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Best of the Inland Northwest 

Best Selling of the Sizzle

"Let's go to the Strato-Nimbulus 4000 Gyro-Matic Sky Scanner and set it in motion ... [Sweeping hand gestures. Shock.] Oh. My. God. Duck! It's bands of moisture, belts of vapor, southerly flows and the Mark of the Beast ... along with some patchy morning fog."

Why do our TV weather forecasts always seem so urgent? Even the news anchors gasp in unison, repeatedly astonished that it snows in winter: "How bad are the roads?" [Hands flutter. Shock.]

Face the truth: The weather here is mild. Mild, mild, mild, and has been for millennia. "Severe weather events are rare. For a forecaster, it's not as exciting a place as, say, the Midwest," says Ken Holmes, a National Weather Service meteorologist who watches the local TV weather each evening with interest and amusement. All the digitized gizmos are more about bells and whistles than they are about science and fact, he says, because the weather segment attracts advertisers and thus gets plenty of resources.

TV weather folks will earnestly say they do their darnedest to warn us of bad weather to prevent injuries and even save lives. [Moist eyes. Humble shrug.]

But persistently high accident numbers show alarmist forecasting has no effect on our rush-hour slip-and-slide. That happens because we're morons, which is another story altogether. Don't get us started.

— Kevin Taylor


Best Tom Waits Song Hidden in a Newspaper

Mr. Stormy Monday. A retired math tutor. Pants too long? We make advances! We'll scrub your bathroom! Get a fresh start.

Just like the thumping finger-snapping upright-bass line of an old Tom Waits song, the best damn newspaper read in North Idaho is full of found jazz scat lyrics. It's the Nickel's Worth. The weekly shopper started out as an alternative newspaper in 1972 to take on the power players who ran Coeur d'Alene. Now it's a paean to Everyman. "We had to stress advertising in order to survive. It kind of took over," editor Carol Stacey says.

Affordable welding. Beautify your home!

"I think of it as the poor man's Wall Street Journal," adds Stacey, who's been aboard for a three-decade ride with husband Martin. At the mini-mart in Athol, the Paul Bunyan in Coeur d'Alene, all the way to Pocatello, Idahoans snatch up the Nickel's Worth as soon as it hits the stands. Inside, there's a quirky mix of current events, opinion, serialized stories and theater reviews.

The columns of classified ads are not only a marketplace, but a finger on the pulse of an economy, a culture, a place: Trail horse, large. Cash for heirs? The big-bodied son of Mr. Roman Tico. A snowplow that comes with a '75 Suburban.

Professional road grading! Forty percent off retail process! Top prices paid. No job too small.

Benefit concert. Have truck will haul. No job too small. It'll make your week! No job too small.

— Kevin Taylor


Best Non-Motorized Vehicle of Expression

Even work is a workout for Jon Snyder. When we called to learn a bit about his magazine, Out There Monthly, he was out of breath. Scaling Rainier? Skiing Schweitzer? Turns out we caught him in the middle of a magazine delivery to Brooklyn Deli. Like most of his treks around town, he left the car at home.

When Snyder moved back to Spokane two years ago, after 15 years working on magazines in San Francisco, Denver and North Carolina, he realized that while there's a ton of non-motorized outdoor recreation here, no one was writing about it. He assures me he's "not anybody's Grizzly Adams," but he must have some kind of gut feeling for what outdoorsy folks want to know. Without any real marketing, his readership has more than tripled in the past two years, and it continues to grow.

Along with the kinds of articles you'd expect from a magazine that strives to be a local version of Outside magazine — features on climbing, skiing, hiking — Out There also devotes a lot of ink to highlighting ways to live a greener life. The March issue features stories on bicycle commuting, home composting and urban stormwater management. Then there's the focus on alternative health practices, like acupuncture and yoga. Wait a minute, since when does Spokane have a "creative class"?

Snyder doesn't seem concerned with labels. He's too busy spreading the word.

— Jessica Moll


Best Radio Underdog

It's progressive! It's diverse! It's non-corporate! It's KYRS 95.3, Thin Air Community Radio, and it's one of the best things we've heard on Spokane radio in years. More Underdog than Superman (at a mere 100 watts, it's nowhere near as powerful as a speeding locomotive), it runs on volunteer DJs and your generous donations. In 1999, Thin Air was merely a gleam in the eye of Spokane tree-huggers and leftie social justice types, aroused by the FCC come-ons to open up the airwaves to low-power FM stations. KYRS went on the air in 2003, bringing hip-hop, funk and gospel to the startled masses. Ditto the public affairs, foreign language, and cultural programming. Bow down, corporate meanies! Power to the people! (SS)


Best Idea That Hasn't Really Caught On

We were as excited as anyone when craigslist arrived in Spokane at the end of 2004. At long last, we thought. The no-frills community bulletin board, which allows users to post free ads online and sell and buy pretty much anything, has become the hallmark of a thriving city in the last five years. But despite an uptick in usage around the middle of 2005, Spokane still hasn't really taken to craigslist yet. While the housing and "for sale" services seem to be picking up, the discussion forums are gathering dust, the jobs board is barren — even the usually scathing "rants and raves" board hasn't risen above bickering and the occasional anti-Stephanie Vigil tirade in Spokane. It's too bad. (We blame MySpace.) (JPS)


Best TV Celebrity You Probably Didn't Know Was Broadcasting From Spokane

She's on 144 public television stations across the United States and Canada. There are viewing parties held all over the nation to watch her show. She gets stopped in airports by fans who tell her that she changed their lives. She's Mary Ann Wilson, the star and creator of Sit and Be Fit — the hit PBS show that's filmed at KSPS on Spokane's South Hill. Twenty years ago, Wilson, a registered nurse, created a fitness regimen for seniors recovering from an illness or injury or who are just moderately active. The result? Sitting and watching TV was never the same again, as millions followed her lead to longer, healthier lives. Pull up a chair and check it out weekdays at 11:30 am on KSPS. (TSM)


Best New Trend for Crusty Old Newscasters to Make Parents Hysterical About

Yes, parents, creepy old men may be stalking your daughters on MySpace.com. But what's just as true, and what the media often fails to acknowledge, is all the good things that MySpace is doing for the young and hip — here and everywhere. A recent unofficial count showed there are 20,000 MySpace users within a 10-mile radius of the 99201 zip code. That's about 10 percent of Spokane's population. Inland Northwesterners are using MySpace to keep in touch with close and distant friends. To flirt with that guy they saw in the bar last night, or strike up a long-distance romance. MySpace gives local bands a national stage and local filmmakers a bigger screen. Creeps started calling your daughter when they invented the telephone, too. Get used to it. (JPS)


Best Foot Soldiers for Media Democracy

For a small-market city, Spokane's local media outlets sure take themselves seriously. Just look at Review editor Steve Smith, who seems to have crowned himself journalism's savior in the wake of his paper's controversial coverage of the Jim West scandal. Or try to watch the laughably straight-faced anchors of the evening news. With so much hubris in the air, we're thankful for local blogs like Remi1000, Spokurban and SpoVegas, whose urban-minded authors scrutinize Spokane's goings-on without a whiff of priggishness and without pulling their punches (the former has upbraided The Inlander more than once). Even better, perhaps, is Metro(spo-kan'), a forward-thinking blog that frequently offers more insightful analysis on downtown development than the Review or the Journal of Business. Or us. Which is awesome. (JPS)


Best Heaping Plate of Tasty Radio Vegetables

"We want people to eat their vegetables," KPBX/KSFC news guy Doug Nadvornick likes to say. And that's what Spokane Public Radio serves up: piping hot classical music, soul-satisfying tofu chunks of local news, rib-sticking NPR staples like Morning Edition and All Things Considered, spicy veggie stew like The Nacho Celtic Hour and the ambrosial This American Life. (For the love of Ira, give it a decent time slot, guys!) No shrieking Morning Zoo, no venomous Sean Hannity or out-of-his-gourd Bill O'Reilly — nothing to make you lose your lunch. This is radio that tastes good — and it's good for you, too. Now pass the organic, whole-grain zucchini bread, would you? (SS)


Best Waste of a Phone Line

Come on, people. Quit your kvetching. Yes, we all have our pet peeves. It's annoying when people leave their shopping carts in the middle of the parking lot, or you burn your tongue on your coffee while driving over a pothole. But complaining on KREM's "What Makes You Mad?" series isn't exactly making the world a better place, either. Instead of adding negative karmic energy to the universe, why not think about what brings you happiness? In the words of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn, "What's not wrong?" Take a deep breath and look around. You might even add a few years to your life. And subtract a few from this waste of our precious evening hours. (JM)


Best Six-Minute Informercial Masquerading as News

You know when a performer is bombing so badly that you get a case of sympathetic flop sweat just watching them? That's KHQ's Six Questions with Dan Kleckner. It's no different with Stephanie Vigil. Here's the drill: Dan/Steph cozies up to Newsmaker A (Marshall Chesrown, Don Barbieri, whoever) and lobs cream puff questions. Newsmaker A responds inanely/pompously/fatuously, and voila! Six minutes you'll never get back. Don't make the naive mistake of viewing this as journalism — it'll bring on either the aforementioned flop sweat or bulging veins on your forehead. Instead, think of it as a news infomercial, where we all win a prize, and the ending's always happy. And everyone's hair looks great. (SS)

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