April 25, 2010 - 3:13 PM
There's been a debate growing on campus around the "phasing out" of Professor Ken DeBevoise's contract as a political science professor at the University of Oregon. DeBevoise has been at the UO since 1996, and before that got his Ph.D in history from the UO. However, DeBevoise is a non-tenured professor nor is he on tenure track. With recent shifting leadership within the Political Science Department and allegedly behind-the-scenes disagreements with the Department, Ken DeBevoise's position is being "phased out" after the next year. I have been keeping tabs on the debate in the Oregon Daily Emerald and other publications (like The Oregonian), but reluctant to engage with the debate. I am writing my thesis on improving dialogue in University classes, and from all accounts from friends that have taken the class, Ken's class has some of the strongest discussions on campus. For the longest time I resisted meeting with Ken or observing his class because I didn't want to do it for the wrong reasons (i.e. wrapped up in the politics rather than the dialogue). However, an Oregonian article this last week touched on some themes that are absolutely inseparable from my thesis, so I emailed Ken on Monday morning about setting up a meeting.
With his busy class schedule this term (he's teaching two classes) and the outside stresses of possibly losing his job and the media constantly after him, I half expected to not hear back from him. Then I received an email early Monday afternoon from Ken recommending that I come sit in on a class. It was then that I knew this guy must be something special. I expressed my gratitude, and let him know that I'd come into his Israel/Palestine conflict class Tuesday afternoon.
I made my way over to McKenzie Hall on the afternoon of class, and settled down at a side table outside the discussion circle. Ken came into the room a couple minutes before class clad in a Marlboro jacket, blue jeans, and Converse. He immediately sought me out to ask my name, inquired about my project, and offered to set up a meeting with students from the class to ask their opinions on class discussion. For a man with a reputation of being somewhat of a stickler with extremely high expectations, I felt extremely welcome in the class.
Ken ran the class as normal, giving a short quiz on the day's readings (he assigns 15-20 books each 10 week term). He doesn't assign exams or papers, just quizzes to hold students accountable. After the quiz, he began the discussion with various questions students wrote on the board. He challenged the questions like a lawyer, picking out assumptions and opinions and made students support and refute the language-a good exercise in teaching argumentation.
The class was lively, engaged, and extremely passionate about the readings. There were several occasions when the class devolved into a bull session with the entire class shouting over each other because the debate got so heated. Ken would smile and then slowly restore order by recounting the differing viewpoints on the table. The class ended at 5:20, but the majority of the class remained until 5:50 when another class was anxiously waiting to takeover the room. It clearly spoke to individual's passion for the material and the class.
In conclusion, I took away a couple important lessons from the class. First, this was some of the best dialogue I've seen at the UO. Ken weaved in important lessons in argumentation into the debate while promoting an environment where differing opinions were debated in an fair environment backed by well informed understanding of the issues. Finally, I learned that Ken DeBevoise needs to stay at the University of Oregon. His commitment to undergraduate teaching is remarkable. There's clearly a reason ten students in the class wore "Save Ken" shirts, and the two hours I got to spend with them quickly made me feel part of a strong friendship and intellectual circle. Students from the class invited me to happy hour, and we proceeded to discuss my thesis and Afghanistan's future over Ninkasi microbrews at Rennie's. The Keep Ken Coalition, made up of students, alumni, and professionals, continues to fight for the University and the Political Science Department to keep Ken DeBevoise. The Political Science Department seems unwilling to budge, but the University administration appears to be sympathetic (students brought Senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Russ Tomlin to tears with their testimony). I've been critical of the University's priorities before, and this situation is again reaffirming my displeasure with the UO's commitment to academics. However, it looks like there may be a shimmer of hope as long as Ken's teaching at the UO. Hopefully it's for a long while.
For more info on the issue, check out the following site: http://keepkencoalition.org/default.aspx
April 20, 2010 - 9:20 AM
It's been marked on my calender for months now: Yeasayer, Portland's Wonder Ballroom, April 19th. Oregon is blessed with incredible concert lineups in the spring/summer, and this was just the latest but definitely most anticipated (in the last two weeks I've seen Yonder Mountain String Band, Mayer Hawthorne/Passion Pit, and now Yeasayer). Yeasayer's sound, if you can possibly capture it with words, mixes David Bowie with poppy percussion and psychedelic synthesizers. They released their second album in February, Odd Blood, and it's incredible.
The concert was at The Wonder Ballroom on Portland's east side, so my girlfriend Melissa and I made the drive up Monday afternoon to meet up with my roommate Jeff who had spent the weekend in Portland. We arrived in the Rose City with monster appetites, and Jeff chauffeured us to grab some grub before the show. He didn't tell us where we were headed, but we sailed through downtown, crossed the river, and continued north. After a U-turn, we spotted the dinner location: Fire On The Mountain.
For those of you not familiar, Fire On The Mountain has the best chicken wings in Portland. They've got a bevy of sauces to choose from, and a variety of chicken wings and sandwiches. I decided on the Buffalo Chicken sandwich (I went with the Extra Hot rather than the scorching El Jeffe) complimented by a Tangerine microbrew from Lost Coast Brewery, and Melissa went with the Sweet BBQ Chicken sandwich.
The sandwich was incredible. The chicken breast was perfect, their ciabatta was fluffy, and the mound of fries served with it (skins on) were to die for. The Tangerine Beer, which I had never tried before, was really refreshing and a nice complement to the spicy sandwich. I strongly recommend Fire On the Mountain to anyone that loves them some good hot wings.
We waddled to the car, questioning our ability to dance at the concert, and made our way to the Wonder Ballroom. We climbed the steps into the lobby and checked out the venue. The ballroom is a long, narrow room with a wood floor, urban abstract murals line the walls, and to the rear of the ballroom there's a balcony with a bar.
After a short wait, the concert began. The opening act, Sleigh Bells, got the crowd in a dancing mood with their hip-hop infused indie pop set. Then, at long last, Yeasayer took the stage. Their singers came out in jumpsuits, one plain black and the other a red, blue, yellow, and green speckled number-quite awesome. They played a phenomenal set, their up-tempo percussion accentuated by their color changing set and podiums. The band even said that we were the best stop on the tour thus far; it wasn't a stretch, the crowd was really into the music, singing along, dancing like crazy, and crowd surfing. Check out the video to get an idea (the audio doesn't do the experience justice, but it does give you an idea):
If you notice at the 2:33 mark, my friend Dave crowd surfs and gets pulled onto stage. It was really funny watching him not know what to do, and his dance is awesome. It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to, and it was cool to step outside of Eugene for a night to experience the Portland scene. Adding to my musical recommendations, do your self a favor and check out Yeasayer. You can download one of their singles, "O.N.E.," for free of their website: http://yeasayer.net/, and I strongly recommend both of their albums: All Hour Cymbals and Odd Blood.
April 18, 2010 - 5:44 PM
The Ducks' search for a head basketball coach will continue after Mike Anderson of Missouri becomes the latest in a long line of coaches that have turned down the job. The search has been going on for nearly two months now, and there is definitely a growing urgency to fill Ernie Kent's vacancy with the April 30th deadline looming large for season ticket holders to reserve their seats in the new Matthew Knight Arena. As frustrating as the speculation and rejection of myriad coaches coming to Eugene has been, it's really allowed me to gain new perspective on college basketball coaches' loyalty and the likely future of Ducks basketball.
Mike Anderson's explanation for why he's staying at Missouri speaks to his character: "it's certainly flattering anytime another university notices what your program is accomplishing and when I was approached by Oregon, I decided to listen, but it was simply with my family in mind. All that quick conversation did was reaffirm that Missouri is home to us." Just change the "_____ is home to us," and this has been a consistent response to the Ducks from many names like Mark Few, Tubby Smith, Jamie Dixon, Tom Izzo, Mark Turgeon, Steve Alford, and Brad Stevens. Sure the Ducks' inability to fill the vacancy is frustrating, and as a fan I would love any of these coaches to hold an Oregon clipboard. However, this only raises my esteem for college basketball because these coaches show some really strong character. They are not like John Calipari that jump to the highest bidder and recruit one-and-done guys; they are dedicated to their universities and their communities even though they are declining Nike, a new arena, and a higher paycheck. In turn, they instill strong values in their players with commitment to family, community, and their universities. I find that very admirable.
So what does this say about the Ducks? First of all, I think these coaches are foolish for not wanting to move to Eugene. I can't think of a better quality of life than Eugene offers, and we have the best facilities in the country and very loyal boosters. On the other hand, I like that many coaches have snubbed the Ducks. Pat Kilkenny and Phil Knight (perhaps the most prominent Ducks boosters and heads of the coaching search) had this grand delusion of luring a high-profile coach to open the brand new Matt Knight Arena and take the team to the next level, but they've discovered that that is not going to happen. I'm glad that we're not going to get a John Calipari that is motivated by money. We're going to end up with a good, up-and-coming coach that is also affordable. The coach we'll most likely land will make the move because it makes career sense to move to a bigger program with potential, and the new arena and Nike will just be added bonuses. This is the way it should be: although coaches are a commodity, in a sense, they should be teachers and mentors to their players, not corporate sellouts that win by sleazy recruiting and morals.
In conclusion, I'm glad we haven't landed a big name coach by offering a higher salary and Nike perks. Hopefully it will put a chip on our players' and fans' shoulders, and we'll be better for it both on and off the floor. Whoever we land, a new face in a new arena should be enough to change the product on the floor. And if we can't land a coach like Randy Bennett of Saint Mary's or Eric Reveno of Portland, then maybe it's time we put those Nike dollars to use and take out a full page ad in Sports Illustrated.
April 17, 2010 - 12:24 PM
Biking home from the McMenamins on 19th and Agate yesterday, I thought to myself: "dang, I'm gonna miss this next year." I had just finished happy hour, which has become a staple of my Friday afternoons, with some friends (Trafton, a fellow blogger, being one of them). I've realized over the last couple months that I've become pretty attached to Eugene in my three years here, and it's going to be difficult to leave it in a couple months. Thus, to wallow in my self-pity, I'm going to break down the top ten things I'll miss about Eugene (outside the obvious such as friends). In this post, I present to you in no particular order numbers ten through six:
10. Microbrews: Eugene and Oregon in general are home to some amazing breweries. Eugene boasts both Ninkasi and Oakshire, and they both make some incredible beer. I strongly recommend any IPA by Ninkasi, and Oakshire simply doesn't make a bad beer.. Outside Eugene, Rogue, Deschutes, Widmer, Full Sail, Bridgeport, and Henry Weinhard (just to name a few) call Oregon home. Oregon has definitely instilled in me a love of good beer, and I've been spoiled by all the great local brews (though my wallet may appreciate a break).
9. McDonald Theatre/WOW Hall: These two concert venues have treated me very well. I've been to some of the best shows I've ever seen at these intimate venues, and their proximity to campus and my house are very appealing. McDonald is a very versatile theatre with great acoustics and removable seats, so it's great for sit-down movies or comedy shows (of which I've attended both) and rowdy concerts as well (I've attended my fair share). WOW Hall is a really intimate venue, holding only about 500, and two of the best concerts I've ever seen, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and The Felice Brothers, were at the WOW.
8. Biking: Eugene's numerous bike trails, bike lanes, and (for the most part) conscientious drivers make Eugene extremely bike friendly. From what I gather, Tulsa is not, so I'll definitely miss that next year.
7. Sam Bond's Bingo: Located in the Whitaker, Sam Bond's Garage is a well kept secret. It doesn't attract too much of the college scene, and there's always an eclectic mix of young locals, older neighborhood folk, anarchists, graduate students, and even a pirate. There's a cast of characters every week, and we've come to recognize some of the regulars. For example, there's Elliot from Booze Weekly Magazine (yes, he's the Editor In Chief) that must drink whatever is in his hand when N45 is called. Beyond the people, it's hard to beat their buck-fifty PBR in bottles. We head over for Bingo Night every Monday hosted by local radio DJs Tom and Scott. They are funny guys, and, as they say, "the more you drink, the more fun bingo is." It's a foolproof formula, and we've gotten successful at it. As if the company, booze, and entertainment isn't enough, my roommates and I have accumulated some pretty valuable loot ranging from romance novels to a Rodney Dangerfield board game. It'll be a challenge to find a better bar.
6. Ducks football: Autzen Stadium has become synonymous with fall for me. The only other sporting event that I've witnessed that rivals Autzen was Game 7 of the 2001 World Series when the Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees. It simply goes beyond words, and it'll hurt me so badly to watch Duck games on TV longing to be there.
So those are numbers ten through six. I'll be back next week with the final five things I'll miss about Eugene.
April 11, 2010 - 8:58 PM
My roommate Jamie came home on Tuesday announcing, "So apparently Passion Pit is looking for a house to host an after party after the show on Saturday. Do you guys think you'd be interested in hosting?"
Obviously, we responded with a resounding "no."
In reality, all of the roommates had been looking forward to the Passion Pit concert for a couple weeks now because the concert fell on Jamie's 21st birthday, and Passion Pit is one of Jamie's favorite bands. The rest of us are fans as well, but Jamie loves these guys. Thus, when we found out that the drummer wanted to do a post-concert DJ set, we quickly stepped up and offered our house (see previous post on Man Cave). Jamie talked to his connection with the band to set things up, and we squared it away for the drummer to play. It would only happen under one condition though: we all had to wear Hawaiian shirts. It was Jamie's wish that we look like a group of Parrot Heads, and we complied. Thus, a group of about 15 of us descended upon McDonald Theatre looking like we had just shoplifted a Tommy Bahama and/or just gotten off of casual Friday from our IT job.
In case you haven't heard of Passion Pit, they are an electronic, psychedelic dance rock band from Boston. Their first feature length album came out last year, Manners, and they have gotten fairly rave reviews. The band was supposed to play a free show on campus in the fall, but they had to cancel when their lead singer got sick. However, they were back in Eugene last night, and put on a phenomenal concert at the sold-out McDonald Theatre.
However, more excitingly for me, Mayer Hawthorne opened for Passion Pit. When I first heard Mayer Hawthorne, I pictured him as a late 30s black man crooning out soulful love tunes, clinging to his nostalgia for Motown's heyday. Then I saw his album cover: he's a nerdy looking white boy in his mid-20s from Ann Arbor. Nonetheless, Hawthorne and his band's first album released last year, A Strange Arrangement, is a fantastic blend of soul and R&B from the slow, suave title track "A Strange Arrangement" through the extremely danceable "The Ills."
Neither band disappointed.
Mayer Hawthorne and his band were as tight as their matching grey suits, accented by red ties, guitar, keyboard, drums, and Nike Air Force Ones on Hawthorne's feet. They played through their new album and really brought the crowd to life with an absolutely spot on rendition of Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky" (even complete with talk box) and a sing-along rendition of Biz Markie's "Just a Friend." Hawthorne showed that his musical tastes and abilities extend both far and wide. He was definitely the best act of the night.
Finally, Passion Pit put on a great set, playing their album in its entirety. They had really great lights for their set that really enhanced the giant dance party. We danced until our Hawaiian shirts were soaked through with sweat, and my roommate Jeff, girlfriend Melissa, and I opted to make our way to the back for the encore to catch our breaths. Nonetheless, they were pretty solid live, and it was a great time.
As if we hadn't gotten our fill of music and dancing, we quickly hoofed it back home before the party showed up. We did our final party-proofing, and got the dance floor ready. Nate, the drummer from Passion Pit, came in with his laptop and DJ equipment and went on to do a two hour set. People packed the basement, and we danced like crazy until the wee hours of the morning.
So, yeah, we had a nice cleanup job to do this morning. Yeah, we are all pretty exhausted today. So what though? We had Passion Pit play our house! It's definitely worth it to be able to have those memories and be the envy of all of our friends.