Saturday, August 07, 2010

Phil's Folly wags the Ducks

Phil Knight is at it again, this time with a $41.7 million over-the-top, luxury clubhouse for University of Oregon athletes.

UO officials continue to let the feathered tail (Knight, Nike’s billionaire founder) wag the ducks (the university's image and perceived mission). In the past I’ve suggested that “big sports” campuses spin off their athletic programs into amateur leagues that bear no relationship to the campuses and their academics except for traditional names (Ducks, Beavers, Vikings, Slugs, Earthworms or whatever. . . .)

Knight’s most recent duck-wagging may prove I have it backwards. How about the campuses keeping the athletes (and their clubhouses, stadiums, perks, overpaid coaches, television contracts, sponsor endorsements, and publicity machines) and transporting students and faculty to off-campus independent universities?

Sounds as though that’s where things are headed in Eugene, thanks to the sport-obsessed Knight and thousands of season-ticketed alumni seeking nostalgic pride in all the wrong places.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Homeless and the "Homely"

Details about this nation’s big, dirty secret of inequality seeps out in odd ways in the media.

Today, the ugly disparity oozed around the edges of a New York Times story about how developers of stratospherically high-priced New York City apartments and condos hire and fire sales reps at whim.

Poor dears.

The Times reporter barely acknowledges the real story within the story: the sales prices the ultra rich fork over to put lavish roofs over their less-than-humble heads.

According to the story, some folks with unseemly gobs of money pay as much as $35 million for these places. Some units have 6,000 square feet of space. What goes on in such expanses? How are they furnished? How many housekeepers does it take to maintain them? What are the taxes on them? What’s the write-off that the rest of us pick up? How often are they left vacant as owners jet from country estate to mountain chalet to pleasure yacht?

Turns out that to sell some of these urban indulgences in the recessionary market, prices have been “slashed.” That can mean that they go for “only” $10 million or so.

“Cheap” to the super rich is a price in the high seven digits. In the real world most of us live in, that kind of money could house dozens, perhaps hundreds.

Inequality, thy name is the scouring homeless on the streets and the super-rich “homely” dwelling in clouds of excess.

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Sunday, August 01, 2010


Young pilgrims in their late teens from several countries have been sojourning in our Quaker meetinghouse this weekend.

My brief time with them has led me to contemplate pilgrims and pilgrimages.

These young Friends are not alone on their pilgrimage.

We are all pilgrims in this life and beyond it.

We were pilgrims before we came to this earthly stretch of our journey. Before what we call "birth." We no doubt will be pilgrims on the uncharted road beyond what we call "death."

Journeys are measured in distance and time, but spiritual pilgrimages are beyond measure. They have no distance; they have no time. They have no beginning; they have no end.

In worship, alone or together, we often feel our pilgrimage — we become one with it — in sacred, ineffable silence.

The pilgrim within us is the eternal, immortal spirit.

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