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September 21, 2007 05:21 PM

How dare China export toxic toys? Turns out the U.S. does the same.
The Sacramento Bee reports that the U.S. goverenment has long okayed the export of toxic and other dangerous consumer products that it banned or recalled for sale in the U.S.

"Though recalls coordinated by the CPSC of Chinese-made goods have made headlines recently, for decades the federal agency has allowed American-based companies to export products deemed unsafe here," the Bee reports.

"Our agency, through our governing statues, cannot claim much moral superiority over the Chinese," the paper quoted U.S. Consumper Products Safety Commissioner Thomas Moore. "It is somewhat hypocritical."

September 20, 2007 10:31 AM

Eugene's own Fast Computers have the Song of the Day on NPR with "Sweden Hasn't Changed, You Have" which is, come to think of it, my favorite FC song, too (though in my head the title lacks the last two words). Sure, they spelled Peter's last name incorrectly, but what's a little misspelling in the face of good publicity? Caroline Evans writes, "The melody itself is powerful, haunting and stark, but it also seems organic and natural, a perfect opening to one of the year's most satisfying releases." Sweet.

For more on the FC, you might peruse their tour diary entries on Willamette Week's Local Cut blog. Hey, why didn't we think of that?

Oh, I know: Local Cut has, um, readers.

(Three cheers to the guy who linked to one of my posts! You give me hope, sir.)

September 19, 2007 07:10 PM

Super cool authors + imaginary playlists (alas, without links) = some of the coolest blog-based stuff I've read in ages: the New York Times' "Living With Music" series.

Apologies to all of you who're rolling your eyes; as established this morning, if it's not about movies, music or books, then everyone else knows about it before me. And sometimes they all know about it first even when it IS about these things.

(Tied for coolest blog-based stuff I've read in ages is David Edelstein's blog over at New York magazine, which also, we discovered this morning, has an awesome theater critic who rivals Anthony Lane for pure sleek cleverness in his sentences. I don't always agree with Edelstein — for one example, check his blog post about Sideways — but I very often like the way he says things.)

September 18, 2007 02:25 PM

The Seattle website Crosscut.com has singled out The Register-Guard for one of the worst websites among the many "bad" examples in the Northwest.

The R-G and other regional papers have the attitude of "It's not news until we get around to posting it: How dare you expect to read the news in the afternoon or evening. These are morning papers! That's when the news will be ready for you." Not updating a site continuously is "Not the best way to influence the regional agenda — or the D.C. congressional delegation," Crosscut.com writes. "The worst example of timelessness is the Eugene Register-Guard, which posts the news at noon. On purpose. Let that be a lesson to those of you who don't subscribe to the dead-tree edition."

Crosscut's criticism is actually not new. Two years ago The Spokane Spokesman-Review's Ken Sands blogged about the R-G web site: "the print content seems really old because the site isn't updated until noon Pacific time each day."

The R-G may be behind the times in locking up its content. The New York Times announced today that it would stop requiring paid subscriptions to read columnist articles and access the paper's archive. With so many people accessing news content through Google and links from other websites, the paper figured it could make more money in ads from the extra traffic than in charging for the content. Guess they just discovered what the "inter" in Internet means.

Meanwhile the R-G keeps its archive locked away for paid access. Seems kind of silly. Anyone with a Eugene Library Card can access it for free thanks to the city library.

September 12, 2007 04:53 PM

Just how bad of a "problem" is immigration?

From the AP today comes news that:

"Nearly one in five people living in the United States speaks a language at home other than English. California led the nation in immigrants, at 27 percent of the state's population, and in people who spoke a foreign language at home, at 43 percent. West Virginia had the smallest shares of both: 1.2 percent of immigrants and 2.3 percent of people who speak a foreign language at home."

Hmmm. Let's compare California and West Virginia.

In median family income, California ranks 6th highest in the nation at $37.019. West Virginia ranks last in the nation at $25,758.

In percentage with college degrees or higher, California ranks 15th in the nation at 29 percent. West Virginia ranks last in the nation at 16.5 percent.

In percentage living below poverty , California ranks 15th at 13 percent. West Virginia ranks fifth in the nation for poverty at 17.3 percent.

The Census doesn't rank states based on moral turpitude, but consider this news item from West Virginia that also appeared today:

"Six whites, including two mothers and their adult children, have been charged in the week-long kidnapping, torture and rape of a 20-year-old black woman in West Virginia."

Maybe immigration isn't such a problem after all.

September 7, 2007 04:14 PM

• Bacon Salt "is a zero calorie, vegetarian, Kosher certified seasoning salt that makes everything taste like real bacon." Seriously? Gimme some. Let me try it.

• Newsflash: Publishers sometimes reject things that go on to be classics! OK, all sarcasm aside, it's true, and the rejections quoted in this story make me want to go paw through the Knopf archives discussed in the story. Rejection letters — any kind of editorial letters, really — are always fascinating, both for what they say and what they don't say, and for the examination of the editing and writing process. And for the simple fact that sometimes people make mistakes, but other times, they pass on things because the time or the publisher isn't right. If someone other than Scholastic had published Harry Potter, would it still be a phenomenon? I want to think so, but it doesn't always work that way.

• Still on the topic of books, the Booker Prize list has been narrowed to the shortlist. Surprise! Ian McEwan is still on it! I need to read that book. And re-read the wonderful, gorgeous Atonement before I have to arm-wrestle Jason for the right to review December's film adaptation.

• How to be a good restaurant patron: Don't say any of these things. I heart Waiter Rant.

• Today's aggravating news: Southwest Airlines would like to tell you how to dress.

• Today's not-that-surprising news that's probably only of interest to my former-New Yorker self: The Village Voice reports on a study showing that "Four years later, relatively healthy and seemingly resilient 9/11 witnesses near the twin towers—people who witnessed the events with their own eyes—were more sensitive to certain emotional stimuli than people several miles away who learned of the events secondhand."

• And to counter that sad reminder, I leave you with today's dose of awesomeness: Brian K. Vaughan and Joss Whedon, together! I've been saving this one ’til the end of the day. Dessert, if you will.

September 6, 2007 01:44 PM

From a recently received press release:

Disney Forces Machine Head Cancellation
In a stunning last-minute move, Walt Disney Properties have pressured promoter Live Nation into canceling Machine Head's performance tomorrow night at the House of Blues venue in Anaheim (on their Disneyland property). Citing violent imagery, undesirable fans and inflammatory lyrics as the reason, the diversity-impaired corporation began pressuring the promoter on Saturday to cancel all upcoming heavy metal concerts, placing Machine Head under an internal "review process" that took 5 days before bothering to convey their alarming decision to the band late yesterday - less than 48 hours before their Black Tyranny Tour was to kick off at House of Blues Anaheim on Friday night.

More here.

Now, to be honest, I don't know the first thing about this band. But I find numerous things to take issue with in Disney's actions here — not least that they ought to know who they're booking before they book a show. "Undesirable fans"? Come on, now, kiddos. You just hosted Bat's Day in the park and now you want to ban heavy metal from the House of Blues? (No, not that goths and metalheads are the same, silly; just that Disney's picking and choosing of which subcultures they approve of bothers me.)

Anyway. Like you needed another reason to avoid the Mouse Kingdom.

September 6, 2007 01:47 PM

Marry Our Daughter: real or fake?

From the FAQ: "But in the unhappy event that your marriage doesn’t work out, then whatever conditions have been negotiated between the husband and the wife’s family will apply." (Emphasis mine.)

This is just too easy a target. Seriously.

(Three cheers to Jef for the disturbing, though probably not real, link.)

September 4, 2007 10:49 AM

To the surprise of almost no one who reads any local news, The New York Times is reporting that the UO, among other public universities, is under-supported by the state, and as a result it's adding considerable fees on top of tuition:

All told, fees add up to $1,542, or nearly an additional 40 percent on top of tuition of $3,984. That does not even count additional fees charged for taking certain courses.

Later in the story comes this:

“There’s a particular appeal for the students who pay it, because they see it and they see the benefit,' said Dave Frohnmayer, president of the University of Oregon.

But earlier in the story, the student interviewed, student body president Emily McLain, says, "“Students want more transparency."

Whichever of those viewpoints you're inclined to agree with, I'd like to give the NYT a hug: I tire of hearing about sports vs. academics when what I really want to hear about is why the UO is so underfunded by the state. Why not take the question to the next level? Just for a little while, can we stop asking why sports gets more money and attention from donors, and ask instead why this public institution doesn't get more attention and money from the state?

August 29, 2007 10:49 AM

Goodnight, Mr. Kristal. I always liked your style.

More at:
• The New York Times
• MTV.com
• Billboard.com
• Gothamist

And all over the net as it goes, I suspect. If the name doesn't ring a bell — Hilly Kristal was the founder of CBGB's (technically it's just CBGB, but everyone seems to add the possessive), a place so legendary you might actually think more of it if you've never been there. Dirty, dark, with the nastiest bathrooms you'd ever see and an awkwardly-shaped stage, it was the breeding ground for a lot of New York music, and it was an icon until it closed last year.

A little piece of the city has now, undeniably, slipped away.

August 27, 2007 01:26 PM

Da Capo Press's Best Music Writing 2007* just arrived — I mean seriously just arrived — in my inbox. This is one of my favorite book-arrival moments of the year: the quick perusal, the head-shaking, the nodding, the wondering why I haven't gotten around to reading last year's edition yet. This year, I think, I will read it. I will read it soon.

The ’07 tome's guest editor is Robert Christgau, which is completely appropriate, especially following his abrupt dismissal from the Village Voice — to me it seems like a way to acknowledge how wrong that dismissal was, and how Christgau's place in the music writers' pantheon is a solid one. Not that the world's about to forget him; he's writing for Rolling Stone, and he'll make his voice heard one way or another, the opinionated git (this is said admiringly, if my tone's not clear yet). I often disagree with Christgau, or simply find that the things that stand out to him are exactly the opposite of what stand out to me, and I'm still put off that his entire argument at one of the EMP Pop Conference panels last April seemed to be based on the assumption that of course the Bob Dylan record was the best record of last year; if you didn't agree, you were simply wrong, no questions asked or discussion encouraged. But I respect the guy, as music writers and listeners really should.

The Best Music Writing list, at first glance, looked like a Who's Who of that Pop Conference, from keynote speaker Jonathan Lethem ("Being James Brown," from Rolling Stone) to den mother Ann Powers ("Latinos Give New Life to Neil Diamond Anthem," Los Angeles Times) to Carl Wilson ("If Music Is the Answer, What's the Question?") to Portland's Douglas Wolk ("The Syncher, Not the Song: The Irresistable Rise of the Numa Numa Dance," The Believer). It made me roll my eyes a little, I admit it. But that wasn't quite fair: sure, the Pop Conference had a certain clubhouse feel for the great majority of the time, but if I'm forcing myself to be honest, many of those folks knew each other from previous years, from jobs, from everything else in life, and if I felt like a stranger there, it was at least partly my own fault. (Confession the second: I refused to wear my name badge because I didn't like the way I'd see people's eyes glide over the badges of attendees they didn't know or recognize.) Plus, well, there's a reason those folks were presenting papers at the conference, and it's the same reason they're in the damn book: They know their shit.

And beyond that, when you start digging a little deeper into BMW, you find some funny things. A handful of online pieces come from both names you know (David Byrne) and names you probably don't (Jane Dark). The big papers and magazines are there, but smaller ones are too, and a couple of weeklies crop up as well. I have a particularly high level of respect for the alt-weekly folks simply because I never seem to have the time to think about music as much as I ought to, and clearly they're making time in better and smarter ways.

So what's my point? Well, firstly it's just that this book is always interesting (it comes out in November; the complete list of selections should be online soon, but I can't find it yet). And secondly it's that music criticism is doing something that other forms and outlets for writing ought to be doing: broadening the circle. At the AAN (Association of Alternative Weeklies) conference in Portland in June, there was a disappointing smugness apparent in a discussion of food bloggers and how they might affect alt-weeklies' own food coverage and commentary. All four panelists seemed to shrug off the very possibility that bloggers — a misleading term to begin with, since it encompasses everything from 12-year-olds with the hots for Britney to the likes of Sasha Frere-Jones and the insightful folks at film blog The House Next Door — could have something meaningful to add to the conversation.

But here we have Christgau — one of the most recognizable names in his field — picking from the old standards and the new pages on the block. He's not the first to do so; it's not the first time internet-based stories have appeared in the annual collection. But it makes me happy all the same to see it continue; to see that you can still get in the damn pool.

* Full disclosure: I know (from college) and admire series editor Daphne Carr. But I'd read the damn book anyway, were her name not on it.

Possibly to be continued...

August 27, 2007 11:47 AM

You know when you're at the grocery store and you're semi-frantically stuffing your crap back in your wallet and balancing your lunch in one hand so you have a free hand to get the door? No? Well, er, that's me. Often. And today, at Kiva, Suzi and I were babbling about LOLcats and covers while she bought her snacky sticks, and I think the cashier said something nice to us. But iced coffee was numbing my fingers and the coldness was spreading to my brain, I think, because it took about three minutes for it to register as a compliment. At least I'd managed to smile.

So thanks, Kiva Guy! That was nice.

P.S. While I'm thinking about nice cashiers and such, I'd like to sing the praises of the ladies of the Novella Café, who make my every coffee run just that much better — even when they're out of cinnamon sugar bagels.

August 27, 2007 10:28 PM

The automatic ticketing machines at Regal ask too many questions.

The standup cardboard ad for The Seeker makes me growl and grimace every time I see it. That is a travesty. You thought the tidied up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was bad? Try reading Susan Cooper's amazing Dark Is Rising series and then stomaching this horrendous preview.

Mmm, pretzel. Now if they just had pretzel bites.

I'm more than a little uncomfortable with the multiple army/Marines/etc. recruitment ads before the movies these day. Everything is exciting! And inspirational! And looks just like the movies!

Speaking of pre-movie ads, I'm OK with the First Look, especially when I get to see scenes from Heroes that make me go all goosebumpy: Claire saying, "Oh, WOW"; Mohinder talking about the future of the heroes using language that, oddly, reminds me of Al Gore talking about global warming; new heroes!; Sylar, clearly alive and well, at least until he runs off to play Spock; not a lot of Peter Petrelli but he is simply not dead. Though he does appear to have a haircut. I disapprove. Bring back faux-Conor Oberst Peter!

Please, for the love of ... something ... no more ancient Denzel Washington ad for the Boys and Girls Club, and no more of that bizarre ad that equates listening to the little voice inside you that wants you to change the world with, er, turning off your cell phones. It distresses me that people are so thoughtless that there are no less than three reminders to turn off your cell phones. And pagers. Lots of those around.

Previews: Um, Steve Carrell? In a sort of feelgood family movie? Oh ... kay. Also, Greg Kinnear getting dumped by Selma Blair. At least that one involves Alexa Davalos, better known to some of us as the electrified Gwen on Angel. This Sydney White thing looks just awful. Isn't that the same mean blonde from Bratz? Please let me see the preview for Elizabeth: The Golden Age again. No? Sigh.

About here is where someone sat down next to me. Let me back up a few steps: this theater was more than mostly empty. There were about 20 people, most of whom were sitting together in small clumps, giggling and munching popcorn. To my mind, there's a couple of rules to follow when sitting in a mostly-empty theater:

1. Do not sit directly in front of or behind someone else when there's plenty of room to avoid doing so.


I'd never had this happen before. I was sitting in a nice spot, right in the middle, five or six rows from the mid-theater walkway, with loads of seats all around. A woman came in and started down my row. I got ready to pull my legs in so she could pass, but no; she sat right next to me. She seemed nice enough, maybe my mother's age, and she didn't say a word.

It was a little awkward. Ten years ago I might have found an excuse to move, but now ... I didn't want to seem horribly rude (obviously I wasn't so worried about it as to not post here, though). I thought maybe she didn't like to sit alone, even if that meant sitting near strangers. I thought maybe she didn't want to ask me to move, but wanted to sit close to the middle without going all the way around. I made up justifications for why she'd sit right in the one seat next to me, out of all the available seats in the theater.

I was just glad I'd finished chomping my pretzel, honestly.

Oh, the movie? It was OK.

August 24, 2007 01:47 PM

A city of Eugene proposal to quiet railroad horns by closing five downtown rail crossings could cut off a section of downtown.

Rail crossings at Monroe, Madison, Jefferson, Lawrence and Lincoln may be closed. Here’s a map.

City staff say the closures may be required by federal rules in order to establish a "quiet zone" to give nearby residents and businesses relief from frequent loud horn blasts.

The city has planned a public forum on the street closings and quiet zone for Tuesday, August 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Campbell Center, 155 High St. Staff plan to take their recommendations to the city council on Nov. 28. For more information check out the city’s web site.