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I never had the opportunity to see the Jacobs Gallery, as it shut down the month I moved to Eugene. But as an art reviewer for Eugene Weekly in the past year, I’ve been shadowed by its presence — or rather, its lack of presence.

Local art lovers should make a beeline to see Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads now on display at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. It’s not often that an internationally renowned project lands in Eugene, and access couldn’t be easier. Entrance through the museum’s north gate is free and open to the public. 

Halie Loren’s new album, due out this spring, doesn’t have a name yet. The tracks aren’t fully mixed. There’s no release party on the books. And the popular Eugene singer-songwriter isn’t even sure what the exact release date will be, other than “sometime in April.”

But this much is certain: Loren’s new album will mark the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. After a decade of successfully recording and performing jazz standards written by other people, a decade that has taken her around the world to sing, the songwriter set out last year to embrace her own inner voice. A lot of that voice will be about letting go, from a singer who describes herself, with a smile, as a “control freak.” For the first time she’s bringing in an outside producer, a prominent British musician. 

For centuries upon sad centuries of human history, people have been searching desperately for that proverbial Fountain of Youth — a futile quest for a miracle anti-aging remedy that allegedly drove Spanish explorer Ponce de León scurrying to Florida in the 16th century.

In these troubled times, one way to take care of your mental health is to get out and dance.

That’s what a 34-year-old Cottage Grove massage therapist has been doing for the past year and a half, ever since she realized that current events were sucking her and the rest of the country into a morass of despair.

So the new you wants to get in shape this year — a lofty goal that is easier said than done. If diets and gym memberships have failed in the past, now might be the time to try a different approach.  

Around this time, on and off for the past several years, Eugene Weekly has asked readers and community members to say what they dream of for Eugene. (Truthfully, we actually ask about Springfield and Lane County, too, but let’s face it, “I dream of Eugene” kind of rhymes.)

This year, we decided to focus on the little things that we already love about this town. Here are our staff picks as well as some thoughts from community members. Dream on.

Every year, EW writers ask the community, “What groups should people donate to?” And we focus our annual Give Guide on local nonprofits that need your support, be it through a tax-deductible monetary donation or through volunteering your time. 

Every year we bemoan the fact that we don’t have enough pages to include every single deserving group. You know you live in a caring community when you have an abundance of groups helping their fellow humans, animals and world around us. 

And so now, as we’ve done for at least a decade, we ask you to read, donate and write us letters to tell us who you think your community should give to. Send your thoughts to letters@eugeneweekly.com for your community members to read.

I was listening to a rerun of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on KLCC the other day, and it featured an interview with prolific romance novelist Nora Roberts (who is also a prolific crime writer under the name J.D. Robb.) 

When asked if she ever gets writer’s block, she responded that she’d never let herself believe in it. “Writing is as much a habit as it is an art and a craft. If you walk away from it, you are breaking the habit. If you are writing crap, you are still writing and you can fix it.”

I love that, and while I have experienced writer’s block, I’ve always battled it by sitting down and writing. 

One thing I’ve never experienced is reader’s block. It too is more than a habit; it’s a mental getaway or sometimes a reality check. I can always sit down and read, no matter where I am or what mood I’m in. And this year, yet again, Eugene Weekly presents you with all that we have read and enjoyed this year. — Camilla Mortensen

Winter Reading 2017 - Nonfiction & Essay Reviews

Winter Reading 2017 - Fiction, Poetry & Young Adult Reviews

Tell Me The Old Story - The Odyssey rendered by a woman

Failsafe - Eugene author Howard Libes debuts sci-fi novel When All Else Fails

Doing It Yourself - The year in local self-published literature

A Thousand Words - A roundup of the best photography books of the year

 

By Design - A selection of books on graphic art

Kim Kardashian, North West, and Kanye West, Los Angeles, 2014. From Annie Liebovitz Portraits 2005-2016 © Annie Leibovitz/Trunk Archive

House Industries: The Process is the Inspiration 

by Andy Cruz, Rich Roat and Den Barber. Watson-Guptill, $50.

Do you have a book moldering away in a desk drawer? Or perhaps trapped in your laptop, languishing in a digital world of ones and zeroes, never to see light of day?

To keep your genius to yourself is a great disservice to the world, and these days, with self-publishing easier than ever, there’s no reason to deprive the world of your voice.

Ecological calamity has come to planet Koda. The climate is scorched and uninhabitable. Domes cover Koda’s major population centers, and martial law prevails. Anti-anxiety medications waft through public transportation like air freshener, and shady government agents lurk around every corner to keep the population in check.

This is where When All Else Fails, a sci-fi novel by Eugene author Howard Libes, begins.

The song of a blind bard in ancient Greece still echoes through the halls of imagination and the chambers of our minds. Homer’s Odyssey, epic in every sense of the word, resonates in the 21st century on a deep level, speaking to the universality of human dilemmas across time.

 

Fiction

 

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Grove Press, $25.

 

Nonfiction

 

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Knopf, $15.

On a Friday night, I watch as five musicians take the stage at the newly reconstructed Jaqua Concert Hall at the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts. As the bassist plucks a few notes, the piano, saxophones and drums join in and flood the concert hall with the momentum of a train leaving a station. The song is “Nostalgia in Times Square” by Charles Mingus and if you’ve set foot in New York City, you can hear the song’s resemblance to the center of one of the busiest spots in the world. 

All the instruments begin to quiet as each musician performs a solo, but the lenient humming of the background notes amplifies the song. This song sounds precisely like Times Square capturing the subway galloping below the grates on the sidewalk, taxi brakes squealing, traffic patrol whistles blowing, car horns erratically honking and thousands of feet shuffling. For me, jazz is transformative, chaotic and beautiful. 

Say the word “art” and most people imagine a painting — an original, unique work, done with oil paints on canvas, usually by an artist standing at an easel.

But it’s possible that more artists in Eugene produce fine-art prints than make easel paintings. Printmaking is flourishing here in Eugene and around the state. It’s hard to visit an art gallery in Oregon without seeing examples of contemporary printmakers’ work.

For the uninitiated, “printmaking” in the art world refers to making reproductions of images using traditional hand-crafted processes such as woodcut, etching or stone lithography, all of which require substantial hand work and artistic skill.

When Linda Ackerman was fired by the Oregon Bach Festival in 2016, her story didn’t end up in The New York Times

Her departure from the festival wasn’t the subject of outraged posts on classical music blogs like Slipped Disc

But the tale of Ackerman’s firing — pushed through that summer by OBF Executive Director Janelle McCoy — may shed light on the still-unexplained firing this past summer of OBF’s Artistic Director Matthew Halls, a case that has drawn international news coverage and nearly unrelenting criticism of the 47-year-old festival and of the University of Oregon, which operates it.

Standing chest deep in the chilly waters of the Willamette River, Travis Williams of Willamette Riverkeeper scans the water for mussels. The flow is high on a cold October day, and as I gingerly climb down the muddy bank and into the waters beside him, I too look for the dark shells Williams tells me are there, beneath the surface.

Thinking back to various floats I’ve done on the Willamette, I know I’ve seen mussel shells. I just never thought about them. On some level, I assumed that the bivalve remnants had somehow crept into the waters from the Pacific Ocean. 

And that’s the thing with freshwater mussels. They tend to go unnoticed, unregarded and underappreciated. 

We’re taking a stand. It’s time to impeach Donald Trump.

There are a myriad of reasons to do so: the looming threat of nuclear war with North Korea, the embarrassment of having a “tweeter in chief,” the terrible, amoral example he sets for the children of this nation, the numerous allegations against him of sexual assault and his unwillingness to denounce white supremacists — thus emboldening the worst elements of our country.

But what about Pence?

That’s the question everyone asks when you bring up impeaching President Donald Trump. If Trump were to leave office before the end of his term, Mike Pence would become president — and that would mean a competent ultra-right-winger, possibly also a crook, sitting in the White House in place of the current corrupt fool.

Shortly after Donald Trump took office, there was a rash of hot takes by “Resistance” pundits like Keith Olbermann explaining how the majority of the Cabinet could constitutionally remove Trump from office. 

Here’s what section four of the 25th Amendment says: 

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

The only good thing about Donald Trump is that he has made time slow down. As we get older, every year seems to pass more quickly than the last in the rush toward death. But the Trump regime has slowed all of that down and the year since the dark night when he was elected has felt as long as any since high school.