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March 3, 2009 04:11 PM

The rumors started flying on Saturday: Bel Ami is closing. Get down there. Last night.

Since then, we've heard from a number of disappointed folks, from former employes who spoke of the restaurant's staff having been one big family to semi-regulars at the bar who were already in mourning. And we've read stories that said the whole Bel Ami space was closing, and some that said that it wasn't. We got confused.

As it turns out, a little bit of everything seems to be true.

Midtown owner Roscoe Divine says, "All that's really happening is that we're not going to serve the high-end Bel Ami dinners." The coffee shop and bistro counter at the front of the building will remain, with an expanded bistro menu and slightly changed hours. Both will be open from 7 am to 8 pm Sunday through Thursday, and until late — midnight or one — on the weekends. "We may change that," Divine says. "We're open to seeing how things go."

With the new arrangement, patrons will be able to go to the counter (or to the bar) and order food and drink into the evening, just as they currently do during breakfast and lunch hours.

As for the short notice given to those employees let go in the restructuring, Divine points to other struggling local businesses, such as Monaco, and says, "There's no other way to do it. You have to pick a day."

In the end, it's good news and bad news at once, and I'm not sure how to feel: I'm glad we're not down an entire establishment, but I'm disappointed for the let-go staff, who face an incredibly tough job market. This is the latest restaurant to face changes or closure in a long line of the same (RIP Vaquero, Zenon, Chanterelle...), and Eugene's service industry staff (and Eugene's diners) are suffering for it. But in just the six years I've been back in Eugene, the building at the corner of 16th and Willamette has been through a handful of transformations: from the L&L Marketplace, with its coffee regulars and beloved French Horn, to Triomphe to its current incarnation as Midtown, it's changed and changed again. We'll just have to see how this one plays out.

If you've got thoughts, I'd love to hear them in the comments.

March 2, 2009 11:22 AM

As of Tuesday, March 3, current info on Bel Ami/Midtown can be found in the following post.

Word is coming in from multiple places that Bel Ami Restaurant and Lounge is closed. The fate of the front of the building — the coffee shop, wine shop and bistro — is less clear, though it sounds as if they're remaining open.

More detail will come as we have it.

EDIT, 4:20 pm: The rumors are confirmed: Bel Ami as we knew it is closed; the bistro and coffee shop will remain open, with their hours expanded beginning next week.

This is, needless to say, a major bummer for those who are now down one more drinking and dining establishment in the neighborhood — and, more importantly, for any Bel Ami staff now out of a job in this rough economic time.

February 28, 2009 12:33 PM

I sat for a nice two minutes with my jaw hanging open while this preview played (before the lovely Coraline) on Thursday night. It's now my latest contestant in this year's version of the "please let this movie be as fantastic as it looks" sweepstakes.

"Visionary director" Shane Acker was nominated for an Oscar for the short film version of 9.

February 27, 2009 05:15 PM

Our annual nightlife and drinking issue, Swizzle, is just around the corner, and I'm thinking about something new: Swizzle includes listings for many of Eugene/Springfield's drinking establishments, complete with happy hours and specials (when said establishments provide said information). But what do you guys have to say about them?

Maybe you're familiar with the Zagat guides, which condense commentary from loads of reviewers into tiny descriptions for restaurants and other establishments. I'm not thinking of anything quite so scientific as their complicated system, but I am wondering: What makes you go to the bars you frequent? Why do you love 'em? Where are you a regular, and how'd the bar you go to most often earn your undying loyalty?

Leave your thoughts and observations in the comments! Selected commentary may make its way into Swizzle's bar listings.

February 26, 2009 05:13 PM

CarrotMob could make Eugene a greener place.

The local idea from the GreenLane Sustainable Business Network goes like this:

clipped from greenlane-sbn.org

  1. Businesses compete with how much good they are willing to do.
  2. Consumers choose one business they want to reward.
  3. Consumers support that business by making coordinated purchases.
  4. The most successful business gets rich.
  5. Consumers buy things that they would buy anyway, but by organizing themselves, they change the world.

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The first environmental project according to the website will involve local coffee shops. There's also a Carrotmob Eugene Facebook page.

The carrot, reverse eco-boycot idea appears to have had a big impact in San Francisco:

February 26, 2009 11:33 AM

The list of shows to look forward to just got a little longer with this bit of news, via the McDonald Theare's Twitter stream:

mcdonaldtheatre You heard it here first: Neko Case at the McDonald, Sunday June 7th...tickets on sale March 6th, we expect it to sell out, so don't miss it!

Case's new album Middle Cyclone is out March 3.

February 26, 2009 04:25 PM

A good local alternative to Starbucks downtown—light, airy, comfy chairs, friendly, free wi-fi and a big green tree soaring to a vaulted ceiling with skylights. They could use a little bigger baked goods selection, though.

 According to the shop's Facebook page , the shop opened in 2007 and is named after the proprietor's son who passed away in 2005.

Here's EW's Chow restaurant guide listing:

clipped from www.eugeneweekly.com

High St.
Serving Stumptown coffee, tea, juices, pastries and bagels.
6:30 am-7 pm M-F, 7 am-6 pm Sa, 7:30 am-4 pm Su. $.

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Here's the location across from the 5th Street Market:

View Larger Map

February 25, 2009 04:55 PM

I have an ungodly plethora (by which I mean "an overflowing Stickie on my desktop") of links to articles about this, that and the other thing about how hard the economy is hitting (book) publishing. This particular piece, though, caught my eye; maybe it was the first-person perspective, maybe the resigned yet not hopeless tone. Regardless, maybe you'll find it interesting too. It's from the London Review of Books, and is by one Colin Robertson. This paragraph in particular is lovely — what he says isn't new, but it's so nicely put:

Perhaps the problem has to do with more than just the way in which words are transmitted. People bowl alone, shop online, abandon cinemas for DVDs, and chat to each other electronically rather than go to a bar. In an increasingly self-centred society a premium is placed on being heard rather than listening, being seen rather than watching, and on being read rather than reading.

Read the rest here.

February 24, 2009 06:01 PM

Because I still have the tabs open: In this Thursday's paper, you'll find a wee tiny last minute preview of a show at Sam Bond's by a band called The Clues. The Clues, assuming it's the right Clues, include former members of Arcade Fire and the short-lived but beloved and awesome Unicorns. (There's another The Clues in Colorado, apparently.) The Clues are kind of a pain to Google unless you include the band members' former bands. But there's some good stuff out there:

• Pitchfork has an MP3 of "Perfect Fit," from The Clues' upcoming debut album.

• Exclaim News has a nifty live YouTube clip from Pop Montreal.

• Constellation Records has a page up for the forthcoming CD, but no new tracks.

• And Villa Villa Nova, a Canadian online store for music and such by the people that run it (and others), has a few clips and tidbits about the band.

Now there's just one problem with this band and their show: It's March 1, the same damn night as the A.C. Newman show at John Henry's. Show-hopping on a Sunday? Let's just hope it isn't raining.

(Addendum: Suzi tells me this is the EW blog's 1,000th post. Hey, nifty!)

February 23, 2009 08:04 PM

Which of these is "Meth Mouth" and which is "Mountain Dew Mouth?"



A is Dew, B is Meth. So is Mountain Dew the new Meth?

ABC news reports :

"Central Appalachia is No. 1 in the nation in toothlessness. According
to dentists, one of the main culprits is Mountain Dew soda. With 50
percent more caffeine than Coke or Pepsi, Mountain Dew seems to be used
as a kind of anti-depressant for children in the hills."

Just Dew'n the acidic, sugary corporate product does appear to have drug-like effects for children:

February 20, 2009 01:27 PM

Blog? What is this blog you speak of?

Oh, sigh. My apologies, all 12 blog readers, for having been so buried in this week's top ten movies story that I have sorely, horribly neglected this little box here. There are always so many things to blog about — the movies I wish I hadn't had to leave off that list, for one thing. But hey, it's Oscar weekend! And the predictions are just so damn predictable! So let's play a little game I like to play with the Oscars. It's called Who Will Win, Who Should Win, and Where the Academy Went Wrong.

OK, it's not really called that. I just made it up. But Oscar commentary is a time-honored and slightly pointless tradition I'm not about to give up on now, even if I still have a couple of movies left to see. It's not all about the roles, after all; it's about the gossip and the politics and the nonsense that shouldn't matter. Let's take a peek.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn in Milk
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
Will win: Rourke. Everyone says so. The movie is this year's Last King of Scotland: unremarkable, but built around a major performance. Is it the best performance of the year? I wouldn't say so, but I bet the Academy voters do.
Should win: Tough call between Jenkins, Langella and Penn. Penn has his Oscar (for Mystic River); Jenkins is a long-time character actor carrying a sweet, quiet piece; Langella owns Frost/Nixon, especially in the last half hour. I'd probably pick Langella, honestly.
Should've been nominated: Mathieu Almaric in A Christmas Tale is the first that comes to mind; just 'cause they're in French doesn't mean his last few roles haven't been award-worthy. And heck, Robert Downey Jr. WAS Iron Man. If we can nominate Pitt for such a shallow, pretty, vague role as Benjamin Button, why not Tony Stark?

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie in Changeling
Melissa Leo in Frozen River
Meryl Streep in Doubt
Kate Winslet in The Reader
Will win: Winslet. It's her year! Everyone says so! And Meryl Streep already has plenty of Oscars. If Kate wins, it'll be one of those incredibly disappointing years when an actor wins for (what's perceived to be) one of their weaker roles. It happens.
Should win: Melissa Leo. No argument; her performance in the underseen Frozen River is unfussy and natural and incredibly believable. Hathaway was very good, too, but the overlooking of her costars makes it harder for me to get invested in her chances.
Should've been nominated: Honestly, I think this category is a disaster of overlooked performances. In short: Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky, Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy, Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved You So Long and Anamaria Marinca in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, to name just a few (let's not bicker about technicalities of release dates, shall we? These movies had U.S. release in 2008, so in my fantasy world, they're eligible. And they sure weren't nominated before).

And the rest of the categories are ...

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Josh Brolin in Milk
Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road
Will win: Heath. No one will ever forgive the voters if he doesn't.
Should win: Heath. Because he was really good.
Should've been nominated: I'm having a hard time coming up with obvious snubs here, though I'm sure someone will correct me. Although I did think Javier Bardem did a nice job as the pivot point around which Vicky Christina Barcelona turned.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in Doubt
Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis in Doubt
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler
Will win: Most money is on Penelope, but I think Rebecca Hall is the best actress in Vicky. There's also the chance, if we're being a bit cynical, that voters will want to reward the powerhouse roles of Doubt without rewarding previous winners, and go with Viola Davis.
Should win: Marisa Tomei. I don't like The Wrestler. I don't even think Mickey Rourke is that amazing in it. But Tomei — whose My Cousin Vinny Oscar I thought totally undeserved — lights up the movie every time she's on screen; her ability to delineate where fantasy and real life split is far more fascinating than the way Rourke portrays the two as inextricably linked.
Should've been nominated: Samantha Morton in Synecdoche, New York; she's the only thing that kept me watching. OK, so did Michelle Williams. And Emily Watson in her tiny part. Also Rosemarie DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married.

Best animated feature film of the year
Bolt; Kung Fu Panda; WALL-E
Will win: WALL-E, easily.
Should win: WALL-E, easily.
Should've been nominated: Waltz With Bashir, easily.

Best documentary feature
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon); Encounters at the End of the World; The Garden; Man on Wire; Trouble the Water
Will win: Hard to call, as I've only seen two, but people do like Man on Wire...
Should win: ... and by "people" I also mean "me."
Should've been nominated: Again, Waltz With Bashir, easily.

Achievement in directing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher
Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard
Milk, Gus Van Sant
The Reader, Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle
Will win: Danny Boyle, barring a last-minute push for Van Sant.
Should win: In this case, I'm kind of on the side of the masses: Though I thought Slumdog's story was weak and its characters paper-thin, I think the film had an incredible sense of place and, in its first hour at least, a vivacity that was pretty striking (I also adore the closing credits, for what it's worth). I'd rather see it win for directing than win Best Picture, though I think that's a losing argument at this point. Fincher deserved an award for Zodiac more than this one, and Van Sant deserves it for both his 2008 movies, but as long as Ron Howard doesn't win, it's cool.
Should've been nominated: I accidentally skipped this one the first time through. Well, given that my favorite movie of the year was The Fall, I'd say Tarsem, but I realize that exists in a different universe than the one in which the Oscars take place. So, more realistically, Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky, at the very least, and hell, I'd throw Christopher Nolan in there for The Dark Knight, just for fun.

Best foreign language film of the year
The Baader Meinhof Complex, Germany; The Class, France; Departures, Japan; Revanche, Austria; Waltz with Bashir, Israel
Will win: Seems likely Bashir will pick this one up — not least because it got snubbed in or disqualified from two other categories — but people do also like The Class. (Caveat: I've only seen Bashir.)
Should win: (Caveat: I've only seen Bashir.)
Should've been nominated: Though this is harder to call given the strange rules about release dates and such, I would have liked to see pretty much all of the foreign films on my top movies list nominated where eligible, but particularly Let the Right One In. The Academy needs to acknowledge more genre films, especially when they do interesting new things with familiar elements.

Achievement in cinematography
Changeling, Tom Stern
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight, Wally Pfister
The Reader, Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle
Will win: A lot of money on Slumdog here, too, and Mantle surely has a lot to do with the lovely sense of place in the film.
Should win: I've not seen Changeling or The Reader, and none of the other nominees wowed me the way last year's sad loser The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford did, so I'm a touch indifferent.
Should've been nominated: The Fall, period. I don't care whether you liked the story or the characters or anything else about it — it was still astonishing to look at.

Adapted screenplay
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, screenplay by Eric Roth, screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
Doubt, written by John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, screenplay by Peter Morgan
The Reader, screenplay by David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
Will win: Part of a Slumdog juggernaut, I expect.
Should win: I find myself not the least bit invested in this one.
Should've been nominated: Probably Let the Right One In, at least.

Original screenplay
Frozen River, written by Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky, written by Mike Leigh
In Bruges, written by Martin McDonagh
Milk, written by Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E, screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter
Will win: A tossup between Milk (which may not win anything else) and WALL-E.
Should win: I'd love to see Mike Leigh win something for Happy-Go-Lucky, but I'd be happy with WALL-E and delighted with Frozen River.
Should've been nominated: Ever so many things, again, largely foreign and on my top 10 list. But Rachel probably also deserved a nod here, to be fair.

Best motion picture of the year
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Frost/Nixon; Milk
The Reader; Slumdog Millionaire
Will win: Slumdog Millionaire. And then Hollywood will pat itself on the back for being so cool and, like, aware of the world outside L.A. (Me? Cynical? Never!)
Should win: Of this bunch? Not a one of 'em. But I'd pick Milk, then Slumdog Millionaire, just based on the options.
Should've been nominated: The biggest omission here is WALL-E, I think; it's pure animation snobbery. A lot of folks would have liked to have seen The Dark Knight nominated, which would have made things interesting. Like the other overall categories, my list of snubbed nominees is pretty much my list of favorite movies of the year, but realistically, I'm mostly cranky on behalf of the animated robots.

And the other categories, briefly (skipping shorts as I've seen none of them, yet):

Editing: The underrated yet incredibly important category. Very possibly another Slumdog win, especially for that great chase at the beginning, or a rare Dark Knight moment — except that there were more than a few complaints from the peanut gallery about some of the action sequence editing. (Not from here, mind you.)

Art direction: A very tough call. Be a nice place to recognize that while Revolutionary Road wasn't great, it sure looked great — ditto The Duchess. But Button and Dark Knight were gorgeous as well.

Costume design: Catherine Martin (Australia) has a few little gold men already, I believe, but they're always deserved. Still, Kate Winslet's precise Revoutionary dresses — or the period garb Keira Knightley was laced into in The Duchess — could nab this one.

Sound editing/mixing: Always, for me, the toughest awards to feel like I've got a grip on, which is silly given how much the way a movie sounds has to do with its effect on a viewer. Wanted is a terrible movie, but it sounds amazing; still, if these don't get caught up in a Slumdog sweep, I could see 'em going to anything. Genre does tend to get a bit of technical due here.

Visual effects: Button. Done. Which other film have you read so much about the effects for? Not even the semi in Gotham could beat this one. I think. I could be wrong. But it's "achievement" in visual effects, not "freaking awesome action sequences," so ... there's that.

Makeup: I love that Hellboy II is nominated for this. Possibly it deserved an art direction nomination as well. But give it to the big red guy's creator already.

Original score: Four of the five nominees — Desplat, Howard, Elfman and Newman — are fairly frequent flyers in this category, but I'm not sure that means A.R. Rahman will win for Slumdog; if memory serves, the score winners tend to go a little traditional. The most memorable of the traditional bunch was Milk — I think? Nothing is really standing out here.

Original song: The only question is, Which Slumdog song will it be? (And why did the Academy only nominate three songs? Lame, guys. Lame.)

February 11, 2009 02:43 PM

Facing huge cuts in city services due to the recession, the Eugene City Council voted unanimously today to blow at least $17 million in city reserves on a new police station that voters opposed three times.

Keeping the reserves from being used to prevent more than $10 million in cuts to popular library, parks, Hult Center, planning, community policing and other services was a primary motivation for the City Manager and councilors. “It really can’t be on the table as part of the budget committee discussion,” said Councilor Chris Pryor. “We need to make sure it goes for this.”

Three south Eugene councilors and Mayor Kitty Piercy had expressed concerns about the budget maneuver on Monday. But including up to $5 million in the proposal for a seismic and mechanical upgrade of the City Hall building was apparently enough to win over their support today.

But while all the councilors and city staff may support prioritizing the police station above other city services, voters do not. Police station measures failed in May and November 2000 and again in 2004. The last margin was 60 percent opposed.

City Manager John Ruiz recommended that the council get around the will of the voters on the police station and spend its reserves on the unpopular facility without asking voters. Voter approval is "unlikely in the foreseeable future,” he wrote in a memo.

February 11, 2009 05:40 PM

The Eugene Fire Department deployed 23 people for five hours to respond to a “small leak” of hydrochloric acid gas from a railroad tank car last night.

The city responded in moon suits and evacuated Union Pacific employees from the rail yard off the Northwest Expressway. But the city didn’t evacuate the neighborhood next to the accident.

To get money for new offices, the city is now trumpeting the chance of a few police cars getting trapped under City Hall in an earthquake. But a far more dangerous and likely hazard may be a toxic train derailment.

In 1982 a chemical car derailment forced the evacuation of Livingston, Louisiana. The chemicals burned and exploded for two weeks and were only controlled after digging a huge pit and blowing the rail cars up.

Imagine this next to the 5th Street Market or in the Whiteaker or Trainsong neighborhoods:

February 7, 2009 05:46 PM

Going to church on Sunday?

Most people in Eugene won't.

The Eugene/Springfield metro area ranked as one of the very least religious places in the nation in a 2000 national study by the Glenmary missionary group. Only one in four people in Eugene go to church, half the national average, according to the study. Out of 276 metro areas, Eugene ranked 273 for the lowest percentage of adherents.

Here's some clips from the Glenmary study:

clipped from www.glenmary.org

Four metros report less than one in
four claimed by the participating groups: Medford, Oregon
(22%), Corvallis, Oregon (23%), Redding, Calif. (24%),
and Eugene, Ore. (24%). (Complete
list available

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clipped from ext.nazarene.org

273 Eugene 24.5%

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Oregon ranked as one of the least religious states in the nation in a Gallop poll released this week. The poll asked, "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" Nationally 65 percent said yes. In Oregon the percentage was 53.

That doesn't mean they were regular churchgoers. Nationally only 30 percent told Gallup that they go to church at least once a week.

Here's clips of the Gallup stuff:

clipped from www.gallup.com

Overall, 65% of Americans say religion is an important part of their daily lives



So with so few actually very religious, especially here, what does this mean for all the political God pandering?

Should the Obama inauguration have included at least four official sermons (two at the event, one in the morning and one the next day)?

Should the 4J School Board recite the "under god" pledge at every meeting?

What about all these, national, state and city prayer breakfasts?

What about gay marriage in a state where half don't consider themselves religious and less than that go to church regularly?