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July 5, 2016 05:51 PM

Mahmud Hafiz travelogue writer and a senior journalist from Bangladesh dropped by EW’s offices recently to talk journalism and the Bangla, aka Bengali, language. Hafiz, a contributing editor to the news portal Bangla News 24 came to Eugene for his son’s graduation from the University of Oregon. He will be writing a travelogue about his experiences.

Hafiz says Bangla News 24 and its editor-in-chief Alamgir Hossain pioneered online journalism in Bangladesh and the news site is updated from all over the country. The site is partially available in English.

In addition to discussing journalism, Hafiz came to speak to EWabout Bangla, a language he says, “for which people died.” According to Hafiz, UNESCO declared Feb. 21 as World Language Day “remembering our sacrifice.”

Hafiz explained that when India was divided into India and Pakistan, it was originally divided into East and West Pakistan, united by the Muslim religion but divided by the land mass of India itself. In West Pakistan (now Pakistan) Urdu was spoken but the language of East Pakistan was Bangla.

The Bengali Language Movement arose when the government of West Pakistan attempted to impose Urdu as the state language. On February 21, 1952, five students and political activists were killed during protests near the campus of the University of Dhaka. Hafiz said that each year on that date in Dhaka there is a procession of people wearing black shirts carrying wreaths to commemorate the sacrifice.

Bangla is the official language of what is now Bangladesh and according to Hafiz has more than 300 million speakers around the globe ranging from Bangladesh to India to New York City.

While in Eugene Hafiz presentedEW with an impressionistic painting of a street in Bangladesh. EW will post links to Hafiz’s travelogues when they are available in English.

Journalist Mahmud Hafiz presents EW Editor Camilla Mortensen with a painting from Bangladesh

July 1, 2016 06:50 PM

According to a Register-Guard headline today, your car and its airbags have a hitherto-unknown superpower.


A "50 Percent Chance of  Dangerous Air Bag Rapture" to be precise.  What can we say? Jesus, take the wheel.

h/t retired editor EW Ted Taylor

June 30, 2016 04:13 PM

If people go to concerts to be witness to something, they go to music festivals to be part of something. Or to get duped into thinking they’re part of something. Or something. Here’s exactly how I feel about this year’s Sasquatch festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington: it was fun, and I’m never going back.


Friday, May 27

Just when all of us had almost dozed off around 3 am, Jane proclaimed, from the other end of the tent: “I brushed my teeth!” Look at where we were: Prince blaring from our neighbors’ homemade truck-top balcony, EDM pouring from the neon pizza stand and everybody at least half awake in a tent city big enough to get lost in, full of MDMA dealers and middle-class kids — and Jane, just proud to have brushed her teeth.

“I also put on moisturizer,” she continued. She asked if I had my retainer in, which I did, because I always do. The car in front of us turned its headlights on for God knows what reason, shining that yellow flood into our tent, and next to me, Mara looked just like a painting, her hair gold, her face so exhausted, already.

In the morning, it took hours for the sun to get hot in the sky, but when it did we woke up sweating. I took drug inventory again, wondering which to do for the morning and settling on a cigarette, which I had to bum from Hannah. We got dressed in front of Andrea’s full-length mirror, which was propped against her car. Then we ate bagels with too much cream cheese and got drunk and sometimes pretended like we were relaxing.

“I took this mysticism class where we learned about the ego,” Andrea said absentmindedly, applying dry shampoo, “and how the ego is the only real problem.” We each changed our outfits two or three times, and I caught a guy staring at my nipple piercing when I was naked in the front seat of the car.

“Where’s the face paint?” May asked. “Do we have any face paint?” Bailey said it hadn’t come in the mail on time, and May said, “I have glitter!”

We stumbled into the venue just in time for soul act Grace Love & The True Loves, whose set contained “No Diggity,” one out of three times we heard the song covered that weekend. Grace was to be my first interview of the festival, too, so after her set, I headed to the “media area,” a semi-permanent structure between stages where young reporters can be found on MacBooks flipping through hundreds of the exact same photo of the exact same band, noshing on complimentary Nature Valley bars and Kirkland water.

My agreed-upon meeting time with Grace came and went, and she never showed up. I hunched into the room’s lone armchair and began taking notes. I overheard one girl say that she “just can’t get into rap or hip hop or that type of stuff,” and another, no older than me, asked whether I was “going to leave any time soon.” I said I didn’t know, suddenly heartbroken to be getting stuck with this journalism shit on my college diploma.

Later, though, while everyone who’s into neo-soul wannabes like Leon Bridges was probably dancing to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the real heavy soul-hitter of the lineup took the main stage for a modest audience that nonetheless would crown her as one of the weekend’s best shows. Andra Day, even when her pants literally fell off, was the picture of womanly power and grace, with a face like Rihanna’s, a get-up like Amy Winehouse’s and a bowl-you-over voice completely her own. 

“Remember this is a conversation,” she said, holding her bunched-up pants and wiping much-earned sweat from her forehead. “This is not just me singin’ at you, this is us talkin’ — let’s talk. Let’s get it goin.’” Somebody from behind me yelled: “YOU’RE SO FUCKING SEXY!” and we all agreed. It was like Aretha Franklin for millennials. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Afterward I met my friends at Vince Staples, but our spot was far enough away that it occurred to me we were just watching Vince Staples on a Jumbotron and that, actually, our view would’ve been better if we were watching the concert at home on Palladia. At one point, that same Jumbotron cut to a flower-crowned girl sitting on the shoulders of (presumably) her dude, not singing along or even smiling, but taking a series of kissy-faced selfies on her iPhone. Not once did she notice that thousands of people witnessed this.

Next was A$AP Rocky, the headlining rapper of the festival, who phoned it in to such a degree that the first 20 minutes of his set consisted of two hype guys hopping around onstage, chanting “AYY-SAPPP” and asking the sea of screaming audience members if we were “ready” for him to come on. Note: Nobody ever said no.

When it started to get dark, I took a capusuleful of stuff that Ana had assured me was pure. In the white and relative warmth of the rave tent, I started touching Mara’s face and wound my fingers all around her curls. It is wonderful to remember when I asked to kiss her, and more wonderful to think of when she said yes, the little purple points of light circling us even when Todd Terje’s DJ board turned off after his seamless set.

“I’m so glad we all came here together,” I remember Mara saying, but the Instagram video Jane posted of this moment makes it all seem silly and embarrassing.

Hannah let me smoke another cigarette when we stood at the edge of the crowd for Chet Faker — always perfect for the comedown, ask anyone — and I mostly thought about how it’s so stupid that his name is Chet Faker, since no one cares about Chet Baker anymore. And then I thought of how awful and pretentious I am. 

On the walk home, I texted myself notes about the day. At the entrance to the campground, a small older woman working the festival kept saying to everyone, “Go get your rest, okay?” This felt significant, so I texted a note on it and it sent itself back to me, like an ethereal command: “Get your rest.”


Saturday, May 28

I started to hear my name everywhere we went. I saw people who looked just like other people. Mara, on our long morning walk to the venue, said, “Do you ever think about how beautiful this place would be if there weren’t, like, a huge amphitheater in it?”

This was the day I was determined to get drunk on something other than the $15 pina coladas they sell in the venue, so I double Ziploc-bagged six shots of tequila and stuffed the makeshift pouch into my underwear. By the time we walked in, about a third had leaked out, leaving the scent of cheap hard alcohol on my skin. 

This was also the day I had my first major interviews: the legendary Ishmael Butler, of ’90s hip-hop collective Digable Planets, and Seattle surf rock export La Luz

Even with an early 3:30 pm set time, a substantial crowd had gathered to bask in La Luz’s surf-noir shadow. The audience recalled Weirdo Shrine, the band’s second album: big-sunglasses-wearing women blew bubbles and shook their hips, and long-haired dudes swung their heads around and around. In an alt-rock world where watered-down surf sweetness like that of The Growlers gets most of the attention, La Luz, a crew of wildly talented women, is the real deal. Frontwoman Shana Cleveland’s guitar playing is full, dark and committed, while the light overlay of vocal harmonies gives away ’60s influences like The Shirelles.

When I ask Shana if people ever refer to La Luz as a “girl band,” she says “yes” and looks like she's been asked this before. “If they don’t say ‘girl band,’ the say something like ‘the all-female La Luz.’ It’s one thing to associate us with ’60s girl groups, because that’s part of our lineage. But being a ‘girl band’ isn’t a real descriptor. We’re just a band.”

I promised to keep our interview short, as we both wanted to catch garage-rock superhero Ty Segall, who actually produced Weirdo Shrine (in case La Luz’s sudden spike in fuzz pedal usage on the album didn’t already give that away). 

During his set with star-studded band The Muggers, Ty donned his signature flesh-colored baby mask, adding a long red umbilical cord to swing around during the rabid guitar solos of “Baby Big Man (I Want A Mommy).” Ty’s better-known bandmates were also in disguise, sort of: bassist Mikal Cronin did well enough to stand in the back wearing dark sunglasses and guitar royalty King Tuff was decked out in an orange prison-style jumpsuit and matching shutter shades. 

“IF I EVER RETIRE,” Ty squealed behind lingering guitar noise between songs, “I’M GONNA GO SWIMMING! I SAW MY DOCTOR, AND HE SAID I SHOULD EAT MORE VEGETABLES AND DRINK A LITTLE LESS, AND I THINK I’M GONNA!” Sensical, nonsensical, paranoid rambling, on and on and on.

In the middle of the most frightening mosh pit I’ve ever been a part of, two guys who said they’d been best friends since sixth grade asked if I could take their picture. It turned out great, and when I showed it to them they almost cried. “I’m rolling so hard,” one of them said. I couldn’t help thinking that molly seemed like the wrong sort of drug for this show — but then, I couldn’t really think of the right one. Ty’s set was like the repeated sound of glass being shattered, and we writhed and wrestled and loved every sweaty second.

When the time came for me to interview Ish of Digable Planets, we met up at the Toyota Music Den, a place that offered a fake rock-climbing photobooth and something called “skin marbling” in exchange for joining Toyota’s promotional emailing list. Ish asked to do the interview in his dressing room, but when I tried to follow him, a security guard told me I “didn’t have the right wristband” and he and I lost track of each other. (The day we drove home, I answered my phone, hungover, to an unfamiliar number, only to find out it was Ish, and we had an hour-long conversation, but there too much to say about that.)

If missing my in-person interview chance was disappointing, though, Digable Planets’ set was anything but. As put by Paul de Barros, the Seattle Times pop music coordinator I’d met in a corner of the media area that day: “They made all the other rappers at this festival look like children.” In contrast with the hardened bravado of most contemporary rap stage presences, Digable Planets were open, gracious and generous performers, expressing genuine joy on top of their de facto mastery of the genre. The crowd stuck around for the whole set, amazed.

That night also contained the biggest disappointment and biggest surprise of the weekend. Folk crooner favorite M. Ward attempted an all-electric set with no success at all, and by the time the show ended, even the eager front-row fans had left to find anything better to listen to. And they didn’t have much trouble, since oddball rockabilly outfit Shannon and the Clams was at the stage next door, winning over dozens of passers-by with a dirty doo-wop groove that went far beyond vintage charm.

What I remember most about M83’s set is sitting in the center of the amphitheater hill, our group’s perennial meeting spot, watching the sun finally spill down over the layers of red and the widening river curve of the Gorge, while I struggled to funnel my remaining tequila into the lemonade I’d bought (which cost about $15 anyway). A tall, olive-skinned guy next to us offered to help me; as I watched him rip open the corner of the bag with his teeth, I realized I recognized him from one of my classes. “Happy ‘Squatch!” I said — my weekend-long version of “mahalo.” It’s funny to think that for so much of the time, the bands might as well not have been there.

This cannot be said, though, of Major Lazer, who I’m tolerant of at best and fully annoyed by at worst. Mara and Jane, who’d taken another of the pills from yesterday, were happily obeying Diplo’s choreography commands down in the pit (“EVERYBODY RUN TO THE RIGHT! RUN TO THE LEFT! HANDS IN THE AIR!”) — while I, drunk but not drunk enough, fell asleep up on the hill with my head between my knees. 

There’s a little concrete tunnel, covered in graffiti and brightly lit, that you have to pass through to get from the venue back to the campground. “Here we go,” Hannah said as we walked back that night, “through the Tunnel of Sobriety.” 

“What?” Lola asked.

“The Tunnel of Sobriety! You walk in fucked up, and on the other end you’re all sober again.”

“I don’t know if that’s how it works,” said Lola.


Sunday, May 29

The first thing I did in the morning was wash my hair in the water spigot by the port-a-potties and ask Lola if we could do some cocaine. But the lines we did off a Frisbee in the magnified sun of her tent actually made me feel sleepy, so I sat in someone else’s folding chair and tried to read the Flannery O’Connor collection I’d brought.

Tim, the Canadian guy whose campsite was next to ours but who we’d found wrapped up in our blankets under our canopy that morning, asked if I wanted to buy any of his coke — “straight off the boat from, like, Colombia,” he said, shirtless now.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “I think I have a bad reaction to it. Lola told me it’s because I have ADD, but I didn’t know I had ADD.”

May said we could use her Wet ‘n’ Wild glitter again, so we smeared it all over, around our eyes, in the creases of our collarbones. We all smelled horrible, and then we took off.

This was the day the wind got so unbearably strong that the main stage was “closed,” resulting in several reschedulings and even some cancellations: everybody’s favorite high-school throwback Frightened Rabbit never got to play, and neither did Saint Motel or Houndmouth (neither of which was I heartbroken about). Leon Bridges, also edged out of his main stage slot by the wind, decided to set up shop on the hill for an impromptu acoustic set, where a small crowd gathered but soon dissipated upon realizing it was totally impossible to hear him over the gusts.

The way Mara describes the rest of the afternoon is that “it’s good we took mushrooms all day, because if not, we would’ve probably just been bored.” We ate the caps with avocados and salt between two soggy pieces of bread. I remember the bitter, unbearable taste exactly. I remember exactly how the tips of the trees looked, swaying a panicked dance in the hostile wind.

We wandered around as aimlessly as though we were just having a day in the park. The way I remember it, there were no bands playing at all, though I’m sure there were and we just weren’t interested. In our meandering, I overheard a kid remark to his friends: “We’re at a music festival right now and there’s nothing to do.”

Things slowed enough for me to notice the wide array of couples: one in the front row of an empty stage, dancing to the house music and touching each other’s faces psychedelically; an older one walking back early to their premium camping, the man saying, “I love you so much”; one in the middle of a hushed conversation, the woman saying, “We’re just going through a rough patch. Right?”

Jane was trying to meet up with the guy she’d met the other night. She’d approached him at Todd Terje and started petting his chest like he was a dog. I thought of my Teddy. I was glad he wasn’t here.

The first show we intentionally attended that day was the post-punk black magic of Savages, which proved too much for us in our state (though I wish now that we would’ve stuck around), so we took shelter in the big white tent where Olympia, Washington’s Briana Marela cast ambient electronic spells and alluring blue lights. We lay down on our backs and practiced breathing.

Then, at long, long last, it was time for our man: king of “slacker rock” and self-proclaimed inventor of “jizz jazz” Mac Demarco. True, now that Mac has accrued a fan base of mostly eighth graders and a more sad-boy attitude, he can never really be cool again — or at least not as cool as the cross-dressing, sound-bending weirdness of his highly underrated debut album Rock and Roll Nightclub

This new, wholesome Mac still puts on a hell of a show, though, and his bandmates still stage-dove, and everyone still lit ceremonial cigarettes during “Ode to Viceroy.” If you haven’t seen Mac live, you’ve got to; a good litmus test is that he shredded a cover of “Reelin’ in the Years” so hard that, since then, I’ve been listening to that song sincerely while lifting weights. Gesturing toward a sunset amazing enough that it could really only happen at the Gorge, Mac said, “The sun always sets on Steely Dan,” and the crowd wheeled around to take a look, all smiles.

For me, the festival could’ve ended right there, but as we each came down from our respective mélange of highs, we met up at Alabama Shakes, and we were shaken. Having harbored the false impression that Alabama Shakes was too mainstream to really be soulful, I was especially floored. 

Frontwoman Brittany Howard is a howler, a woman, a true force of nature — and she gave, and she gave, and she gave. “I appreciate y’all,” Howard drawled just before the last song, “and I ain’t never take it for granted that y’all come out to see us. We won’t never take that for granted.” The amphitheater roared.

Even radio hits like “Hold On” shined and shook as though we were all hearing them for the first time. “Bless my heart/ bless my soul/ didn’t think I’d make it/ to twenty-two years old,” Howard sang, and we knew what she meant, and we were all together, and we thrashed around under the big bright moon. There are pictures of this.

At one point, I reached down for my water and my hand instead found a singular, abandoned plastic rose. 

“Did you see that?” I said. “I just found a rose!” Nobody heard me.

The only thing wrong with that magical show is that I guess it tuckered everyone out so much that hardly anyone stuck around for The Cure. This is especially curious because, on top of being one of the fest’s most anticipated headliners, the only acts with competing time slots were rave guy Baauer and tepidly successful Big Boi-Phantogram collaboration Big Grams

Still, as Bailey and I settled in amongst the fortysomethings and Robert Smith started in on “In Between Days,” we knew something perfect was happening. “Yesterday, I got so old / I felt like I could die.” He sounded just the same as he’s always sounded: happy and heartbroken, grungy and sweet. Everything all at once. By the time we left, the hill was empty, the imprints of people left as expansive flat spots in the grass.


Monday, May 30

Andrea and her friends left early in the morning, following their usual breakfast of eggs from the camp stove along with a few thick spliffs. I watched their wheels grind up the gravel exit road feeling jealous. My back was sore, and when I blew my nose, black clumps of dirt came out. Why couldn’t we all leave? 

Instead of giving up completely, I decided to stay sober: a sort of departure in itself, at least from the paradigm we’d set. (I’m not counting the Adderall I took to prepare for my interviews, which I should, because who knows what else was in it).

As a result, perhaps the first fully coherent conversation I had with anyone all weekend was with Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, better known by his stage name Oddisee.

A rapper from Washington, D.C. who seemed to contain no end of articulate commentary on hip hop’s relation to race, literature and history, I asked Amir his thoughts on the way contemporary rap treats subjects like race and violence. “Unless new emotions are being created,” he said, “we’ve been writing the same songs since the beginning of time — but for the audience of the day. If you listen to popular songs from the turn of the century, you can find plenty of songs about people’s plight from racism, strife — you can find songs about Jezebels, harlots, and juke joints.”

You can imagine, based on this, how beautiful Amir’s rapping is, how wonderful his set was, how intelligent this man is in general. And you imagine correctly.

Next was Aaron Livingston, a.k.a. Son Little, whose criminally early 2:25 pm set time could not have afforded him the hearty audience he deserved. But those who did show up swayed smiling to his stripped-down but capable take on the classic soul sound.

The son of a preacher, Livingston is soft-spoken but talkative, comfortable and lovely. Having worked with such greats as Mavis Staples, he explains the increased white interest in historically black genres (as evidenced by all these soul and hip-hop acts on the Sasquatch lineup) like this: “Music's always been bent that way ... people are nostalgic.” He says one of the most powerful experiences of his life was "getting to hold Mavis' hand in the studio while she sang. Just being with her."

The Internet, a group often referred to as “soul” but heavily influenced by the Los Angeles beat production scene, verified something else Livingston said about the way marketing departments use genres like “soul” and “R&B”: that there are no real filters for these terms anymore. Where Son Little’s “thing” was carried off perfectly well with standard rock band instrumentation, The Internet’s wouldn’t have made sense without two keyboard players layering the sound up with percussive synth tracks and effects. 

The Internet certainly shouldn’t be faulted for this, though. Their set, scantly attended for it being on the main stage, was by far the festival’s best dance party. This is partially because every Internet song is a groove that builds, sort of like funk combined with Tame Impala, and also because frontwoman Syd tha Kyd can really, really sing. We’re all lucky she broke away from raucous rap collective Odd Future to do her own thing; she’s got the kind of rasp and thinness that instantly disarms and, on top of that, she’s quite an underappreciated representation of queer women of color in popular music (outside of explicitly queer-identified genres like queercore and riot grrrl).

I’m not sure where my friends went at this point, but they left, and I was fine with that. I have a theory that you can never know what a festival’s really like — what any place is really like — until your phone dies and you lose your friends and you wander all alone. 

There are few places better to end up when walking around alone than a Tim Heidecker show. The best part of this was the band — yeah, the band. Tim, of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! fame, has been producing music that everyone’s confused about: should we take it seriously or not? The lyrics, centered mostly on urine and Nicholas Cage, would send one message, but the deftness of the band sends another. Maybe the funniest part of this project is that the musicianship is very sincere. Confused onlookers left in droves, while others held up signs that said “rats off to ya” (a real inside joke among Adult Swim fans) and others, like me, were just along for the ride.

I stuck around the comedy tent to watch Todd Barry, another favorite funny guy of mine. If the best thing about Tim Heidecker is that he’s a totally loose cannon, Todd Barry’s winning trait is that he’s a really normal guy. A group of people in the front, who obviously loved him, kept giving him shit about how he isn’t “that famous,” to which he said, “Well, there’s a fence between me and you, so I must be pretty famous.”

Monday was a great day: I ran into friends in the mosh pit at Titus Andronicus, who never disappoint; I sat in awe of the spectacle that is Grimes; I discovered female alt newcomers like Wet and Ibeyi.

But here’s how it is: There is everything I’ve ever witnessed in my life, and then there is Sufjan Stevens, who I witnessed that night.

It sometimes feels embarrassing to identify as a Sufjan fan, though I haven’t quite figured out why that is. Not only has he played more than 20 instruments on his albums, each at a professional level, but he’s written everything from classical symphonies to comic books to pop songs and string quartets. Everything Sufjan makes is conceptual, whether an album of folk songs exploring personal history and a sense of location in specific U.S. states (i.e. Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State) or his most recent album of meditations on the death of his mother (Carrie & Lowell). Just because Sufjan isn’t self-promotional the way most people of his creative fortitude are doesn’t make him less of an artist. In fact, it makes him more.

After an unsurprising home-run show from Kurt Vile and the Violators, the rest of my mushrooms kicked in late, and God, do I hate tripping at night. Where did these people all come from? What are they on? Do they know what I’m on? What am we all doing here? Why the fuck is Florence and the Machine closing this entire festival? 

From the suffocating crowd gathered bizarrely for Florence, Mara walked me over to a nice empty field bathed in fluorescent lights, signs like “GIANT PIZZA SLICES” and “YAKISOBA NOODLES” lining the perimeter. “I feel stuck in ugly thoughts,” I said. “It’s hard to describe.” She rubbed my back and said she’d stay up with me all night if she had to. I fell asleep right there, my head pressed into her lap, in seconds.

She woke me up when everything was over, and I remembered something I read somewhere — that even the worst trips always end well. You always learn something, even if you don’t know what.

As we started up the long and dusty, winding path to camp, I saw some things I hadn’t seen before: all the people at the edges of the stages smoking cigarettes, shooting the shit with their friends, laughing like you do when you're not thinking of anything but how good you feel. A banner hanging huge and commercial above us, reading: “THANK YOU FOR BEING PART OF SASQUATCH! 2016.” 

Further on, I saw that there were so many stars, the stadium lights turning off one by one behind us. When we crossed the creek you have to cross, I heard frogs croaking the way they do at night. I even heard crickets. And for a second, it felt like the middle of nowhere.

Photos by Brinkley Capriola

June 30, 2016 04:15 PM

Beall Hall is a great place to hear chamber music and especially to hear very small ensembles: The room is so lively and sensitive it's like sitting inside a giant musical instrument. The air rings like a bell with the slightest touch from the musicians, and last night's string trio made the most of it.

The short opening Haydn trio had great thoughtfulness and just the right amount of whimsy. The musicians gave each section of each movement its own distinct voice, like a series of characters jumping onstage, each with his or her own costume and personality. Violinist Ida Kavafian played with great command, without sacrificing buoyancy and fun.

In the D-major Beethoven, the trio showed audacious rhythmic skill, giving listeners that pleasingly headlong feeling of almost but not quite stretching it too far. This was especially true in the Andante quasi allegretto, where the the musicians maintained a confident pulse while shifting speed within a phrase or even a single bar.

The effect was a little like the fun of being on a thrill ride at the County fair: you know you're safe, so you can just sit back and enjoy the wonderfully delirious momentum.

Somehow, Beethoven can make a violin, a cello and a viola sound like a whole orchestra. The trio's fortissimos in this piece didn't sound like three strings hitting a chord together, but rather like the big, oceanic swells of one of the composer’s symphonies.

The six-movement Mozart Divertimento that made up the second half of the concert gave many opportunities to hear each instrument shine on its own, as delicious Mozart melodies bounced from one to another.  What a treat to hear Peter Wiley, cellist of the Guarneri String Quartet, here in Eugene. He played with a mesmerising, silky tone and hypnotic composure.  And violist Steven Tenenbom--especially in the Allegro--seized the audience’s attention with his playing, completely free while completely assured, delightfully filling the hall with music.

Accenting the Divertimento, a less-enthralled patron in front of us decided to contribute to the performance by taking out her glowing smartphone, and plainly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, rearranging her personal contacts, and sending a few emails, as the music played. (A thought: Would Mozart have written anything if there'd been Snapchat or Vine in the 1700's? Would we have his oeuvre of miraculous work if he’d had access to an endless supply of distracting baby panda videos? Discuss.)

After finishing with her mid-concert online foray, the audience member pulled out her checkbook, and during the softest, most achingly beautiful part of the andante, made a big show of writing a check -- even accounting for it in her checkbook ledger.

I know they wouldn't accept it, but... let’s hope it was a tip for the musicians.

June 29, 2016 11:48 AM

The Lane County Board of Commissioners’ June 28 discussion of giving themselves the authority to block some local ballot measures has EW floored. Did it get forgotten by four of the five commissioners that Oregon citizens have a right to the initiative process that is protected in the state Constitution?

The RG broke the story this morning, and according to the daily, "Under the unusual proposal, the commissioners would gain the authority to preemptively block any countywide ballot measure that they deem not to be 'of county concern,' before it goes to voters or the courts," and the "board voted 4-1 to have county staff start drafting an ordinance on the issue."

The RG quotes Commish Jay Bozievich as saying, "he would like the county’s proposed ordinance to apply to measures that haven’t yet qualified for the ballot — which would include the Community Rights measures. That could be considered a retroactive change to local election law."

It's not clear in the language what is "county concern" and if county concerns might ally more strongly with corportate interests, such as the timber industry, over community groups concerned with pesticide sprays or GMOS.

Commish Faye Stewart Stewart "said he doesn’t understand the purpose of championing local measures that won’t survive a legal challenge."

The county must have a crystal ball, as it seeks to prevent ballot measures the commission thinks won't stand a legal challenge … before they actually go through the legal system. 

The RG reports that Pete Sorenson was the lone dissenting voice on having staff draft language for an ordinance. 

Sorenson tells EW while no actual vote was taken, the "dominant flavor" was to move ahead with an ordinance. He says were the commission to move ahead he has two questions he would like answered. First, "Is there a problem?" He says he doesn't think Lane County has had a lot of problematic local measures. 

Second, Sorenson says there is already a system in place for dealing with ballot measures that are passed by citizen votes but might have portions of them that are unlawful or beyond the scope, and that process throws out nonlegal portions of measures. He calls the proposed ordinance a "solution in search of a problem."

The ordinance could "suppress rights people currently enjoy," he says, and to change rules on a process that is already under way, such as the Community Rights initiative is "frowned upon."

Sorenson says if the proposed ordinance goes forward there would be a public meeting.

You can watch a video of the meeting here.

Here is the proposed languge, which you can find on the commission agenda under:


A. Announcements

B. DISCUSSION/ Potential Changes to Lane County Initiative and Referendum Process. (Stephen Dingle, County Counsel) 

The language reads:

Whereas, initiative and referendum powers are reserved to the people of the State of Oregon, and are further reserved to the legal voters of home rule counties regarding matters of county concern, by the Oregon Constitution;

Whereas, ORS 250.155 recognizes the reserved right of home rule counties to establish the procedures for exercising county initiative and referendum powers;

Whereas, a charter amendment or ordinance that is not a matter of county concern will be declared invalid after passage upon challenge;

Whereas, Lane County believes that conducting elections for and funding expensive litigation to defend initiative measures that will be declared invalid after passage wastes valuable and limited resources of Lane County taxpayers.

June 24, 2016 04:33 PM

Bach's masterful B-minor Mass was much beloved and often programmed by Bach Festival co-founder and longtime Artistic Director Helmuth Rilling. So, when Artistic Director Matthew Halls opened the Festival with the piece last night, he was both brave and wise to give an extraordinarily different, non-Rilling performance in 'historically informed' style. Halls led the Berwick Chorus, OBF Baroque Orchestra, and soloists, in offering us a B-minor Mass that was bound to challenge the OBF audience, but rewarded listeners with exquisite musicianship and a deep meditation on Bach's musical genius.

For a listener used to hearing modern orchestras playing modern instruments, it takes a good long time--maybe the better part of an hour--for the ear to adjust to period instruments and style. During this acclimatization, the effect can be frustrating, even aggravating, like someone kissing you gently when you want them to kiss you...less gently, or like eating a lovely meal that, you think, would be really delicious if only you could put some more salt on it. Once your attention adapts, though, the experience dramatically shifts. That gentle kiss is full of tender nuance and sensation. The food reveals marvellous flavors you just didn't notice at first.

To heighten the challenge, while last night's quiet instruments may have been of period 18th-century style, the Silva Hall is decidedly not. Bach's music would have been performed in lively, even echoing spaces, where one note could hang in the air and blend into the next one. The Silva, on the other hand, is famously sound-absorbent. What to do? Halls responded to the acoustic challenge with a tour de force of precision and clarity, giving the evening the virtuosic intimacy of a chamber music concert. For those willing to make the aural adjustment, Halls' direction offered breathtaking feats of texture and color, and gave artful structure to each chorus, aria and duet with the most subtle dynamic shaping.

Through a kind of creative alchemy, Halls pours the sounds of the OBF Baroque Orchestra and the Berwick Chorus into one another in a way that modern instrumentation cannot allow.

For singers, 'historically informed' performance means trading broad vibrato for a purer tone, which allows Bach's harmonies to ring with celestial perfection seemingly right inside your brain. Baritone Morgan Smith was particularly fine in the Quoniam tu solus sanctus, accompanied adroitly by Andrew Clark on corno da caccia (an ancestor of the modern French Horn.) Also noteworthy were the otherworldly trio between tenor, cello and flute in the Benedictus and the delightful, confection-like violin/soprano duet in the Laudamus te. The Berwick Chorus displayed astonishing dynamic control throughout the Mass. At the burial of Christ, for example, the singers sustained a pianissimo so delicate and pure you weren't sure whether you were hearing it or just feeling it like a gentle breath of air.

The B-minor Mass is a perfect fit for this year's Festival theme, "Take the Journey." It creates a musical universe encompassing intricate fugues and dreamlike melodies, heavens-bursting trumpet blasts and delicate duets and trios. The journey has a meditative end, not a showy one: The final aria, a haunting Agnus Dei (sung beautifully last night by countertenor Christopher Ainslie) fades into the gentle swelling and transcendent peace of the closing Dona Nobis. We are left to contemplate the message Bach has left us at end of a very long, visionary life of searching deeply into beauty, and into God.

Music nerds would have appreciated being able to follow a listing of all twenty-seven choruses and arias in the program rather than just the eight sections of the mass. Also, the program lists the obbligati and continuo instrumentalists by name, while the rest of the orchestra is credited as "OBF Baroque Orchestra." The members of the Berwick Chorus are listed by name later in the program, but this reviewer could not locate a similar list of the Baroque Orchestra musicians. Having dedicated their lives to the perfection of their art, and having played like a veritable band of angels in the Silva Hall last night, they deserve to be clearly credited.

June 22, 2016 05:38 PM

A former Lane County resident was treated to drug dealing Eugene-style this week. We're not going to give her name — in case her wannabe drug hook up reads this blog — but "C" moved the Lubbock, Texas a couple years ago and retained her 541 area code number. 

We're going to guess the man who wants to be her "homie" was off by a digit late the other night when he texted C. 

The exchange started with a 2 am text: "Malcolm?" and C, sleepy and on Ambien thought it was in response to her quest to buy a horse trailer that has led to texts from unknown numbers wrote back.

"Interested buyer in Lubbock," she typed into her phone.

The response? "This is Aaron. I have much loot to throw at you."

Still, addled with insomnia, C said she would text back in the morning.

She woke up, realized what had happened and posted the exchange on Facebook, noting, "Pretty sure I accidentally told a Eugene drug dealer I was an interested buyer last night."

Rather than follow up on the exchange, she left it there. But Aaron was not to be deterred — after all he does have "unlimited everything" and wifi. 

"How you doin big homie?"

C is still horse trailer shopping and probably a little more careful about telling folks she's an "interested buyer." 


June 22, 2016 11:01 AM

Someobody lost a piglet and Oregon State Police, responding to a report that it was a dog running along I-5, say, "There were no identifying collars, tags, or information on the pig to assist in notifying the owner" of the piglet.  That's right, a pig with no ID. 

Here's to hoping the little piggie goes, "Wah wah wah all the way home."

On June 21, 2016 at approximately 10:15 pm, OSP received the report of a dog running southbound in the northbound median of Interstate near MP 191 south of Eugene (between Franklin and Glenwood).

Troopers arrived in the area and discovered the animal reported was not a dog but a piglet. The female piglet is approximately 30 to 40 pounds in size and white with black spots. It is estimated she is approximately 3 to 5 weeks old. There were no identifying collars, tags, or information on the pig to assist in notifying the owner. The pig was taken into custody and transported to the 1st Avenue Animal Shelter in Eugene.

The owner is asked to call the OSP Springfield Area Command at 541-726-2536 or the 1st Ave Shelter (Greenhill Humane Society) at 541-844-1606.

June 18, 2016 07:54 AM

GARNERDANCES premiered Strings! An Evening of Dance, at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, June 17.

            The evening’s length work featured dancers Shannon Mockli, Laura Katzmann, Mariah Melson, Suzanne Haag, Antonio Anacan, and Cory Betts, with choreography, costumes and lighting design by Brad Garner.

            The first standout to mention is the space itself: This was our first time seeing OCT adapted for dance, and it works, and works beautifully.

            The simple black Marley dance floor visually stretches the stage, hurling dancers practically into the front row of the audience. The exquisite, thoughtful lighting plot allows for moments of genuine intimacy, and total exuberance.

            Eugene has needed a venue to see dance that is this shape and size. It’s perfect for contemporary pieces, dance and performance art, that could be drowned out, or lost in a cavernous concert hall.

            And there’s something exciting about seeing work that’s nestled into an audience on three sides, instead of the dreary proscenium. For some reason, it feels more awake and alive, like the audience is almost a participant.

            To OCT, a challenge: More, more, more dance, please. And to Garner: Bravo for choosing this space. Great spot to premier your work.

            The evening’s work played with strings, starting with a strong ensemble set to Vivaldi, entitled “Flora”. Bold, florid, the piece interweaves traveling patterns and relational patterns, a delightful confection. (The post-performance Q&A confirmed this dance history buff’s running thoughts while watching the lush work, which borrows heavily from titans of 20th century dance.)

            But who cares? It works. Playing with signature riffs and static shapes, the piece is a vibrant, fresh hook: Inviting the viewer into the experience.

            Mariah Melson dances a keening solo in “Shrine”, and Mockli and Garner share a duet in “Sanctum” that is simultaneously powerful and vulnerable.

            Garner uses the space smartly, allowing for entrances and exits not only from the upstage wings, but also from the theater’s two voms. Costume changes accompany every piece, and at times, he has the dancers themselves provide the light source.

            Suzanne Haag, Antonio Anacan, and Cory Betts explore weight and rhythm in “Pendulum”.

            Garner incorporates animation by Eric Toucheleaume in “Anatomy of a Tropical Home”, playing with the resonance between and among the architectural shaping that dancers create, and the riveting process of building structures.

            Dynamically, Garner’s work is approachable and easy to watch. He has a confident hand, but clearly allows for dancers to exude their own swag, their own mastery and to make their own contributions. As a viewer, that’s exciting. That is what makes dance live.

            “Torch (for Orlando)” was a crowd favorite, an ensemble piece about the simple connections made in moments of flirtation.

            As an ensemble, the GARNERDANCE Company melds well. Though they may have differing professional backgrounds, the “ballet” dancers and “modern” dancers in Garner’s company mesh and balance each other.



June 16, 2016 02:18 PM

Last week, former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber made a lengthy post on his Facebook page, criticizing Gov. Kate Brown's neutral stance on Initiative Petition 28, which proposes taxing corporations with annual Oregon sales of more than $25 million to fund schools and senior and health services. 

"With all due respect," writes Kitzhaber, who resigned last year as governor in the midst of an ethics scandal involving his fiancee, "I find it hard to understand how any public official or candidate for statewide office could be neutral on a measure that would bring about the most sweeping change in Oregon's tax system since Ballot Measure 5 passed in 1990."

Measure 5 capped property taxes in Oregon and shifted school funding from the local level to the state level, helping to bring about Oregon's current school funding crisis.

IP 28 has qualified as a ballot measure, and voters will decide its outcome in the November election. Businesses are rallying to oppose the measure, while teachers' unions and other backers of IP 28 argue that the tax is the only way to ensure that corporations in Oregon and paying their "fair share." According to Oregon's Quality Education Commission, Oregon is underfunding its schools by about $1 billion a year. 

In his social media post, Kitzhaber acknowledges Oregon's "disinvestment in education," but he alleges that "the measure was written by pollsters rather than economists, and is the product of ballot title shopping."

He continues:

It is not my purpose today to analyze the measure but simply to point out that there is still time, although not much, for our elected leadership to convene labor and business and work out a compromise measure that has a broader tax base, is less regressive and will avoid the kind of divisive campaign for which we are now setting the stage. I urge the governor to do so. Ballot Measures 66 and 67 tore our state apart in the depths of the Great Recession and did not solve the problem of chronic underfunding in our system of public education. We are heading for something much worse in terms of the bitterness and polarization that a multi-million dollar IP 28 campaign will generate.

The collateral damage from the campaign itself will mean that — whether the measure passes or fails — Oregon will lose in terms of its ability to come together and effectively address the challenges that will confront our state in 2017 and beyond. Many of the provisions in the governor's plan to spend the IP 28 revenue seem to be focused on mitigating the many unintended consequences of the measure itself. Pulling that off in a deeply divided and polarized legislature is problematic at best. 

Kitzhaber concludes his post by saying that just because the measure has made the ballot does not mean Oregonians need to "resign ourselves," ending with another push toward compromise and asking for strong leadership and courage.

So far, no such compromise has emerged.

June 14, 2016 12:22 PM

Mark Baker, longtime reporter, "Living Here" columnist and member of the Baker family, appears to have parted ways with The Register-Guard.

The daily paper is owned and primarily run by the Baker family, and Mark Baker is is the youngest grandchild of Alton F. Baker Sr., The Register-Guard's publisher from 1927 to 1961, according to an RG newstory about Baker's hiring as East Region reporter in 2002.

Several sources notified EW of Baker's departure but not the details of the split. As of June 14, Baker's name no longer appears listed on the RG's online masthead and his "Living Here" column is no longer on the online dropdown news menu where it previously appeared. 

EW has reached out to Mark Baker for comment, as well as to Wendy Baker, the RG's director of Human Resources, but has not received a reply from Mark Baker. When asked if she could confirm whether Mark is employed or affiliated with the paper, Wendy Baker responded, "No, thank you."

Mark Baker has made no statements on the issue an his Facebook or Twitter accounts as of the posting of this blog. Baker's "Living Here" columns appeared frequently on the paper's front page. His Facebook profile still lists him as a senior writer at the RG.

June 12, 2016 02:27 PM


[Above: John O'Malley of The Wayward Lamb (front row, second from left) with staff and supporters.]

Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American man, shot and killed 49 people at a nightclub  in Orlando in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12; many more were injured. The shooter was also killed, bringing the toll to 50. It is the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The nightclub was PULSE Orlando, a dedicated queer space and venue in Orlando.

June is national PRIDE month in the U.S.

John O'Malley, marketing manager for The Wayward Lamb — a queer space and bar in downtown Eugene, spoke about the Orlando tragedy outside the Lamb early Sunday afternoon. O'Malley attended college in Orlando and had been a patron of the club, even hosting his graduation celebration there. See video below.

There will also be a candlelight vigil for the victims of the mass murder at 8 pm tonight in Kesey Square, at the crossroads of Willamette and Broadway.

"Our freedoms began in dedicated queer spaces," O'Malley told a small crowd gathered at the Lamb, pointing out that the LGBTQIA community is no stranger to violent attacks, recalling Stonewall, The Upstairs Lounge fire in New Orleans, the Backstreet Cafe shooting and many more.

"Our deepest condolences to all the individuals affected by this unspeakable tragedy," O'Malley continued. "To the owners and staff of Pulse Orlando, and especialy the LGBTQIA community of Orange County, Florida, and the impact this will have on all of them moving forward."

He added: "Stay strong and stay proud. The Wayward Lamb family and the LGBTQIA community of Lane County stand in solidarity."

When KEZI asked O'Malley about the security of the LGBTQIA community locally he responded:

"It affects all of us. It happened in Orlando; it could happen anywhere."  He explained that Eugene has a welcoming community, but so does Orlando.

"The unfortunate part about it is it can happen anywhere at anytime."

Watch  video below:

[Editor's note: This blog post has been changed to reflect the updated count of victims.]

June 9, 2016 05:31 PM

If you're a fan of tea — scratch that — if you like tasty liquids, get yourself over to J-Tea's new Oolong Bar on 19th Avenue just south of the University of Oregon campus. It opened on May 20, and owner Josh Chamberlain says it's been thriving ever since. 

"Our first shop was meant to lead the industry and be a place where tea education and workshops take place," Chamberlain says, referring to J-Tea's Friendly Street location. "Here, we just want to make you an awesome cup of tea. It's more user-friendly and more of what I've experienced customers want."

J-Tea's first location on Friendly Street offers an educational tea-making experience, while this new location makes room for innovation and new tastes.

Even an entrenched coffee lover couldn't resist the choices on the Oolong Bar's menu. For hot days, the long list of iced teas promise thirst-quenching goodness. 

"Lemon Honey Green" ($5) is a favorite for cooling down, Chamberlain says, with Green Spring tea, lemon and honey. The "Starry Night" ($3) includes hibiscus, clove, lemongrass, orange peel, stevia, licorice and lavender in a caffeine-free herbal blend.

For caffeine addicts, Oolong Bar has you covered. Try "Iced Earl Grey Latte," with Earl Grey tea and organic milk over ice. 

Then there're the bubble drinks. I sampled a concoction of house-made peach compote and tapioca pearls with black tea, served in a mason jar. The first drink tasted like biting into a juicy peach — one sip provides a mouthful of sweet compote, punchy tea and chewy tapioca pearls.

The food menu is small, with only one item. But it's a pretty good item. Called Æbleskiver, the little round balls of dough are pancakes in disguise. Dutch in origin, they are especially tasty with housemade fruit compote drizzled over the top. Chamberlain says Oolong Bar's food menu will soon expand as they experiment with different offerings.

For cool days, hot drinks are available, including a Matcha latte and the eclectic-sounding "Fruity Pebbles" latte, with mango honeybush tea and steamed organic milk.

Chamberlain and manager Benjamin Wilkinson say they're excited about this new tea venture and hope people will drop by to check out the newest member of Eugene's growing tea culture. Chamberlain says with tea, it's all about blending flavors.

"I learned from the beer world that there's no point in blending two things unless the first thing and the second thing together create an even better thing," Chamberlain says.

And from this food writer's view, Chamberlain has created a pretty delicious thing.

Visit the Oolong Bar at 1607 E. 19th Avenue in Eugene. Learn more at jteainternational.com.

June 9, 2016 04:22 PM

[Above: The former home of Cascade Presbyterian Church on Willamette in South Eugene.]

There’s no question that the crisis of the unhoused, the homeless, people on the street, "travelers" — however we want to designate those in need — has reached a critical mass moment in Eugene and Lane County.

Of this group, kids and teens are the most vulnerable.

St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) wants to begin tackling this pervasive issue. The nonprofit human services org has a four-month option to buy the property at 3350 Willamette Street, the former home to the Cascade Presbyterian Church, which has moved its congregation to meet on Sunday mornings at Hi-Fi Music Hall. SVdP would use the property as residential facility for homeless youth.

“We just learned about the availability last week,” Paul Neville tells EW. “We’re going to take that four months and we’re going to try to secure funding.”

The four-month option means that St. Vinnies, exclusively, has four months to raise the money to buy the property.

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Neville says. “This would be a facility that would serve homeless youth that are still in high school.”

Nevile says the target demographic is homeless youth ages 16 to 18, a population he says is very vulnerable.

The idea stems from St. Vincent’s Job program for youth, the brainchild of SVdP’s executive director Terry McDonald. Nevile says there are 40 kids currently in the program. The program employs teens in SVdP and works together with the kids’ schools.

“We provide them with some income,” Neville says. “We provide a steady presence in their lives.”

He adds: “We have a foundational base in this that helped inspire the idea for an actual residential facility.”

The facility would house anywhere from 12 to 20 teens at a time. Neville says they will continue to work closely with local schools, as well as the city of Eugene, Springfield and the county.

Neville says human trafficking, and the sex trade up and down I-5, of Lane County youth is a very real problem.

“If you can take these kids at an extremely vulnerable age and provide them with intense case management you can save them from something like that,” he says.

Neville brings up the street kids who hang out up and down Broadway downtown, especially at the corner of Broadway and Olive.

“There’s been a lot of concern for years about kids hanging down at the mall,” he says, referring to the downtown strip’s old nickname.Not much has been done to address the underlying cause.”

SVdP hopes this facility will be a beginning in addressing the root causes of local youth homelessness.

Neville says the next four months will be a “mad scramble” to raise the money, but they’re optimistic. Securing funds is only piece of the puzzle, however. Neville says during the next four months SVdP is looking to develop partnerships, design a program, design a residential facility in a former church and work with neighbors.

“We’ve got the experience and the contacts to pull this off,” he says. “I think there’s going to be strong community support for something like this.”