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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Happy Booger Day, Shanna!
A video in honor of my sister's 29th birthday...
Monday, January 24, 2011
Portland IKEA vs. Amsterdam IKEA
As you may have guessed, there's a few key differences between IKEAs in the United States and the ones in Europe. I recently had the opportunity to visit a location on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
In addition to the incredibly cheap Bavarian brand lager in the cafe, I spotted something else...
That's right, calf-skin rugs. What you see here is an entire bin full of them. 50 or so, by my estimate. That's a lot of dead baby cows, all right.
IKEA calls them koldbys. At first, I figured they must be fakes but, as the tag explains, they're the real deal, right down to the branding marks and other imperfections.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Portlandia is actually....good?
Boy howdy, if this ain't a surprise.
What seemed like a lame idea for a lame show centered around a series of lame send-ups of lame Portland cliches is actually much more than half-baked lameness. Portlandia takes a tired gag, like making fun of feminist bookstores, and transcends it with absurdest humor reminiscent of The Kids in the Hall while tossing in something unexpected, like a cameo from Steve Buscemi. He shows up at the 8:30 mark of the first episode, posted below.
The premiere tackles time-worn local stereotypes like adult sports leagues and organic farms. Part of the appeal is that these skits are rooted in a thorough knowledge of the city and its inhabitants. I've actually eaten lunch with a guy much like Fred Armisen's character. During a meal at the Morning Star Cafe last summer, he asked a perturbed waitress a dozen questions about the cheeseburger he was considering. After she went to the trouble of asking the manager about the beef the restaurant uses and whether or not the cow had been fed organic corn, he opted for hashbrowns and eggs instead. That guy could probably use a five year stint on a farm "30 minutes south of Portland."
But instead of shooting for easy "look at all these stupid hipsters and hippies" gags, Portlandia is much more ambitious. A skit about an adult "hide and seek" league results in a confrontation between a player and an irritated elderly woman who fillets modern romance and every aspect of his life. The organic farm sketch leads its characters along a strange trip to a cult commune lorded over by Jason Sudeikis.
That said, I can't see this thing lasting beyond a season or two. The premise is bound to paint Portlandia into a corner quickly, unless the show is willing to branch out beyond it fast. Imagine a Saturday Night Live just about Manhattan or a Monty Python just about Manchester. Both would have come with short expiration dates, regardless of how witty the contents. With Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen at the center, they probably have no intention of keeping the show going for more than that though. If anything, this is likely just a goofy side-project for the two of them to fill some time between tours and recording voiceovers for Brainy Smurf in the new Smurfs movie.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Trapped at the Bunny Ranch Part 1: The Journey Begins
I'm going to tell you a story about my trip to a brothel in Nevada back in September. I feel obliged to include a disclaimer here at the beginning of this tale. Because I am uptight and cheap, I would never actually pay to have sex with a "professional." Furthermore, I find prostitution "icky." Hoping in the sack with a total stranger, especially one that has several hundred, if not thousands, of notches in their bedpost? For me personally? That's about as much of a turn-off as a fire hydrant blast straight to the crotch.
That said, I would never deny anyone else the right to lay down their hard earned lucre for sex. It's the world's oldest profession and, as the late-great George Carlin once so eloquently put it, "Buying is legal, fucking is legal....why isn't buying fucking legal?" If someone wants to sell themselves like that and they don't view the act of lovemaking as some sort of semi-spiritual endeavor and look at it in the same way most of us look at a Starbucks run, hey, no worries. Regardless, like most everyone else that supports legalized prostitution, I think it should be regulated by the state, taxed and prostitutes should be required to have regular check-ups and a license to sell their, er, wares. Just like the system currently utilized in certain sectors of Nevada.
As it stands now, sex workers are still trapped in the underground in the United States and the stories out there about women being abused by pimps and clients are numerous. This is a profession that needs to be dragged out into the light. Keeping it illegal is ridiculous and the ongoing ban hurts far more Americans through restrictions than it would if it were finally allowed. Much like marijuana, prohibition doesn't work and it will never, ever work. Take a spin down SE 82nd on a Saturday night after 10 PM if you doubt this. As shocking as it might sound, even The Christian Science Monitor agrees with me.
And so there are places in Nevada where renting someone's crotch for an hour or two is completely legal. Last month, I found myself in Reno during a break from volunteering at Burning Man and, while bored in my hotel room, I looked up the city's article on Wikipedia. I spotted a link that led to a list of brothels in Nevada. My eyes fell on the words "Moonlite Bunny Ranch" and I recognized the name from the HBO show Cathouse. I clicked over to their website (NSFW, obvioulsy) and one of the first things my eyes fell on was "Free Tour, No Sex Obligation." I've toured catacombs in Rome, the Shanghai Tunnels, the Amsterdam Marijuana Museum, the back alleys of Tokyo, the Mormon Tabernacle, a radioactive mine/Indian reservation in the Idaho panhandle and Disney World so why not a brothel? I pulled up Google Maps. Sure enough, I could take an alternative route back to Black Rock City that was only 20 minutes out of the way.
The next afternoon, I grabbed a mocha from The Hub, a cool cofeeeshop housed in an old garage and made my way to the Bunny Ranch.
A few hours later, I found myself trapped behind the brothel's security gate after being mercilessly heckled by the Ranch's ladies of the night. Would this be the ridiculous adventure that would finally lead to my undoing? Did I get out alive? Would I ever write about all of this on my blog?
To be continued....
A new blog?
As if I haven't had enough trouble keeping this blog up to date, I foolishly started another one back in October. The Burning Log offers a snarky look at Burning Man, everyone's favorite annual arts festival in a Nevada wasteland. I spent two weeks in and around Black Rock City this year and returned with too much material to dump here on Another Portland Blog. Click here to have a look.
With the exception of Adrien Roberts' piss n' vinegar-clogged stuff in Piss Clear and the more recent BRC Weekly, most coverage of Burning Man tends to be uber-serious and solemn. There's too much emphasis placed on "what does it all mean?" the anti-consumerist ethos and the art. So many seem to forget that the festival is, for better or worse, an excuse to go out into the desert and act like a freak for a week or two. I'm shooting for more of an Anthony Bourdain take on the dang thing, somewhere in the field between appreciative and sarcastic. Whether I've pulled this off so far, well, I'll leave that up to you.
Labels: burning man
Thursday, January 13, 2011
The year in blurry iPhone snapshots
Inspired by Kate O. and her efforts over at the Karate Kid-fueled Effing the Ineffable, here's a photographic rundown on my 2010:
As you might recall, both myself and sixteen of my coworkers got the boot from Comcast in November of 2009 when the company decided to ax our department for reasons still unknown. I had just celebrated my seventh anniversary at Comcast. Two of my coworkers were expecting and another had just bought a house. It seemed like the end of the world at the time. Not only was I out of work, I could no longer afford the rent on my cottage over near Tryon Creek. But the Flying Spaghetti Monster never closes a door without opening a stove vent. I wound up enrolling at PSU for a second degree. At first, sitting in lecture halls alongside students five to ten years younger than me was intimidating. Then they started inviting me on their radio shows. Pictured above: the on-air booth at KPSU.
I spent a few days up in Vancouver during the Winter Olympics with my sister Shanna and her finance Kyle. It was awesome. There were roughly 500,000 people roaming the city and the surrounding mountains dressed like this. Did I lie about my nation of origin a few times? Maaaaaaybe. Hey, it was the only way I managed to slip in among the locals watching the US v. Canada hockey match in a rowdy downtown bar.
Nuthin' says "spring has sprung" like grease-covered hippie gents in the Park Blocks.
I celebrated Songkran, the Thai New Year, with my friends Pete and Nong down at the Wat Buddha Temple in Salem. This involved lots of food and washing both Buddha statues and the hands of monks.
Olly and Rhi, two pals, decided to tie the knot in Akron so a bunch of us flew over for their nuptials. This allowed me to tour such legendary Ohio locales as a "world famous" Bible museum, White Castle, Pancake House and the always lovely, always post-apocalyptic Cleveland! Here's a shot of my friend Bryan passed out at the airport next to a Tauntuan that was purchased at a vintage toy shop...in Cleveland! Cleveland! Cleve...
"M" from Bubbly Red Stuff came to town and I wound up tagging along with her on a tour of the Oregon Outback. We ate ice cream in Ashland, got attacked by a vicious swarm of mosquitoes in a ghost town and blazed around the Alvord Desert Knight Rider-style. This blurry snapshot of my guitar at a campsite outside of Lakeview doesn't even come close to doing the trip justice.
Here's the belly of a woman I found myself sitting next to on a bench at the Oregon Country Fair. "Tykes" seemed to be the theme of my summer. I volunteered at an educational day camp out in Tigard. You haven't lived until you've had to lead a dozen 6-year olds on a nature hike. You've heard the term "herding cats"? This was more like herding cats with the attention spans of Animal from The Muppets.
I wound up back in Black Rock City as a volunteer for the 2010 Burning Man Festival. I worked on/got-in-the-way of a project organized by a group of Portland-based artist and served as a staff writer at The Black Rock Beacon. My assignments included an investigation into the police presence in BRC and constructing an art bench covered in parodies of daily comics. I also got the opportunity to fly a small stunt plane for ten whole minutes, compliments of Pedro, a pilot from the Bay Area.
I wasted away a miserable few days in Amsterdam in 2007. I received some terrible news about a family member, got searched by the police and nearly had my passport stolen by a fishy hotel clerk dressed in a Reservoir Dogs suit. I vowed to never return to the Netherlands. Three years later, I ate those words when "M" invited me over for a few weeks. With her watching my back, things went much smoother this time around. We even managed to pull off a long weekend in Istanbul. This photo was taken at a lamp shop in the Grand Bazaar.
Dang, another photo of Bryan? Well, this time he's dressed as Columbo. This blurry shot was captured on Halloween night at Roadside Attraction in SE Portland. It's become my favorite bar in town. The front yard is a great place to pass a sunny summer afternoon or a winter night. A large fire pit manages to keep things toasty. The decor inside is one part opium den, one part limbo and the jukebox is killer. On Halloween right around midnight, the place felt downright supernatural. The back room, which features a blood-red pool table, an old piano and eerie portraits, looked like various revelers had been kidnapped moments before we got there. Two full pint glasses sat at a table in the corner. A shot of whiskey was left untouched on a stool. Someone had abandoned a homemade proton pack on the floor. Outside, a guy tripping on acid while dressed in a creepy seahorse costume was posed for photos by the fire.
I spent the fall months interning for a US senator. Among my tasks: inspecting mail for anthrax, volunteering for Obama at the Convention Center, shaking hands with Sam Adams and contending with the never-ending slew of strange "regulars" that called in to the Senator's office everyday. This snapshot? It was taken on Election Night at the downtown Hilton moments before John Kitzhaber's speech. That night he was still locked in a stand-off with Chris Dudley for the governorship.
Last but certainly not least, a "cock monkey." Three of these bad boys showed up in the mail in a package sent to Portland direct from the Red Light District in Amsterdam (via Leiden). I kept them stored away in a foot locker until the holidays, when they were given to Pete, Nong and Kyle. You can imagine what's hidden beneath all that "No Peaking!" ribbon. A squeeze of their left paws gets these monkeys, well, "excited." One of them did a hell of a job as a back-up singer during a stint at the Voicebox karaoke lounge a few days before Christmas. Another was last reported getting on a plane to Thailand, where he's hopefully entertaining plenty of Nong's relatives and colleagues.
You've probably seen this already....
On the other hand, if not...
Back in the saddle again
It's been a busy few months on this end. How have you been? How's your mum? Ah, that's swell.
I've been tied up with school, work, an internship and the holidays over here. I've also moved to different digs. My new surroundings are refreshing, relatively alien and a bit exhausting.
In addition to relocating, I've also been freelancing a bit. A few of my articles have recently appeared in The Good Life Report. Here's one on Portland and one on green architectural firms. Oh, and here's another that explores the ever-exciting world of iPad covers. Please, enjoy.
More to come....