Your Weekend Reader for May 13-14

by | May 13, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Before we get rolling, a question: Have you turned in your ballot yet for the May 16 election? I suspect you probably have, since Weekend Reader readers are among the community’s most civic-minded people — and are good-looking as well. But the odds suggest there might be a straggler or two among you, since Benton County’s turnout as on Friday was 23.8%. That means that 3 out of every 4 registered voters haven’t returned a ballot yet.

Now, that’s bound to go up over the next few days: Turnout in the May 2021 election was 39.5%. But the relatively low turnout in these off-year election always has baffled me a bit, because the issues on the ballot tend to be much more important to the local community than the national or even statewide races that attract a larger response. This Benton County election, for example, includes the community safety levy on the ballot — and, regardless of what you think about the job its proponents have done in making the case for the measure, the fact is that Benton County needs a new jail facility and has needed that for 50 years.

Anyway, if your ballot still is lurking on your kitchen table, mark it and return it to one of the county’s ballot drop-off boxes. (Yes, I know that if your ballot is postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday, and if it gets to the elections office within seven days after Election Day, it’ll count — but I’d still use the drop-off box. Call me old-fashioned.)

And that ends this week’s Weekend Reader editorial.

Speaking of off-year elections, here’s a story by Natalie Pate for the Oregon Capital Chronicle about how supposedly nonpartisan school board races are becoming increasingly political — even in Oregon.

It’s a busy weekend for mid-valley theater, with three shows up and running in Albany and Corvallis. Fortunately for you, I have stories on my blog (or, in one case, up on Brad Fuqua’s Philomath News website) about all three of the productions.

If you liked “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which uses the multiverse notion to tell a very moving family story, you might enjoy Oregon State University Theatre’s “The Light Keepers,” now playing for the next two weekends at the Whiteside Theatre. (And it’s cool to see a full-fledged theater production up at the Whiteside.) Over at Albany Civic Theater, director Leigh Matthews Bock has staged a new version of “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” It’s the fifth time in 10 years she’s staged the play, and she says this will be the finale. And Brad asked me to interview Gregory Brumfield, the lead in the Majestic’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” for his Philomath News website (Brumfield lives in Philomath). It turned out to be a fun interview, and Brumfield has a warning for anyone who forgets to turn off their cellphone before the show starts.

A couple of related notes: If you haven’t checked out Brad’s Philomath News site, you should — he’s done a really remarkable job of covering Philomath and it looks as if he’s figured out ways to make the site sustainable. Of course, as you can tell, it also looks as if he also works essentially around the clock at it, which is part of the reason why I’m happy to be able to write a story for the site from time to time. (I still owe him a story about birding at the Philomath sewer ponds — it’s a real thing — that now is more than a year overdue.)

And sharp-eyed Weekend Reader readers will note that in the paragraph listing the shows now on view in the mid-valley, the word “theater” is spelled two ways — “theater” and “theatre.” That’s because I try to honor the preferred spelling of each entity. So, OSU prefers “Theatre,” as do the Majestic and the Whiteside. Albany Civic prefers “Theater.” Is there a correct version? Kind of, according to the Associated Press Stylebook: “Theater.” But then the Stylebook hedges its bets by noting: “Use this spelling unless the proper name is Theatre.” If I were king for a day, though, I would force everyone — kicking and screaming and muttering darkly about artistic freedom, no doubt — over to the “theater” spelling.

Now, don’t get me started about “healthcare.”

It’ll be hot this weekend — the mid-valley is under a National Weather Service heat advisory until 11 p.m. Sunday — but area rivers still are running chilly, thanks to snowmelt. So experts advise caution as we all flock to area waterways, because cold water shock is a leading cause of hypothermia and drowning. This story from The Oregonian/OregonLive has the details.

Here’s Tom Jones of The Poynter Institute, wrapping up the reaction from CNN’s Wednesday town hall with former President Donald Trump. The reaction seems to be mostly negative, but CNN’s new boss. Chris Licht, is sticking to his guns.

I know it bothers some readers when I link to a story from The Atlantic, because most of those stories are behind a paywall — and The Atlantic is an expensive subscription. Nevertheless, I recommend this terrifying story from its current issue, and if you choose not to read it, this is one of those stories that you can get the gist of just from the headline: “Never Give Artificial Intelligence the Nuclear Codes.”

If you do have an Atlantic subscription, though, don’t miss this fun piece by Jack Hamilton, a professor at the University of Virginia, about the newfound appreciation for Steely Dan.

Speaking of The Atlantic, a story that was mentioned in a previous edition of the Weekend Reader — Caitlin Dickerson’s masterful examination of Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy — won a Pulitzer Prize this week for explanatory reporting. This is the third year in a row that The Atlantic has won a Pulitzer.

The Pulitzers awarded for artistic efforts never seem to generate the kind of coverage that goes to the journalism awards, but they’re always interesting as well. This year’s winners include two novels — “Trust” by Hernan Diaz and “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver — that I currently have checked out from the library. I’ll get them back to the library just as soon as I’m done, but not a moment before. Other winners include: Sanaz Toossi’s “English” for drama; “Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power,” by Jefferson Cowie, for U.S. history; “His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, for general nonfiction; “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” by Beverly Gage, for biography;  “Stay True,” by Hua Hsu, a memorable coming-of-age memoir; “Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020,” by Carl Phillips, for poetry; and the opera  “Omar,” by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abel, in music.

That’s it for this weekend. Watch out for the heat (and those chilly rivers) and I’ll see you next weekend.

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