The number of things I haven't found time to blog about in the last few months â€” hey, it's Best of Eugene, and a girl only has so many hours in the week! â€” is nearing moderately frightful but not yet epic proportions. I think it's time for a Catch-All Catch-Up Post. It's cleansing for one and all! And when it's over, I can feel free to write about Wordstock and the men's basketball team without guilt!
Three days of music and debauchery! OK, mostly music. The last night of the fest, we loved The Brunettes, with their delicate and quirky percussion â€” at one point in a song, there was a sort of round of percussion that involved more tiny clicking and clacking instruments than I can remember â€” sweet harmonies and generally grand use of the kind of expansive instrumentation that makes the stage look like a third-grade music classroom exploded in the general vicinity. The levels of sheer charm were through the roof.
We tried to watch Youth Group next, but after the Brunettes, they felt a little plain, and the delicious cocktails at Clyde Common were calling to us. Intermission, with French fries!
And then there was The Get Up Kids' show. I'm not sure there are many other people still willing to admit their love for the Get Up Kids, but I'm one of 'em, even if the band did play "Mass Pike" like it was the musical equivalent of an ex who shows up at a party and who you're supposed to be "friends" with â€” but you really just don't want to be in the same room with the person, out of some squirrelly blend of residual love and maybe embarrassment that you once felt like you did.
It's an emo band, OK? I can use tangled relationship metaphors. I should use tangled relationship metaphors.
After that show, we watched Frank Blank for a minute, but there'd been some confusion in the program about whether the show would be Frank Black or Grand Duchy, and the hopes were for Grand Duchy. Sorry, Frank. And sorry, Beach House, whose gorgeous compositions, while swoony â€” the way "Gila" goes from a moody "Oh, oh, oh" into an uplifting and unintelligible wash of vocals nearly gives me goosebumps â€” had a weirdly hollow feeling. Or maybe that was just us, tired and sore-footed. We'll try again next time.
MusicfestNW is awesome.
Earlier in the fall â€” which is, at the moment, pretending to be summer, but I'm not fooled â€” I read two very different books by Oregon authors, but never had the chance to review them in the paper:
Tattoo Machine by Jeff Johnson (Speigel & Grau, $25) is subtitled Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life In Ink. Are there actually any tall tales here? Hard to say. Johnson, as the Mercury put it, "writes like he isn't afraid of being arrested." His stories of life in a Portland tattoo shop are bawdy, speckled liberally with horrifically colorful images (and equally colorful language) and, despite his tendency to front like a certain kind of badass, keenly observed and funny as shit. Things I learned from Johnson include the meaning of the word "flash," which tattoos are best for covering other tattoos, and various bits of tattoo-world slang that's so specific, I kind of felt like Johnson was telling secrets. His anecdotes are sometimes about customers (the more batshit, the better) and sometimes about himself (ditto), but there's a gruffness to his voice that seems built of equal parts pragmatism, genuine warmth and a particular kind of storytelling that's part one-upsmanship and part enjoyment of the weird forms life takes. Johnson does tend to write about women like we're actually some strange other species, but if you just take that as part of his schtick, it gets less distracting.
The Bell at Sealey Head is by Oregonian fantasy writer extraordinaire Patricia A. McKillip, whose books I've been reading since I was pretty small. Her stories often feel familiar, like I've heard them before, dressed up in other trappings or wrapped in a careful disguise. This one takes place in a seaside town, Sealey Head, where a bell tolls with the sunset each night. To Gwyneth, a merchant's daughter, the bell is a source of endless inspiration for stories, which she shares with her siblings and with Judd Cauley, who's taken over his family's inn since his father lost his sight. Their town is small, and most everyone knows everyone else, from the horse-obsessed suitor who's after Gwyneth's hand to the old lady in Aislinn House, a decaying place on the edge of town that has a pretty interesting secret.
And then a stranger comes to town: Ridley Dow, a scholar who wants to solve the mystery of the tolling bell. Naturally, his presence stirs all kinds of things up; naturally, McKillip winds his tale in with the strands of Judd's life in the inn, Gwyneth's life as a writer and the life of a maid in Aislinn House who's more familiar with the building's secrets than most. Sealey Head is a lovely read, written with McKillip's reliably graceful, gentle and image-laden prose, but it feels a bit slight and a bit familiar. The layers of story, and Gwyneth's variations on the story of the bell, are nicely pieced together, but at the end, when story becomes more important than ever, the book seems to simply settle into a quiet finale without binding all the pieces together into a satisfying whole. It's a bit of a trifle, this one, not as touching or as deep as McKillip can be when she's at her enticing, engrossing best.
GODDAMMIT, DOLLHOUSE. Let's talk about your failings, shall we?
Oh, Joss Whedon.
See, last week I was going to write a post called "Dollhouse is Not Going to Hold Your Hand Anymore." It was going to be a post about how the show's season premiere, while it didn't live up to the fantastic potential of the first season's unaired 13th episode, "Epitaph One," had a lot of promise. It pretty much threw the viewers into the river and expected that we could damn well figure out how to swim â€”Â a tactic that works for some of us, who like having to work out what's changed, what's the same and which direction we might be headed in this time. Things had clearly progressed without us, and Whedon and his team expected us to keep up.
Where we seemed to be: Echo (Eliza Dushku) is remembering things, kind of. Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) is working for the 'house â€” kind of. Everyone's a little suspicious and rattled, especially Dr. Saunders, the active also/once known as Whiskey (Amy Adams), whose grasp on herself and reality was gradually turning fragile.
The episode's basic plot was a mostly throwaway thing involving an arms dealer (another Battlestar Galactica alum, Jamie Bamber), but it still mattered in that it showed us that Ballard was somehow working for the Dollhouse while being a client â€” being paid in Echo's time, maybe? Things, this episode showed, are tangled and complicated, particularly where Dr. Saunders is concerned; she's having strange conversations with Boyd (Harry Lennix) one minute, and scaring the shit out of the creepy genius Topher (Fran Kranz) the next. She's falling apart. And then she's gone.
It was the scene with Saunders and Topher that had me; she's so cracked, so lost, so trying to form her own world out of the one he, as the Dollhouse's programmer, has given her. And she's aware but not; she knows she's not Dr. Saunders, but she doesn't know, or want to know, who she is. This one dark, incredibly strong scene managed to pack all the show's weirdness about identity and malleability and power and control and half a dozen other things into precise bits of dialogue between two characters who clearly could use some more exploring.
It was so promising. It was so complicated. And then it was over, and Saunders was driving away â€” Acker on the way to Happy Town, though I think she's supposed to be back later this season. The premiere dropped in one interesting scene with a well-intentioned senator, Daniel Perrin (Alexis Denisof, from Whedon's Buffy and Angel), who wants to figure out what the deal is with the Rossum corporation, the Dollhouse's parent company, so we've got a new guy outside the house to balance out Ballard's involvement within. It all worked, in a slightly uncomfortable and appealing way.
And then there was tonight's episode, "Instinct," which put us right back at monster-of-the-week-with-a-small-side-dish-of-intrigue.
Why am I posting this to our blog?
Because I can.*
The awesomeness begins below.
The rest after the jump. Or hey, you can buy it on iTunes or on DVD, watch it at the Dr. Horrible website linked above or ... I don't know, I'm sure there are a gazillion ways to see it. But you can also watch it right here on your ever-helpful EW! A Blog.
So, as we all know (right?), brilliant Buffy creator Joss Whedon has a new show in the works: Dollhouse, which I believe is scheduled to debut mid-season, in early 2009. (Do take a peek at BoingBoing's take on Whedon fans' nervousness re: its cancellation chances). A while back I posted a link to the Dollhouse trailer, and I do repeat myself here, but still: AWESOME.
But wait! This isn't the only awesomesauce on the Whedon front. There's also the internet-only Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which, frankly, I can't decide whether to italicize, put in quotes or leave alone (oh, the trials of the editor-brain. I went with italics because Suzi said so). Dr. Horrible stars
Doogie Howser Neil Patrick Harris, Captain Tightpants Nathan Fillion and potential slayer Vi "The Guild" creator Felicia Day, which makes it several different kinds of exciting. As you can see, there's very little on Dr. Horrible's website â€” yet. However, the good horrible doctor does have a Facebook page and â€” even better! â€” a preview:
Personally, I'm really interested in the Motion Picture Association of My House, Inc.
Gimme more. Please.
Apart from one misguided font selection (dude, is that Papyrus?), the trailer for Joss Whedon's Dollhouse looks downright stunning.
Can't wait. Can't wait. Trying not to get hopes up. But they didn't cancel The Sarah Connor Chronicles! So sometimes they can get things right! Right?
(I also love the Campion/St Vier shirts another online shop seems to have run out of, but that's a wee bit more obscure.)
It may be time for me to actually put my "Republicans for Voldemort" sticker on my car...
Do you heart Chiwetel Eijofor as much as we do?
He's the man who played Okwe, the hotel night clerk and doctor, in 2002's brilliant Dirty Pretty Things, the super-creepy Operative in Serenity and the also-creepy Luke in the woefully under-awarded (HELLO! SHOULD HAVE WON THE OSCAR FOR BEST FILM!) Children of Men. He's also been in a ton of other movies, two of which â€” Talk to Me and American Gangster â€” are sort of out right now (depending on how long they linger at the dollar theaters, sadly).
But it's his performance in a London stage show of Othello that has people paying, yes, up to Â£800 a ticket (that's about $1623, according to this second's currency calculator; by the time you read this, it may be oh so much more).
Anyway, here's a great article about him. It includes this awesome quote from director Stephen Frears:
"He's just a very splendid person. Denzel [Washington] told me that he'd have him assassinated - Chiwe is the one he's threatened by."
Go read it. Then snag his movies from the library because you probably aren't getting tix to the play anytime soon.
(Also, hurray! We have the same birthday! Only, um, he's a little younger. And, um, a little more successful. But I still heart him.)
â€¢ Bacon Salt "is a zero calorie, vegetarian, Kosher certified seasoning salt that makes everything taste like real bacon." Seriously? Gimme some. Let me try it.
â€¢ Newsflash: Publishers sometimes reject things that go on to be classics! OK, all sarcasm aside, it's true, and the rejections quoted in this story make me want to go paw through the Knopf archives discussed in the story. Rejection letters â€” any kind of editorial letters, really â€” are always fascinating, both for what they say and what they don't say, and for the examination of the editing and writing process. And for the simple fact that sometimes people make mistakes, but other times, they pass on things because the time or the publisher isn't right. If someone other than Scholastic had published Harry Potter, would it still be a phenomenon? I want to think so, but it doesn't always work that way.
â€¢ Still on the topic of books, the Booker Prize list has been narrowed to the shortlist. Surprise! Ian McEwan is still on it! I need to read that book. And re-read the wonderful, gorgeous Atonement before I have to arm-wrestle Jason for the right to review December's film adaptation.
â€¢ How to be a good restaurant patron: Don't say any of these things. I heart Waiter Rant.
â€¢ Today's aggravating news: Southwest Airlines would like to tell you how to dress.
â€¢ Today's not-that-surprising news that's probably only of interest to my former-New Yorker self: The Village Voice reports on a study showing that "Four years later, relatively healthy and seemingly resilient 9/11 witnesses near the twin towersâ€”people who witnessed the events with their own eyesâ€”were more sensitive to certain emotional stimuli than people several miles away who learned of the events secondhand."
â€¢ And to counter that sad reminder, I leave you with today's dose of awesomeness: Brian K. Vaughan and Joss Whedon, together! I've been saving this one â€™til the end of the day. Dessert, if you will.