Thursday, March 31, 2011

Posted on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 4:07 PM

The old YMCA building in Riverfront Park is coming down. Right now.

Crews are out with a wrecking ball, slowly pounding the 1960s-era building to dust. There hasn't been this much excitement in Riverfront Park since King Cole brought in the hippies for Expo!

Here's some video we shot earlier today: 

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Posted on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Rape at Interplayers, incest at the Civic, adultery and kinky mind games at Lake City — who says our local theaters don't take on topics that make prudes frown?

So why should you go see Race at Interplayers? It's about what really goes on in the minds of black men and women as they deal with privileged white men (and vice versa). It's not a whodunit, but a did-he-do-it? (We know who he is all along.) It's a David Mamet play. It's directed by Marilyn Langbehn, formerly of Spokane Civic Theater, who came up here from her job at the Bay Area's California Shakespeare Theater just for the opportunity to hear actors cuss like drunken sailors.

It features a quartet of talented actors with lots of experience in this area: David Casteal and Kevin Partridge as the legal partners, Nike Imoru as their new associate, and Patrick Treadway as the rich man who stands accused of raping a black woman. Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, with weekend matinees. Tickets: $10-$22. The show closes April 16.

Here's Marilyn Langbehn with a sneak preview: 

---Sure, Metamorphoses is the play with the swimming pool, but do they really need the water for all the ancient Greek tales of love and revenge and generosity and incest and pride? After you see the strobe-light storm and burial at sea, and the parent reunited with child cavorting around, and the sacrilegious guy being dunked and nearly drowned and coming up for air, and Apollo's bratty sun lounging on an inflatable raft, you'll say yes. Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm at the Civic's downstairs Studio Theater. Tickets: $21. Read a preview. Watch a slide show

The modernized/sexy/creepy/feminist stage adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, directed by George Green, closes this weekend at Coeur d'Alene's Lake City Playhouse: Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm. Read a review. (Photo: Jillian Kramer as Hester Prynne and Loretta Underwood as Pearl)

Two kids, bread crumbs and a witch: It's closing weekend for Spokane Children's Theatre presentation of Hansel and Gretel — Sat 1 pm and 4 pm, closes Sun 1 pm at SFCC's Spartan Theater, Bldg. 5, 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr.

Check out the Blue Door Theatre Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 9 pm in the Garland District: Comedy served hot 'n' spicy, right out of the improv oven. Friday nights in April bring Poets Up, in which hacks will compose rhyming stuff, right on the spot. All for the price of a movie.

A play about nurses who served during the Vietnam War, A Piece of My Heart, will be performed readers theater-style as part of Spokane's Big Read 2011 on Thurs, April 7, at 7 pm at Whitworth's Weyerhaeuser Hall.

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Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Seeking a big honking Easter basket full of WTF for this glorious spring holiday season? Here’s Hop, a bizarre mishmash of animation and live action covered in a hard candy shell of incoherence and crassness. It’s not exactly Willy Wonka-esque, but it’s trying to be. Fred, ahem, O’Hare (James Marsden) would like to be the Easter Bunny. And the new Easter Bunny (the voice of Russell Brand) would prefer not to be. Cue mayhem and the shitting of jelly beans. Seriously. (MJ) Rated PG | SHOWTIMES

The house is haunted. No, the kid is haunted. But the kid is comatose. Maybe he’s both comatose and haunted. I’ll tell ya who’s going to be haunted for the rest of their lives because they starred in this ParaPolterNormalGeist knockoff: Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Angels in America) and Rose Byrne (Damages, 28 Weeks Later). Meanwhile, the official website of Insidious is offering, as “documentation,” doctored photos and fake audiotapes. Not scary. (MB) Rated PG-13 | SHOWTIMES

On a fast-moving train, Captain Colter Stevens jolts awake. There’s this woman who seems to know him, but she keeps calling him Sean. Then the train explodes. Then he’s in some weird science lab, and they’re telling him that he has to go back, stop the bomber and save the train — over and over and over again. Jake Gyllenhaal has the frantic-hero thing goin’ on, and director Duncan Jones once again brings us sci-fi spookery (just as he did with the lonely guy on a lunar base in Moon). (ES) Rated PG-13 | SHOWTIMES

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Posted on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Local bibliophiles continue to laser in on Tim O'Brien before his April 16 appearance here as part of Get Lit! For more details, visit and

Book Discussion
Tonight from 7-9 pm

Discuss Tim O'Brien's Vietnam War novel, The Things They Carried, at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore just east of the Spokane Valley Mall.

Book Discussion
Sunday, April 3, from 5-6:30 pm
EWU students will discuss O'Brien's novel.
Morrison Hall, EWU campus, Cheney

Book Discussion
Tuesday, April 5, from 6-8 pm
Military personnel will discuss O'Brien's novel at Fairchild Air Force Base.
FAFB Library

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Wednesday, April 6, from 6:30-8:30 pm
This film documentary is based on the experiences of soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Moran Prairie Library, 6004 S. Regal St.

A Piece of My Heart
Thursday, April 7, from 7-9 pm
Shiro Lauro's drama — the most frequently produced play about the Vietnam War — will be performed readers-theater style at Whitworth University. It's about women who served as nurses in-country.
Whitworth, Weyerhaeuser Hall, 300 W. Hawthorne Rd.

Book Discussion
Monday, April 11, from 6:30-8:30 pm
Discuss O'Brien's novel; open to the public.
South Hill Library, 3324 S. Perry St.

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Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 8:16 AM

Your milk moustache won't glow — When we write "extremely low levels of radiation found in Washington milk," it's understandable that you'd only see "radiation found in Washington milk" and completely freak out. Don't. There is absolutely no way this milk could be bad for your health, unless your roommate leaves it sitting out on the counter for three weeks and then you try to drink it. That's gross. (KREM)

Prison is a dangerous place — Airway Heights Corrections Center guards still want the sort of protections that could save their lives. They were promised them back in January. They're still waiting. (SR)

What makes a bombmaker tick? — KXLY filed a motion in court asking feds to unseal the information about Kevin Harpham, the alleged Martin Luther King Day bomb-maker.  (KXLY)

CIA classic — It's been a while since the CIA publicly flew over to other countries to help rebels in their attempt to overthrow their regime. But I bet it's just like riding a bike, and they picked it right back up no problem. (NYT)

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Slow, realistic character development is one thing that serialized televisioncan do better than almost any other medium. Plays and movies are too short — you only get the Cliff Notes version of their arc. A novel can describe a way a characterchanges, but it can't truly show it: It can only signify physicaldifferences, while actors can actually show what the transformation looks like visually.

Of course, television is full of awful character development, whereinteresting multi-dimensional characters turn into obnoxious one-sided ones. Thewisecracking villain turns into awhiny, castrated creepy love interest. The kind Christian neighbor turns intoa raving fundamentalist.

But here, I've collected five examples — no more than one per series — of thebest character transformations on television. Extreme spoilers ahead.

(You may complain about the lack of females. Well, TV writers, most of who are men, need to write better female character arcs.)

Hank Schrader – Breaking Bad

From swaggering to stumbling

"Asshole macho cop" isn't exactly a unique character type. And that's what Hank was in his first season. He was simply a way to emasculate the main character (his chemistry teacher brother, Walter White) and not much more. But a turtle changed all that.

On assignment with the DEA, Hank runs across the severed head of an informantstuck to a turtle. He leaves to vomit, the rest of his team is blown up by C4 charge. From there,Hank's fear cracks through his swagger. His obsession with catching this mysterious meth dealer becomes less about doing his job and more about avoiding his responsibility, about reclaiming his masculinity. When an attempted assassination temporarily deprives him of his ability to walk,Hank grows even more complicated — a mix of frustration, obsession, despair, inadequacy and anger. It's only a matter of time before he discovers his brother is the meth mastermind. When that happens, expect Hank's character to become even more interesting.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce — Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel

From poncey British klutz to bitter badass

For years, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spinoff Angel, Wesley was a dope. Even his name, "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce," alludes to his character, a bumbling, naïve Brit more Wooster than Jeeves. Here'show he's described in the script for the first episode he appears in: "Young, not bad looking, but a bit full of himself. Thinks he's Sean Connery when he's pretty much George Lazenby." He was supposed to be killed off a few episodes in, but the writers took a liking to his "curious humour."

So we laugh when, in the first season of Angel, the motorcycle-driving, leather-jacket clad "Rogue Demon Hunter" rolling into town, turns out to be just goofy ol' incompetent Wesley.

But TV characters, even disposable ones, can change dramatically. Events change people. Like unrequited love. Like being compelled to do horrible things for the greater good. Like having your friends abandon you. Like being tortured by your former pupil. Like getting your throat cut. Over around 125 episodes, he morphs from pompously silly to determined to frustrated to obsessive to bitter to frightening to self-destructive to, finally, redeemed.

Four seasons in, and this former by-the-book brown-noser is having sex with one villainous woman, and holding another woman prisoner in a closet with only a bucket for a toilet. Then, famously, he threatens to take away her bucket.

From there it's all gravely voices and trench-coats and dual-wielded pistols. The demon hunter, now a credible threat to even the biggest baddie, went rogue. He learns to control his darker side, but the scars — on his soul and his throat — remain.

Over six years he appeared on Buffy and Angel, he transforms from the series' lightest comic relief to its darkest avatar of despair. In a way, Wesley's arc is the summation of the point of the series – recognizing that the fight against evil is brutal, painful and truly hopeless. And that's why you should fight anyway.

Benjamin Linus – Lost

From puppeteer to puppet

Benjamin Linus, could have had an awful character arc. Whenever you seek to humanize a villain, you risk defanging him, making him a less interesting character. Thanks in large part to Emerson's eerie performance, that never happened. At first Ben was a master of manipulation. He was Lost's Iago, able to cause chaos and destruction with just a few key choice words.

But as he's brought into the fold of the Lost survivors, as his allies are decimated, we begin to see his other side: The deep insecurity that drives him. The fact that he doesn't really have a plan, that he — like theLost viewers — just has faith in vague powers that he doesn't really understand. By the final season, he's being manipulated, pathetically, by some of the same people that he used to control. Ben loses his mojo, but in doing so his character gained all the more depth. Sawyer had a subtler character arc, sure. But Ben's was far more fascinating.

Tommy Carcetti – The Wire

From idealist to narcissist

For most of the characters in The Wire, their cynicism and idealism was one side of a Mobius strip. Our "heroes" cloaked the good they did in sneers and smirks and eye-rolls, while the "villains" clearly laid out the pragmatic, practical reasons for murders and such. It's all in the game, yo.

But mayoral candidate Tommy Carcetti, fresh-faced, passionate, bubbling with charisma, looked to be different. Enough, he said from his campaign lectern. Enough with juking the stats, enough with the city's decay, enough with corrupt bureaucrats! He was hope wrapped in change wrapped in a charming smile. Besides being unfaithful to his wife (no big deal for the Wire) he seemed the exception to the rule. In keeping with The Wire's skepticism, you'd expect him to lose, to be defeated by the institution, by the cynics and hacks.

Instead, something worse happened: Carcetti won. He brought his rhetoric to bear on the city's problems … but then, he too was co-opted in a way, trading away money to rebuild Baltimore for a chance to run for governor. Here, The Wire, so much about the destructive nature of systems instead of personalities, veered differently with Carcetti's character's development. The city of Baltimore was seduced by Carcetti's charisma — and so was he. Carcetti began to believe that Carcetti could solve everything if Carcetti could only rise high enough. His ambition became a means to, well, further ambition.

Did he ever truly believe his rhetoric? We never find out.

Through Carcetti's character development we see a more interesting interpretation of cynicism in The Wire's thesis. Sometimes idealistic goals aren't crushed by bureaucrats or bullets. They're discarded, exchanged for shinier pursuits.

The other employees — The Office

From extras to show-stealers

One of the best innovations of The Office: With a few exceptions (Jenna Fischer, say) the cast isn't very attractive. They look like average people who work in average offices. Some of them — Toby, Ryan — are actually writers on the show. Phyllis was actually a casting agent before she was brought onto the show. And for the first season, that's all they were: signifiers of the drudgery of an office. The show was about Jim and Pam, Dwight and Michael.

But when the second season opened, they began to do something the British version never did: give the rest of the cast personality. So when Jim and Pam's relationship became dishwater-dull, when Michael and Dwight became unrealistically cartoony, the show survived because of the rest of the cast. We could always count on Kevin's dopey smile, Oscar's arrogant insistence on minutia, Stanley's frustrated aloofness, Angela's simmering repressed anger, Phyllis's sweetness, Ryan's new-media idiocy, Kelly's perky passion for celebrity gossip, or Creed's frightening non-sequiturs. Too many sitcoms focus on their core cast. But, in comedy, the great development happens on the edges.That's where investment in a true ensemble happens. A good thing too, considering their big star is leaving.

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Posted on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 1:33 PM

Each Wednesday on Bloglander, we give you a taste of happy hours going on at bars around town that night. (Read previous posts.)

Whiskey Dick's, in north Spokane, celebrates happy hour from noon-5 pm. Specials include: $3.50 wells drinks, $6 micros, $5 domestics. 

Wingers, in Spokane Valley, serves up happy hour from 3-6 pm and 9 pm-close. Specials include half off appetizers and $4 Grateful Dead drinks.

Working Class Heroes, in north Spokane, ushers in happy hour from 3-6 pm. Specials include $3 wells drinks and $2.75 domestics.

Valhalla, in Pullman, celebrates happy hour from 4-9 pm. Specials include $6 pitches of Bush Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Rolling Rock; $3.25 micro pints; $2 wells drinks; $4 double wells drinks; $4 select appetizers and $4 French fries onion rings and chips and salsa.

Vin Rouge, on the South Hill, serves up happy hour from 2-5:30 pm. Specials include discounted appetizers, $2.50 select beers, $4 select glasses of red and white wine, $2.50 select beers. 

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Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 8:00 AM

The view from "it's better" — The Spokesman-Review's Shawn Vestal interviews Stranger columnist Dan Savage's partner (former Spokane native Terry Miller) about the "It Gets Better" project. Unsurprisingly, being a gay Shadle Park High School student in the 1980s wasn't easy. But (SPOILER) it got better. (SR)

No new jail — In one of the first issues of the year, Center for Justice's Rich Eichstaedt guessed that voters wouldn't pass the bond for a new jail. Voters won't get a chance. Commissioners want to delay the vote to "get it right." (KREM)

Smokeless Smokeless — Starting Thursday, minors won't be able to purchase electronic cigarettes in Spokane, Spokane Valley or Spokane County. (KXLY)

The sound of cricket — India and Pakistan, classically, hate each other. And since India has nuclear weapons, that's concerning. Perhaps, then, hope for a cooling of tension lies in the cricket game between the two countries. Good thing people rooting for opposing sports team don't get angry with each other, right? (Atlantic Wire)

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Posted on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 3:16 PM

"No group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians. It's because we have the treaties, we stole their land ... but 200 years later no group does worse."

This was the tenor of a segment on "Fox and Friends" last week where Fox News' John Stossel was wondering why there is a Bureau of Indian Affairs when there's no Bureau of Puerto Rican Affairs, or Irish Affairs.

The obtuse rhetorical questions have created groans of outrage from coast-to-coast in Indian Country and prompted Chief Allan, chairman of the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Council, to write a letter to Fox News president Roger Ailes demanding an apology from Stossel and the network.

"In a matter of minutes, Mr. Stossel made a series of misinformed and irresponsible statements that has insulted an entire population of Native Americans and highlighted his level of disrespect and misunderstanding toward Indians," Allan writes in his letter.

Neither Stossel nor the other Fox personalities in the segment are aware that, unlike other minorities or ethnicities, Indians have a unique relationship with the federal government through executive orders and treaties made as — often scant — compensation for land grabs, conquests and genocide.

Had Stossel been better informed, Allan writes, he may have learned "U.S. military campaigns ordered to forcibly remove Indians from those lands, did so with lies, deception and ultimately by slaughtering our men, women and children."

Tribes didn't ask for a Bureau of Indian Affairs, Allan writes, but notes many of its services have been crucial to Native American survival.

"The ignorance behind the statements made by John Stossel poured salt into the slowly healing wounds of Native America ..." Allan writes.

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Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Good stuff happening in DVDs this week kiddos. Music too, though it's more mixed. Videogames? Well, lets just say "Nascar." 


Black Swan
Natalie Portman is sexy crazy in this story of the pressures put on ballerinas by the world, and their crazy mothers. Read our review here. Rated R

Treme: Season 1
Though David Simon's second series hasn't gotten the gilded reviews of his first The Wire. People still fairly love Treme, the story of New Orleans rise (or lack thereof) from the floodwaters of Katrina. The main criticism is that it's painfully slow. The response, inevitably, is that it's like gumbo. Takes a while to stew, but eventually gets plenty spicy.

Mad Men: Season 4 
If you don't know what this is, you should check to see if your TV and Internet are set to 2005. 

The Ahhhhh-dorable tale of what Rapunzel does after she escapes that tower. Rated PG


All Eternals Deck | The Mountain Goats
If you're into weird-sounding, though emotionally prescient singer-songwriters, it's hard to go wrong with the Mountain Goats. This looks to be another solid entry.

Gimme Some | Peter Bjorn and John
In the five years since soft spoken Swedes broke into America with their excellent, understated Writer's Block, fans have been asking exactly the same thing as PB&J here: "gimme some" except, in our case, the statement ends with, "songs as good as the ones on your first album." Gimme Some is getting generally good reviews.

Femme Fatale | Britney Spears
Super crazy singer returns with songs that don't live up to her uniquely destructive personality. The best review calls it "an autopilot affair." The worst calls it, "an album of autotuned landfill chartpop which you will scour in vain for anything on a par with 'Womanizer'." Did it just get chilly in here?

Doggumentary | Snoop Dogg
The years have not been kind to Snoop Dogg. We'd like to tell you if that's the case here, but no one has yet been allowed to review this album. It's rare in pop music to keep critics away, but it happens a lot in Hollywood ... when films like Saw VI are made.

The King of Limbs | Radiohead
You already know what this is, but if you don't have it yet, it's now out on CD, if you still use those.


Great week for games if you're a redneck sports fan. Major platforms get WWE: Allstars and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 (though presumably without the most famous swing of Tiger's career, the one taken at his head by his soon to be ex-wife, Elin). PS3 and XBox get Nascar 2011.

The brand-spanking new Nintendo 3DS with its 3D-glasses-free screen churns out launch titles, which are received by critics with a near-unanimous "neat, but ..."


Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takuichi Fujii @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 16
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