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August 24, 2009 06:05 PM

The City of Eugene plans to use border collies to chase Canada geese out of cement ponds in Alton Baker Park, according to a press release.

The city says it will also relocate the domestic white geese in the pond to an undisclosed, "more suitable habitat." The press release states: "Waterfowl management activities practiced by the City of Eugene will follow protocols approved by the Humane Society."

The overpopulation of geese in the ponds have become dependent on food handouts, causing health problems for the animals and, through their poop, pollution and potential health risks to humans, according to the city.

The city also plans to remove concrete on the river side of the pond and put in native plants.

Here's a city picture of a Canada goose with "angel wing" disease, caused by eating too much bread:

August 21, 2009 01:24 PM

On Stephan Andresen: Punk plaid jeans by Lip Service; Paul Simonen shirt; Gladiator boots by Tuk. On me: Bite Me tunic by Switchblade Stiletto; Gerls Junkie Fit black stretch jeans by Lip Service; white leather three row silver pyramid belt; Drop Dead fuschia heels by Iron Fist. On April Smithart-Unruh: Zombie Stompers shoes; Monster Striped tube dress.

Modeling is hard.

That's what I learned on Monday night — among other things (I'm a large in Lip Service clothes, which are clearly built for skinny 17-year-olds. Lip liner can, in a pinch, become lipstick. It is possible for a pencil skirt to fit me). Turn this way. Bend at the waist, but stand up straight. Nose to the camera; chin down. Put your elbow out. No, the other elbow. Not that far. Hook the other thumb in your pocket. Be tall. Right shoulder down. Farther. Kick that hip out. Farther. Great. Hold that for 10 minutes. Now smile. "Being pretty is haaaard!" Stephan Andresen, the owner of Delphina, says, laughing. Forget being pretty; we're just trying to stand with our feet in the right places. And these shoes are trying to slip right off my feet.

I'm not a model. Not by a long, long shot. But it was fun to pretend for a few hours, to have clothes tossed over a dressing room's curtain wall and to sit still while someone else straightened my hair and put on makeup on my face than I've worn in the last year combined.

I almost asked someone else to do this, but I'm glad I didn't. When I was talking to the owner of Delphina last week for this story, it came up that they do "lifestyle" shoots, where they put together outfits from their stock, making examples for those who, like me, aren't that good at matching their hook-and-eye pleather corset tops with steampunk skirts, or picking out the right pink heels to wear with skintight jeans. That, I thought, would make a different sort of illustration for a story: not a shot of the staff in their natural environment, but a photoshoot with their clothes. On me.

OK, the "me" part came later. I had to talk myself into it on the trip back to the office.

(Click here for the rest of the tale.)

It's slightly amazing how quickly things can come together when all parties are enthusiastic. I turned up at the shop at 6 pm on Monday; by a bit after 8:30, photographer Darris Hurst had tens of shots of me, Andresen and Delphina buyer April Smithart-Unruh.

But first, I tried on clothes. A vivid blue plaid minidress with a barmaid-ish ruffle and a corset-laced front that Avril Lavigne might've worn on her first tour. A vinyl outfit that gave me a new appreciation for my college roommate who complained of the way her vinyl-clad thighs rubbed together when she walked. A "kinda red army" blouse with heavy, snap-laden cuffs and a red vinyl buckled collar. I tried to fit into several of the world's shortest skirts, but they would've been indecent in the size available. I wore a long tunic like a dress while reaching outside the dressing room for more clothes; I held a snug vinyl blazer together and wondered what I was supposed to wear under it. I unlocked the tiny padlock on a grey pinstriped suit that looked like someone's summertime, capri-length business suit had cross-pollinated with a refugee from fetish night.

On me: Gangsta Pranksta grey pinstripe top and capris by Lip Service; black matte Witch Heel

It took a while for the clothes to work their particular clothing — costumey, really, since they were so different from my usual dress — magic, but by the end, I wanted to leave in one of the outfits, even as my jeans and Dresden Dolls tank top seemed like the most comfortable clothes ever made. There's a kind of joy in presentation that sometimes feels frowned-upon here, like it's too boat-rocking to venture out in something that boasts irrelevant straps or decorative buckles instead of practical rubber soles and easy-to-wash materials. It's a little bit of everyday theater that doesn't always suit Eugene's Subaru-driving, Croc-tolerating, Butte-hiking, fleece-loving side. Eugene looks at kids with heavy black eyeliner and patched-up hoodies downtown and sees trouble before it sees personality.

This was a night of borrowed personality. I failed to fully channel my inner Amanda Palmer (choose the rockstar of your choice, here) — even the pretend-you're-a-rock-star shots look like me being me, too self-aware, not far enough out of my own world, where I could try harder. Or so I like to imagine. As much as you tell yourself you're perfectly comfortable playing dressup and rocking pointy-toed high heels, once the camera comes out, you're either an exhibitionist or you're not.

On me: Vegi vinyl lace-back corset by Lip Service; Steam This punk pencil skirt by Lip Service; Quantum Displacer Control necklace by Alchemy; black matte Witch Heel

I'm not. I'm a fencer; I even play sports behind a mask. But fencing, and the way my body needs to position itself during fencing, gave me something on which to base my understanding of how to shift the way the photographer asks. You must do all these things with different parts of your body at once — well, that, I'm familiar with. Bend at the knees. Not so far. Back a bit. Hold one arm out, just so, bent elbow, palm up; hold the other at this unnatural angle, but relax. Loosen your shoulders. Don't go too far; find that place where you're incredibly upright and yet not tense. Or at least not too tense. Now: lunge.

That, I understand. So it's not too far to the long list of instructions I loosely quoted at the top. They're just different; different motions, different poses. I never quite realized I have such a habit of turning my face to my right when there's a camera in front of me. I kept having to be told to brave the lens face on. And to drop my chin a little bit.

We posed with a guitar, with an amp, with me pretending to sing, with me dooming myself to a precarious kick-and-turn move because I kicked my leg up while wearing my favorite skirt. Kick one knee up while turning your upper body to the camera; keep the right hand on the skirt's strap, and don't let it move off your butt; drop that right shoulder down, down, down; remember where your chin and nose are. I'm not sure I ever got it all at once. It was like the first day of class, with no chance to come back remembering any of it. And it was really, surprisingly, fun, even if it's a little goofy to look at the pictures and see my uncertainty, my unfamiliarity, right there on my face. That was part of the point: Break out of my comfort zone! Do something unfamiliar and maybe a little awkward!

And get some nifty pictures out of it, too.

August 20, 2009 05:03 PM

The Oregon Media Central blog got the scoop on the Register-Guard layoffs of 16 staffers this week.

OMC posts comments from a reporter with an inside view of the layoffs (apparently eight newsroom plus eight other):

"I watched my first supervisor in the RG newsroom hand over his badge. This is a young guy with very old-school news values. He taught me a lot - he was always trying to get me to make one more call. Today I watched him check his mail one last time and walk by me with a quick wave I could tell was final. Then I watched one of my best friends at the paper go in the office from which the manager had just come. I watched her head nod from behind. I watched her walk out with it held high. Then I approached her and grabbed her cold hand when she cried. With two other bewildered journalists, we walked her outside. She looked really nice today. She had seen this coming. We lost some impeccable instincts today."

Having missed the story of its own layoffs, the RG reported the next day on the job loss in a story buried in its business section.

The paper reported layoffs of 16 positions, a 6 percent reduction bringing it's staff down to 305. Last summer, the paper cut 12 percent of its staff.

The current 305 staff figure is down from a reported 425 a decade ago. The paper has lost about 12 percent of its subscribers over that period.

The Register-Guard reported this week that its advertising revenues are down 16 percent below budget for the year and down 25 percent below budget this summer. The R-G's profit margin reached about 30 percent in the previous decade, but the Baker family has refused to say how much money they are making now on their newspaper.

August 17, 2009 12:31 PM

This press release just in from the City of Springfield:

"On Wednesday, August 26 from 3-4:30 pm, teens ages 13-18 are invited to play video games in the Library Meeting Room at Springfield Public Library. Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Sports will be available to play. Free refreshments will be provided."

Maybe someone should invent a virtual Wii Book page turner, a Literature Hero or a Read, Read Revolution?

August 13, 2009 04:42 PM

I'm not afraid to admit that I think Constantine is totally underrated. I might go so far as to say it's one of my top three favorite Keanu Reeves movies. There's something fascinating about stories that take certain supernatural elements of the Christian Bible REALLY literally — without any lions or elves or metaphorical Jesus creatures. I'm talking demons in the streets of L.A., but not in the Left Behind sense (these stories are only interesting when religion is key to the worldbuilding, but not part of the lesson plan).

So I watched the trailer for Legion, even though the poster for it — a looming angel with a machine gun — was so absurd I didn't think it was a real movie.

And I couldn't stop giggling. This is the redband (i.e. "mature," i.e. there's swearing) trailer. In it, a shirtless Paul Bettany plays the archangel Michael, who's standing up against a destructive God on the behalf of humankind — or at least one truck-stop waitress whose baby is humanity's only chance for survival.

Also, I'm fairly sure Dennis Quaid explodes.

Don't get me wrong: I will totally, absolutely watch this. It's deliciously ridiculous and totally over the top. It begins with Doug Jones as an evil ice-cream truck driver. I'm in. I'm just not sure the movie can, er, be better than the trailer.

In other cinematic news, it's been confirmed that Bryan Singer will direct a Battlestar Galactica movie. There are two immediate worrying things about this:

1. Singer hasn't made a really good movie since X2. (And this is coming from someone who's slightly fond of the oft-dismissed Superman Returns.)
2. This isn't a film version of the brilliantly reimagined (if less-than-brilliantly ended) TV show that wound down earlier this year. This is a film version of the original series.

It's not an inherently bad idea to look back to the original series — and it's worth noting that it's not the first time Singer's gotten close to a Galactica revisioning — but the timing is pretty much terrible. The new BSG is still fresh in people's minds, especially with the upcoming TV movie The Plan and the spinoff/prequel series Caprica coming next year.

(It isn't helping that this looks a little bit like a greedy bid to relaunch the original BSG the way that J.J. Abrams relaunched Star Trek. As a colleague joked, we can probably blame Star Trek for a whole pile of crappy sci-fi* remakes in the next few years.)

"All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again," indeed. I'll hold out hope that Singer's version will be as fresh and as different from the recent series as that show was from the original, but it's a bit tough to quash the skeptic in the back of my head. Still, original series fans rebelled at the idea of BSG 2.0, and now those of us who cringe at the idea of Starbuck being played by anyone but Katee Sackhoff are having our cringe moment. We'll see. Somewhat reluctantly.

* I've heard on too many occasions that REAL science fiction fans DON'T CALL IT SCI-FI. This is utter crap. Call it what you want. Call it SF/F, which looks like some kind of shorthand for a slash pairing. Call it SyFy, if you're a network who needs a brand that conveniently distances you from your original fanbase. Call it whatever the hell you like. Just keep liking it.

August 13, 2009 06:13 PM

While billions of taxpayer dollars go into unlivable freeways that throttle livability and the planet, there's a few million being spent on greener transportation. Here's a look at some upcoming bike projects based on documents from the Metropolitan Policy Commission. The MPC is the less-known, less-democratic interjurisdictional committee that supposedly oversees all the billions in local transportation spending. Here's the bike projects:

I-5 Underpass. As part of its $180-million I-5 bridge widening project, ODOT has included this $1.5 million project to connect the riverfront bike trail through the freeway mess.

Springfield Middle Fork Path. An MPC amendment last month "slips construction to 2010" of the first phase of this $6 million project. Oddly, Willamalane has planned the first $3 million phase as the easternmost portion (see red line on map below). Funding for the second phase (pink line) connecting the path to Dorris Ranch remains unclear. Also unclear is funding for a possible bike bridge across the river to the Mt. Pisgah park area. Biking from Eugene all the way to Mt. Pisgah on scenic and quiet off-road trails along the river has long been a dream of local cyclists.

Delta Highway Overpass. Half of this $6 million project is funded by the Obama Stimulus and is supposed to start soon. A few right-wingers have complained about the spending on bikes, but the project is more about mitigating the impact of a dangerous freeway that cut off huge neighborhoods full of kids and families from the city's riverfront parks and bike paths. Here's the design:

Eugene Riverfront Bike Path Under Beltline. This $2.2 million project will mitigate the impact of the Beltline freeway cutting off the 17,000 people in Santa Clara from the river by providing an underpass and connection to the riverfront bike and park system. Accomodating unsafe gravel truck driveways delayed the project and added another $1 million in cost. (The map below doesn’t appear to include the redesign involving moving the bike path to the south side of Division Avenue.)

August 1, 2009 07:37 PM

The circus is gone. The kids that remain are crawling the ground under the apple trees for green fruit, which they toss up onto the shading, stretched fabric. It's at an angle, so the fruit always bounces back down. Every so often, a cry of "APPLE!" goes up. I haven't figured out the rules of the game.

Samantha Crain is playing in the other barn, but I'm back on the barn porch where I was earlier. I can hear her just fine from here, and this is where the wi-fi is. It's quiet, relatively, and there are few people around — a situation that can be hard to come by at a festival. I just ate a hot dog that billed itself as the world's best, and while I'm not sure that's a provable statement, it was damn good, topped with horseradish cream and homemade relish and some sort of saeurkraut-like topping. The food here beats the pants off most music festival food. I just keep eating. A cucumber-lime-jalapeno Sol Pop. Pesto pasta with the hot dog (totally chance, and delicious). A couple of pints of Deschutes' Twilight — but really, it's too hot to drink.

It's really hot. It was touch and go there for a bit, too hot, smotheringly hot, the kind of hot that makes you want to take a nap in the itchy grass were it not so itchy. It was the moment that reminded me why going to festivals alone is a crapshoot — you hit that hot and tired phase, you might just give in to it. But a friend texted and told me to meet her in the shade, where water was abundant and easily accessible. I poured it over my feet and found myself back on earth. So we sat and watched people — tiny shorts! high-waisted skirts! — and talked and sat some more, watching Justin Townes Earle and his impossibly long legs, and then the Lost Bayou Ramblers, with their multilingual singalongs and upright bass tricks (the bassist balanced on his instrument and played at once. I can hardly explain).

Festivals are better with company, with someone to make your observations to when you're not, y'know, near the wifi. Friends travel in packs and save blanket space for each other; kids crawl around blankets and squirt you with water bottles when you ask them if they want to. In the backstage tent, along with the beer and pretzels, there's a huge tub of Red Vines and rugs for sprawling. Did I mention this place is kid friendly? I think I did. But also, it's just friendly. It feels clubby and small, in a good way; you find yourself passing the same people over and over again, winding up in line next to the person who was a blanket away earlier. My also-press friend tells me there are about 2,000 people here. Right now, I think they're all congregating in front of the two main stages, all on the grass that was empty earlier. As the sun goes down, shadow spreads comfortingly across the main lawn. It arrives just in time.

I can hear Hillstomp from the main stage. Weren't they just at Papa's? Is Pickathon the intersection of 3rd and Blair, writ large and forested? Everyone here does look a little bit familiar.

If I don't go watch Samantha Crain, I'll regret it.

August 1, 2009 03:03 PM

It's a strange thing, driving to Pickathon. You're in the middle of Portland, tied up in its highway knots; you're driving south on 205, trying not to feel like you're heading home from the airport; you're turning off an an exit that quickly begins to feel frighteningly like Agrestic, all matching complexes with intimidating names.

And then you're in the middle of nowhere.

I've been here about three hours. I'm pretty sure my face is sunburnt, despite the late addition of sunscreen to my wardrobe. (I had to ask someone if I had dirt smeared all over my face.) I made a beer garden mistake and wound up trapped in a pool of heat, just feet from the bar in which a young man with a banjo sounded too old for his years. A bicycle hung from the rafters and a fan pointed at the electronic whatsit on the walls.

But don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining.

I got here about noon and walked in to the quietist, loveliest festival atmosphere I can ever remember experiencing. There is plenty of space. There are chairs scattered around the grass near the two main stages. There are signs that point off into the woods, trails that may or may not take you where you want to go. The first thing you see when you come in the day entrance is the kids' circus area, which I'm overlooking right now. One man with a violin plays while kids juggle, hula hoop, try their best at stilts and balance peacock feathers on their fingertips.

There are kids everywhere. A toddler who sat near me with his parents as Horse Feathers played on the shaded, idyllic Woods Stage said, "Nom nom nom nom nom," — no, seriously — as he gulped water. Bigger kids did their best to balance on the bent tree branch behind my head, and I wondered if I'd be able to catch them if they fell. Strangers offered to share their blanket with me, and every so often, a misting cart drove past. It didn't stop the dust waves from coming through, though; the Woods Stage is down a small incline, and if you're below the level of the path, you'll find clouds of dust, sparkling like the dust in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books, floating past your nose every few minutes. It's an outdoor festival. You simply don't worry about being clean.

White fabric stretches above the grounds in shapes that remind me of the Enterprise. The first thing I did when I got here — after watching the well-dressed Sadies play a song or two — was buy a small tub of Fifty Licks' Stumptown coffee ice cream and go for a walk in the woods, wrestling with a tiny wooden spoon as my feet grew a layer of trail dust and I remembered all the other woodsy trails I've walked on in the past. I took the long route to the Woods Stage, missing Laura Gibson and slipping past the two guys holding "Dance Toll" signs (written on the back of PBR cases) without having to shake my ass.

It took forever for Horse Feathers to set up, so I watched people. Women in charming sundresses. Pale men with their shirts off for the first time this summer. The lucky bastards in the tree-nooks, wedged in among thin saplings and braced against the thicker trunks. The women in front of me had a Nalgene bottle full of red wine and the man they were befriending said he wasn't quite ready for that yet. I forgot it was so hot out in the rest of the world. A man shimmied farther up the trees, and took sky-high pictures when the band finally went on.

Quiet, cello-supported, moody folk-pop in the middle of the woods? Yes, please. I texted my boyfriend and told him everyone was right: This is a different kind of festival. I haven't quite pinned down why. It doesn't have a straight-up hippie vibe; it has an urban hippie vibe. What that means, exactly, I guess I'll spend the rest of the day figuring out.

Yes, I should've camped. But there's always next year. This is the warm-up.

July 31, 2009 03:57 PM

For years Eugene cyclists have been trying to get the city of Eugene to end the dangerous practice of storing leaves in bike paths. The spreading leaf piles create a slipping hazard, hide dangerous debris and force cyclists into rushing traffic. But the advocacy has apparently had little impact. Above is an image from the city's own website apparently urging people to store their leaf piles in bike lanes rather than safely up on the curb.

July 30, 2009 05:42 PM

It's time to just suck it up and accept that it does not matter if I feel like the entire internet has had its say about the last two days of Torchwood: Children of Earth. I am not the entire internet! And I still have thoughts! They're just delayed, is all.

And of course there are plenty of spoilers. Click here and read further at your own risk!

A short sum-up: Jack explains what he did in 1965. Clem freaks out and shoots him. Jack, of course, gets up again a few minutes later, causing poor Clem no end of further freakout.

A dude in a hazmat suit ventures into the 456's pretty glass box with a camera and discovers there is a small child hooked up to the weird, still mostly unseen alien. Why?

Jack and Ianto kind of have a tiff (much more on this later). They storm off to Thames House to confront the 456. Just before this happens, the incredibly awesome Lois Habiba stands up in a room full of generals and prime ministers and the like, and explains that Torchwood are coming and if everyone would kindly get the fuck out of their way, the alien experts will do their job.

At some point, possibly just before that happens but possibly after things go horribly awry (more on that later), the seemingly harmless but apparently quite evil dark-haired woman in the group suggests that if they really have to give the 456 ten percent of the world's children, they start with those in the poorest schools, thereby painting with a really nasty broad brush and damning all poor kids to a terrible life just for where they were born. (Can you tell I really dislike this woman?)

On the good news front, Agent Johnson and company burst in on Gwen, who greets them calmly and suggests Johnson sit down and watch this little program called "Your Government and How They Are a Bunch of Classist Fools." Also, the 456 kills Clem using a nasty frequency of some sort. It mutters something about "the remnant" being offline. This is never satisfactorily explained.

But if you want to talk unsatisfying, let's talk about the death of Ianto Jones.

For me, the highlight of Day Four is one conversation between Jack and Ianto. Jack's explains the whole 1965 thing; Ianto, tentatively, suggests that that knowledge, that action, must've been eating him up inside.

But I don't think it was. I think everything that follows — Jack storming out; Ianto wanting to know where he's going; Jack suddenly bursting out with the news about his family and the fact that Frobisher has them — is Jack covering and compensating for the fact that he doesn't feel guilty about what he did to save the world all those years ago. Jack is immortal. Jack is practical. I suspect that Jack knows some dirty, ugly truth about the brevity and relative importance of human lives, and it's the kind of thing he a) doesn't want humanity to know, and b) doesn't want to dwell on too much. And poor Ianto still wants Jack to be more human, more mortal, than he is; he wants him to feel things the way Ianto, or Gwen, or Rhys, would.

Ianto still dies for a stupid reason, and a realistic reason — which is to say, for no real reason at all. (The lack of reason doesn't actually bother me; it seems appropriate, in a story like this, that not every death is for a greater cause, in service of a tangible goal, or for any other reason than the fact that there will be casualties when your enemy is so much stronger.) He and Jack confront the 456, Jack tries to bully it into leaving, and it simply locks down Thames House and kills everyone inside. Ianto didn't deserve that, and he didn't deserve Jack's inability to tell him he loved him, either. "Don't go; don't leave me" was heartwrenching, but it's not the same. Still, it suggested, at least to me, that there was more to Jack's attachment for Ianto that he let on, or at least that I've seen (caveat: not seen season two). Jack plays it casual and light, except when he confirmed for Ianto that yes, he'll keep going long after Ianto's gone. For Ianto, that was a moment of choice: to stay with Jack even knowing that.

For Jack, wasn't it something different?

I've seen it (beautifully) pointed out that Ianto goes with Jack because they're making up by going to war together, which seems very Jack and not all that Ianto to me. It's still a frustrating scene, because when you watch two men walk into a room to set their puny selves against a strangely powerful alien being and you know one of those men can't die, well, the odds just don't seem good for the other guy, do they?

I could — and likely will — get back to poor Ianto later, but a few other things about Day Four before I run out of time:

• I think it's to the show's credit that they took the selection of the 10 percent of the nation's children down such a bleak, nasty and believable path: By taking these kids from the poor, underachieving schools, the people in power ensure that their own kids will be safe, and then tell themselves they're planning for the future. Their children will Do Things. Those other kids, well, they haven't got a chance, have they? Of course they do — and as this situation makes terribly clear, it's a chance that involves constantly fighting against the assumptions of people like this prime minister and his even nastier lackeys. Not to mention the American and UNIT general who go along with it. (Er, let me not leave out the unpleasantness of the ploy they try before realizing they can't bargain with the 456: Offering a much smaller number of refugees instead. This is one hell of a cynical take on those in power.)

• The reversal of Agent Johnson is another highlight in Day Four, which despite its highlights suffers from being criminally over-scored, with by-the-book, button-pushing weeping/soaring strings. The utter badass, the classic orders-follower, is given more information that she'd ever be privy to — by Gwen, who takes a pretty big gamble here. It's exactly the information the people giving Johnson orders would never want her to see. Johnson believes in the rightness of her world, but when her blinders are stripped away, she doesn't dither or fret. She simply changes course. There's no ego; there's just the certainty that she was on the wrong side, fighting the wrong fight. By the end, her future might be the one I'm most curious about.

• There's a certain amount of assumption out there in the intertubes that Ianto dies because it will send Jack down a dark enough path that he'll be able to make the decision he makes at the end of Day Five. I'm not convinced about that. Either way, there are countless arguments (and causes, and petitions, and hopes and crushed dreams) about Ianto's death. Brent Hartinger's piece on AfterElton.com is definitely an interesting take, should you want more.

• I still love this series, but Day Four was when it started to slip a little. I don't think it's just because I was expecting it that I felt less moved by Ianto's death than I thought I'd be; I think a lot of things, as the series moves to wind up, felt crammed in and rushed through (and did I mention criminally underserved by the score?). And then Day Five feels a bit padded, to borrow a perfect word I saw someone else use, for reasons I'll have to figure out when I get to it.

Which had damn well better be tomorrow. 'Cause when I get back from Portland on Sunday? I really kind of want to watch this all again.

Further reading: Eve Myles (Gwen) and Children of Earth director Euros Lyn (whom, I must mention, I haven't praised enough: WELL DONE, LYN) interviewed at Television Without Pity.

July 29, 2009 01:23 PM

In the worst blow to downtown since the hospital left, the Eugene City Council voted 6-2 today to move the police department out of the heart of the city.

Critics charge that the $16-million plan to buy an office building on Country Club Road for the police department will cripple downtown, defy three votes, waste money, increase polluting sprawl and congestion, increase earthquake and flooding risk and reduce police accountability while damaging civic pride.

But Mayor Kitty Piercy and Councilors Mike Clark, Jennifer Solomon, Chris Pryor, George Poling, Andrea Ortiz and Alan Zelenka supported the move. Councilors Betty Taylor and George Brown voted against it.

"This is a terrible deal for the city," said Councilor Brown. The only one benefiting will be speculator Ward Beck, Brown said. "He will be able to unload an under-performing property."

Mayor Piercy said she supports moving police out of downtown and cut off Taylor and Brown's comments opposing the move after allowing staff to repeat a twenty minute sales pitch on the proposal that the council had already heard.

"We are rushing through this because someone wants to sell a building," said Councilor Taylor. "We haven't considered any other possibilities." Taylor noted the $16 million exclusive deal with Beck wasn't subject to the normal competitive bidding process governments use to prevent corruption.

Brown said the $16 million could be better used to hire more police officers. "This project does nothing for public safety, all it does is buy a huge building for 30 employees to wander around in," said Brown, noting the police chief's statement that only a few officers will spend much time in the 66,000 square-foot building.

Brown moved that the council refer the big expenditure to voters. Piercy refused to allow debate on the motion and the referral vote failed 6-2.

Voters have rejected spending money on a new police station three times in the past. Taylor pleaded with the council to not waste the taxpayer money. "People say 'our money,'" she said noting comments by staff and council supporters. "It isn't ours, it belongs to the public."

(For details on the police move, please read a story in Thursday's EW to be posted here.

July 27, 2009 03:22 PM

I watched, I didn't weep, I got a little choked up, I have a lot to say — but I had all kinds of Things that needed doing the last few days, so I'm a bit behind. And I watched Day Four and Day Five pretty much one after the other, so they're a touch blurry. But I'm working on it.

Your Torchwood posts, they shall return. In the meantime, if anybody wants to talk about it, I'm here for you, man. We could probably all use a good heart-to-heart after that.

July 23, 2009 01:07 PM

Well, that was kind of intense. Shall we talk about it? Let's.

"As a gift."

Day Three is a pivot point. The 456 arrives. A pillar of flame sinks into the glass tank at the top of Thames House (without burning anything in its path, I'd like to note). Something prone to splattering green goo against the walls is inside. We never see all of it, just sense a large, lumbering presence, strange and eerie.

Both Torchwood and the government are forced to open their doors a little bit. The Americans show up, surly about being left out of the loop (but why didn't the aliens want to talk to us, Mom?); the Prime Minister pretends to give the reins to Frobisher. It's decided that he'll be the point person for the 456, which is handy as he's already made a deal with it that it not mention the 1965 visit. At Torchwood's new/old base, Rhys is now in on things, and eventually Gwen brings in Clem, too.

But Day Three, to my mind, is mostly about secrets. It's got some action, and some humor — Jack stalking up in the new vintage military coat Ianto's found for him, saying, "I'm back" with incredible certainty, as if he couldn't be himself without that damn coat — and a moment between Jack and Ianto that's both horribly honest and amusingly frustrated. The two of them going from Jack's admission that he always feels it when he dies to trying to get some alone time (stymied by a pot of beans!) is perfect Torchwood.

Those secrets, though. A bit more comes out about Alice, Jack's daughter, whose attempt to escape from Johnson was admirably competent, if ultimately doomed to fail. There's Frobisher's deal with the 456; there's Rhys, furious that Jack knew Gwen was pregnant before he did. The matter of what the 456 wants with the children is still unclear, but now we know how many they want: Ten percent (did anyone else yell at Frobisher when he asked the 456 to promise to not to use the children for communication anymore? Or did we all just assume he was too specific on purpose?).

But above all there's Jack's secret: his involvement with the last 456 visit. The first time Clem says, "That man," it's pretty clear who he's talking about, but that doesn't make Jack's unconcerned reveal — he gave a dozen children to the 456 as a gift — any less horrible. The knife is twisted just that little bit more by his phone call to Frobisher, in which Frobisher tells Jack he's the better man; he won't go back to Frobisher's house and kidnap his children, like Frobisher had done to Jack's family.

He's a better person now. But who was he in 1965?

A few scattered thoughts:

• Lois continues to be awesome. Her quick thinking about how to get into Thames House, her use of shorthand (Ianto knows shorthand? ANYONE knows shorthand?), her inability to stay behind, to stay quiet, when the right thing needs doing — she's going to make a great member of Torchwood when all this is over.

• The montage of the Torchwood team (and Rhys!) learning the thieving tricks Gwen picked up in her time on the police force? Priceless. (Jack is no waiter.) But it's also very telling, and it ties in to something I can't believe I've forgotten to talk about until now: The way Torchwood's tools are being used against them. In the first season, they make the most of CCTV cameras, public and police and government databases, all kinds of information, especially the kind some of us feel shouldn't be out there. It shocks and horrifies Gwen, at first, and then she gets used to it; after all, it's being used to hunt alien threats, not against the citizens of the U.K. But now, it's Torchwood being hunted by those same cameras; those same databases are being used against their families. And thus they learn new tricks — the same things they would disapprove of under different circumstances. There's a morally grey side to this that it's sometimes easy to forget about, at least in less-serious season one Torchwood, and I think it's interestingly handled.

• One of Day Three's most interesting moments is deeply uncomfortable: The scene in which Clem, using his weird smelling ability, looks at Ianto and asks, "Who's the queer?" It's shocking and unexpected, and Ianto's immediate "Oi!" of indignation is, I think, the reason this scene exists. In the first two days of Children of Earth, Ianto is still outlining his feelings about himself and his relationship with Jack, at least as far as other people are concerned. He knows he's in love, but he's sort of working through what that means, at least where other people (the doctor, his sister) are concerned. (Caveat: Having not seen season two, I don't know how this plays out in the past, or if it does at all.) But the conversation he has with Jack about time — how much of it Jack has, and how little Ianto has in comparison — cements things for him. He knows, absolutely, what he's gotten into, and what it means in the long run, and when he responds to Clem it is with the force of a man who will not have have his relationship insulted, dismissed, belittled. When Ianto follows that, quietly, with "It's not 1965 anymore," it's part explanation — he's tempering his response out of sympathy for what the last 456 visit did to Clem — and part segue, for here comes Jack, for whom it is most definitely not 1965 anymore. We hope.

• I love that the show doesn't forget about Ianto's family, that it goes back to show us that his brother-in-law has taken in all the neighborhood children (school's closed) both out of the goodness of his heart and because it can turn him a profit ("Ten quid a kid!"). He and Rhi are there to represent the rest of the world, the more ordinary folks whose lives are being turned upside down too, even if it's in a less immediate way.

• As is pointed out in the comments to yesterday's post, Gwen has come a long way. She's forceful and smart and beyond competent, and while she can teach the team how to become petty thieves, she's also still the woman who goes to fetch sad, scared Clem from jail. She does all she can for him, not simply because he's key to what's happening, but because it's the right thing to do for Clem. That's been Gwen's job since the beginning: bring Torchwood back to the human side of things. Don't just think about the aliens.

It's never only about the aliens.

July 22, 2009 07:54 PM

It's a little funny that I was just discussing Torchwood's "adult" content levels, given that Day Two gives us entirely naked Jack. (And to think I just read a quote from John Barrowman about eventually getting his kit off.) It's not quite as hot as it might sound, though. Mostly, it's rather unpleasant. But let me tuck this all behind a spoiler cut. (For an introduction to Torchwood and my thoughts on Day One, look here.)

"I'm a PA. It's what I do."

Day Two begins not with a bang, but with the fallout from one; Gwen's stumbling around, half deafened by the explosion that destroyed the Hub and could've killed Ianto, for all she knows. Eve Myles tears the opening scenes to bits; her horror and shock is palpable, only ebbing when she questions an ambulance driver whose behavior doesn't make any sense to her. He works for the government, he says. "We're on the same side?" Gwen asks, boggled.

If Day One set Torchwood against the government, Day Two mostly works to reinforce the total shift in loyalties that has occurred with the appearance of the alien 456 signal. The episode is packed full of information, but little of it has to do with why the Torchwood team is such a threat to a government that's communicating with aliens. At least, not on the surface. Those who've been watching Torchwood since the beginning know that Jack Harkness is absolutely unflinching when it comes to destroying alien threats; he's killed more than one creature his teammates might've gotten attached to. This government is compromised, and it knows Jack won't stand for that.

But Jack isn't presently standing. Jack is barely existing. He's just "a bag of bits" being carted off by Johnson (Liz May Brice), the woman leading the team charged with hunting down Torchwood. It's harrowing watching government agents pick through the destroyed Hub; it's more harrowing watching as Jack comes back to life, growing from a few bits to a skeleton, and then to a human without skin. It's gross and scary and horrifying, and convincingly painful; it's no less awful and scary when Johnson, having realized she really, really can't kill Jack, decides to confine him. In concrete. In which I imagine he would suffocate, wake up, and suffocate again, repeatedly.

Jack spends most of Day Two regrowing or imprisoned, leaving us to follow Gwen, Ianto and the curious, smart new government employee Lois Habiba (Cush Jumbo), who's certainly picked an interesting time to start working for John Frobisher (the quietly effective Peter Capaldi).

Day Two's real strength is in the way it works flashes of everyday life, the love and frustration of family and partners, into a tense, violent story about two people on the run. Ianto, cleverly, slips a note into his sister's paper; it reads, "Where Dad broke my leg, at noon." Rhiannon (Katy Wix) addresses this only briefly, when she arrives; "He didn't mean to," she says. Ianto says their father always pushed too hard; Rhi says Ianto should have held on tighter. It's not played for drama, just for closeness, and it speaks volumes about the way Ianto, guarded and wary, carries himself, and the way he fits into the Torchwood family.

Gwen quickly realizes that the sketchy government agents will be after Rhys (Kai Owen), and the scene in which she hustles him out of the house, narrowly escaping the ferocious Johnson, is a beautiful moment of domesticity under unnatural stress; the things she nags at him for are ordinary complaints, ratcheted up to incredible levels of importance. Plus, this escape gives us a bit of PC Andy (Tom Price), an old colleague of Gwen's who sweetly refuses to believe she might be a terrorist; the moment when Gwen stands down the police van, precisely shooting out all its tires; and Rhys as Gwen's shaken but competent partner, a man who offers to carry her bag so she can keep her trigger free and whose knowledge of trucking schedules gives them a getaway atop a bed of potatoes. Not the most romantic place for Gwen to tell him she's pregnant, but when the moment arises, she never even has to say the words; these two communicate in easily read smiles.

All that, and there's so much more. The children announce that the aliens are coming tomorrow. Lois meets Rhys and Gwen in a chip shop and proves herself beyond measure; not only has she quickly pieced together that the government agencies she work for are working against what appear to be their own interests, but she's also a thoughtful woman who's quick to pass the salt. (The scene in which Lois attempts to nudge her bosses into thinking about what they're doing and is shut down with a reminder to speak when she's spoken to is a wonder of compact character development; Frobisher and his secretary have chosen their parts, and they expect competent, smart Lois to do the same. They've no curiosity and no sense of rightness. Government ass-kissers do not do well in this series.)

And Jack still needs rescuing.

Enter Ianto the hero. There's such satisfaction in seeing the former coffee-fetcher burst in to rescue his boyfriend — and his teammate and her husband. I've never seen such a touching, silly getaway. The Torchwood-plus-Rhys reunion is brief and unsentimental, more showcase for John Barrowman's bare ass than anything. Conveniently, being dropped from hundreds of feet into a quarry breaks the concrete around him, but not his shackles. How will the poor fellow put on the coat Gwen hands him? He won't. This is still Torchwood.

But enough heroic rescues. Day Two ends on a creepy, ominous note; the government stooges have built the structure the aliens require, and it's filled with a gaseous mixture that's poison to humans. What is it to the aliens? Not even creepy Dekker, who translated the 456 signal, can say.