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December 29th, 2004 WW Editorial Staff | Cover Story
 

The BUZZ That Was

The Smashes and Trashes of 2004

     
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Worried that you can't keep up with current events? Good news: You don't have to! After all, when Willamette Week published its first "Buzz That Was" package, it chronicled:

* The bumpy year of a mayor named Vera.

* A prominent politician felled by a sex scandal.

* A quirky public art exhibit by Kristy Edmunds.

* The crowded tables at an eastside eatery.

* A Democratic governor looking at tough re-election odds.

OK, a few things have changed since December 1993. Vera is wrapping up her final year, not her first, at City Hall, and it's Neil Goldschmidt, not Bob Packwood, who's trying to keep a low profile. Edmunds now splits her time with the Aussies; it's clarklewis, not Bistro Montage, that has the foodies buzzing. Oh, and our embattled governor is wearing a bowling shirt, not a skirt.

In this business, more than most, we are obsessed with what's new, and 2004 was full of changes--though, unfortunately, the monograms on the White House towels weren't among them. To help you remember what happened over the past 12 months, we've once again collected the highlights and lowlights and, in keeping with the biggest event of the year, divided them into winners and losers.

screen

Thanks to the surprisingly entertaining "reimagining" of Dawn of the Dead (released in Portland in March) and the brilliant Shaun of the Dead (September), zombie lovers had some quality flesh to devour in 2004. Thanks to the success of these films, and last year's 28 Days Later, George Romero will be returning to the genre he invented, with an expected 2005 release of what will be his first walking-corpse movie since 1985's Day of the Dead. full story...

music

He might sing about being a no-good loser, but Modest Mouse lead screamer and Portland resident Isaac Brock came up big in 2004. His band stormed modern-rock radio and MTV2 with the uncharacteristically upbeat tune "Float On," from Good News for People Who Love Bad News, which on its April release sold 68,000 copies in a week. But does Portland love the rough-around-the-edges pop star? The answer from an unprecedented five-night stand of sold-out shows at the Crystal Ballroom in early December attests: "Hell, yeah." full story...

business

Baristas had to shake the tip jar a little less after Oregon's minimum wage was increased, in January, from $6.90 to $7.05 an hour. (The national required minimum wage is $5.15.) The increase was the result of an annual minimum-wage review approved by Oregon voters in 2002. Oregon workers can expect another 20-cent bump next week. full story...

sports

Time was, if YOUR PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS turned in a year this depressing, the teeth-gnashing would be audible in Bend. Now, the citizens of Rip City are so used and abused, they barely notice. The Blazers missed the NBA playoffs...watched exiled pariah-star Rasheed Wallace collect a championship with Detroit on June 15 against the evil Lakers...and then, despite efforts to clean up their image, saw young prospect Qyntel Woods entangled in a dog-fighting scandal in early October and now in exile as his teammates struggle to play .500 ball. full story...

game of gay marriage!

From March to November, Portland was caught up in the same-sex marriage march. Now we remember the year's nuptial moments with our special-edition board game. full story...

cabinet of cool

Trucker hats: OUT.

NASCAR hats: IN.

Losing your place on pop culture's scorecard? Our guide to local and national Trend Regime Change can help. full story...

performance

First in the Fire: The Books of 2004 Now that the Right knows it's right, we turn toward Alabama (a.k.a. God's Country) to learn how to control what books people read. full story...

overheard!

Who'd have guessed when Portland Opera kicked off its new season in November, it would earn raves for its production of The Journey to Reims, a rarely heard comic bauble by a 19th-century Italian composer (Gioacchino Rossini) whose hits have been played to death? Turns out the long-lost opera is rich with as much musical beauty as pratfall comedy. What's more, staging this thing at all points to the promise of the opera's new general director, Christopher Mattaliano: He takes risks, and his risks pay off. That bodes well for Portland music fans--and for the survival of opera for 21st-century audiences. full story...

politics

TriMet is like a condom: pretty handy but only worthy of comment when it fails. This year began and ended with the transit agency dealing with the public-policy equivalents of unwanted pregnancies: Last January, a freak snowstorm brought buses and even the MAX to a perplexing halt; then, in November, a driver got crushed by her bus, allegedly in part because schedules leave little time for bathroom breaks. full story...

food

The New York Times started a four-alarm kitchen blaze in September when it reported that the James Beard Foundation, the nation's leading champion of gastronomical causes, couldn't account for tens of thousands of dollars earmarked for culinary scholarships. The allegations of fat-cat spending caused quite a few cases of indigestion in Portland, too. WW reported that the Beard owed the Portland Public Market Foundation more than $50,000 for a gala Rose City benefit the groups threw in 2002. With the Beard's president indicted on charges of stealing beaucoup bucks and most of its influential committee members out the door, many feel this culinary powerhouse will soon be condemned property. full story...

 
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