Jefferson Monthly

Features and columns published in the Jefferson Monthly.


Sep 2, 2014

The word didn’t come up until the last five minutes of a two-hour conversation. Eugene social psychology researcher Paul Slovic isn’t a fan of the “happiness” movement that has taken over many best-seller lists and self-help shelves. 

For more than a half-century, Slovic has focused his research on the underbelly of humanity, from addictive gambling to genocidal dictatorships. More precisely, he has concerned himself with how people respond to the atrocities, hoping to learn better ways to convey vital information to motivate people to act.

T. Charles Erickson

Rituals of initiation unfold in three phases: the first separates the individual from the world she’s taken for granted; the third reintegrates her into a new world as a changed person. Between the two is the liminal phase, in which the individual floats in a kind of dreamland of possibility, suspended between selves and social roles. Both terrifying and transformational, this in-between phase encourages a sort of regression to pre-conscious chaos. Into the Woods, the brilliant musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, plants its action in just such a no-man’s land.

Meeting Vietnam

Sep 2, 2014
Pepper Trail

My memories of Vietnam begin in childhood. Rice paddies, in black and white. Strange skinny faces, unlike any I’d ever seen in my little hometown. Those funny round pointed hats. And, of course, helicopters, fascinating and frightening beasts, the blast from their rotors flattening the tropical grass as they came in for a landing, and then the soldiers, one hand on their helmets, the other carrying their M16s, jumping, running, disappearing into the jungle. It was quite a show, almost every night.

Public radio in the U.S. is an unusual amalgamation of locally owned stations and well known national networks. Together, these stations and networks partner each day to create and broadcast programs that touch the lives of nearly 35 million weekly listeners. Listeners tend to think about public radio as “NPR” but the reality is that NPR is only one piece of the public radio puzzle.

Blind Faith

Jul 31, 2014
Charlotte Duren

Being a talk show producer for public radio, I put a lot of trust, confidence, and sometimes faith—that the guests I am asking to be on the show- will show up and be knowledgeable on the topic we are discussing. And for the most part, they always are.

In an age where text messages, tweets and other social media posts demand short writing, there is new focus on the benefits of getting to the point.   The Washington Post recently reported that The Associated Press (AP) has instructed its correspondents to keep stories between 300 and 500 words, citing the lack of staff at its member outlets available “to trim stories to fit their shrinking news holes” as the primary reason for this policy shift.  And, the website Talking Biz News reported that Reuters recently adopted a policy limiting most stories to no more than 500 wor

Andi Willman

Here is another Nature Note inspired by Rupert, Nature Note’s West Highland white terrier. For those of you who don’t know, Westies, as they are called by those in the know, are a very close relative to the Cairn terrier. For those of you who don’t know Cairn terriers, Toto, the small black dog in the Wizard of Oz was one. Both are Scottish breeds designed by farmers to chase to ground small mammals and dig them out. Their stout short tails are the result of being pulled out of the hole when farmers decided they wanted to move on.

T. Charles Erickson

Shakespeare’s first four history plays reconstruct the political chaos of the English court under the incompetent King Henry VI. The power-hungry House of York wages war on its cousins of the ruling House of Lancaster, but once Henry and his prince have been killed, and the Yorkish Edward wears the crown, he must guard it against his own brothers, Clarence and Richard. Richard III concludes the tetralogy, charting Richard’s ruthless rise to the throne and his final downfall.


It’s a wonderful thing to experience a creative soul at work. To watch a painter’s brush strokes slowly change a blank canvas into multi-layered image, and see that happen over and over again with a different beautiful result each time. To see a sculptor’s hands mold ugly lumps of nondescript clay into delicate pieces of art that are both stunning and useful, or listen to a musical project with a many faceted sound structure.

If underwater crustaceans were superheroes, the mantis shrimp would most certainly be one. Mantis shrimp 

  live in shallow tropical and sub-tropical waters. They are only 6–12 inches in length, but pack a powerful punch. The two raptorial appendages on the front of the mantis shrimp’s body can accelerate with the speed of a bullet fired from a .22 caliber rifle. In less than three-thousandths of a second, the mantis shrimp can strike its prey with 1,500 Newtons of force—roughly the equivalent of getting hit by a 300-pound brick.

A Farm Like No Other

Jul 31, 2014

At the top of a small rise, with views of meadows and mountains peeking through the tall trees, is something you wouldn’t expect to see at an animal rescue or an organic farm. Laid out on a clearing in the woods is a rustic labyrinth, outlined by rough stones placed there by young men from an alternative high school and veterans struggling to overcome the memories of war. In the middle of the labyrinth glisten hundreds of crystals, lying on the ground beneath a massive quartz crystal cluster. 

I always get a chuckle when I hear people say they don’t follow the news because it’s ”filtered.” What they want, they declare, is “unfiltered” news.

Good luck with that.


Jul 1, 2014

Ralph J. Gleason was the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jazz and Rock critic in the 1960s, and I learned a lot from his columns. At the end of his thrice-weekly observations and reviews, he’d run a list 

of upcoming shows in the Bay Area. The bands seemed fascinating; names like Grateful Dead or Country Joe and the Fish signaled something fresh going on. The longest name was Charlie Musselwhite’s South Side Sound System, and I wondered what kind of music the man with the odd name made, and where in San Francisco was the South Side. Daly City?

A difficult thing about becoming a woman “of a certain age” is that, while your driver’s license attests to the fact you are said woman “of a certain age” often your sense of self is still in 4th grade.

In his essay “The Morality of Things,” the late writer Bruce Chatwin asserted, “All civilizations are by their very nature ‘thing-oriented’ and the main problem of their stability has been to devise new equations between the urge to amass things and the urge to be rid of them.”

Chatwin was obsessed with things. Before emerging as a prominent and much-celebrated travel writer with a keen sensibility for place, Chatwin worked as an art dealer at Sotheby’s where he became an expert in Impressionist art.

Jenny Graham

I confess: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town was never my town. The notion of family rooted in the same rural village for generations is light years from my reality as the grandchild of immigrants and a migrant military brat. Similarly, despite Wilder’s innovations in dramatic technique, the human condition as portrayed through Grovers Corners seems abnormally normal.

Jennifer Margulis

When my brother was getting a Master’s degree at U.C. Berkeley in the early 1990s he’d take road trips to Reno, Nevada every once in a while. After all, it was cheaper than Las Vegas, and a quicker drive. Zach would find himself a motel for 20 bucks a night and hit the casinos, playing low stakes Blackjack as an antidote to the pressure cooker of his graduate studies.

That’s long been my image of Reno: a mostly seedy, rather rundown adult playground where prostitution is legal, everybody smokes, and steak is the meat on every menu.

NPR recently announced a restructuring of its newsroom designed to more efficiently utilize resources while expanding editorial hubs that combine the digital and audio work of its reporters, editors, producers and bloggers around specific areas of focus.

Wikimedia Commons

 I think we can all agree that salad forks have not fulfilled their promise. It was a noble experiment, if by that you mean something tried by nobility or those feigning nobility.   

Salads have changed over the years. Now we add all sorts of doodads on top of our lettuce. Those longer tines of the regular fork come in handy when eating a modern salad. You need that extra quarter inch for the craisins and bleu cheese chunks. Salads have even sometimes replaced the main course of a meal. The salad fork did not adapt.

Tinder Is The Night

May 29, 2014


"Someday I’m going to find

somebody and love him and

love him and never let him go.”

‑from Tender Is The Night
by F. Scott Fitzgerald