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October 2, 2007 11:13 AM

That sound you hear is me squealing with joy at this bit of news, from Publishers Weekly:

Fantasy author Garth Nix has sold North American rights to three new YA books to Ruth Katcher at HarperCollins Children’s via agent Jill Grinberg, who made the seven-figure deal. The three books include a prequel and a sequel to Nix’s Abhorsen YA fantasy trilogy

If you like fantasy at all, you really ought to read the Abhorsen series, which begins with the amazing Sabriel. (If you were to Google me, you would find a quote about this book from me in a PW piece about very un-put-downable books. No joke.)

Sorry for the lack of blogging. Ballots, you know, they take a lot of time. But things are barreling forward! And blogging shall return to the top of my to-do list shortly.

September 26, 2007 10:11 AM

With a straight face, the Oregonian wrote this story
about Hillsboro removing a flag painted fire hydrant at a dog park
after complaints. The star spangled urinal was set up by cops in
memorial to a police dog. Maybe Congress needs to pass a Constitutional
amendment.

By illustration, here's a video of urinoterrorism:

September 25, 2007 10:34 AM

Realistically, I'm not sure why I was so damn excited for the return of Heroes, even though it was last year's best new show despite having (apparently unknowingly) borrowed rather heavily from X-Men mythos. You've got your Rogue, your Wolverine, your Shadowcat — and, amusingly, all the genders are reversed!

I love it. But I hated season one's finale with a fiery, burning passion. It didn't make sense. It cut out the most interesting characters from the final battle — what there was of that. It pretended to kill off one of my favorite characters in a totally unbelievable way that left not an iota of suspense as to whether he'd be returning this year. It was bad.

"Four Months Later," season two's premiere, isn't that bad. But it's a little weak all the same. 'Ware spoilers after the jump!

The thing is, though, I can't remember whether the thing that's bothering me the most came up at the end of last season or not. It's simple: Mohinder's talking about a virus that can take away mutant powers and then kill them. When he talks to mysterious, creepy Midas about how this virus could mutate itself and infect normal humans, Midas gets a gleam in his eye that reminds me of Magneto in X2. Take Cerebro and use it to kill mutants! No, use it to kill humans!

Take this virus and mutate it to kill ordinary folks! Or not. I'm not sure where that's going. But what bothers me is that this virus, which looks very much like it could be central to season two's overarching plot, appears to have been discovered in the off-season. And that's sloppy storytelling. If this is going to be a big deal — if it even really exists, and I assume it does and that it's why Molly is sick — we need to see it arrive on the scene. And thus, what I don't remember: Did we know before that Molly had a super-sekrit mutant killing virus, or that she just was sick? Did we know that it could spread to other special folks? Am I being crabby for no reason?

Well, anyway, on to the rest of the show. Spoilers crept out that one familiar face wouldn't survive, and it was disappointing to see it be Hiro's father, but not unexpected. To me, the episode's highlight was one tiny line: "Now there are nine." Nine! Nine older generation mutant-folks who used to hang out with Mama Petrelli, Simone's dad, Linderman and Hiro's papa (interesting how many of them are defined by their children, no?). Is Midas one of them? Is that shadowy figure one of them? What happens if Sylar gets to one of them? And when, oh, when will we get to discover Mama Petrelli's power?

A quick rundown of characters: Claire, making a new life in California, is a doll as always, though the Nissan product placement for a hideous car I'd never seen before was certainly awkward. Her new friend Stalker Boy — sorry, West — had me in stitches simply because he looks like And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead maestro Conrad Keely — but he became more interesting when his power was revealed. Flight! A duplicate power! Why would they do that so soon? Are powers genetic? Did Nathan have more kids?

Mr. Bennett, as always, was fantastic, and though I've seen a few posts disparaging the Bennett family dinner, I loved the horrible discomfort, the undertones, the floating secrets. I want to know where the Haitian is and who he's truly working for, though, and I can't seem to remember how Mr. Bennett got his memory back after the Haitian wiped his brain to protect Claire.

Parkman and Molly were cute and perfect and while I think it seemed a bit abrupt to have Parkman divorce in the off-season — and wasn't his wife pregnant? — the atypical family of Parkman, Mohinder and Molly appeals to me, as does their rather gothic, dark home in the elder Suresh's old apartment. I don't care much for the "I can see you!" baddie that Molly dreams of, but it's appropriate for her age that he seems like something out of a crappy horror movie and not a believable imaginary character. Yet.

No Niki, but another pretty, mentally unstable killer lass (kudos to one of my favorite Heroes commentators, Yoon Ha Lee, for pointing this out). Was that really necessary? But, as she discusses, we've barely met Maya, and maybe there's more to her than first impressions suggest. I still wonder if they left Niki out of this episode so as to avoid making the parallel between the two of them clear, though. And I see Maya very much as the Rogue character who will want the "cure" for her own safety/good/safety of those around her, though previews for next week suggest I might be wrong here.

Oh, Hiro! I do hope he gets more to do this season than wander around trying to figure out what he ought to be doing (rather like the trio in much of HP7 — though I did love those scenes). I kept expecting Takezo Kensei to a) be Hiro's father, b) be Hiro or c) ... well, something other than being a white guy (David Anders, whom IMDB.com says is from Grants Pass) with a familiar attitude about the whole hero thing (someone please remind me who he's reminding me of?). This sets up a handful of amusing possibilities: Either Hiro is, in a twisty time-travel way, his own hero, or Hiro makes up the stories of this not-hero, or the swordsmith's daughter turns out to be the real Kensei, or something else entirely. I'm rooting for the daughter, of course, and not least because it's time there was a Heroes heroine who took charge of her own story. (I love Claire, but the girl's only 17, still in high school, and it doesn't seem like Buffy exists in her world. She didn't even get to help stop Sylar.)

And then there were the Petrellis. One is living with a death threat (as long as that lasts — the living, or the death threat). One has a scary, scary beard and is unconvincingly drinking himself into a stupor and, it seems, blaming himself for his brother's death. And the third, in a scene that calls to mind about half a dozen similar Whedon scenes (Darla returns from wherever! Angel returns from Hell! Spike returns from getting a soul!) is very confused, very caged, very messed up and with a very unfortunate haircut (I liked the bangs! But apparently the actor desperately wanted to lose them). Also, he's got an iffy new bit of bling.

I adore Peter Petrelli, but this development did lead to some eye-rolling.

And that, dear reader, was that. Things Might Happen. Stuff Is Important. And I should Blog During Commercials for better commentary, but I was engrossed in another commercial-eating project. Next time, next time.

For what it's worth, Journeyman was rather dull, but also slightly intriguing. Is that all there is to it? He, like, disappears into time to help fix somebody's life, then he zings back again? Er ... OK. But I'll probably keep watching it with that post-good-show hangover thing.

Coming soon: The Bionic Woman, Moonlight, Nathan Fillion on Desperate Housewives (yes, I will ONLY talk about Captain Mal. Or at least try) and more!

September 24, 2007 12:33 PM

Newport turns 125 on Oct. 23 and is planning a bunch of festivities .
Here's some photos of how things used to look:


Hmmm. Didn't see Ripley's Believe it or Not in those pictures.

September 21, 2007 05:21 PM

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

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

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

September 20, 2007 10:31 AM

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2007 07:10 PM

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

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

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

September 18, 2007 02:25 PM

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

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

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

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

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

September 12, 2007 04:53 PM

Just how bad of a "problem" is immigration?

From the AP today comes news that:

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

Hmmm. Let's compare California and West Virginia.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe immigration isn't such a problem after all.

September 7, 2007 04:14 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 6, 2007 01:44 PM

From a recently received press release:

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

More here.

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

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

September 6, 2007 01:47 PM

Marry Our Daughter: real or fake?

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

This is just too easy a target. Seriously.

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

September 4, 2007 10:49 AM

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

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

Later in the story comes this:

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

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

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

August 29, 2007 10:49 AM

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

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

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

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