We got a little ahead of ourselves this week with the movie reviews; as it turns out, Synecdoche, New York does NOT open tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 21, but Wednesday, Nov. 26. You see what a holiday week will do to a person? Confuse her, that's what.
On the up side, now you've got more time to peruse reviews and articulate your pro- or anti-Kaufman stance before the movie actually arrives at the Bijou.
So now that Peter Matthiessen has won the National Book Award for Fiction for Shadow Country, will the literary world erupt into a noisy discussion about whether a "reworking" of an older trilogy should really be eligible for the award at all? I admit to a bit of skepticism myself, but the book description on Amazon goes to great pains to suggest it's a totally different thing (except not):
Peter Matthiessenâ€™s great American epicâ€“Killing Mister Watson, Lost Manâ€™s River, and Bone by Boneâ€“was conceived as one vast mysterious novel, but because of its length it was originally broken up into three books. In this bold new rendering, Matthiessen has cut nearly a third of the overall text and collapsed the time frame while deepening the insights and motivations of his characters with brilliant rewriting throughout. In Shadow Country, he has marvelously distilled a monumental work, realizing his original vision.
So it's a bold new rendering, but is it a new book, published for the first time this year? Does it have to be? The NBA rules simply say, "Judges consider only books written by American citizens and published in the United States between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year." Nothing about first publication. Thus, it counts. I still can't seem to get very excited about it, but it counts.
The other NBA winners are:
Young People's Literature: What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell. I'd almost say this was one of the category's dark horses; previous finalist Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak) also had historical fiction on her side, and people (myself included) really liked E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I have to admit, I do love that the Booklist review quoted on Powells.com begins, "Blundell, author of Star Wars novelizations ... ."
General Nonfiction: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, Annette Gordon-Reed. Interesting. Based simply on their titles, the two current-events books may have canceled each other out, but nothing here seemed like the standout choice based on my inexact estimation of buzz and awareness. The author had previously published a book about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, but with a university press; this Norton title doubtless will find a bigger audience.
Poetry: Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems, Mark Doty. This book "collects the best of Mark Doty's seven books of poetry, along with a generous selection of new work," according to the publisher's description.
No, it hasn't been that long since I last saw Frightened Rabbit at Holocene and blogged a little about it; yes, it's still worth seeing the Rabbit every single time you possibly can. I mean that. Even though it's taken me a week to say so.
Last week's show was my present to myself: Best of Eugene is done! Over! Finished for another year! Time to celebrate with one of Holocene's delicious old-fashioneds â€”Â best made by the guy with the mustache â€” and my current favorite Scottish band (yeah, I used to have a thing for Idlewild. So? Maybe I still do). And so I drove up Thursday, ate at Patanegra (good, though not astonishing; perhaps we ordered the wrong things) with my pops and headed eastwards to what's rapidly creeping up the list to hang out with the Wonder Ballroom as one of my favorite Portland venues.
With all due respect to Blue Skies for Black Hearts, I wished a little that we got a repeat of the last show's opening band. But I was there for the Rabbit, and they delivered. I was wary of the night; I was alone, and there were two girls next to me in giant giraffe costumes which, while cute and clever, were doubtless blocking the view of those folks not quite eager enough to stand in the very front, staring up at Scott Hutchison and company. But the fact is that it doesn't have to matter. It doesn't matter who you're with or how self-conscious you are about the fact that your current OMGILOVETHIS band is playing that song, the one you can't stand still for or get goosebumps for every time. It just mattes that you're there, and they're playing all your favorites â€” nearly everything from The Midnight Organ Fight, I think â€” and that it's fucking perfect, or as close to as can be expected.
There's no single thing about Frightened Rabbit that makes them stand out, no musical genius or extreme prolificness or astonishing past. If anything, what they have going for them is human-sized and modest: the relationship between singer/guitarist Scott Hutchison and the drummer, his brother Grant; a contained anthemic power that turns ditties like "Old Old Fashioned" into miniature manifestos and songs like "Head Rolls Off" into something inexplicably compelling and inspiring; and the sheer nakedness of the lyrics. People always say that about really good, really lovelorn lyrics, but that doesn't make it any less true, or any less meaningful. A friend told me recently that when he was on the phone in a van, breaking up with his girlfriend, his bandmates put on Frightened Rabbit, and I immediately understood how totally wrong that was. You don't lock this band in to a precise feeling, a specific moment, like that. You let them describe all the possibilities that heartache and rawness can bring.
And when they do it best, it's simple, easy, wrenching and true. At the very end of the set, everyone left the stage but Scott. He walked to the edge of the stage (I admit to momentarily wishing I had my camera), closed his eyes, began to play his guitar and, without a microphone, broke into "Poke." This is what it looked like in Los Angeles a few days later:
Everyone went silent. No one moved; no one sang along. They saved that for the next and last song, which (if memory serves, and I think it does) was "Keep Yourself Warm," a perfect set-closer in the way it shrinks in on itself and explodes into a strange glorious moment at the end. But at the song's quietest moments, you could hear Portlanders singing along, softly, quietly, in tune.
I only stayed for a few songs of The Spinto Band. They were adorable, they were good, the singer looked like a more indie rock Michael Cera, if that's possible, and I'm sure at some point I'll regret not staying to see their whole set, just like I regret not lurking just a little longer to see if a merch guy would appear and sell me that damn supercute Frightened Rabbit T-shirt I can't find online anywhere. But I'd had my moment. I was done.
After crashing and burning, the McCain-Palin campaign, along with the Republican party, continues to implode.
Here's the Republicans at Fox news on just how clueless Palin is:
Meanwhile, Palin is catching widespread media ridicule for getting fooled by a Montreal phone prankster pretending he was the president of France:
Remember the $150,000 in campaign funds Palin blew on a designer clothing shopping spree? Newsweek reports it's even worse than it appeared:
An angry [Republican] aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.
At 11:39 am, Gordon Smith lead Democrat Jeff Merkley 47.5 percent to 46.7 percent in the squeaker U.S. Senate race.
But late voting in Lane and Multnomah counties could mathematically push Merkley to a narrow victory, assuming current voting trends in the two counties and the rest of the state continue.
An EW analysis calculates that Merkley could end up with an estimated 48.4 percent of the total vote when all ballots are counted. Assuming percentages for a third party candidate and write-ins remain the same, that could mean a narrow Merkley victory over Smith.
Almost half the votes in Lane and Multnomah counties remain to be counted. The two urban counties hold a big chunk of the stateâ€™s Democrats, and vote counting there has lagged behind the rest of the state.
A big uncertainty is whether Constitution Party Candidate Dave Brownlow will continue to pull votes from Smith at the same statewide rate in the two counties.
With about a third of the vote still out at 10 am, Kitty Piercy and Rob Handy held on to 1 percent leads in the pivotal Eugene mayor and county commissioner races.
With 23,769 votes Mayor Piercy held a 528 vote lead over Torrey. Looking at turnout in the 2004 election and inflating for an increase in registrations this year, Piercy may need at least about 35,000 votes to win.
Handy won 9,523 votes, 204 more than County Commissioner Bobby Green. Looking at turnout in the 2004 election and inflating for an increase in registrations this year, Handy may need at least about 16,000 votes to win.
Judging from the May primary, late-counted votes may favor progressives Piercy and Handy. In the last 40 percent of votes counted in May, both Piercy and Handy gained about 2 percentage points.
Lane County Elections will start reporting results after about 8:30 pm on their website.
The pivotal close races to watch are the Democrat Kitty Piercy v. Jim Torrey mayor showdown and the close race for the north Eugene Lane County commissioner seat between conservative Bobby Green and progressive Rob Handy.
The magic number for Piercy/Torrey may be 34,060. Thatâ€™s 50 percent of those who voted in a city election in November 2004.
The magic number for Handy/Green may be 15,663. Thatâ€™s 50 percent of those who voted in a contested county commissioner race in November 2004.
But the number of voters this year appears likely to be higher. Students say they have registered thousands of new voters at the UO. A high student turnout could help progressive Piercy.
Lane County reports a 2.5 percent increase in voter registrations compared to 2004. If turnout equals the 91 percent for the county in 2004, the Piercy/Torrey magic number could inflate to 34,898. The Handy/Green magic number could inflate to 16,048.
In May 2008, the county had counted about 60 percent of the votes in Eugene by 9 pm. Judging from May, late votes may favor progressives Piercy and Handy.
Piercy and Torrey were nearly even at 9 pm in May, but in the unofficial final results available the next day, Piercy was ahead by almost 800 votes or about 2 percent.
In May Handy lead Green by about 2 percent at 9 pm. In the unofficial final results the next day, Handy had a lead of about 4 percent.
Both races went to a runoff because no one had more than 50 percent.
Torrey and Handy may have a slight edge based on the May results.
If the 4 percent of voters who voted for two other conservative candidates in May had instead voted for conservative Torrey, he would have won with 51 percent.
If the 6 percent of voters who voted for two other candidates critical of Green in May had instead voted for Handy, Handy would have won with 55 percent.
Another factor for Piercy may be The Register-Guard. The paper inexplicably reversed its May endorsement of her to Torrey and has largely buried or not reported in depth news of Torreyâ€™s huge contributions from gravel pit and development interests.