Your Weekend Reader for March 4-5

by | Mar 4, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 3 comments

One of the first three albums I bought with my own money was Weather Report’s 1974 “Mysterious Traveller.” I still can’t say for sure why I picked up that album at Budget Tapes and Records in Great Falls, Montana — but it’s stuck with me over the years. (I now own a CD version, but that just dates me just as much as saying that I owned vinyl — except that I hear vinyl now is hipper.)

In any event, “Mysterious Traveller” was my introduction to Wayne Shorter, the saxophonist and, without much question, the greatest jazz composer of the last quarter-century. Shorter died Thursday at age 89, and the accolades are pouring in. This obituary from Downbeat covers the essentials, and Giovanni Russonello of The New York Times picks nine essential Shorter tracks — and does a nice job with that unenviable task. (The list includes Shorter’s indelible solo from Steely Dan’s “Aja,” in which the saxophonist gave Walter Becker and Donald Fagan a minute-long schooling in what jazz really is about.)

Point to a big moment in jazz over the last 50 years, and chances are Shorter was right in the middle of it or somewhere nearby, from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers to his crucial contributions in Miles Davis’ second great quartet to the formation of Weather Report with Joe Zawinul — not to mention a series of classic solo albums for Blue Note and, later, Columbia and Verve.

But maybe the most wonderful thing about Shorter is that he maintained that creative edge right up to the end, working with younger admirers like Portland’s Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, both of whom share something of Shorter’s musical fearlessness. (Spalding worked with Shorter on his opera “Iphigenia,” which debuted in 2021.) The way that Shorter lived is an inspiration. And it’s an inspiration that comes with a magnificent soundtrack.

We’re a weekend away from our twice-annual abomination of moving our clocks an hour forward or an hour back. That’s right, daylight saving time returns on Sunday, March 12, as we spring ahead one hour. I’m on record — many, many times — as calling for abolition of this ridiculous idea, which was first intended as a cost-cutting measure. It’s not clear that daylight saving time actually saves energy (studies have reached different conclusions), but it’s increasingly clear that the time switch plays havoc with our sleep habits and our overall health. Nevertheless, if you want a primer on daylight saving time, the Times is here to help. (As with all Times stories, this one is available only to subscribers, but I can “gift” you a free link to the story — just leave your email address in the comments section, below.)

One more story from the Times this week that caught my eye: Oregon turns out to be one of a dozen states in which insects (such as bees and butterflies) are not considered wildlife. This makes it much harder for states to launch conservation efforts to protect insects in cases where they’re endangered. This would appear to be a relatively easy matter to fix legislatively, and perhaps a lawmaker from the mid-valley — home to a long and successful effort to protect the Fender’s blue butterfly — would care to take this on.

Speaking of wildlife, a group of conservationists, nonprofit organizations and advocates have sent a letter to President Joe Biden, asking him to issue an executive order protecting beavers on federal land. The letter points out that beavers are important for fighting climate change, biodiversity loss and water shortages. And, c’mon man (as Biden might say), they’re Oregon’s state animal.

I hate to keep harping on this Pac-12 Conference business, but it increasingly looks as if it’s reaching a tipping point. Conference officials are staying mum on the negotiations for the conference’s media rights, but a pair of Pac-12 university presidents, Oregon State’s Jayathi Murthy and Washington State’s Kirk Schultz, did interviews with, respectively, John Canzano and Jon Wilner, to spread the message that the remaining members of the Pac-12 want to stay together.

“There’s lots of reasons for us to hold together,” Murthy told Canzano. “The different members of the Pac-12 understand it. All this talk about people running off and joining the Big Ten and Big 12 or whatever is just talk.”

That’s probably true — right now. But there is a growing sense that Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff would be well-advised to nail down a reasonable media deal by the end of the month — especially with The Athletic now reporting that the Big 12 has reached out recently to the Pac-12’s so-called “four corner” schools — Arizona,  Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — to gauge their interest in switching. The Big 12 recently extended its media deal with ESPN and Fox, and the deal is estimated to bring $31.7 million annually to each conference school. So that’s the number to watch: If the new Pac-12 deal comes close to or beats that number, that reduces the incentive for a member to leave the conference. With the Pac-12’s men’s basketball tournament getting underway next week, Kliavkoff might take the moment to unveil a new deal. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

Writing for the Oregon Capital Chronicle, Natalie Pate reported on an interesting proposal before the Legislature: a bill that would let 16- and 17-year-olds vote in school board elections. The reasoning by Rep. Ben Bowman, D-Tigard, is that school board elections are the ones that matter the most to teens. The bill has gotten some pushback, but you know what? It’s not as if adults are rushing to vote in school board elections in the first place — even though those races might well be the most important ones in their communities. Opening school board elections to younger voters might send a signal to their older counterparts that they should be paying more attention as well.

Lee Enterprises, the owner of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and the Albany Democrat-Herald, has reported a profit in the first quarter of its fiscal year. (Lee’s fiscal year begins in October.) The company, which owns 75 daily newspapers, generated a $2 million profit for the quarter ending Dec. 25. The company’s digital revenue from ads and subscriptions grew, but total revenue was down 8% compared to the same period last year. Lee made a profit largely on the basis of cuts to its print business over the last year, including layoffs: The company ended fiscal year 2022 with 4,365 employees, down from 5,130 the previous year. Many of the company’s remaining employees are in the midst of mandatory two-week furloughs. The Poynter Institute has more about Lee in this post, although you have to get past Poynter’s Tom Jones lamenting that the next season of “Succession” will be its last to get to the news about Lee.

“Succession” is about to enter its final season? Should I be watching this show? How do people find time to watch TV in the first place?

A couple of final notes about that Lee item: A shareholder asked whether Lee is considering decreasing print days to cut costs, and a company VP said it was looking at “all options.” I have to think that chances are good that the G-T and D-H will be cutting back on publication days in the future.

And the market greeted the news from Lee by shaving about a buck off its stock price: Shares on Thursday closed at $17.70, down from $18.65 on Wednesday. (As I write, shares are sitting at $16.90.)

That’s it for this weekend. I’ll see you next weekend, when I’ll be really grumpy about the prospect of that lost hour. I don’t care what they say: We don’t ever get it back.

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  1. Jane Stoltz

    Don’t you mean mandatory two-week furloughs?

    • Mike McInally

      Yes — that’s what I meant, and I have corrected the text to reflect that. Thanks.

  2. Frances Smith

    Very sad to hear of Wayne Shorter’s passing. He was a great saxophonist and composer.


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