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September 4, 2009 01:19 AM

The city of Eugene is planning to spend $16 million to move its police to a new headquarters across the river from most crime.

Here's a map from a website the police department uses to map their crime data. The map shows violent crimes since March. The blue arrow depicts where the police headquarters is now (red dot) and where City Manager Jon Ruiz is planning to move it.

August 28, 2009 02:40 PM

Pete Kerns (left) Roger Magaña (right)

Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz named department veteran Pete Kerns as Eugene's police chief.

At a 1:30 pm press conference Ruiz called Kerns "a person of strong integrity."

But Kerns allegedly failed to act on a complaint that a fellow officer was sexually abusing women in the worst scandal in Eugene police history. Roger Magaña was sentenced to 94 years in prison in 2004 for using his police power to rape, sexually abuse, assault and/or harass a dozen women over six years as a Eugene police officer. At Magaña’s criminal trial, one of his victims alleged under oath that she told Kerns and two other EPD officers about the sex abuse, but Kerns and the other officers did nothing.

Asked about the testimony, Kerns stepped away from the microphone and stood behind Ruiz. Ruiz said that they would not answer the question. “We’re trying to move forward.”

After the press conference, Kerns said, “I’m not going to answer the question.”

The city of Eugene drew harsh criticism for failing to investigate or discipline fellow officers for failing to act to stop Magaña’s rape crime wave despite years of complaints. The city paid $5 million to settle victim’s lawsuits.

Kerns praised his fellow Eugene police officers as “some of the finest people I’ve known.”

August 27, 2009 05:02 PM

What's that saying? Oh, right: Better late than never. Listen, I've been thinking about this series' ending for a month. Solid. OK, not solid. But a lot. It's a triumph of bleakness, and that's kind of putting it lightly. Shall we talk about it, fellow BBC-watchers?

(Previously, on EW! A Blog: Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four)

Here there be spoilers. Almost nothing but spoilers, really.

Four Things About Day Five *

One. Gwen's videotaped speech.

Gwen opens the episode with a speech that gives me goosebumps. She's so heartbroken, so horrified, so hopeless — and, from where she's sitting, so right: This is the end. The scene is out of the timeline, and serves to heighten tension: Where is she? Who's she talking to? How bad is it, really? To find her hiding in a shed with a group of children, making Rhys cry as she talks, brings the grief right home.

Two. John Frobisher.

If Gwen sounded hopeless, poor Frobisher — played by the magnificent Peter Capaldi — really was. After all the careful walking of various lines he does, he's rewarded with the awful fate of being the token governmental sacrifice: His kids will be given to the 456. And he gives up completely. He doesn't have the luxury of knowing, like those of us watching do, that Torchwood will, somehow, come through in the end; he watched Jack turn out to be utterly useless against the alien in the box; he watched Ianto and all the other people in Thames House die. He was there (wasn't he?) when Jack told Gwen it was over. They lost. They could do nothing but make it worse. (Which wasn't exactly true; a forewarned populace would've had a chance to fight back. But Ianto's death cracked Jack too hard, and he couldn't see it, nor could he be convinced. Even Gwen had lost that fighting-for-humanity spirit she initially brought to the team. Things were just too bleak.)

Three. The triumph of the personal assistants.

From prison, Lois gives Bridget — Bridget who knows what she's doing for her boss when he asks her to requisition a gun, and does it anyway, loyal to the horrible end — the tools to, well, to clean up some of the mess when it's all over, for lack of a better way to put it. It's an interesting thing that happens: Does Lois offer Bridget the contacts? Does Bridget ask? Are they hoping that Torchwood will pull through, or planning for the bleak future in which the children have been taken, but the horrible people in power still need taking down? I think the answer is in Bridget's speech: She believed that Frobisher, regardless of his weaknesses, was at heart a good man, and she feels that those who would doom this good man to such a terrible fate need to be removed from power. And so she takes a certain power into her own hands. It's a fantastic shift for a character who, early on, seemed strict and rulebound, cautious and submissive.

Four. Oh, Jack.

If there's one thing Day Five does better than anything else — well, excepting for how it just gets bleaker and bleaker — it's the way it makes things all about Jack. Gwen gets sidelined; though it seems important for her to help Ianto's family, in the end, it didn't really matter. (I find this really frustrating, but I really like Gwen; much of the internet appears to disagree.) Everything in Day Five is horrible: Frobisher's final decision; the government's willingness to do what they opt to do with the "useless" children; the truth of what the 456 do with the kids (they're just drugs!); and the decision Jack has to make to save the world.

In at least one case, I've seen someone say that Jack's decision to sacrifice his grandson in order to defeat the alien threat makes him evil. And while it might sound a little callous, I couldn't agree less. I've also seen a lot of argument that the reasoning behind Ianto's death is that it breaks Jack's spirit to the point where he can make the choice to use Stephen as his only weapon against the 456. I don't think I can quite get behind that, either, though I do think it's a factor.

The thing about Jack is, he's immortal. He's a fixed point in time and space. And I suspect that a life that long would most likely involve learning some deeply uncomfortable truths about humanity, brevity and realism (though the Doctor on Doctor Who seems to have taken a different view of things). From his perspective, humans, ordinary ones, live tiny little lives — not in scale but in length, in duration. This is pretty clear in his conversation with Ianto earlier in Children of Earth, and it's something Ianto accepts when he goes to Thames House with Jack. But as much as Jack can be aware that he's going to outlive everyone he loves, the way it actually goes down can never be pleasant.

And so Jack is Jack, guarded, secretive, a little distant, a little cruel when he has to be, when the fate of the world is at stake. This is clear when he gives the child to the fairies in season one: Practically speaking, if one could disengage one's heart from the scenario entirely, it's the safer thing to do, the thing that makes the most sense for the most people.

Practically speaking, if one could get utter distance from it, sacrificing Stephen so that millions of other children can live is the thing that makes the most sense to save the most people.

But it's horrible. And that's why Children of Earth is so good: It doesn't shy away from the truly horrible, and from the idea that sometimes horrible things might be necessary. It even wraps in the fact that doing these horrible, necessary things will be utterly damaging to the people who do them. Jack, besides being guarded and pragmatic, is a lover and a fierce friend, a father and a certain kind of romantic. He's always at odds with himself, and he's the leader; he has to combine those aspects of his personality into one force to lead Torchwood. What he has to do to save the world at the end of Day Five is likely to push those pieces apart, to make him wrap the caring part of himself in wool and stuff it in the attic. When he can't look at Gwen — even before the horrible fate of Stephen — it's because she's been, since day one, the conscience, the part of Torchwood that remembers the individuals in each case, each strange phenomenon. He looks at her, and he sees those kids.

But back to the question of evil, and the end. What makes it so fascinating, to my mind, is that it's so contrary to what so many stories — possibly especially science fiction and fantasy stories, the ones in which the best and worst of humanity are extended to dramatic lengths — tell us. So often, the right end is brought about because someone makes the noble decision, the decision made out of immediate, personal love, out of faith in one's friends; the heroes make the "right" decision, the one that's incredibly difficult and puts the world in jeopardy! — except it always works out in the end. Buffy isn't willing to trade Willow for the box full of the Mayor's nasty spiders, but they defeat the giant snake anyway. Luke makes the personal choice, the obstinate choice to think of his friends first, but the Death Star still gets blown up.

Jack makes the awful choice. The one that hurts him, personally; the one that pushes him away from his only family. He makes the ugly choice, the brutal choice, the inevitable choice, and the only choice that would really save the world. Things don't always work out for the best. Ianto's death was proof of that. Choosing out of love isn't going to keep the universe out of danger every time. (Harry Potter this is not.) This is the truly bleak part of Children of Earth: The nasty, awful honesty of Jack's "choice": He didn't actually have one. And it's possible only Jack could have faced that situation and known he didn't really have any other option; this is where the horrible truths of being immortal come into play. If the lives of ordinary humans are so short, is it less terrible, in the mind of the immortal, when one dies? And is it more terrible when that one is your own flesh and blood, and you'll carry the memory of killing him forever? (Would it be less awful for anyone but Jack and Alice if they'd somehow found another child? Would it be "better," somehow? Less evil, to those who think it was evil?)

And as for the theory that Ianto had to die so that Jack would be capable of using Stephen as a tool rather than a child, honestly, I think the opposite might be true. It would've been worse were Ianto there to see Jack's decision. It would be worse for Jack, to have to kill his grandchild, lose his daughter and have Ianto look at him with horror. It wouldn't be worse for Ianto, obviously, to have his illusions about Jack's capabilities destroyed; one assumes that would be preferable to death. But it would make the final scenes even more heartbreaking. As it is, Jack saves the world and damns himself. There's no hero's ending for the man who's a hero to millions.

Bravo, Torchwood. Sure, the series is imperfect — the storytelling stammers a bit, dragging in Day Four and rushing in Day Five, among other problems — but Children of Earth is a grand achievement.

* I'm totally going to think of a fifth thing after I post this. It's practically inevitable.

August 27, 2009 03:57 PM

The 12-lane freeway bridge urban sprawl proponents are pushing in Portland isn't in Eugene, but the $4-billion project threatens to suck all the transportation funding out of the entire state and local Congressman Peter DeFazio could play a key role in killing it.

Columbia River Crossing (CRC) opponents have produced a series of clear, quick videos on the freeway project. Here's an overview:

Columbia River Crossing : Introduction from Nick Falbo on Vimeo.

Here's an explanation of how the $4-billion expenditure will just create more sprawl, traffic, unlivable neighborhoods and global warming pollution:

Columbia River Crossing : Induced Demand from Nick Falbo on Vimeo.

Here's a look at greener, cheaper alternatives:

Columbia River Crossing : Alternatives from Nick Falbo on Vimeo.

So how does DeFazio fit in to all this? DeFazio chairs a powerful House transportation subcommittee that may be key to funding the huge freeway bridge. A careful politician, DeFazio hasn't explicitly opposed a project that the state's powerful development and construction industries (and their unions) are backing. But DeFazio told Willamette Week this spring:

"I have said from Day One, they should think small. And they have been thinking really big and really expensive. And I am not sure how that project moves forward and how they will fund it. I have raised concerns throughout the process—keep the price down. You can't solve all your problems with one project."

The folks in Portland have less pull with DeFazio than his constituents here who can tell their representative what they think online.

August 25, 2009 05:53 PM

An anti-logging protester has filed an intent to sue the city, alleging police falsely arrested, jailed and injured him and violated his free speech rights.

According to a press release, Josh Schlossberg and his attorney Lauren Regan of the Civil liberties Defense Center, filed a tort claim notice this month regarding the March 13, 2009 incident.

The press release says Schlossberg was legally distributing brochures from a public sidewalk in front of Umpqua Bank in downtown Eugene. Schlossberg was informing bank customers of the "irresponsible logging and harmful pesticide practices" of Umpqua's chairman of the board, Allyn Ford.

The press release alleges that EPD officer Bill Solesbee unlawfully ordered Schlossberg to leave the sidewalk and give him his video camera. When he refused the press release alleges, "Solesbee charged Schlossberg, wrenched his arm behind his back, forced him to the ground where Schlossberg hit his head, and proceeded to place a knee on Schlossberg's previously injured neck, while handcuffing and arresting him."

The press release says Schlossberg filed a complaint with the police, but the Chief dismissed it.

The case is one of several recent incidents in which sidewalk protesters have alleged that police violated their free speech rights. Ian Van Ornum alleged Solesbee and other officers used excessive force at an anti-pesticide protest last spring. Video showed police Tasered Van Ornum twice in the back as he lay face down on the sidewalk with one or both arms behind his back.

In another recent incident, an officer arrested a man for leafleting outside a church. The unlawful charges were later dropped and the officer reprimanded.

"By utilizing a militarized presence, heavy-handed tactics, Tasers, and unjustifiable arrests against nonviolent citizens, law enforcement is attempting to scare people into silence and apathy," Regan states. "This case will determine whether the citizens of Eugene still have the constitutional right to lawfully convey thoughts and ideas to their fellow citizens in public forums-a quintessential principle of our democracy."

August 24, 2009 06:05 PM

The City of Eugene plans to use border collies to chase Canada geese out of cement ponds in Alton Baker Park, according to a press release.

The city says it will also relocate the domestic white geese in the pond to an undisclosed, "more suitable habitat." The press release states: "Waterfowl management activities practiced by the City of Eugene will follow protocols approved by the Humane Society."

The overpopulation of geese in the ponds have become dependent on food handouts, causing health problems for the animals and, through their poop, pollution and potential health risks to humans, according to the city.

The city also plans to remove concrete on the river side of the pond and put in native plants.

Here's a city picture of a Canada goose with "angel wing" disease, caused by eating too much bread:

August 21, 2009 01:24 PM

On Stephan Andresen: Punk plaid jeans by Lip Service; Paul Simonen shirt; Gladiator boots by Tuk. On me: Bite Me tunic by Switchblade Stiletto; Gerls Junkie Fit black stretch jeans by Lip Service; white leather three row silver pyramid belt; Drop Dead fuschia heels by Iron Fist. On April Smithart-Unruh: Zombie Stompers shoes; Monster Striped tube dress.

Modeling is hard.

That's what I learned on Monday night — among other things (I'm a large in Lip Service clothes, which are clearly built for skinny 17-year-olds. Lip liner can, in a pinch, become lipstick. It is possible for a pencil skirt to fit me). Turn this way. Bend at the waist, but stand up straight. Nose to the camera; chin down. Put your elbow out. No, the other elbow. Not that far. Hook the other thumb in your pocket. Be tall. Right shoulder down. Farther. Kick that hip out. Farther. Great. Hold that for 10 minutes. Now smile. "Being pretty is haaaard!" Stephan Andresen, the owner of Delphina, says, laughing. Forget being pretty; we're just trying to stand with our feet in the right places. And these shoes are trying to slip right off my feet.

I'm not a model. Not by a long, long shot. But it was fun to pretend for a few hours, to have clothes tossed over a dressing room's curtain wall and to sit still while someone else straightened my hair and put on makeup on my face than I've worn in the last year combined.

I almost asked someone else to do this, but I'm glad I didn't. When I was talking to the owner of Delphina last week for this story, it came up that they do "lifestyle" shoots, where they put together outfits from their stock, making examples for those who, like me, aren't that good at matching their hook-and-eye pleather corset tops with steampunk skirts, or picking out the right pink heels to wear with skintight jeans. That, I thought, would make a different sort of illustration for a story: not a shot of the staff in their natural environment, but a photoshoot with their clothes. On me.

OK, the "me" part came later. I had to talk myself into it on the trip back to the office.

(Click here for the rest of the tale.)

It's slightly amazing how quickly things can come together when all parties are enthusiastic. I turned up at the shop at 6 pm on Monday; by a bit after 8:30, photographer Darris Hurst had tens of shots of me, Andresen and Delphina buyer April Smithart-Unruh.

But first, I tried on clothes. A vivid blue plaid minidress with a barmaid-ish ruffle and a corset-laced front that Avril Lavigne might've worn on her first tour. A vinyl outfit that gave me a new appreciation for my college roommate who complained of the way her vinyl-clad thighs rubbed together when she walked. A "kinda red army" blouse with heavy, snap-laden cuffs and a red vinyl buckled collar. I tried to fit into several of the world's shortest skirts, but they would've been indecent in the size available. I wore a long tunic like a dress while reaching outside the dressing room for more clothes; I held a snug vinyl blazer together and wondered what I was supposed to wear under it. I unlocked the tiny padlock on a grey pinstriped suit that looked like someone's summertime, capri-length business suit had cross-pollinated with a refugee from fetish night.

On me: Gangsta Pranksta grey pinstripe top and capris by Lip Service; black matte Witch Heel

It took a while for the clothes to work their particular clothing — costumey, really, since they were so different from my usual dress — magic, but by the end, I wanted to leave in one of the outfits, even as my jeans and Dresden Dolls tank top seemed like the most comfortable clothes ever made. There's a kind of joy in presentation that sometimes feels frowned-upon here, like it's too boat-rocking to venture out in something that boasts irrelevant straps or decorative buckles instead of practical rubber soles and easy-to-wash materials. It's a little bit of everyday theater that doesn't always suit Eugene's Subaru-driving, Croc-tolerating, Butte-hiking, fleece-loving side. Eugene looks at kids with heavy black eyeliner and patched-up hoodies downtown and sees trouble before it sees personality.

This was a night of borrowed personality. I failed to fully channel my inner Amanda Palmer (choose the rockstar of your choice, here) — even the pretend-you're-a-rock-star shots look like me being me, too self-aware, not far enough out of my own world, where I could try harder. Or so I like to imagine. As much as you tell yourself you're perfectly comfortable playing dressup and rocking pointy-toed high heels, once the camera comes out, you're either an exhibitionist or you're not.

On me: Vegi vinyl lace-back corset by Lip Service; Steam This punk pencil skirt by Lip Service; Quantum Displacer Control necklace by Alchemy; black matte Witch Heel

I'm not. I'm a fencer; I even play sports behind a mask. But fencing, and the way my body needs to position itself during fencing, gave me something on which to base my understanding of how to shift the way the photographer asks. You must do all these things with different parts of your body at once — well, that, I'm familiar with. Bend at the knees. Not so far. Back a bit. Hold one arm out, just so, bent elbow, palm up; hold the other at this unnatural angle, but relax. Loosen your shoulders. Don't go too far; find that place where you're incredibly upright and yet not tense. Or at least not too tense. Now: lunge.

That, I understand. So it's not too far to the long list of instructions I loosely quoted at the top. They're just different; different motions, different poses. I never quite realized I have such a habit of turning my face to my right when there's a camera in front of me. I kept having to be told to brave the lens face on. And to drop my chin a little bit.

We posed with a guitar, with an amp, with me pretending to sing, with me dooming myself to a precarious kick-and-turn move because I kicked my leg up while wearing my favorite skirt. Kick one knee up while turning your upper body to the camera; keep the right hand on the skirt's strap, and don't let it move off your butt; drop that right shoulder down, down, down; remember where your chin and nose are. I'm not sure I ever got it all at once. It was like the first day of class, with no chance to come back remembering any of it. And it was really, surprisingly, fun, even if it's a little goofy to look at the pictures and see my uncertainty, my unfamiliarity, right there on my face. That was part of the point: Break out of my comfort zone! Do something unfamiliar and maybe a little awkward!

And get some nifty pictures out of it, too.

August 20, 2009 05:03 PM

The Oregon Media Central blog got the scoop on the Register-Guard layoffs of 16 staffers this week.

OMC posts comments from a reporter with an inside view of the layoffs (apparently eight newsroom plus eight other):

"I watched my first supervisor in the RG newsroom hand over his badge. This is a young guy with very old-school news values. He taught me a lot - he was always trying to get me to make one more call. Today I watched him check his mail one last time and walk by me with a quick wave I could tell was final. Then I watched one of my best friends at the paper go in the office from which the manager had just come. I watched her head nod from behind. I watched her walk out with it held high. Then I approached her and grabbed her cold hand when she cried. With two other bewildered journalists, we walked her outside. She looked really nice today. She had seen this coming. We lost some impeccable instincts today."

Having missed the story of its own layoffs, the RG reported the next day on the job loss in a story buried in its business section.

The paper reported layoffs of 16 positions, a 6 percent reduction bringing it's staff down to 305. Last summer, the paper cut 12 percent of its staff.

The current 305 staff figure is down from a reported 425 a decade ago. The paper has lost about 12 percent of its subscribers over that period.

The Register-Guard reported this week that its advertising revenues are down 16 percent below budget for the year and down 25 percent below budget this summer. The R-G's profit margin reached about 30 percent in the previous decade, but the Baker family has refused to say how much money they are making now on their newspaper.

August 17, 2009 12:31 PM

This press release just in from the City of Springfield:

"On Wednesday, August 26 from 3-4:30 pm, teens ages 13-18 are invited to play video games in the Library Meeting Room at Springfield Public Library. Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Sports will be available to play. Free refreshments will be provided."

Maybe someone should invent a virtual Wii Book page turner, a Literature Hero or a Read, Read Revolution?

August 13, 2009 04:42 PM

I'm not afraid to admit that I think Constantine is totally underrated. I might go so far as to say it's one of my top three favorite Keanu Reeves movies. There's something fascinating about stories that take certain supernatural elements of the Christian Bible REALLY literally — without any lions or elves or metaphorical Jesus creatures. I'm talking demons in the streets of L.A., but not in the Left Behind sense (these stories are only interesting when religion is key to the worldbuilding, but not part of the lesson plan).

So I watched the trailer for Legion, even though the poster for it — a looming angel with a machine gun — was so absurd I didn't think it was a real movie.

And I couldn't stop giggling. This is the redband (i.e. "mature," i.e. there's swearing) trailer. In it, a shirtless Paul Bettany plays the archangel Michael, who's standing up against a destructive God on the behalf of humankind — or at least one truck-stop waitress whose baby is humanity's only chance for survival.

Also, I'm fairly sure Dennis Quaid explodes.

Don't get me wrong: I will totally, absolutely watch this. It's deliciously ridiculous and totally over the top. It begins with Doug Jones as an evil ice-cream truck driver. I'm in. I'm just not sure the movie can, er, be better than the trailer.

In other cinematic news, it's been confirmed that Bryan Singer will direct a Battlestar Galactica movie. There are two immediate worrying things about this:

1. Singer hasn't made a really good movie since X2. (And this is coming from someone who's slightly fond of the oft-dismissed Superman Returns.)
2. This isn't a film version of the brilliantly reimagined (if less-than-brilliantly ended) TV show that wound down earlier this year. This is a film version of the original series.

It's not an inherently bad idea to look back to the original series — and it's worth noting that it's not the first time Singer's gotten close to a Galactica revisioning — but the timing is pretty much terrible. The new BSG is still fresh in people's minds, especially with the upcoming TV movie The Plan and the spinoff/prequel series Caprica coming next year.

(It isn't helping that this looks a little bit like a greedy bid to relaunch the original BSG the way that J.J. Abrams relaunched Star Trek. As a colleague joked, we can probably blame Star Trek for a whole pile of crappy sci-fi* remakes in the next few years.)

"All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again," indeed. I'll hold out hope that Singer's version will be as fresh and as different from the recent series as that show was from the original, but it's a bit tough to quash the skeptic in the back of my head. Still, original series fans rebelled at the idea of BSG 2.0, and now those of us who cringe at the idea of Starbuck being played by anyone but Katee Sackhoff are having our cringe moment. We'll see. Somewhat reluctantly.

* I've heard on too many occasions that REAL science fiction fans DON'T CALL IT SCI-FI. This is utter crap. Call it what you want. Call it SF/F, which looks like some kind of shorthand for a slash pairing. Call it SyFy, if you're a network who needs a brand that conveniently distances you from your original fanbase. Call it whatever the hell you like. Just keep liking it.

August 13, 2009 06:13 PM

While billions of taxpayer dollars go into unlivable freeways that throttle livability and the planet, there's a few million being spent on greener transportation. Here's a look at some upcoming bike projects based on documents from the Metropolitan Policy Commission. The MPC is the less-known, less-democratic interjurisdictional committee that supposedly oversees all the billions in local transportation spending. Here's the bike projects:

I-5 Underpass. As part of its $180-million I-5 bridge widening project, ODOT has included this $1.5 million project to connect the riverfront bike trail through the freeway mess.

Springfield Middle Fork Path. An MPC amendment last month "slips construction to 2010" of the first phase of this $6 million project. Oddly, Willamalane has planned the first $3 million phase as the easternmost portion (see red line on map below). Funding for the second phase (pink line) connecting the path to Dorris Ranch remains unclear. Also unclear is funding for a possible bike bridge across the river to the Mt. Pisgah park area. Biking from Eugene all the way to Mt. Pisgah on scenic and quiet off-road trails along the river has long been a dream of local cyclists.

Delta Highway Overpass. Half of this $6 million project is funded by the Obama Stimulus and is supposed to start soon. A few right-wingers have complained about the spending on bikes, but the project is more about mitigating the impact of a dangerous freeway that cut off huge neighborhoods full of kids and families from the city's riverfront parks and bike paths. Here's the design:

Eugene Riverfront Bike Path Under Beltline. This $2.2 million project will mitigate the impact of the Beltline freeway cutting off the 17,000 people in Santa Clara from the river by providing an underpass and connection to the riverfront bike and park system. Accomodating unsafe gravel truck driveways delayed the project and added another $1 million in cost. (The map below doesn’t appear to include the redesign involving moving the bike path to the south side of Division Avenue.)

August 1, 2009 07:37 PM

The circus is gone. The kids that remain are crawling the ground under the apple trees for green fruit, which they toss up onto the shading, stretched fabric. It's at an angle, so the fruit always bounces back down. Every so often, a cry of "APPLE!" goes up. I haven't figured out the rules of the game.

Samantha Crain is playing in the other barn, but I'm back on the barn porch where I was earlier. I can hear her just fine from here, and this is where the wi-fi is. It's quiet, relatively, and there are few people around — a situation that can be hard to come by at a festival. I just ate a hot dog that billed itself as the world's best, and while I'm not sure that's a provable statement, it was damn good, topped with horseradish cream and homemade relish and some sort of saeurkraut-like topping. The food here beats the pants off most music festival food. I just keep eating. A cucumber-lime-jalapeno Sol Pop. Pesto pasta with the hot dog (totally chance, and delicious). A couple of pints of Deschutes' Twilight — but really, it's too hot to drink.

It's really hot. It was touch and go there for a bit, too hot, smotheringly hot, the kind of hot that makes you want to take a nap in the itchy grass were it not so itchy. It was the moment that reminded me why going to festivals alone is a crapshoot — you hit that hot and tired phase, you might just give in to it. But a friend texted and told me to meet her in the shade, where water was abundant and easily accessible. I poured it over my feet and found myself back on earth. So we sat and watched people — tiny shorts! high-waisted skirts! — and talked and sat some more, watching Justin Townes Earle and his impossibly long legs, and then the Lost Bayou Ramblers, with their multilingual singalongs and upright bass tricks (the bassist balanced on his instrument and played at once. I can hardly explain).

Festivals are better with company, with someone to make your observations to when you're not, y'know, near the wifi. Friends travel in packs and save blanket space for each other; kids crawl around blankets and squirt you with water bottles when you ask them if they want to. In the backstage tent, along with the beer and pretzels, there's a huge tub of Red Vines and rugs for sprawling. Did I mention this place is kid friendly? I think I did. But also, it's just friendly. It feels clubby and small, in a good way; you find yourself passing the same people over and over again, winding up in line next to the person who was a blanket away earlier. My also-press friend tells me there are about 2,000 people here. Right now, I think they're all congregating in front of the two main stages, all on the grass that was empty earlier. As the sun goes down, shadow spreads comfortingly across the main lawn. It arrives just in time.

I can hear Hillstomp from the main stage. Weren't they just at Papa's? Is Pickathon the intersection of 3rd and Blair, writ large and forested? Everyone here does look a little bit familiar.

If I don't go watch Samantha Crain, I'll regret it.

August 1, 2009 03:03 PM

It's a strange thing, driving to Pickathon. You're in the middle of Portland, tied up in its highway knots; you're driving south on 205, trying not to feel like you're heading home from the airport; you're turning off an an exit that quickly begins to feel frighteningly like Agrestic, all matching complexes with intimidating names.

And then you're in the middle of nowhere.

I've been here about three hours. I'm pretty sure my face is sunburnt, despite the late addition of sunscreen to my wardrobe. (I had to ask someone if I had dirt smeared all over my face.) I made a beer garden mistake and wound up trapped in a pool of heat, just feet from the bar in which a young man with a banjo sounded too old for his years. A bicycle hung from the rafters and a fan pointed at the electronic whatsit on the walls.

But don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining.

I got here about noon and walked in to the quietist, loveliest festival atmosphere I can ever remember experiencing. There is plenty of space. There are chairs scattered around the grass near the two main stages. There are signs that point off into the woods, trails that may or may not take you where you want to go. The first thing you see when you come in the day entrance is the kids' circus area, which I'm overlooking right now. One man with a violin plays while kids juggle, hula hoop, try their best at stilts and balance peacock feathers on their fingertips.

There are kids everywhere. A toddler who sat near me with his parents as Horse Feathers played on the shaded, idyllic Woods Stage said, "Nom nom nom nom nom," — no, seriously — as he gulped water. Bigger kids did their best to balance on the bent tree branch behind my head, and I wondered if I'd be able to catch them if they fell. Strangers offered to share their blanket with me, and every so often, a misting cart drove past. It didn't stop the dust waves from coming through, though; the Woods Stage is down a small incline, and if you're below the level of the path, you'll find clouds of dust, sparkling like the dust in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books, floating past your nose every few minutes. It's an outdoor festival. You simply don't worry about being clean.

White fabric stretches above the grounds in shapes that remind me of the Enterprise. The first thing I did when I got here — after watching the well-dressed Sadies play a song or two — was buy a small tub of Fifty Licks' Stumptown coffee ice cream and go for a walk in the woods, wrestling with a tiny wooden spoon as my feet grew a layer of trail dust and I remembered all the other woodsy trails I've walked on in the past. I took the long route to the Woods Stage, missing Laura Gibson and slipping past the two guys holding "Dance Toll" signs (written on the back of PBR cases) without having to shake my ass.

It took forever for Horse Feathers to set up, so I watched people. Women in charming sundresses. Pale men with their shirts off for the first time this summer. The lucky bastards in the tree-nooks, wedged in among thin saplings and braced against the thicker trunks. The women in front of me had a Nalgene bottle full of red wine and the man they were befriending said he wasn't quite ready for that yet. I forgot it was so hot out in the rest of the world. A man shimmied farther up the trees, and took sky-high pictures when the band finally went on.

Quiet, cello-supported, moody folk-pop in the middle of the woods? Yes, please. I texted my boyfriend and told him everyone was right: This is a different kind of festival. I haven't quite pinned down why. It doesn't have a straight-up hippie vibe; it has an urban hippie vibe. What that means, exactly, I guess I'll spend the rest of the day figuring out.

Yes, I should've camped. But there's always next year. This is the warm-up.

July 31, 2009 03:57 PM

For years Eugene cyclists have been trying to get the city of Eugene to end the dangerous practice of storing leaves in bike paths. The spreading leaf piles create a slipping hazard, hide dangerous debris and force cyclists into rushing traffic. But the advocacy has apparently had little impact. Above is an image from the city's own website apparently urging people to store their leaf piles in bike lanes rather than safely up on the curb.