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June 9, 2016 03:22 PM

[Above: The former home of Cascade Presbyterian Church on Willamette in South Eugene.]

There’s no question that the crisis of the unhoused, the homeless, people on the street, "travelers" — however we want to designate those in need — has reached a critical mass moment in Eugene and Lane County.

Of this group, kids and teens are the most vulnerable.

St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) wants to begin tackling this pervasive issue. The nonprofit human services org has a four-month option to buy the property at 3350 Willamette Street, the former home to the Cascade Presbyterian Church, which has moved its congregation to meet on Sunday mornings at Hi-Fi Music Hall. SVdP would use the property as residential facility for homeless youth.

“We just learned about the availability last week,” Paul Neville tells EW. “We’re going to take that four months and we’re going to try to secure funding.”

The four-month option means that St. Vinnies, exclusively, has four months to raise the money to buy the property.

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Neville says. “This would be a facility that would serve homeless youth that are still in high school.”

Nevile says the target demographic is homeless youth ages 16 to 18, a population he says is very vulnerable.

The idea stems from St. Vincent’s Job program for youth, the brainchild of SVdP’s executive director Terry McDonald. Nevile says there are 40 kids currently in the program. The program employs teens in SVdP and works together with the kids’ schools.

“We provide them with some income,” Neville says. “We provide a steady presence in their lives.”

He adds: “We have a foundational base in this that helped inspire the idea for an actual residential facility.”

The facility would house anywhere from 12 to 20 teens at a time. Neville says they will continue to work closely with local schools, as well as the city of Eugene, Springfield and the county.

Neville says human trafficking, and the sex trade up and down I-5, of Lane County youth is a very real problem.

“If you can take these kids at an extremely vulnerable age and provide them with intense case management you can save them from something like that,” he says.

Neville brings up the street kids who hang out up and down Broadway downtown, especially at the corner of Broadway and Olive.

“There’s been a lot of concern for years about kids hanging down at the mall,” he says, referring to the downtown strip’s old nickname.Not much has been done to address the underlying cause.”

SVdP hopes this facility will be a beginning in addressing the root causes of local youth homelessness.

Neville says the next four months will be a “mad scramble” to raise the money, but they’re optimistic. Securing funds is only piece of the puzzle, however. Neville says during the next four months SVdP is looking to develop partnerships, design a program, design a residential facility in a former church and work with neighbors.

“We’ve got the experience and the contacts to pull this off,” he says. “I think there’s going to be strong community support for something like this.”

June 3, 2016 01:16 PM

Hood River News is reporting a multi-car oil train derailment at the town of Mosier near the Columbia River. Flames and smoke are visbile. Mosier School and 60-70 homes are under evacuation. I-84 has been shut down both directions. The Oregonian is also posting updates.

Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue tweeted out this photo.

Reports say it is a Union Pacific train involving 11 cars filled with oil, with several burning. The train was carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota. It's unclear if any oil has spilled into the river.

Environmentalists have long predicted the possible disastrous effects of an oil train derailment near the Columbia River.

Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign Director Lena Moffitt released the following statement:

“The Sierra Club’s thoughts and prayers are with the train’s crew, their families, and the families of the communities affected by this disaster. “History has repeatedly shown just how deadly and dangerous oil train crashes can be. Simply put, transporting oil by rail -- or by any method -- is a disaster waiting to happen. The safety and wellbeing of our communities must be put ahead of profits for Big Oil.”

Sen. Ron Wyden has also issued a statement:

“It’s clear with this crash – as it has been for years – that more must be done to protect our communities from trains carrying explosive hazardous fuels. That’s why I’ve repeatedly called for more resources and notification for first responders, and why I’m continuing to push for my bill to move unsafe cars off the tracks and away from communities.”

Update: According to the latest press release from the Oregon Department of Transportation, 14 cars were involved, booms have been placed in the Columbia to contain the sheen of oil that can be seen in the river, no people or structures were harmed. 

The press release links to a Union Pacific website giving updates. It says the DOT-111 railcars had been upgraded to the higher CPC 1232 standard. 

Think-tank Sightline Institute says that higher standard is no safer than the older railcars.

May 27, 2016 03:38 PM

Eugene Weekly — an award-winning alternative newspaper in the beautiful Pacific Northwest — seeks a 30 hour-per-week calendar editor with a news reporter’s sensibility to edit EW’s “What’s Happening” calendar. Our calendar fills Lane County in on the area’s vibrant arts, music, political, entertainment and everything-in-between scene. 

EW is looking for a person who can handle the doldrums of data entry (the bulk of the job) but is hoping to move up to a career in news reporting and feature writing.

The calendar editor should be excited to highlight both highbrow and grassroots events in the community in short, fun blurbs each week in addition to the data entry.

The ideal candidate will be highly interested in news reporting, organized, detail-oriented, determined and versatile as well as have infinite amounts of patience.

Copyediting skills a plus. Must not be married to the Oxford comma. The position starts as soon as it is filled.

We’re a feisty office with a fierce dedication to covering community issues with an alternative flare. 

This opportunity comes with a $15 an hour salary, excellent non-financial perks (mainly free food and endless coffee).

The job starts at 30 hours a week but will become a full-time position with benefits. Send resume, cover letter and clips by June 10 to editor@eugeneweekly.com as an MS word or a .pdf attachment by June 10. Web links are also accepted. EW is an equal opportunity employer. 

May 18, 2016 09:42 AM

In the May 17 Oregon primary election, local county commissioner Faye Stewart was trounced by perennial candidate Mark Callahan in the Republican race to challenge incumbent Democrat Ron Wyden in the fall. Callahan has run for president, switched parties, running as a Pacific Greena and a Dem, and generally been more of a sideshow than a strong candidate.

Ouch.

We have to wonder if Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah-Gate back in 2014 gave Callahan enough of name recognition push to get that 37 percent of the vote in the four-way race. Stewart got 19 percent.

During a 2014 endorsement interview, Callahan spotted Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Nigel Jaquiss writing "blah, blah, blah" in his notebook as fellow candidate Jo Rae Perkins talked abut climate change . (Perkins just lost to nuke-loving wingnut Art Robinson in the Repub primary to face Peter DeFazio. We are losing count of how many times Robinson has run against DeFaz.)

Highlights: Callahan losing it over blah, blah, blah, then saying climate change is myth. "Where are you on the Easter Bunny?" Jaquiss asks. 

What's not funny is realizing that, even if we think Callahan doesn't have a chance in the fall, Oregon Republicans voted for a climate change denier.

May 17, 2016 06:21 PM

Required reporting: If a student is sexually assaulted and tells her or his professor, then under University of Oregon rules the professor must report what happened, whether or not the student wants it reported.

For some, required reporting is the best way to handle discrimination and harassment. Others, such as UO psychology professor Jennifer Freyd, say mandatory reporting can cause more harm than good.

The University of Oregon Faulty Senate votes May 18 on a required reporting policy that is causing contention on campus among those who work on the issue of sexual violence. According to the proposed motion, “sexual harassment and other forms of prohibited discrimination are prohibited by law and the University has a duty to do its utmost to protect its students and employees from discriminatory harassment, and most particularly from sexual assault.”

Freyd, who is nationally known for her research on institutional betrayal, has this to say:

“This is a human rights issue and I have faith that in time we will all understand it that way. For me I fight this locally and nationally. It may take awhile but I think with effort this movement will succeed — as human rights movements tend to do eventually — and in the meantime I will not make bargains that sell my integrity for political expediency.

I ask myself:

Is my duty to the institution? or to my students?
Is my duty to appease those in power? or to the core mission of knowledge production and dissemination?

Do I succumb to illegitimate threats of power-over that attempt to coerce a vote? or do I model integrity or process?

Am I an agent of the system? or an individual with an educated mind and a commitment to truth and justice?

I don't find these very hard questions to answer. I will do what I believe is right on this matter even if I'm the only one in the room doing so (but I would sure love support) and even though I know I may very likely trade being popular, politic or comfortable.”

In its rationale for the policy, University Committee on Sexual and Gender Based Violence says that while not all the supporters agree “its terms are mandated by federal law,” the committee majority “accepts that it is clearly permitted and, indeed, contemplated by federal law.”

UO professor and University Committee on Sexual and Gender Based Violence co-chair Carole Stabile spoke before the Faculty Senate on May 11. She said the mandatory reporting policy that came out under former UO president Gottfredson was unclear. And that under the revised policy, survivors have options, such as disclosing to confidential reporters such as counselors.

Gottfredson was UO president at the time of the UO basketball rape allegations and the school was heavily criticized for how it handled that case.

The committee writes that it “rejects the view that this policy is designed institutional risk management reasons and believes that it is a reasonable response both to OCR [U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights] guidance as well as the needs of the university community.”

With regard to the concerns raised by Freyd and others, the committee states that it “recognizes that there are serious arguments raised in opposition to this policy, especially with regard to its potential for discouraging some survivors of sexual violence from seeking confidential assistance.”

It continues, “However, the committee believes, given the substantial resources recently deployed in support of survivors of sexual violence, and the reasonable protections instituted by the university so that survivors continue to control the process of healing and resolution, that it is imperative that such survivors avail themselves of these resources.”

Required reporters go to the Title IX Coordinator or to the Office of Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services with their information. Former UO student and rape survivor Laura Hanson says when she went to Penny Daugherty, the Title IX coordinator, she was told not to report her assualt to the police because it was a "he-said she-said" situation.

Sexual assault survivor and activist Brenda Tracy who has worked with OSU to improve its sexual assault policies says she is coming to Eugene to testify against required reporting before the Senate at the May 18 meeting, which is from 3:30 - 5:30 pm in 156 Straub Hall. 

May 16, 2016 04:04 PM

Voters in Portland over the weekend might have been stymied by a beer fest. Go home Portlandia, you're drunk.

Activist Alley Valkyrie, formerly of Eugene, snapped this photo in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, posted on social media and commented, "Two days before ballots are due, and the downtown ballot box was blocked by a beer fest. Democracy in action, folks …"

According to the square's website, it was Widmer Hefe Day on May 15.

Lane County residents can find their ballot dropsites here. Ballots can no longer be mailed and are due by 8 pm May 17.

May 16, 2016 08:17 PM

As we get ready to tally our ballots May 17, candidates have been pushing their platforms locally. While our state is generally not seen as a massive battleground state, the May 6 Donald Trump rally in Eugene certainly showcased that not everyone is on the same side.

Amidst hip-hop music blaring from what appeared to be a car parked on West 13th Avenue, cheers, chants and trumpets competed for airtime at the Lane Events Center on that Friday evening. A man cruised proudly by on a bike that, to put it gently, had been outfitted with a long cylindrical fixture protruding from the bike seat between his legs. At its tip was a replica of Donald Trump’s head. 

It is impossible to know exactly how many bodies came out in force, but a lot can be said for what they brought to the table. The protesters numbered a significant portion of the attendees as the evening progressed, while ever more Trump supporters gathered near the gates on 13th Avenue hoping to see him in the flesh.

The rally represented a variety of political views. While Sanders’ recent appearance on the UO campus was fodder for guess-who-I-saw-today bragging from many of my peers, the knowledge of having Trump in town was cause for anger among others.

Some students I talked to supported Hillary, others Bernie; some for Trump, others Republican but against him.

One individual, a 28-year-old University of Oregon student hailing from New Orleans, stood among the crowd in support of the Republican frontrunner. “[I’m] hoping to get a hug from Donald Trump,” he said. “He looks very huggable.” An 18-year-old high school student had come from Corvallis to also see his candidate of choice, and stuck around to “soak up” the political atmosphere.

As the loudspeakers periodically reminded the crowd that the gates were closed and it was futile to wait for entrance, the message fell on impassioned, deaf ears. Protests and shows of support continued all the same.

Patrick, another UO student, came to the rally without ascribing allegiance to any particular candidate. “Honestly, I just thought it’d be entertaining,” he said.

As I observed and chatted with students in the crowd, a surprising number of them had come for the same reason: the spectacle. Though many people came out to the rally to proclaim a political view or allegiance to a party, many more students might as well have brought popcorn.

It was surreal, watching the carnival that had sprung from such a serious calling. It was never more evident that this election season has brought with it such fanfare and tactics reminiscent of the reality TV to which Trump is so accustomed. At some point in the night, I watched as people on both sides lost themselves in the argument, subsumed by the drama and the energy that surrounds this campaign season.

Multiple attendees I talked to argued that there was more aggressiveness from the protesters than the supporters. One young Trump supporter commented, “The anti-Trump supporters are negative. Very negative.”

Personally, I witnessed two attendees slow dance to the music in the middle of it all, swinging their arms while they rested their cardboard signs on their shoulders. This is why having a candidate like Trump come through Eugene creates such a perfect storm for entertainment.  

Having been to both a Sanders rally and a Trump rally, I can attest that the entertainment value is marked for rallies in this election period. While blood stained the ground outside the Trump protest after an apparent altercation, the most offensive thing I witnessed at the Sanders crowd was a sign that read “Show me your caucus.” There were cheers, there were yells, there was dancing, but there was a noticeable absence of protest.

Whereas Sanders volunteers had ushered us through security gates for the Democrat’s event, black SUVs and police officers maintained the area in force at Trump’s. The hostility of the Trump rally, from all sides, was palpable. Fear, hate, pain, bitterness, ashamedness, betrayal, pride, patriotism, excitement: All these emotions blended into a sort of sick Long Island Iced tea.

As we head into our elections this Tuesday, I understand that this race is for many people a chess game, a stratagem whose end is not necessarily progress but the prevention of another candidate taking office.  I can’t help but wonder how many of my neighbors will be inking their selections out of faith, out of love, out of hope; and out of pride, out of spite, out of hate, out of fear.

I am both grateful to and anxious about those who will be casting ballots this week. I am equally conflicted about those who have decided not to: about what hand the political system will deal us, given (or perhaps regardless of) how we as voters play it.

If nothing else, the May 6 showing indicates that Oregonians aren't aren't apathetic about their politics.  

The last student of the night that I talked to was Trevor, a 24-year-old Eugene native. His reason for going out to the rally seemed to bring a sense of peace to an otherwise anything-goes contest. “[I’m] not a big fan of hate,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll listen, but as long as we stand here to show them what we’re here for, it’s worth something.”

Hannah Golden is a writer graduating with degrees in journalism and Spanish from the University of Oregon. A California native, she has lived in Eugene for the past four years.

May 13, 2016 03:47 PM

Eugene’s first all gluten-free restaurant opened this week, and EW dropped by to check it out. Sundial Café is tucked into the corner of 24th and Hilyard just south of the UO campus, next to Sundance Natural Foods — look for the storefront with the red door.

Owner and chef Alex Moon, a longtime member of the Eugene food community who used to work at Belly Taqueria and Morning Glory Café, launched a Kickstarter campaign over a year ago to get a gluten-free restaurant up and running in Eugene. It took a while to find the right space, but May 11 was Sundial Café’s first day.

Outdoor seating covers the front area, which is shared with neighbor Humble Bagel, and inside, a cute collection of chairs and tables fills a space with a country farm house vibe. The interior has the gleam of a newly built restaurant, with a cozy atmosphere generated by the elegant but slightly worn décor.

OK, but you’re really here for the food, right?

Moon is currently only serving lunch and dinner right now, but she plans to start serving breakfast starting next weekend. Currently, the menu offers an appealing array of dishes, from chips and guac to salads, pastas and burgers.

The Spencer’s Butte burger comes with a one-third pound beef patty and options to add jalapenos, barbecue sauce, fried egg, avocado and more.

The beverages list includes a full assortment of coffees, like lattes, mochas and espresso. Further down you’ll find a handful of smoothies — the PB & J smoothie is light pink, frothy and perfect in consistency, easy to slurp down with a straw but far from watery. Expect a sweet strawberry taste with rich, peanut butter undertones.

And you don’t want to miss the dessert menu. Take the “Pink Cloud,” for example: “a strawberry shake topped with fresh berries and marshmallows with a rainbow sugar rim.”

Lauren Hay, one of the restaurant’s employees, says although Sundial has only been open for two days, it’s been a fun experience. “I’ve never been part of a start-up before, but it’s all been really positive,” she says.

Check out Sundial’s Facebook page for more updates, and visit sundialcafeeugene.com to see a full menu.

May 12, 2016 10:37 AM

The race for EWEB Wards 6&7 just got a little strange and ugly with this attack mailing against Sonya Carlson.

Carlson is running against Gary Malone in the position. EW reached out to Carlson and Malone for comment.

Malone at first responded: "Sans commentaires, Ne pas oublier de voter." (No comments, Don't forget to vote).

He did not explain why his response was in French.

Carlson has issued a statement:

"The Eugene Chamber of Commerce, the Register-Guard, the Eugene Weekly and dozens of elected officials and other community members across the political spectrum have publicly endorsed my campaign for EWEB. I am proud of the broad range of support I have garnered. Yesterday, I was informed that my opponent turned to negative campaigning. It is unfortunate, but I am confident that voters will see the hit piece for what it is. My husband and I purchased our home in a working class neighborhood in Santa Clara almost seven years ago. I graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 2005 and had been in the workforce for nearly a decade before I decided to return to school to pursue my masters degree in business administration. As a mother, it was a difficult decision to make, as we would be living on one income. Likewise, choosing to run for EWEB was not a decision I took lightly, but I have been honored and humbled by the encouragement I have received. "

Later on Friday. May 13, Malone said he did have comments after all, writing:

"I do have comments. The flyer did come from my campaign. I apologize to Sonya Carlson and anyone else who may have been offended and would ask for their forgiveness. The intent was to educate the voter. I am saddened to say one more piece was mailed that I tried to stop that reflects the same style. I have taken steps to ensure this type of campaigning will not happen in the future."

May 10, 2016 10:03 AM

Oregon Native American history and culture feels a bit under siege is Lane County this week

Over on the Lane Community College Campus on Wedesday, May 11, advocates for teaching Chinuk Wawa are organzing and asking to be heard by the LCC Board of Education. They will be meeting 6:30 pm in Building 3, Room 216 on the main campus and speaking during the 20 minute public comment session. 

Chinuk language advocates will meet prior to the board meeting at 5:25pm in Building 5 Room 126 for a meal, songs, and prayer, according to a Facebook event. More information is below, and you can also sign on to a petition at Change.org.

In the fall, Lane Community College's administration effectively canceled the Chinuk Wawa language program at the school, placing it on an indefinite "hiatus". While the American Indian Languages Committee at LCC has continued advocating for this invaluable and one of a kind program, the administration has been silent. So, some of us are seeking to be heard by LCC's Board of Education. 

Would you please join us in support of Chinuk Wawa at LCC?! Please help us pack the board room and request a reversal of the administration's decision and a commitment to the continuation of Chinuk Wawa at our community college!! The LCC Board of Education meets on May 11th at 6:30pm in Building 3, Room 216. Their meetings begin with 20 minutes for public comments so if you'd like to speak in support of the program please do!

Update: The LCC board voted 5-1 to reinstate Chinuk Wawa.

Another issue facing local Tribal members and land use and environmental advocates is the proposed TV Butte gravel mine, called the Old Hazeldell Quarry by the developers. 

EW columnist and Indigenous rights activist Kayla Godowa Tufti, a desecent of Charlie Tufti, known for discovering Waldo Lake, has been advocating against the mine, pointing to historical records she says shows possible Native graves in the area.

There is a hearing tonight, May 10, about the mine with the Planning Commissio  at 5:30 pm  in the Goodson Room at 3040 N. Delta Hwy., Eugene.

In a Facebook event opposing the mine, which is associated with Ed King of King Estate Winery, organizers write:

Lane County Planning Commission will be hearing rebuttal to the proposed mining project in Oakridge, Oregon. It is critical that people turn out to oppose this mining project which threatens indigenous cultural resources, the regional ecology, and the health and wellbeing of rural residents.

Last night I attended the initial meeting where the mining company attempted to convince the commission to change the zoning of TV Butte from forest to mining. In doing so the presenters ignored or dismissed concerns about increased fire risk, particulate pollution, and water contamination or depletion.

They also assaulted and called the police on the lineal descendant of Charlie Tufti when she raised concerns about the impact this proposed mine would have on cultural resources and native graves. There are many reasons to oppose this plan. Please share this widely and please come to the meeting and voice your support for the people of Oakridge. Goodson Room 3050 N. Delta Highway Eugene Oregon

April 27, 2016 02:33 PM

The Bernie Sanders campaign very suddenly announced today that Bernie is rallying in Springfield tomorrow, April 28, at Island Park, at the West B Street entrance. Doors open at 10 am and the event starts at noon. 

The rally is called "A Future to Believe In," and it's the first time the Sanders campaign has rallied in Lane County. For those who want to feel the Bern in Springfield, we recommend arriving early and biking — event organizers say a bike valet will be present and parking is limited.  See more info here.

April 23, 2016 06:19 AM

Eugene audiences were treated last night to “Nufonia Must Fall”, a multi-disciplinary collaboration between turntablist/graphic novelist Kid Koala (aka Eric San) and filmmaker KK Barrett, featuring the stunning Afiara String quartet, and a host of puppeteers, camera operators, sound and technical directors. (More on them later.)

            Before the performance in the Silva hall began, audience members were down front, taking a peek at what was to unfold: Tiny sets, like little shoebox-sized dollhouse rooms, littered the stage, with cameras and lights set up around them. Here and there, little puppets could be spotted, one to ten inches high. A full deejay kit loomed next to four music stands and accompanying chairs. Above, a movie screen. What the heck is going to happen?

            After a brief game of Nufonia bingo as a warm-up, Sans chatted with the crowd about the origin of the word “Nufonia” – Essentially, it’s a city of “No Fun.” (“That’s not Eugene though, right?” Sans quipped to wild applause.)

            “So we’re gonna do this movie now, in one take,” Sans says.

            “Nufonia Must Fall” is a full-length film, in three acts, performed live, with live accompaniment. That would be tricky enough, and it’s been done. But what’s happening here is something altogether new: A bevy of ninja puppeteers zoom to the set for the next film shot, light it, get their puppet in place, the camera rolls, and voila: A little scene unfolds, and the movie gets projected on the big screen.

            The narrative follows the life of a little earphone-wearing robot, who looks like a stack of marshmallows, as he tries his robot hand at a series of dead end jobs. (He’s continually being sacked, replaced by the faster, more efficient HexBot 9000…)

            But the robot meets a girl, Malorie, and the film takes a different path. It’s a simple love story, after all, and with its monochromatic set and characters, is reminiscent of the great romantic movies of the 1930’s and 40’s. (I wished my grandparents could have seen it. They would have loved it.)

            If you’re lucky enough to sit up close to the stage, you can see the artistic tricks that translate onto the screen transpiring in real time: A revolving carousel of mini storefronts, for example, transforms on camera, giving the illusion that the robot is walking down the street. Snow falls from a sifter; rain is a sheet of plastic with raindrops etched into it.

            “Nufonia” creates an intersection between classical music – the Afiara quartet is a wonder, not only providing gorgeous, lush music, but voicing the movement of the robot himself, all his squeaks and whirs – and the dj booth, between live performance, and film.

            Gesturally, the robot and his love interest communicate everything, with the tilt of a head, the fall of a chest, or the proud swagger of a robot on a mission to deliver a mixed tape to his new girlfriend.

            We learn these cues before we ever learn words: the visual representation of the face and the body clues us into the full range of human emotion, and here Sans, Barrett - and their incredibly talented team - have taken the leap between our earliest and most vital understanding of feelings, and embodied them in this tiny world made of paper and resin and ink.

            The results are nothing short of magical.

            

April 22, 2016 04:54 PM

The annual (sub)Urban Projections multimedia fest, which began last night at the Hult Center, has grown into an event that the community seems to get more excited for every year, and rightfully so. The event is singular in this city; it’s an arts adventure with unexpected tech oddities, collaborations and innovations around every corner and up every staircase.

That being said, I really wanted to love Night One of (sub)Urban Projections, but I just … didn’t.

Perhaps it was the $9 “Purple Rain” cocktails that set the wrong tone. (I mean, really? Am I missing something? That seems like a pretty crass cash-in on Prince’s death. At least Voodoo Doughnuts is donating some of the profits of its “Raspberry Beret” doughnut to a “Prince-inspired charity.”)

That’s not to say there weren’t gems to be found; there were. Pretty much all the dancers and choreography were entertaining. The “Blessing to Saraswati” Balinese ritual by the Lane Community College Dancers had a centered, ethereal quality amid the chaos, dancing their way to the top of the Hult and releasing flower petals on the crowds below.

Other highlights: Jorah LeFleur’s ‘Secret Devotional’ altars and spoken-word performances drew a crowd. It was silly and kitchsy, but it actually had some heart. Each altar was set up like an old-school polling booth with curtains and inside were some quirky, pop-culture curiosities.

A favorite was the booth with a viewmaster wound by a whisk through which you could see some vintage old-timey soft porn – a lady slowing stripping.

Back upstairs, the Prince memorial was a nice touch. 

 

On one of the top floors was “Morning Distortion,” a piece that had more to say than most — set up was a typical bathroom sink with a mirror, but the mirror was a digital screen reflecting the audience. 

As I walked up to it, as if on cue, a gaggle of teenagers rushed in front and started making the ubiquitous duck face and taking selfies of themselves taking selfies of themselves. Wow. If that doesn’t tell you where society is today, I’m not sure what will. This art piece did its job.

There was also some great costuming and headdresses and it was hard to tell if performers or attendees sported them, blurring the line between the two.  And the members of the High Step Society electro-swing band always puts on a great show, as they did with ‘Rite of Swing.”

Finally, the fest continues to win on the interactive front, allowing for audiences to directly participate.

OK now let’s get to the tough stuff. First, it should be said that this is an incredibly ambitious event in a complicated space that would be difficult for anyone to pull off seamlessly. That kind of ambition should be applauded in a city where it can be rare, even disparaged.

However, my biggest critique of the night was there was no there there. For all the work that went into this event, and it’s clear that a lot did, it felt scatter-brained, fragmented, disorganized, without purpose.

This may be in part because of the lighting. In past years, the lights have been turned low, shrouding the great Hult lobby in darkness, which not only allowed for the digital projections – a large part of the fest — to be seen crisply and clearly, it also allowed for some magic. I could see just one too many strings – or in this case electrical cords — for the magical ambiance to ever have a chance to settle in.

Not only that, the dimming of lights and use of spotlighting in years past guided audiences from performance to art installation to performance and so on. This year people seemed … aimless. Many attendees said they were confused about where to go, what to look at and were concerned they were supposed to be somewhere else.

Another issue was that the techier art installations and performances felt a little too slick, a little too cold, with too little to say. Where was the heart? What conversations were provoked by these pieces? Great art has urgency to say something, to evoke something, and I just couldn’t figure out what a lot of these pieces were trying to convey beyond technical prowess. Perhaps the artists themselves did have important messages to share, but from the outside, it felt pretty opaque. A lot of the time it felt like you were watching cool people play with cool gadgets, but the results were lacking, half-baked; the ends couldn't justify the means. I overhead some people even deeming it student work. Ouch.

Taken as a whole, this event did a splendid job of reflecting back to us where are heads are at as a society: Distracted, over-stimulated and worshipping all things techy. While tech is integral to the future and the arts, it has to be more than just ones and zeros and dudes sitting at laptops pressing buttons.

We at EW, without a doubt, will be back next year to check out the next (sub)Urban Projections. It’s a hugely ambitious event that we hope to see return to the full form its shown so well in past years.

April 22, 2016 09:30 AM

Who doesn’t dream of running away and joining the circus?

            Well, maybe not everybody, but few in attendance for Cirque Alfonse at the Schnitzer Wednesday night would have passed up the chance to at least see “Timber!” again, and soon.

            Silly, funny, death-defying and straight-up beautiful, Cirque Alfonse’s latest show is a kind of lumberjack modern dance circus act – think beards and suspenders and union suits – set to gorgeous French-Canadian music.

            Under the direction of Alain Francoeur, the Quebequois company creates an organic mix of spectacle and fun, caching within its production some good old-fashioned storytelling and lush, languid dance.

            The group was presented as part of Whitebird’s 2016 dance series, to the wild enthusiasm of the audience that included many Timbers/Thorns fans – how smart of Whitebird’s marketing team to do outreach to these diehards.

            To kids and adults alike, this show has simply universal appeal.

            So what’s to love? Acrobatics for starters, but not the oddly contortionist, pre-pubescent fare we’ve seen so many times before. No, these gymnasts are big guys, wearing Carhart jeans and plaid shirts, and tossing giant logs, and each other, around like toothpicks.

            There’s axe throwing, whip cracking, saw bending, log rolling, grandpa flying, potato hurling, man flipping, clogging, singing – and the undercurrent throughout is this irreverent spirit of adventure, a pure joie de vivre.

            Watching Cirque Alfonse, one has this sensation of comfort and ease wash over, like you know they’ve performed for live crowds so many times before, they just know, exactly what will tickle your funny bone, what will make you hold your breath, or laugh or smile.

            Buttressed by the Vaudeville champs who came before them, Cirque Alfonse is the real deal. If you have the chance, run, don’t walk, to get tickets.