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July 22, 2009 07:54 PM

It's a little funny that I was just discussing Torchwood's "adult" content levels, given that Day Two gives us entirely naked Jack. (And to think I just read a quote from John Barrowman about eventually getting his kit off.) It's not quite as hot as it might sound, though. Mostly, it's rather unpleasant. But let me tuck this all behind a spoiler cut. (For an introduction to Torchwood and my thoughts on Day One, look here.)

"I'm a PA. It's what I do."

Day Two begins not with a bang, but with the fallout from one; Gwen's stumbling around, half deafened by the explosion that destroyed the Hub and could've killed Ianto, for all she knows. Eve Myles tears the opening scenes to bits; her horror and shock is palpable, only ebbing when she questions an ambulance driver whose behavior doesn't make any sense to her. He works for the government, he says. "We're on the same side?" Gwen asks, boggled.

If Day One set Torchwood against the government, Day Two mostly works to reinforce the total shift in loyalties that has occurred with the appearance of the alien 456 signal. The episode is packed full of information, but little of it has to do with why the Torchwood team is such a threat to a government that's communicating with aliens. At least, not on the surface. Those who've been watching Torchwood since the beginning know that Jack Harkness is absolutely unflinching when it comes to destroying alien threats; he's killed more than one creature his teammates might've gotten attached to. This government is compromised, and it knows Jack won't stand for that.

But Jack isn't presently standing. Jack is barely existing. He's just "a bag of bits" being carted off by Johnson (Liz May Brice), the woman leading the team charged with hunting down Torchwood. It's harrowing watching government agents pick through the destroyed Hub; it's more harrowing watching as Jack comes back to life, growing from a few bits to a skeleton, and then to a human without skin. It's gross and scary and horrifying, and convincingly painful; it's no less awful and scary when Johnson, having realized she really, really can't kill Jack, decides to confine him. In concrete. In which I imagine he would suffocate, wake up, and suffocate again, repeatedly.

Jack spends most of Day Two regrowing or imprisoned, leaving us to follow Gwen, Ianto and the curious, smart new government employee Lois Habiba (Cush Jumbo), who's certainly picked an interesting time to start working for John Frobisher (the quietly effective Peter Capaldi).

Day Two's real strength is in the way it works flashes of everyday life, the love and frustration of family and partners, into a tense, violent story about two people on the run. Ianto, cleverly, slips a note into his sister's paper; it reads, "Where Dad broke my leg, at noon." Rhiannon (Katy Wix) addresses this only briefly, when she arrives; "He didn't mean to," she says. Ianto says their father always pushed too hard; Rhi says Ianto should have held on tighter. It's not played for drama, just for closeness, and it speaks volumes about the way Ianto, guarded and wary, carries himself, and the way he fits into the Torchwood family.

Gwen quickly realizes that the sketchy government agents will be after Rhys (Kai Owen), and the scene in which she hustles him out of the house, narrowly escaping the ferocious Johnson, is a beautiful moment of domesticity under unnatural stress; the things she nags at him for are ordinary complaints, ratcheted up to incredible levels of importance. Plus, this escape gives us a bit of PC Andy (Tom Price), an old colleague of Gwen's who sweetly refuses to believe she might be a terrorist; the moment when Gwen stands down the police van, precisely shooting out all its tires; and Rhys as Gwen's shaken but competent partner, a man who offers to carry her bag so she can keep her trigger free and whose knowledge of trucking schedules gives them a getaway atop a bed of potatoes. Not the most romantic place for Gwen to tell him she's pregnant, but when the moment arises, she never even has to say the words; these two communicate in easily read smiles.

All that, and there's so much more. The children announce that the aliens are coming tomorrow. Lois meets Rhys and Gwen in a chip shop and proves herself beyond measure; not only has she quickly pieced together that the government agencies she work for are working against what appear to be their own interests, but she's also a thoughtful woman who's quick to pass the salt. (The scene in which Lois attempts to nudge her bosses into thinking about what they're doing and is shut down with a reminder to speak when she's spoken to is a wonder of compact character development; Frobisher and his secretary have chosen their parts, and they expect competent, smart Lois to do the same. They've no curiosity and no sense of rightness. Government ass-kissers do not do well in this series.)

And Jack still needs rescuing.

Enter Ianto the hero. There's such satisfaction in seeing the former coffee-fetcher burst in to rescue his boyfriend — and his teammate and her husband. I've never seen such a touching, silly getaway. The Torchwood-plus-Rhys reunion is brief and unsentimental, more showcase for John Barrowman's bare ass than anything. Conveniently, being dropped from hundreds of feet into a quarry breaks the concrete around him, but not his shackles. How will the poor fellow put on the coat Gwen hands him? He won't. This is still Torchwood.

But enough heroic rescues. Day Two ends on a creepy, ominous note; the government stooges have built the structure the aliens require, and it's filled with a gaseous mixture that's poison to humans. What is it to the aliens? Not even creepy Dekker, who translated the 456 signal, can say.

July 22, 2009 12:37 PM

Shaun the intern just noticed a drastic change to the Jo Federigo's website: As of this morning, it says that the venue has closed.

Owners are looking for a buyer or investor. Some of the venue's scheduled events have moved to Davis' Restaurant, including Ala Nar (8 pm July 24; $5) and Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad (8 pm July 29; $12). Casey Mitchell, who was booking Jo Fed's, says that "as many acts as possible" among the already-booked shows will be moving to Davis'.

July 21, 2009 04:27 PM

I admit it: I'm rapidly falling for Torchwood.

I haven't watched the new Doctor Who — not the Christopher Eccleston series, and not the David Tennant series (save three or four episodes, which varied drastically in quality). Torchwood is a Who spinoff — the names are anagrams of each other — but you don't really have to know one to watch the other. You don't even really have to know the first two seasons of Torchwood to watch Torchwood: Children of Earth, the five-part miniseries that began last night on BBC America.

It probably helps, though. I'm six or seven episodes into Torchwood's first season, despite a coworker's insistence that I ought to just skip it and go straight into season two (I'm a completist. Even if I'd known how much I'd hate "Black Market," the absolute nadir of Battlestar Galactica, I still would've had to watch it, just to know why I'd hate it so much). Torchwood is a rather X-Files-like show about the titular organization, a secret institute founded by Queen Victoria that protects the human race from alien threats. For various reasons too elaborate to go into here, the Torchwood of the show is Torchwood Three, and it's in Cardiff. In Wales. Can you think of the last thing you watched that was set in Wales?

Torchwood's first series started strong, with an episode that brings a new member to the team: former cop Gwen Cooper (the sweet-faced Eve Myles), an ordinary woman who initially serves as the conscience for the other team members, who've maybe been down in the Hub, Torchwood's home base, too long. It's immediately apparent why the show is so popular in certain circles: We're encouraged to identify with Gwen, who's in over her normal-lass head but shines unexpectedly in the team's strange environment (I think this overlaps with certain kinds of popular fanfic, but that's a whole 'nother discussion). Plus, there's a lot of making out! Everybody's kind of in love with everybody else! Everybody's both hot and sort of attainable looking! Awesome!

Gwen and the rest of the gang are led by the omnisexual ("Period military is not the dress code of a straight man," one team member theorizes), unkillable, rather charmingly cocky Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). They find alien stuff and destroy or use it. Sometimes the results are really cheesy, and sometimes the episodes are just plain terrible. But cheekiness and sweetness exist side by side in Torchwood, and they both overlap with the sometimes goofy, sometimes fascinating science fiction elements. To the show's credit, even the worst episodes (that I've thus far seen, anyway) tend to have an element, or moment, that works to redeem the plot's failings. In the clunky "Cyberwoman," the unexpected emotional side of Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) comes to the fore; one moment between Gwen and crabby doctor Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) nearly makes up for the rest of the awful, awful cheap horror flick that is "Countrycide."

I've got half of the first season and all of season two to go, but I couldn't resist Children of Earth; the previews were far less campy, but the serious/silly/sweet tone seemed to remain. If you've not watched all of the series up til now, this new miniseries will spoil certain things for you, but I don't think Torchwood is the kind of thing you desperately need to remain unspoiled for. (Also, if you're at all an internet junkie, it's probably impossible. I knew things I didn't want to know about Children of Earth at least a week before it started airing here.)

But enough intro. Let's talk about the new show.

When Children of Earth begins, Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), Jack and Gwen are all on slightly uncertain ground. Gwen's husband knows about her work, but remains outside the Torchwood sphere; Jack and Ianto are in a relationship, but they're still working out what it means and what it is; Ianto notices every time someone refers to the two of them as a couple. The Hub, Torchwood's headquarters, feels a little empty. A doctor Jack and Ianto meet seems a likely candidate for a new team member, though, and they do need a doctor.

And then things get strange. Across the U.K., all the children stop. Torchwood spots it. The Home Office spots it. Nearly two hours later, it happens again. This time, the children all speak in unison, repeating "We are coming." In a mental hospital yard, one adult does the same thing. No one knows why. In the government offices, a man explains that a transmission is coming across the 456 wavelength, which last squawked in 1965. The prime minister wants nothing to do with it, leaving the entire situation in the hands of a lower-level bureaucrat who, interestingly, has a fresh-faced, curious new employee.

"Day One" doesn't explain much. Instead, it drops kernels of information in among scenes that (re)establish relationships. Children, it turns out, are more in the lives of the Torchwood team than expected: Ianto goes to visit his sister, who asks him about the gorgeous man he was seen dining with. The moment when Ianto explains, about Jack, "It's not men. It's just him. It's only him," is so simple, so vulnerable, it's a wonder it's not the episode's most affecting scene. (It could have sounded, in the wrong actor's mouth, as if Ianto were denying his sexuality, but it doesn't; it sounds instead like love and devotion that doesn't care about gender. It's only Jack for Ianto, now.) But even before that, when Ianto walks into his sister's house and her two kids immediately take cash from his ready hands, there's a sense of familiarity that it would take a lesser show multiple episodes to establish.

Though it's a nice enough moment, the writers don't do quite as well with Jack's family, which (as I understand it) hasn't been seen before. He drops in on a single mother with a tow-headed son who calls Jack "Uncle," but their relationship is something else entirely. When the woman who is actually Jack's daughter tells him, "You make us feel old," it doesn't mean quite as much as it ought. To be fair, though, I did just watch the episode in which an old love of Jack's is killed by nasty, vicious fairies, so the fact that Jack is constantly having to watch his loved ones die didn't need reiterating for me just yet.

And then there's Gwen, whose husband is house-hunting when he points out to her that the strange moments when the children stopped were clearly set to U.K. time (one on the way to school, one at the first break in the school day), though they happened worldwide. It's Gwen who goes to find the lone adult who spoke when the children did; he's a strange, sad old man named Clem who smells things on people — including truth, and pregnancy. It might be too convenient that Gwen turns out to be pregnant at the beginning of a miniseries involving all the world's children, but in the episode's final, beautiful scene, conflicted emotions play across Myles' face after she scans her midriff and confirms Clem's statement. Jack stumbles in on her discovery, and sees, clearly, that she's still working out what this means to her. "That's good, isn't it?" he asks.

It's a very long pause before Gwen says, "It's brilliant," and a delighted, relieved Jack calls to Ianto, "We're having a baby!" He doesn't mean he and Gwen, or he and Ianto; he means the small group that is all that's left of Torchwood, and in that one line he reaffirms all the affection that's apparent even in the first episodes.

And then he puts his hand on the scanner, which confirms what the audience has already suspected: There's a bomb in Jack's stomach, planted there by agents who temporarily killed him at the behest of the government. Jack, who's been around for decades, knows too much about something. He can't die, but the reluctance of both Gwen and Ianto to run, to leave him to deal with this alone, to accept that they can't fix it or change it, only flee — it's only day one, and it's already heartbreaking.

Torchwood, like so many other shows I love, is on one level a story about making your own family, even if you love the one you were born into. Like Buffy's Scooby Gang or Battlestar's ragtag band of survivors, the employees of Torchwood (who apparently are paid quite well for their services, unlike the folks on those other two shows) are forging bonds under circumstances both ordinary and bizarre. They're just going to work. They're just saving the world. It's what they do.

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Want more? io9 argues that Children of Earth: Day One is stronger than the entire first season. Should you want yet more commentary, I suggest you get yourself to LiveJournal, which is full of smart folks very kindly tucking their spoilers behind cut-tags. You'll find a mountain of fanfic and a lot of discussion links here.

July 17, 2009 05:29 PM

Last Thursday, I went to Portland because of Twitter.

Ok, that's not quite true. I went to Portland because of Amanda Palmer, the singer-songwriter-force-of-nature who some folks may know as half of the Dresden Dolls. Palmer's solo album is one of my absolute favorite records of last year, and I've long been complaining that of course I only fell in love with it two days after she played Portland in December. Of course.

Palmer is a savvy Twitterer, engaging blogger and generally the sort of musician you can follow closely (but not creepily) online. She's been playing what she calls ninja ukelele gigs in various places this summer, notably in L.A. — the pictures are fantastic (and not all safe for work). Her travels, last week, landed her in Portland, where she called her Twitter followers to meet her first at Mary's Club, late on a Wednesday, and then in the park blocks on Thursday afternoon. We were to bring flowers, ponies and fruit, among other things. (The fruit, she explained later, was because in L.A. she'd requested cookies and cake, thinking it would be wonderful, and it turned out to be kind of gross. My paraphrasing, not her words, that.)

I couldn't resist. I made a day of it — lunch at Broder, with its rich, delicious Swedish meatballs; a cherry beer at Deschutes while I waited for 6 pm to roll around, a pink bouquet of hastily purchased flowers wilting in my car; dinner at Pok Pok, where I ate what were possibly the best chicken wings I've ever tasted — but let's just talk about the mini concert for now, shall we?

Click here to keep reading.

Palmer rolled in late and unassuming; the park wasn't full, but pockets of fans (easily identified, in some cases, by striped tights or colorful hair) milled about or sprawled on the grass.

We spotted her early, and drifted as casually as possible into her orbit, somehow, delightfully, winding up in the front ring of the quickly forming circle of admirers. Everyone was disconcertingly quiet until Palmer spoke, breaking the silence and dissipating the feeling that everyone was very nearly holding their collective breath.

Fruit appeared. In the course of the evening, a pineapple and a watermelon were butchered and sent around the circle. The feeling of being at a strange and magical family picnic crept up and settled comfortably in. Palmer played five songs, beginning with Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees"; I can't remember the order, but the others were Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out"; Radiohead's "Creep," for which we all joined in on the last chorus; her own "Dear Old House That I Grew Up In"; and Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-Headed Boy." "Dear Old House" was a treat, a bittersweet ode about home and change, but for sheer entertainment value, it's hard to beat the moment when a woman wearing an elaborate antlered headdress walked up just as Palmer sang, "You're so fucking special..."

It was just Palmer and her ukulele, immediate and simple, charming and sincere, entirely accessible and, to use a godawful but entirely applicable cliché, down to earth. (When one girl's phone went off with the beginning of the Dresden Dolls song "Coin-Operated Boy," Palmer chuckled, explained what happened to those who couldn't hear, and then said, slightly wryly but kindly, "I don't know which one of us feels more embarrassed.")

I felt like I was in on a secret, but it was one you'd never get in trouble for telling. I took a million pictures and then put the camera down so I could just pay attention. The immediacy was almost overwhelming: Here's this woman who writes amazing songs, creates pictures of herself that tell their own stories and inspire yet more stories, makes musicals out of beloved albums and can make a hoodie, T-shirt and jeans look totally stylish, and she's sitting two feet away playing stripped-down covers and making herself astonishingly available to dozens of people whose days are being utterly and completely made. To say it was inspirational is an understatement.

She read to us from Who Killed Amanda Palmer, the book companion to the record of the same name; it's full of pictures of Palmer dead, accompanied by stories by (her now-boyfriend) Neil Gaiman. (Aside: The book was actually my introduction to her existence, thanks to the LiveJournal of the talented photographer Kyle Cassidy, who took some of the pictures.) She answered questions, including mine about when the next book tie-in, a line of scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, would be released into the wild (next week, at Nerd Prom Comic-Con, where Palmer and Gaiman both will be). She even discussed Gaiman's lack of rhythm while praising his singing voice and songwriting skills (audience members suggested she get him drunk and into the studio).

And then I had to leave — missing the part of the evening where Jason Webley turned up and the two of them sang from atop the elephant statues a block away (they have a duet about elephants; the location was almost unnaturally appropriate). I gave my pink flowers to a girl in roller skates and gave all my dollar bills to a friend to throw in Palmer's open uke case (her explanation of how she's made more money from Twittering in a month than she's made from her major-label record in a year is worth a read). The puppeteer I'd met before the show, a friend of a friend, asked her to sign his ukulele. He somehow wound up with a bigger container of fresh raspberries than the one he'd brought to the gathering. I floated off to dinner on a cloud.

There's no moral to this story, but I do have a suggestion. If anyone ever tells you Twitter is stupid and useless, remember this: Anything that can bring a group of strangers together to sit in the grass, singing, laughing and smiling, really can't be all bad. It's like any tool; it's all in how you use it. And this was one hell of a use.

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: