Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes.
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Happening Person: Paulette Ansari
The Oregon Bus Project (OBP) is fueling up for the 2004 general elections, and planning to motor around Oregon pumping up voters for progressive candidates and issues. The organization targets swing districts and legislative races that are expected to be close.
In 2002, more than 4,000 people took turns riding a 1978 charter bus around the state to mostly rural communities, knocking on 70,000 doors in support of 14 progressive candidates for the House and Senate. Seven of the 14 were elected, some by very close margins.
Now a Eugene chapter has formed, and 20 members of the Eugene OBP held an organizational meeting Dec. 5. Rachel Pilliod of the group says a small bus has been donated by a member of the Eugene group. The bus will be painted and ready to roll in January or February. Anyone interested in the OBP is welcome at the next meeting at 6:30 pm Jan. 9, location to be determined. Contact Pilliod at email@example.com.
The OBP started in 2001 "as the result of motivated youth deliberations over some of the most pressing needs in Oregon and the U.S.: the need for meaningful dialogue between urban and rural parts of the state; the need to connect young people with experienced political leaders; and the need for a grassroots progressive movement," according to the group's website (www.secretplan.org)."In 2004, the Oregon Bus Project will strive again to engage and educate new people, and work our tails off to elect great progressive leaders to the Oregon Legislature."
Over the next few weeks the statewide group is parking the bus and mounting an e-mail campaign to educate voters about Measure 30, the initiative intended to derail the Legislature's three-year income tax surcharge. — Ted Taylor
If you'd gone to Morning Glory Café on Nov. 28, you would have been told that lunch was not for sale.
It was free.
Buy Nothing Day is the Friday after Thanksgiving, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. The Media Foundation, which publishes Adbusters magazine, declared it a national holiday in 1991 to raise awareness of consumerism. The staff at Morning Glory and its sister café, Out of the Fog, have recognized Buy Nothing Day since 1998 by offering their customers free food. This year, the menu included "Squash the State Soup" and "Not Yo' Mama's Apple Crisp." Some of the food was donated by local businesses, and the kitchen staff volunteered.
Todd Richard, a Morning Glory cook known to his friends as "Ratt," took a break from cooking vegan pizzas to watch the drizzling rain. Wearing glasses rimmed in thick black plastic and dreadlocks piled high on his head, Richard described Buy Nothing Day as a spiritual event. "You feel like some kind of ritual happened," says Richard. "Some kind of secret Pagan ritual that alters the fabric of the time-space continuum as we know it. You know what I mean, right?"
In years past, Buy Nothing Day brought so many customers to Morning Glory that the staff nearly ran out of food. This year, only a few dozen people showed up. Richard attributed the low turnout to a lack of advertising. "This year, we didn't want it to be a consumer frenzy," he said. "We're trying to make a statement against rampant consumerism."
Despite the lack of publicity this year, Dennis Soper and Jeanine Malito came by for a free lunch. For them, Buy Nothing Day at Morning Glory is a tradition.
"I don't support capitalism," said Soper, a middle-aged man in a T-shirt that read, "Stop Global Piracy with Global Solidarity." "I have to live in this society; I don't like it."
Malito's T-shirt showed George Bush's face with a strike through it, below the words "Scrub the Shrub in 2004." She says her 15-year-old daughter forbade her from breaking the Buy Nothing Day mandate to buy a turkey that morning. "It's very Catholic," says Malito, laughing. "You can't have it even if you want it."
But Richard has a different take on the meaning of anti-consumerism. "Money takes you out of the moment," he says. "Buy Nothing Day brings people into the moment. It feels good to give stuff away." — Kera Abraham
Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network (ESSN) organizer Sarah Jacobson is moving on in January, to be replaced by Hope Marston. Jacobson says she plans to continue doing organizing in the labor movement, but first will spend six months in Central America working on her Spanish and volunteering with community and labor groups in Guatemala and southern Mexico.
Jacobson spent the past three and a half years working with ESSN on a living wage campaign, tax justice and economic development. She recently outlined the problems with Oregon's tax system at a City Club meeting.
Marston says Jacobson has "set a standard for organizing that all of us in the activist community look to with admiration."
Marston has been working part-time at the UO and volunteering full-time for the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Her stint at ESSN will be full-time and she hopes to continue her Bill of Rights work.
She's looking forward to her new job, she says, because "ESSN forges alliances between community groups, and empowers the ordinary people in those groups to make an extraordinary difference together. I hope to continue that work of mobilizing, so that one day everyone will have enough food to eat, enough wages to put that food on the table, enough self-determination to get a job in which they are respected and paid fairly, and enough compassion to demand the same for every other human being on the planet." — Aria Seligmann
Portland marketing whiz Dan Wieden, who coined the Nike slogan "Just Do It," recently unveiled his choice for a new state slogan: "Oregon. We love dreamers." The slogan will replace the state's former and equally obtuse tourism pitch, "Oregon. Things Look Different Here."
In response to the announcement, sarcastic folks across the political spectrum have suggested alternative slogans. Willamette Week has published several submissions: "Oregon. Brewing better beer for Jesus"; "Come for the protests, stay for the unemployment"; "Where suicide is legal and marijuana is medicine — but don't even think about pumping your own gas!"; "Unlike those bastards in California, we recycle"; and "There's Goldschmidt in them thar hills!" The latter was submitted by Sen. Tony Corcoran.
Conservative talk show host Lars Larson has dozens of alternative slogans on his website (www.larslarson.com)including: "Oregon: As screwed up as California without that bothersome fame and fortune"; "Poverty with a view"; "Will the last business to leave please turn out the lights"; "Where the government gives the people the business"; and "Move here and you'll understand why we have assisted suicide."
Lane County has the slogan "See all of Oregon in Lane County," but does Eugene have a tourism slogan? Cartoonist Jesse Springer's new book Nobody Messes With My Right to Dye! might inspire some ("Lily white Eugene: now bigger and blander than ever") but no official slogan could be found on the city's website. So Eugene Weekly is sponsoring a Eugene Slogan Contest with prizes.
Send your slogans to firstname.lastname@example.org (write "Slogan contest" in the subject line) or mail to 1251 Lincoln St., Eugene 97401. The best slogans will be printed in EW's year-end issue Dec. 31. Top prizes will be Bijou movie tickets and EW/Ems sweatshirts. — TJT
Every year, children at Eastside Alternative Elementary adopt a homeless family and work to raise money to help that family move into a house. This year, Eastside students (with help from parents and family) have worked for not just one family but two, raising money through a beginning-of-school-year garage sale and now with a booth of handmade holiday crafts for Holiday Market, open 10 am-6 pm, Dec. 13-14. Items for sale include jewelry, scarves, Christmas ornaments, bath salts, pet toys and more.
Marsha Collup, teacher and Eastside Elementary Homeless Committee chair says, "It's really important to teach children how to take care of their community. With world issues that seem overwhelming, children can learn that they can have an impact that starts with community and moves further and further out." — Bobbie Willis
Both Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Thursdays this year, so EW will be printed early and distributed on the last two Wednesdays of the year. Deadlines for those issues are as follows: 5 pm Wednesday, Dec. 17 for the Dec. 24 issue, and noon Wednesday, Dec. 24 for the Dec. 31 issue.
The early deadlines apply to both ad reservations and Calendar/Club submissions. Questions? Call 484-0519.
Last week's news brief "EFN Union Update" contained an error regarding former General Manager Seth Cohn's firing. Administrative Manager Alyse Hayes speculated that Cohn's management style may have been the impetus for employee unionization, not for the decision to terminate Cohn as stated in the story. Neither management, union reps nor Cohn himself could discuss the details of termination. An EFN board member was contacted, but did not respond with comments for the story.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Hey, Eugene, where are you, and what're you doing for fun, for work, or just to pass the time? This new, occasional column is part observer and eavesdropper, part day-after gossip, reflecting upon the Eugene scene.
Mr. Hubba Hubba
It all started with two young women and a lie: During a recent night out carousing, Cheri Browne said to her friend Courtney Anglin, "Courtney, tonight we're going to have the best idea we've ever had …"
The idea turned out to be a white lie the two fabricated to get the attention of one hunky "Rory." "We're going to do a calendar," they said. "You would make a great model." But there was no calendar, no modeling opportunity — just a good looking fellow and two women working the vibe.
Quick call to their friend Crystal Walen, local promoter with Realkidz Productions. "We met this cute guy and kind of promised him a modeling gig …"
Walen: "First, I'm like, 'Good luck. Where is there money to make a calendar?' But the more I thought about it, the better an idea it seemed."
So Friday after Thanksgiving, the three women — along with the crew at John Henry's — pulled together The Men of Eugene Booty Pageant, searching out a dozen local he-men for an actual Men of Eugene calendar. (Ironically, original muse Rory opted out.)
In her press release for the event, Walen writes, "[The] men that run our bars and [coffee shops], diners and restaurants are invited to flaunt their goodies and talents." Despite the holiday weekend, the event drew a sizeable crowd and 20 local contestants vying for a calendar spot.
The pageant competition, bacchic debauchery according to all, included three questions (such as, "How do you like your eggs?") and an opportunity for each man to display a talent. No tap dancing or overwrought renditions of Für Elise here: Acts ranged from a bartender breaking a board over his head to a body piercer juggling lemons in the nude ("I didn't drop a single lemon!") to a break-dancing VRC retail manager to — this writer's favorite — a gentleman who could remove his boxers without removing his pants. The audience voted for the top 12 men, and it was Mr. John Henry's (John Henry himself) who walked off in cowboy hat and cummerbund with the most votes.
Twenty-one-year-old contestant David Hansen arrived with friends and family, including his grandmother, in tow. When asked what he learned from his participation, Hansen replied, "Well, I thought it was interesting, but I probably shouldn't have brought my grandma." (Calendars will be available before the new year — contact email@example.com for more info.) — Bobbie Willis
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If you alphabetized the list of supporters and contributors to the Kesey statue fund from Jean Auel to Bryce Zabel, you'd probably recognize your neighbor alongside Neil Goldschmidt; the String Cheese Incident alongside the Stanford English Department. You'd have Barry Lopez alongside Hattie Mae Nixon (who met Kesey at a 4-H campout in 1950) alongside Larry McMurtry alongside Kenny Moore; Wavy Gravy alongside Bill Walton alongside Rolling Stone Editor Jann Wenner alongside Cynthia Wooten and Tom Wolfe.
It's that Kesey synchronicity, plus hard work, plus love. Working from her home office, Cathy Briner, the former deputy director for planning and development for the city of Eugene, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Lanker and the Lane Arts Council, helped raise more than $120,000 — from a former UO wrestler's $2 contribution to Phil Knight's $25,000.
Briner spent hours tracking down celebrities and, in doing so, acquired tidbits that read better than Star Tracks in People Magazine. "It's been really amazing that you can write a letter to someone and they'll turn around and send you a check," said Briner over tea last week. The money is still coming in, and with each check, a story of meeting Kesey or being changed by his words. Briner tears up when she talks about it.
There was the time she received a reply from Paul Newman with a check for $10,000. There was Kesey's fraternity brother, who called from Nevada saying he'd think about contributing. He called again to find out what Lane Arts Council's administrative fee would be. He wanted to donate $1,000, plus that amount, to ensure the thousand would go to the memorial.
There was former UO President Dr. Robert Clark, who had written the letter of recommendation for Kesey to the Stanford Creative Writing Program. He was one of the first contributors. Then, the Monday after the unveiling, he walked into the Lane Arts Council office and wrote another check for $5,000.
Though it was reported in The Register-Guard and on KVAL that Jack Nicholson sent a check, he didn't. Briner sent him a letter, but he never wrote back. Briner wonders if it might have had something to do with Kesey having wanted Gene Hackman to play the role of McMurphy in the movie version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Out of all the letters, e-mails and calls, Briner says there were only two definite no's, both from people condemning Kesey's past drug use. Many others wrote to say they wanted to contribute but couldn't.
Kesey's grandkids helped out by making laminated, brightly tasseled bookmarks with a photo of Kesey in a starry shirt and his quote, "People think love is an emotion. Love is good sense." They sold them at the unveiling and made nearly $200. — Jamie Passaro
In the mid-1970s, while she was studying library science in her home town of Chicago and working at the library, Paulette Ansari saw a performance by noted North Carolina storyteller Jackie Torrance. "I was inspired — I thought, 'I could do that!'" says Ansari, who began telling African folk tales to kids along a bookmobile route. "I found I could hold their attention." With two young children in tow after her graduation, she and her husband, Abbas, fled Chicago's crime and violence in 1981 to follow her cousin Henry Luvert to Eugene. She was the first African-American teacher hired in Springfield when she started at Springfield High in '82. She taught 12 years at Briggs Middle School, and is currently in her seventh year as librarian and teacher at Mt. Vernon Elementary, where she taps her sudents' artistic talents annually to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Ansari has built a reputation as a teller of African and African-American stories — she frequently performs in area schools, community centers and parks. Look for performances at the public libraries in Eugene and Springfield during the month of January. -Paul Neville