Your Weekend Reader for Jan. 28-29

by | Jan 28, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

This morning’s news brings a report of a fresh mass shooting in California, this one in Los Angeles. So here’s a New York Times piece that’s timely — and also, unfortunately, will continue to be timely: A pair of academics have studied the “signs of crisis” that preceded more than 150 mass shootings, and conclude that the killings are not “just random acts of violence but rather a symptom of a deeper societal problem: the continued rise of ‘deaths of despair.'” Communities and governments need to find ways to reduce social isolation and improve access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment, they argue — in addition to background checks, longer waiting periods, safer gun-storage requirements and red-flag laws. The piece benefits from a chilling layout, which summarizes the profiles of the perpetrators. (Like all New York Times pieces mentioned in the Weekend Reader, this is available to subscribers, but I can send you a gift link if you want to read it; just drop a comment below and leave your email address.)

It’s a familiar lament in Eastern Oregon: Lawmakers and state officials in Salem (and, by extension, the federal government) are fixated on the western part of the state, and generally ignore pretty much everything east of the Cascades — when they’re actually not launching initiatives that make it harder to eke out a living in Eastern Oregon’s mostly rural communities. In fact, the driving argument behind Greater Idaho, the effort to have Idaho absorb 15 Eastern Oregon counties, is that Idaho is simply a better cultural, political and economic match than Western Oregon for those counties. (The Greater Idaho effort still is a thing, by the way, and will be on the ballot this May in at least one Oregon county.) It’s part of what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman correctly identifies as a growing resentment in rural America toward government — but, as Krugman writes in this column, the picture is more nuanced than we sometimes think.

Speaking of The New York Times, the Gray Lady this week launched its own TikTok channel, a scant three years after some of its competitors. One of the first four TikTok stories in the Times was that piece about atmospheric rivers the Weekend Reader mentioned a couple of weeks ago. This piece from Nieman Labs has the details about the Times’s TikTok splash — and, as an added bonus, has a link to a story about a particularly notorious tweet from the Times.

More than 720,000 Oregon residents rely on the federal food Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In April 2020, as the pandemic hit, the federal government boosted monthly SNAP benefits by nearly 70% to an average of $450 per household per month. But beginning in March, that extra federal boost will go away, dropping that $450 monthly average to about $270. The Oregon Food Bank and other food banks statewide are preparing for an expected surge in demand, and bills that might address some aspects of the issue have been introduced in the Legislature. Lynne Terry of the Oregon Capital Chronicle has the details.

Academy Award nominations were announced this week, with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” leading the way with 11 nominations and slipping into the sometime-treacherous role as early front-runner for the best picture Oscar. (Kyle Buchanan, who covers awards season for the Times, believes the remake of “All Quiet on the Western Front” could be formidable best-picture competition, and “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “The Fabelmans” are lurking — but, as I said, it’s early yet.) You might not have known that two of this year’s nominees have Oregon connections: As Kristi Turnquist of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports, Todd Fields, the director of “Tár,” is a former Portland resident. And animated front-runner “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” was mostly made in Portland. The Oscars air Sunday, March 12 on ABC. I have plans to revive my Oscar-prediction competition, so keep an eye on my blog.

Speaking of movies, Turnquist has pulled together a list of 19 movies that were (at least partially) filmed in Oregon: They range from “Animal House” to Kelly Reichardt’s “Wendy and Lucy,” which Turnquist accurately describes as “achingly sad.” Yes, “The Goonies,” “Stand By Me” and “Sometimes a Great Notion” all make the list.

For years, the human hormone oxytocin has been billed as “the hug hormone,” capable of instilling affection and generosity. But research over the years has whittled away at that belief, and now, a new study suggests that the hormone is not only insufficient at creating strong bonds but might be unnecessary. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the study involves prairie voles — the creatures that The Atlantic’s Katherine Wu calls “fluffy, fist-size rodents that have long been poster children for oxytocin’s snuggly effects,” but which I always thought were more along the lines of nature’s fast food. Wu broke the story just in time for Valentine’s Day. (Stories from The Atlantic are available only to subscribers.)

Finally, to end this edition of the Weekend Reader: Here’s a piece from The New York Times in which the writer, George Gurley, consulted 30 experts and asked them this question: What are the things we do today that will make us cringe when we look back at how we lived in the 2020s? Here was one of the answers: Crocs. Click here for the other 29. (This story also benefits from an ingenious online layout.)

Personally, I agree that Crocs are lamentable outside the garden. But this is a good question to toss out to readers: What other things do we do today that will embarrass us when we look back? Post your answer in the comments section, and I’ll see you next weekend.

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1 Comment

  1. Rachel K Kirby

    Cars with eyelashes on the headlights.
    Jeans with tears all over them – a personal pet peeve of mine!
    Womens tops with holes over the shoulders – what’s up with that?
    My personal hope is that a table full of college students having dinner together and all scanning their phones will be ancient history is 20 years!


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