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Ben Basom of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters gives the example of a worker who came forward and started talking to the union about the Portland company that he was working for and the scams he was seeing. Basom says the employee’s boss found out “and the next time we saw him, his arm was in a cast and he was all bruised up.” 

The worker said, “This guy knows where my family is in Mexico.”

From July 2012 to June 2013, Oregon workers filed claims for more than $3 million in unpaid wages with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Juan Carlos Ordonez of the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), which analyzed BOLI’s data on the claims, says that’s “just the tip of the iceberg” because workers fear retaliation if they complain about their missing wages, or they simply don’t know how or where to file a complaint. BOLI is the agency that investigates and enforces Oregon’s labor laws.  

The fate of the Elliott State Forest, a sprawling, 93,000-acre forest northeast of Coos Bay and home to some of the oldest trees on the coast, is the topic of a Nov. 17 public forum hosted by Cascadia Wildlands. About half of the Elliott has already been logged, and for the remaining half, Cascadia Wildlands believes in preserving the land instead of privatizing and selling it. 

The Oregon State Land Board will discuss the Elliott’s future next month.

As a peer of the journalists infamously executed in online videos recently distributed by ISIS, the horror of that footage felt particularly real to Reese Erlich. Erlich, a longtime Middle East correspondent for NPR, recently returned from Syria and will speak in Eugene Nov. 19 and 20 about his on-the-ground account of the ascendance of ISIS (the Islamic State) and the United States’ effort to halt it.

Erlich sees an illogical, destructive “third war” coming to a head in the U.S.’s escalating response to ISIS.

Oregon’s economy isn’t exactly booming, but it is improving, and that could lead to about $300 million in tax rebates to individual taxpayers if revenues exceed 2 percent above official state projections in the 2013-15 biennium. That might sound good to taxpayers, but the potential loss of revenue has some Oregonians very worried.

At first glance, it looks like a landfill — abandoned couches and chairs, food wrappers piled on top of plastic bags, electronics and old clothing. But in actuality, it’s a strip of riverbank along the south side of the Willamette River between Autzen Footbridge and Knickerbocker Bike Bridge, and a recent YouTube video portraying trash along the riparian zone has garnered the attention of homeless activists, environmentalists and Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy.

What happens if the kicker kicks next year? Our news brief this week talks about how the Constitution-mandated tax rebate could be a big problem for the state budget. What we hear through the English ivy vine (Eugene’s equivalent to the grapevine) is that Phil Knight might be holding back on giving the UO big challenge bucks this year because it could trigger the kicker and the state could lose up to $300 million in the next biennium, hurting education. Crazy scenario.

Congrats to NextStep Recycling founder Lorraine Kerwood McKenzie who was given the Toyota Standing O-Vation, a recognition of extraordinary people in communities around the country, during Oprah Winfrey’s “The Life You Want Weekend” in Seattle Nov. 8. The award was given by Winfrey and Paralympic bronze medalist snowboarder Amy Purdy.

Lots of little kids take a dance class or two, but most won’t make a career of it. Sometimes, however, a special child comes along who has the talent and drive, along with the family support needed, to keep investing in dance for a lifetime. Choreographer Vanessa Martin was one of those lucky kids, who had big aspirations and a parent to back her up. 

Emery Blackwell, 55, dancer, choreographer, musician, composer and teacher, retires from 25 years with DanceAbility International this fall. A giant figure in the local dance scene and a representative of disability rights around the globe, Blackwell will perform onstage one last time with his longtime dance partner Alito Alessi, as part of Vanessa Martin’s Xcape Dance Company’s premiere piece, Love!

• Eugene author and LCC English instructor Steve McQuiddy will give a reading, discussion and book signing at 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 13, at Tsunami Books, 25th and Willamette. McQuiddy is author of Here On the Edge: World War II, Conscientious Objectors On the Oregon Coast, and Seeds of the Sixties. Free. 

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology has enabled production of previously uneconomic shale gas in North America. Some believe that using more natural gas will slow the growth of green house gas emissions. Five research teams from the United States, Australia, Austria, Germany and Italy completed independent studies for a project led by the Joint Global Change Research Institute. The research analysis was published in October in the journal Nature with the conclusion that increased use of natural gas will not slow climate change, due to increased release of methane and increased total energy use spurred by inexpensive gas.

Some things come standard with a McMenamins dining experience — craft brews, tater tots, exposed wood beams — but Dan McMenamin, a second generation co-owner of the business, says individualism is key to the success of his family’s empire.

London’s many squares, parks and gardens are planted with a good deal of ingenuity and flair, always with an eye to ease of maintenance and year-round visual value. I have spent quite a bit of time there in recent years, mostly in the colder months, so I have had a chance to observe how much use is made of woody plants that are especially striking in winter.

“I had an Irish Catholic upbringing,” says Maggie Donahue, who grew up in Chicago and attended an all-girls high school. “When I was 9, I did therapy, every day, at the home of a child in the parish who had brain damage. It led to a career in special ed.” She spent two years at an all-girls college in Colorado, then returned to Chicago and Loyola U for a degree in psychology.

What better way to celebrate the passing of Measure 91 than warmly welcoming the chart-topping roots-reggae band Fortunate Youth, whose sponsors include RAW Rolling Papers and Cannabliss Clothing and whose merch includes T-shirts emblazoned with “Love is the Most High.”

The music oozed by Radiation City is so warm and romantic that it’s a bit tedious to see the Portland band categorized time and again as indie rock, a genre that at times feels like it’s been hijacked by aloof, sullen drones. 

“Everyone loved The Milkmen in the early ’80s — the blues-ers, the punkers” says Dan Schmid, bass player for legendary Eugene band the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. On Nov. 15, The Milkmen are reuniting for a one-night-only performance at Mac’s Restaurant at the Vet’s Club in Eugene. “It’d be nostalgic for sure,” Schmid continues. “[The Milkmen] were great. They rocked!”

Jake Smith, the singer-songwriter and mastermind behind L.A.-based trio The White Buffalo, sings in a rich, oatmeal baritone. And White Buffalo’s 2014 release, Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways — a loose concept record based around the characters Joe and Jolene — is a fitting backdrop for Smith, who looks like a Viking from Texas.

Well, this is certainly not your grandmother’s Jane Austen. With overt sexuality, barebones plotting and updated humor, University Theatre has taken Austen’s beloved classic out for a new spin that, depending on your sensibility, may or may not make sense.

GAME VS. BIKE

While riding my bicycle home from work Sunday evening, I found myself immersed in the buzz and hum of a most important event. Car after car after bus after 4x4 pickup after SUV were gleefully, if a bit impatiently and aggressively, packing the road, apparently on the hunt for a place to park to get to a big game at Knight Arena.

When the new musical Constance & Sinestra and the Cabinet of Screams premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the summer of 2011, Lane Community College student Anna Parks happened to catch a performance of the quirky show. Parks later brought the idea of presenting the offbeat musical to LCC’s Student Production Association, and after clearing sizeable hurdles to secure the rights to the play, the LCC theater will be among the first venues outside of the UK to debut this darkly twisted fairy tale. 

I’m a pretty quiet Midwestern woman currently wracked by a guilty Catholic conscience. My last boyfriend and I were in an open, long-distance relationship. We were together for a year and a half, and things were great fun. We considered each other our primary partners, but I met his other partners and felt fine about most of them, and I got to have some fun playtime back in my own city. Then I finished grad school and wanted to talk about moving to his city. He simply refused to have that conversation, and we broke up.

Alejandro González Iñárritu hasn’t directed a feature film since 2010’s Biutiful, an agonizing, overworked downer made bearable by Javier Bardem’s mournful performance. His latest, Birdman, also rests squarely on the shoulders of one put-upon fellow, but this one has a different set of problems: Actor-writer-director Riggin Thomson is struggling to open a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” He’s got all the normal problems — needy actors, budgetary concerns — as well as an alter ego that speaks to him in the form of Birdman, the superhero character with which he made his name years ago. 

Sniffing out what you shouldn’t miss in the arts this week.