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November 9, 2008 8 comments
No Crowds at This Years Wordstock

No Crowds at This Years Wordstock

This year’s Wordstock was a mere shadow of years past. Perhaps the shows failing was the result of the tough economic times, or the shift in the board of Wordstock. Whatever the cause this year’s popular book festival was anything but festive.

There are a lot of places you can place blame for the failing of Wordstock: Widen & Kennedy’s horrid website made it almost impossible to figure out what was going on when (a prime example of form over function) it was nearly impossible to discern exactly how to connect with authors. Instead of being a useful guide to Wordstock the site was merely a Wordstock brand experience.

Blame could also be solidly put on the shoulders of everyone involved with the show’s logistics. Author signing tables were shoved in the far end of the convention center, behind a cage of ropes which left authors looking like bored lions on display at the zoo.  With no real signage there was no way to see who exactly would be signing when.  Authors were given tiny paper place cards to identify them in their misery.

Beyond the lonely authors just waiting for someone, anyone to ask them to sign their books, were the painfully depressed book sellers. As I strolled the show floor I heard several of the publishers remark that they hadn’t sold a single book the entire day. Many wore long faces and a few had simply given up and were abandoning their booths to commiserate with fellow publishers.

A former centerpiece of the show, the Target kids area was also depressing.  As we made our way over there just before 4pm they were already tearing it down and packing it away. Even the Target mascott dog looked bored.  My daughter asked if she could color and they told her no. Nice.

With the poor floor design it was almost impossible to see and hear the main authors.  When John Hodgman got up to speak the area was so confined I ended up standing in the Powell’s booth that blocked the way between the show floor and the main stage. I finally gave up trying to listen to Hodgeman and left (I simply could not see or hear).

Another failing of Wordstock this year was their inability to pull in the same level of word class authors as they have in years past.  Consider in years past Wordstock hosted luminaries as Gore Vidal, Ursula Le Guin, Sarah Vowell and Ira Glass. Between Powell’s special author events and Portland Arts and Lectures, Wordstock seems to be left pulling from second tier authors – this year’s highpoint was ‘That guy from the mac commercial”.

The one bright spot of the show was the alcove of comic book companies under the banner of “Stumptown Comics”. I met up with Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones who were there signing their respective books, but despite the fact that their area actually had people mulling around they informed me that nobody was really buying anything.

After departing from the completely depressing festival I decided to try to make the evening event “The Text Ball”. Unfortunately the logistical failings of Wordstock extended to this event as well.  Who in their infinate wisdom schedules an event across from the Rose Garden on the same night as a major sold out Basketball game?  How about the same night as BOTH a major sell out Basketball game AND a Winterhawk hockey game in the Memorial Colosseum!  I literally drove around and around for a half hour, driving as far out as the lloyd center and was unable to find a single parking spot (paid or otherwise) so I had to skip it all togehter.

It’s a shame that Wordstock is in the state it is in. Portland deserves better. While you can excuse some of the shows failing on the bad economy the real issues obviously run deeper.

Photos from Wordstock:

Categories: Books Tags:

Kalga Kafe – One of My Favorite Portland Restaurants Closes

November 8, 2008 6 comments

kalgakafeCatching up on my local blogs this weekend, my jaw hit the floor when I saw a post over at the Food Fight Blog reporting that Kalga Kafe had closed. I can’t tell you how sad this news is to me. Kalga Kafe was one of my favorite restaurants in Portland.

Kalga wasn’t the fanciest of places, and it was often overlooked in the crowded Portland restaurant scene when it came to accolades. But I adored it. It’s a place which will always hold many fond memories for me and I’ll forever miss Sukhdeep’s phenomenal Indian food.

Kalga Kafe would have best been described as eclectic, it was one of the only places in town with Indian, Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Mediterranean and Pizza all on the same menu (and all served very well).

Kalga’s owner Sukhdeep Singh had a deep commitment to the food he served and the community which surrounded the restaurant. The cafe was maintained as a highly sustainable business using mostly fresh, organic and local ingredients.

It’s an extremely sad day when such a fundamentally good place like Kalga Kafe closes.

ed note: Looks like Sukdeep is moving to brazil.

Categories: Food Tags: , ,

Voicebox Karaoke – A Fantastic Addtion to Portland's Nightlife

November 7, 2008 4 comments
Scott Simon - Voicebox

Scott Simon - Voicebox

Karaoke is very popular in Portland, and as a result some find it very difficult to get up and belt out their favorite tunes in front of so many people.

Enter Voicebox, a brand new Karaoke ‘complex’ which just opened near NW 21st (2112 NW Hoyt St). Rather than a traditional Karaoke bar, Voicebox is divided up into six private rooms. Each room has the capacity for a different number of people (as few as 2 and as many as 24) and has its own private karaoke system.

Voicebox’s systems are all high end, with Samsung flat screen TVs and Yamaha speaker systems. The acoustics in each room are also ideal, one of the rooms has the feel of a recording studio and with the doors closed no one can hear your singing outside.  You won’t find a better sounding Karaoke experience in Portland

The karaoke systems are easy to use and let you queue up songs so you can spend less time picking songs and more time singing them. The the library of songs is pretty extensive but had some some notable holes (including Violent Femmes and Metallica).

All the rooms Karaoke connect to a center bar area that serves wine, beer, sake and light food with in-room waitress service so you don’t have to go out to the bar to get your drinks if you don’t want to. The staff at Voicebox is extremely friendly including owner Scott Simon, a former electrical engineer who got the bug to open Voicebox after a trip to Korea. Karaoke complexes are more common in Asia and Simon imported the idea while adding a decidedly North West twist.

Private rooms are rented by the hour with rates varying per room (the average is about $7 per hour per person) and Voicebox holds special events like an upcoming Karaoke Clinic for people to brush up on their karaoke skills.

Voicebox is a fantastic addition to the Portland nightlife scene. I had an absolute blast singing a ton of songs, many more than I’d ever be able to sing at a regular karaoke bar. I enjoyed taking risks and singing songs I’d never consider singing in front of a crowd (including Avril Lavigne’s Sk8ter Boy).  I really appreciated the fact there was no smoking inside Voicebox as going out to karaoke often means coming home reeking of smoke. Voicebox is an idea place for a birthday or bachelorette party and I can absolutely see going back with a group of friends.

Voicebox is at 2112 NW Hoyt St. (503) 303-8220. They do take reservations and I expect them to fill up on key nights very fast.

Here are pictures from the Voicebox opening event:

And Videos:

Categories: Books, Events, Karaoke Tags: ,

Oregon: a one-party state? – Yellow Journalism at Its Finest

November 6, 2008 3 comments

7417375_300This morning I was reading The Oregonian and flipped to the Metro section.

Steve Dunn had a fairly wound licking piece about how Republicans in Oregon need to pick up the pieces and regroup. Dunn and I don’t see eye to eye, but his column is commentary.  So truth in advertising. Right?

Next I read the front page metro headlining piece (above the fold): Oregon: a one-party state? written by Janie Har and Bill Graves. If anyone is left out there that still believes that there’s such thing as the “Liberal Media”, you’ll want to sit down for this one:

Emboldened by Election Night wins across Oregon, Democrats now have unbridled power to raise taxes and fees when they meet in January

What the fuck?  This opening in an article that is labeled as a news story isn’t a quote or any other external reference by the authors, it’s an out and out slam against liberals as “Tax and Spend”. The article goes on to talk about how the Democrats are in control of the state legislature but might be restrained by the expectations of voters, some of which tend towards more conservative views.

At a core I think questioning a one-party dominated legislature is more than fair. Any time one party has a majority it’s important for the media to make sure there’s transparency and accountability. But this article is just absurd. It’s been one day since Barak Obama made his moving speech about people from both parties coming together and working together on the problems that face us. To have such an out and out partisan slam in The Oregonian as a news article is just out of bounds, so much so that I’d say it’s not Red or Blue but Yellow Journalism.

Interestingly you won’t find Oregon: a one-party state? online at Oregon Live anymore, the piece seems to have been pulled from their online edition.

Categories: Politics Tags: , ,

Wordstock – When Reading is A Party

wordstockPortland is one of the most literate cities in the country and so when we throw a book festival, it’s a big deal. Every year I make sure to make my way down to the sea of literature that is Wordstock. This Book-A-Palooza is a cornucopia of books, authors, readings, workshops and signings. The festival runs Thursday through Sunday with the main focus being The Book Fair at the Convention Center Saturday and Sunday 9am – 6pm.

The list of authors participating is completely overwhelming so here are the ones that caught my eye:

John Hodgman– You might recognize John Hodgman from The Daily Show on Comedy Central, but if not you’ve seen him play “PC” on many of the recent Mac commercials on TV. Despite the fact that people often say I look like Hodgman (I don’t damn it), he’s my top pick for Wordstock. Hodgman is as smart as he is funny, and it would be a mistake to miss him.

Heather Vogel Frederick – A true luminary in the youth lit category, Heather Frederick has penned a wide range of award winning books including: The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Much Ado About Anne, The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed and Spy Mice: For Your Paws Only. If you’ve got kids, make sure you don’t miss Heather Frederick.

Monica Drake – Put simply, Monica Drake is fucking amazing. Her book Clown Girl is inventive, original and extremely entertaining. Everyone knows that Chuck Palahniuk comes from Portland, and someday soon they’ll know Monica Drake. Catch her now so you can say “I knew her when…”

Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones – like peanut butter and jelly these two prominent Portland comic book creators are as complimentary to each other as you can get. Jamie Rich’s latest Have You Seen The Horizon Lately is one of the best undiscovered books of the year and Joelle Jones’s doodles are better than 75% of all the artists out there. Joelle is also a hot rising star with a new book out with DC.

In addition to the festival, Saturday night is the Text Ball at the Left Bank Project. I’m a huge fan of this venue which continues to develop as one of THE places in Portland to throw a bash!

The Text Ball is an opportunity for Portland’s rich literary arts scene to celebrate itself while supporting one of its most beloved organizations, the Independent Publishing Resource Center. Attendees are invited to come “dressed as text” and compete for prizes for the most grammatically-correct costumes. The theme this year is FIGURES OF SPEECH.

The Text Ball takes place Saturday from 6-11 at Left Bank Project 240 N Broadway.

The Wordstock web site sucks (Widen & Kennedy did a crappy ass job on it) but the physical booklet with the schedule is actually usable. So for the complete guide your best bet is to drop by Powells and snag a copy or pick one up at the show itself.

Categories: Books, Events Tags: , , ,

Je T'Aime Mon Portland

iloveportlandIn April of 1993, my wife and I packed up all our belongings, loaded them on to a moving truck and gave the movers our cel phone number in the hopes that we would find a place to live in Portland before they arrived with out stuff.

We knew none, had no jobs or family. Portland became our destination out of sheer luck, happenstance and a gut feeling that this might be THE place to call home. Fifteen years later I can imagine no other place I would like to live. Portland is more home now than anywhere I’ve ever been. I love this town. I love the way you can get from one end of the city to another in a very short time. I love the many destinct neighborhoods and the variety the city has to offer. I love the culture and the way in which people work to live and not live to work. I  love the seasons and the way the weather impacts and interacts with the people who live here. I love all the food and culture options, the ability to eat at a new Thai restaurant every day of the week and still have dozens left to try.

I never thought I’d be so stricken with a city, but Portland has captured my heart. I love Portland. So that love is the reason I’m doing this site. A Portland focused publication has always been a dream for me, and now I’ve decided to make it a reality.

Categories: Portland Tags:

Vote With Your Dollars

October 29, 2008 Comments off

voteWith the presidential election looming most people are myopically focused on voting for president, but the second most important vote you can make right now is with your dollars. Times are tough and not all businesses are going to survive this recession. Already this month three notable eateries have announced that they are shuttering their doors (Rocket, Mercado and Banh Cuon Tan Dinh)  and more are soon to follow.

The dollar may be down on the world market, but it’s never been stronger here at home. With each dollar you spend you are making a vote, you’re voting for the business that you give your money to and perhaps voting against the places you aren’t. During tough economic times people often default to the lowest cost option out there. Companies like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart thrive because people think they get more for less there – something in tough times sounds appealing. If this current economic mess has taught us anything it’s there’s absolutely no such thing as a free lunch and today’s low low deal might have some unintended consequences tomorrow.

So I encourage you to think about the long haul. Want a beer? Skip Rock Bottom Brewery and pick your beer up at Belmont Station. Want a movie? Rather than Netflixing it ensure the future of independent cinema and local art houses and catch a movie at the Hollywood Theater or Cinema 21.  Want some food? Support local farmers at your local farmer’s market or visit the People’s Food Coop Farmer’s Market.  Chose Voodoo Doughnuts over Krispie Kreme,  Laughing Planet or Los Gorditos over Taco Bell, Pad Thai Kitchen over TGIFridays…. and yes Stumptown, Cellar Door and Z Beans over Starbucks.

There’s never been a time in your life where what you spend and where you spend has mattered more. So pick the places you love and give them your business, odds are they’ll be around to thank you when this whole economic mess is all over.

What local business are you rooting for to survive? Post your favorite in the comments!

Categories: Politics, Portland Tags:

Portland West Cafe's Daily Dow Specials

October 27, 2008 Comments off

West Cafe PortlandI’m quickly becoming a fan of The West Cafe. My wife and I stopped in a couple weeks back for some drinks and Jazz. Excellent drinks, excellent music and perfect service.

Shortly thereafter I started following The West Cafe on Twitter and realized just how smart and cool the people running this cafe are.  First they offered an exclusive coupon for people who follow them on twitter.

Now they’ve got a regular Daily Dow Special where they take the point drop or percentage drop and make a drink special out of it! Tonight’s special:

Daily Dow Drink Deal: Down 2.42% so we’ll take $2.42 off call martinis all night!! Stop by for an extra dry one, shaken not stirred.

It’s great to see a business be so savy with new media and so in touch with its customers

Categories: Beer, Food Tags:

Oregon Brewer's Festival – Fresh Hop Beer Tastival

October 18, 2008 Comments off
Oregeon Brewer’s Fresh Hop Beer Tastival

Oregeon Brewer’s Fresh Hop Beer Tastival

Packed! That’s the best way to describe the Oregeon Brewer’s Fresh Hop Beer Tastival at the Hop Works Urban Brewery this Saturday. Two tents filled with people enjoying the Indian Summer and a bounty of new beers with hops from the recent Oregon Hop Harvest.

$5 got you a nice pint glass and then each 4oz taste was $1. Unfortunately I was only able to taste 3 beers at the fest:

Hopworks Urban Brewery Parsec Pale Ale -I figured I had to give some love to the hosting brewery and that may Pale Ale days would be few and far between as we get into the winter. This Pale Ale is a light and tasty beer that is very clean with only a hint of hops.

Lompoc Brewing Proletariate Red – a sweet and hoppy beer with a nice clean edge,,very drinkable and if I had more time I would have enjoyed a full pint.

Beer Valley Brewing Black Flag Imperial Stout – WOW! They were only giving people 4oz tastes and that’s a shame because this is quite a stout. Super Dark, Bold, flavorful and hoppy. This was a beer that really got my attention, and I’d love drink again.

I also had a chance to taste Deschutes Hop Trip before the event, and I have to say it’s one of my favorite of the fresh hop bunch. I’ve also got a bottle of the Bridgeport’s Hop Harvest in my fridge which I hope to try soon.

There’s no question that Portland supports local brewery events and the excitment around the local brewers sceen is really exceptional.

Categories: Beer Tags: ,

Apple Tasting at The Portland Nursery

October 12, 2008 Comments off
Over Thirty Types of Apples

Over Thirty Types of Apples

We’ve lived in Portland now for 15 years, and for some reason we’ve never managed to make it out to Portland Nursery’s Apple Tasting Event. Since we now live in Laurelhurst (after moving from the west side) we swore that we would not miss this popular Portland event.

So this weekend, with the perfect fall weather, we walked down to the Portland Nursery for some apple tasting. I was surprised at just how many people come out for this event (I saw almost half the people who live on our block there).

The whole family loved having the opportunity to taste over 30 different varieties of apples and pears. Our favorites:

  • Elstar – Tart eating apple developed for European markets. Excellent for sauces or pies.
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin – An Old English variety origination about 1830. Firm, juicy and aromatic apple. Wonderful for dessert.
  • Honey Crisp – Macoun x Honeygold. Crisp and juicy apple rated superior to McIntosh and Delicious for fresh eating and keeps up to five months in common storage.
  • Jonatha – Originated in 1826 as an open-pollinated chance seedling of Esopus Spintzenberg. This Apple has crisp, juicy, tart flesh. Goof for dessert and all other culinary Uses.
  • Liberty – Origin New York Fruit Experiment Station. Fruit is almost enturely red-skinned with sweet juicy flesh.

After we picked our favorites from the bunch we were able to buy them from huge tubs of apples in the middle of the nursery. If you missed out the apple tasting this weekend, fear not… the Portland Nursery is doing it again next weekend: October 17, 18, 19, 2008 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Above apple descriptions courtesy of The Portland Nursery).

Categories: Events, Food Tags: , ,