July 25th, 2007 WW Editorial Staff | Special Section Stories
 

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Kung-Fu as Fitness Ass Kickers
IMAGE: jenna biggs

Best Spider Woman

An assistant professor of biology at Lewis & Clark College, Greta Binford loves her job. She's a cheerful, entertaining teacher who is adored by her students and respected by her colleagues—plus, she gets to spend her time hanging out with the most dangerous spiders on Earth. Binford, one of the country's top arachnologists, has a special affinity for the more deadly members of the brown recluse family, a nasty bunch known for leaving behind horrible necrotic wounds. Her spider-hunting work has taken her to three continents and won her a consulting gig on the set of the first Spider-Man movie. So, how does Portland stack up against her spider-infested destinations? "There's a lot of spider diversity and density here—there are a fair number of species found only in the Northwest," she says, "but as toxic spiders who cause damage to people go? It's kind of dull." Well, thank God, and Greta, for small favors.

Spider-woman in action

Greta Binford spider-milking.
VIDEO: VANESSA FAWBUSH, LEWIS & CLARK COLLEGE.

Best International Diplomat

Forget this Tony Blair guy; America's greatest hope for peace in the Middle East is Allen Nause, artistic director of Artists Repertory Theatre. Nause, who has a history of international work that includes Our Town in Bangladesh and A Midsummer Night's Dream in Vietnam, spent most of May in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, co-directing the Palestinian National Theatre's production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons. In Palestinian Arabic. How did America's preeminent Jewish playwright go over in the shadow of the Al-Aqsa Mosque? "Before they saw it, people thought the theater sold out by doing an American play, and said they probably had to sign an agreement not to associate with Hamas to do it," Nause told WW. "But the production went over well, and played to very large audiences. People were surprised that an American play would criticize American policy, and the American dream." OK, we're impressed. But can he make Angels in America a hit in Colorado Springs?

Best Place to Get Your Dharma On

Oregonians don't need to find the lost valley of Shangri-La to get exposed to the mysteries of Tibetan Buddhism. Since it opened in 2005, Portland's Maitripa Institute has been bringing to town renowned Tibetan teachers as they try to preserve their spiritual heritage against the Chinese occupation of their homeland. Founded by the Venerable Yangsi Rinpoche, the institute (1119 SE Market St., 235-2477, maitripa.org) offers public talks on Buddhism twice a week, semi-regular initiations and teachings by visiting lamas, and a full master's program in psychology and social sciences.

Best Shred-tastic AdMan

Most of us realize that the leggy gals in Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" video didn't actually play their instruments, but we may not have known that the song's famously crunchy guitar riffs were crafted by local ad man Eddie Martinez. Currently the marketing and advertising manager for Town & Country Dealerships (16800 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie, 794-7500?), Martinez has lent his axe chops to "everyone from Meatloaf to Celine Dion," as he puts it. Recent endeavors include playing with Portland saxman Patrick Lamb and the Northwest Ray Charles Tribute (as well as writing jingles for Town & Country). Martinez says his dual career came about thanks to his brother, Town & Country CEO Ralph Martinez: "His passion was cars, mine was guitars," explains Martinez. Now that the two have united, Portland-area folks can "drive home happy" and sexy.

Best Way To Kick Ass

Every parent dreams of their child growing up to be Walker, Texas Ranger. Even more so, every parent dreams of having good daycare for their children during spring break. This year parents could get both their wishes by sending their kids to the Academy of Kung Fu's Kung Fu as Fitness program (3228 SE 21st Ave., 772-0600). Started as a modest outreach to battle childhood obesity, classes took place this year at Lewis Elementary, Winterhaven Elementary, and Madison High School. Open to ages 6 to 12, the students learned about the principles of martial arts through movement and games. Now if we can just get somebody to teach our kids to say things like, "Here's justice in your eye."

Best Remembered Best: Lemon Groves 1957-2007

Beloved Portland aesthetician Lemon Groves died in a Central American hospital last month at age 49 after being attacked at her home in Granada, Nicaragua. Though one man has confessed to her murder, the investigation continues, and U.S. authorities have become involved. The cheerful grandmother had been living in Central America for the past two years after retiring from her popular Portland beauty salon. Groves was a friend of Willamette Week and a 2001 Best of Portland selection for her soothing "lemon zest" facial technique. She will be remembered by many for her gracious smile and vivacious presence, and for the tender way she touched so many lives. Our hearts go out to her family and friends and to all who crossed paths with this incredibly gentle soul.

Best Lust for Life and Llamas

Susan Reese, an English professor at Portland State University, has always been as familiar with doctors as with Irish poets, thanks to a string of medical misfortunes. Having read some of her own verses at a conference on Poetry and Medicine at Duke University in 2004, she was inspired to combine the two disciplines in a new course, "Writing to Heal." After she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, an arduous hike in British Columbia proved empowering: "I wasn't defined by disease anymore." Today, this Tillamook native is defined by the loves of her life, from her family and home to Seamus Heaney to dragon boating to pet llamas. "Llamas are very nice people," she says, plus, they keep the grass trimmed on her 9 1/2 acres in West Linn. This animal lover has owned everything from cats and dogs to a parrot and iguana. "The great thing has been that my daughter's grown up experiencing animals," she adds. "A lot that she's learned about life and death she's learned from animals." The only downside is the llama spit: "It takes a couple showers, at least, to get it off."

Best Pig-Headed Animator

When the creators of Wallace & Gromit needed someone to enliven two pigs with Southern accents, who could they turn to? Why, Northeast Portland's own Teresa Drilling, who Aardman Animations selected to design the body movements for two of the characters on their stop-motion, just-finished CBS summertime series Creature Comforts. The pork was voiced by a mother and daughter whose "loving but tense" relationship was recorded in Pearl, Miss. Then Drilling was flown to Bristol, England, from June through December last year—and charged with creating body language for characters that "maybe waved a hoof once in a while." Drilling's Stumptown colleague Bartek Prusiewicz was also in Bristol, designing Creature Comforts' polar bears, pandas and alley cat. Now both animators are back home, putting the finishing touches on Coraline, the feature-length Henry Selick-animated flick (he did James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas, among other things) produced by Laika (1400 NW 22nd Ave., 225-1130).

Best McQueen-in-the-Making

Nobody moves to this town for the weather, but at least one man came for the racetrack. Engineer Dennis Palatov has spent the past five years at Portland International Raceway (1940 N Victory Blvd.), living a childhood dream of developing his own racecar; the dream took shape during his childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia. "It's a completely unique design," Palatov says of his dp1, which puts the driver right next to a pair of motorcycle engines that produce a combined 400 horsepower. As Palatov points out, that's as powerful as a Ferrari 360, but the dp1 is, in his words, "one ton lighter," so he's thrown in all-wheel drive to control the beast. And for $125,000, he'll build one just for you. A firm believer in learning by doing, Palatov started with a degree in software engineering (his parents were also engineers) and quickly taught himself hardware, cars and everything else. Now he runs his own firm, Random Research (709-6500, randomresearch.com), from his home, with clients ranging from local electric car company Porteon to the Navy's Space Warfare division.

Best Real Estate Agents For A Cause

The real estate agents of Equity Builders Realty (1901 NE Broadway, 282-5000, ebr@ebrproperties.com) remind WW of those annoyingly perfect do-gooders from our childhood. These agents donate time and commission money to multiple causes: ?Golden Retriever Rescue, Habitat for Humanity, Easter baskets for needy children, Ecotrust recycling...the list goes on and on. What motivates them? "You don't need to spend money on advertising for P.R.—you can just give back to the community and you'll get back tenfold," says Director of Business Development Leann Harris of her push to involve the firm in the community. And what advertising the company does do has taken an interesting form—a bumper sticker on agent Clark Tuthill's car reads: "Will work for food, 10 percent of my commission goes to the Oregon Food Bank." Care to gripe about real estate agents' commissions? Tell it to the hungry families.

Best Dyke With Bike

When most high-powered nonprofit fund-raising gurus make a half-hearted attempt at a self-effacing statement, they somehow manage to sound twice as egotistical. The miraculous thing about Susan Remmers is that when she says, firmly, "I don't seek out the limelight," you really believe her. Remmers, the executive director of the Community Cycling Center (1700 NE Albert St., 546-8864), is known simply as "Remmers," and has won so many fans and supporters in her storied career in Portland nonprofit management, you'd think she was launching a bid for City Council (she's not—yet). At the Cycling Center, she oversees bike safety, mechanical programs and youth programs like "Create a Commuter," as well as the center's popular Summer Bike Camp. The start-up director of the Q Center and an avid amateur photographer, Remmers, 43, is this town's best go-to gal to get your nonprofit going in the right direction, due to her ability to strategize on her feet.

Best Use of State-Dependent Learning

All those hours you spent locked in your grimy apartment, rocking out to Journey's Greatest Hits and browsing old copies of TV Guide can finally pay off big—sort of—at ShanRock's Triviology (shanrockstrivia.com). In 2005, after Horse Brass Pub "trivia sensei" Drew Marcus retired, Shannon Donaldson (a.k.a. ShanRock) was inspired to fill the useless, nerdy void with her own tipsy trivia contest at Peter's 19th Hole. She found—surprise, surprise—that drunks love to yell about what they think they know. Since then, a rotating roster of eastside bars including Sewickly's Addition and La Merde (the busiest pub quiz of all, to no one's surprise) have hosted Triviology, which asks teams of five or fewer boozers to do drunken battle. Questions range from pop culture to current events to absurdly easy physical challenges (if you're sober, that is). These days, Triviology is more than a hobby for Donaldson—it provides most of her income, though she still moonlights as "substitute film projectionist." Spending all her time in bars with drunken nerds? We're sure her parents are proud.

Best Person to Make You Feel Like a Slouch

Hey, Portland: Drop and give us 20—20 deep toxin-clearing breaths, that is. Because you're going to need to if you want to hang in one of veteran yoga instructor Amy Stone's yoga classes at Yoga Pearl (925 NW Davis St.) or at RiverPlace Athletic Club (150 SW Montgomery St.). Proving that she's no Portland poseur, Stone, 33, walked us through one of her toughest asanas (in English, these are poses that allow you to see what your ass looks like firsthand), which Stone regularly gives her more advanced students. First, you climb up into a headstand, tucking in your legs, folding both hips in the leg creases. And then, voilà! You're screwed. "After a class like that, I usually tell my students not to call or e-mail me to complain," the straight-as-a-board Stone joked.

Best Billboard Featuring a Beaming Insurance Agent

The most entertaining face to stare at us from a local billboard—besides Barry Manilow's mug, which seemed to hang around the Rose Garden fora long time after his show—belongs to the one and only Mariko Locke. One can't help but imagine, as one drives by, that Locke, with her tornado of bleached-blond hair, splendid white teeth and effortlessly glowing (think glow stick) complexion, actually goes by Tammy. Beaming over Southeast Belmont Street at 12th Avenue, Locke looks like she'd feel more at home in a small diner in the Deep South—teasing her bangs to enviable proportions, sucking down Diet Coke and gossiping all day—than peddling insurance at a local State Farm office (5048-A SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-2444). And what's up with the way they cropped the billboard photo? Is she falling over or what?

Best Way to Get Your Name in Lights

Justin Dunlap—one of only 110 stage electricians in the nation to receive a prestigious certification from his industry this year—is the man who makes sure your evening with Lewis Black doesn't turn into a blackout. Once an aspiring actor, Dunlap gave up his dreams of Broadway's bright lights for the less-bright ellipsoidal reflectors and PAR cans of the Arlene Schnitzer Hall, where he has worked for three years. He still gets his creative juices flowing when a show without a lighting designer hits his stage—like, for example, Pink Martini's release party for their latest album, Hey, Eugene. After what he calls "the single toughest test I've ever taken," Dunlap can now call himself a certified stage electrician. "It's not for upward mobility," he says. "It's all about safety...there's a lot of danger involved if the wrong people are doing it."

Best "Foam" Chugger

"I don't know if I'm the best, but I am certainly one of many,"says Maynard Orme. The former president, CEO and now president emeritus of Oregon Public Broadcasting is talking about his reputation (not widely known until now) as "best foamer." What's a foamer, pray tell? Well, they're those usually reserved folk who foam at the mouth whenever anyone brings up the subject of trains, especially old-timey locomotives. Orme's personal love affair with this style of transportation started 65 years ago, when, as a 5-year-old boy, he watched the troop trains leave the station from his home in Fresno, Calif. "There are a lot of closet foamers out there," says Orme of those folks who follow the comings and goings of steam and diesel locomotives. "But they only come out when the big boys come in town. "Like when the Wyoming-based Union Pacific 844 Steam Engine rolled into the Albina Rail Yard in late May. But, according to Orme, you don't have to go south to see a couple of ol' beauts. "Portland has two of the most beautiful steam locomotives in the world," says Orme. "The Southern Pacific 4449 [The Daylight Engine] and the SPS 700. [Trains] are like kinetic sculpture. The truth is, I can never get enough of them."

Best 12-Inch Assassin

A mix of action figure and art, UNKL's (unklbrand.com) vinyl figurines overlay the bubbly cuteness of My Little Pony with sinister paint jobs and tongue-in-cheek back stories. Assassin HazMaPo rocks a gas mask and radiation symbols, hulking Sug patrols the world's disaster zones and UniPo's bulbous head and stumpy body find myriad graphic incarnations in the minds of UNKL founders Derek Welch and Jason Bacon. To the uninitiated, dolls for adults sound like a tough sell, but UNKL toys line cubicles at the Nike campus and sell in chic shops around the world, including in Portland. Two top toy-pushers in town are Hello, Portland (525 NW 23rd Ave., 274-0771) and Missing Link Toys (3562 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-0032). Now, the ever-ambitious UNKL is expanding beyond its original cast of characters. At San Diego's Comic-Con 2007, the company unveiled a limited line of UniPo figures modeled after Wilco band members. Now that's art rock. Starting in October, UNKL's latest mutation, UniPoker, will hit the market. Each UniPoker set contains two Unipo figures decked out like a king, queen, jack or joker, and custom playing cards. Smart money says they'll be a hot commodity with grown-up toy lovers.

 
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