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In making our last garden on a steep, damp piece of hillside we brought in a lot of material: quarried basalt rock for retaining walls, round rock for drains, an ocean of gravel. When we moved house a few years ago, I was aiming for a garden with a lighter carbon footprint. Among other things, I hoped to save energy by bringing in as little material as possible. As I learned more about our new yard, those hopes went down the drain, so to speak.

Robert Sherwood (mandolin, vocals, guitar), August Dennis (bass), Marisa Korth (vocals, guitar) and Carlo Canlas (violin, vocals) are the musicians who make up Backwater Opera — a group that stitches the sound of bluegrass music into a classical indie-rock tapestry. It’s an aesthetic the band calls “chambergrass.”

Beats Antique is a band that tills the grains of dance with sounds sifting seamlessly through Eastern strings, hip-hop drums and West Coast electronica.

Back in 1994, UO freshman Douglas Jenkins bought a cheap cello. The instrument was way too small for him and, what’s more, he didn’t know how to play it. But thanks to the generosity of a superb teacher (Eugene Symphony cellist Sylvie Spengler) and his own DIY determination, Jenkins — who’d played guitar in high-school punk bands — not only learned to play but also taught himself how to arrange pop music for lots of cellos.

There’s a rough and rugged synergy going on in Portland. This synergy is between two musical factions that you’d never think would combine forces. It blends the grungiest corners of the urban jungle with the “just-don’t-give-a-fuck” contigent of the Northwest backwoods. It’s jug band, it’s folk punk, rockabilly, punk blues, cowpunk and psychobilly. Call it whatever suits your fancy, ‘cause by the time the corn whiskey hits your bloodstream it’ll all blend together seamlessly. 

THE TIME HAS COME

The Bijou’s presentation of Revenge of the Electric Car is a welcome sequel to Who Killed the Electric Car? a decade ago. The opposition has become an advocate. Ten years ago there was only one struggling EV maker in Eugene, today there are several Oregon-based companies involved in EVs and a network of charging infrastructure is growing. Yet most of us drive locally by ourselves on a daily basis. 

“Touch me,” the political-activist actress entreats the playwright, just after his wife exits to make a dip for the crudités. These words set the story spinning like a '60s love song on old vinyl — something real and clichéd at once, exploring the delicate, powerful balance of love.

 

Raunchy, underdeveloped, oversexed and aesthetically topsy-turvy, The Great American Trailer Park Musical is a piece of sideshow freakery on the order of John Waters’ Desperate Living. It’s a prankish mish-mash of attitudes, styles and music, and — peopled by potty mouths, crotch scratchers, dick grabbers and slut buckets — it’s certainly not for the prudes of political correctness. This show is as off-color as it is off Broadway.

My 13-year-old son came out to us this morning. He plans to tell his brothers in the next few days. We love and accept our son, and this news isn’t surprising (but when will the stereotypical neatness kick in?), but we do have some concerns. He has, apparently, already made the news public at school. Any pointers you can give? We want to make sure he knows that we love him and don’t care about his sexuality, while at the same time preparing him to deal with those people who do. Also, any advice you can give for when he starts dating would be appreciated.

In 1995, a young, relatively unknown director by the name of Todd Haynes achieved the seemingly impossible: He turned a story about a mousy, middle-class woman suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity into an operatic work of minor tragedy. On its surface, Safe appears to be one of those flat, one-note “issue” movies that audiences feel morally obligated to see — a joyless civic duty.

There is a high, lonesome, gravelly sound in the air. The sound is simple but by no means easy to play — and even harder to categorize. Traditional and alternative genres are merging, multiplying and mating. The acoustic strumming and picking of hybrid Americana roots music sloughes the edges of other genres adopting bits of punk, blues and country as the music flows from the instruments of younger musicians willing to experiment with it. The resurgence is national, and we have a Eugenean abundance.

The upcoming benefit for Occupy Eugene, appropriately named “Occupy Free Expression,” is a testament to how well OE can channel local talent and creativity into an articulate platform for social change. 

It’s like vampires, only different. Instead of drinking blood, giving your blood will get you a drink of Hop Valley beer.

Lane Blood Center and Springfield’s Hop Valley Brewing Co. have teamed up once again this winter for their third “Give a Pint. Get a Pint” promotion, which wraps up Jan. 17 in the brewery’s parking lot.

In the “Great Recession,” Eugene is doing better than the nation, the state or the county. Why?

Mayor Kitty Piercy noted in her State of the City address last week that while local unemployment numbers are still “way too high,” Eugene’s 10.5 percent rate is slightly better than the nation at 10.8 percent, the state at 12.7 percent and the county at 12.8 percent. 

Sports reporters have long been blasted for pursuing homerism that roots for the home team rather than journalism. So it’s interesting to look at the alternative realities of a Register-Guard v. Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel Rose Bowl match up of next day coverage.

The two papers’ reporters largely covered the game-ending spike by watching on TV like everyone else.

Parvin Butte neighbors who have been fighting the destruction of the scenic butte that sits in the middle of rural Dexter had a day in court Jan. 5 when Lost Creek Rock products, owned by Greg Demers and Norman and Melvin McDougal, came before Lane County Hearings Official Gary Darnielle to appeal the fines they have accrued mining Parvin without a site review.

It’s difficult to say what’s a more difficult proposition — helping save the spotted owl or holding a seat on the Lane County Board of Commissioners. Either way it’s a lot about the timber industry and all about politics. Longtime forest advocate Andy Stahl says that having made a career of “speaking truth to power” in dealing with federal forest issues, he’s ready to take on Lane County. 

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy delivered a sober assessment of the State of the City last week in an address at the Hult Center. 

“I’d like to be here tonight telling you that things will be much in better in 2012,” Piercy said. “But, in truth, the uncertain financial forecast continues to impact every government and every household. No matter what I read or who I listen to, the news isn’t very good.”

Internationally noted urban planner and sustainability author Timothy Beatley of the University of Virginia will be speaking on “Envisioning Biophilic Cities” at 5:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Fenton Hall, Room 110 on the UO campus. The free lecture will be preceded  by the screening of Beatley’s documentary The Nature of Cities at 5:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 12, also in Fenton Hall. 

• Remodeling is finally under way at the old Bene’s Pizza building at 18th near Chambers, managed by Evans, Elder & Brown (EEB) commercial real estate. We hear from a reliable source that a yogurt shop is going in, but what yogurt shop? The folks at EEB are still mum on the new tenant so we asked around. It’s not Prince Pückler’s and it’s not Vanilla Jill’s. Maybe somebody new?

• A free panel discussion on “Revisiting The Stranger Next Door: Reflections on Sexual Politics and Human Dignity in the New Millennium” will be at 7 pm Thursday, Jan. 12, at the UO Knight Law Center, Room 110, at 15th and Agate. Panelists include Arlene Stein of Rutgers, Kelly Weigel of the Western States Center and Marcy Westerling of the Rural Organizing Project.

Watching a carboy of beer or a jar of kimchi gurgle with life or erupt from a blow-off tube is like peeking into an alternative universe. At the Fun with Fermentation Festival hosted by the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance, you can learn all about that and more.