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January 16, 2008 11:27 PM

So I've come to the conclusion that this year (and I bet I said this to myself last time, too), I will listen to what the presidential candidates say, I will listen to what (non-insane) commentators say about them, but I will not, under any circumstances, listen to what they say about each other. I'm just not interested in that aspect. And I don't care who's the prettiest or the emo-est or the toughest or the sensitivest or the ... OK, stopping now, because it's irrelevant to this post and I can't hang my entire unfair distrust of one particular candidate on one very Bushlike quote.

ANYWAY, see, to my very Democrat mind, none of this idealistic claptrap (hey, I'm only insulting myself) applies to the Republicans. I will watch them tear each other apart. Particularly if they're tearing into Giuliani, with whom this once-and-future New Yorker (you can take the girl out of the city, but ... ) has several issues. And thus, I get a lot of giggles out of this: The GOP Primary Field in Buffy Villains.

Mitt Romney is SO the Mayor it's ... really quite funny.

For more pop culture references — though this one's a bit less on purpose — to current politicians, please see Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan, the comic that made me fall in love with comics, and its creepy, grinning nasty bastard The Smiler. And you tell me who YOU think he looks like. Also, just read the books. Frankly, I think I'm due for a total read-through.

(In all fairness, it was Ellis himself who pointed out the resemblance. What? Don't you follow the many online existences of your favorite comic book heroes?)

January 14, 2008 04:43 PM

What did you do over the holidays? Whatever it was, I'm pretty sure it wasn't quite as cool as this: Tolkien's Battle of Pelennor Fields recreated ... in candy. Choice quips from the post include:

"For two days the evil host, under the brutal licorice fist of the Witch King of Angmar has bombarded the ancient city with stone and fire."

"This is the Tower of Ecthelion. If a candy tower could be measured in units of pimpness, this candy tower would be off the fucking charts. And if that wasn’t pimp enough, in front you can clearly see the White Tree of Gondor, which I made out of white chocolate pretzels. Give me my Nobel Prize now, thankyouverymuch."

I'm not linking a pic here because it would be totes uncool of me to hotlink this artiste's work and steal his bandwidth, but this is really something you ought to see for yourself. Licorice battering rams! Gummy bears! Circus peanuts for elephants! Awesome.

January 10, 2008 03:36 PM

Daytime television is really weird.

* aka my living room. I'm not seriously sick; I just have a seriously annoying cold.

January 7, 2008 11:47 PM

Kitty Piercy

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy delivered her 2008 State of the City address in the Hult Center lobby on Monday night, January 7 to a large crowd.

Here's the last part of Mayor Piercy's speech summarizing her goals for the year as a slide show with audio:

Here's the text of the full speech:

Good evening everyone and thank you for joining us here in our beautiful Hult Center for the Performing Arts. Let me take this opportunity to thank our citizens, our council and our staff for all their efforts in 2007 to keep Eugene such a great place to call home.

Like many of you, I start off most days by listening to the radio, reading the newspaper and checking the web.

Like you, I am acutely aware of the ever-rising death toll in Iraq, the ever-rising temperature of the earth, the fretful American economy and the resulting financial challenges we face at home.

And, I am more committed than ever to doing everything we can to work for peace and justice, to reduce our impact on global warming, to keep our economy strong, and to provide the services our community expects. I believe absolutely in the power we have individually and collectively to make change, influence policy and set the direction for the future. Cities are where it all happens; where people live, work, raise families, and establish roots. Eugene is our city and our home. It is a reflection of our values and how we want this world to be.

A lot of our work occurs at the City Council table, through advocacy groups, on committees and commissions, and in our neighborhoods. Our energy and passion for civic engagement is a tremendous community asset, allowing us to address more issues in greater depth.

Essential to our civic engagement are our neighborhood associations. I am impressed with the ever more active and successful role they are taking to bring forward community perspectives and expertise, whether it's on mixed-use development, infill and neighborhood livability, safer parks, railroad pollution, response to traffic fatalities, or protecting headwaters.

Civic engagement almost always comes with differences of opinion and the issues we face are often thorny. To me, the important thing is to work together - to find points of common agreement so that we can move forward as a community. Some recent examples of successful community cooperation are the Mayor's Sustainable Business Initiative and the West Eugene Collaborative.

The Sustainable Business Initiative brought together a very broad-based group of people with economic, social and environmental expertise, to make recommendations on how the City of Eugene could support and encourage the growth of businesses that produce sustainable products such as alternative energy, alternative fuel, green building, recycling, alternative transportation and health care, natural foods and products. The task force was also charged with making recommendations that would support and encourage all businesses to use sustainable practices that reflect the triple bottom line of protecting our natural resources, building social equity and ensuring economic well-being. Their 22 recommendations, supported by the entire task force and adopted by our City Council, included establishing an Office of Sustainability and a Sustainability Commission. Both the office and commission are now firmly in place.

Then, there was the decades-long, acrimonious debate over the West Eugene Parkway. It was clear that the funding for this project was simply not there and that federal approval was likely never to occur. I asked business owners, environmentalists, neighbors, agencies, and elected officials to join together to start afresh and come up with do-able solutions for the vexing West Eugene traffic and transportation problems. They responded by forming the West Eugene Collaborative. We are working together to make recommendations on how local governing bodies can solve the longstanding traffic and transportation challenges in West Eugene while protecting our biologically rich wetlands.

Another one of our city's current issues is the reinvigoration of downtown. We've had differences of opinion on how best to accomplish this and an election on one proposed course of action is now behind us. It is time to bridge our differences and form a plan that the whole community will support. I urge all those involved and interested in the future of our downtown to work for common ground. We can take the energy and continued commitment of the Citizens for Public Accountability, Chamber of Commerce, and hundreds of other community members and, together, bring life to our downtown, the heart of our city. The valuable work of West Broadway Advisory Committee can help inform the discussion. It is within our reach.

One of the reasons I am so optimistic about our downtown is that much of it is already doing well. Fifth Street, East Broadway and most of Oak, Charnelton, Pearl, Willamette and Olive are busy and full. The Beam redevelopment of Center Court and the Washburn Building is on the table. We have new businesses on Broadway and Enterprise is moving into the refurbished "Bon Marche" building. KLCC is moving in just a block away on 8th Avenue and Oregon Research Institute has a renewed interest in establishing a presence in downtown.

Yes, we do have those two pits and empty storefronts - and lots of visitors coming to town. In the short run, we can focus public safety efforts on our problem blocks, address rundown storefronts, tweak codes, increase cultural and recreational activities in the area, and look at parking restrictions. I intend to walk into each business in that two-block area to either thank them for looking good or to see how improvements can be made. This is something we must take on together.

Those short-term fixes will help keep the momentum going and build a base for a wide-range of exciting possibilities. We need to put the two problem blocks in the context of our entire downtown: opportunities for a new city hall, expansion of The Shedd, the development of a new Courthouse area, Franklin Boulevard improvements and, with EWEB's anticipated move, new connections to the river. Let's roll up our sleeves and keep going.

I am proud of the many services and amenities the City provides: our parks, open spaces and bike paths in every part of the community, and our stewardship of valuable natural resources. Most recently, we were the first city in Oregon to receive Forest Legacy funding in order to preserve 25 acres of Oak habitat at Wild Iris Ridge. That's a great accomplishment!

It is our wealth of arts and outdoors assets that makes this community so special and this year offers an exceptional opportunity to highlight both.

In September, we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of this beautiful facility and offered 5,443 free admissions to a variety of events. Our beloved library, which has quickly become a cornerstone of our downtown, just celebrated its 5th birthday. Over 3,000 people participated in a Cultural Policy Review and the council has adopted strategies that will strengthen both our city's and community's cultural offerings and our commitment to the arts. Galleries are thriving - and not just on First Fridays - and local musicians and performers provide a diverse range of entertainment in unique local venues.

We took pride in the achievements of the University of Oregon and the Ducks as they gained national attention and acclaim for Eugene (even that pugnacious mascot). The University logged permits for more than $43 million in building projects in Eugene this year. And a hard working coalition not only brought the 2008 Olympic Track & Field Trials back to Hayward Field, re-establishing our reputation as Track Town USA, but Eugene has also been chosen to host the US national track championships in 2009 and 2011 and the 2012 Olympic Track & Field Trials. The huge community engagement efforts in planning for the Olympic Trials, the events leading up to them and the strategies to engage our young people were instrumental to ensuring that Eugene is Track Town USA - Forever.

I want to give special thanks to our interim city manager Angel Jones for her key role in this success. I also want to thank all our partners in the coalition that is doing a wonderful job of working together to maximize this opportunity for our community - the University of Oregon, the City of Springfield, the Convention and Visitors Association, Lane County, the State of Oregon, the Oregon Track Club along with Lane Transit District, the Chambers of Commerce and numerous businesses and hundreds of volunteers. With all the visitors and exposure, and the Eugene 08 Festival that is free and open to everyone, this will be the most exciting, fun event ever in Eugene and I encourage you all to get involved, support it and enjoy it. Go to Eugene08.com to learn how.

On another front, Eugene continues to address the critical need for affordable and low-income housing. The most recent project is nearing completion in our downtown: WestTown on 8th, with its new innovative work/live units. Eugene adopted a stronger manufactured home ordinance to protect owners of this important affordable housing stock. We provided funds for shelter and transportation for the homeless and the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee on Homelessness has been working hard on how we can provide services and reduce the numbers of those who are homeless or face the threat of homelessness. A one-day Project Homeless Connect event in February provided services and connections for over a thousand of the area's homeless and a second one is scheduled for next month. Staff, social services, governing bodies, and hundreds of volunteers and donations make this event meaningful on every level.

In July, our independent police auditor, Cris Beamud, officially opened her doors downtown and the Civilian Review Board is in place, working on complaints. Both have become an important part of ensuring justice in our community.

Police staffing needs remain an issue before us and that problem is compounded by the inadequate funding of Lane County's prevention, intervention and treatment services, jail beds, legal, and judicial processes. While Eugeneans are committed to community policing, the county public safety system itself is broken. We will have to be very strategic in our prioritizations in order to effectively address this critical issue.

Loss of federal, state and county road repair dollars also continues to plague us and our pothole backlog grows. At my request, the council worked together to bring very diverse perspectives to the table and develop a funding package that included a gas tax increase. Although the tax increase did not survive the last election, we understand the growing need and will keep working on finding solutions that the community will support.

No look at local issues is complete without some mention of the hospital saga. While neither the council nor I can legally comment on the location proposed by McKenzie-Willamette in north Eugene, I can reiterate my strong support for the presence of two full-service hospitals in our metropolitan area, which will ensure healthy competition and breadth of services. McKenzie-Willamette should be in Eugene where it can effectively provide health care for our community, support our tax base and where, if needed, we can have some influence on significant health care policies.

I am proud of our continued efforts to guarantee the right and access to services for all our community members, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, beliefs, or income. We want this community to be a comfortable place for everyone to live, work and raise their families, where differences are respected and thought of as a valued part of the fabric of a strong community. It hurt last year when our city experienced repeated incidents of hate speech and the defacing of important religious objects. Our community will stand united against such behavior, and defend the rights of all its members.

Same sex couples still pursue the same legal rights as married couples; clearly the day has come to end all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation. As you are probably aware, an opportunity to take one more step in achieving this goal of equality was recently frustrated when a new domestic partnership law was postponed by the courts. Despite these setbacks, however, we must continue to be vigilant in pursuing equal rights for all.

Differences of opinion about immigration issues can fuel bigotry and hatred; we need to remind ourselves that our community and our nation were built by indigenous peoples and immigrants, and that all human beings deserve respect.

The social justice triumphs and defeats of this last year have increased my resolve to continue working on becoming an official Human Rights City, one that embraces human rights in every decision we make. If there's any place in America that can do this, it is certainly here.

Eugene has a commitment to being the most sustainable community possible. We know that with finite resources and growing climate change challenges, we must scale up this commitment as a matter of both City policy and in the consciousness and actions of the larger community.

This past year, we hired the City's first sustainability manager and the members of the new Sustainability Commission have now been appointed. We will update our community greenhouse gas inventory in April. We know that over the last eight years, through the purchase of hybrids and biodiesel, City government has decreased its CO2 emissions by 10%. The methane we capture at our wastewater plant provides half the power it needs. Through LED lighting, recycling, wind power purchase, bus passes, bike programs, e-communications, and a whole range of other strategies,

Eugene has taken strides toward carbon neutrality and zero waste. We still have a long way to go. Large reductions in building and transportation emissions are the only way we can seriously impact climate change.

I have enjoyed working hand in hand with mayors across this country (now over 800) in support of the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, using our mutual power to push for changes at the Congressional level. While the situation we face as a planet is serious, I see major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago combining their purchasing powers for green solutions and to create green jobs at home - jobs that help put sustainable practices in place, are built on social equity, and pay well.

In Oregon, Governor Kulongoski has embraced sustainable jobs and practices as the basis for Oregon's economy, much as we have been doing here. He hopes that Oregon can offer leadership on a number of fronts and I want Eugene to be a significant part of this work. It is no coincidence that Sequential BioFuels is located here, and that the largest solar panel display in the state is on one of our industrial roofs.

The governor has also required every state department including ODOT to do their part to reduce carbon emissions. As we approach all new regional planning efforts in transportation and land use, the state requirements give me hope. Necessity is the mother of invention and may help ODOT respond to climate change and finite resources, allowing it to be more creative and energy-conscious, rather than simply laying more roads.

The challenges are great and so are the possibilities.

I know 2008 will be a very challenging year at every level. We must continue to build on the momentum we have to address the major issues nationally and locally. We have the talent, the heart and the chutzpah. We are, after all, Eugene.

Thus, my to-do list for 2008 includes the following goals:

-- Eugene leads in sustainable practices and supports the growth of sustainable businesses as a key to strengthening our economy;

-- Eugene continues to implement the Sustainable Business Initiative recommendations, moving toward carbon neutrality and zero waste;

-- Eugene develops a climate protection strategic plan;

-- The West Eugene Collaborative (WEC) completes its recommendations for addressing traffic and transportation issues in west Eugene;

-- Eugene reviews the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Homelessness and effective goals and strategies are adopted;

--We collaborate and successfully plan for downtown, increasing the pace of reinvigoration of West Broadway;

-- Eugene addresses its neighborhood pothole backlog;

-- Eugene advances the Cultural Policy Review's strategies to increase support for arts and culture;

-- Eugene and our partners host a hugely successful and green Olympic Track & Field Trials;

-- Eugene considers an independent auditor for the City of Eugene;

-- McKenzie-Willamette Hospital locates in Eugene;

-- Our new city manager is on the job and is exceptional;

-- Eugene adopts a youth advisory board respecting the voices, talents and needs of our young people;

-- Eugene and its partners collaborate on the protection and restoration of the Amazon Creek basin and headwaters and build upon the success of the wetlands with the creation of the Environmental Education Center; and

-- Eugene moves toward becoming an official Human Rights City.

My comments tonight and the goals I outlined have focused on the main issues of the day and on who we are as a community. I could go on for hours!

I know we can successfully bring people together to work on our most difficult and challenging issues. We must keep the proverbial "pedal to the metal" so we can hold on to what is wonderful about this place we call home. Our future depends on it.

January 4, 2008 01:57 PM

The world is flat, right, we all know that. The world is also very small. The latest example of that is this: I have a good friend in Brooklyn who has a pretty expert grasp on my taste in, well, most things, or at the very least books, movies and music. We don't always agree (that would get boring!) but when we disagree, it's usually for a reason that's worth discussing (with the exceptions of those times when Toby just kind of nods, folds his arms in a friendly way and says, "Hrm" in a tone that simultaneously expresses bafflement and shows it's non-judgemental bafflement).

The thing about having a friend with a really good grasp on your taste is that, should that friend be inclined to gift-giving, they give you really good gifts. My birthday/Giftmas package this year included a book that'd been recently written up in the Portland Mercury and thus caught my attention, and a CD by a band I'd never heard of before: The Narrator. "Hrm," I thought. "It's on Flameshovel, and so was that Bound Stems album I effing loved last year. Toby must be on to something."

At first, I was a little skeptical. Angular boy rock, woohoo! (This is said with both love and a tiny bit of wink-nudge derision.) But then I got to the track that only has two lines, which I heard as, "All the tired horses in the sun / How'm I s'posed to get any writing done?"

You smartypants readers already know this is a Bob Dylan cover, and that it actually says "ridin'," not "writing." But I didn't know that (until just now, actually). I heard "writing." Awesome. Sold. You win, The Narrator! You win with a cover I didn't even know was a cover, because of the approximately 7,392 Bob Dylan albums on our CD wall, I've never pulled down Self-Portrait.

It wasn't just this that made me finally fall for the album; it was the half-finished sound of the vocals, which fall somewhere between melodic talking, the occasional singalong and a few grumpy shouts; it was the way the record sounds like a Chicago band record (even though the Flameshovel website is quick to point out that none of the band members are actually from Chicago); it was the way the melodies wove and tumbled. It was a lot of those things that are hard to put into words, especially when you're at a desk and the damn CD is in the car.

So what does this have to do with it being a small world? Simple: the first thing I did, when I got this CD, was look at the band members' names. Why? I dunno. It sounded like a band an ex-roommate of Toby's would be in, even though said ex-roommate is in a totally different band. For whatever reason, I looked. And who should turn up in the liner notes but EW's newest music freelancer, Jeremy Ohmes, who plays keyboards on a few songs.

It's a small world after all.

January 4, 2008 03:31 PM

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association announced the winners of their 2008 awards today; six titles were chosen from the almost 200 nominees:

• The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie of Seattle, WA (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Alexie's book has already won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and looks like at least an honor book, if not the winner, for the American Library Association's Printz Award. Suzi Steffen reviewed Alexie's novel in our Winter Reading issue.

• Returning To Earth
by Jim Harrison, who spends part of his year in Paradise Valley, Montana (Grove Press)

• Tree of Smoke
by Denis Johnson of Northern Idaho (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Hey, I didn't know Denis Johnson was a Northwest writer! That's pretty cool. For Chuck Adams' take on Johnson's National Book Award-winning novel, see our Winter Reading issue.

• Dancing With Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's
by Lauren Kessler of Eugene, OR (Viking)
UO professor Kessler's book was reviewed by Lois Wadsworth when it came out in May.

• The God of Animals
by Aryn Kyle of Missoula, MT (Scribner)

• Bad Monkeys
by Matt Ruff of Seattle, WA (HarperCollins)
Now where did my copy of this one go?

January 3, 2008 08:55 PM

We interrupt Suzi's politi-blogging with this totally needless whining: Oh, Ducks. Oh, Ducks, Ducks, Ducks. Way to throw the game away. All those turnovers! Not drawing the fouls! What the hell is going on with Tajuan Porter? Why can't they shoot threes OR make free throws? What happened to Kamyron Brown that he couldn't hold on to the ball? Totally unnecessary last-few-minutes commentary after this here jump.

The game's not even over yet and I am moderately despondent. I mean, there's less than a minute left. I'm not holding my breath.

On the other hand, MAAAAAAAAARTY. 58-53 with 39 seconds and the boy makes a layup and draws the foul. We started this game with the Leunen show and oh, if I cross my fingers hard enough we might end it with a wining Leunen show ... right?

I'll just keep typing until it's over. Jeff Pendergraph fouled out. That's nice. Good for him.

AND HE MAKES THE FREE THROW.

"It's gonna be a parade of free throws coming up," sez the announcer. ASU: MISS! MISS! MISS!

(I really don't like that this game isn't on TV. It was on ESPN Full Court Blah Blah Pay-Per-View. Couldn't the bars who have DirecTV or Dish just order it? Wouldn't they make a bajillion dollars on the two hours?)

Stinkin' Glasser made both his free throws. This isn't good. Six point deficit and no bonus. I give. I fold. I concede this game to the goddamn Sun Devils. Fie.

One of the radio announcers started to joke about Aaron Brooks behind He Who We Can't Name and then named him. Dudes, don't put a Voldemort-esque curse on the boy and then start talking about him. This is sports - the real of mad superstition and crazy math. C'mon, now.

January 2, 2008 01:39 PM

I'm sorry. I just had to create sympathizers. See, I watched this video the other week, and it got stuck in my head. Really stuck. Then I went to see Enchanted on New Year's Eve, and the song got really, REALLY stuck in my head. I just finished my review of the film (it's charming and sweet but still suffers from some Disneyesque flaws), and I wasn't kidding when I wrote that I go to bed with the damn song in my head and I wake up with it still there. I can't. Get it. Out.

I also can't get the movie out of my head, in part because while I did just finish my review, I'm not done mulling over what it does sweetly and smartly, and where it falls back into the Disney party line of happy endings and traditional relationships ... and then on yet another hand, where it makes some uncomfortable missteps regarding stereotypes and villains and secondary casting. When it's smart, it's very smart; I love that our heroine, Giselle (a spectacular Amy Adams) gets to use her skills, fairy-tale based and all, to guide at least part of her own future. But I don't love that the movie sets up a false rival for her in Nancy, the girlfriend (played by the original Elphaba in Wicked, Idina Menzel) of the man she meets in New York, nor that really both of her enemies (though Nancy isn't really her enemy so much as an awkward obstacle to Twoo Wuv) are other women. Perhaps there's something deeper there about Giselle overcoming other parts of her female self to grow up, but it feels more like the pretty princess type defeating the older, single woman (Nancy gets her own happy ending, but I'm unsure how I feel about that one as well). Yes, that's somewhat classic, but does it have a place in a film that puports to turn the classics a little bit on their head?

(I feel that when I say "Disney movies" I should have specified; maybe something like "Disney movies in which a substantial part of the plot is Getting the Guy." There are exceptions; I have an un-guilty love for Lilo and Stitch for example. But Disney is an easy touchstone for a lot of storytelling and example-setting issues with regard to kids, especially young girls, who are shown again and again that they're the ones who need rescuing and romancing, always by a white guy with a big chin, preferably on horseback. Sigh. Of course, there's also the argument that this is a kneejerk reaction to stories that are just sweet and happy and easily digestible. I don't think either of these things goes deep enough, but I've only had one cup of coffee and it's the first workday of the new year. Go easy on me. Please?)

Thoughts still bubbling here. Maybe more to come.

December 27, 2007 10:33 AM

This is totally awesome. Totally wicked awesome, even. It's a massive spreadsheet of critics' top picks for movies this year. I don't yet understand why some names are in purple and some in blue, but I don't really care. It's still fascinating. Out here in the relative boonies, of course, half these movies have yet to arrive, even ones that have already opened elsewhere — and in regular ol' chain theaters, no less! Atonement, wherefore art the skinny shoulders of Keira Knightley and the beautiful eyes of James McAvoy? Juno, whither she-looks-like-a-rollergirl Diablo Cody's sassy screenplay and the debates about whether the film's actually smart and sweet or a certain kind of male fantasy? (Yes, I read that somewhere. No, I can't remember where.) These aren't movies we should be waiting on, like the ones with limited release that take their time, dawdling on their way up or down I-5. These should be here by now, and I shouldn't be facing a weekend of Alvin and the Chipmunks or AVP:R.

Bitch, moan, whine, complain. This is probably the time to take a few steps back and see the things I've not yet seen. I totally want to see Enchanted, and I'm not ashamed to say so. (You watch the "That's How You Know" clip and see if you can get the damn song out of your head.) I'll probably pass on August Rush despite its pretty leads. But I need to get my hands on Elizabeth: The Golden Age and the apparently flawed and never opened here Sunshine; I need to see some of the things Jason Blair reviewed, especially No Country for Old Men and La Vie En Rose. Time to bump up the number of films I get per month from Netflix, I think. It's less than two months ’til we have to create our own top tens.

And back to those for a minute. Of the films on the compiled top ten, I've seen three, and of those three, two will be nowhere near my top ten: Sweeney Todd, a mediocre muddle of darkness and absurdity that was surprisingly dull for a film with so much spurting blood, and Into the Wild, which felt as if it were trying to present its subject relatively objectively yet failing at nearly every turn. I'm also not sure I fell for Emile Hirsch's portrayal of Christopher McCandless, though I've not been able to pin down quite why.

The third film from that top ten that I've seen, though, will doubtless appear in my own: Once. And I'll keep stewing on my thoughts until the time comes to write about the film again, but in short: You need to see this sweet, plaintive, authentic character/mood/musical piece. It's like nothing else that came out this year, and it shapes the relationship between film, story and music in a way that I can't help but utterly love.

The second ten on this list has a lot more films I can get behind: Eastern Promises, yes, absolutely; I will never understand why the (relatively) simplistic, disappointing A History of Violence was better received than this film. I'm Not There. Ratatouille. And The Lives of Others which technically, to my delight, IS a 2007 film, and which should win a handful of other Oscars to go with that Best Foreign Language film win from this year. I'm not kidding.

I'm looking forward to seeing how many of the rest of these I can squeeze in, consider or reconsider before the middle of February. Good times, good times.

December 21, 2007 05:02 PM

Man, this really seemed like a good idea until I actually had to DO it.

But I'll let today's mail inspire me: a package from The Soap Box Company, all full of wonderful soaps and scrubs. (Are you sensing a theme here, what with the Lush stuff two days ago? Well, it's not on purpose, I swear.) Yes, of course it's too late to order from them now — and they're closed for the holidays as of today — but I'm only posting Giftmassy things for fun, and plus, it being Giftmas we're talking about, you can have it whenever you want. Have it for New Year's! Have it for a random Tuesday in January! Break away from tradition!

Er. Um. Anyway, The Soap Box Company is a haven of bath goods, from Aracana soaps, scrubs and oils (just try to resist Frozen Heart. I dare ya) to Callisto Bath and Body shampoos and sugar scrubs to Possets scents and treats. TSBC makes for a one stop shopping virtual destination for those of us addicted to smelling like spices and tea (Villainess' Masala Smooch, which is what Villainess calls their sugar scrubs), frozen ground and trees (Arcana's Arctic Bear oil, frosty and biting) or a sweet handful of ginger (Possets' Haute Love). The woman who runs the shop is super-helpful and happy to let a panicked, oh-em-gee-I-must-have-it shopper add a forgotten something to her cart via PayPal (even when that shopper — oh, fine, me — paid with a credit card before), and things get shipped out right quick. There's always new stuff on the way — many of these small companies do limited-edition runs of some of their products, so you don't get bored. Not that you could! I've thus far stuck with my already-favorite companies with Soap Box, but I'll branch out soon. Just as soon, that is, as I allow myself to buy soap again. The basket under my sink is getting a little crazy...

Let's just make this a two-for-one post and throw in my beloved Propaganda Bath and Beauty while I'm talking about fun ways to both get clean and salve the nasty, dry, cracking skin on the backs of your hands (my knuckles were actually bleeding last night. For no reason!). Propaganda, so far as I can tell, is a two-woman operation out of Mukilteo, Wash. The propagandists address their customers as "Comrade" in emails and use a chipper red star on their labels, but the most propagandizing thing they do (um, I'm getting a little lost in this sentence) is turn their customers into converts. It was Last Candle Flicker lotion that won me over: a spicy warm pumpkin scent in the form of a lotion that, to my great shock, didn't make my hands feel all slimy. It sank in quickly and with only a trace of scent lingering — a scent that's convinced people I'm drinking some delicious eggnog concoction in my office when it's really just the combination of coffee and Last Candle Flicker wafting out the door. Appropriately for today, my other Propaganda favorite is Winter Solstice, a bright, sunny, herbal scent that's pefect for gloomy Oregon days. Oh! And chocolate orange or cheesecake Lip Tease, aka lip balm. Deeelicious.

December 20, 2007 01:38 PM

What with the one-two punch of Winter Reading and the Procrastinators' Gift Guide — which, naturally, I procrastinated working on — my inbox has been slowly and steadily filling itself up with interesting yet uncommented-upon things. Thursday late morning is as good a time as any to post a rundown of a few Items of Note I've been unintentionally ignoring until now:

• Sadly, we missed the Ursula K. Le Guin reading that was held last month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Northwest Review. (This is one I would have liked to have cover in the paper, but we didn't get the info in time. Rats!) I've loved Le Guin since I was about nine and my mother read A Wizard of Earthsea to me when I was sick; it was like magic, and I started feeling better immediately — yet I always miss her appearances. What's my problem?

• Also back in November, Wandering Goat barista Jordan Barber was one of six finalists in Seattle's Northwest Regional Barista Competition. "Barber's signature drink, Il Con Panna Proibito, was composed of an espresso shot topped with whipped cream infused with an organic apple cider, vanilla, and cinnamon, reduction and will be available to customers Friday afternoons 1-7 throughout November and December at the Wandering Goat Coffee Shop located at 268 Madison St.," says the press release. Damn, that sounds good. Might have to go try one tomorrow. Congrats to Jordan! And congrats also to Goat barista Bev Edge and the other lass (whose name I missed) for their lovely rendition of "Winter Wonderland" at last weekend's Fast Computers Holiday Spectacular at Sam Bond's. More on that ... later.

• More congratulations are due to the two area winners of Oregon Book Awards: Alison Clement of Corvallis for Twenty Questions (reviewed here) and UO prof Garrett Epps for Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America.

• As everyone knows by now, director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have resolved their various differences and are now teamed up for an adaptation of The Hobbit — and a post-Hobbit tale that, if what I've read is correct, borrows from Tolkien's notes to fill in the time between Bilbo's returning to the Shire at the end of The Hobbit and then his (reluctant) passing of the Ring to Frodo at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring (please let it be about the wizards!). I've read some very entertaining snarky commentary on what exactly happened in those Middle-earth years, but frankly, I don't care — if it looks like Jackson's Lord of the Rings films, I'm there, and several times over. But there's the problem: Jackson isn't directing. He's executive producing, so he's involved, but with The Lovely Bones and Tintin (which I was excited about until I realized they're doing it Beowulf-style, which even the presence of Andy Serkis cannot make up for) on his plate, the man's apparently just too busy. According to The New York Times, Sam Raimi has expressed interest in directing.

Let me back up a second: When I first read that Jackson would be involved in The Hobbit, I actually jumped up and down for joy. Suzi can vouch for this. But Sam Raimi? He of the moderately entertaining Spider-man, the horribly overrated Spider-man 2 and the Spider-man 3 that I couldn't actually bring myself to watch after so many people fell all over themselves proclaiming the greatness of the tedious second film? Please, please, no.

Problem is, I can't think of who I would like to direct, assuming we fanboys and girls can't have Jackson — the obvious first and best choice. Suzi suggested Alfonso Cuarón, but I think The Hobbit is a bit too bright and happy a story for him, really, as much as I love every one of his films that I've seen. Obviously, Chris Weitz is out; for some of the many reasons why, look for a later post in which Suzi and I dissect every tiny thing that was wrong with The Golden Compass.

For inspiration, I looked at my running list of the films I've most enjoyed this year, and it gave me a few ideas, if somewhat unorthodox ones:

1. Brad Bird. Sure, he's made his name in animation, but he's got an unbeatable sense of pacing and character, and if he could make Bilbo half as endearing as Remy the rat, he'd be set.

2. Matthew Vaughn. Sure, Stardust was a touch frenzied, but he got the tone right — he SO got the tone right. And the casting. The Hobbit isn't as serious and dark as the rest of LOTR; with Jackson looking over his shoulder, I'm downright certain Vaughn could do a damn good job with it.

3. Edgar Wright. Sure, he's funny. But I'd like to see him do something a little different. I'd also like to see Simon Pegg playing a dwarf. Don't kill me for that. (Really, this is a sort of off-the-wall notion, but I kind of think these guys could do anything.)

4. Agnieszka Holland. What, you haven't seen Olivier Olivier? Get thee to a rental store, or put it on your Netflix queue. She also directed the beautiful, underseen 1993 version of The Secret Garden.

5. Bryan Singer. The golden boy could thereby redeem himself for handing over X3 to Brett Ratner. Plus, I rather liked Superman Returns.

6. Kathryn Bigelow. Sure, she's sort of gone missing lately, and I've got nothing to say about K-19: The Widowmaker. But Strange Days has its strange, strange charm, and I've always thought she had some untapped potential.

It would have been so much easier to make a list of people who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near this production.

Anyway, who do you think should get The Hobbit's reins?

December 20, 2007 05:25 PM

Problem: It's really hard to write Giftmas posts when I, er, haven't been leaving the house (except to go to work, of course). But the whole idea of Giftmas posts in the first place was sort of inspired by the staff wish lists some of us made for Suzi that then didn't make it into last month's gift guide, so, hrm, what did I have on there? Well, a lot of vague things, includng a pretty winter coat, the perfect black cotton cardigan and the even-more-perfect elusive pair of black, knee-high leather boots. And for some network to produce a fourth season of Veronica Mars. I might as well wish to be as cute as Kristen Bell while I'm at it, right?

My Amazon wishlist is not a bucket of help either.

I wanted to post about the Bacon of the Month club, but there isn't enough detail about the "artisan bacon" for me to comfortably praise it; sure, it's a great idea, but it doesn't tell me where the bacon comes from, if it's organically or humanely raised, and I'm ... not comfortable with that.

(Veggie Bacon Salt, anyone?)

But while I'm hungry and thinking about food, some notions:

• Jars of Yumm! Sauce
• Delicious cheese from our numerous wonderful area cheesemakers (available all over the place, including at Market of Choice and Kiva and more stores I don't happen to be in on a regular basis and so can't immediately vouch for)
• A CSA membership (oooh, there's a present I could use...)
• Pounds and pounds of Wandering Goat and/or Full City coffee
• Stocks, duck fat and other basic cooking elements from Provisions
• Restaurant gift certificates
• Gently used cookbooks from our fine used bookstores

OK, now I'm getting vague.

My third day of Giftmas post will be better! I hope.

December 18, 2007 03:53 PM

(A note: I decided we ought to make Giftmas posts to include fun things what we didn't put in gift guides. There are no seven days of Giftmas. There is no Giftmas. But I like the word Giftmas. I far prefer it to the internet-nerdy $WINTERHOLIDAY, which I find inexplicably offputting. So Suzi and I are BOTH going to post DAILY about Things What Are Cool. Seriously!)

So, um. What do I want? Let's start simple: treats from Lush! O many moons ago, Lush didn't exist in the U.S. I had to order my bath treats from the U.K. or Canada. A friend remembered and brought me soap from England once. It was super. When I lived in Australia, I asked the lovely lady at my hostel's front desk where the Lush store was. "Down around Swanston and ... I forget," she said. "Walk down Swanston and follow your nose."

This worked. I shit you not. I could smell that trademark, almost-overwhelming-but-not-allergic-reaction-inducing smell from a block away. See, fake scents make me sneeze. They make my throat itch and my eyes water. But Lush stuff — like stuff made by some of my other favorite companies, Villainess, Portland-based Arcana (whose Frozen Heart scrub is amazing) and my beloved Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (about which more later) — doesn't bother me (well, "ozone" notes still give me a headache, but I think that's as much psychological as anything; they all smell like ex-boyfriend shower gel). I bought myself a Christmas Star as a reward for this, that or the other thing, but there are so many more things to want. Potion and American Cream solid perfume! Silver Cloud and Twinkle and Jingle Spells bath bombs! Sodium lauryl sulfate-free Squeaky Green shampoo bars! Christmas Kisses bubble bars!

Actually, most of their holiday stuff appeals to me. (Bob soap, mmmmmm.) But their normal stuff sure isn't bad either. And Lush is a good company; as the website explains, "We believe fresh cosmetics are more effective and require fewer preservatives. That's why we hand-make our products in small batches in our own factories. And unlike other beauty companies, many of our products are vegan, and none of our ingredients or products has been tested on animals. We choose ethical sources for the ingredients in our cruelty-free products and use minimal or recyclable packaging. We also give generously to charities championing animal rights, humanitarian concerns and environmental conservation."

It's doubtless too late to order from the Lush site, but they do have a store in Northwest Portland, should you be venturing north for last minute shopping. Be prepared for the piles of good-smelling bath and shower treats, and watch your wallet! This deliciously decadent stuff doesn't often come cheap.

December 18, 2007 03:11 PM

Should you feel inclined to peruse a more tangible version of our annual Winter Reading issue, you might stop in at the UO Bookstore (yes, I'm still refusing to call it the Duck Store), where this nice little display awaits your browsing fingers and purchasing dollars.