Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crosswalk sign lets Spokane drivers know what it really thinks

Posted By on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 4:27 PM

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Most of the time the red glowing crosswalk hand is stern, yes, but polite and considerate, like a warning from a loving father: "I really understand you want to cross right now. And I do want you to be happy, Daniel. But your mother and I care about you very much, and if you keep walking in the direction you're going, without stopping for a while, you're liable to get hit by a car or, worse, pregnant."

One exception: this crossing sign near Maple Street.

Lately, that sign is more like the hand of a loving father who just got cut off by a tractor-trailer going 90 on a rainy stretch of I-5.

That sign appears to be flipping gentle pedestrians of Spokane "the bird."

KXLY has the full story, quoting city spokesperson Marlene Feist, who insists that the appearance of a middle finger raised aloft to Spokane drivers and pedestrians was "clearly unintentional."

The thinking is that compacted snow has obscured the pinky, index, and ring finger of the "Stop" hand, and with city workers busy plowing streets and moving cars, nobody has returned the sign to its regular, non-obscene gesture.

For now, pedestrians and drivers will have to take matters into their own hands (or fingers), letting loose a loud "Well, same to you buddy!" every time they pass it.

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Costly elders, Russian ballerinas, public toilets, the planet Pluto and Obama's re-election

Posted on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 2:34 PM

... all in this week's segment of RECENT AND UPCOMING BOOKS ...

Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World's Population ..., by Ted C. Fishman (Scribner, 400 pages, Oct. 19)
Old people are expensive. (They eat up a lot of resources.) They depress the people who take care of them. They themselves feel frail and lonely. Many folks can and want to continue working past age 65 -- but their salaries are too formidable. Those are blunt simplifications of Fishman's argument: that with increased longevity worldwide, we're looking at a future of child-vs.-parent and international conflict.

The True Memoirs of Little K, by Adrienne Sharp (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 380 pages, Oct. 26)
A novel about ballet -- perhaps a good companion to Darren Aronofsky's film, Black Swan, which opens this week. In early 20th-century Russia, a prima ballerina — supremely ambitious, untrustworthy in matters of the heart — acts as mistress to the man who will eventually become Czar Nicholas II. 

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The Properties of Water, by Hannah Roberts McKinnon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 170 pages, Oct. 26)
A YA novel about a teenage girl learning how to survive when out from under the large shadow cast by her popular and athletic older sister.

Selected Stories, by William Trevor (Viking, 580 pages, Nov. 4)
Supplementing the 1,200-page Collected Stories of 17 years ago, here are four dozen additional tales from the Devonsire-residing Irishman who, if he's not the greatest living short story writer in the English language, is certainly in the conversation when it comes to picking one.

Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity, by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett (Faber & Faber, 320 pages, Nov. 9)
Freak shows are comforting: "At least my life is not as bad as The Situation's," we think. And the mundane details of famous people's lives — Jake Gyllenhaal doing his laundry, say — make them seem more like us, so that ... we can feel, someday, we might be like them. We grant celebrities fame by paying so much attention to them (not the other way around). Maybe we ought to stop watching Snooki and avoiding the stuff we could do to improve our lives. Reviewers, meanwhile, have split on whether USC's Currid-Halkett is ground-breaking or superficial.

Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing, ed. Laura Noren and Harvey Molotch (NYU Press, 300 pages, Nov. 17)
The Japanese have some great public restrooms — no, really. They're spotless, most of them. And some actually have little sinks integrated into the toilet lid, so you wash your hands right in the stall, and then your graywater is used for the next fellow's flush. Of course, this collection of 12 essays also seriously suggests things like unisex bathrooms and asks uncomfortable questions like, How come we're so bad at providing a means for homeless people to avoid humiliating themselves by doing their business publicly?

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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson (Random House paperback, 380 pages, Nov. 30)
The critically acclaimed debut novel from March is now out in paperback. A stiff-upper-lip English widower tries to prevent his yuppie son (and other relatives) from selling off a set of antique hunting guns that symbolize everything the major holds dear.  Pettigrew finds an unexpected ally in a female Pakistani shopkeeper. 

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, by Mike Brown (Spiegel & Grau, 290 pages, Dec. 7)
CalTech astronomers don't usually get hate mail from schoolchildren. But when, in 2005, Mike Brown discovered a 10th planet in an eccentric orbit much like Pluto's, then declared that both of them "dwarf planets," a firestorm ignited. (At least, a firestorm by the standards of academic stargazers.)

Bird Cloud: A Memoir, by Annie Proulx (Scribner, 250 pages, Jan. 4)
Annie Proulx tries to build her dream house in a remote part of Wyoming. The house runs way over budget, but at least she gets in touch with the flora and fauna. In her memoir out next month, the author of Brokeback Mountain shares what it's like to live on a windswept plain.

O: A Presidential Novel, by Anonymous (Simon & Schuster, 380 pages, Jan. 25)
Someone who has "vast personal experience in this realm" has written this novel about what President Obama and his advisers will do to win in 2012. Tea Party-conspiratorial, or Palin smackdown? Only the Shadow (of Barry) knows.

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The first-ever DJ Explo ruled. So where were you?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Where were you last Saturday, Spokane? Anywhere but Aclub, apparently, which is a damn shame, because that’s where you could have found the DJ Explo — the first in a series of concerts showcasing local DJs.

It was awesome.

Before a crowd of way too few, Benjamin Jorgens, Stone Tobey, Coz McDust, Forcefeed, Likes Girls, and Jah spun together a blanket of sound, wrapping the audience up tight, while lights and smoke played off the walls and mirrors of the Aclub ballroom. A guy spun color-changing light balls, two dredlocked people made out, and the bartender ran out of PBR. Cans and keg.

The DJs faced the audience as they played on an array of turntables and Apple laptops, mashing old, familiar artists like Cake and the Pet Shop Boys with obscure hip hop, all tied together with solid, addictive beats. The crowd (for a few minutes anyway) was transfixed on the DJs, who bobbed behind the glow of their apple-studded laptop screens, scrambled to lock in the beats, then eased back as the next song settled in. They looked suave and unflappable – James Bond meets Diplo.

Likes Girls and Jorgens (who we wrote about this week) closed out the evening, simultaneously working four tables between the two of them. It was an impromptu duet, just two guys jamming together on their instruments (sans the usual shitty '80s metal power-chording that usually entails).

In a previous discussion with Likes Girls, he talked about his process – how he tailors the music to his audience, paying attention to what people seem to be into, then builds the remainder of the set from there, on the fly. Next time this happens (stay tuned here for news), you’re going to want to be part of the form he tailors on.

[Photos: Thomas Bechard]

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Megaload case goes to the wire

Posted on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 2:27 PM

Do oil giants ever need a Plan B?

ConocoPhillips, which is hoping to ship some enormous refinery equipment from Lewiston to Billings via the narrow and twisty Lolo Pass, is facing a dilemma.

The company shipped two coke drums (manufactured in Japan) to the Port of Lewiston in May and had hoped they would be in Billings by now to replace two aging units at a refinery there. Recently, the company bused 50 refinery workers to a hearing in Boise to plead that jobs were on the line if the shipments were delayed.

The pleas did not sway a special hearing examiner appointed by the Idaho Department of Transportation (ITD), who ruled that residents along Highway 12 have a right to contest the issuance of permits for the staggeringly oversized loads.

So it all comes down to the wire next week. ITD’s hearing on permits is scheduled for Dec. 8-10. with a decision to be announced the following week.

The Corps of Engineers still says barging on the Snake and Columbia Rivers will be suspended for three months beginning Dec. 10 as locks undergo extensive repairs and maintenance.

So do ConocoPhillips employees — with jobs on the line, they say — want to risk their loads being stranded until March? Or are they confident they will prevail?

Attorneys and spokesmen for ConocoPhillips had not responded by deadline.

Oversized loads have long traversed Lolo Pass, but none on the scale of the ConocoPhillips coke drums (and the 207 ExxonMobil pressure vessels lined up behind them at Lewiston, also awaiting permits).

The coke drums, even split in half, are as tall as three-story buildings. They are 25 feet wide and take up both lanes of the highway. Each of the four loads weighs more than 600,000 pounds.

Critics of the megaloads, and even Idaho Supreme Court justices at a recent hearing, have questioned the oil companies’ presumption in shipping loads to Lewiston well in advance of permits being issued.

Residents say they only learned by accident (when power lines along Highway 12 were being raised 30 feet) that ITD and the companies had been discussing the shipments for at least two years.

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THIS JUST OUT: Black-Eyed-Peas-begin-to-apprentice-with-Epic-Mickey-the-sorcerer edition

Posted on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 12:18 PM

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MUSIC
The Beginning, Black Eyed Peas

The Beginning comes after The E.N.D.? Oh, BEP, how you love to confuddle us so! Or rather, how you love to belabor under the delusion that anyone actually cares what you call your albums (see: Weezer, Hurley) outside of the fact that we need something to search for on our favorite torrent sites!*

The Black Eyed Peas evoke the same feelings from music critics that Rodney Dangerfield evokes from music critics, in that they get no respect.** Of course, when your band is composed of people with names that look more like TinyUrls (will.i.am, apl.de.ap), you'll forgive us for thinking your focus may not be on the music.

Will.u.jam tries to convince us otherwise, though, with his closing lyric, "I pledge my allegiance to rhythm and sound/Music is my medicine, let the rhythm pound," apparently setting aside coherence for the rhyme (which, to be fair, is kind of what the line promises).

Also, while I'm not ethnic enough to determine if "Would you let me love you, let me love you long time?" (from "Love You Long Time") is offensive, I do have sufficient brain power to determine that "But I ain't talking 'bout sex with techno/Girl you stole my heart like a klepto/Butterflies in my tummy, need Pepto/Bismo, baby gimme mo' sex though/It's your pleasure like I'm gecko/Girl will I stop lovin' you heck no/Honestly I think you got me in a heck show/When I'm with you it's all perfecto/And when I'm leavin' you hit me with a text/and you talk about that xoxoxoxo" is inane.

Then again, ragging on BEP is more than a bit like ragging on Ke$ha — people who enjoy it because it's too damn catchy not too don't really have a choice, and the people who think it's amazing music probably can't read anyway.***

  • Glee: Volume 4 — The juggernaut rolls on, and with the addition of two more recurring guest stars, finally snatches from The Brady Bunch the title of "TV show with the largest ensemble where the smallest amount of (comprehensible) plot or character development happens in a given episode." And they're right behind every animated show ever for "Least amount of character continuity from week to week." Congrats, you guys. You earned it.
  • FAME, Chris Brown — Chris Brown was convicted of assaulting Rihanna (she sustained "several visible injuries") and making criminal threats. Mel Gibson got a DUI and made racist and anti-Semitic remarks. One of those two people hasn't been able to find a decent job in five years. I'm not saying we're wrong on Gibson — I'm saying he did stupid things, whereas Chris Brown did stupid and violent things.
  • All Delighted People EP, Sufjan Stevens — The final track of this EP is called "Djohariah," which is apparently the name of Stevens' sister. I thought that was weird for a minute, then I remembered his name is "Sufjan." So really, it just makes sense.
  • Bare Bones, Bryan Adams — Living up to its title, Bryan Adams provides a live CD of "stripped-down" versions of songs you can hear at his concerts. He put it out because apparently fans were clamoring for it. Let us pray they don't next demand an album titled Bare Ass. Dude's over 50 years old. ---

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DVDs
The Sorceror's Apprentice

This movie brings up so many questions: How could Disney so blatantly rip off what's probably their best-known animated short? Why does Jay Baruchel take on projects like Million Dollar Baby, Tropic Thunder and Fanboys only to throw away all good will with drek like this? And just how does Nicolas Cage choose what movies to appear in?

The basic thread of the movie is that Cage is Merlin's apprentice and has to find the Prime Merlinian (no, seriously) in order to defeat some sorceress who he basically already defeated by entombing her in a Russian nesting doll. Baruchel (the aforementioned magical latitudinal line) is a super-nerd who tries to get with this girl he hasn't seen since third grade (because that's not creepy at all).

He eventually wins her over because he's … good at science, I guess? There's lots of Bruckheimerian explosions and dragons and car chases (because they can use magic, so of course they're driving cars), and, eventually, the total misapplication of a Tesla coil (and, really, all electronic principles in general).

But the important thing to remember is this: The filmmakers tried super-hard to have the movie magic be grounded in science and physics — like requiring Baruchel to understand the individual atoms' collisions in order to create a fireball. Which makes perfect sense, because what's more scientific than using "magic" to completely ignore the fundamental laws of physics? Nothing, of course. Well, maybe those plasma balls they sell at Spencer's. But that's about it.

  • Going the Distance — Justin Long and Drew Barrymore are a couple trying to make a long-distance relationship work. The entire plot boils down to the travails that normal people have in such a situation (missing each other, unable to find a job in the other's city). So of course the ending uses a deus ex machina to just have a job mysteriously appear. (SPOILER ALERT: It has a happy ending. Duh.) At least it's got Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny being himself.
  • Knight And Day— Tom Cruise acts crazy as a spy, while Cameron Diaz plays the helpless female-turned-badass. A movie where Tom Cruise is all powerful and knows exactly what's going to happen next? It's like being inside his mind!
  • Vampires Suck — I actually watched this movie. I don't know why. It wasn't entertaining, funny, or even so-bad-it's-amusing. It was just kind of there, in the background, like a ceiling fan. Only less interesting.
  • Twilight Saga: Eclipse — You know what, on second thought, go buy Vampires Suck.
  • Waking Sleeping Beauty — Haven't been able to get my hands on this one yet, but everyone says it's good. It's a documentary that digs deep into recent Disney history, around the time when the company was considering getting out of animated movies following a string of flops (The Great Mouse Detective, Black Cauldron, etc.). Watch as Roy Disney, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg kick ass and restore Disney to the pinnacle of animated glory. (Well, until Pixar comes along.)

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VIDEOGAMES
Disney's Epic Mickey (Wii)

Ugh, I know. Disney's never really been big on the whole videogame thing, outside of crappy licensed games (with the notable exception of Kingdom Hearts). But this time, they've got it.

Epic Mickey is, as the title suggests, epic. Hearkening back to the prewar Mickey (a mischievous little rodent), this game immerses the player in a Bizzaro Disney world that Mickey discovers by being pulled through a mirror. In this land live the forgotten Disney characters — Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Pegleg Pete — among the twisted mirror-versions of places we already know (Gremlin Village instead of It's A Small World).

It is, in one sense, a dark reboot for Mickey Mouse. He receives a full retro look (to go along with the retro stylings of Oswald, who's jealous of Mickey's success and wants to steal his life), and a very dark interpretation of traditional cheery Disney worlds. Mickey's weapon consists of the paintbrush from The Sorceror's Apprentice, which he can use to either paint (create) or thin (destroy), to defeat his enemies.

Reviews on the gameplay are mixed thus far, but the concept is universally praised. And really, if it's a good Disney story, what more do you need?

  • Nail'd (X360, PS3, PC) — A quad racing game that touts its detachment from realism. Because the best part of simulations is that they're absolutely nothing like the thing they're simulating, right?
  • Shawn Johnson Gymnastics (NDS) — Shawn Johnson Gymnastics is the first game solely dedicated to gymnastics on the DS … I'm betting it won't be the last, but it probably should be. How much gymnastics can you accurately represent with a touch screen and buttons?
  • DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue (PC) — This isn't nearly as dirty as it sounds. You play as Mr. Spank, who's trying to find the "six thongs of virtue" that will help you save the world in an action RPG. It's got some Conker's Bad Fur Day-esque humor, though not nearly as puerile. Essentially, a nice diversion that probably would have been done better as a Flash game.


* Who's still using torrents? Why don't you go back to LimeWire, Grandpa! Wait, did I just diss myself?
** I can't prove this empirically, of course, but one assumes that Rodney would get no respect from a group of people critquing an art form he's never attempted before, as it's the same reaction he apparently garnered from everyone from Playgirl to his doctor.
*** I'm just funnin'. Also, I defy anyone to describe any difference between "Someday" and an Eiffel 65 song. I double-dog dare you.
I know that's not the right word, I just can't figure out what the right word is.

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SEEN IN SPOKANE: The ignominy of filmmaking

Posted on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 10:01 AM

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Everyone wants to be in the movies, but it's all too easy to forget the people behind the camera (and in front of the camera when it's not on). North by Northwest is currently filming Camilla Dickinson (starring Adelaide Clemens, Cary Elwes and Samantha Mathis) in Spokane, including right next door to Inlander HQ at the Masonic Temple.

Walking into work this morning, we noticed several production guys out trying to clean the snow off various parts of the ornate frontispiece — for continuity reasons, we assume.

There's something noble* about having to keep the snow out of your shots when it's still coming down all around you. Good luck, fellas. 


* And more than slightly Sisyphean. 

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MORNING HEADLINES: Hurts all over

Posted on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 9:19 AM

Legislature mum -`Washington legislators have failed to propose an alternative budget by a deadline set by Gov. Chris Gregoire. She may call a special December session before the regular session (which starts in January), but "I don’t want them to come in here and sit around; all that does is spend more money.” (SR)

60-Day Potato Diet coming to an end - Chris Voigt, head of the Washington State Potato Commission, plans to eat tacos, fajitas, fruit and a side of grilled potatoes after 60 days of eating potatoes for a promotional stunt. (KREM)

Students protest East Spokane Library closure - Students from Grant and Sheridan elementaries are protesting the closure of the library, which is imperiled by budget cuts. (KXLY)

Shelter closure leaves victims in danger - The Bonner County Daily Bee has an in-depth feature on the closure of a shelter that has protected victims of domestic violence for 13 years.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Brownesies, move your cars!

Posted on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 5:41 PM

The City of Spokane will be plowing Browne's Addition tomorrow and Wednesday and, unlike in other neighborhoods, they're not just urging you to move your cars so the plows can get through.

They really mean it. 

In a statement this morning, the city announced it would plow the north-south streets in Spokane's oldest (and possibly most cramped) neighborhood tomorrow (Tuesday), and then proceed to the east-west avenues on Wednesday.

Cars that remain in the plows' path will be towed.

After a ceaseless wave of plowing this weekend, many Spokane residents woke this morning to find their cars plowed in behind ridges of icy rubble. But at least they still had their cars (and shoveling-induced back aches).

Browne's residents won't be so lucky.

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'Honky Tonk Angels' continues at Interplayers

Posted on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 4:20 PM

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For the holidays, Interplayers is putting on a country-western musical with a Motown/gospel/hillbilly vibe. 

Honky Tonk Angels Holiday Spectacular continues through Dec. 11, and it's a sequel to last year's Honky Tonk Angels (which was neither holiday-related nor spectacular). 

This time around, I'm glad to report, there's a fourth Angel, a live band, actual costumes and an actual set. But that's because, as Reed McColm's director's notes reveal, last year's original show was thrown together in just 11 days.

Highlights from one of the first performance this weekend included Emily Cleveland singing "Coat of Many Colors," Marina Kalani belting out "Santa, Bring My Baby Back Home," and the entire quartet singing the show's final song, the Three Dog Night version of "Joy to the World." (Just try to ignore the between-songs patter.)

Watch for my full review on Inlander.com on Thursday.

Honky Tonk Angels Holiday Spectacular continues at Interplayers through Dec. 11 — Wed-Sat 7:30 pm, with 2 pm matinees on Dec. 4 and Dec. 10-11 • Director: Reed McColm • Musical director: Carolyn Jess • With Emily Cleveland, Jennifer Jacobs, Marina Kalani and Patrice Thompson • Tickets: $16-$22; $13-$20, seniors and military; $12, actors and teachers; $10, students • interplayers.com or 455-PLAY or 325-SEAT

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MORNING HEADLINES: Snow and other troubles

Posted on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Plowed in? - City of Spokane crews worked around the clock over the weekend, plowing residential streets in order to smooth the Monday morning commute. But many residents who didn't heed the city's call to move their cars woke to find them blocked in this morning. (KREM) 

There's more coming - Four to six more inches of snow are expected to begin falling tonight and early tomorrow. (KXLY)

Body found in Spokane River - Just days after officers prevented one man from leaping to his death from the Maple Street bridge, a body was found partially submerged in the duck pond at Riverfront Park. (KHQ)

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