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January 4, 2008 02:31 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 07:55 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 12:39 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 09:33 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 04:02 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 12:38 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 04:25 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 02:53 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 02:11 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.

December 14, 2007 10:12 AM

So just yesterday I posted a little thing that mentioned The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the handmade book by Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling that was sold at auction for nearly $4 million. (For those not keeping up, Tales is referenced in — is in fact quite important to — Harry Potter and the Dealthy Hallows.) All yesterday's news said was that an agent purchased it.

Turns out the real buyer was Amazon.

What does this mean?

It means we get to see it. And look at it. And talk about it.

Three cheers for Amazon, I say.

December 13, 2007 04:14 PM

It amuses me that on the same day we all learned that J. K. Rowling's handmade Tales of Beedle the Bard — one of seven copies — sold for nearly $4 million, I (assuming "we" for the major JKR news and "I" for the little nerdtastic stuff) also learned (via Pitchfolk, of course) about this awesome free compilation of Harry Potter-inspired bands rocking against media consolidation. Rocking Out Against Voldemedia is available as one massive zipped file — which, of course, I'm currently downloading. It's all about the free press, man. Voldemort wouldn't like that. (The website is considerably more eloquent about this than I.)

If you've not yet experienced a wizard rock band or twelve, go find yourself some Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, Parselmouths, Remus Lupins ... well, if it's a catchy name in the Potterverse, it's probably a band. For serious. And also it's probably kind of awesome.

Um.

December 12, 2007 11:29 AM

Look, I love bad, LOLcat-inspired grammar and spelling as much as the next dork — but in the right time and place. This? Is not the time nor place:

"w00t," an expression of joy coined by online gamers, was crowned word of the year on Tuesday by the publisher of a leading U.S. dictionary.

C'mon, now. Words have letters in them. I extraordinarily dislike the replacement of numbers with letters, and grumble silently at my friends when they blog with such things so as to reduce their chance of being found by search engines. Because obviously if you write out the real name of the restaurant you went to on Saturday, your former BFF whose taste you criticized in the entry is the most likely person to Google the name of the joint and accidentally find you, right?

December 11, 2007 05:47 PM

kicking ass

The mainstream media is jumping up and down with headlines about the kicker Christmas present from the state.

But Oregonians might be kicking themselves rather than kicking their heels in joy if they knew the true cost of the checks.

A recent report from the Oregon Center for Public Policy found:

o Because of cash flow issues, the state will have to borrow money to pay for the kicker checks at an interest cost of about $45 million.

o Mailing the kicker checks will cost about $1 million.

o About 20 percent of the kicker, $214 million of $1.1 billion, will go to D.C. in the form of higher federal income taxes.

o The kicker will go mostly to the wealthy. The top fifth of taxpayers will get nearly two-thirds of the kicker, averaging $2,002, or six times what the typical taxpayer will receive.

o The state may have to slash school, healthcare and other vital services in the future because it didn’t save its surplus kicker money for a rainy day.

December 10, 2007 04:35 PM

So I'm bearing bad news, but I'm happy about doing it: For the Very First Time, someone called to request a blog post (about a timely topic we want our readers to know about, no less). Hey! We have readers! Readers who tell me I have to update more, and I have to post about things other than Heroes! These are legitimate complaints. (I did write that overly long ramble about Chuck Klosterman last week ... but since then my brain's been controlled by Winter Reading. I'm free — well, free-er — soon, I swear!). Man, I love feedback. Especially when it's at least half positive.

Anyway, my happy-making caller was Keith Martin from John Henry's, who was hoping we'd mention that tonight's Chaka Demus show is unfortunately cancelled. Chaka Demus is apparently in a Seattle hospital undergoing blood tests after feeling very unwell. Martin says there's a faint possibility that the should could get rescheduled for later in the week, maybe early on Thursday before ’80s Night, but he won't know that until they find out how Chaka Demus is doing. We wish Mr. Demus the best, and will continue to bring you news as we hear it.

(That was my newscastery sign-off. I won't make a habit of it.)

EDIT: Check the comments for more on Chaka Demus' health. Keith Martin also reports, "Chaka Demus is doing fine, from what I gathered from the road manager it was mainly a case of fatigue so nothing serious. We had hoped to get a make-up show in as an early show on Thursday but they had limited time to do so before flying to their final 2 tour dates in Hawaii and getting him rested up to finish the dates."