Your Weekend Reader for May 20-21

by | May 21, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

The Oregonian has a fun feature this weekend that gives prominent play to a familiar face in the mid-valley: Independence Mayor John McArdle, whom you might recall as the longtime development director for Linn-Benton Community College. The story, by freelancer Tom Henderson, focuses on what the story calls the “Independence Renaissance,” a remarkable 30-year run by that community that includes a revitalized downtown, with a boutique hotel and an amphitheater in Riverview Park. Henderson also writes about the latest twist: Three little red trolleys that now make the three-mile trek between Riverview Park in Independence and the campus of Western Oregon University in Monmouth 36 times a day. How Independence made it happen is a textbook study of how a community and its residents focused on long-term goals — and managed to stay focused on those over three decades. It’s a lesson that other communities probably could learn from, although no examples immediately leap to mind. When I was doing some work for the city of Independence a couple of years ago, Diane and I got to experience the McArdle tour of Independence: It’s a whirlwind.

You probably know that the official motto for the state of Oregon is “She Flies with Her Own Wings,” which has a nice ring to it and also seems to be a good fit for the state. You probably didn’t know that the motto is relatively recent; up until 1987, the state’s motto was “The Union,” which dated back to the days when Oregon still was a territory. If you like the state’s new motto better — and, really, it’s not much of a contest — you can thank former Gov. Barbara Roberts, who ushered the change through the Legislature in 1987. The Oregonian/Oregon Live’s Beth Slovic caught up with Roberts for a quick Q-and-A about the motto.

It’s been 43 years since the eruption of Mount St. Helens killed 43 people and covered much of the Northwest in volcanic ash. (Cities as far away as Missoula, where I lived at the time, were smothered in ash.) Since then, the art of predicting eruptions has advanced considerably — but there’s still a long way to go before exact predictions can be made months in advance. Laurel Demkovich of the Washington State Standard (that state’s equivalent to the Oregon Capital Chronicle) has this fascinating story on the issue.

Poor Portland continues to rack up bad nationwide publicity from the oddest of sources: First, John Cougar Mellencamp has released a new song about homelessness in Portland. The song is titled “The Eyes of Portland.” Is it any good? Lizzy Acker of The Oregonian/OregonLive says no, although she might be biased. But to be honest, I have no plans to listen to it to find out for myself. It’s worth noting that the video to go along with the song was shot in Los Angeles.

Second, and more serious: Sunday’s episode of “Vice” on Showtime features a report on how a highly addictive form of methamphetamine known as P2P meth is flowing into Portland, intensifying that city’s woes with mental health emergencies and homelessness. The episode, titled “The Other Drug Crisis,” is the second half of the 30-minute episode; the first half features a report on Israel. The show airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.

Just in time for warmer weather, The New York Times has a quiz that tests how much you know about ticks and how to stay safe during tick season. I don’t mean to brag, but I got eight out of 10 right. (Like all Times stories, this is available only to subscribers — but I can send you a “gift” link to the story. Just post a comment below, and I’ll send you the link.

Also in the Times (and writing on a subject that may be even grosser than ticks), Nicholas Kristof returns to his columns about global health with a piece noting that 1.5 billion people on the planet are infected by worms. The good news here (Kristof’s optimism is among his best traits) is that humanity actually is making progress against the scourge, and a child can be dewormed for just a dollar a year. Again, if you’re not a Times subscriber and are curious about the column, I can send you the link.

At 81, Paul Simon (one of my long-running favorites) has a new album, “Seven Psalms” and — in the vein of albums like David Bowie’s “Blackstar” and Leonard Cohen’s “You Want it Darker” — it finds Simon confronting big issues like death and religion. It’s a shockingly intimate album as well — it’s all acoustic and mostly features Simon playing guitar, supplemented on occasion with touches like a bass harmonica or bells. Its seven songs are meant to be heard together in one 33-minute burst. Chris Willman reviewed the album for Variety.

It’s probably because I haven’t bought a new car in nearly 15 years, but I was unaware that many new vehicles don’t include AM radio. Well, not for long, if Congress has its way: A new bill would require automakers to include AM radio. The bill’s sponsors say millions of Americans still rely on AM radio for public-safety information. Axios broke the story.

Finally this week, the Cannes Film Festival is underway, and a couple of movies have made early splashes. British director Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest,” a Holocaust movie that imagines a fictional German family living a normal life in a house that’s right next door to Auschwitz, has emerged as a favorite for the festival’s top prizes. And the new movie from 80-year-old Martin Scorsese, an adaptation of David Grann’s stunning nonfiction work “Killers of the Flower Moon,” also is drawing critical praise.

That’s it for this week. Sorry this edition of Your Weekend Reader is late. I can explain.

Looking for something to do in the mid-valley? Check out my curated calendar of arts-and-entertainment events.

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