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July 15, 2009 03:20 PM

* It's not exactly "Once More," since the review isn't up yet, but hey, I like my header, and I wanted to write this all out before I forgot about it. Or fell asleep.

I'm running on five hours' sleep. It was worth it, of course: Quidditch costumes! Gryffindor scarves! Hagrids and Narcissa Malfoys! A nicely done trailer for The Lightning Thief which confused most audience members! (Dude behind me: "Is this a real movie?") Listening to the girl two seats from me explain that the Potter kids are as obsessed with trainers as Dr. Who! "What are trainers?" the man I assume was her father asked. "Chucks," she answered confidently. It was one of many moments in which I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut. (I became instantly fond of this young woman when, as Harry and Dumbledore somehow crossed a restless ocean to the cave near the film's end, she whispered, "How did they get in there?")

Potter movies are impossible to review. Not literally, of course — it's just that it's a longer process than usual to sift out my outraged/charmed/enrapt/horrified Potter-fan reactions from reactions to the actual movie. At this point, I do wonder if it's necessary: Is anyone still going to Potter films who hasn't read the books, or at least seen all the other movies? Do I need to wonder about spoilers when there's a Threadless T-shirt announcing what happens at the end of the book? But even if I wrote the entire review in full-on yes-I'm-wearing-a-Harry-and-the-Potters-T-shirt-so-what? mode (and wasn't falling-on-my-face exhausted), there wouldn't be room for everything.

So: Click here for, er, more than a few more thoughts on the Prince.

• First off: The title and the movie have very little to do with each other. Harry, of course, does find the book, but he spends precious little time wondering who the prince is. Snape's reveal at the end means nothing. He's the half-blood prince. And? So he's really good at potions. We know that. And he ... made up ...? the Sectumsepra curse. What else does it mean? What does it reference? The movie doesn't have time for this.

• The movie also doesn't have time for the line that Snape fans, and lots of Potter fans in general, feel is crucial to the character of Severus Snape. At the end, when Harry is chasing after him after the death of Dumbledore, Harry yells at Snape to turn and fight, and calls him a coward. And in the book, Snape loses his shit. It was a major moment, one picked over not quite as much as Dumbledore's last words, but picked over nonetheless. Why take it out? I have to assume there's not time to explore the history of Severus Snape in the final movies, which worries me. How do we get to Albus Severus Potter without it?

• Also about the ending: it's weak. Draco lets four Death Eaters into the castle and absolutely nothing happens other than Dumbledore's death. There is no fight. There is no Fenrir Grayback (he appears, instead, in a different and frustrating scene). So why were they there? Simply to make sure Draco succeeded? It doesn't make a lot of sense.

• But what really doesn't make sense to me is an added scene involving an attack on the Burrow. If I could change one thing about this film, it'd probably be to take this out, even though it includes a nice Harry and Ginny moment. There are plenty of things that don't make it in — the Ministry's sketchiness, Dobby, oh, too much to list — but the scene in which Bellatrix and Fenrir attack the Burrow fails for one simple reason: They could have just killed Harry and/or Ginny when the two of them went running into the marsh (Harry after Bellatrix, for obvious and Sirius-related reasons; Ginny after Harry, for otherwise obvious reasons). (Also, if the end of the fifth movie had given the kids the fighting experience it should've, wouldn't they have known to at least stand back to back?) Frankly, they probably could have taken out several more members of the Weasley family, or Lupin and Tonks, had they so desired. But as effective as it is to have Harry tear off into the dark at the sight of Bellatrix — it wasn't so long ago that she killed Sirius, after all — it pushes the limits of believability. Someone should have at least been injured. At the end of the movie, Bellatrix is told by Snape to leave Harry for the Dark Lord. What was to stop her, here? And was it really necessary to destroy the Burrow to rub in the nowhere-is-safe message? So much for Bill and Fleur's wedding.

• Oh, Dumbledore. Michael Gambon's delivery of "Severus, please," is a heartbreaker. It reminds me of a smart choice earlier in the film: having Harry overhear Snape telling Dumbledore he doesn't want to do this anymore, rather than having Hagrid tell Harry about this conversation. This streamlining happens once or twice, putting a character in a position to hear something or see something they would've been told, which is nice, but on the other hand, despite having the Marauder's Map, Harry somehow never figures out that Draco's using the Room of Requirement until Ginny takes him in there to hide the potions book, which is odd — and even odder is that he sees the other side of the Vanishing Cabinet and it doesn't seem to so much as ping his memory. (There's also never any consequence for using Sectumsempra on Malfoy.)

• One of the film's loveliest and tiniest scenes is the one in which Hermione and Harry discuss various ways they did or did not help Ron with his Quidditch game. The quiet triumph on Harry's face as he shows Hermione the untouched vial of Felix Felicis is perfect – as is Daniel Radcliffe when Harry uses the luck potion on himself. Slouching through the grounds like he's a puppet and luck is pulling the strings, Harry stumbles across a skittish Horace Slughorn, then traipses off to Hagrid's cottage, where a giant spider needs burying. Radcliffe never goes too broad, but his goofiness is contagious. Rupert Grint also does good goofy when Ron eats a box of love-potion infused chocolates — but Ron's always been a bit of a goof, so that's not too much of a surprise.

• I didn't even mention him in the review, but bravo, as always, Alan Rickman. Snape gets terser and terser, the spaces between his words longer and longer; one reviewer said he counted five seconds between one word and the next. Rickman has played Snape so consistently that the look on his face as he strikes Dumbledore down could be interpreted as blankness, resignation — or horror. Snape doesn't have the most varied of expressions, except when his eyebrows sink balefully lower and lower when he glares at Harry. But the look on his face at that fateful moment — it gives nothing and everything away.

• From Willamette Week's review: "Bruno Delbonnel, who also served as director of photography for Across the Universe, shoots magical combat and dinner parties alike through whatever obscuring material is available—grass, fog, glassware—lending even innocent conversations an air of quiet foreboding." In the parlance of certain corners of the internet, let me say simply: This. In an Underground cafe, the glass seems streaked with blood. Lavender Brown's fog-breath window-writing blurs a quiet conversation on the Hogwarts Express. In that stupid Burrow scene, the marsh grasses give the chase a horror-movie feel. Many things are just a little bit obscured, which mirrors the romantic aspect of the plot (how long can Ron keep not noticing Hermione?) and the quest that's kicked off, however somberly, with the locket that's in Harry's hand as the movie ends. The meaning of the note is obscure; the relevance of so many things is still hidden.

And now I want to see it again.

I suspect this post may be continued.

July 14, 2009 04:52 PM

... at least for the next seven hours. Actually, no; I only wish I could be utterly lost in Harry Potter land until 12:09, at which point I'll be highly caffeinated and ready to (hopefully) enjoy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. But reality will intrude. It does that. So annoying.

I don't read reviews before seeing movies I know I'm reviewing, but sometimes tidbits of info slip through the cracks — which is to say, people post little things to Twitter. Like updates on Draco Malfoy's attractiveness. I'm OK with knowing that. I don't think it's going to ruin anything for me. I'm also OK with knowing that The Oregonian likes the movie, and that The AV Club is a little more reserved (I only read the first sentence). Most of the buzz is good, which makes me happy, given that I was frustrated with the last movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Actually, I still am frustrated with that movie, which missed the point of the book's dramatic climax completely by having adults swoop in and whisk the youngsters out of danger. It was supposed to be dangerous. It was supposed to require that they do some of the work of saving themselves. It was supposed to set a darker stage. And it got safed up for a major motion picture audience.

Meh. I'm keeping my Potter spirits up with stories like the one about star Daniel Radcliffe giving a young reporter the interview of her life. I'm not going to wear a wizard costume tonight, but my failure to look the part doesn't mean I'm any less excited. And I don't plan on leaving my handkerchief at home.

The previous films in EW:
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

July 13, 2009 01:30 PM

When do we get those high-speed trains? 'Cause I need a faster, easier way to get back and forth from PDX these days. Today, I'm missing a press screening of Harry Potter Laughs All the Way to the Bank Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (thanks, Shawn Levy, for inspiring that strikethrough). I'll go see it Wednesday and review it on this here blog the same day. I PROMISE. My fingers aren't even crossed or anything. EDIT: I take it back. I'm going to go at midnight Tuesday and write like a ... fast writer thing so there will be a review in this week's paper. Because big Wednesday movie openings mean I can do absurd things like that.

Next Monday, I'm missing a screening of Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, which shows as a benefit for the Portland Women's Film Festival. Bigelow's new film is supposed to be a good'un. Here's hoping it gets here eventually.

And tonight, do-it-all-and-do-it-yourself woman of awesomeness Jessica Hopper reads at Powell's on Hawthorne. On the Portland Mercury's blog, "everyone's best pal*" Joan Hiller-Depper interviews Hopper about her new book, The Girls' Guide to Rocking.

I actually went to Portland on a whim on Thursday, but that's a story for its very own blog post.

* This may sound like a snarky way to refer to someone, but I think Ezra Caraeff is being totally sincere: Joan is possibly the friendliest person I have ever met. No joke. Most of us could take lessons in niceness from Joan and lessons in doing stuff from Jessica. Which is just one more reason it'd be nifty to be in Portland tonight.

July 10, 2009 04:37 PM

Centron Solar has made front page news with the announcement that it may bring up to 300 much needed jobs to Eugene. But it remains unclear just how much substance Centron actually has and if all those jobs will actually materialize.

"Really, we don't know what's real here and what's not real," Bob Warren, a state business development officer for Lane County told the Oregonian.

“It doesn’t look like there’s a large upfront investment,” Jack Roberts, director of the Lane Metro Partnership told The Register-Guard.

Here’s some other details that also raise questions about the substance of the Centron Solar operation:

• The newspapers stories appear to rely entirely on one person, Ocean Yuan, for all their information about the company.

• Large Chinese manufacturing companies are alluded to as partners but not named and quoted. Yuan declined to name any of the companies involved.

• The company doesn’t appear to have much physical presence beyond its relatively small new website . The site registrant address is listed as a private home in south Eugene.

• The small rented warehouse location doesn’t look like much.

• With manufacturing done in China, it’s unclear what exactly people in Eugene would be doing. Is it a sales call center? An assembly facility? A corporate headquarters?

• Of the six people listed on the website as part of the company “management team,” only two live in Eugene. Two live in Portland, one in Vancouver, Washington and one in Atlanta, Georgia.

• The company posted job ads on Craigs List in numerous large cities throughout the country. The listings include several grammatical mistakes and appear to offer only part-time contract work done at home and paid only by sales commission.

July 9, 2009 06:33 PM

Local state Senator Vicki Walker will leave office for a $100,000 a year political appointment from the Governor, Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced today.

Kulongoski appointed Walker to chair the state Parole Board.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners will take nominees from local Democratic party leaders and appoint a replacement for Walker in the state Senate.

Walker’s District 7 includes west and north Eugene, Santa Clara, River Road and Junction City.

Leading possible candidates for the appointment include the two Democratic state Representatives from the district, Nancy Nathanson and Chris Edwards.

Of the two, Nathanson appears more progressive, based on information from Project Vote Smart. Nathanson, for example, got a 50 percent vote rating from the American Civil Liberties Union last year, whereas Edwards had a 0 percent ACLU rating.

Nathanson scored 95 percent from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters in 2007, Edwards scored 90 percent. The National Rifle Association gave Nathanson’s 2008 voting record an F grade. Edwards got a B from the NRA.

Walker, who also works as a court reporter, served 11 years in the Legislature and played a role in helping to expose former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt’s sex abuse of a 14-year-old girl. Goldschmidt was a close friend of Kulongoski, but Kulongoski denied he new about the crime. Walker was a strong critic of Kulongoski who considered running against him in 2006.

July 7, 2009 04:49 PM

With gas prices through the roof and the economy in the tank, locals are using less gas.

Here's a chart of declining gas use from a recent LCOG memo:

The drop mirrors that for the Northwest and U.S. in a recent Sightline Institute study:

The trend is good for reducing global warming and increasing livability, but will it stick if gas prices drop or the economy improves? Sightline thinks so, especially if governments increase transit and bicycling alternatives and limit urban sprawl.

July 6, 2009 05:03 PM

• The Village Voice's Rob Harvilla, like myself, is obsessed with Janelle Monae. Unlike me, he's gotten to see her perform live multiple times. I've had to make do with YouTube, which is a poor stand-in. Monae is appearing at this year's Bumbershoot, which is pretty much enough to make me want to spend Labor Day weekend in Seattle.

• Sports: still having issues with sexism.

• Cory Doctorow: Still all over the internets. Naturally. Doctorow's next novel will be serialized on Tor.com; a new piece of the 81-part whole goes up each Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the physical book's release in November.

• The unmatchable Warren Ellis greets his minions obsessed followers readers with some unforgettable shadow art.

• And speaking of art, Alex Eben Meyer (whose style particularly observant readers may remember from such covers as Winter Reading 2006 and Swizzle 2007) has a novel idea for how to get back at those nasty drivers who cut you off without signaling. Pigeons, however, aren't quite so plentiful here as they are in Brooklyn. Perhaps the (annoying, aggravating, start-squawking-at-five-in-the-morning-damn-their-little-bird-eyes) starlings would volunteer?

And with that, I'm off to see Moon and be disturbed by Kevin Spacey as a rather referential space computer.

July 3, 2009 01:27 PM

"USDA Organic" labeled food can cost twice as much, but under the loose system set up by the Bush Administration, the label may have become meaningless, threatening a lead industry in Oregon and Lane County.

"Purity of Federal 'Organic' Label Is Questioned," a Washington Post article reported today. The lengthy lead story found lax, corporate controlled regulation under the USDA. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who pushed the law to create the federal label, told the Post, "If we don't protect the brand, the organic label, the program is finished. It could disappear overnight."

Here's some of the revelations from the Post article:

• "Organic" beer has non-organic hops.

• "Organic" mock duck has synthetic additives to make it stringy.

• "Organic" baby food has synthetic fatty acids.

• The law required annual testing for pesticides, but USDA hasn't enforced the requirement.

• Corporations Kellogg, Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Dole are big players in "organic" food.

• "Organic" milk can come from factory-like feed lots without grass.

• The National Organic Standards Board has approved 245 non-organic substances for inclusion in "organic" labeled food.

Regulators appear to see their mission as more to grow the supposedly "organic" industry than to actually assure consumers are getting the organic food they paid for.

"People are really hung up on regulations, Joe Smillie a federal organic standards board member and an executive at a corporation that supposedly certifies "65 percent of organic products found on supermarket shelves" told the Post. "Are we selling health food? No," the Post quoted the federal "organic" regulator. "Consumers, they expect organic food to be growing in a greenhouse on Pluto. Hello? We live in a polluted world. It isn't pure."

July 2, 2009 05:03 PM

Internet miscellany: for when it's stupid hot out and thus you I, stupidly, walked to the bank and now have the brain capacity of a dazed manatee. No disrespect meant to manatees, of course.

• Have you heard the news? Apparently it's Author Internet Freakout Week! It kicked off when Alice Hoffman used her now deleted Twitter feed to insult the critic who reviewed her latest novel in The Boston Globe. She also posted the reviewer's phone number and email. Classy. Hoffman later "apologized." But just as that kerfuffle started to fade from memory, Alain de Botton (never lend On Love to a neurotic friend, by the way) got a bit cranky at the critic who reviewed his latest in The New York Times. Unlike Hoffman, de Botton later handled things very gracefully. Good for him. But it's not over yet! On Twitter, I mean. Next, Ayelet Waldman suggested that New Yorker critic Jill Lepore "rot in hell." (I'd like to point out the delightful headline on that last link, just in case you missed it.)

At least no one got punched in the face this time.

• And now for something completely different: RoboGeisha. Via BoingBoing, where it was described it thusly:

There is no part of this trailer that is not made of awesome. A robot geisha transforms into a tank. Two robot geishas (I guess) spew poison milk (don't ask) out of their titties at an opponent. A girl gets stabbed to death in the butt with a giant sword. Robot girls make giant swords pop out of their butts, presumably with which to stab other people in their butts. "Bust Machine Gun." And a dude is blinded with tempura shrimp.

Deadly. Shrimp. And bleeding buildings. And ... yeah, it's really pretty weird, but someone out there will love it.

• Three things make a post, so: two articles I've started reading but not yet finished because it's moments before a three day weekend and my attention span is shrinking:
- Chris Ruen's "The Myth of DIY," a treatise on artists and downloading which includes the succint and smart pullquote, "I don’t see anything artful or transcendent in our favorite record stores closing." I got several paragraphs in and was inspired to stop in at House of Records on my way back from the bank (for the Weakerthans and Dresden Dolls, should you want to track my spending habits).
- And lastly, Graeme McMillan interviews comics genius Grant Morrison, whose Invisibles series is one of the main reasons I start to see red any time someone uses the "Well, it's based on a comic, what did you expect?" line about another shitty comic-book movie adaptation. Morrison's latest is Batman and Robin.

June 26, 2009 06:27 PM

The City of Eugene plans to close one of the most popular bike commuter routes in Eugene this summer for repairs.

The city will close sections of the Amazon off-street bike path starting July 6 with work scheduled to be completed by the end of August. Unlike most road repairs, the sections of the bike path under construction will be entirely closed in both directions with bikers and pedestrians forced to take more dangerous alternative routes.

One detour suggested by the city includes south Willamette Street, where citizens have complained of hazardous narrow sidewalks and no bike lanes for decades without the city taking any action to solve the pressing problem.

The city has not disclosed exactly when various sections of the Amazon bike path will be closed during the phased reconstruction from 19th to 31st avenues. The city said it needs to reconstruct the cracked concrete path now because it did a poor job of building the foundation of the path in the 1970s.

The path runs through sensitive restored wetlands, sites with endangered plants and along Amazon Creek. The city's website does not mention any special environmental precautions for the highly visible heavy construction project. In the past, city projects have violated the city's own ordinances designed to protect waterways from construction runoff.

From the city's project website, here's the map of the project and detours:

June 25, 2009 04:08 PM

After a flurry of unconfirmed reports (well, reports only by TMZ, which was apparently good enough for pretty much nobody on a topic this big), the L.A. Times confirmed that Michael Jackson died today. He was 50. The New York Times ArtsBeat blog is getting updated very frequently with further information.

I heard the news on Twitter, where speedy updates about Jackson's condition have been replaced by memories and great links to YouTube videos, photos and more highlights of an incredible career. Comments about Jackson quickly overtook posts about Farrah Fawcett (RIP, Charlie's angel!) and news out of Iran with remarkable but unsurprising speed. There's a ton of coverage out there, which makes sense; is there any pop music fan, at least within a certain age range, to whom Jackson wasn't relevant at some moment or another?

I've stopped paying attention to Jackson in recent years, other than to marvel, momentarily, that he, Prince and Madonna had all reached or passed the 50-year milestone. Really? Really. But I distinctly remember buying Thriller on LP when I was a kid. I think I bought it in a department store; I seem to remember racks of clothing surrounding the little LP-shelf island. At some point each week, we could bring records to school to listen to, on headphones, with friends, and my kid-self was very excited to bring that one in and tap my little feet in time with "Beat It."

What's your earliest — or best — Michael Jackson memory?

And who else votes for a day of wearing single sequined gloves in his honor?

June 24, 2009 04:38 PM

Where can you earn more than $100,000 a year without a college degree, no experience and near total job security in this wretched economy?

The Eugene Police Department is holding a career night for police officers tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Emergency Services Training Center, 1705 West 2nd Avenue.

The salary range for Eugene cops is $48,588 to $61,984. With double pay overtime and lavish healthcare, retirement and other benefits, total compensation could easily reach six figures. The slim job qualifications don’t appear to match the fat salary. If you are a high school drop out, a GED will suffice.

Oh, and it’s almost impossible to get fired or disciplined. Eugene officers who have punched handcuffed people in the face or shot unarmed people dead have been reinstated by state arbitrators with full back pay.

June 24, 2009 04:14 PM

A fire late last night at the Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School has destroyed a 4J building with seven classrooms, according to Eugene Police.

Police called the cause of the fire "suspicious" and are investigating. The fire was first reported at 2:45 am Wed. by a neighbor who saw smoke and flames at the east end of the building.

School District 4J leases the building near 29th and Lincoln streets to the Montessori Charter school. In the past the district has talked of selling off the building and adjacent buildings leased by the Village charter school along with surrounding playing fields to a developer. The site behind the Market of Choice in South Eugene formerly housed 4J's Willard neighborhood school.

June 5, 2009 03:30 PM

It's looking more and more like the R-G is trying to Willie Horton progressive county commissioners.

The R-G ran an attack column today calling for taxpayer spending on pro-jail expansion propaganda (illegal by the way) with this clip-art illustration:

That looks a lot like the infamous Willie Horton ads Bush the senior used to get elected in 1988:

The "independent" ads were widely criticised as racist, untrue and illegal fear mongering, but they played a key role in electing Bush I, and subsequently Bush II.

After the R-G's conservative commissioner candidates lost in the last election, the paper is rattling the recall threat and trying to blame progressive commissioners for any crime that happens in Lane County. They won't let silly facts—like that the criminal released was released under the previous conservative county commission not this one, or that Lane County is one of the safest places to live in the nation—get in the way of their propaganda.

But voters today may be wiser. Desperate McCain supporters tried a Willie Horton style attack on Obama last year and failed.