Archive for the ‘University of Oregon’ Category

The Devil’s Whore

August 11, 2013

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It’s official now. I am embarrassed to have graduated from the University of Oregon.

The New York Times has an article by Greg Butler entitled Oregon Embraces ‘University of Nike’ Image. Nike, in case you don’t know, is a company that pays people pennies to make sneakers that they then sell for $75 a pair. Who wouldn’t want to embrace being associated with a company like that?

The owner of Nike, Phil Knight, recently paid for the building of something called the Football Performance Center. (I assume this is a fancy term for a training facility.) Bishop tells us:

    The Football Performance Center, which was unveiled publicly this week, is as much country club as football facility, potentially mistaken for a day spa, or an art gallery, or a sports history museum, or a spaceship — and is luxurious enough to make N.F.L. teams jealous. It is, more than anything, a testament to college football’s arms race, to the billions of dollars at stake and to the lengths that universities will go to field elite football programs.

    The performance center was paid for through a donation from Phil Knight, a founder of Nike, an Oregon alumnus and a longtime benefactor of the university. During a tour of the complex Wednesday, university officials declined to give a dollar figure, even a ballpark one, insisting they did not know the total cost of a football center where even the garbage cans were picked with great care to match the overall design. (Early design estimates placed the center’s cost at $68 million, which, based on the tour, seemed conservative.)

This is a scandal already. The University of Oregon is a public university, and as such it must maintain transparency about everything it does. Yet it now has a “Football Performance Center” that sounds like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and no one (except Phil Knight, apparently) knows how much it cost to build or about the details of its construction.

Butler describes the overall layout of the place:

    The center is divided into three buildings, all black and shiny rectangular blocks, connected by a sky bridge. Those buildings — and everything around them — are black and boxy by design. Made of black granite, corrugated metal and fritted glass, the elements are arranged like pieces of a Jenga game to show cohesion between units (they also look like the shell of an impenetrable force). A local newspaper quoted an architect who described it as a “Darth Vaderish Death Star.” The designers took that as a compliment.

So, these people feel flattered by being compared to a genocidal murderer. Interesting.

Butler and some other reporters went on a three-hour tour of this facility. This apparently left Butler feeling giddy, because he wrote this:

    For Oregon football, black is the new black, down to the black toilets in the locker room that were described, perhaps in jest, as stealth. The athletes wanted it to look cool, and architects balanced their needs — down to the custom green PlayStation consoles and pool tables made by the same Portland company that designed two for Michael Jackson — with those of the coaches, who are older and spend most of their waking hours in the center and wanted, more than anything, a diverse selection of after-shave.

    Throughout the tour, Eugene Sandoval, design partner at ZGF Architects, and Randy Stegmeier, principal interior designer at Firm 151, returned often to their favorite buzzwords, which they said guided the design: sleek, bombastic, cutting-edge. They said things like, “the material palate is elevated to a very sophisticated level” and “you will see sequencing of form and function of space.”

Aside from the more opaque rantings of Nietzsche, this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read. I am going to break it down, in the hopes of being able to tease out the various layers of meaning here.

    For Oregon football, black is the new black, down to the black toilets in the locker room that were described, perhaps in jest, as stealth.

So they likened black toilet bowls to stealth bombers. This may or may not have been a joke.

    The athletes wanted it to look cool…

The word “it” apparently refers to the Football Performance Center, although that doesn’t follow from the previous sentence. And how does he know what the athletes wanted?

    …and architects balanced their needs — down to the custom green PlayStation consoles and pool tables made by the same Portland company that designed two for Michael Jackson…

Huh, what? They use PlayStation consoles and pool tables to train football players?

    …with those of the coaches, who are older…

The coaches are older than the players? No kidding?

    …and spend most of their waking hours in the center and wanted, more than anything, a diverse selection of after-shave.

That’s right! Those youngsters can keep their PlayStation consoles and pool tables. We mature men prefer to spend our time perusing a diverse selection of after-shave. No real man – especially an older real man – simply slaps on some Aqua Velva. And I’m sure these coaches want to smell nice if they’re going to spend their days surrounded by younger men.

    Throughout the tour, Eugene Sandoval, design partner at ZGF Architects, and Randy Stegmeier, principal interior designer at Firm 151, returned often to their favorite buzzwords, which they said guided the design: sleek, bombastic, cutting-edge.

Sleek is the opposite of bombastic.

    They said things like, “the material palate is elevated to a very sophisticated level” and “you will see sequencing of form and function of space.”

Now I know why it was that I hated the architecture students when I was in college.

Later on, Butler tells us:

    The coaches have their own locker room, complete with a hydrotherapy pool and steam shower, made from blue stone slate, and, of course, dozens of kinds of after-shave in front of the bathroom mirrors, which feature built-in televisions.

It seems to me that a built-in television defeats the whole purpose of a mirror.

All this is being done to attract top football talent. What happened at Penn State University should be a warning sign of what can happen when a university becomes all about football. (It’s worth noting here that Phil Knight defended Joe Paterno.) The people currently running the University of Oregon are like blind men stumbling towards a cliff.

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Cottage Grove, Oregon

October 18, 2012


During the six and a half years that I lived in Oregon, I always saw this sign along the I-5 whenever I was driving from Eugene to Cottage Grove. I’ve wondered if anyone ever satisfied this man’s tremendous need for fill dirt.

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had to delay my move to Los Angeles for a few days, so I decided to drive to Umpqua National Forest, which I had never been to before. It is a gorgeous wilderness that extends from the Willamette Valley up into the Cascade Mountains. I walked along a hiking trail that went alongside a creek. The forest was extremely dense. There were thick clumps of moss growing all over the tree branches. It was all a bit gloomy, albeit in a beautiful way. I kept thinking this place would make a good setting for an H.P. Lovecraft story.

On my way back home, I decided to swing by the funky little town of Cottage Grove. This place is most famous for the fact that Buster Keaton’s The General was filmed here. (Animal House was also filmed here, although, not surprisingly, nobody feels proud about that.) The town has an annual Buster Keaton Day. It also has a mural of Keaton located on its Main Street.

Keaton is not the only person honored by a mural in Cottage Grove. Another is Opal Whiteley, who is the most famous person to ever come from this town. In the early twentieth century, Whiteley published what she claimed was a diary that she kept as a child growing up in a lumber camp near Cottage Grove. In it, she claims, among other things, that animals could talk to her, and that she sometimes met “little people” in the woods. She also wrote a nature book titled The Fairyland Around Us. The title of this work is meant to be taken literally. It is a curious mixture of scientific facts, poetry, and just plain fruitiness. I’m told that only five copies of the first edition still exist. One of them is at the University of Oregon (which Opal attended for a couple of years, though she didn’t graduate). It is kept in a locked vacuum chamber that is surrounded by armed guards. Although I would like to think that this indicates a firm commitment to preserving Oregon’s literary history, I have, however, a dreadful foreboding that the university will one day sell it in order to pay for more uniforms for the football team. (Okay, I’m kidding about the armed guards. However, I’m not kidding about the uniforms.)


Opal Whiteley prominently featured in a mural honoring Cottage Grove.

I find it a bit ironic that Cottage Grove has chosen to honor Whiteley in this way, considering that Whiteley disdained her Oregon background and upbringing. She devoted a large amount of time and energy to claiming that she was the daughter of a French aristocrat, Henri, Prince of Orléans, and that she had been sent away to be raised in a lumber camp in Oregon. (I guess that this sort of thing happens all the time to the daughters of the French aristocracy.) She spent the last fifty years of her life in a nursing home in London, where the staff referred to her as “the Princess”. She was buried under the name, Françoise Marie de Bourbon-Orléans. One of the reasons for the ongoing fascination with Opal’s life is that it is not clear whether or not she was a fraud. My guess is that she was probably suffering from a mild form of schizophrenia.


Mount David

Located near Main Street is a long narrow hill that Cottage Groveans (I don’t know what else to call them) call Mount David. This is the most striking physical feature of the area, and I assumed they would have made it into a public park. However, I was surprised to learn several years ago that there were plans to build houses on the hill. This struck me as a bad idea, because, among other things, the sides of Mount David are extremely steep and are almost like cliffs in some places. I once climbed this hill, and even though it’s not that tall, it was only with a great deal of effort that I managed to make it to the top. I was sweating profusely when I got there, even though the hill is not especially high. These plans have apparently been abandoned, which may have something to do with the fact that local residents formed a “Friends of Mt. David” society to preserve the hill. (I suspect that the recession may have been another factor.)

Mt.David is interesting in a number of ways. There is a pioneer cemetery at the foot of the hill. There were cougar sightings on the hill last year. And, according to this reputable website, the hill is haunted:

    Said to be a some kind [sic] of spirit that will chase you off of the hill at night time. Around the graveyards there are said to be many apperinces [sic] of the ghostly kind. Beware of the thing that will chase you off the mountain at night time.

When I climbed the hill, I did go back down at sunset, although I am not aware that I was being chased by anyone or anything. Besides, I think I would be more frightened to run into a mountain lion than into a ghost. One thing I did notice as I was walking along the ridge was an almost perfectly circular impression in the ground, about twenty feet across. I have since learned that there used to be an oil well on top of the hill, which perhaps explains that odd formation.


Another fine mural.


Another mural on a similar theme.


There used to be a gun store at this location. This is progress.


If I lived in Cottage Grove, I would definitely go to this place for all my automotive needs.


Public art, or a bench? You decide.


The Bohemia Mining Museum may be closed, but this would-be capitalist is determined to follow that fine old American tradition of trying to get rich quick and failing at it.


This sign is on a building which used to be Cottage Grove’s City Hall, but which now houses a ballet school and some small businesses. I used to see signs like this all over the place when I was growing up. Yes, this actually gave me a twinge of nostalgia for the Cold War. Does that make me a bad person?

John Carlos

November 3, 2011


l. to r., Peter Norman, Tommie Smith, John Carlos.

We live to make history!
– John Carlos

John Carlos came to speak at the University of Oregon. He was one of two athletes – the other being Tommie Smith – who protested against racism in the U.S. at the 1968 Olympics by raising their fists during the playing of the national anthem. Carlos has recently published his autobiography, The John Carlos Story, co-written with Dave Zirin, who also spoke at this event.

Carlos started out by talking about his childhood. He grew up in Harlem. His mother worked as a nurse, his father owned a shoe shop. Carlos was offered a track and field scholarship to East Texas State University. It was there that he first encountered Jim Crow, finding segregated restrooms. “In Texas, my name suddenly became ‘Boy'”, he recalled. He eventually transferred to San Jose State University. The Olympics were coming up. Some people were organizing an Olympic boycott, to protest how the U.S. used the Olympics to create the false impression that Blacks are treated as equal citizens. Carlos was invited to meet with Martin Luther King, Jr., who told him that the boycott would be a great move. When Carlos expressed doubts, King used the metaphor of a lake: if you drop one rock in it, it creates ripples. During their conversation, King mentioned that he was going to Memphis to support a garbageman’s strike there. When Carlos asked him why he was doing that, King replied: “I have to stand for those who can’t stand for themselves.” Carlos recalled that when he looked in King’s eyes, he could see “no fear” in them. Ten days later, King was dead from an assassin’s bullet.

Carlos said that the lesson he learned from this is that one has to “make a total commitment.” At the Olympics, people began backing out of the boycott. It ended up with just him and Tommie Smith raising their fists during their medal ceremony. Peter Norman, the silver medal winner from Australia, wore an OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Righs) button as a sign of solidarity. Carlos said of Norman: “He is my blood brother, because he did the right thing.” Smith and Carlos were told to leave the Olympics early. They were both harshly criticized in the media, and they received death threats. Carlos also said that the Olympic committee put out the false story that their medals were taken away. He said they invented this story to intimidate any future athletes who might get out of line.


John Carlos today.

During the question and answer session, someone asked Carlos how he managed to have so much courage. He said, “I found me. Most people don’t know who they are.” In response to another question, he reminded the audience that 2,000 people were massacred by the Mexican government just before the Olympics. A student brought up the university’s recent plans to defund ethnic studies. “We need to know each other’s histories,” said Carlos. He also talked about the Occupy movement. He said that the movement is giving people courage to stand up for themselves. Another observation he made: “We’re going to have struggles for eternity.”

I Get My Sheepskin

March 12, 2010

After all these years, I’m finally getting a college degree. I am graduating from the University of Oregon with a double major in Art and Digital Arts. I might have gotten a degree a long time ago, if I hadn’t wasted my youth chasing rainbows and making an ass out of myself in general.

The downside to this is that I will lose my job at the University, because it’s classified as a “student job”. I will also lose my medical insurance. It’s not going to be fun to be looking for a job in the middle of a recession. I am working on an online portfolio, which seems to be the way to go in my line of work (graphic design) nowadays.

At the UO, I was what they call a “non-traditional student”, which is a polite way of saying “old fart”. The other students were nice to me, but the age difference made it hard for me to form close friendships. My age was a disadvantage to me in other ways. I just took a letterpress class. It was interesting and fun in a lot of ways, but it was also a lot of work. We only had two weeks to work on our final projects. Many of the students pulled all-nighters and put together beautiful projects. I am simply too old to pull all-nighters. My project looked somewhat feeble compared to my classmates’ work.

All in all, though, college was a good experience, and I am a better person for having gone through it.