Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Geriatrics vote. The youth don't care.

Posted on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 3:14 PM

One lesson coming out of last month's primary is this: Young people still couldn't give a shit about what happens in government. Even after Obama, the Tea Party and all the other random crap that's made politics — if not fun again — at least entertaining.

This simple fact was proven today by Secretary of State Sam Reed, whose office sent out a blog saying as much. In that blog, a handy spreadsheet broke down the vote by county, gender and age. Awesome.

So let's get down with the voter breakdown.

Almost 4,000 people below the age of 25 in Spokane County voted in last month's primary. That's only 3.5 percent of the ballots cast. Another 6,600 folks between the ages of 25 and 34 voted — just 5.9 percent. (The ladies outperformed the dudes in both age groups.)

Way to go, youth of America. You — and by you, I mean me, too, and a bunch of us here at The Inlander — let people over the age of 35 cast more than 90 percent of the votes

And not to scare you or anything, but as the age groups get progressively older, its members' love of voting grows. So does the group's power over you. (Because you're not voting!)

The group with the greatest civic participation? Those 65 and older. More than 38,000 geriatric citizens voted. More than three of them voted for every one person younger than 35.

So, prepare yourself for the Great Tea Party flood.

Just saying. 

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Weigh in on transportation tonight

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 2:49 PM

If you’ve ever sighed at transportation issues in Spokane and muttered to yourself “Well if I had a say, things would be different around here," today is your time to shine. From 4 pm to 6 pm the Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC) will host an open-door meeting at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310, to allow the public to offer opinions for the 4-Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) draft for the years 2011-2014.

The SRTC focuses on making transportation to, around, and from Spokane County easier for everyone. They work based off of four-year plans (as opposed to the more common five-year plan) to ensure that improvements are up-to-date and cohesive with everything that’s happening/progressing in Spokane. These four-year plans are The TIP.

Now is your chance, I stress again, to voice your comments and complaints to the people who can do something about it instead of your friends who sympathize but can’t actually do anything at all to help your cause.

Are you a car owner who has suggestions about routes and roads? Are you a transit rider who is unhappy with routes and schedules? Maybe you’re just plain uncertain about everything going on with Spokane transportation in general. They’re giving you an opportunity to get answers to your questions and feedback on your criticism; it’s your job to take it. Speak now or for four years hold your peace.

If you are unable to attend the meeting today, they are accepting comments via email, at, through October 8th.

If you’re interested in a more comprehensive explanation of the quadrennial TIP or the SRTC in general, check out

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Let's Fix: "The Event"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:46 PM

"Let's Fix" is a semi-regular feature in which I, a newbie TV critic who's never constructed a coherent work of narrative fiction (assuming we don't count my "SuperDaniel" stories in second grade), tell professional veteran show-runners how to fix the art they've spent their lives perfecting. You're welcome, seasoned professionals.

The Event is a mess. Sometimes it's a glorious mess. Most of the time it's an embarrassing mess. But somewhere within the primordial stew of narrative chaos, of 15 different competing premises, of madcap time jumps, an adequate show could miraculously emerge.

You doubt me. If The Event was a shy mousy girl with her hair up and glasses, you would bet me large amounts of money that there's no way I could turn her into Homecoming Queen by the time the "Memories Under The Stars" dance rolls around in October. You may be right. But I believe every show, no matter how messed up, can improve. It can self-actualize, becoming the best little show it could possibly be.

Here are some ways that could happen.

1. Answer the big questions. Now.

What is The Event? You know, the one referred to in The Event

Tip for successful television: If you're trying to set up a big mystery for the season, "What is the Show About" is not a good mystery to begin with.

Mystery works well for movies. Set up the question, give us rising action, throw in a few twists, and then give us the answer. Roll credits. But mystery is problematic for an ongoing television series. Once we find out who killed Laura Palmer or the woman on Wisteria Lane, the rest of the show seems a little... anticlimactic.

Mystery is a foolish foundation to build a serialized show on. Because once it's gone, your show crumbles. And the longer you go without answering that mystery, the bigger the anticlimax when we finally answer the big questions. Nobody wants the punchline to the series-long joke to be "The Aristocrats!"

The Event should immediately answer the pressing questions, the ones that can give some much-needed narrative direction. They should take a cue from the fellow underrated crazy sci-fi drama The 4400, which answered its "what's happening" question in the first season and then proceeded to react to that revelation. The 4400 is a template for how The Event can succeed. Flash Forward is a template for how a show like The Event can fail.

A crazy genre show like this relies on movement.  They need a direction to run in first. It can't be "Figure out the thing, whatever the thing is." And it can't be "find my missing girlfriend, Mindy McGuffin, wherever she is!"

2) Give the characters character. By now, it's a cliche to say that great stories are about characters, and not answering questions to mysteries. This leaves out, of course, the crucial nature of plot, vision, and dialogue — all of which are more important than whatever convoluted Wikipedia-ready back story the creators come up with. ---

But interesting characters are the one element that can make a show watchable when all other elements fail. In a popcorn genre show, therefore, iconic characters provide about 75 percent of the entertainment. So it's disappointing to see Blair Underwood — so interesting and textured on In Treatment, play President Bland Palmer here. 

We don't need Breaking Bad-level nuanced characters here. I don't believe The Event has the subtlety to pull that off. Instead, we need the best scenery-chewing character actors to play slightly-ridiculous roles. Bring us your Peter Stomares, your Ian McShanes, your Dylan Bakers, your William Fichtners. 

Prison Break, Con Air, and Armageddon all rose to "guilty pleasures" because of the fun — and yeah, a little broad — character-acting. The Event should do the same.

3) Stop the time skips. Somewhere, in some editors backroom, some outline floating around, there's a version of The Event that goes chronologically. But now, it's been turned into one of those "Put the Panels in Orders" comics from Highlights for Children. It's a mishmash. In Bank Gothic (a champion among fonts) the screen repeatedly tells us SIX MONTHS EARLIER or THREE YEARS PREVIOUS or FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO or IN THE YEAR 2525. There are a half-dozen such time switches during each episode.

The result is narrative motion sickness. One flashback is bad enough for narrative coherence and maintaining tone and tension. Six interlocking ones are worse. Stick to two time periods — or fewer — in a single episode, and you might just be able to tell an actual story.

4. Tone down the score. There's a scene in The Event's second episode where a hospital worker receives a phone call saying the man lying on the hospital bed — the protagonist — is a wanted murderer. The audience knows this is a lie, but the woman at the hospital does not. It should be a scene of hold-your-breath tension. But the score pumps in ominous FEEL THE FEELING OF MOUNTING DREAD music. Exactly the wrong scoring for a scene where suspense is aided by the quiet. So many shows trample on their own emotional scenes by blasting feel-this music, and The Event is one of the worst offenders.  

5. Try not to interrupt a chase scene through a hospital for a meandering flashback of the guy being chased flirting with a girl five years ago at a swimming pool. That is all.

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Baconating Kevin Bacon (for charity)

Posted on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:08 PM

We here at Inlander HQ always knew Kevin Bacon was delicious, but now someone's gone to questionable lengths to objectively prove the point. J&D's Foods, makers of the (in)famous Bacon Salt, commissioned a bacon bust of the edibly-named actor from artist* Mike Lahue.

But lest you think this is merely the manifestation of some silly dream by dedicated bacon-heads (or bacon-Bacon-heads), it's actually being done for a good cause. They're auctioning off Bacon Kevin Bacon, along with extras like an official BKB carrying case and some disturbingly adorable BaconPeople, with all proceeds going to Ashley's Team, a nonprofit that focuses on bringing joy to children with cancer. Even though J&D and Ashley's Team are both Seattle-based, we're willing to look past that shortcoming (especially since some of the meat-addled minds behind J&D are WSU grads).

I'm not 100 percent sure on the rules for this, but I think owning some bacon-on-Bacon art makes you the automatic winner of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, not to mention making you "the coolest person you will ever know, a champion of the underground meat sculpture movement" (as per the auction listing). Bid away, b(B)acon-lovers!

* I can find no evidence either proving or disproving the claim that Lahue solely uses meats as his media. But, to be honest, I didn't really look that hard.
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Posted on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 8:50 AM

Hotcha! Dust off your bikini. It's gonna be 80 freaking degrees this weekend. (SR)

Not such a wonderful world Spokane police arrest a man relating to the death of a one-year-old child. (KREM) 

Pissed son of a pastor The son of Wayne Scott Creach, who was killed last month by sheriff's deputies, called on the Spokane Valley City Council to quit contracting with the sheriff's office for policing services. (SR) 

If you prick a corporation, does it not bleed? That's a question for the Supreme Court. (Atlantic Wire) 

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Books for your cocktail-party quiver

Posted on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 3:15 PM

You don't actually need to read any of these books. You just need to know about them — so the next time somebody name-drops an author, you can conversationally fire right back.

Recent and upcoming releases ... nothin' but the gist, ma'am:

Zero History, by William Gibson (Putnam Adult, Sept. 7)
Gibson coined the term "cyberspace" 26 years ago. This one's about spying, surveillance and hacking in the fashion world.

The Widower's Tale, by Julia Glass (Pantheon, Sept.7)  
In the Boston suburbs, a crusty old retired librarian allows his aimless daughter to establish a preschool on his property in her long-dead mother's dance studio. Meanwhile, Percy's favored grandson has fallen in with ecoterrorists. And his other daughter may be a famous oncologist, but she's also a workaholic. Multiple plots lingers and interweave.

Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception, by Charles Seife (Viking Adult, Sept. 23) 
When attendance at a political rally (to take one example) is exaggerated to emphasize the vitality of a particular point of view, statistics become even worse than damn lies — they become premeditated, democracy-undermining lies.

Obama's Wars, by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 27)  
Kathleen Parker (of Parker & Spitzer) had a recent column wondering how Woodward became journalist-in-chief, and how his snooping around the West Wing may well influence history as it happens (in this case, the deliberations over how to get out of Afghanistan).

By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham (FSG, Sept. 28) 
An artsy Manhattan couple's lives are disrupted by the arrival of the wife's drug-addict younger brother, who kinda-sorta would like to dabble in the arts, just as soon as he stops being happy and carefree.

Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press, Oct. 5) 
Another biography of our first president?! And it's 928 pages long, even if it is by the same man who has written acclaimed biographies of J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton. But Chernow has surprises: young Washington as a ballroom dancer and would-be lover of a married woman; Washington as manager of many a Founding Father's ego; Washington as slave master.

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THIS JUST OUT: Too-controversial-for-its-own-good edition

Posted on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 10:02 AM

Lonely Avenue, Ben Folds & Nick Hornby

The ambassadors of hipsterdom to their specific media type (music and novels/novels-turned-into-movies about music, respectively) collaborated for this much-anticipated recording, each bringing their talents to one side of the musical equation. Ben Folds certainly sounds like Ben Folds, while Nick Hornby's lyrics are distinctively his ("You know what hope is/Hope is a bastard/Hope is a liar/A cheat and a tease").

It's an enjoyable listen, if not technically sock-blowing. By the time you get to the third track, "Levi Johnston's Blues," you'll know you've made a purchase worth keeping on the "Recently Played" auto-playlist in iTunes. But really, the most important thing you need to know is they have a song about me. No, really! The first track, "A Working Day," goes "Some guy on the 'net thinks I suck/And he should know, he's got his own blog." I have a blog on the Internet and think lots of things suck! But your psychic abilities aren't quite as honed as you'd like to think, Ben Folds. I don't think you suck (this time). Once again, I am triumphant. Victory lap around the Internet, everybody!

  • World Gone Crazy, The Doobie Brothers — It's retro week at This Just Out, and we're kicking things off old-school. Old, old, old, old, old, old school.
  • Invented, Jimmy Eat World — "Consistent" can be a good thing (if you're on the receiving end of William Tell's arrow), or a bad one ("consistently psychotic" is not marriageable material). In this case, it's good.
  • Going Back, Phil Collins — The title refers to Phil Collins "going back" to his Motown roots, not "going back" to the vile pits from whence he emerged. Sadly*.
  • Making Monsters, Combichrist — … I don't think I'm allowed to make this joke.
  • Legend Recognize Legend, Lazerbeak — I know you probably think I just chose this because of the album cover. But that's not true; the album cover is lame, the band's name is what sold me. It's still pretty sweet music, though. Check it.

Family Guy's "Partial Terms of Endearment"

Oh, Family Guy. I don't know why you put yourselves through the pain of making controversial episodes that would never air on network television but garner plenty of publicity for the inevitable DVD release. It's almost like you do it on purpose or something. But you would never do that, right Family Guy? You'd never sell out. This one-episode release is the "BANNED FROM TV" episode "Partial Terms of Endearment" that discusses abortion. It's difficult to figure out exactly why Fox refused to air the episode, as the abortion stuff — though stupid and unfunny — didn't seem all that controversial.

It's pretty much just a standard episode: Peter's kind of dumb, most of the cutaways are baffling (the Special Catalympics featuring slow-witted cats was particularly apropos of nothing) and sometimes even the writers forget what the setup for the non sequiturs are*. Heck, the most offensive part of the episode was when Peter dressed in a Nazi uniform in order to create a porno scene, which had little if anything to do with abortions. The DVD also includes extras like downloadable songs and Seth MacFarlane's latest attempt to either launch his own variety show or his career as a Vegas lounge singer** ("Seth and Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show"). Diehard Family Guy fans will probably snatch it up either way, but the rest of us can wait for it on Netflix. After we've watched everything else and disc two of Night Court has a weeklong delay.

  • Get Him To The Greek — I feel the same way about Russell Brand as I do about Justin Bieber, simple trigonometry and pay-cable; I just don't get it.
  • Exit Through The Gift Shop — The definition of "documentary" has been on the decline since Michael Moore started making them, but Joaquin Phoenix finally broke it. Luckily, it doesn't matter if ETTGS is "real" from a story standpoint. It's still worth a watch. ---
  • Iron Man 2 — Personally, I'd rather just go watch Iron Man twice. But to each his own, I guess.
  • Babies — To me, children are like home movies: They're only interesting if they're yours. Apparently, when you combine the two, it's a worldwide hit. But I think I'll just stick to my original hypothesis, thanks just the same.

Dead Rising 2 (X360, PS3, PC)

Finally, the video game that actually made the XBOX 360 worth buying gets a sequel. Too bad Microsoft wasn't smart/greedy enough to lock it in as an exclusive this time around (though I doubt it was for lack of trying). The sequel has improved on its predecessor in some respects — instead of going around taking pictures (apparently the developers didn't learn from Pokemon Snap), you can now combine items using duct tape, which is about 113 percent more awesome than it sounds (lightsabers, anyone?).

The constant pressure of the clock can be annoying, especially to a generation of gamers reared on Grand Theft Auto-style open-sandbox gameplay; the clock feels (and is, really) an artificial way of keeping the pressure on. Still, the game is loads of fun, and you can always save, ignore the mission and just tool around on a zombie-killing spree. There's even some excellent social commentary on what people will do without the safe restraints of polite civilization — the answer to that question is, like the mutilated remains of a zombie who got too close to the chainsaw-and-kayak-oar combo you duct-taped together, not pretty.

  • FIFA Soccer 11 (PS3, X360, PSP, PS2, NDS) — Oh boy! A virtual rendition of a sport primarily composed of running around! That's like making a video game about playing a musical instrument that requires almost as much skill as playing the actual instrument.
  • Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (PS3, X360, Wii) — At some point, the fad has to die out? Right? Right? Oh, yeah. American Idol. Nevermind.
  • Sid Meier's Pirates! (Wii) — I don't mind telling you, my fraternity was obsessed with Pirates back in college. When it first came out on PC. Six years ago.
  • Greg Hastings' Paintball 2 (X360) — I don't get it. If parents aren't going to allow violent video games in the house, they're probably banning toy guns and things, too. But paintball's somehow going to slip by? That'd be like a parent forbidding the kid to own a BB gun, but Airsofts are OK because "it's plastic!"
  • Battle VS Chess (X360, PS3) — I don't know why it's called Battle VERSUS Chess. it's not like you're fighting your chess pieces for control, and the winner gets to stay in the real world while the loser is banished to the depths of the game until they can best a human player. Though that would be pretty cool.
* I keed, I keed. I loved the soundtrack to Tarzan. Almost as much as I love Brendan Fraser (wrong man-raised-by-apes, I know, but bear with me).

** The setup was Peter saying, "It's a life-changing decision‚ like an Italian deciding to get glasses." We then cut to a Guido in jeans and a white T-shirt reading an eye chart. "Ay! Oh! Oh! Oh! Ay! Oh! Oh!" he yells, reading the "AOOAOO" line ... meaning the joke was that Italians say "Ay!" and "Oh!" a lot. Get it? Get it?! Then please, explain it to me.

*** Deep down, I think he harbors a desire to be Frank Sinatra. Although, uncoincidentally, Fox didn't air this show because it was (SURPRISE!) "too controversial." Guess how controversial it actually was†. Go on, guess.
  • † Not very.

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MORNING HEADLINES: Broke, unmarried and stuck in traffic

Posted on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 8:42 AM

Go around On my bike commute into work this morning, I was yelled at by a construction worker. Apparently, I got in the way. Well, not as in the way as they are on Second Avenue at both Monroe and Lincoln streets, both of which are closed today due to repaving. And all week, entire intersections will be closed. Jeez, y'all. When are you done? Oh, right. November. (KREM)

The Thunderdome Spokane County Commissioners will likely confirm tonight where they want to place the proposed new jail. After months and years of blah-blah-blah, higher-ups picked a beautiful spot in Medical Lake, right on Interstate 90. Expect a big (dissenting) crowd at this meeting, even though no public testimony will be allowed. (SR) 

You don't have to turn on the red light Or the camera that's attached to them, 'cause I run red lights all the time. The Spokane City Council voted last night to extend the city's Photo Red program through November 2013. The program is credited with issuing 14,500 citations since its inception in 2008. At $124 a pop, that's $1.8 million in traffic fines. Yowza! (KXLY) 

We're broke, got it Surprise! The Census Bureau says Idaho and Washington residents are poorer than last time they checked. (SR) 

Will you not marry me? And other Census numbers show young folks aren't tying the knot like they used to. Why? Because love is dead... or something about women in the work force, formal unions other than marriage, and other not-as-dramatic stuff. (WSJ) 

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Monday, September 27, 2010

CITY HALL EYEBALL: The Valley gets scammed!

Posted on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 3:17 PM

Welcome to another round-up of what's hot — and what's not — in local governing.

Police Jumpsuits? $81,000. One medium-voltage motor control center for Well Electric Pump No. 1? $50,125. Contract with Mountain States Electrical Contractors, Inc. to install generators and whatnot? $206,530. Attending the Spokane City Council meeting tonight to see if they approve the above spending? No value whatsoever.

Seriously, though, not much happening at City Hall tonight, unless you're really into knowing how the city invests our money. Wait a minute… they better be investing in Apple, because I hear its products are the cat's pajamas.

Much more exciting is the Board of County Commissioners of Spokane County, Washington, regardless of the name. First, the commissioners will vote again on giving more money to the beleaguered raceway. How much this time, commissioners? Oh, OK, here's another $1.8 million. Don't blow it all in one spot!

The board will also consider changing the zoning for the proposed new awesome jail in Medical Lake. The site is currently zoned as Rural Traditional (meaning cows, farmhouses and boring wheat fields) to Light Industrial (meaning convicts, pavement and a rad shooting range). Vote yes for law and order, no for cow dung. Easy vote, that one.

Finally, in Spokane Valley, the city council tonight will approve $776,000 in what's considered "routine" spending items. I'll be the judge of that.

First, it looks like someone rented a car from Dollar Rent-A-Car that cost the city $1,300. On top of that, the city had some publishing done at Free Press Publishing, Inc. that cost the city $350. By my math, commerce at those two businesses should have cost exactly a dollar. (A dollar plus free equals a dollar.) Sounds to me like false advertising from both those swindler companies. I recommend not paying.

And I noticed the city gave the Spokesman-Review almost $400 for advertising! Really, the Valley, that's how you roll? Where's our slice of the pie? It's cool. I forgive you.

Happy Guvment-ing!

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Bicycle Butler ride among nation's best

Posted on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 1:07 PM

It's not uncommon for glossy magazines to profile the top-ten-most-beautiful-rides/trails/experiences-you absolutely-must-do-before-you-drop-dead. In the newest issue of Bicycling magazine, though, the editors tone down the rhetoric and focus not on the touristy jaw-droppers but on local bike shops — "the epicenter of the local cycling community" — and the regular rides they provide.

To that end, they've provided a list of America's 50 Best Shop Rides and, wouldn't you know it, the only ride in Washington is that of Spokane's Bicycle Butler, near the Five Mile Shopping Center.

Here's their write-up:

THE RIDE: Mixing various loops around the area and inside nearby Riverside State Park, this Wednesday-night mountain-bike ride features 30 to 35 miles of flowing trails and some climbing, with a few technical sections.
THE SCENE: Postride, cyclists grab a beer and BBQ at the shop and are welcome to use the shop's stand to make adjustments or fixes.

Find the nation's 49 other best shop rides here.

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