Jefferson Monthly

Features and columns published in the Jefferson Monthly.

“Do you know if this is lacto-fermented?” a woman asks me, sniffing the sauerkraut at the salad bar of the Ashland Food Co-op. “It smells like it.”

It’s eight a.m. and Betsy Hicks and her husband, John Hicks, M.D., a pediatrician in private practice in Los Gatos, California, are stopping in Ashland on their way to Portland to visit family.

Imagine the milk is running low—or, if you live in a home similar to mine, one of your kids drank the last of it and put the empty container back in the refrigerator as a decoy—but rather than reaching for that near-empty (or completely empty) container the next morning, your refrigerator already updated a grocery list on your phone the day before and your phone instructed you to stop at the grocery store on the way home and purchase more milk. Or, even better, your phone alerted a grocery delivery service like AmazonFresh and the milk was automatically delivered to your doorstep.

U.S. War Dogs Association

Next month we celebrate Veteran’s Day. We honor those men and women who have served the United States and remember their sacrifice and service. So much has been written about famous veterans like Jimmy Stewart, Kurt Vonnegut, Presidents Kennedy and GHW Bush but few realize that many thousands of “man’s best friend” are also war heroes.

When I first saw the image, it was like a sucker punch to the gut. It knocked the wind out of me.

I could almost hear my heart break, and I sat at my desk in front of my computer and wept.

I’m sure you know the image I’m talking about. It was all over the Internet the first week of September, that picture of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a refugee from the hell that’s broken loose in his home of Kobani, Syria, drowned on a Turkish beach.

In 2014, it became the Southern Oregon Music Festival. Before that it was the Medford Jazz Festival. When it began in 1989 it was called the Medford Jazz Jubilee. They had eight bands perform that year, and the community exploded in a celebration that has continued for 27 years. Like the Redwood Coast Jazz Festivals in Eureka, CA, the Southern Oregon Music Festival has evolved from the traditional, Dixieland jazz that was the foundation of the first fests, to include all forms of jazz, swing, blues, zydeco, R&B, rockabilly and funk.

Jenny Graham | Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The final two plays of this OSF season explore gritty corners of contemporary American life.  In The Happiest Song Plays Last (Thomas Theatre) Quiara Alegria Hudes mines her own biography to counterpose the separate journeys of Yaz and her cousin Elliot out of and back to their Puerto Rican neighborhood in north Philadelphia. In Sweat (Bowmer Theatre) Lynn Nottage mirrors the depressed city of Reading, Pennsylvania, where she spent several years interviewing its struggling people.  

Making Radiowaves

Oct 1, 2015

This past summer has been an active time here at JPR as we’ve been addressing both long and short term issues that impact our service to the region.  I thought I’d take a moment to update you on some of those recent developments.

Jackson County News And Information Service Gets FM Frequency

After about a year of concentrated effort to acquire and construct an FM translator for our News and Information Service in Jackson County, we were finally successful and able to begin service on 102.3FM in mid-September.  

Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

When exactly does Jeff Whitty’s musical, Head over Heels, start? When the Fool’s song threatens violence to those who neglect to turn off cell phones? When the actors trickle down the aisles, chatting up the audience? When the Fool introduces each character and riffs on genre?  

I’m writing this on the day of the first debates between candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination. When I walked into our studio this morning one of our staff members was commenting with surprise that the debates weren’t accessible online without a Fox News Channel subscriber password. I must confess, before today I haven’t paid a great deal of attention to how the debates were being made available to the public.

Considering Country

Sep 1, 2015
David McClister

There are two kinds of music:

Good music, and the other kind

– Duke Ellington

Recently, a listener asked: “What’s with all the country music all of a sudden on the Rhythm & News Service?” Is there? In many ways, it’s a difficult question to answer, but it’s a fascinating topic that deserves some attention.

For the most part, we go about our daily lives unaware that we are information storage devices. We store all sorts of information in our brains. Some of this information is quite useful, but most of it could probably be deemed trivial in the big picture. But no matter what specific information we individually store in our brains, each and every one of us carry inside us the key information for creating life.

Courtesy of U.S. Navy

Maybe you learned about it in high school, saw it in newspapers or maybe you have a subscription to The New Yorker. Or maybe all this earthquake talk is new to you.

Why Build A Hospital In A Tsunami Zone?

Sep 1, 2015

This story is part of Unprepared: Will We Be Ready For The Megaquake? a series Oregon Public Broadcasting is doing on how well the Northwest is prepared for the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that scientists say will hit along the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the Pacific Coast.


Gold Beach City Administrator Jodi Fritts was angry — or, as she put it in an email to state officials: “Incredible Hulk ANGRY.”

Jenny Graham | Oregon Shakespeare Festival

As the title suggests, Antony and Cleopatra sets the efficient militarism of Rome against the impulsive hedonism of Egypt.  Making war collides with making love, laws and logic undercut spontaneity and intuition—this ancient world according to Shakespeare comes to rich life between such poles.  In the excellent OSF production of the play onstage in the Elizabethan, director Bill Rauch’s timeless approach to the history and his alertness to ambient comedy highlight a further, more subtle tension: the discrepancy between fact and image, between the ragged truth of human embodiment and the idealizations of heroic myth.

Learning By Rail

Aug 1, 2015
Impact Publications

Our train was rolling through the green hills of West Virginia. I was sipping tea in a wood-paneled dining car. A polite waiter in a pressed vest offered cream and sugar. I heard the hushed conversation of retired couples, families on summer vacation, business commuters. The spoons clanked on cups and the train rocked on its tracks. Then a gasp.

“Look!” a woman jumped to her feet and pointed out the window.

“Well, my, my!” cried another.

In the fall of 2014, NPR announced plans to restructure its newsroom with the goal of de-emphasizing the isolated work of single beat reporters. Instead, NPR envisioned a more interdisciplinary approach to covering important national and international issues with reporters capable of exploring those issues from numerous vantage points. For instance, NPR reduced the number of dedicated environmental beat reporters and made it the job of every reporter, regardless of their beat, to explore and report on environmental issues as part of their work.

It hit me recently: I’ve lived in Southern Oregon and worked in the news business for 30 years this summer. THIRTY YEARS. And I suppose it feels like a bigger milestone than, say 25 years, because... well, because I’m a baby boomer, and anything over 30 was once considered old. So here’s a chance to glance back at three whole decades in the “State of Jefferson”: much has changed, and much has not.

Self-driving Cars

Aug 1, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

They say self-driving cars are coming. I say they’re here. I rented a car last week that didn’t leave very much of the driving to me.

My own car is 20 years old, so the changes I experienced this week have probably been emerging slowly. I’ve been technologically asleep when it comes to automobiles, but sometimes Rip Van Winkle can see things more clearly because nothing helps awareness like a couple of good decades’ sleep.

I spent my first week at JPR in a state of elation: my love for public radio had turned into a full-time job as producer of the Jefferson Exchange.

Settling into the newsroom and surrounded by welcoming colleagues, I logged on to social media to brag, just a little bit, about my rad new gig.

Then a headline appeared, seemingly poised to deflate my delight. It read: Best and Worst Jobs in America for 2015.

What Does the Future Hold for Oregon’s Family-Owned Forests?

Jul 1, 2015
Ben DeJarnette

Cary Renzema interrupts a stroll around his 50-acre forest to point out tiny purple petals peeking out from the forest floor.

“Beautiful little orchids,” Renzema says. “Once you start looking, there are hundreds of those things around here.”

For 13 years Renzema has studied this forest’s quirks and charms, explored its groves of cedar trees and patches of vine maple and wild rose about 25 miles west of Portland. Today, though, those sights are bittersweet. As part of a divorce settlement, he may have to log this second-growth forest, leaving thousands of stumps where trees have stood for three generations.