Your Weekend Reader for July 22-23

by | Jul 22, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Anthony Dominick Benedetto — we know him better as Tony Bennett — died Friday in Manhattan (despite his most famous song, Bennett always left his heart in New York City). He was 96 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for years. Over the course of his 80-year career, Bennett rarely strayed from the tunes of the Great American Songbook — and, in the long run, as Jon Pareles notes in his New York Times appreciation piece, that focus helped maintain his longevity and helped to pave the way for his unlikely appeal among younger listeners.

For years now, you’ve heard about NIMBYs — “Not in My Backyard” types who tend to be opposed to new development in their neighborhoods. You might not have heard about the “Yes in My Backyard” movement, which (of course) goes by the term YIMBY. As this piece in The Atlantic argues, the YIMBY movement is “an ideologically diverse collection of scholars, policy makers, and grassroots activists committed to the disarmingly simple idea that building new homes in the nation’s most prosperous cities and towns would be a really good thing to do.” No argument here. But one problem, to be maybe a little blunt, is that YIMBYs can be annoyingly righteous about this — and that doesn’t do anything to bolster their case.

The problems facing the Oregon Shakespeare Festival are not at all unique among the nation’s theater companies, as Isaac Butler notes in this opinion piece from The New York Times. In fact, as Butler argues convincingly, “the American theater is on the verge of collapse” — a collapse he believes only the federal government can head off.

Blue Pool, the popular (and dangerous) summer recreation spot in Oregon’s central Cascade Mountains, has been a frequent destination this summer for rescue crews from the Sweet Home Fire Department and other agencies, including Linn County Search and Rescue. Just this week, five people over the course of three days required rescues from Blue Pool. Now, officials say they’re working on measures to improve safety on the site, including a ban on swimming in the chilly pool, which averages a brisk 37 degrees. Jamie Hale of The Oregonian/OregonLive has the details.

Regardless of what steps are taken at Blue Pool, people who are unprepared for an outdoors excursion — or people who just make foolish choices along the way — always will require rescuing. Here’s a recent piece by Idaho writer Molly Absolon from the website Writers on the Range about the backcountry heroes — often volunteers — who devote themselves to search-and-rescue efforts, often at considerable risk.

If you’re not familiar with the website Writers on the Range, by the way, it’s worth a look: Most recently, the site published an amusing column by Marjorie “Slim” Woodruff about social media users who see a spectacular photo of some outdoor location and then set out to duplicate it. Woodruff also reports about one genre of Instagram posts devoted to women who hike and climb in high heels. At least those folks actually do the work; Woodruff also notes a website that allows users to paste family photos into outdoor locations without the hassle of actually visiting the locations.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that most Americans believe both the U.S. government and tech companies should restrict false information and extremely violent content online. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with a big government role in restricting information, but it’s not as if tech companies are racing to figure out how to monitor content posted on their sites. In fact, as Pew notes, many of them are removing content restrictions they had in place regarding COVID vaccines and the 2020 election.

We were talking last week about The Athletic, the sports-news website that was purchased a few years ago by The New York Times — and which now will be producing all of the Times’ sports coverage. What I didn’t mention last week is that much of The Athletic’s coverage really is quite solid, and that includes a series of stories it’s doing now about the continuing realignment of college conferences. One of the key points the series is making is that none of this is new — that, from almost the first days of college athletics, there was controversy about conference realignment. Don’t believe me? Check out this timeline of conference realignment highlights, which starts in … 1889. (I’m expecting, at some point, for The Athletic to allow me to send “gift” links to stories, the way that I can with other stories from the Times. In the meantime, alas, stories from The Athletic are available only to subscribers.)

And speaking of The Athletic: Here’s a bit of information I didn’t know until recently which might have something to do with the decision by the Times to shutter its own sports department and hand the keys over to The Athletic. Sportswriters at the Times are unionized. The Athletic is not. So, not surprisingly, the union representing Times journalists has filed a grievance arguing that the newspaper is trying to bust the union. The Times has 20 days to respond to the grievance.

It was clear (at least to me) last season that the Oregon State University football team only needed consistently elite play from its quarterback to make a serious run at the Pac-12 title. This year, the team has added two quarterbacks — former Clemson starter D.J. Uiagalelei and highly touted freshman Aidan Chiles. And last year’s primary starter, Ben Gulbranson, won seven games for the Beavers and potentially could take a big step forward this season. It adds up to the oldest of football stories: The Beavers have a legitimate quarterback controversy. Expect to read a lot more about that as the season approaches — and, naturally, as NIck Daschel of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports, the question came up (again and again and again) during the Pac-12’s college football media day Friday in Las Vegas. (The story is available only to Oregonian subscribers.)

It’s the start of the “Barbenheimer” weekend, with both Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” opening in theaters. Jake Coyle of The Associated Press reports that some 200,000 moviegoers already have bought same-day tickets to see both movies, a five-hour undertaking. On Rotten Tomatoes’ compendium of critical reviews, “Oppenheimer” has the slight edge, sitting at 93% to 90% for “Barbie,” but when we get our first look Sunday at the box office numbers, expect “Barbie” to be the winner. Opening-weekend estimates suggested “Barbie” would open with $80 million, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t crack $100 million and might get close to $200 million. Similarly, I expect “Oppenheimer” to do better than its $40 million estimate. “Barbie” cost an estimated $145 million to make, and Nolan brought in “Oppenheimer” for an estimated $100 million, a remarkably small sum considering the movie’s scope and big cast. The general rule of thumb is that a movie needs to double its production costs to make a profit. Both of these films should easily wind up in the black. I’m scheduled, by the way, to complete my “Barbenheimer” double feature on Wednesday, but I’m not seeing both of them on the same day; I doubt my bladder could stand the strain.

That’s it for this week. Let’s meet back here next week to compare notes about “Barbenheimer” and bladder performance.

1 Comment

  1. David Hodgert

    Thank you Mike, I have just discovered this page when I followed a link from Linkedin. I’ll be checking back with your page often.


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