Monday, May 30, 2011

evil is adorable

Had a busy weekend of subzero camping and motorbikes, which I might report on later, if the green slime ever leaves my head. In the meantime please take a look at this (and beware always the helpful-seeming minion!).


p.s. Happy birthday, Karl!

Friday, May 27, 2011

kerosene around

Hesher opens today at Cinema 21. It's pretty awesome. I talked about it a little bit today on Cort & Fatboy, with Mike Russell. OK, mostly I talked about Joseph Gordon Levitt and his bare chest and grimy underpants. And a little bit about wrestling, and capes. It was fun.

But anyway. Hesher!

I keep trying to explain to people why this movie rules so much, and I haven't really been able to. Describing the storyline makes it sound terrible: a family made catatonic by grief is invaded by this longhaired burnout who appears out of nowhere for no obvious reason and won't leave. There's a love interest, played by Natalie Portman as a checkout girl in hipster glasses. That's pretty much it. So instead I'll just say that Hesher, as embodied by Joseph Gordon Levitt, might be my ultimate dream boyfriend. He has gross hair, lives in a garage, drives a creepy van, sits around the house watching stolen-cable porn in tighty whities all day, lights cars on fire in vengeance, cusses at the dinner table with grandma, comes into your room just to fart -- but underneath all of that, he is Joseph Gordon Levitt.

In short, Hesher is hot.

He walks away from explosions calmly, without looking back.

Also, he's hilarious. And although he's menacing and totally unhinged, his disregard for civil society ends up serving the forces of good. When he shows up and attaches himself to 13-year-old TJ, you think he's some kind of punishing antagonist, bent on destroying whatever little scraps of this poor kid's happiness might remain. But what he ends up doing, probably by accident, is provoking the kid into rage and thus action. He's a totally uncouth asshole, but he helps people. Sort of.

The movie's not perfect. All the acting is solid, but the tone is a little confused; it's like Joseph Gordon Levitt's character was teleported in from some other movie, strictly to mess with the structure of this relatively ordinary family drama. The clash seems entirely deliberate. Some people won't like it, but I found it hysterical. The mood swings didn't bother me. Maybe I'm just easily distracted by the naked torsos of lithe criminal idiot stoners riding bicycles into strangers' swimming pools. But even if you don't share this fondness, you'd have to be a total square not to love the Pabst-fueled speech Hesher gives at the end of the movie. It's so wrong, but so right.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

i eat food...and complain frivolously

In lieu of a new glob post, here's the raw (more wordy) version of my Sunshine Tavern review, which you can read in tidier form in this week's WW. I would like it noted that although I really wanted to, I didn't even once complain about the prices. Restraint!

The Sunshine Tavern is neither sunny nor a tavern: discuss.

Let's get the griping out of the way: the Sunshine Tavern is not a tavern. It is many delightful things: a beautiful room, a mini-arcade, a chic new restaurant whose slender menu lacks nothing. But it is not a tavern, not in atmosphere and not in priorities.

(Also, on none of my visits to the Sushine Tavern was there any sunshine in evidence, but it seems unfair to blame the owners for that.)

Names set certain expectations. And if you're a pedantic little jerk like me, this sort of thing can ruin a night out. (I never quite surrendered my grudge against Taqueria Nueve: not a taqueria.) I realize this is absurd and self-defeating, which is why I'm glad my principles so often crumple in the face of a really yummy dinner. As it turns out, the Sunshine Tavern could wear a pretty hat and call itself the Queen of France and I'd forgive it, on account of the chicken.

Sunshine's menu offers just three entrees, plus a handful of inventive pizzas, sandwiches, salads and burgers. Order anything you want as long as it's the fried chicken dinner ($14). You'll be rewarded with perfect, juicy, boneless hunks of bird on fat semolina waffles drizzled with honey. It is heaven. The same chicken is equally good on a spicy sandwich ($11), accompanied by a tawny pile of awesome fries. And I was exaggerating earlier: everything we tried was delicious. The chopped salad with french fries ($8) gets a lot of attention, but a boring-sounding iceberg wedge with buttermilk blue cheese dressing ($8) is even better. The baked-egg appetizer ($9), lauded in the Wall Street Journal, is worth trying for novelty, but it's less exciting than a platter of gravy cheese fries ($9), and not only because to eat them is to toy with death. (A small heart attack may be a fair price.) Even the humble burger ($10, more for extras like cheese, eggs or pork belly) holds its own.

None of this is a huge surprise, considering that the Sunshine Tavern is owned and run by Jenn Louis and David Welch, the folks behind Lincoln. The drinks list is as well-edited as the food menu; it includes a handful of specialty cocktails ($7-8) and eight unusual beers on tap ($5 pints), plus lots of interesting things in bottles.

But let's get back to the griping just for a second. If Sunshine is not a tavern, what is it? The place is confusing. It's an elegant room, with huge windows, tall tables, and rough dark wood smoothed into hard-angled shapes. The bar is made of an old bowling lane, and over it hangs a long metal Jenga-style light fixture that will blow your mind. The shuffleboard table at center stage has a lean grace not generally associated with the sport.

Meanwhile, kids are running wild all over the place. Donkey Kong and Ms Pac-Man bleep their familiar bleeps from the corner. A bartender refers to a window-side six-top as the Party Table. The crowd is adult-looking, but they're sipping margaritas dispensed from a slushy machine behind the bar. The star dish -- that so-sweet chicken and waffles -- is practically dessert. And afterward you can have a bowl of ice-cream ($5) with house-made "magic shell" chocolate sauce. Remember magic shell? It's still fun!

In short, the Sunshine is a place where you can be a parent and a child at once. In that sense, it might be the quintessential Portland restaurant. It's not a tavern. You wouldn't nestle in with a pint and a paperback. But it's a nice place to try some sophisticated comfort food and briefly abandon your hangups.

Order this: The iceberg wedge, then the chicken and waffles.
Best deal: Fried-chicken sandwich with fries, topped with slaw.
I’ll pass: Slushy margarita ($7) -- fun idea, but not really worth it.

EAT: Sunshine Tavern, 3111 SE Division St., 688-1750, Dinner 5pm-10pm Sunday-Thursday, 5pm-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $$-$$$ Moderate-Expensive.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

race report!

This past weekend was my first motorcycle race since October. (They're held at Portland International Raceway, with OMRRA.)

Short version: I am very slow.

Slightly longer version: This race went much better than the last one! In October, I fell off during practice, and then it rained oceans all day, and the wind picked up, and there were ducks and tadpoles and probably sharks floating around in huge lakes all over the track, not kidding, so I kind of freaked out and didn't actually grid up for the race.

But this time I wasn't even nervous. Possibly someone has been slipping a little bit of Xanax into my coffee. Or maybe this is the upside of seasonal-affective disorder. Whichever. I'll take it.

I guess it's about time for me not to be nervous. I started racing in 2007. Here is something I wrote about that, for Willamette Week. And here is a second little race diary from that first weekend. I escaped the 2007 season with a cracked thumb and a souvenir t-shirt that says, "If you're not crashing, you're not racing hard enough." (A thoughtful gift from the girl I collided with.) But since then I've only raced maybe six or eight times. (I travel too much, and am poor.)

Last year I did one race, plus the aborted rain weekend. So I'm a little rusty. My bike is (was) a 1968(?) Honda CL175 in need of a bit of mechanical tenderness. So in October my friend Will at Poor Bastard Cycleworks made me a deal. I'll spare you the details because I will get them wrong if I try to tell you, but essentially he got some cool 175 parts and I got a freshened-up, hotted-up, Mad Maxified race motor.

Best part: I now have only four speeds instead of five. This makes it much less likely that I'll spazz out and forget what gear I'm in or when I'm supposed to be shifting.

There was some suspense as to whether the motor would make its way back into the bike on time, and run. But it did. On Saturday morning we had three practice sessions. But if you're me, you manage to run out of gas on the first one and get black-flagged on the second one. If you're black-flagged you're supposed to go back to the starting line and talk to the guys there; it could mean something is falling off your bike, or that you are on fire.

Turns out they flagged me because they saw the red liner of my jacket and thought my leathers weren't zipped together. I suspect the starting-line guys were just bored and wanted someone to talk to. ("Hey! That slow dude's a chick! Get her over here, let's check it out.")

Here's me trying to figure out where I'm supposed to exit the track after getting black-flagged:


Anyway. Finally made it all the way around the track a bunch of times on the third practice session Saturday. Felt smooth but incredibly slow. My lap times were epic. Glacial. Peristaltic. (Can I use that word that way?) Everyone had plenty of time to admire my pretty black-and-silver paint job. My friend The Italian Cowboy's 76-year-old dad was there and he said he walked to the bathroom faster than I was riding. (Probably true: he'd eaten lunch at the concession stand. I can't be expected to match that level of urgency.)

However! On Sunday, my practice lap times were four seconds faster than Saturday's. In the race they were six seconds faster. (I broke two minutes!) There was a new guy racing Sunday whose times were close to mine. I thought I might be able to beat him, or at least be near him. But he crashed in practice and broke his collarbone, so he was out.

For next time, I need to drop three seconds a lap to beat the slowest guy, and ten to really be racing with anybody. Ten seconds a lap sounds like a lot. But there are nine corners on the track, so if I just do each corner one second faster....

I've been studying photos from the track to see if it'll help. Here's what the fast guys look like:

And here's me on that same corner:

You see the difference. My head and shoulders are more or less in the right place (could be lower), but look at my poor little legs. Death grip! Very uncool. If I can stick out my knee and hang off a bit, scoot my weight to the inside, I can go faster. And more importantly, my photos will look a lot cooler.

So it's hypnotism and leg presses twice a day for a month. Next race is June 25-26. Come out and watch!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

movie time

Sorry, glob fans, for the recent neglect. I've been out gathering valuable insights to share with you. Oh, fine: I've been fooling around on motorcycles and watching lots of movies.

I will tell you about the movies eventually.

OK, I'll tell you about one of them right now.

Hobo with a Shotgun!

Hobo with a Shotgun opens tomorrow (Friday!) at the Hollywood Theatre. Like Machete, it's one of the movies that grew out of the fake trailers included in the Tarantino-Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse. You can watch the original Hobo with a Shotgun fake trailer here. In the full-grown movie, the hobo is Rutger Hauer and the shotgun costs ten bucks less. (Times are tough.)

The title kind of gives away some key elements of the plot, but here is the gist: a hobo (Rutger Hauer) makes the terrible mistake of getting off the train at the presumably once-idyllic Hope Town, now renamed Fuck Town, a place inhabited mostly by people made of ketchup. I'm only guessing about that last part. They seem to be made of ketchup, inside very tautly stretched skins, because whenever they are even lightly punched, kicked, stabbed or crushed by evil go-karts, they explode in a big wet splash of red and essentially vanish.

The ketchup is extra red because this movie is filmed in Hipstamatic. (Although the opening credits display the hilariously period-correct Technicolor logo.) I couldn't decide if I liked this or not. It's pretty, but it somehow looks wrong. I mean, y'know. More wrong.

Anyway. An evil businessman and his Raybanned sons have taken over Hope Town and spraypainted over everything nice. You can tell they're evil because their insults are uncreative, and also because they break a kid's joystick arm so he can't play videogames anymore. Dicks! And their clothes are iridescent white, so they like to congregate near bluelights, because it looks awesome, and they YELL all their dialogue.

The yelling is hilarious. Sample dialogue [please read at full volume]:

"I'm gonna wash off this blood…WITH YOUR BLOOD!!!"

Anyway. The movie starts out a little slow, but pretty soon someone is foolhardy enough to piss off Rutger Hauer, and things pick up quickly. (He eats glass! Did I tell you that already? They make him eat glass! Rutger Hauer!) And then, about the time you figure it's peaking, the main bad guy yells, "SEND FOR THE PLAGUE." Awesome.

The Plague is HILARIOUS. It's a metal monster thing that looks like an angry Lego.

I mean, you probably know what you're getting into with this kind of movie. Rutger Hauer eats glass. He yells at babies. He springs up out of a shopping cart filled with slurpy human guts. A guy gets his crotch shot out, and the camera zooms in on it -- twice. And kind of lingers there. To make sure you really get a good look. Because how often do you get to see a thing like that?

Also: death by ice skate!

Also: toaster used as weapon! Lawnmower used in anger! Motorcycle riders in spurs!

And more.

Here's this bonus note from the theater:

Before the shows on Friday and Saturday night, to make sure we get the crowd's adrenaline pumping, we'll be running a 35mm "RUTGERSPECTIVE" trailer reel, honoring the great Rutger Hauer, star of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.