Wednesday, August 22, 2012

MINERVA launches University of Montana into other worlds

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Blue Mountain Observatory
It’s about 10:30 on the night of Fri., Aug. 17, and Nate McCrady is standing next to the Blue Mountain Observatory, perched at about 6,300 feet southwest of Missoula. McCrady, a professor in the University of Montana’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, trains his laser pointer at stars and constellations in the clear night sky and explains things to the several up-lookers circled around him, such as that a star called Iota Draconis, 100 light-years away in the dragon-shaped constellation Draco, has a Jupiter-like gassy planet orbiting it. It’s an exoplanet, a planet that orbits a star outside our solar system.

Other sky gazers are here at one of the summer’s occasional observing nights atop Blue Mountain, inside UM’s ’70s-era domed observatory, glimpsing Saturn and its rings and multi-billion-year-old, 500,000-star globular clusters. Meanwhile, McCrady wants to talk about the exoplanets Blue Mountain’s telescope can’t see. UM, led by McCrady, is embarking on a new project called MINERVA, a partnership between UM, California Institute of Technology and Penn State University that will search for small, rocky, Earth-like exoplanets that just might support life.

Through MINERVA, UM will have its own robotic telescope on Palomar Mountain, in Southern California, one of four telescopes in MINERVA’s array, putting the school, which has no graduate degree program in astronomy, at the forefront of the search for other life in this galaxy.

“It’s a game-changer for our department,” says McCrady, a tall, excitable, boyish-looking professor who gets goosebumps when talking—and he talks a lot—about MINERVA. (He also chokes up over the recent Mars rover landing.) “It catapults UM astronomy into the cutting-edge,” he says, “the frontline of research in exoplanets.”

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Do you know what a controlled burn is? Firefighters start small, manageable fires on purpose so as to eradicate brush that has accumulated too close to wooded areas. With less fuel around, bigger fires are not as likely to ignite accidentally and turn into conflagrations. I encourage you to use this as a metaphor for your own life, Aries. How? First, identify a big potential problem that may be looming on the horizon. Then, in the coming weeks, get rid of all the small messes that might tend to feed that big problem. Make sure it’ll never happen.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Missoula to get new non-motorized path and footbridge

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 4:09 PM

On August 20, the Missoula City Council unanimously granted approval to move ahead with constructing a new bike and pedestrian path that will run from the intersection of Broadway and Van Buren streets north for about a block and then west along the railroad tracks to cross the Rattlesnake Creek.

The new trail and bridge will help link the Rattlesnake, Downtown and surrounding areas with the University District. The project will accompany planned improvements to the intersection of Van Buren and Broadway and is part of a continuing effort by the city to create non-motorized options, says Missoula City Engineer Kevin Slovarp. “We want to enhance the bicycle and pedestrian network all over town.”

The idea is to encourage biking and walking, says John O’Connor, president of the nonprofit Friends of Missoula Parks, which is collaborating with the city to make the project happen. “It’s really about continuing efforts to create better non-motorized access,” he says. “This is just one component of a system.”

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Friends of Missoula Parks secured $700,000 from the federal government to fund the project. Phil Gardner, a Missoula physician and longtime parks and trails advocate who serves as Friends of Missoula Parks secretary, personally asked Montana’s Congressional delegation to pay for the trail, bridge and improvements. He says the effort has been a long and complicated one involving multiple parties. Now that City Council signed off on it, it’s slated for completion by the end of the year.

“It’s been going on for six years,” Gardner says. “It’s totally exciting to have it come to fruition.”

Montana Rail Link has agreed to grant a 25-year lease on land that will be used for the path. The railroad is charging $500 per year, Gardner says. The group still needs to raise $24,000 to complete the project.

Additional traffic calming measures for the congested area are coming down the pike. Two new Montana Department of Transportation roundabouts are planned to be unveiled near I-90’s on and off ramps in 2014.

Election 2012: Akin, and the Rehberg redirect

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 10:30 AM

By now most of us have at least heard of Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's cringe-inducing weekend gaffe. His comments on "legitimate rape" during an interview with a St. Louis broadcaster have drawn stern criticism from both sides of the aisle. GOP-led groups like the National Republican Senatorial Committee have threatened to withdraw financial support for Akin's Senate campaign. Fellow Republicans are calling for him to bow out of his Senate race against incumbent Democratic Claire McCaskill, with whom Akin is now tied in the polls. And the Akin snafu has even prompted Montana's own Rep. Denny Rehberg to redirect a little campaign cash.

According to FEC reports, Rehberg received a $10,000 donation from Akin's Takin Back America PAC last year, $5,000 of which was refunded due to contribution limits. The Hill reports that the Rehberg campaign is now redirecting the remaining $5,000 to the Florence Crittenton Center for Pregnant and Parenting Teens. Rehberg gave Akin a dressing-down on The Hill Monday, stating:

"As a pro-life conservative, a husband and a father of two young women, I find Rep. Akin's remarks to be offensive and reprehensible. There is no such thing as a 'legitimate rape.' I condemn Rep. Akin's statements in the strongest possible terms."

Akin is one of several conservative candidates nationwide favored by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the 501(c)(4) that's actively attacking Democrats—including McCaskill and Sen. Jon Tester—in hopes of winning a Republican majority in the Senate. Crossroads GPS announced it's pulling ads supporting Akin that were scheduled to air this week. Here's the video of him sticking his foot in his mouth:

Leave it to The Onion to jump into the fray with some much-needed humor.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Happiest Hour: Breakfast mimosas at The Shack

Posted By on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 2:33 PM

After a long weekend of Total Fest, here's a happiest hour to get your mornings back on track.

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Atmosphere: When The Shack was on Front St. it really was more of a shack. For the last few decades, at its current location on Main St., it’s one of the fancier joints in town to enjoy breakfast. It’s art nouveau meets old west saloon, giving it a casual charm. The intricate wooden bar sports a beer tap and enormous bottles of champagne, which reminds you that hair-of-the-dog doesn’t have to be trashy.

What you get: You’ll feel like a high-roller when the wait staff brings you a trio of items—a champagne glass, small flute of orange juice and a miniature but dramatic-looking Cordon Negro bottle of Freixenet cava.

How it tastes: The black-bottled bubbly has a crisp apple and citrus hint of flavor with a ginger finish. It’s refreshing on its own, but mixed with The Shack’s tangy, fresh-squeezed orange juice makes it to die for.

What you’re eating: You could drink these exquisite mimosas with something brash like The Buffalo Pie (eggs and ham piled on hashbrowns, smothered in gravy). But if you’re going for complementary, try one with the Rocky Mountain rainbow trout, boned and served with poached eggs.

When to go: You can get mimosas any morning of the week, but they taste best on a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning with family or friends when you’re relaxed enough to forget your obligations.

Where to find them: The Shack at 222 West Main Street.

The Rockies Today, Aug. 20

Posted By on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 10:55 AM

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Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Billionaire builds Colorado's newest town—a private Old West enclave
Bill Koch, the multibillionaire founder and owner of Oxbow Group, owns one of the largest collections of American Western frontier memorabilia, and he's building an Old West town on his property in Colorado to house that collection.
Denver Post; Aug. 20

Marijuana-growing operation found in national forest one of Colorado's largest
Federal and state authorities raided a marijuana-growing operation in the San Isabel National Forest in southwest Colorado last week, confiscating 13,375 plants and arresting two suspects, with four avoiding arrest.
Denver Post; Aug. 20

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Extra, extra: In Other News, online

Posted By on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 9:00 AM

This week, we meet the most distracted driver ever.

Curses, Foiled Again!
After a two-car crash in Williamsport, Pa., injured one driver, the other sped from the scene. Before he’d gone a block, his car broke down, so he fled on foot. Investigating Patrolman Dustin Reeder found the car and discovered a wallet in the center console with a driver’s license belonging to Scott Lee Applegate, 50. Just then, Applegate returned to retrieve a case of beer he’d forgotten. Reeder spotted him with the beer and, after a brief chase, detained him. Drunk driving was one of several charges filed. (Williamsport Sun-Gazette)

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Total Fest, Day the Last

Posted By on Sun, Aug 19, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Between the shows, the afterparty shows, the record swap, the last-minute afternoon shows and the early evening shows, Total Fest is turning into a 24-hour music and party palooza that can kill you. They should print a warning on the passes, maybe: “Remember to nap and drink water at some point.”

After Friday evenings’ adventures, I heroically got up and made it to the Big Dipper Record Swap, where I did my best to look surly, flipped through records to the guitar stylings of Abe Coley and accidentally cussed around children. The record swap is always an odd combination of pleasant, normal families and all us weird night creatures wearing giant shades to block out the Daystar. Add in some ice cream and pleasant tunes, and you have a recipe for a lovely afternoon.

At the swap, I heard there’d be a surprise show at the Lab, so I dropped off my only purchase, Prince’s Purple Rain LP (Awesome, right?), ran an errand and headed to the south side of town.

Seattle punks Big Eyes, powerviolence duo Iron Lung and Miami metal dudes Torche assembled for the Lab’s afternoon show.

Big Eyes
  • Big Eyes

Seeing a band in the daytime so soon after the show feels a bit odd, like the mornings when you wake up and get a good, hard look at the person you brought to bed with you. But unlike some questionable characters I, uh, have known, the bands were awesome the next day, too.

Weird metaphors aside, the headbanging for Iron Lung and Torche was much milder than the night before, reduced to mere head bobbing and the occasional half-serious fist pump. The bands played in the basement, which did not smell fabulous, and I opted for lounging outside the door, where I could sip a beer and hear the bands perfectly.

Torche
  • Torche

Bad Naked also made an appearance outside between acts. If you are not familiar with Bad Naked, the one-man acoustic performance act described by Duane Raider as “akin to any band on In The Red Records being taped rhythmically beating their instruments with a brick,” congratulations.

In a very special treat for everyone, Bad Naked literally got naked and, more alarmingly, danced around barefoot. I shudder even now thinking about the broken glass littering the dirt in the Lab’s backyard.

To the people on tour visiting Montana for the first time: yup: welcome to Missoula.

Anyhoo, my Best Band for Lounging Outside To Award goes to Torche, for making metal that inspires fierce pits by night yet is strangely pleasant to listen to by day. Calling a metal band “pleasant” is probably an insult, though almost anything seems like easy listening following after Iron Lung.

And now, kids, my part of this tale comes to an end, because I went to work for a few hours, dragged my butt to the Badlander, looked at a beer and realized I wanted to throw up and sleep very badly. It turns out going to all the daytime fun without a nap or dinner or coffee was a lousy idea, and my body basically told me to go to hell for the three days of partying I subjected it to.

I couldn’t get my party boner up for the last night, guys, I’m sorry.

But, I’m told Saturday night was rad, and the highlights for my buddies were the sludgy Gay Witch Abortion, fuzzed-out rock Tenement, noisy punk Walls and the always-bouncy TacocaT. After bar time, about five bands played the Lab for what sounds like an epic afterparty.

And thus Total Fest came to an end, with bountiful hangovers today, I suspect.

Though I feel bummed I couldn’t see as much as I wanted to, I’m still pretty pleased about how T-Fest went. More than just a bunch of bands playing music, it’s a glorious giant party with all my buddies. It felt that way even the first year I went, when I didn’t really know many people in town, which is a mark of how friendly the Missoula indie music community is. May Total Fest XII be even more rad!

So I’m spending today recuperating with tea, my mom’s zucchini bread and the Julia Child marathon on the PBS Create channel. Y’all are welcome to join me.

Read the Total Fest Day One recap here and the Total Fest Day Two recap here.

Kate Whittle is the copy editor at the Independent, and blogs daily about the local music scene at Missoula Punk News.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Total Fest Day Two: Hurts so good

Posted By on Sat, Aug 18, 2012 at 12:05 PM

My mama warned me about hanging out with boys and seeing loud music.

Specifically, last week, she looked at my bruises from a show and said I’m going to get a blood clot, which I think is crap. I’m still not sure if I bruise especially easily or if not many people get in mosh pits wearing miniskirts to begin with. More skirt-wearers need to jump into pits so I have somebody to compare.

Anyway, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say day two of Total Fest was packed with ass-shaking, eardrum-blasting metallic radness, considering the havoc I wreaked on myself and others across town. Don’t tell my mom.

So I arrived at Zoo City Apparel to catch Guantanamo Baywatch, which I’ve had a score to settle with ever since I saw the band in Portland but was too tired to dance properly. The surfy trio seemed pretty excited about being in Missoula for the first time, and judging by how I saw them frolicking in the Golden Rose later, they made themselves at home.

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I don’t know what the opening acts at the Badlander and Palace Lounge were like, but everybody who skipped Dikes of Holland at Zoo City missed out on some fabulous frenetic garage punk (and ‘accidental free jazz covers’ when a guitarist’s string went wonky), fronted by Liz Hererra, a tiny, fierce blonde woman. Several reviewers describe Dikes of Holland as having a rockabilly vibe. Maybe, if you put rockabilly on trucker speed.

After wiping off the Zoo City sweat, I made it over to the Badlander in time to see what was supposed to be Pins of Light, which canceled, and in its stead was SWAMP WOLF.

I feel compelled to say that in all caps, because that name perfectly captures the angry sludge. I Tweeted a note to myself, “Remind me later about SWAMP WOLF” because holy testerone-fueled thrash, Batman.

I missed a few bands to recuperate from Swamp Wolf in the Rose, which was a good idea because next up, I survived Iron Lung.

Yes, kids, a powerviolence band is in fact really violent live. Who knew? I placed myself strategically where I could catch myself with my hands on the stage to avoid getting pushed face-first into a mic. I’d describe Iron Lung less as music and more as a sonic beating. It ruled. I also apologize to anyone who ran into my ass, because I stick it out a bit and use it as a line of defense against mosh pits since it's rather sturdy.

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But none ruled harder than Torche. Goddamn. What I know about metal fits in a thimble, but I know that I like Torche’s complex melodies and fast beats. Metal you can actually dance and/or punch people to!

One of the stranger parts of my evening was going from the packed fury of the Badlander to a quiet backyard afterparty. A bearded man was singing about alphabet soup! It was lovely. It breaks my heart that I can either dance really hard to the bands OR rage all night at afterparties, but I cannot do both, because I'd need some illegal uppers to achieve that. Drugs are bad!
And now, to skip my shower and head to the Record Swap. Smell you there!

Kate Whittle is the copy editor at the Independent, and blogs about the local music scene daily at Missoula Punk News.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Total Fest Day One: Sweaty, Loud, Bearded Men, Gin

Posted By on Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 2:57 PM

Last night, the eleventh annual Total Fest began, with the first set at Zoo City Apparel.
How do you recap the glorious barrage on the senses that is a music festival? So much hilarity has to stay forever unblogged because it doesn’t make any sense out of context. Like this, which I have scrawled in my notebook: “Without this chest hair, we'd have no rock and roll holes, and we need rock and roll holes to serve us.”
By far the most accurate notes I have are: “sweaty...drunk...loud...bearded men...gin.”

My notebook also says “Kate smells bad,” which is why you shouldn’t let friends write in your notebook.

Anyway, I’ll do my best to recall events as honestly as I can. Trends so far: beards seem to be pretty “in” this year, which makes for a fun game of “Homeless or Hipster?” while walking down Higgins. Lacking the hormones to grow one myself, I might have to knit one.

The bands:

I got off work in time to head over to Zoo City Apparel and see Big Eyes, the Seattle-based punk band that apparently is quite offended to be described as having a “earnest Midwest sound” on the Total Fest poster blurb. Big Eyes plays with more of a throwback ’70s Runaways-type sound, especially with frontwoman Kate Eldridge’s disaffected-teenager vocals. Also, everybody had a brief “oh shit” moment during the set when a cloud of smoke puffed up on stage. But it was just a random blurt from a smoke machine.

I also loved the art installation Spelunca, a cave made of T-shirts around the Zoo City stage, even if it does trap heat. Can Amanda Browder come do that to my bedroom?

After the Zoo City part of the show, people moseyed over to the Top Hat for the rest of the night, the least metal and most dancey line-up of the three.

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Highlights: I believe another Seattle punk band, Unnatural Helpers, set off the first mosh pit of the festival with their fast tempos, and then husband-and-wife party team No Fi Soul Rebellion set up on the floor, as always. No Fi’s lo-fi, good-feelings vibe always seems to work people into goofy ass shaking, which is as it should be.

Next, Maryland-based electronic dude Dan Deacon set up a glittery skull and flashy light display, cleared the floor for a dance contest and finished the night working the crowd into a bubbly dance froth.
This was also the first time I've been to the Top Hat as a Total Fest venue, and while the bottleneck at the entrance will always irritate me, I appreciate that the smoking patio out back allows folks to cluster outside with their drinks and b.s. without fear of open container tickets. I look forward to seeing how many people cram into the VFW Saturday.

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