Your Weekend Reader for Aug. 20-21

by | Aug 20, 2022 | Miscellaneous, Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Some editions of Your Weekend Reader seem to arrange themselves around a common theme — the decline of democracy, perhaps, or the peril facing the Pac-12 Conference or the new Beyoncé album. Other editions are — let’s be honest — grab bags of items that have no common feature other than they grabbed my attention during the week. This edition falls pretty cleanly into the latter category, although if you read to the end, you will notice some decline of democracy items and what strikes me as plausible theories for how those boxes of documents wound up in the basement of Mar-a-Lago.

Let’s start with a flurry of news from the West Coast.

First, from drought to a drenching disaster: Perhaps you noticed earlier in the week this New York Times story about a megastorm, fueled in part by climate change, that scientists believe is certain to hit California, sooner or later — and, the way things are going, it’ll probably be sooner. A month into the storm, the Times reports, an average of 16 inches of precipitation will have hit the state, and some areas will get considerably more. The storm will certainly strain much of California’s infrastructure — dams, levees and so forth — past the breaking point. The story is enhanced considerably by a very impressive online presentation.

A little bit closer to home, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has plans to reintroduce sea otters to Oregon and Northern California, Sarah Trent reports in a story for High Country News. As Trent reports, scientists and tribal leaders believe reintroducing otters would help degraded kelp forests, boost fish species and protect shorelines. But others worry that otters would compete with humans for shellfish and some tribes fear possible impacts to their self-governance.

Alert readers of the Weekend Reader might recall an item of a few weeks back, in which the respected Cook Political Report upgraded the chances of Republican candidates in some Oregon congressional districts, including the mid-valley’s Fourth and Fifth districts. Now, another source — the University of Virginia Center for Politics — has changed its prediction for Oregon’s gubernatorial race from “leans Democratic” to “toss-up.” The unique three-way race features Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and Betsy Johnson, the former Democratic legislator who’s running as a nonaffiliated candidate. Lynne Terry of the Oregon Capital Chronicle had the story.

The week included some intriguing notes about the realignment of college football, including this story from Jon Wilner of the Mercury News, the nation’s top Pac-12 Conference reporter: Wilner attended a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents during which a regent, John A. Perez, broadly (if hypothetically) suggested that the board could essentially reverse the decision by UCLA Chancellor Gene Brock to move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten. (USC, the other school involved in the move, is a private school and not part of the University of California system — but you knew that.) The board is scheduled to meet again in about a month. Meanwhile, the Big Ten, which is set to add USC and (maybe) UCLA in 2024, landed a media-rights contract this week worth roughly a cool billion bucks each year. Notably, Big Ten football and basketball games will be split among three networks: Fox, CBS and NBC. It’s not clear yet how this might shake out for the Pac-12 as it tries to negotiate its own media deal.

It was only a matter of time before the nation’s increasing zeal to ban books came to the mid-valley: Brad Fuqua’s Philomath News website is reporting that two parents want copies of “Flamer,” a semi-autobiographical graphic novel by Mike Curato, removed from the Philomath Middle School library. The book is about a 14-year-old Filipino American youth who’s bullied for his appearance, including acting in a manner considered stereotypical of gay men. Curato was a Boy Scout and drew on his experience — much of the book is set at a Boy Scouts summer camp in 1995 — to write the novel. The parents said the book was inappropriate and pornographic and wondered what other offensive books might be on the shelves. The school board said it would follow up on the matter.

The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis lavishes praise on Kino Lorber’s four-DVD set, “Cinema’s First Nasty Women,” which collects nearly 100 films, made from 1898 to 1926, featuring female cast and crew members. (New York’s Museum of the Moving Image is showcasing 11 of the films this weekend.) There’s a Corvallis connection: Oregon State University’s Dana Reason, an assistant professor of contemporary music and a pianist and composer, was the music supervisor for the project and composed the music for some of the films. Kino Lorber plans to release the set next month.

Andrew Travers, the former editor of the Aspen Times in Colorado, has a detailed story in The Atlantic about how a Russian-born developer and a West Virginia billionaire teamed up to gut a newspaper that’s been printing — profitably — for nearly 150 years. It’s a sobering reminder about some of the other pressures that threaten independent journalism.

Maggie Haberman and two other New York Times writers have a new story about the chaotic final days of the Trump White House, which included a somewhat careless approach to gathering up documents that should have been headed to the National Archives instead of, oh, you know, a private Florida club. It’s just one of those Trump stories that’s shocking but not really surprising. Earlier in the week, Haberman — who might have more insight into Trump than any other mainstream reporter — had a story in which she outlined various theories as to why he didn’t just hand over the documents in the first place. Any of her theories seem plausible, but there’s one that resonated a bit with me: He’s a pack rat.

“House of the Dragon,” HBO’s prequel to “Game of Thrones,” debuts on Sunday, and has thus far drawn reviews that I can summarize thusly: Meh. This prompted writer and fantasy fan Scott Woods to pose this question in the Times: What if we just don’t watch it?

Finally, if you need a reason to go on living, I have one: The Girl Scouts this week announced a new cookie flavor. Lizzy Acker at The Oregonian/OregonLive has the details.

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