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February 9, 2017

Shirley Temple once paid a visit and may have rested her blonde ringlets on soft Hotel Benton pillows.

Symmetrically doomed presidential candidates John F. and Bobby Kennedy each stopped in, as did history’s great scurrying mole rat, Richard Nixon.

Built to capitalize on tourist traffic after the highway now known as Route 34 came through the middle of town about 100 years ago, connecting hayseed Corvallis to what’s now Interstate 5, the Hotel Benton was like a rural pageant queen — more stunning for the low brutish frontier edifices skirting her hem.

February 2, 2017

Walking along Broadway downtown on a Saturday night, you see a black man approaching from the opposite direction. You feel nervous — a split second of fear. Your instinct is to nonchalantly cross the street, but you know you can’t, because you don’t want him, or anyone else, to think you’re racist. 

January 26, 2017

To understand the future of the Willamette Valley as a food-producing region, it’s a good idea to look at its history. And to get a good look at its history, you have to go back about 50 million years. 

Before the Pacific Northwest as we know it was formed, a series of volcanic islands known as the Siletzia Island Chain sprouted up, forming the backbone of what we now think of as the Coast Range. 

January 19, 2017
‘Believers, why do you say one thing and do another? It is hateful to God that you say that which you do not do.’  — American Qur’an

 

January 12, 2017

“Here I am at 79, I’m going to be an activist,” says Deanna Eisinger, a retired grade school teacher. “I think we need to ruffle feathers and raise some consciousness.”

Recently out of the hospital after an asthma attack triggered her atrial fibrillation, Eisinger is not going to let something like an irregular heartbeat stop her from speaking up. She is going to carry a sign in the Jan. 21 Eugene sister march to the Women’s March on Washington, the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.

January 5, 2017

You hear the rhythmic metal tick-tock of armor plates clapping against chainmail from a long way off.

The sun sinks in the west as three swordsmen reach the wide cement platform that covers the College Hill Reservoir. 

Kurt Gerhard Studenroth lifts the steel helm from his cranium and offers his winded fellows hot tea from a half-gallon camping flask slung around his waist.

December 29, 2016

A person’s period doesn’t give a damn whether she’s in the woods, if she has a house or if there’s a trashcan around to take care of the, erm, aftermath.

Cue Animosa, a local start-up company that is redefining menstrual product disposal by creating long-term, sanitary and odor-free period pouches.

December 29, 2016

An oceanic change has swept over national and international landscape, something swelling and churning for many years that, regardless of your sociopolitical orientation, seems with the recent election to have broken with all the force of a tsunami.

Regardless of whether we are now facing the collapse of Western civilization and the world as we know it or, instead, the prospect of becoming “great” again, a lot of people are feeling really antsy and uncomfortable these days. Nobody seems to feel fine. Anxiety is going through the roof. The forecast is uncertain.

December 29, 2016

Two days after the presidential election, my therapist asked me how I was feeling. A continuous loop of video footage of people shouting, “Hail Trump,” photographs of swastikas spray-painted on buildings and reports pouring in by the hundreds, and later thousands, of people being threatened because of the color of their skin repeated and shuffled in my mind, and it terrified me.

December 29, 2016

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of submerging myself in a sensory deprivation tank.

As a kid, I was mesmerized by Ken Russell’s 1980 sci-fi film Altered States, in which William Hurt plays an abnormal psychologist who repeatedly enters an isolation tank with increasingly drastic and surreal results, eventually emerging as some regressed form of Neanderthal man and then, finally, a big ball of protoplasmic consciousness swirling on the event horizon of galactic nothingness.

December 29, 2016

"Walking is the best physical exercise,” writer Bill Sullivan says. “People are designed to walk. It gets rid of the crap of civilization.”  

Sullivan is pretty famous in these parts, and around the Northwest at large, for his collection of hiking guides. Many of us outdoorsy types have one, two or all of his books on our shelves. 

December 22, 2016

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but we all know the market fluctuates wildly and the exchange rate is a bear for some, a bull for others. For instance, my dear Grandma Phyllis, bless her, was an avid photographer, but her family snapshots routinely decapitated at least one of us and left the blurry ghost of her thumbprint in the right margin of the print.

December 15, 2016

Planned Parenthood Is Not Giving Up

The mission of Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon (PPSO) is to ensure the right and ability of all individuals to manage their sexual and reproductive health by providing health services, education and advocacy. 

December 15, 2016

As much as I would like to hold a sign saying “Not my president” as I’ve seen others do, I’ve been forced to recognize, kicking and screaming, that he is in fact my president-elect, despite my vote against him and my unceasing desire to smack the phone he’s using to tweet from out of his tiny little hands.

But enough with the anger, or at least I need to channel it a little. I would happily hold the “Love Trumps Hate” sign at any gathering. 

December 15, 2016

Ninety-three years ago, cheeky cubist Pablo Picasso reflected on his career choice, on a life spent scratching away at reality. 

“We all know that art is not truth,” he said. “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”

Oh, the truth. In 2016, that pesky know-it-all took a punch to the gut. Facts have been shoved to the back of the line behind our aunt’s Facebook rants and the president-elects gas-lighting Twitter feed. 

December 15, 2016

Giving to the Civil Liberties Defense and American Civil Liberties Union

What civil rights, right? President-erect Donald Trump — who thinks the Bill of Rights is a crisp twenty — has already tweeted (tweeted, for Christ’s sake) that he would like to either jail people who burn the American flag or revoke their citizenship. For real? Likely we’re heading for one serious clampdown on civil liberties, with the biggest assault coming at our First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of the press, peaceable assembly, etc.

December 15, 2016

Treehuggers and Climate Change

The man who once tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” is now the president-elect of the United States. In the week’s after his election, Donald Trump promptly picked Scott Pruitt, a climate change denialist, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. WTF.

December 15, 2016

“We serve as a reminder of where we’ve been and where we’re going,” says local NAACP President Eric Richardson. “We call on the United States to live up to its promise and its higher ideals.”   

Richardson is speaking at the NAACP’s offices, in one of the historic Mims houses on High Street. 

The charming home is one of the first African-American-owned buildings in Eugene, purchased by the Mims family in 1948 under the name of a sympathetic white employer. 

December 8, 2016

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. 

December 8, 2016

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!”

December 8, 2016

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.

December 8, 2016

‘What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.’ 

― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

December 8, 2016

fiction

Willful Disregard: A Novel About Love by Lena Andersson, translated Sarah Death. Other Press, $15.95.

December 8, 2016

essays

 

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: The Graduation speeches and Other Words to Live By by Kurt Vonnegut. Seven Stories Press, $23.95.