, have the usual resolutions. I intend to quit smoking, lose the food editor poundage I've packed on since last spring, work on my writing, start that novel, revisit one of the dozen unfinished scripts languishing in my laptop, blah blah blah.
How about you? What do you resolve? Tell us in the comments and encourage your friends to post a comment too. After all, will there be anything better than pulling up the evidence sometime at the end of next year and asking your pal, "So, you were going to read War and Peace and get washboard abs, huh? How'd that work for you?"
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to name former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris to fill Obama's senate seat. See, Burris was smart to wait until after Christmas, when everything is cheaper.
In the Minnesota senate race, Al Franken is ahead of Republican Norm Coleman by a whopping 50 votes… for now. Maybe we don't really need a Minnesota senator?
Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol has her baby; Bristol's Oxycontin dealing future mother-in-law couldn't be happier!
RNC chairman wannabe Chip Saltsman's "Barack the Magic Negro" controversy is not a big deal… to other racists.
On the two year anniversary of Saddam Hussein's death, Iraq prepares to open up a museum—filled with bloody nooses, torture devices and documentation of atrocities. But wait until you see the gift shop!
Hey proponents of the Columbia River Crossing project! READ THIS.
Smoke 'em if you've got 'em! The smoking ban starts at midnight tomorrow night! Here's how it affected Chicago who instituted their ban a year ago.
Israel launches airstrikes at Gaza for the fourth day straight as millions worldwide wonder, "Wait… why are these guys so mad at each other?" If you feel as dumb about this situation as I do, here's a very good primer of the situation courtesy of The Rachel Maddow Show.
There's a new movie based on the Street Fighter line of videogames headed to theaters in February with nary a Van Damme or Raul Julia in sight.
Hyde Park Entertainment, the people who cajoled Capcom into handing over the rights after the last movie on the subject was widely ridiculed as worse than cancer, released the first trailer from the film earlier today.
I won't lie to you: This clip is in Japanese so you probably won't catch the crucial dialogue introduction, but trust me, it's not necessary. All you need to know is that somebody handed Balrog a rocket launcher, M. Bison looks like a middle-aged Neil Patrick Harris and Ryu and Ken are nowhere in sight.
Oh, and in case you forgot how awesome the last Street Fighter film was, I've included a few choice clips below.
The New York Times has collected 160 photos summing up 2008, and all of them are worth a look. Here.
In anticipation of tomorrow's Blazers versus Celtics throwdown at the Rose Garden, here is a very surreal video from the pre-game introductions of Saturday's game against Toronto.
For some reason there was a large Sasquatch mascot (not this guy) on the court longing for a high-five from the Blazers as they came out of the locker room. Not surprisingly this frightening creature was ignored by the entire Blazers roster, except Joel Przybilla. Perhaps it was fellow ape-like bounding between the "Vanilla Gorilla" and the Sasquatch, or maybe Przybilla just felt bad for the guy.
Whatever it was, just watching this video has made me very happy.
In this week’s Last Supper, I spend some time exploring how a few of the newer restaurants are dealing with the current economic climate and how they plan to address the new year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the room to discuss a couple ethical issues that have been rolling around in my head for the last month.
As I mention in my column, I had a little attitude adjustment re. my view towards recent restaurant closings. Oddly enough, this change in my views was concurrent with the closing of Lucier.
Up till that point I had not thought about the interconnectedness of Portland restaurants. Then it hit me: the dining community in Portland is very much like an ecosystem. One part relies on the other and when one link in the chain is broken (like a species being lost) there is the possibility for a debilitating chain reaction. Therefore, if a restaurant goes under, its suppliers—from food to equipment—have lost revenue. How do you make up revenue? Raise prices or decrease inventory. Either way, the remaining restaurants are left holding the bag.
There are so many industries that are linked to a healthy restaurant community that a significant loss of restaurants or bars could be devastating far beyond a small community of mouthy foodies.
As a “fer instance,” here’s an e-mail, I recently received:
I enjoyed your article about how restaurants have been affected by the state of the economy. However, you left a HUGE industry out of the mix: not only are the food and equipment industries affected by restaurant closures, but there are 60 or more wine distributors that have been affected. In addition, several Wine Bars, bottle shops, local wineries, and grocery (retail) wine departments, in Portland that have been hugely affected by the economic downturn...
Sales at Vinum Importing
Alright, so maybe I’m coming to this realization a little late in the game. Either way, I’m willing to admit that statements I’ve made previously on this blog were short sighted at best. Needless to say my eyes have been opened. So, what’s this got to do with Lucier?
Well, I’d noticed how rabidly against Lucier so many people in the Portland foodie community had become. Yeah, I get it. The place was apparently pretentious, snooty, and high priced. I can’t make a judgment on the food, having never had the chance to eat there, but whether it was good or not, I’m baffled by folks on food forums and blogs who seemed to take pleasure in the fact of Lucier's closing. For the reasons I’ve mentioned above (and others) this really shouldn’t be something to be happy about.
But this is where the ethical issues come in. As eaters in Portland, what is our responsibility to the restaurant industry? Do we have one? Is it important for us to eat widely in our city, giving our money to local eateries regardless of their décor or food quality?
And what about those places that had survived because the economy had been strong enough to support them, but are now sinking into the mire? You know, the ones where the food/service/atmosphere is just so-so? How should we view these places now? Do we slam them on food blogs and give them bad reviews on the Mercury restaurant listings page? Or, do we keep our mouths shut?
Is our dining pleasure at this moment more important than a healthy restaurant community, or vice-versa? Is there a way to help foster a healthy dining ecosystem without sacrificing quality, or are we forced to sit on the sidelines and hope for the best?
What do you think, Blogtownies? Your opinions are greatly appreciated.
Looks like there will be an "Arrested Development" movie after all.
A good idea?
Let's hope we don't look back like "I've made a huge mistake."
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