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Joy in the Making
How a Northwesterner’s love of calligraphy changed the world


Photos: Longtime Reed College professor Lloyd Reynolds with calligraphy sample

Longtime Reed College professor Lloyd Reynolds, MA ’29

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus, every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. . . . [T]en years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. . . . If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

—Steve Jobs

That quotation from a 2005 address by Apple’s cofounder received renewed attention when this key player in the personal computer revolution died last fall, reminding fans that his 1970s Portland sojourn paved the way for desktop publishing and much else. But how, exactly, did calligraphy come to play such a large role in a small private college in Oregon?

The visionary behind those classes and posters was longtime Reed College professor Lloyd Reynolds, MA ’29, whose successor, Robert Palladino, taught Jobs and hundreds of other Reed students, along with the thousands that Reynolds (1902–78) himself taught between 1929 and his retirement four decades later. “He was critical in the introduction of calligraphy to the Pacific Northwest and to the West Coast,” says his former student, Reed College special collections librarian Gay Walker.

Jobs wasn’t the only one to achieve fame beyond the esoteric world of calligraphy. Poets Gary Snyder, William Stafford, and Carolyn Kizer, composer Lou Harrison, type designer Sumner Stone, printmaker Margot Voorhies Thompson, and many other artists were deeply influenced by Reynolds and his philosophy. A recent retrospective exhibition at Reed’s Cooley Memorial Art Gallery revealed the breadth of the Oregon artist and scholar’s influence and the beauty of his art.

Reynolds’s philosophy began to take shape during his years at the UO in the 1920s. He had moved to Oregon from Minnesota with his family as a child in 1914, and even then he loved to draw, especially letters. After graduating from Portland’s Franklin High School in 1920, he earned a degree in botany and forestry from Oregon State; then, after teaching high school in Roseburg and doing some unsatisfying advertising lettering, Reynolds obtained a master’s degree in English literature from the UO. His philosophy of art and learning sprang from the writers he studied at the University. “William Blake, John Ruskin, and William Morris had become my mentors,” Reynolds wrote. “All three hated commercialism and industrialism and valued art, literature, and book-making.”

“Reynolds revered and absorbed the ideas of William Morris [who] propounded the ‘craftsman ideal,’ the belief that natural beauty, simplicity, and utility should infuse everyday life and everyday objects, and goods should be made by artisans rather than by machines,” Cooley Gallery curator and director Stephanie Snyder wrote in the exhibition catalog.

Reynolds believed that art and art- making were for everyone, not just elites. That democratic attitude fit in at Portland’s Reed College, which even then had earned a reputation for left-leaning thinking and rigorous curricula. Reed hired Reynolds to teach English and creative writing in 1929. Still, his childhood attraction to lettering wouldn’t subside. In 1934, he found a book on the history of writing and lettering. “It was like a bolt of lightning. Here was the insight I had been seeking,” he recalled later. “The only logical approach is the historical one. Learn to cut reed and quill pens and write your way through the history of the alphabet!”

Impressed by his early efforts, the English department asked Reynolds to make calligraphed bulletin board announcements. Students who encountered his strikingly elegant script asked for informal instruction, and by 1948, Reynolds was running a new workshop course in calligraphy.

His studio classes included lectures on the history of letters, design, philosophy, literature, page layout, and other contextual material. In addition, using brown, red, or black felt-tip markers, he would demonstrate each alphabet, writing on butcher paper mounted on easels, and the students would practice imitating him, over and over, learning by example. Eventually, the self-taught Reynolds would teach book design, typography, and printmaking as well, and not just at Reed, but also at Marylhurst College (now University), at the city’s art museum, and in workshops for teachers around the country.

“By the late fifties and sixties, the full impact of Reynolds’s teaching was apparent on campus,” wrote Walker, who helped curate the Cooley exhibition, in the catalog. “His classes were oversubscribed and fully attended—the art history course commonly had standing room only. . . . Everywhere were attractive hand-lettered posters, banners, and broadsides. The campus was abuzz with this beautifying functional art.”

Calligraphy was not the only way Reynolds left his mark. The Cooley Gallery exhibit demonstrated the artist’s superior printmaking skills and wood and zinc engraving, all of which he applied to book illustrations and taught in graphic arts workshops. He also designed bookplates, including one used at Reed’s Hauser Memorial Library for almost half a century, and cofounded Reed’s Champoeg Press.

Just as Reynolds retained the love of English lit he’d learned at the UO, he maintained the love of nature cultivated in his forestry studies at OSU, so Reedies in those days could sometimes spot “weathergrams”—brief texts about seasonal subjects Reynolds inscribed on the backs of used brown paper grocery sacks and hung on tree branches during the stretch between solstice and equinox. “We let a bough or branch be our publisher,” one read.

Reynolds’s reverence for nature and progressive political views stretched back for decades. Some of his late 1930s and early 1940s prints opposed American involvement in Europe’s wars. One of the darkest images in the Cooley exhibit depicts a fierce figure gazing haughtily down at the viewer. His 1954 print The Accuser was made around the same time he was ordered to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in Portland, based on accusations that he, like many American artists and intellectuals of the time, had once been a member of the Young Communist League. Reynolds refused to answer the committee’s questions, resulting in suspension from teaching his summer course. To keep his job, he reluctantly agreed to explain his political affiliations to Reed’s president and some trustees. (Another Reed professor and close friend was fired after refusing to do so.)

The incident didn’t diminish the high regard Reynolds earned in his distinguished academic career. Governor Tom McCall ’36 appointed him Oregon’s Calligrapher Laureate in 1972. Several of the award certificates he received from arts and educational institutions appeared in the Cooley exhibit—beautifully calligraphed by his students. (The exhibit’s catalog copy is set in ITC Stone Serif, designed by Reynolds’s student Sumner Stone.)

While Steve Jobs arrived too late to take calligraphy directly from Reynolds, the master’s inspiring legacy is unmistakable; Apple’s sleek creations embody the ideals of useful beauty Jobs learned from the classes Reynolds designed. The Apple cofounder famously placed his company at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, reflecting the classroom combination of literature, history, and technique training practiced by Reynolds and Palladino.

But though he would likely have admired their user-centered usefulness and minimalist design, Reynolds himself might not have entirely approved of Jobs’s technological creations. “Since the early 1960s, a profound change in Western culture has appeared,” he wrote. “Many people have become aware of the faults in our commercial, technological culture. They are tired of being only spectators and consumers. We can make things, not just push buttons. We might not need electric toothbrushes, electric can openers, pencil sharpeners, and shoe polishers. We can use our hands. In writing something, we might use a pen and ignore the electric typewriter. Instead of boredom, joy in the making!”

—Brett Campbell, MS ’96

Workplace Revolution
An alternative office model for a growing mobile workforce is changing the way we work—and is likely coming to a town near you.


Photo: Coworker survey photo with graphic


Miguel McKelvey ’99, a New York architect and former UO basketball player, was encountering some on-the-job frustration. He was working for an architecture firm in a building of shared offices with several other small companies. The landlord would rent the whole space to one person, who would then have to sublet the unused space to the others. “It was a big hassle,” McKelvey says, “and it had a boring corporate atmosphere, a Sheetrock box.” So he and another tenant decided to create a place with far greater flexibility and without the long-term ommitment. “We wanted to provide everything,” he says, “furniture, equipment—so you could walk in with your computer and start working.”

McKelvey’s experiment was a success and he and his partner moved on to found WeWork, a shared office community now with three locations in New York City, one in San Francisco, and another soon to open in Los Angeles.

McKelvey is not alone in his quest for a better work environment. The American workforce is changing and workers are seeking new ways to address their evolving needs. “Contingent workers,” such as freelancers, temps, part-time workers, and contractors, will make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce by the end of this decade, according to the Intuit 2020 Report, a study conducted by Emergent Research in partnership with Intuit Inc. The report also states that “more than 80 percent of large corporations plan to substantially increase their use of a flexible workforce in the coming years,” and the numbers of self-employed and microbusinesses are on the rise.

Many mobile workers take refuge in coffee shops to escape the isolation of the home office or clutter of the kitchen table—but even Starbucks has limitations. So, thanks to some forward-thinking entrepreneurs, like McKelvey, new options are becoming available. Shared-office environments, designed specifically for this contingent workforce, are popping up in cities large and small, but they’re not your typical office spaces. These new workplace environments are part of a movement called coworking, where independent workers share flexible, furnished spaces to create community and promote collaboration. And the cost is much less than renting a traditional office, with average monthly membership prices ranging from $195 for an unassigned workstation used on a drop-in basis to $387 for a permanent desk.

Coworking emerged in the United States in the late nineties among the tech crowd. “In the wake of the dot-com bust, the idea sputtered, but lost its footing,” according to Deskmag, an online magazine about coworking. It made a comeback in 2005, and really got going a couple of years ago. “The movement has roughly doubled in size every year since 2006,” the magazine reports. The latest Deskmag survey found that there are now more than 1,100 coworking facilities worldwide.

Ryan Coonerty ’96, cofounder and chief strategist of NextSpace in Santa Cruz, California, sees coworking as more of a revolution than a trend. “We believe we are going through a once-in-a-century shift,” he says, “a revolution not unlike the Industrial Revolution or the Technological Revolution. Companies will seek independent workers depending on the project,” he predicts, “like movie studios change their actors every movie.” But to do that, you have to create the infrastructure.

He hopes NextSpace is helping to facilitate the transition. He believes that mobile workers want to get out of coffee shops and have their own space—but they don’t want to be at home alone. “People like being around other people,” he says. “While they don’t miss some of the traditional office culture—like cubicles and set work schedules—holiday parties matter.”

When Coonerty got involved in the coworking movement, he was mayor of Santa Cruz and looking for a way to jump-start the local economy. “One day [the city council members and I] were sitting in Starbucks and noticed how many people were working there,” he recalls. “We started to think that instead of attracting one 200-person company, we could get 200 one-person companies.” A coworking space could help make that happen.

NextSpace launched in October 2008. A year later, a second location opened in San Francisco, followed in 2011 by others in Los Angeles and San Jose. Coonerty hopes to open another four to six coworking spaces by the end of this year.

Mark Grimes ’83 was taking a similar approach in the Northwest. He opened NedSpace about three years ago in downtown Portland in a red brick building that’s more than 100 years old and rumored to have been a speakeasy. Grimes, already a successful entrepreneur a few times over, wanted to create a place for start-ups, remote workers, and social entrepreneurs where “you can be online and ready to go in five minutes,” and where workers can feed off of the innovations and inspiration of their peers. Grimes found an isolated workforce hungry for collaboration, and six months after the first NedSpace opened, a second location was blossoming in Old Town. And he’s not planning to stop there. He says he’s in talks about other locations, beyond Portland—some way beyond Portland. “The bigger dream is to create a larger network around the world,” he says. “My personal goal is to see this model built out to emerging markets in developing countries.”

There seem to be as many reasons for coworking as there are coworkers. Margaret Rosas, founder of Quiddities, an Internet consulting agency, was one of the original members of NextSpace in Santa Cruz. She is a strong advocate for working locally and using local talent. She sees coworking as “an interesting exercise in being collaborative instead of competitive.” Since she’s been at NextSpace, she has rented offices of varying sizes to accommodate her growing business. Now she is changing her membership again—closing her company and going to work for a tech firm. But she’s not leaving NextSpace. She will move to a “café membership,” which will allow her to use the open, café-style workspace and still have access to all of NextSpace’s resources, including conference rooms, office machines, and access to other NextSpace members through an online network for immediate collaboration and assistance. This fluidity is a big part of coworking’s appeal. “It makes it incredibly easy to just start tomorrow,” Rosas says.

Sandy Skees, CEO and founder of public relations agency Communications4Good, was working out of her home when she found NextSpace. “I was looking for a community, and the ability to collaborate with graphic designers, etc.,” she says. “NextSpace was rich with helpful, smart, engaged people.” They even have a staff member whose job it is to facilitate collaboration. For example, “they might be talking to a new member whose company is just getting ready to launch and they need a PR person, and off we go,” she says. “Once you get comfortable here, this stuff happens organically all the time.” Some large, some small; recently, she says, a member left her iPhone charger at home, so she sent out a request to the online community and within seven minutes she had three people standing in her doorway offering to lend her a charger.

There is currently no standard definition of coworking. It means different things to different people. “One of the beautiful things about coworking is that you can change your experience of it depending on what your needs are,” Skees says. “I think it’s a really remarkable concept for the way we are going to work in the future, and its time has come.”

—LeeAnn Dakers ’96

Not Your Everyday, Cookie-Cutter Boosters
The Daisy Ducks enhance student athletes’ experiences at the UO.


Photo: Victoria Williams at the bingo wheel, picking out a winner with courtside announcer Don Essig to her right, calling out numbers.
Victoria Williams ‘81 at the bingo wheel, picking out a winner. Courtside announcer Don Essig ’64, ’71, to the right, calls out the numbers.

Extreme fitness, unrelenting speed, and innovative coaching gave the 2011 Oregon football team a formidable finishing kick.

Or maybe it was the halftime Rice Krispies treats.

“It’s the sugar, you know . . . that’s why they came out and won so many games in the third and fourth quarters. We like to say the Rice Krispies bars made them such a strong second-half team,” jokes Daisy Duck Karen Hansen, president of the unique booster group that cooks up these homespun performance enhancers—which may or may not have propelled the Ducks to their January 2 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin—and does much more to support Oregon athletics.

Anyone who has attended an Oregon men’s home basketball game likely recalls the Daisy Ducks engaged in their most visible form of boosting. For twenty-two years, the Daisies, most often silver-haired ladies bedecked in a plumage of green and yellow, have posted up inside arena entries, hawking bingo cards.

At halftime, an announcer calls numbers until a yell of “BINGO!” from somewhere in the crowd. Many players then crumple their not-this-time cards and chuck them to rain down on lower seating levels—a tradition started at Mac Court that has migrated to Matthew Knight Arena. The winner takes home up to $750, half of the nightly pot, plus a $100 gift card from sponsor Bi-Mart.

The proceeds support two endowed scholarship funds for student athletes, often native Oregonians and those in non-revenue sports. The Daisy Ducks, part of the Oregon Boosters Association, donate $15,000 to $20,000 per year, mostly to the endowments with the rest to the general Duck Athletic Fund.

“I’ve sold as many as 500 or 600 tickets in a night myself,” Hansen says. “Some people will say things like, ‘I’ve been buying tickets for twenty years and never won a thing!’ And I’ll just smile and tell them to think about the good they’re doing for our students.”

While you’re most likely to encounter the Daisy Ducks in Knight Arena these days, they evolved from a group of women who convened in 1972 to learn about football in “chalk talks” with head coach Dick Enright. Forty years later, the club does more than many in the UO community realize to support athletics, and especially student athletes themselves.

It starts with care packages loaded with apples or other fruit, sometimes personal notes of encouragement, and always homemade cookies. The Daisy Ducks send along such a bundle for every member of every UO men’s and women’s team (excluding Club Sports) on every road trip.

Conservative estimates put the Daisies’ cumulative cookie contribution at somewhere around 325,000, with more than 25,000 baked annually in recent years.

“You talk to any former player about the Daisy Ducks, and the first thing they say will be ‘Man, I miss those cookies,’” says Dino Philyaw, running back for Oregon’s 1993–94 football teams and one of the stars of the 1995 Rose Bowl. “I’m a sweets guy, so I always liked getting that Daisy Duck treat.”

Philyaw now owns Philyaw’s Cookout and Catering in Eugene. “It was really nice to see that somebody was willing to go that extra mile to make you feel at home and make you feel like part of a family, like I did at Oregon,” recalls Philyaw, who journeyed a long way from his own home in North Carolina, via a California junior college, to Oregon. He went on to play six years of professional football, including three in the National Football League with the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, before resettling in Eugene.

Making Eugene and the University feel like home for all student athletes is a top priority for the Daisy Ducks. The group assigns a chairperson to each of sixteen UO teams, from acrobatics and tumbling to baseball to women’s lacrosse in addition to the Oregon Marching Band and cheerleading squads.

Along with their prodigious cookie output, the Daisies host annual welcoming potlucks for each team, send birthday cards to every athlete, visit those who are injured or ill in the hospital, and generally act as surrogate mothers and grandmothers for those struggling with college life and the stresses of their sports.

“It’s hard for a lot of people who go to the games to remember that these are still kids,” says Hansen, who is the Daisies’ football chair. “We try to be there if they need anything.”

Director of Athletics Rob Mullens says the University’s newest student athletes benefit most from the Daisies’ family-style support. “The upperclassmen normally are confident in who they are and where they’re at, but younger student athletes often struggle with being homesick.”

Beyond that, Mullens says, the Daisies provide a nurturing spirit that permeates every level of athletics at the UO. “It’s just this incredibly supportive group,” he says. “You always see their friendly smiling faces in and around the program, always there for us and willing to help with anything we ask.”

Mullens, who came to Oregon by way of the Universities of Kentucky, Miami, and Maryland, says he is not aware of a group quite like the Daisies at any other school.

He met a few Daisy Ducks during his first week at Oregon in August 2010, when they attended the news conference introducing him. Soon after, Mullens visited the club’s weekly meeting as a guest speaker. Just as they do with incoming student athletes, the Daisy Ducks did their best to ease Mullens’s transition from Lexington to Eugene—some longtime members surprised him with a playful Kentucky Derby skit.

“They had a little stick horse and raced around the room,” Mullens remembers, laughing. “Right away I got a real sense of how much spirit and energy they have. They are so full of life, and they absolutely love the Ducks.”

Most of the 250 or so current Daisy Ducks are retirement-age or older women who delight in donning UO colors—and not just on game days. Many have a connection to UO athletics, such as a friend or relative who competed for the school. Some are alumni, while others, like Hansen, are Eugene-area residents who became Oregon fans by proximity.

While not referred to as Donald Ducks or Daisy Dudes, some members’ husbands and other men pay the $35 annual dues for Daisy Ducks membership as well. “We won’t turn anybody away as long as they love the Ducks,” promises Hansen.

For many club members, Hansen says, the Tuesday lunch meetings at Eugene’s Red Lion Inn are a cherished opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes of UO sports. The weekly speaker, most often an athlete, coach, trainer, or administrator, shares candid insights, strategies, and sometimes a secret or two. The Oregon Duck himself has been known to drop by and musical guests with UO ties have included Supwitchugirl (of “I Love My Ducks” fame), a cappella group On the Rocks, and the Green and Yellow Garter Bands.

At every meeting, the Daisy Ducks representing each sport review upcoming road-trip schedules and line up volunteers to bake the requisite cookies.

Bill Clever, the University’s athletics compliance officer, also has addressed the group about the fine line between supporting student athletes and giving them special treatment.

“There are a lot of things you can’t do under the NCAA rules, and our members are very tuned in to that,” Hansen says. “You can’t invite student athletes over for dinner or take them out to dinner, you can’t buy them anything, you can’t give them anything.”

But the Daisies’ cards and warm wishes, potlucks, cookies, and Rice Krispies treats amount more to goodwill than gifts and pass scrutiny, as long as every athlete and every team receives equal treatment.

Such a stipulation seems to suit these egalitarian boosters, who strive to feather a welcoming nest for the entire flock of fighting Ducks.

—Joel Gorthy ’98

Download a brochure and membership information at, or pick them up at locations including the UO Duck Store.

An Oregon Family Takes Center Stage


Photo: Ballet Fantastique’s rehearsal for “As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet” with Hannah Bontrager.
Ballet Fantastique’s rehearsal for “As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet” with Hannah Bontrager, performed at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

In the dark wings of a theater, Donna Bontrager and her daughter Hannah ’07 watch the stage. They incline their heads toward each other and whisper as Ashley ’09, Hannah’s younger sister, high-steps into view. Alone on the stage, Ashley pirouettes, her long blond hair swinging behind her.

Hannah and Donna grin when the applause drowns out the music, then it is Hannah’s turn to dance. She waddles flat-footed in pointe shoes to her entry mark, takes a breath and lithely runs into the light.

The three Bontrager women devote untold energy to the Eugene-based dance company and academy Ballet Fantastique. They founded the organization eleven years ago and now create, promote, and perform unconventional pieces with the six other members of the company.

The ballerinas have pliéd to Metallica. They dramatized a Vincent van Gogh painting. They dance to the tune of live fiddlers, piano players, and even whistlers who perform onstage. This May they’ll dance a rock opera version of Cinderella set in the 1960s. Their fresh interpretation of dance is attracting an untraditional audience, a third of whom have never before seen a live ballet performance.

Theatergoers applaud the lifts, jumps, and turns onstage, but they don’t see the preparation that occupies most of the company’s time: the fundraising, rehearsals, choreography, prop styling, and marketing required to make a small troupe succeed. The academy also teaches area youngsters, many of whom attend classes on scholarship.

Hannah, the company’s executive director, is a flurry of action during her sometimes fourteen-hour days. Her work is a complex pas de deux with continually changing partners: the grant that needs writing, the interns who need direction, the room full of eager, leotard-clad children.

During rehearsal in the group’s downtown studio, the frenetic activity slows and all energy is focused on the dance. Donna demonstrates a short combination for the troupe members. Ashley and Hannah’s gaze follows the arc of their arms as they flow through the positions. Their expressions are placid, tender, as if the movements were effortless. At the end of the final eight-count, the women finish with their arms poised in front, fingers almost touching.

It is beautiful.

In these moments, dance is a release. The steps and counts quiet nagging, never-finished mental to-do lists. In the studio, the mother-daughter-daughter team members shed their myriad roles. At the barre, they simply dance.

—Catherine Ryan ’06

UO Alumni Calendar
Go to for detailed information

March 4  
Ducks in the Desert Reception and Golf Tournament
Palm Desert, California

March 7
UO Alumni Women’s Roundtable
White Stag Block, Portland

March 21
Lady Antebellum Concert
Matthew Knight Arena

April 17
Ducks Biz Lunch
Seattle Chapter

April 18
Reception and Advocacy at U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C.

April 21
Sonoma County Wine Tour
Bay Area Chapter

May 16
Ducks Biz Lunch
Puget Sound Chapter

UO Alumni Association logo


Absurdity, Annotated.
Becoming Oregonian is sometimes silly, sometimes heroic.
by Mark Blaine, MS ’00


Photo: Mark Blaine sitting on his exercise ball at his desk.

I spilled a chia buckwheat smoothie on my MacBook Pro when the exercise ball I’d been using as a desk chair exploded. 


Thankfully—because I’d built up so much core strength sitting on a ball at my office desk for two years—that three-foot cannonball onto the carpet of Agate Hall was closer to a yogic pratfall than a freak accident. Portlandia, meet Jackass

Landing on your butt can get you thinking, or at least asking questions. Did anybody see me? Who can help me clean my computer? Am I really that guy? 

One of our tech guys helped me answer the first two questions. “Did someone slam a door?” he asked. Then after a pause, he didn’t say much more than “oh,” as I tried to keep a globule of chia from nestling into a seam by the Open Apple key. Understated and to the point.

As for the third question, well, here I am. I am that guy. I’ll own it. When I moved here fourteen years ago with my prethumbed copy of Soggy Sneakers and my literary journalism dreams, I was struck by the idea that there could be wheat-free vegans and wondered what they ate. But I didn’t want to be one. I noticed that the most hard-core hippies had a lot in common with the militia folks I’d been writing about in North Carolina.

I wanted to write, to play in the mountains, to live a good life with smart, spirited people who understood my worldview—or at least tolerated it. I struggled at the coffee kiosk and looked stumped when I ordered beer—even then, there were too many choices for a micro-newbie to totally absorb. The choices have only gotten more complex, and the choosers more earnest. Hipsters hate hipsters for being hipsters. How is it that people here are so in tune with their needs? How did I find my way into this particularism?

On the face of it, I live in Oregon—the black-outline-green-heart-sticker Oregon that’s on my car. This place, our place, has given some of us an outlook, or at least the trappings of an outlook.

Portlandia nails it. Chickens named Colin. A food allergy parade. Where everything should be pickled. The place where young people go to retire. Our life is good, we say, as justification for our institutional pickiness.

I teach my students to look for the “what” before the “how,” because in journalism you need the stuff of the story before you can make sense of it. That’s a kind of particularism.

The whats of this case don’t give me much latitude. I’ll say in my defense that the chia-buckwheat stuff was really marketed as a cereal, but is pretty smoothie-ish in consistency. I didn’t use a blender. It was convenient, almost as convenient as buying a bag of pork rinds for breakfast. Does that make it better? I’ll complicate this by saying that I was attracted to it because it was gluten-free. When I was younger, my sister called me the human garbage disposal. I wasn’t picky and I am still not. I am, however, gluten-free (For real. Perhaps too much disposing?). I enjoy bacon and nice tequila—as evidenced by the fact that the ball blew into three pieces—but miss good pizza and real bagels.

But this caricature life I live, with my chia and my bike and my MacBook Pro, also means that when my wife had cancer, our community buoyed us like nobody’s business. We got through chemo sitting on the porch, looking at the 200-foot trees, and letting our friends bring us meals and clean our house. When a student of mine collapsed last fall (on the very date my wife had been diagnosed three years earlier), I was grateful that I’d been a dude—not quite hard-core enough for bro bra status, but I spoke the language. I was a kayaker who’d taken a Wilderness First Responder course with his then girlfriend, because it meant that afterwards, I could call my now wife, and tell her that my student was alive, because I knew, thanks to our CPR training, how to be useful. The training works; it’s a crisis flowchart. Response? ABC. Call 911. Compressions. Defibrilate. Compressions. Paramedics. Pulse.

But that hero stuff doesn’t fit me very well. I don’t take myself that seriously, and I know that from afar, we’re a particular brand of entertaining—thank you Fred and Carrie and thank you Johnny Knoxville.

NB—There’s not much evidence to show that sitting on exercise balls is better for you than sitting on a stool, or even something Herman Miller-ish. I like it like I like the taste of kombucha and sitting in boats. And now I know I can stick the landing.

Mark Blaine is a senior instructor at the UO School of Journalism and Communication and a member of Oregon Quarterly’s Editorial Advisory Board. He, a UO public safety officer, and other bystanders really did save a student’s life.

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