Your Weekend Reader for Nov. 13-14

by | Nov 13, 2021 | Arts and Entertainment, Journalism, Miscellaneous | 1 comment

We started the last edition of Weekend Reader with a disturbing report close to home: a New York Times story about death threats being sent to a member of the Corvallis School Board. This week, unfortunately, here’s a similar story, also disturbingly close to home: The increasingly essential Oregon Capital Chronicle reports that the state’s county clerks increasingly are the targets of threats from people who allege — without a shred of evidence — that the state’s elections are rife with fraud. Julia Shumway’s story begins in deep-red Linn County, with an alarming encounter between County Clerk Steve Druckenmiller and a fellow who didn’t want assistance — he just wanted “to see the enemy of my people and my God.” And state Republican legislators who persist in their calls for election “audits” like the one in Arizona aren’t helping matters, Druckenmiller says.

The New York Times has certainly been spending time in Oregon lately. Here’s a story from Peter S. Goodman about the efforts of a Portland institution — Powell’s Books — to reinvent itself after the pandemic.

The National Weather Service office in Portland has issued its prediction for the state’s winter weather: Cooler and wetter than usual, thanks in part to a “La Niña” weather pattern. That could mean — and the emphasis is here is definitely on “could” — snow at lower elevations this winter. Actually, cooler and wetter isn’t a bad outlook for a winter — and it could be a boon for essential winter snowpack — but I wish somebody could do something about the “darker” part. Chris Lehman of OPB has the weather outlook.

Here’s a long piece from Peter Wehner at The Atlantic, in which he argues that politics (personified, but not completely explained, by the rise of Donald Trump) is tearing apart evangelical churches. It’s worth remembering, however (as Wehner notes), that some of the trends he’s tracking also can be seen on the Christian left. It’s a provocative piece.

The Culture Desk at Your Weekend Reader calls a couple of pieces to your attention: First, wonder what Portland’s Esperanza Spalding, that jazz wunderkind, has been up to lately? This New York Times story has the answer: She’s been working with jazz legend Wayne Shorter to help Shorter create a longtime dream — an opera, “Iphigenia,” based on the ancient Greek myth. If you’ve followed Shorter’s career, this sort of artistic stretch won’t surprise you — and Spalding seems like an ideal partner for him.

Now that Britney — yes, that Britney — finally is free, attention turns to her fiance, a fellow named Sam Asghari. Who is this fellow? The New York Times has some of the answers in this very funny story, but I have to say, as a Britney fan (really; “Toxic” remains on my short list of the greatest singles ever) who wants the best for her, this story wasn’t really encouraging.

I’m also a fan of Corvallis writer and Oregon State University associate professor Elena Passarello, so I read with interest Gazette-Times reporter Troy Shinn’s account about her appearance earlier this week on “Jeopardy!” Here’s a spoiler alert: She did not win — but she did not lose. (I know that this is the second time this year I’ve linked to that “Weird Al” video — and I’m not sorry.) In the meantime, do yourself a favor and pick up one of Passarello’s books, “Let Me Clear My Throat” or “Animals Strike Curious Poses.”

Here’s a long — but engrossing — article from The New York Times Magazine on this question: Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that we dream? The answer appears to be “yes,” but where the story (by Brooke Jarvis) really excels is in outlining the current state of research into dreams. It is clear, as Jarvis reports, that sleep is essential — science has yet to find an animal that doesn’t sleep at all — but debate rages as to whether dreams have a deeply important purpose in human life, or are mere side effects of sleep, “all heat and no light,” as Jarvis writes.

Here’s yet another dispatch from the cat desk at The Atlantic, which seems suspiciously busy these days: The magazine’s Sarah Zhang reports on three promising approaches to make cats less allergic to humans. All three approaches target a protein called protein called Fel d 1, found in feline saliva and oil glands, which causes most cat allergies. One of the three approaches is already widely available via a Purina kibble. (Among the other things you will learn in this story is that “hypoallergenic,” which we believe means “allergy-free,” actually means “reducing allergens.”)

If you need something uplifting, I have a couple of suggestions this weekend:

First, if you’re free Sunday afternoon, you could do a lot worse than checking out the Oregon State University Theatre production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” I caught the show Friday night, and it’s a fun time, acted with enthusiasm by a cast that clearly is having fun on stage. Tickets are free. For more on the show, click here. And to keep an eye on the mid-valley’s arts and entertainment scene, check out my regularly updated calendar of events. Speaking of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this thought occurred to me after watching Friday’s performance: Potter almost certainly keeps the $8,000 that Cousin Billy mistakenly slipped to him — so the rich get richer, just like in real life. Now, maybe that’s not the moral we’re meant to take away from the show, but $8,000 speaks for itself, right?

Speaking of wonderful lives: I watched Friday’s video announcement about the winners of the Benton Community Foundation’s annual Philanthropic Achievement Awards. It’s an inspiring batch of winners, and you’ll feel better about your community after you watch it. James Day covered the event for the G-T. (Full disclosures: The video was put together by my friend and occasional collaborator John Harris of Horsepower Productions. I do volunteer work for SafePlace, one of the winners. I also do freelance work for Liv Gifford and the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation; Gifford was honored as the outstanding fundraising professional.)

That’s enough uplift. Here’s a provocative video opinion piece from The New York Times in which two of its journalists ask this important question: How well are residents of blue states (defined, in this case, as states where Democrats control the governorship and the legislature) actually doing at translating their values — affordable housing, adequate funding for education, and tax equity? My guess is you probably know the answer already, but the headline kind of gives it away: “Blue States, You’re the Problem.”

That’s it for this weekend. See you next week.

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

1 Comment

  1. Nick Houtman

    Thanks, Mike. Well done.


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