Whether it’s escapism through fiction or a dive into a nonfiction tome because you want to learn more about the world, the digital age hasn’t stopped us from reading and loving books. Whether we’re on a plane reading history on a Kindle or dropping ketchup on the paper pages of a novel we can’t put down, even to eat, at the kitchen table, books let us live more lives than just our own. Books provide us with a mimesis — a representation of reality — a lifetime in 250 pages. Every year Eugene Weekly staff and writers read the books that we love, or hate, and present them to you in our Winter Reading issue in hopes you curl up, read us, then read some more books.
Lidia Yuknavitch is a beast of an author. Her writing is raw, uncensored and has a strength that can only come from living one hell of a life (check out her Ted Talk “The Beauty of Being a Misfit”). Yuknavitch — a University of Oregon graduate and current literature workshop teacher in Portland — has gone from being a professional swimmer to a mother whose daughter died, and from a dazed lover of substances to a best-selling novelist. Her craft has always been constant in her life: She must write.
The Eugene Public Library says when it comes to reading, it’s going to stay out of the fray over print ebook versus audio. “In practice, most people enjoy books in each of these ways at different times,” the library’s director, Connie Bennett, says, adding: “At Eugene Public Library, we believe in freedom of format!”
When it comes to “buy local,” that suggestion can apply to your reading as well. Throughout the year, local authors drop off their books at EW or send links to their e-published work. We can’t read them all, but somebody should. So we offer you our annual self-published roundup.
We hear it all the time: People pick up Eugene Weekly for the letters. That’s great news. A local paper with readers who are engaged enough to write in and read what others have to say is healthy for democracy, even if it’s one more conspiracy letter about the chemtrail dragons spraying wrath upon our fair, naïve valley.
This year we wanted to thank our engaged readership by collecting our favorite letters (and online feedback) of 2016 so far, whether they be poignant, inspirational, irreverent, angry, hilarious, compassionate, conspiratorial, offensive or insightful, because they are, after all, a reflection of our community, for better or worse. It’s also a swell and, at times, jarring way to take one last stroll through 2016, an unprecedented year in many ways. Hindsight is 2020.
A massive earthquake, a toxic chemical spill, a huge forest fire. If a disaster strikes the McKenzie River, it strikes Eugene’s sole source of drinking water. There is also the possibility of a “malevolent attack on the water system,” EWEB says.
In these worst-case scenarios the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) has only one or two days of drinking water in its 94 million gallons of storage during the summer months.
On a hot July afternoon, 23-year-old Nicholas Kaasa travels down Broadway in his power wheelchair. The chair is a machine to behold, tank-like, with three gray wheels on each side. It’s outfitted with headlights and red circular taillights, along with orange hazard lights that flash when needed.
With the push of a button, Kaasa can go vertical: A hydraulic seat lift raises him half a foot from the chair’s base. On the left side is attached a black leather, metal-studded saddlebag of the kind more often found on a Harley; it has a Seattle Seahawks logo and silver letters that spell "ICK." “I should probably find that ‘N,’” Kaasa says.
Kaasa — who has cerebral palsy and vision impairment — cannot walk and uses the wheelchair to get around. When I ask him how fast it can go, he responds: “You want to check that?” And then he’s gone, shooting down the sidewalk at warp speed. His answer when I catch up: “Fast.”
Every other year, University of Oregon professor Marc Schlossberg takes his students to the Netherlands or Denmark — Copenhagen is a bicycling utopia, where 45 percent of people commute by bike. It’s a cyclist’s dream come true.
Students from Eugene explore the European streets by bike, opening their eyes to a world where people take cycling seriously.
“My mind was blown by the things I saw in Copenhagen,” writes student Holly Hixon in a 2015 compilation of the students’ reflections on the class. “The cycle track system is so complete, comfortable, heavily used by every type of person you can imagine and is ingrained in their way of life as a major form of transportation.”
Filching a page from one of the most baffling political campaigns of the modern era, we asked you to help us Make Eugene Great Again by voting in our annual Best of Eugene readers’ poll. The trouble with governing Eugene by consensus is getting a city of punks, losers, college kids, transients, misfits, strays, normals, hillbillies, skippers, artists, techies and hippies to agree on one definition of greatness. Maybe you prefer Eugene to be a dingy crater with reasonable rents. Could be you’d like to see Eugene clean up its act once and for all. Rather than doing much research or studying trends or even lifting a finger to determine the will of the people, we printed (again for the 20th time, or so) a ballot in the pages of our newspaper and waited. And a few thousand of you responded. Some of you maybe even voted your consciences.
On a misty October afternoon, six of us — adults ages 27 to 45 — stand in a strip mall parking lot, high-fiving, wiping sweat from our brows and giggling, rowdy from the silliness and mental acrobatics of the past few hours. We stroll over to nearby Dizzy Dean’s Donuts to reward and replenish ourselves with sticky treats for unraveling an ancient Egyptian mystery and surviving a bloodthirsty zombie attack.
I mean, come on folks, how much do you accomplish in a workday?
Police in August responded to calls from a South Carolina school saying that scary clowns tried luring some kids into the nearby woods. Around the same time and not far away, goofballs in face paint and fright wigs taunted a little boy outside the apartment complex where he lives.
Law enforcement agencies from Eugene to Florida, and beyond, are fielding panicked calls from traumatized parents who say demented jokers are harassing their little ones.
Local writer and filmmaker Henry Weintraub suspects that the horror genre has come to a dead end.
“Modern horror movies don’t really capture me too much,” Weintraub says. “It’s so formulaic. I don’t love a horror movie that’s come out in the last 20 years.”
This, coming from an independent filmmaker whose first full-length feature movie was a zombie flick (Melvin, 2009) followed by a gritty noir thriller (The Darkest Side of Paradise, 2010) and a dark comedy about a wanna-be serial killer (Killing Me, 2012). With these films, promising as they are for such a young talent, Weintraub feels that he’s gone about as far as he can go in a genre that is now dominated by big-budget rehash, like the Saw franchise.
This election year feels toxic. The current rhetoric and anger of the presidential race seems to be permeating everything. How did we wind up with a reality TV star, who admits to grabbing at the vaginas of women he finds attractive, running for our highest office? Where did all the starry-eyed Berners go? Where are we going, and how did we get in this handbasket?
As former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’̓Neil once said, “all politics is local,” and if we want better politicians at the top, we need to start getting involved in politics at the local level. But jumping into politics can be intimidating — just understanding how our Eugene City Council operates can be confusing.
So we present you with this brief guide to local politics, how to get involved and how to watchdog your government.
Don’t let this election get you down. Instead, let it be the spark to make positive change. — Camilla Mortensen
The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has allowed the public to request documents from any federal agency since 1967. In 1973, Oregon enacted its own Public Records and Public Meetings Laws, modeling it on the FOIA. These laws allow the media and the public to act as “watchdogs” over government, though Oregon’s law has weakened over the years.
The workings of a school district can appear mysterious to the uninitiated. School boards most often appear in the public eye when they make a controversial decision or take a position on something of a political nature, like a ballot measure or federal mandate.
In its most rudimentary function, a school board sets a school district’s budget, chooses its superintendent and sets policy, but local school board members say there’s a lot more to it than that.
With elections just around the corner, it’s time to examine how Eugene’s city government works, and what we’re electing these folks to do.
Eugene has a city manager form of government, meaning that the City Council and mayor decide legislative goals and ordinances, and then hire a city manager (Eugene’s is John Ruiz) to see those goals through and run the day-to-day bureaucracy of government. The city manager is one of only three direct employees to the council and mayor, and he is in charge of the city staff in all departments. Councilors and the mayor go through the city manager to work within departments.