Monday, July 31, 2006

Paleolithic Pizza Party

Here's another entry in my occasional series of resurrected pre-Internet "blog" entries, salvaged from a carton of ancient floppies (that's the "paleolithic" part). I was thinking about last Friday's beer blog meetup I didn't quite make it to, and remembered this piece, which is based (loosely, IIRC) on a BBS meetup from back in mid-1993. I know this is from 1993 because of a weird filename convention I used to use. I thought DOS-style 8.3 filenames were among the world's stupidest ideas, so I named all files with exotic-sounding words of 8 letters or fewer, often taken from the newspaper, or just made up, and either way had nothing to do with what the files were actually about. That way, when I went back and looked through my stacks of floppies, I had no idea what a given file was about unless I opened it. Not the world's most fabulous naming convention, is it? This file was named after an obscure Balkan general who was fired in 1993 (and who died in 2003), purely because the name sounded weird and foreign, so I know the date that way. Today, modern computers have these newfangled battery-backed system clocks so that you have (gasp) meaningful file times, and you can easily tell when a file was created, but we didn't always have that back in the day. Kids these days, you tell them stuff like that, they'll never believe you.

Also, back in the day we didn't call it a "meetup", it was a "pizza phuque", and in place of the internet we had the late, lamented WWIVnet. You can tell this was the pre-Internet era, because Googling the phrase "pizza phuque" brings up exactly two hits. This article is by a one-time acquaintance, who now, apparently, is a well-known sex columnist and occasional Libertarian political candidate these days. And then there's also a 2004 Usenet posting about a possible revival of the phuque tradition. No word on how, or if, that went.

The reader will forgive, of course, the artistic pretensions of youth in the following piece.

It's 3:30 in the morning right now. I just finished a big steaming cup of coffee that I picked up on the way home. When I walked in to the convenience store in the throes of a caffeine fit, I noticed there was nobody there, and I was tempted to walk out with the coffee. Alas, the guy wandered out and started to tidy up the store while I was standing there grappling with the situation. He might not have noticed if I'd left without paying. He seemed to be off in space just then, and a mad dash to the car would probably have worked, me tearing off into the night's dark embrace, he stumbling on in pursuit, shaking his fist at me, like on television. But no, but no, that just isn't my way. Law abiding citizen and all that. Took quite a while for the guy to clue in and his eyes to focus and figure out who he was and where he was and what I was doing there and what the shiny metal discs in my hand were for. I stood there and waited patiently. It all worked out in the end, though. Eventually.

I swear this time I won't write a word about rivers or waterfalls. I swear to write on a chalkboard fifty or a hundred times that I will not write any more stupid silly crap about rivers or waterfalls. [I used to do this a lot. You'll never see a word of it here. Ed.] I've done it, it's been done, I'm not gonna do it, or at least I'm going to do it right if I do it at all, and right now I'm not going to do it at all, good or not, regardless, except to mention rivers and waterfalls in passing in the context of my solemnly swearing not to say a word about them.

We need a story. First we have three characters. A, B, and C. I don't want to bother with names. I'm terrible with names. A nice Hollywood-style plot offering no big surprises but maybe a surprise twist to hold the audience's interest. I'll flesh that out later. Most plots are substantially the same, anyway. Theme's the usual thing. What I always write about. There's a pizza place, and A,B, and C are having a bite to eat with a bunch of other people, pizza, beer, people laughing, and if I hadn't sworn it off there'd be rain pouring down outside. It's not clear how well the 3 people know each other. I don't know the whole story with 'em, and the readers don't either, and that could be the setup to an epiphany or a surprise ending or something.

At this point I go and take my contacts out, while simultaneously B visits the restroom in the pizza joint and preens in front of the mirror. B's known, or known of, everyone in the room but has only actually met a few of them before, through the miracle of electronic mail. It's that kind of party. Does the face match the online persona? What a game. B is trying to make a good impression.

The synchronous nature of these two events is a complete coincidence. Ok, not complete. It's not that B (or anyone else) is a quasifictional version of me. It's that writing about something has a certain power of suggestion, such that past, quasifictionalized events are driving current events. Think it, write it, suddenly need to do it.

B wobbles about uncertainly. The beer is doing its thing. B trips and falls, but only once, and sits down and has another slice of pizza. Pepperoni and mushroom. A and C are talking politics. There's no shortage of extreme positions.

The table is maybe ten feet long, covered in pizzas, the remains of pizzas, paper plates, pitchers of beer, glasses, strands of mozzarella. The decor is cheery, a squeaky-clean sanitized Chicago of the gangland era, full of pictures of Capone. Nice and comfy. The party's been going on for a while; people are, well, animated is a good word, and they've made a mess of the table and will probably forget to leave a tip. Enough of them are people of the type who become belligerent after a few beers. What could be motivating them? A is one of them. In vino veritas, they say: Get someone drunk and their real self crawls, staggers out of the shadows, but you mostly find out why they've got so much anger bottled up inside. Is it a good idea to let this caged raving animal out? I don't know. If I know somebody gets this way, I avoid drinking with them, and avoid them entirely if possible. C is a happy drunk, and being less smashed than A, is having a great time arguing. B is withdrawn, staring at a half-empty glass of beer and brooding.

Some amount of time passes. A and C have got on well. Until meeting, they'd been bitter enemies. Most at the party are disappointed that B is not the lively personality they were led to believe by what they'd read on the net. B is brooding about not having made a good impression on the crowd. D languishes in the outer darkness. Wasn't invited.

You'll notice that the tone of all this is pretty dry. I'm having to jump through hoops in order to not specify whether characters A through D are male or female. It's tough. The resulting language I'd characterize as 'clinical'. This is a case study. In certain ways it is, too. I have a specific event in mind, but the characters are invented. No, that's not a good word, I haven't done enough with them to say 'invented'. Just say they're not based on any real people.

[At this point I digressed for a long paragraph talking about the French author Alain Robbe-Grillet. Seriously. I'd recently read his novel The Erasers, and found it weird and fascinating, although dry and impenetrable in parts. However, I didn't make any compelling points about either the book or the author, and it didn't really fit here anyway, so I'm just going to discard that stuff and get on with the story, such as it is. Ed.]

The conclusion of the scene we've been observing is fairly short, doesn't contain a great moral truth, and I'm not sure whether it makes a good story. Everyone's gotten to know everyone, the ice is broken, they've shared pizza, and most of them are drunk. It's time to do something stupid and reckless as a group. There's always that point in the behavior of social groups. They are in the parking lot outside. One of the peripheral characters has brought a device made of several feet of plastic pipe with a cap on one end. This person shoves a potato into the pipe, takes the cap off, and sprays hairspray into the pipe. Then the cap is put back on and the hairspray is ignited through a small hole in the pipe. A loud boom, and a flaming potato is sent flying several hundred feet up into the rainy suburban night. It arcs off into the fog and disappears. They shoot another potato and the scene repeats. This time there is a dull metallic thud that sounds like the potato hitting the hood of a car. (We could spice this up and add a car alarm, if needed.) Oops. The crowd scatters and everyone drives away quickly.

We could speculate about what happened to each of the potatoes and introduce a new cast of people who were affected by them. It would be interesting to know.

Most likely, the second potato hit a parked car. Z, the owner, was confused, upset. Potatoes usually don't fall from the sky. The insurance company won't cover it. It's hard enough making ends meet and paying bills every month without having to worry about potatoes falling out of the sky.

Then we might follow Z around in a day's routine, or observe a dramatic moment or two. The effect of all of this is to generate sympathy for the character Z, and make it seem 'human'. Once the audience empathizes with Z, characters A-D become the antagonists, and the audience is led to the proper conclusion. Conventional ethics win out once again. Ta-daaaa!

In this postmodern age it's not enough to simply tell the story of A, B, C, D, and Z. No, you have to make the reader aware that he or she is reading a story about A-D+Z, you have to comment on the fact, you have to furthermore note that you're commenting on the story, and on and on. (Typically, readers tire of this far sooner than authors do.)

That's not what we're dealing with here, though. The fact remains that four characters we met in the beginning of the tale have unknowingly caused a lot of trouble for a fifth character, who may end up out on the street without a penny to his or her name as a direct result. Not likely, but it could happen.

Now, there's several ways I could take this story. First, the story could end after the crowd scatters and everyone leaves. We'd have a character sketch, a picture of group dynamics in action. I could work some sociology in. The story wouldn't attempt to say anything. With this approach I'd have to flesh out the characters a bit and describe the scenery more. To be successful we'd need to know more about the reasons behind B's silence and A's anger. For example: B's grandparents were killed by a drunk driver about six weeks ago, and an unnamed character started talking about driving drunk all the time as if it was no big deal. A refuses to discuss anything about childhood. Probably the usual tale of the violent stepfather, alcohol abuse, general dysfunction, which sells books like nobody's business. Readers can't seem to get enough of that stuff. We could also invent other explanations than these.

A second alternative is to add Z into the mix. Rather than firing a potato off to an unknown fate, we add a human dimension. This changes the story, and there's a wide range of possible impacts this 'act of God' could have on Z, ranging from bemusement to bankruptcy. The act of firing the potato, rather than the pizza party, is the central event. If Z's affairs come to a bad end due to this random event, I can either make moral judgments against those responsible for firing the potato, or I can refrain from making these judgments and talk about how the universe is utterly cruel, and utterly random in its cruelty.

A third alternative is to carry it from there: Suppose perpetrator(s) and victim meet up at some future date. Perhaps the police nab A-D. Perhaps Z places a sign on the car, or otherwise tracks A-D&co. down. Perhaps through the sign on the car, Z causes one or more of the perpetrators to feel guilty and confess. Perhaps they meet later but the potato incident doesn't figure in: They stand next to each other in a grocery checkout line, but neither realizes who the other is, and they exchange a few words of idle small talk. Or something like that. I'm not sure why this appeals to me.

A fourth alternative is to use the potato episode as a revelation of character for A-D. Later events will be only tangentially related, but this incident reveals who they really are and what happens when the (potato) chips are down. In vino veritas, like I was just saying.

That covers the various alternatives that occur to me right now. There may be others. Your mileage may vary.

...and after that last paragraph I turned off the computer and fell asleep. Now, a few months later, I happened to be rooting through some old files on a disk and found this. I don't think I covered all the possibilities. I mean, for instance I can play around with the information I've given so far. The pizza party in question was a real event which I was at, and I've been putting up a real fight to keep the characters from resembling anyone I know. There's always the option of rewriting the scene to make it more autobiographical, more true-to-life, more torn-from-today's-headlines. Well, okay, it wasn't that dramatic.

I arrived at the party alone, which I hate to do. If I'm alone I sneak in meekly, take a seat, and brood. It always happens. The restaurant in question used to be on Canyon Road in Beaverton, but it's since gone out of business. It's the fourth or fifth restaurant to starve to death in that building. Bad location, almost no parking, bad signage, building ugly, and too big. The sanitized Chicago motif in the decor was about right. Honestly I can't remember what it looked like inside, and now I can't go back and check. I know it tried to be cheery, and there were a lot of steps. Really dangerous place to be drunk. The party had already started when I arrived, and everyone was in a state of impending drunkenness: having downed a pint or two and waiting for the full effect. I sat and talked to people I'd argued with. Across from me was a guy I'd been absolutely vicious to for the last three weeks, and having met in person everything was different. I didn't have the heart to argue with him after that. Sitting next to me was someone else I'd had difficulties with before. He turned out to be the biggest loser I'd ever met (up to that point), and I lost what little respect I had for him.

The potato gun incident happened pretty much as described. I stood nearby, watching with alarm. It wasn't my idea, I was against it from the beginning, etc. Law abiding citizen, remember? Although the airborne flaming potato did look kind of cool at the time, I have to admit. When the crowd scattered, I was one of the first out of the parking lot. It wasn't my idea, I had nothing to do with it, I didn't want to be held responsible, I barely even knew those people.

I never did discover what really happened to those potatoes.

Fundiewatch 8/1/06

  • A depressing opinion piece at The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland) arguing the end of the conflict is nowhere in sight, and it's not within the outside world's power to impose peace on two warring parties who want to fight to the finish. I've said this before, and I'll repeat it again: I don't know what it's going to take to solve the current crisis, and I'm not siding with either party. There's no reason why I should, or why this country should, for that matter. It's their fight, not ours. Maybe it's even a perfectly justified fight, for all I know or care, but it's still not our fight, and we should stay the hell out of it, as much as we possibly can. When neocons like Bill Kristol try to frame the debate as "Why wait to bomb Iran?", demanding that we dive headfirst into another war right this minute, the proper response is to call them complete fucking whackjobs and never listen to another word they say ever again.
  • Over the weekend, CNN ran a piece on the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, right on the heels of their credulous interviews with the "Left Behind" crowd. I guess because there's a whole lot of money to be made by inflaming public opinion and trying to escalate the war. In reality it's not a huge war at the present time. It's far from the bloodiest conflict going on in the world right now. (Um, remember Iraq, guys?) But we keep hearing this is the start of World War III, or even World War IV, just because Israel's involved. This kind of talk makes the fundies wet their pants with joy, and maybe that's the point. This is an election year in the US, after all. Dubya's hurting in the polls, and Republican prospects in November are looking a little bleak just now, so Karl's playing the Rapture card. I wouldn't put it past him.
  • The latest Molly Ivins column. One of her key points is that the media's actively stoking public fear about the Lebanon situation, even though the Iraq war is still raging.
  • A great article at the San Angelo (TX) Standard Times describing in detail what the end-times crowd thinks is happening right now. Seems this conflict is distinct from Armageddon (which they're also eagerly awaiting), and is "predicted" in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39, rather than in Revelation. Seems the Bible's just chock full to burstin' with apocalypses. I've tried reading the two relevant chapters and I can't make head or tail of what they're supposed to be getting at. To me it reads like the script for a cheesy barbarian movie. So clearly the fundies are much smarter than I am, because they've got it all figured out down to the most minute detail. And yes, this is the same book of the bible that contains what some allege is a UFO sighting, complete with four-faced, four-winged aliens. Groovy.
  • A few current pieces about the rapture nuts. First, at HuffPo: "The Dinosaurs Roam the Earth...". (And here I thought fundies didn't believe in dinosaurs.) What really gets me is how they're absolutely sure that right now we're seeing the "big one", for real this time, and we're supposed to take that as a given and act accordingly. Suppose the nuts get their wish, and we nuke Iran and Syria and maybe a few other countries on the basis that they're the prophesied Gog and/or Magog. Suppose we do that, kill untold millions of innocent people, and Jesus still doesn't show up, and nobody gets raptured. That would be pretty fucking embarrassing, wouldn't it?
  • A piece at OhmyNews (Korea) titled"The Second Coming: Bush's fundamentalism has serious consequences for world peace".
  • And the Toronto Sun has a piece "The end is nigh"
  • More bashing of religious nuts -- on all sides -- at OpEdNews
  • Another blog worth reading. James Wolcott dissects the warbloggers and related wingnuts with precision and style.
  • Karen Armstrong on GWB.
  • Pharyngula has an update about the Dobrich case I posted about recently. At least one commenter speculates about why there hasn't been more of an outcry about this case, wondering whether it's because the neocons need the fundies for their upcoming war with Iran, and can't afford to alienate them, even if that means turning a blind eye to a certain level of anti-semitic hate crimes here at home. Which is a truly cynical, awful idea, and I certainly hope there's nothing to it.
  • A tale of what happens when a megachurch pastor abandons the conservative cause. His eureka moment was seeing another church's video montage combining crosses with fighter jets and wondering what they have to do with one another. His answer: Nothing, nothing whatsoever.


Oregon Brewers Festival 2006

octopus mural, fish brewing

So it was a weird foray to the Oregon Brewers Festival this time around. We were going out of town for the weekend, which ruled out Saturday & Sunday. This also precluded staying out late on Friday, and unfortunately that meant the beerbloggin' meetup wasn't doable. Going to a beer festival on Thursday seemed... unnatural, somehow. So I figured, ok, I'll just make it an extended, ah, lunchbreak, since nobody hangs around the office after 3 or so on a Friday in July anyway. My wife's gotten tired of all these beer festivals all the time, and certain otherwise dependably pro-beer friends & coworkers were unreachable / busy / rearranging their sock drawers / etc., so I figured, ok, I'll just go by myself. That was the weird part. You don't really get into the spirit of the thing unless you go with a group and everyone gets tipsy. But hey, I've been there and done that before, at the last few OBFs I've gone to. So I figured this year I'd try to delve deep into beer geekage, plot out what I wanted to try in advance, do "tasting notes", and eschew the distractions of people to socialize with. Because I'm a gadget geek as well as a beer geek, I hauled the camera and Blackberry along. Are you rolling your eyes at me yet? Go ahead. Be my guest. Please. Hell, I'm rolling my eyes at me. The original plan was that I'd blog from the brewfest itself, but I just sort of didn't get around to it. Rereading my notes, I'm kind of glad I didn't do that, although I now have the fun task of trying to interpret and translate my notes into proper English without a drop of beer in me.

Believe it or not, I wasn't (very) tipsy when I took the top photo. I was actually juggling the camera, a taster cup, a program, and a bite to eat, and somehow I got the idea I needed to take a picture right that minute. So ok, it wasn't the first sample I'd had, but still, I mostly knew what I was doing, and I didn't drop anything. It would've been far easier if digital cameras weren't all designed exclusively for right-handed people. (Prejudiced bastards.) I took a few other photos but they're all more or less like this one, so one's probably enough for now. Still, all this ubergeekage helped with the stigma of just up and going by myself, since I could always rationalize that I wasn't really alone, because of my vast global internet audience, and so forth. I'm doing all of this this for you, just remember that. This is all very fitting and appropriate, you know, because in a way the OBF is just like the Internet: It's a series of tubes.

Anyway, I went over the list of beers and came up with a short list of stuff to try. I'm not superhuman, I'm not 23, I'm not a complete fool all the time, and basically there's just a limit to the number of samples you can try and really enjoy (i.e. taste) at a time. If I'd tried it before, or I've seen it in the grocery store, it was off the list. In general, anything really dark and malty was off the list, because I just wasn't in the mood for that. I ended up with a short list of mostly IPAs, and I more or less stuck to the list, except when I didn't. One thing I didn't do was decide what order to try the beers in. That seemed way too anal-retentive, and I figured, y'know, I'm just tasting beer here, not invading Poland or whatever. Although in retrospect it might've been a good idea to save a couple of beers for the end, as I'll explain below.

Without further ado, and in chronological order (if I remember right):
  • Bell's Hell Hath No Fury...Ale Started off with a non-IPA, a rich 'n malty Belgian dubbel, which I tried because of the name. A good example of the style, I expect, but I didn't really get into it. Mostly reminded me that I wasn't in the mood for rich 'n malty.
  • West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing. What is it about beer from San Diego? It's about the last place you'd expect to have multiple breweries churning out huge, hoppy, cutting-edge beers. With that climate I'd assume the locals would subsist on nothing but chilled white wine and olives, but apparently not. It's a mystery, but it's a really really good mystery. This was a really great IPA. The program insists that it's available in bottles locally, although I don't recall ever seeing it.
  • Epiphany Ale from Iron Springs Pub & Brewery. The program asserts this is an "ode to the Cascades hop", but I didn't really pick up on this. Lots of bitterness, but not so much of that nice citrusy flavor. I felt cheated. Maybe this was because of the previous beer, though. Go from 95 IBUs down to 69, and the second beer just won't impress as much as it otherwise would. This wasn't terrible, overall, it just wasn't what I was expecting.
  • Ned Flanders, from Rock Bottom. Lessee: Belgian yeast, strong tartness, marionberries, aged in bourbon and wine barrels. Really complex. Wow. This is not your usual beer. You have to like the Flemish Red style to enjoy this. Which I do, but in serious moderation. If there'd been another like this at the festival, I would've picked just one to try, not both. If you're not 100% in the mood for a beer like this, and you get a normal-sized glass of it, drinking it will seem like work, which is not to be desired in a beer, any beer. You definitely want to rinse out your taster mug after this one, so your next "normal" beer doesn't pick up all sorts of bizarre flavors. I don't want to sound negative here, because I really liked this one. It's just that I also tried a lot of beers like this at the International Beerfest a couple weeks back. I think it's the style du jour. Next year it'll be something else.
    Shortly after I tried this, I ran across a guy who was shambling around shouting that this was the best beer at the festival. I wouldn't go that far, myself, but he'd clearly just had a religious experience. Or a few taster samples too many. Or perhaps both.
  • Pliny the Elder from Russian River. My tasting "notes" just say "OMG HOPPY" plus a line of asterisks. I'm serious. Please note this was not my first sample of the day. The ever-helpful program says this could be described as a "hop wine", although it's listed as a double IPA. 100 IBU. I probably should've saved this one for last. It's the last one I marked as a favorite. I think this beer temporarily shorted out my hop-sensing apparatus; on a couple of subsequent beers I noted that I knew they were hoppy, but couldn't really tell that they were.
  • Standing Stone Double IPA Way less hoppy than the last one, or so it seemed, and a lot more malty & caramelly. Not my favorite of the day, but I think this is just not a summer beer. Would probably go great with Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Whoop Pass from Skagit River Brewing. Another double IPA, more bitter & less malty than the last one. I think.
  • Organic Revolution X, Butte Creek Brewing. This one I said I could sort of tell it was really hoppy, but I couldn't taste the hops as well as earlier in the day.
  • Hazel Dell IPA, the first of three moderate ABV, moderate IBU (40-50) brews I ought to have tried earlier on. My notes mentioned that all 3 tasted like English pale ales (although the 3rd isn't even an ale at all), and a relatively restrained style like this just isn't the same after a few hop grenades.
  • Boundary Bay Double Dry Hopped Pale Ale: See previous comment.
  • Anchors Away Steam Lager from Lucky Lab: See previous comment.
    Updated: I thought I'd give this one another try, so I popped over to the newish Lucky Lab outpost at NW 19th & Quimby for a pint. It's really closer to an ESB than an IPA, and kinda like Anchor Steam but not a clone of it. If you think about it, "California common" or "steam beer" (whatever you want to call it) is more of a production technique than a specific style. Lager yeast, ale temperatures, and maybe a special fermenter to handle all the frothy excitement this combo generates. That's all there is to it. That's the entire "secret" of this tasty freakshow. All the rest is just ingredients, and you can do as you like in that department, so long as it tastes ok. A really dark one might be tasty, sort of a porter - schwarzbier hybrid. Mmm. I wouldn't say no to a pint of that.
  • Sunrye, special OBF recipe from Redhook. My notes say "Nice change from hop bombs. Refreshing." That pretty much sums it up.
Elsewhere, there are several OBF posts over at The Brew Site (and photos here), and more at Beervana. A report on the festival at Gone Ronin. Strangely, there's almost no overlap between the beers he tried, and the ones I tried. Sounds like I missed out on a few tasty beverages there, but hey, I was trying to stick to a theme. A brief tidbit at Overheard in PDX. And here's yet another person complaining about the event. Going to the OBF is sort of like visiting the Louvre. Don't even think about trying every last beer at the festival, or seeing every painting in the museum. Because you can't, and you'll ruin your enjoyment of the few you get to by making yourself all frantic over the attempt. Have a theme, but don't beat yourself silly trying to stick to it rigorously. Ideally, pick a theme that's completely different than mine, so there's no chance you'll be ahead of me in line. And be sure to go when the barbarian hordes aren't there, or you'll be miserable, guaranteed. BTW, in case you're wondering about that cool octopus mural, it's on the side of the Fish Brewing pub up in downtown Olympia, WA. Remember how I said I was out of town over the weekend? I was away from the beerfest, but definitely not away from beer. Mmmmmm..... beeeeeer......
Updated: Two more OBF posts to pass along, one at BlueOregon, and another at Chattering Magpie. Updated II:More OBF posts, at Bad Ben's Brewing Blog, Rooftop Brew, and Zeros and Ones. The last one actually references several of the same beers I tried, amazingly. I'll have to disagree about the Scullers IPA -- I had it in bottled form once and hated, hated, hated it. But hey.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday Image-O-Rama

A delightful miscellany of photos for your enjoyment (and to help use up what's left of my Flickr quota for the month):


Sunset before an evening thunderstorm, July 3rd '06, downtown Portland.


A detail of the sculpture "The Dreamer" by Manuel Izquierdo, in Pettygrove Park. The park as a whole is remarkably peaceful, except when the Shakespeareans take over.


Mount Hood from Upper Hall St., near downtown, taken during my recent Governors Park expedition. I think I mentioned at the time that the surrounding area is far more scenic than the park itself. This is just one example. In my entirely scientific and unbiased opinion, the area around Upper Hall St. offers better views than the Rose Garden or Council Crest. It's a residential area without a lot of parking, though.


At the intersection of SW 10th and Washington, we find the mysterious word "EASTERN" embedded in the sidewalk. Apparently at one time 10th was Eastern Ave., and 11th was Western Ave., and I guess 12th must've been the edge of the flat earth. Meanwhile, Broadway used to be known as 7th, so there's not a clear trend toward or away from numbered streets.


One of the Hawthorne Bridge towers. Note the halo around the sun. I was trying to be artsy here, but I'm not artsy enough to know whether I was successful or not.


Mt. St. Helens from SW College St., in the same vicinity as where the Mt. Hood photo was taken. Note the jet, and immediately below it another "UFO" (previously seen here and in the 4th photo here). This one's so small I can't tell what it really is. At first I thought it was a bucket suspended from the plane, for fighting forest fires. But the plane looks like a regular jetliner, so that's probably not it. Who knows?

at sw 3rd & taylor

I'm not actually that fond of this picture, but it's of one of my favorite weird old buildings, downtown at SW 2nd & Taylor. I know basically nothing about it, but it looks like it's had an interesting history. Most recently the ground floor hosted at least 2 incarnations of some sort of piano bar, which I gather catered to the "Elimidate" crowd. But that's gone now, and as far as I can tell the entire building is empty. Really they ought to donate the place to me, before the luxury condo conversion folks get their grubby mitts on it.

The photo's taken from SW 3rd, across a vacant lot that used to be a notorious, sleazy porn store, which covered a full quarter of a city block. Diagonally across the intersection of 3rd & Taylor from here there used to be a notorious, sleazy porn theater, housed in a crumbling, gothically run-down 19th century building. The surrounding area has been perfectly respectable for as long as I can remember, but it used to be that you'd avoid this particular intersection unless you were a card-carrying member of the trenchcoat brigade. I was out of town for the latter half of the 90's, and while I was gone both of these places were expunged from the universe. I don't know when, or under what circumstances. Quite possibly the building inspector saw the theater and condemned the place on the spot. These days there's no sign that either ever existed, except for a couple of empty lots.


Part of the sidewalk somewhere deep in the Pearl district. You won't find Tanner Creek on any map, because the whole thing is underground these days. An early plan for the area proposed "daylighting" the creek, which would've been really cool. I suppose that would've been too expensive, or would've used up too much valuable condo tower land, so instead we have fussy conceptual art non-substitutes like this, and like Tanner Springs a few blocks "downstream". Feh.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stupid Apocalypse

It's official. Our country's gone completely, hopelessly bonkers. In what I guess is an attempt to compete with FauxNews, CNN is putting apocalyptic fundie nutjobs on the air [also see here and here.] to talk about the current mideast crisis and how it relates to the "End Times". Apparently this is supposed to be a reasonable position we all need to take seriously.

Jerry Falwell gets his two evil cents in as well. And here's more religious silliness, masquerading as a sober, thoughtful editorial in USA Today. And if USA Today's on the beat, you know there's a genuine pop culture trend going on here.

Here's a TNR piece from last April on the same topic, back when the pope kicked off. Which is relevant because the fundies are always at it, and they always see current events as the end of the world, and the media's always right there enabling them. Never mind that what's happening in Lebanon right now is an exceedingly small war by the region's historical standards.

The rest of the world's busy trying to figure out why Dubya & Co. aren't doing anything to resolve the fighting in Lebanon. Well, it's because the inmates are running the asylum, that's why. They're sure the world's about to end in a colossal bloodbath, and they're totally stoked about it. Check out the state of the art in fundie megachurch extravaganzas, and tell me they aren't the inmates. So long as these people run our country, it's just going to be war after war after war, in every corner of the globe.

I'd really like to know when, and how, it became "reasonable" to argue that entire countries full of people need to be exterminated for Jesus / Yahweh / Allah / Mammon / Dubya / Exxon / Etc. You'd think that anyone with a scrap of conscience would absolutely refuse to take these wingnuts' ideas seriously, much less fawn over them in front of a worldwide TV audience.

Couple of additional articles for your End-ertainment (har! har!)

Meanwhile, our New Agers are feeling pretty smug, knowing the real Apocalypse won't happen until 2012, as predicted by the Mayans. Because this stuff is somehow far more credible than similar predictions made by ancient Mideastern desert tribes, I gather. No word on why this is so, though.

Wouldn't it be funny if it turned out the Rapture happened ten years ago, but nobody measured up and not a single person got to go? Yeahhh. Sounds like a lucrative movie plot to me.

In order to not depress you further, here are a few animal-related items, most of which are only midly apocalyptic in tone:

  • In addition to global war, another precondition for the end of the world is a perfectly red cow. Don't ask me why. I've read Revelations a couple of times and I don't remember anything about red cows. Seems that all this time, the one thing standing between us and the end of the world is the fact that all the "red" cows you see out there have a few non-red hairs somewhere, which makes them impure, or something. But at least one cattle rancher is working on it. (more here.)
  • Pharyngula links to a video clip of the weirdest caterpillar I've ever seen. Never mind all that silly business with six-headed goats of Babylon and so forth. This beastie's real, and it's been caught on video.
  • Remember that polar bear / grizzly hybrid that was in the news recently? (This is another sign of the apocalypse, incidentally.) On a weekend getaway a few weeks ago, we were out in the Columbia Gorge for a couple days and wandered into an antique store, as we occasionally do. I usually don't sift through stacks of old National Geographics, but I did this time, and ended up buying a few issues from the late 50's. The April 1957 issue included an article by the retiring director of the National Zoo in DC, reminiscing about all the animals he'd worked with over the years. On page 515 there's a photo of a pair of bear cubs, polar bear / Alaskan brown bear hybrids.

    I was all excited for a bit, thinking I'd found a forgotten predecessor to the recently discovered (and immediately shot as a trophy) one. If you read the news stories closely, though, they do mention that previous hybrids had occurred in zoos. These particular hybrids are apparently the second generation of offspring from an amusing accident. From the Wikipedia article about bear hybrids:

    In 1936, a male polar bear accidentally got into an enclosure with a female Kodiak (Alaskan Brown) bear at the US National Zoo, resulting in three hybrid offspring. One hybrid was named Willy and grew into an immense specimen. The hybrid offspring were fertile and able to breed successfully with each other, indicating that the two species of bear are closely related. The Kodiak is also considered by many to be a variant or subspecies of the basic arctic (circumpolar) brown bear.

    I imagine the cubs shown in the National Geographic article are the result of the aforementioned hybrid offspring (in)breeding with each other. All sources are silent on what became of the cubs, in the end.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006



A bumblebee in downtown Portland. I feel I'm falling down on my blogging duties here, because I can't give you a latin name for either the bee or the flower pictured here. [But see the first user comment below.] I don't even know whether the bee is a native species or not. The info is probably out on the net somewhere, but I haven't been able to find it so far. I suppose I could just go, bumblebees are neato, the photo's pretty cool, and leave it at that, but that just isn't my way. I attached the slogan "Dig a little deeper" to this blog a while ago, so now I feel obligated. It can be a real burden sometimes.

We can be pretty sure it's not a Franklin's Bumblebee, Bombus franklini, which lives in a very small range in southern Oregon and northern California, and which has been suffering a rapid population decline in recent years. There's a bit more about this species at National Geographic, but no photos. Oregon State University has a photo here, but it's in a PDF created from a set of PowerPoint slides, so it's kind of inconvenient.

The flower I don't care about quite as much. It's in a concrete planter, in a highly non-natural setting, so I assume it's just whatever was on sale down at Home Depot, or wherever the city buys its decorative annuals in bulk.

Although neither site actually answered my questions, you'll find more fun with bumblebees at the UK's Natural History Museum, and at The University of Akron also has a good page about bees in general.

The sciences have dropped the ball here, and hidden the bumblebee's secrets somewhere deep in the net, beyond the reach of my formidable Google-fu. So let's switch gears, and seek out some poetry about bumblebees.

Anyone who posts original poems on the net is brave. Possibly foolhardy as well, but certainly very brave. I know I wouldn't have the guts to do it, even if I had anything to post, which I don't. I also realize I tend to become snarky and disagreeable when talking about... ok, when talking, period, basically. Which would be unreasonable in this case, and would beg the inevitable "Ok, let's see you write a poem and put it on the net." response, and like I said, that's not going to happen. Furthermore, of the many things that I am not, "poetry critic" is among the foremost, or hindmost, or however that works. (See what I mean?) So I'm simply going to present a few bumblebee poem links without comment, for your entertainment: here, here, here, here, and here.

The rules are different when an author has been dead for 90 years plus a week. He's not around to complain anymore, plus his work is in the public domain. So I present to you The Bumblebee, by the Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley. I'd never heard of the guy, but he was apparently rather famous at one time, in his native region. Although if his other poems are like this one, I can't imagine what the big fuss was all about. I'm no poetry critic, but even I can tell this is a steaming pile of mad cow's tripe. But feel free to disagree, if you like.

You better not fool with a Bumblebee!—
Ef you don't think they can sting—you'll see!
They're lazy to look at, an' kind o' go
Buzzin' an' bummin' aroun' so slow,
An' ac' so slouchy an' all fagged out,
Danglin' their legs as they drone about
The hollyhawks 'at they can't climb in
'Ithout ist a-tumble-un out ag'in!
Wunst I watched one climb clean 'way
In a jimson-blossom, I did, one day,—
An' I ist grabbed it — an' nen let go—
An' "Ooh-ooh! Honey! I told ye so!"
Says The Raggedy Man; an' he ist run
An' pullt out the stinger, an' don't laugh none,
An' says: "They has be'n folks, I guess,
'At thought I wuz predjudust, more er less,—
Yit I still muntain 'at a Bumblebee
Wears out his welcome too quick fer me!"

While I was Googling, I came across a good blog called One Good Bumblebee. Not actually about bumblebees, so I'm veering OT a little here, but this here's my blog, I'm the Decider, and I decide what's best, so I can go OT if I want to, neener, neener, neener. There are cats there sometimes, and the top post at the moment features a very large metal deer. So go see, if you're bored with all of this crap about bumblebees.

Updated: Here's a photo of a bumblebee visiting flowers at 1st & Arthur, only a few blocks from where I saw my bumblebee (Lovejoy Fountain Plaza). So it's possible this bee and my bee are from the same hive. Or maybe both photos are of the exact same bee... Whoa.... Cosmic, man....

Misc. Items for July 26th

  • The latest scary MAX assault out in the 'burbs. When you hear Portland's movers and shakers bragging about us being the most European city in America, they don't mean we're a center of history, art, culture, and cuisine. We'd sure like to be, but the results so far are decidedly mixed. However, we are doing a great job of pushing our urban poor out of the city center, moving towards the Parisian banlieue model, with similar results. They aren't rioting and burning cars just yet, but let it simmer for a generation or so, and we may have our own Clichy-sus-Bois on our hands right here in Stumptown. Think Rockwood, Aloha, part of Hillsboro, part of the 'Couv, maybe Cornelius, maybe a couple of other spots I can't think of right now.
  • Or possibly that MAX assault didn't actually happen. Still, my main point stands.
  • Could be worse, though. In Minneapolis, they've taken to arresting zombies, leading to the best set of mugshots I've ever seen. Now, in Portland if you went around dressing like that, we'd probably elect you mayor or something. Or so we like to think, anyway.
  • The Oregonian has a truly lame piece up insisting we have our own unique bohemian style here in town, which they insist on calling "PoBo", one of those two-word contractions (a la SoHo) beloved by clueless journalists, greedy developers, sun-addled Californians, and just about nobody else. Someone ought to tell them that in actual European cities, people tend not to wear flip-flops to the opera. Furthermore, despite all the urban mythmaking, people here generally don't wear flip-flops to the opera, either. As the story goes, we Portlanders love nothing better than to wander around to all sorts of formal high-culture events dressed like crazy homeless people: Lime green bicycle shorts to the symphony, stinky dirty sweats to the ballet, speedos and trenchcoats to Shakespeare plays, and so on. (Although this doesn't translate into treating actual homeless people compassionately, of course.) Our dirty little secret is that the legend isn't true. Granted, we have no shortage of badly dressed people, but you're far more likely to find them in suburban multiplexes or the mall than at the opera. Note to recent transplants: We are very reserved folk here. The fact that nobody says anything rude to you when you dress like that should not be mistaken for approval. We're talking about you behind your back. Trust me on this.
  • Updated:The Mercury has a piece about all the PoBo-bashing, and they forgot to link to me. Even though I'm the Mercury's friend on MySpace and everything. Sheesh. Bunch of freakin' ingrates.
  • A mini-rant about the upcoming Oregon Brewers' Festival. I still haven't decided on whether I'm going to go or not, myself. Hmm, here's another rant.
  • A fun news update from the security guy at Reservoir 3.
  • A nice early crescent moon. Turns out that there's a bit of healthy competition going on to see who can photograph the earliest crescent moon. You can be certain from this that all the competitors are undoubtedly a.) geeks, and b.) men. This crescent is nearly a full 24 hours old, so there's room for you, yes, you to get in on the action and claim your glory, such as it is.
  • Further afield, seems that Saturn's moon Titan has lakes after all, which are fed by methane rain.
  • K5 has an interesting roundup of blogs from Lebanon, from a variety of perspectives.
  • An interesting post at an Irish politics forum draws analogies between "Peak Oil" and the Potato Famine. One additional point: there's nowhere to emigrate to when the oil runs out.
  • They just don't write books like these anymore. Something tells me Stephen Colbert read "Grizzly" as a child, and never recovered.
  • Today's soon-to-be-a-major-horror-movie story: A university in India stands accused of releasing "used" research monkeys back into the forest
  • And last but not least: Squids!!! With guns!!!

Cutest. Echidna. Ever.

Awwwww.... The original SMH story is here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Governors Park expedition

[View Larger Map]

Some photos of Governors Park [map], in the West Hills right next door to downtown Portland. I'd seen this place on city maps before, but I'd never been there, and I'd never heard or read anything about it. I figured it was a short walk from the office, so I'd pop up there on my lunch hour-or-so and check it out. Well, it's a short but rather steep uphill walk, but hey, I'm young and healthy and all that. If you take the most direct route from downtown, it's also a steep uphill walk along a narrow single-lane one-way street with no sidewalks. Maybe that's your idea of fun, but if not, avoid SW College Street.


ivy, governors park

As with Kelly Butte, the city parks department has very little to say about the place. It "includes natural area", and has been owned by the city since 1894, when the land was donated by Gov. Sylvester Pennoyer [also see here and here] and his wife. So the city's owned it for over a hundred years, and they've done basically nothing to the place in all that time.

This large pdf from the city describes the park thusly:

Governors Park, located in the northern part of the site, is six acres in size and has a stand of mature Douglas fir. This park provides wildlife habitat, marks the top of the hill and creates a gateway into the neighborhoods on each side of it. All of these elements contribute to the urban design and quality of the area.

The "gateway" bit is just design-junkie blather, but the Douglas fir trees at least are real, for whatever that's worth. Several are right on SW Davenport, so if you're from out of town and you've never seen a Douglas fir before, I guess you could drive by here and take a quick peek. Or you could go to any of half a million other locations around the city. Ok, so maybe if you were from out of town, and you wanted to see a Douglas fir, and you were staying with friends in the neighborhood, and had to catch a flight in a few hours so you didn't have time to go anywhere else, maybe this would be your ideal spot. Possibly. If you are, in fact, a Douglas fir, this might be a decent place to put down roots. In case you needed advice on that subject from a clueless mammal, I mean.

Governors Park

Once you get there you'll notice that, like Kelly Butte, there's no sign from the city parks department letting you know you've found it. If you didn't know what you were looking for, you'd probably just assume it's another unbuildable vacant lot like you see all over the West Hills. If you stop and take a look around, like I did, you'll quickly realize that it is basically an unbuildable vacant lot, just one that happens to be owned by the city parks department. There's a trail, probably unofficial, leading into the park from SW Davenport. I followed it a short way into the park before deciding I'd really rather not slip and tumble down the slope. See the slope in photo #4? As far as I was able to tell, the whole park is like that: Extremely steep, forested hillsides, choked to the gills with invasive ivy. Unless there are undiscovered urban delights somewhere in the park that I didn't get to (which I doubt), it looks like Pennoyer saddled the city with a white elephant (albeit a small and obscure one) which it can neither use nor dispose of. The city's response over the last 112 years seems to have been to spend as little money as possible on the place, and send city resources anywhere but here. That's my guess, at any rate.

A trails guide at ExplorePDX describes the park this way:

Undeveloped park has no good routes within it, but the routes in both directions on Davenport have many nice loops with spectacular views of the city and many small parks and long sets of stairs.

Which is true. The surrounding neighborhood is actually much more scenic and interesting than the park itself. I think the phrase "the journey is the reward" is really trite, but it does sort of apply here.

Governors Park

This all begs the question: Why did our esteemed governor donate the land? Did he honestly think it was going to be useful to the city somehow, someday? Or was he shedding a piece of "junk" land he couldn't use, and taking the tax writeoff? Or perhaps he had a house nearby, and the donation was to ensure nobody would ever build a house there and block his view. Or possibly one of his many archenemies lived next to the park, and Pennoyer donated the land so its trees would be protected and eventually grow to block so-and-so's view. That sounds like something he'd try to pull. Perhaps someone knows about this, but it doesn't seem to be on the net anywhere.

After doing a bit of reading about the guy, I'm not inclined to think he acted out of noble, selfless civic-mindedness. His usual M.O. consisted of populist appeals to the baser instincts in human nature, most prominently his anti-Chinese campaign [Also see the telegram his note is in reply to.]. Chinese-bashing was 1890s Oregon's version of today's Mexican-bashing, with the same arguments about the jobs of US citizens being undercut by cheap foreign labor.

In his inaugural address, Pennoyer touched on a wide range of subjects, including such uncontroversial ones as preventing the fraudulent sale of margarine as butter, and restricting salmon fishing for conservation purposes (which we didn't listen to, of course). But then he has to go and say this sort of thing about Chinese immigrants:

Irrevocably devoted to their paganism idolatry, superstition and practices, they are entirely unassimilative with our people, blind to the progressive spirit of our race, unappreciative of our institutions and deaf to the demands and influences of Christianity, and their presence amongst us is only corruption of society, debasing to morals and degrading to labor. Can the State do anything toward ridding itself of these undesirable aliens?

Throughout his career, he combined vicious racial attitudes with relatively progressive, anti-elitist rhetoric about monopolies, labor, the railroads, and so forth. This mix seems odd to us today, but it wasn't at all unusual in 19th and early 20th century politics. Even into the 1960s you'd see this sort of thing in Southern states -- see Orval Faubus for one well-known example. It's sad to say this, but up until quite recently our Democratic Party was often not a party of high and noble sentiments.

Some articles about Pennoyer's peevish, vindictive meddling with the police and water bureaus, his efforts to block construction of the first Morrison Bridge, and even his partisan feud with President Benjamin Harrison. He was also the first to propose a state income tax, which you can regard as good or ill, depending on your own inclinations. He litigated a couple of feuds all the way to the US Supreme Court: Pennoyer v. McConnaughy, and Neff v. Pennoyer. The latter case is apparently a dreaded law school staple, and it's been feared and reviled by generations of aspiring lawyers. The judge in both cases was prompted to give him the nickname "Sylpester Annoyer".

I wouldn't have voted for the guy back then, and granting him any form of official commemoration in this day and age is kind of an iffy prospect, IMHO.

The park's merely called "Governors" park, plural, no apostrophe, so the place is not really a monument to ol' Sylvester, specifically. Although as memorials go, a useless, misbegotten scrap of land with a weird story behind it would seem to be a fitting tribute. The Annoyer does, however, have a small street named after him. Pennoyer St. currently runs for about a block in the Corbett neighborhood, but another segment of the street will open in the South Waterfront area, so in the near future a lot of rich people will boast Pennoyer St. as their ultra-ritzy home address. The surrounding streets are named after early governors of Oregon 1845-1877. Pennoyer's the exception here. In fact, he was governor at the time. Eugene Snyder's authoritative Portland Names and Neighborhoods suggests that city officials were trying to suck up to the esteemed governor. No word on whether it worked or not.

Governors Park

Updated 9/1/06: I was at the Central Library downtown today and among the reference books I came across an unwieldy set of binders containing the city's Historic Resource Inventory, dated May 1984. Here's what the book had to say about Governors Park:

0-204-01292 [I imagine this is an ID number of some sort.]
1292 SW Davenport St.
Grover's, Tax Lot 32, 5.32 acres
Quarter section map # 3227
Negative 762-22 [the id of the photo on the Governors Park page, I assume. The copy in the binder is b/w and grainy, but perhaps the original is more high-res. Still, the photo showed trees and grass, maybe less overgrown than what's there in 2006, but not hugely different.]

The park item gives a mini-bio of Gov. Pennoyer, and then continues on about the park:

Pennoyer was Pportland's mayor from 1896-1898 and donated a six acre tract in the West Hills for a city park in 1894. Another acre was given by the couple in 1898, and another in 1901. Governor's Park (named after Governor Pennoyer) was deeded to the city under five deeds all for park purposes only. Three of the deeds were from the Pennoyer's [sic], thr first of which restricted the property to a public park only and the other two deeds were additions to said park. It was further stipulated that the park was to be named "Governor's Park". The fourth deed was from the First National Bank of Portland, Oregon as an addition to Governor's Park. The County subsequently conveyed the same property to the City for park purposes only. There is no reversion clause in the deeds.

This still doesn't answer the question of what the park was intended to be for, and raises others. For example, if the city's math is right, the total acreage donated adds up to be at least 8 acres, significantly more than the 5.32 reported in 1984, or the 5.41 reported on the current Parks website. The discrepancy is not explained. The only clue is the "no reversion clause" bit, which tells us that even though the deeds restricted the land to be used solely for park purposes, the land wouldn't revert to the previous owner if the city didn't abide by the deed restrictions. Either the city's math was wrong back in '84, or some of the land is now under some of the surrounding houses. The latter wouldn't really surprise me. Otherwise, why would they bother mentioning reversion at all?

It's interesting to note the use of the apostrophe in "Governor's", and Pennoyer's insistence on the name. Looks like the first donation was a gift to the city shortly before he ran (successfully) for mayor, and he insisted it be named after his recent, very powerful position, so everyone was clear on who had provided this wonderful new park for the public's enjoyment. Talk about a self-serving donation. Sheesh. The city and the mapmakers no longer use the apostrophe, suggesting that it honors all governors, not jut the one weird bigoted wingnut who donated the land.

At least that's one way to read this. The description I quoted above also wrongly adds an apostrophe when referring to Pennoyer and his wife, calling them the "Pennoyer's". So I'm not sure how much faith we can place in the apostrophe in "Governor's" either.

The city's notes on some surounding properties include these tidbits:
  • The area was "originally" part of the Thomas J. Carter donation land claim. There's a Carter St. in the vicinity, honoring the area's first European landowner.
  • The park spans the address range between 1291 and 1411 SW Davenport.
  • At one time, the area was part of a farm operated by the Sisters of the Holy Name, who also operated St. Mary's Academy.
  • The area was developed as single-family housing in the late '30s thru 1942.
  • Before development, the area was full of fruit orchards.
  • The area was developed by Milo McIver, who purchased the land from the nuns.
  • McIver also extended SW Davenport, extending it east from its original terminus at the park.
Amusingly, Milo McIver (a one-time state highway commissioner) has a park named after him as well. It's a state park out near Estacada (which this humble blog visited in 2007), and is vastly larger than Pennoyer's pet project here, although the state refers to the place as little-known. It's perhaps best known for hosting 1970's Vortex I hippiefest, sponsored by the state government to get the hippies out of town during the American Legion convention. They could have all the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll they wanted, so long as they didn't protest the war. And the hippies fell for it, and even now they go on about what a wonderful event it was. Stupid hippies.

Updated 7/7/08: I was looking back over some of my old posts, and it occurred to me that the photos for this post didn't really measure up, by my present-day standards. So I figured I'd hoof it up to the park and take a new batch, and generally take a look around, and update this post accordingly. So, ok, the new photos are here now and I think they're a big improvement. (The original two are still here, right after the first paragraph.) Not much new to say about the place, though. Nothing's changed, as far as I can tell. I didn't go any further into the park than I did last time around, although not for lack of wanting to. Unless there's a still-undiscovered secret way into the place, I just don't know how you'd go about it without tumbling down a steep ivy-choked hillside. Then you'd have to call for help, whether by mobile phone or that old-fashioned "shouting" business, and wait to be rescued, and then have to explain to the waiting TV news cameras that you were at the park either a.) blogging about it, or b.) visiting because you saw it on some random blog out on the interwebs. Either way, it would be awfully embarrassing. In any case, the rest of the photos are on Flickr here.

Updated 3/14/11: Thanks to the Multomah County Library's magical Oregonian Historical Archive, a bit more info about the park can be relayed. We're at least going to learn more about the stated reasons behind the park, whatever the actual ones might have been.

A September 9, 1898 article describes the then-new park. The article isn't very legible due to the page not being entirely flat on the scanner, but it describes the park as "very sightly", with great views of the city & the Cascades, with occasional glimpses of Pennoyer himself toiling away on his farm next door. The article predicts the park will become a favorite, and suggests it will get streetcar service in the near future.

A few days later, on September 11, 1898, the paper ran a long article giving an overview of the city park system. It describes the park:

Governor's Park is quite a recent addition to the city's public lands. Two acres of this were presented by Sylvester Pennoyer, December 29, 1894, at the time he went out of office as governor, and he added another acre to it June 28, 1898, just before he left the mayor's chair. It is a small but sightly piece of land on Portland Heights, sloping toward the north, with a tiny view of the city and the river from its summit. Cedar and maple are scattered over the hillside, crimson-berried dogwood crowd downward into the gulch, and one towering fir rises grandly toward the clouds. In order to reach this park one must take the cable up Portland Heights, getting off at Spring street, where the car turns westward, walk two blocks east, one block south, and take the winding path that goes around the hill toward the east. Then turn south and descend to Davenport street, which ends abruptly at a big gate. On the other side of this gate is Governor's Park.

October 28, 1911 saw a proposal to rename the park "Pennoyer Park" after the now-late governor. The article mentions that a daughter of his proposed to donate a memorial fountain in his honor should the name change be accepted. Previously, on February 17, 1909, the proposal was listed along with various others that have mostly not come to pass: Renaming City Park to Jefferson Park (after rejecting Lewis & Clark) -- the park later became Washington Park. The Park Blocks would have been called "the Park Way North" and "the Park Way South". The Plaza Blocks got their current names at this time, and the little parks in Ladd's Addition were proposed to be Ladd Circle, Maple Square, Cypress Square, Orange Square, and Mulberry Square. Other than Ladd Circle I don't know if these names were adopted or not.

November 1, 1911 saw a rather hysterical article titled "RUIN OF SITE FEARED", subtitled "BOARD TO TRY TO SAVE GOVERNOR'S PARK". There was a proposal to extend Davenport through the park, and people were afraid the park would soon be carved up by additional streets. Subsequent articles indicate that the proposal was denied at the time.

By January 5, 1912, local residents were becoming impatient with the city's inaction with regard to the park:

PARK IMPROVEMENT ASKED. - Citizens of Portland Heights and vicinity have petitioned the Park Board to take immediate action to improve what is now known as Governor's Park. Nothing has been done with this property, which was given by the Pennoyers years ago. The petition is signed by H.D. Chambers, L.B. Menefee, and W.D. Mercereau as a committee from the Heights Club.

There's no record of the city acting on this petition, and mentions of the park taper off after 1912. An overview of the city park system on July 30, 1933 describes it as "Four acres, picnic grounds, underbrush cleared out for hiking, beautiful view, overlooking city to east". So not much happened in the 21 years after the petition, but the park appears to have had more amenities in 1933 than it does now.

There are only two mentions of the park in the Oregonian after that. One is -- supposedly -- on April 29, 1939, but I don't see it anywhere on the page, which is mostly devoted to religion stories. And then it appears on October 25, 1970 on a combination parks map and Frank Ivancie campaign ad. And after that, nothing.

It's really kind of a sad story. It appears that hopes were really high for the park in the beginning. But then the city never got around to improving the place, and within a few years it fell off everyone's radar. And it's remained there ever since, over a century at this point.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Squirrel & Butterfly

Evil Squirrel


The best squirrel yet (compared to these two, anyway), plus a subpar photo of a butterfly. The butterfly happened to fold its wings up a split-second before I took this. Stupid bug.

The squirrel at least had the sense to hold still. It even held still after my flash went off. (Note the glowing eye. I'm trying to pass this off as if it was due to Pure Evil on the squrrel's part, but really it's just the flash.) That's what happens when you have no natural predators, I guess.

The title of this post is not to be confused with "Dog & Butterfly", the old Heart song (& album). Nor should it be confused with "Moose & Squirrel". If you came here looking for "Iron Butterfly", I don't have much to offer you here either. You also shouldn't confuse it with "Butterfly & Panda", supposing there was a reason to.

Do you get the sense that I'm stalling here? That I'm playing for time by sticking to the very lightest & fluffiest of subjects? Like there's something I ought to say but I'm not looking forward to saying? You'd be right about that, and I'm very reluctant to go there, so let's try to get this over with. I'll try to keep it to a paragraph, or at most two paragraphs, and then I'm done talking about it. (I hope.)

I'm concerned about the current Israel-n-friends vs. Hezbollah-n-friends conflict. I honestly don't see any solution to it. The status quo ante bellum was unsustainable. The fact that it eventually broke down is all the proof we need about that part. In the current conflict I see no viable way for either party to "win", or to reach a stable ceasefire deal. When it's not hardline apocalyptic rhetoric, it's tired decades-old ideological slogans. And they all mean the same thing: Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people will die for no good reason. Maybe another generation or two or ten down the road they'll finally get sick of killing one another. Or at least stop enjoying it so damn much.

You wouldn't think the preceding paragraph would be controversial stuff, but any mention of the Middle East, no matter how innocuous, always attracts the psycho crazies. Sometimes you get bloodthirsty Nile-to-Euphrates neocons who want the US to nuke Iran right this minute, and maybe Syria too, and the Palestinians, and Saudi Arabia too while we're at it, and you're a goose-stepping Nazi if you disagree even a little. (Curiously, these people only seem to exist on the net, and on talking head shows on TV, and in a few magazines nobody reads outside the Beltway.) Other times you get apocalyptic Bible-thumpin' fundies who know for certain that the End is near, for real this time, honest, not like last time around, and you're going to Hell if you disagree even a little. I haven't gotten any wild-eyed crazies from the other side here just yet, but I know they're out there, squatting in their caves, plotting to behead every infidel on the planet, or at least as many as they can before their arms get tired. So basically we're replicating the current war (well, the nutty, pointless rhetoric of the current war) in the blogosphere. I'm on nobody's side. I really, really have no interest in "debating" any of these people, so I think that for the first time I'm going to check the "No" box for "Allow New Comments on This Post". If you fall into any of the above categories, go get your own damn blog. It's so easy these days, even you should be able to figure it out.

There. I'm done now. Rant over. Maybe you'll want to scroll back up and look at those cute animal photos again. I know I will.

Apolitical Beastie Roundup

I know I ought to be writing about the Middle East, but I just don't have the heart for it, and I don't have any helpful suggestions just now. So instead, here are some cool, cute, amazing, and/or just plain weird animals for your enjoyment. Have a nice day.

  • Yet another cute echidna photo. Awwwww....
  • Rosy-lipped batfish I wonder what the creationists would make of this beastie?
  • King-of-Salmon (note: not a salmon)
  • Three new species of mouse lemur
  • From Cute Overload: Baby Turtle! Awwww....
  • More turtles, this time with a local connection.
  • In other reptile news: All Your Snakes Are Belong To Us!!!
  • In even more kinda-reptilian-ish creature news, Exclamation Mark has a piece up about "It! The Terror from Beyond Space".
  • In the not-yet-a-monster-movie department, Japanese researchers are working on a robotic giant squid. Why does Japan always get all the coolest gadgets, and we don't?
  • From the amazing and definitely not cute department: I don't know what sort of animal Floyd Landis is, but I sure wouldn't want to be in his way. Still, as someone who spent the last few years rooting against ol' whatsisname from Texas and his whole marketing juggernaut, it's nice to have a "normal", likeable person win for once. Chapeau, Floyd!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday Surrogate-Post Blogging

This week I've been doing long-ish posts every other day instead of nice bite-sized-ish daily ones. I don't know why this happened, it wasn't part of the plan or anything, and I'm sure it's somehow 100% not my fault.

What's worse, today I've fallen even further off the already slackened pace. I've been working on a shiny new bad movie post, and it's sort of taken on a life of its own, and to make a long-ish story short-ish, it's not done yet and probably won't be done today, period. I may even have to break it up into manageable post-sized chunks. So I figured I ought to get on here and write something, so this blog's Gentle Reader(s) -- yes, both of you -- don't start fretting that I've fallen off the edge of the flat earth or something.

[Updated: The bad movie post I mentioned is here. I guess it could've been a bit shorter, but like I said, it took on a life of its own.]

It's nudging 100 degrees outside and I'm not feeling very ambitious, so I think I'm going to cheat a little here. You know, because a blogger can really work up a major sweat coming up with original material -- even really lame original material -- and on a day like this there's the danger of heatstroke to consider. So instead, here are a few mostly light-n-fluffy items from my Sent Items folder in Outlook. That's the unifying theme today. It's all stuff I found somewhere, and forwarded on to someone, usually because I thought it was funny, or cute, or interesting somehow. You've probably seen a few of these before, and I humbly apologize. (What, you want me to work harder at this, in this heat? Are you freakin' crazy?) Also, I apologize if some of these seem a bit out of date. That's because they're from old Sent Items. So again, if that bothers you, sorry, I guess. So here we go:

  • An account of recent progress in the study of the mating habits of wombats.
  • More about wombats.
  • A fantastic and useful new invention: the Babycage!
  • "The Top 100 Things I'd Do
    If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord".
  • A NYT story from February praising Oregon beer, notable (& unusual) because it mentions the True Center of the Universe, a.k.a. Tugboat.
  • A McSweeney's exclusive about the shiny(?) new iPod zepto, because the nano is far too huge and clunky and non-microscopic.
  • A post at Y! SCOX about poorly named websites. I imagine this is one of those forwarded email things, but this is where I first saw it.
  • A great way to tell loved ones how you really feel: A Valentine's card featuring Gollum.
  • The ritual sacrifice of an Xbox 360. To some, this was a tragedy, but I'm arguably the world's biggest non-gamer, and I just burst out laughing when I read about it.
  • In France, people will apparently do just about anything if you tell them it's for an art film.
  • Classic tech from last October's El Reg, the mp3 breast implant.
  • Brew better beer with FreeBSD.
  • Keep your beer cool with a CPU fan and some fiddly electronic bits.
  • And BeerAdvocate's "You Know You're a Beer Geek When..."
  • And a bit of beer history for ya: A History of Malt Liquor, I kid you not.
  • Moving right along, here's a BBC piece about the amazing Millau Viaduct in southern France. If a programmer (such as myself) ever tries to convince you he or she is a "real engineer", point them at the Millau Viaduct and ask if they can pull off something even 1% as cool. Someday they really ought to run the Tour de France over this thing.
  • A nice cozy article from the Helsingin Sanomat: What does Finland really look like?
  • All About Frogs. Because if anyone ever asks "What about frogs?", I know to say "I like frogs".
  • 2 photos of a long-nosed monkey. Yes, that's the official name. Click the link and see why.
  • The original link is gone, and the video itself has disappeared from the net entirely (AFAIK), so instead here's a funny "film review" of the infamous Wendy's "Grill Skill" video.
  • A 2004 innovation in Scottish cuisine: The Stonner, a pork sausage wrapped in doner kebab meat, battered, and deep fried. Mmm!!!!
  • A bit about trash talking Mars rovers.
  • Maybe they were just in a bad mood after Spirit got mugged by that sneaky Beagle 2.
  • And a non-satirical but quite funny Jeffrey Bell rant about Beagle 2, while I'm on the subject.
  • You can now (or could at one time) purchase a nice, proprietary, fascist-DRM-protected e-book copy of the U.S. Constitution. Irony died once and for all the day this hit the market.
  • The greatest news headline of all time: "Zombies Drive Jesus From Top Of Box Office".

There's plenty more where that came from, naturally, but I'm tired of looking at old email, and it's taking a while, and today's post is all about not overexerting myself, you know, due to the heat and all.

So, well, there you go. Enjoy, or not. Whatever.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Time Barbarians

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time (which you probably haven't), you already know about my weakness for cheesy 80's sword and sorcery movies. And yes, Gentle Reader(s), I've got a new one for you today, one so low-budget and obscure that even I hadn't heard of it until recently. I present to you... Time Barbarians, an entry in the little-known but important subgenre of time-travelling barbarian films.

A scant few online reviews of the film have appeared.
The New York Times sums it up thusly:

When evil wizard Mandrak kills the wife of Doran, the warrior king, he immediately escapes through a time portal to modern day Los Angeles in an attempt to escape Doran's wrath. Doran follows him, however, and now the barbarian stalks Mandrak through a world that he does not understand. He will stop at nothing to have his revenge against the sorcerer, but who know what havoc he will wreck on the fragile city along the way.
Cammila Albertson, All Movie Guide

MK Magazine is less charitable:

“Time Barbarians” is a low-rent “Conan the Barbarian” with all of the compulsory trimmings; swords, sorcery, warriors, forces of evil, crystal amulets, kings, wizards, muscle men and near-naked barbarian babes. In a feeble attempt to pull his film away from the glut of others, that are completely superior to his, director Barmettler threw in a time travel subplot that drives the film from inept to sheer silliness. Scenes of our leading man hulking along the sidewalks of L.A., in a loincloth, getting into fights with a local street gang calling themselves, of course, The Gladiators is a sight to behold, but it certainly doesn’t save this amateurish mess. Barmettler went on to direct “Witchcraft 8.” - Christopher Curry

And At-A-Glance Film Reviews has a longer, even more uncharitable review here, giving the thing one star out of five, and wishing he could give it even fewer than that.

Pshaw, I say. It's clear from all of this that most reviewers just don't get the whole S&S genre. Zero stars out of five? Ridiculous. In a vastly superior ratings system I invented just now, Time Barbarians rates three furry boots out of a possible six. Decent, not a classic perhaps, but good for an evening of fun if you're in the right mood. Which, in the end, is all we can reasonably ask of this type of movie.

A few gems from the film, plus various comments about it:
  • Our story begins with a bit of scrolling text, a la Star Wars:

    "In an ancient time of swords and sorcery lived a remote tribe of barbarians who battled the forces of evil. These barbarians were protected by the power of a crystal amulet

    This is a story of their king."

  • Ok, that isn't precisely the beginning of the film. The DVD really begins with a typically atrocious intro by that Troma guy. This isn't actually a Troma movie, thank goodness, they just got the video rights to it somehow, same as Wizards of the Demon Sword. So that Lloyd guy really has no business introducing the movie. He annoys the hell out of me. When you see the guy with the bow tie, skip to the next chapter on the disc. As an aside, I'd like to take this opportunity to declare holy jihad against all men who wear bowties. They're a plague on our society, and I hate them all.
  • The amulet everyone's fighting over is a very ordinary-looking chunk of glass. In a belt, no less, very much not hanging around anyone's neck on a string. Which to me makes it a non-amulet, but hey. I'm not an SCA medieval costume geek, I could be wrong here. Also, other than shooting people forward in time to 1990 L.A., we never see any sign of the awesome powers it's supposed to possess. We don't even get a good explanation of what these powers are. It does have a nice rainbow twinkle visual effect, though, so that's something, I guess.
  • Right at the beginning, Doran vanquishes a baddie (who keeps hooting insanely throughout the whole fight) but doesn't kill him, a shockingly un-barbaric act that comes back to haunt him later, somewhat. Instead, he takes the baddie's mask and has a bit of swordplay with Lystra, his lady friend. She's pretty handy with a sword, by S&S movie standards, and has the crystal amulet for protection, and thinks he's an evil barbarian. Not smart, Doran. One false move here and this could've been a very short movie.
  • After the fight and inevitable tender moment, he gives her the amulet, which she was already wearing just a few minutes earlier. She acts all amazed, like she's never seen it before. If we play S&S movie geek and assume it's not just a silly continuity error, perhaps they've just been married for a long time, he's fallen into a giftgiving rut, and she's pretending it's a neat new gift in order to spare his feelings. Hey, I know people like that. It could happen. Usually in this situation people don't say "The power and strength fill me. It is as if I too were a great warrior." like Lystra does, but I'm chalking that up as just a matter of personal style.
  • A bit of deliciously bad dialogue about that pesky amulet:

    D: "My vow is to use its power to protect my people. To teach them honesty and bravery. To seek the truth. And if this is done, then the people of Armana shall be protected by its power."
    L: "So you have done. They worship you, doran"
    D: "That is not what i seek, for I am not a god. All i ask is that they listen and follow. Their lives then are their own."
    L: "You become wiser with each day. I am honored to be your queen."
    D: "My grandfather gave me fair warning. And you too must beware its power. For with one thought, one can make great journeys, to lands never seen by thine eyes, a land where one may never return. So dream not of lands other than this, or you shall leave me forever. The power shall make us great warriors. And with it we shall build a new world for our children."

  • S&S movies ought to have at least one scene in an idyllic barbarian village. If you don't have enough extras to film one, it's ok to lift some stock footage from some other S&S movie. It's fine. It's all good. You can probably recruit local renaissance faire types to be extras, free of charge, for this sort of thing. Very often they even come with their own props. The village scene in TB is not the best you'll see. It looks like maybe a dozen hippies in a state park campground, which is pretty close to what was actually going on. But that's ok. All you really need to do is suggest a pastoral paradise, and your viewers' overactive imaginations will fill in the blanks. Geek or anti-geek, moviegoers all know the boilerplate S&S plot by heart. You're just giving them basic visual cues, and they'll do the rest.
  • Doran's buddy Bartaga shows up and wants to go "hunting" with his king, spurning the advances of his would-be lady friend. He and several other characters are skinny, hairy little people with wild eyes. They work pretty well as barbarians, but I can't help thinking they look like junkies desperate for a fix. I mean, this was made in L.A., at the end of the 80's, so that's not much of a stretch here. Bartaga swills from his wineskin every chance he gets, so the druggie angle is almost too easy.
  • You could probably get a term paper out of the homoerotic angle, too. Let's be honest, every S&S movie has that to some extent. I mean, furry boots and loincloths? And when Doran embarks on his quest to find Mandrak, he expresses his fear for Doran's safety, whining "Who will I hunt with?" in the event Doran dies. It never gets totally overt, of course, because that would make the core audience nervous. There's just enough there to make the movies properly campy. Bartaga & Doran, Mandrak and his #1 henchman. We see more of these relationships than we do Doran and Lystra/Penny, and these guys bicker like old married couples. I'm not up on the latest academic phraseology or anything, but it's obvious what's going on under the hood here. Beyond that, well, write your own damn term paper, already, don't expect me to do all the heavy lifting for you. Sheesh.
  • Doran & Bartaga are wandering through the forest, bickering, when suddenly the Gatalite bandits (the bad barbarians) attack! There's a big swordfight with half a dozen bandits or so, including one female bandit. The crazy hooting guy is back, he's a bandit leader. Doran ko'd, so B. fights the other guys, and hooting guy kills him.

    The bandits' lair: fog, skulls on sticks, but looks like one of the other areas in the same campsite we saw before.

    The lair sequence goes on and on. Yawn. The Gatalites decide to sacrifice him to Moltar, their god of the underworld. They tie Doran up, he chats with a fellow inmate briefly. There's a female captive nearby too, who apparently doesn't get rescued.

    The baddies sacrifice the fellow inmate first, by pretending to cut the guy's throat from behind. You can see the "priest" squeeze the fake blood packet under the inmate's neck. Great stuff.

    Then hooting guy threatens Doran: "Tonight you meet Moltar. Strip him to the skin" and henchmen arrive to do it, cackling.
  • The big Deus ex Machina:
    All hope appears lost, and it looks like Doran's going to be Moltar's next sacrifice... But then!
    In a bit of magical music and heavy fog, a wolf trots past the camera. Suddenly, a woman in white appears! It's the wizard! And she's dressed in a transparent white outfit.

    The scene's not long, but it's worth it for the wizard's exquisite scenery chewing. After a brief bit of small talk, she demands
    "Where is my crystal amulet???"
    Doran lowers his eyes and responds "I lost it", like he was 8 years old and had lost his math homework.
    She berates him for this, and gives him a quest to travel to the future and bring the amulet back to her, or else his tribe will be cursed.
    She orders him: "Find the man who belongs to that hand on your belt."
    Suddenly, a magic sword appears. She tells Doran: "It will take it to your destination, and for the love of gods, don't lose it."

    There's a thunderclap, some cheesy "lightning", and Doran pulls the sword from a stone. He quickly kills the bandits, and then tells the hooting guy
    "Your evil Shall end. By my hands!", and kills him barehanded.
    Doran then holds the sword aloft, goes "huaaaagghhh!!!" and gets teleported to 1991 LA.
  • We cut immediately to L.A., where intrepid TV reporter Penny and her cameraman Bryce are in front of a run-down warehouse, doing a report on local street gangs. Penny looks just like Lystra, with big 80's glasses and one of those womens' business suits from that era with the frilly bit instead of a tie, and humongous shoulder pads.

    Seems the street gang "The Gladiators" has a protection racket going, and they've been extorting money from the warehouse owner. Suddenly, the gang appears, attacking Penny as she's trying to do a report. Bryce runs away, of course.

    The head Gladiator is a chubby guy with a peroxide buzz cut and a tie-dye shirt, who giggles insanely all the time. Just as they're about to get rough with Penny, Shazam! There's a thunderclap and a bit of lightning and some fog, and Doran appears. He immediately sees what's happening, and shouts "Free her!"

    The Gladiators confront him. He punches giggle guy, who stumbles back and jumps (very obviously) into a dumpster.

    Giggle guy tells his henchmen: "Get out your blades.", and they whip out their switchblades, like this is some sort of 50's juvenile delinquent film.
    Doran sees their little knives and says "Your swords match your manhood!". He whips out his magic sword, which materializes on his back when needed.
    Giggle guy's henchmen immediately run away. Giggle man stays a moment, thinks it over, folds his knife...
    and shouts "You SUCK!" and runs away. This is great stuff, I tell you. Probably the best moment in the film.

    Penny gets in the van and switches into a convenient little black dress, and stands there staring, drooling at Doran. Cameraman Bryce has an unrequited crush on her. Puny little guy in a lemon polo shirt. I can see why she hasn't noticed him. She convinces him to go back to station w/o her, while she chats up Doran:

    P: Wait. What's that thing you carry around on your belt?
    D: A hand.
    P: I kinda figured that. Whose hand is it?
    D: Mandrak's. Iv'e come to find him.
    P: Why do you have his hand? And what are you going to do when you find him?
    D: Battle!

  • The severed hand bit isn't bad. Mandrak gets his hand cut off by Bartaga's lady friend, who gives it to Bartaga as a "trophy of battle" as she dies. Doran carries it around on his belt for the rest of the movie, and when he finally confronts Mandrak, he beats him with his own severed hand. Mandrak falls, and Doran tosses it to him. Mandrak says "My hand!" with a disgusted look of "get it away from me", and cringes and flings it away, since the hand's a bit, um, overripe at this point. In the meantime, Mandrak starts out with a black glove as a replacement hand, and then has some sort of big metal clawlike hand during the final battle. This is never explained.
  • Oddly, neither Doran nor Mandrak really figures out that Penny and Lystra are played by the exact same actress. Mandrak seems puzzled for a moment and wonders why she looks familiar, but that's about all.
  • The movie's not without its flaws. (Well, duh!!) Mandrak appears far too late into the film. Once he vanishes into the future, the movie really takes its time getting Doran there, and spends far too long resolving the conflict with the evil barbarian tribe. If Mandrak had been the tribe's leader, it might have made sense.
    If you look at early 80's S&S movies, they tend to clock out at a touch over 80 minutes, while TB runs 96. My theory here is that the boilerplate S&S plot has a natural, inherent running time of about 80 minutes, and if you get too much beyond that, you need to start trimming the fat. If you're making an S&S movie, you'd do well to go back and read Aristotle's Poetics, in particular the chapter about dramatic unity. I mean, the very word "barbarian" comes from ancient Greek. Those guys knew all about barbarian adventures.
  • Mandrak is a classic, campy baddie, forever shouting "Silence!" and punching his underlings in the face for no apparent reason. We get far too little of him in the film. Other great Mandrak lines:
    "Tell me more of the amulet's powers! Tell me, or you will die by my sword, jackal!"
    "Give me the women or I'll cut your tongues out!"
    "Perhaps you can put me on the televison, make me famous, like ... movie stars."
    "Allow me to introduce myself. Mandrak the Magnificient, at your service."
    Also, he has a great, classic evil laugh, but we only hear it when we first meet the guy.
  • The music is pretty typical for this sort of movie. Someone noodles away on a synthesizer in a vaguely martial fashion, with a bit of hurdy-gurdy music during the renaissance faire bit. Once we hit the mean streets of L.A., we get someone noodling away on a guitar. You'd think a heavy metal soundtrack would be a natural here, but I can't recall any S&S movies actually doing that.
  • TB has a lower budget even than most S&S movies. Deathstalker II looks like Lord of the Rings in comparison. In the budget department it's right down there with Eyes of the Serpent, another three furry boot movie from the early 90's. For one thing, TB doesn't have a creature, not even a kid in a teddy bear suit like in Barbarian. This is the most surefire way to tell, because S&S movie makers always add a creature if they have the money for it, even if it's completely gratuitous.
  • Low budgets are a good thing in S&S movies. Throwing money at a S&S story doesn't make it a better movie. Look how Krull turned out. At best, a big Hollywood budget might get you some cool sets, but the movie as a whole won't be better, and it may well be worse. The first half of Time Barbarians was shot in Arroyo Seco, outside of LA, in what looks like a state park campground. You see the same stream and same trees over and over again, but it's all good. You know they're really different places, because sometimes there are a few fake skulls lying about, or the fog machine is hidden behind a different rock, or sometimes it's even nighttime. The second half is set around modern day LA, in vacant lots and empty warehouses where you don't need an expensive permit from the city to film.
  • Bad acting is par for the course in S&S movies. Bad acting is almost obligatory, in fact. I mean, of course they don't know how to act -- they're barbarians fer chrissakes. The good guy ("Doran") in Time Barbarians is played by Deron Michael McBee, who you might have seen as "Malibu" on "American Gladiators", back in the day. If you're casting an S&S movie, you want to hire your male lead primarily for the beefcake factor. How does he look in a loincloth? Can he wave a costume sword around without hurting himself or others? If he passes those tests, then figure out whether he can act or not. If not, just make his lines simple and easy to remember, and you'll be fine.
  • Casting female characters is just as easy: What do they look like? How do they look in a skimpy bikini top with jingly metal tassles? Couple of notes here, though. It's fine to have ugly male minor characters, but all your female characters need to be reasonably attractive, with the possible exception of the wise old woman who lives in a hut somewhere (and for her you can really overdo the ugly, with ridiculous costume warts, etc.) Also, to stay faithful to the genre you probably want to go easy on the silicone. I don't have any particular objections to that, let's be clear here, it's just that this was far less common in 1982 than it is now, and in the classics of the genre the uh, "natural look" is the rule, with fairly few exceptions.
  • Gratuitous nudity is very important. Since S&S movies are supposed to appeal to the 15 year old nerd demographic, a great way to get in some gratuitous nudity is to have a bunch of women lounging about in the altogether, thinking no men are around to watch, similar to the Porky's shower scene. If you can afford a harem scene, that's ideal. If not, you can do a bathing-in-a-forest-pool scene like TB does. If you're a weirdo, you could do a silver-mining scene like in Slaves of the Realm, a crossover S&S / women-in-prison tale that merits a pathetic one furry boot, because it's boring as hell unless it hits your personal fetish button, and for me it doesn't. Anyway, if you're going to have an outdoor bathing scene, you also need some catty gossiping, and some giggling and splashing water around, just because. Them's the rules.
  • Hair is very important, too. Your male barbarian needs long hair, but not Aragorn-style realistic long hair. No, he needs primped, permed, glam-metal hair, the pinnacle of 1980's hair care technology. Everyone's hair looks really great in Time Barbarians. Whatever else you say about the movie, it's got that going for it. You just know Doran and Lystra are made for each other, because they in fact have the Same. Exact. Hair. Same color, same style, feathered up the same way and everything. Identical. And each has a headband of course, just because it's the 80's. Mandrak, the baddie, has the inevitable dark hair, with a nice 80's-baddie ponytail, and once he hits the modern era he looks just like a tough-guy baddie straight out of Miami Vice. As usual, side characters typically get dark hair, so they don't distract too much from our blond hero and heroine.
  • In the present day, Mandrak also smokes, has an earring, has the fashion sense of a classic 80's Colombian drug lord, and knows how to drive shoot an assault rifle. He even knows some of the local slang: When he shoots the head of the Gladiators gang, he says "Have a nice day!" Pretty adaptable guy. You've got to give him that, at any rate.
  • And yet, he and his henchman came to the future to obtain a huge fortune, but they wind up as common thugs, robbing yuppies in back alleys and blowing the cash in the local skanky dive bar, with nobody but crack hos for company. The amulet doesn't work for bad guys, despite transporting them to L.A. (don't ask), and now they're stuck in the future. Mandrak laments to his henchman over a round of booze "Destiny has cursed us both, my friend", who reproaches him "You said the crystal would make us rich." When Doran kills Mandrak at the end, Mandrak finally gives him the amulet, laughs, and says "There is no way back for you, barbarian! Welcome to hell!". In a better movie, with a better script and actors, this could be touching, full of pathos and irony and all that art film crap. But here, not so much.
  • Speaking of the final battle bit, isn't it cool how magic swords can deflect bullets? That rocks.
  • Also, Doran says to Mandrak at the end: "Your evil shall end! By my sword!". Which echoes the bit earlier on when he did in the hooting Gatalite guy, he said "Your evil shall end! By my hands!" before doing him in barehanded. Who says these movies aren't fine art?
  • Doran isn't in the future for all that long, but he starts to adapt as well. He at least figures out how to work a TV. doran At one point Penny's in the shower, and he bides his time first watching war footage, and then MTV, and then, well, we here some cheesy music but don't see the screen, and we see Doran smile, so apparently he's just discovered porno.
  • The costumes aren't bad. Well, if you exclude the stuff Penny bought for Doran. Our barbarian hero ended up in a pink "Local Motion" t-shirt, tight acid-wash jeans, and a grey Members Only jacket. But I guess everyone thought that looked tres sexy back in 1990. S&S movies can be real time capsules sometimes.
  • Mandrak's henchman fares less well, and goes about in LA wearing a beige trenchcoat and a Batman baseball cap. Doran appears to kill the guy but later says he isn't dead and claims "he dies when I say so". But he does look really dead, lying there on a sofa with his eyes open. I suppose Doran never went to medical school. After that, we just never see the guy again, so it's anyone's guess what becomes of him. Possibly he snaps out of it, and is left marooned in the future, without even Mandrak for company.
  • Some of the other decorative elements are a bit less, um, professional. There is what I guess is supposed to be the flag of Armana, which is someone's fantasy sketch done in charcoal on white fabric. Everyone had a friend in 8th grade who did designs just like this, doodling on a pee-chee during math class. The rest of the Armana "look" is basically just antlers stuck on stuff, as opposed to the Gatalite (evil barbarian) look, which is fake skulls stuck on stuff. Although, I mean, they are barbarians and all, so I guess we should cut them some slack in the decorative arts department.
  • TB doesn't overdo it on fog machines like Conquest did, but they're very, very obvious here. What, other than a fog machine, would cause fog to billow out from behind a rock? But hey, things like that are why S&S movies are so great.
  • Despite the stars lining up, etc., Doran and Penny don't end up together at the end. Instead of that, we get this bit of silly speechifying:

    D: "I wonder if hope is lost for all mankind"
    P: "No, it's not. You and I are no different. It doesn't matter when it is or where we are. We'll both make sure hope stays where it belongs. In our hearts forever."

    He then gives her a little scrap of string or leather off his arm as a token of his eternal love, and says "Our love shall be for an eternity", and walks off down the railroad tracks, and eventually disappears.

    After he leaves, she tells Bryce to turn the camera on and keep it rolling, no matter what, and starts doing a news report. Fade to credits.
Updated 11/8/2010: Someone actually linked to this humble movie "review". It's in this forum thread on a site out of India called eXBii. Definitely not safe for work. You weren't seriously reading this post at work, were you? You were? Seriously?