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This year I’ve had not one but two experiences for which the descriptive powers of language fall woefully short. The first was witnessing the total eclipse of the sun, a cosmic spectacle that ran a hot soldering iron across the length of my cerebral cortex, reducing me to a state of primordial awe that still haunts my waking moments.

That was my big-bang moment, entirely sacred and shared with every person lucky enough to be in the path of totality. My secular big-bang moment, no less profound but entirely private, happened just last week, when my friends Jeff and Kassi hooked me into their brand-new virtual reality system. I don’t give much of a shit about how technologies work; I just want them to perform. 

I am not a gamer, but I am an artist. “What is art?” is an important question to me. The fine-art world’s answer has been expanding rapidly since the 1860s with the controversial advent of Impressionism in painting.

The debate only intensified with art surrounding the World Wars. Is a Picasso painting art? Is a urinal displayed in a museum art? Is film art?

Are video games art, for that matter? Both video games and film are digital media that a creator skillfully uses to affect an audience.  

Rosalie Vile began making games at age 12 when she got her first copy of Game Maker, software that she uses exclusively now when she designs games. As an indie game designer at 24, she’s involved in all creative aspects of a game’s development — from a game’s inception to writing the narrative and seeing it through to a completed final product. She programs games and crafts the art and music, too.

“I really like doing different sorts of thing — like making the types of games that I would like to see that I don’t really see being made because they don’t have massive appeal,” Vile says. “I like to make games with a cooperative nature or with a deep narrative — mostly just experimental games is what I focus on.”

In an attempt to perfectly fuse the retro-dynamics of classic arcade games with the mechanical and functional detail of modern games, one local indie game-maker has poured his artistic talent, knowledge of the industry and passion for gaming into an ’80s style, combat-filled, scientifically fixated game: “Kite.”  

“All in all, ‘Kite’ is what I would’ve loved to play at 14,” creator James Treneman says. 

Timothy Burns is 27 years old. Before age 3, he underwent six open-heart surgeries for a congenital heart condition — mirror-image dextrocardia. 

“I have no center wall of my heart, and my heart planks to the right side,” Burns says. “My oxidized and unoxidized blood mix, so I’m in a constant flux of a high heart rate and a low heart rate.”

Some days Burns feels exhausted and doesn’t have the energy to be physically active. During the last few weeks, when Eugene’s air quality was deemed hazardous because of nearby wildfires, Burns and his wife spent a day passing out masks to the homeless. 

According to Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris, the three laws of hip-hop culture are “innovation, individuality and creativity.”  

“Hip hop comes from the word ‘hippie,’ which means to either open your eyes or re-open your eyes — to be aware,” Harris says. 

Kickstarted in the South Bronx as early as '72 — at jams in parks, schools, community centers and clubs — and led by DJ Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell, Afrika Bambaataa and Pete DJ Jones, the global phenomenon we’ve come to appreciate as hip hop has many progenitors, each adding his or her own original spin to graffiti, deejaying, b-boying and emceeing. 

Harris is one of them. 

This season, Eugene Ballet Company audiences can look forward to a visit from MOMIX, a creative and divergent company with a long performance history arcing back to the glory days of hooded unitards and colorful amorphousness.

It’s art as splooge, dance as design. It’s the human body, transformed — And MOMIX makes it look easy. 

For Harmonic Laboratory, the concept of “collaboration” keeps getting redefined. 

“It’s been a topic of conversation for six years,” says the group’s inter-media, music and programming expert Jon Bellona who — along with choreographer and lighting designer Brad Garner, animator and digital artist John Park and composer and conductor Jeremy Schropp — will bring a full-length work, Tesla: Sound, Light, Color, to audiences across the region.

In 2013, ballet dancers Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan wanted an alternative to off-season ballet work — an opportunity to continue dancing throughout the summer. Most ballet seasons typically run from fall to spring, Haag says, when dancers try to pick up work in off-season performances or teach classes. 

“We thought, 'Well, why don’t we create our own thing so we can continue performing and providing some work for dancers?'” Haag recalls. 

Sue Sierralupe stands on the trail, looking into the creek-side trees and brush. “Poor man’s opium,” she says, pointing into the brambles at some wild lettuce (Lactuca serriola). Sierralupe explains that the lactucarium, the latex or sap of the plant, can help with pain.

As herb team leader and clinic manager of the free all-volunteer Occupy Medical, Sierralupe says the plant is sometimes given to homeless patients who might be targeted for attacks if given prescription painkillers. Wild lettuce is not related to opium, but for those on the street, whose painkilling drugs might be stolen and sold, the plant is a valuable alternative.

Whole Earth Nature School tries to raise awareness by sending people outside for a better connection to the natural world. “Wildcrafting is a piece of what we do,” Executive Director Rees Maxwell says.

When young actors and actresses think of where to kickstart their careers, what often comes to mind is locations like L.A. or New York. Even though the Conforth sisters may be headed that way, they’ve already made a name for themselves right here in Lane County.

Sisters Cyra, Kenady and Campbell Conforth — ages 18, 14 and 11, respectively — live in Cottage Grove. The trio is heavily involved in dance and musical theater both there and here in Eugene, and the eldest two have taken part in The Shedd’s Musical Theatre Training Academy. 

Theater is a battleground.

As the most atavistic of art forms — live drama in the age of digital clones — theater is in a continual struggle for relevance, now more so than ever. Film is indeed a beautiful medium, but it’s more static than fluid; there will only ever be one Citizen Kane.

Theater, on the other hand, involves a beautiful risk, and that risk is fluid. Theater is a machine of perpetual motion, fraught with all the potential for grace and error of which the human animal is capable.

It’s 10 in the morning on a Saturday last spring, and Very Little Theatre has its doors wide open. Hopeful actors sit inside the building, tapping their feet and talking in quiet whispers. The theater itself is dark like the interior of a ship’s wooden hull, but the stage lights are shining on a set.

This is audition day at one of the oldest community theaters in the country — and hearts are racing. The show these hopefuls are auditioning for is British playwright Robin Hawdon’s Perfect Wedding, the penultimate show in the theater’s 2016-2017 season.

Josh Beals says he doesn’t remember getting the citations that brought him to Eugene’s Community Court — because he was, as he describes it, “on a vodka spree.” What he does remember is waking up in a field, with all his belongings stolen, and a fractured skull. That, he says, was his turning point.

Ten months after the incident, as he stood for the second time before a judge, a group of lawyers and a collection of other defendants, he hoped it would be the last time he found himself on the wrong side of the law.

When Oregon legalized recreational marijuana in 2015, the state Legislature gave counties and cities the responsibility of setting standards for the industry. Local governments can restrict where and how marijuana can be grown and sold, or choose to opt out of the recreational weed market completely.

Local control gives communities the power to shape the growing industry, but also places a burden on the agencies that manage land and water use decisions and deal with disputes between neighbors.

My dog Rhoda turned 13 this year, and it became more and more apparent that her arthritic hocks (her hind knees) were slowing her down. I didn’t like the idea of starting my frosted-face pup on Rimadyl or some other anti-inflammatory drug that could hurt her liver, but neither did I want my aging boxer/pitbull/who-knows-what rescue dog to be uncomfortable. 

Among the salves, tinctures and bits of shatter, crumble and jars of flower, you’ll see snack items that at first glance would not appear out of place on a shelf at Safeway. These are known as medibles — a portmanteau of marijuana and edible — and they take the form of cookies, gummies, taffy and even soda.

Most American businesses are led by men — only 7 percent of the CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies are women. Academics don’t fare much better. According to the American Association of University Women, “As of 2012, only 26 percent of colleges and universities were headed by women.” That same study showed that only 1 in 5 members of Congress is a woman. 

So what’s it like to be bisexual? Henry Osborne, 22, says it can be confusing. “It’s weird to be attracted to both, and people don’t believe you a lot of the time,” he says. “People will give you kind of a look if you say you’re bi. Especially people in queer circles — they don’t really believe you.”

Bisexual people, despite having a stable sexual orientation of their own, are often assumed to be “going through a phase” instead of being permanently bi. Some may assume they’re only halfway out of the closet, while others will say they “went through a phase in college” if they end up with a member of the opposite sex. 

Normally, Pride festivals take place in the downtown sector of big cities, or at least nearby — take Portland Pride along the waterfront or Seattle Pride along Fourth Avenue, for example. They’re also traditionally held during June, National LGBT Pride Month. But we all know Eugene isn’t normal. 

As a part of what seems to be Eugene’s tradition for operating outside the norm, the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival has been held in various spots around town throughout the years, but most recently its home has been in Alton Baker Park. It also traditionally takes place in August.

Dr. Seuss’s classic tale of contrived differences and ultimate acceptance got a fabulous telling at Eugene’s Barnes and Noble store Aug. 5. Faye Kit-Knightly, a debutante of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Emerald Empire, a local drag queen organization, read The Sneetches and The Zaxs to a crowd of parents and children that swelled to around 70. 

Am I allowed to fall in love with a 60-plus gay man on the dance floor? Can I do that?

I, a person who identifies as a girl, went to a gay square dancing club on July 16 in Springfield with my own partner, who identifies as a boy. I have the dance skills of a large hyena. This soon became apparent as the caller paired us off with separate partners. 

As a student at a local Christian college, I am probably the most conservative person at Eugene Weekly. I want to attend Pride to show my neighbors that they and their concerns are important to me. I suggest other conservatives to do the same.

The 26th annual Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival welcomes hundreds of attendees, especially families, to its Aug. 12 celebration. “This is the one Pride event that is kid friendly, positive and not alcohol focused. Have a good time and make sure we enjoy each other’s company,” says volunteer coordinator Vince Mays. “We are a community of minorities that come together on an annual basis to express who we are and ensure a safe space to celebrate our culture. We welcome everyone.”