Your Weekend Reader for April 9-10

by | Apr 9, 2022 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

First, this personal note from your Weekend Reader correspondent: Happy birthday, Diane!

In simpler times, it used to be that we judged the effectiveness of our congressional delegation by a few simple measures: Did they occasionally show up in town? Did they respond to our letters? Did they bring home the pork? Now, of course, we call pork “earmarks,” and the practice had fallen out of favor. But the $1.5 trillion government spending bill that passed in March allowed lawmakers, for the first time in a decade, to direct federal funds for specific projects to their states and districts. The New York Times recently worked out how much pork each lawmaker wrangled for their state or district. Sen. Ron Wyden came in at No. 12, collecting $194.4 million, and the state’s junior senator, Jeff Merkley, was right behind at No. 13, with $192.4 million. In the House, the state’s four Democrats all wrangled money for their districts: Peter DeFazio collected $17.9 million, Earl Blumenauer $14.6 million, Kurt Schrader $13.5 million and Suzanne Bonamici $10.7 million. The lone Republican in the delegation, Cliff Bentz, wasn’t listed with any earmarks, but he’s still on his first term. He’ll learn.

Speaking of Republicans, 11 of the 19 GOP candidates for Oregon governor gathered in Hillsboro on Thursday for a debate, likely one of the rare occasions when a majority of the GOP hopefuls will share the same stage. The candidates agreed that they would work to trim the size of state government and work to bolster the timber industry — not surprising stances, especially considering that the pro-timber group Timber Unity sponsored the event. Marc Thielman, the former superintendent of the Alsea School District and now a GOP candidate for governor, said he would particularly target the Oregon Education Department, because “they’re the ones teaching our kids that climate change is real.” Julia Shumway of the Oregon Capital Chronicle had the difficult task of writing a coherent story out of the event — it’s hard to find a lead with so many candidates — and did a good job.

Speaking of the Oregon Capital Chronicle, here’s an interesting piece from the Pew Research Center: The total number of reporters covering state government in the United States has increased 11% since 2014, the last time this survey was done. But one of the big reasons for the increase is the growth of nonprofit efforts such as States Newsroom, which supports the Capital Chronicle. Pew also cited growth in the number of part-time statehouse reporters.

A couple of other pieces about journalism caught my eye this week:

It’s always hard for newspapers and other media to report about suicide — especially suicide among younger people, say 25 and younger. One of the tougher issues involves the so-called Werther effect — increases in real-world suicide rates that happen in the wake of widespread coverage of high-profile deaths by suicide. But now, studies are beginning to suggest that stories of survival and resilience potentially can reduce real-world suicide risk. It’s a phenomenon called the Papageno effect — a reference to the protagonist in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” who considers suicide but ultimately chooses another path. Writing for the Nieman Lab at Harvard University, Christina Couch lays out the case for the media to also report on these stories of recovery.

And you might have heard about that study by two researchers who paid Fox News watchers to watch CNN instead — and how participants in the study ended up concluding that Fox had concealed negative information about President Trump. If you’re interested in learning more about this provocative study, I can help you out: Here’s a link to the whole thing.

Now that the U.S. Senate has voted to make daylight saving time permanent, I’m increasingly convinced that the best bet would be to make standard time permanent. (But I probably would settle for just picking one and sticking with it.) However, as a recent New York Times story, noted, there are other options available in our perennial battle over time. The catch is, those other ideas are even worse. This story is worth a quick look in part because it features a hilarious clip from “Veep.”

Work by the Portland artist Tatyana Ostapenko, a native of Ukraine, is part of the show “Looking at Us” now on view at The Arts Center in Corvallis. (You would know this if you kept an eye on the arts-and-entertainment calendar I maintain elsewhere on this website.) The Oregonian/OregonLive ran an interesting feature this past week on Ostapenko, who has launched a personal campaign to sell as much of her work as possible, with all the proceeds going to the nonprofit GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. She’s raised more than $64,000. The “Looking at Us” exhibit also features works by Tim Timmerman of Newberg. Click here to read more about the exhibit.

The Oregonian also has answered the truly burning question surrounding this year’s Masters golf tournament: Why is Tiger Woods wearing FootJoy shoes instead of Nike footwear? As it turns out, the answer is pretty much what you would expect.

By now, everyone’s outrage over Jon Batiste’s album of the year Grammy has abated, because no one can stay mad at Jon Batiste for any length of time. (Of course, you still can argue that Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” or Lil Nas X’s “Montero” made much more of a splash than Batiste’s “We Are,” which topped the charts at No. 86 when it first released.) But Grammy voters almost always fall back on safer choices, and this discussion from writers at The Atlantic helps explain why — and also makes a compelling case that the love for nostalgia in music isn’t limited to Grammy voters. If you want to get outraged about the Grammys, though, they always provide legitimate reasons to do so: This year, for example, Louis C.K. won a Grammy for best comedy album.

But if you take a deeper dive into this year’s Grammy winners, there are signs of hope: The R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan won two well-deserved Grammys. Portland’s Esperanza Spalding won another Grammy, for her album “Songwrights Apothecary Lab.” (Remember the fuss when she won the Grammy in 2011 for best new artist, over Justin Bieber? That just seems now like the smart choice, although Biebs and the other losers that year — Drake, Florence and the Machine and Mumford and Sons — have gone on to do well for themselves.) Chick Corea won two more Grammys; he’s won 27 now, and more might be coming, depending on how much music remains in the late pianist’s vault. Among jazz artists, only Quincy Jones, with 28, has won more. The comedian Bo Burnham won for his song “All Eyes on Me,” from his brilliant Netflix special “Inside.” The Grammy for best orchestral performance went to a Philadelphia Orchestra recording of two symphonies by Florence Price, the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer. And the show itself has stepped away from its contrived “Grammy moments,” which mixed together artists from different eras or genres, in favor of more straightforward performances, such as the ones that Rodrigo, Billie Eilish and Brandi Carlile delivered Sunday. It’s true, as The Atlantic writers concluded, that the Grammys aren’t exactly barreling into the future — but maybe a slow crawl is the best we can expect.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, and we’ll connect again next week.

Looking for something to do in the mid-valley? Check out my curated calendar of arts-and-entertainment events.

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