Posts Tagged ‘university of oregon’

Mr. & Ms. Pac-man at Level Up

Quarters are being used for more than just parking meters and washing machines these days. For $0.25, Oregonians can escape reality and enter into the world of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Troy. They can even drink a beer while trying to get to the next level. That’s because barcades, or bars that feature classic vintage arcade games, are beginning to sprout up across the Pacific Northwest. For avid gamers and gaming novices, barcades offer a fun environment for anyone old enough to reach the start button.

Barcades are hitting new levels of popularity because of nostalgia, because people want to connect together in real life, and because it’s fun. There aren’t many things in life that still cost a quarter. Thanks to new establishments like Level Up and Blair Alley Vintage Arcade popping up in Eugene, Oregon, people now have places to grab a drink, meet up with their friends, and play the video games from their childhood.

Nostalgic games like Pong (1972) and Frogger (1981) may seem out of date but they’ve never been more popular.  Kids and adults are lining up to play these games from the ‘70s and ‘80s because they celebrate the simplicity of the past. Kids can learn the game quickly while parents and the older generation can jump back into their favorite game without much practice. For Andre Sirois, a Eugene-based DJ, this means it’s easier to socialize while trying to get to the next round of a game. “The old games are simple.  One or two buttons, a joystick, and that’s about it.  So, you can go out with the homies, drink, be social, and still play these games,” Sirois says.

Aaron Thayer, gamer, game review blogger, and author of Silicon Sasquatch, agrees that nostalgia plays a major role in why vintage games are rising in popularity. “What seems to prevent these games from dying is the level of nostalgia they impart upon people, and that’s the same for frequent gamers and those who haven’t touched a game since Pong. Many gamers, myself included, play these older games because of the memories attached to them,” Thayer says.

This is exactly what barcade owners are banking on: customers reliving those childhood moments. Level Up is the latest bar to open up its door to gamers in the college town. It’s centrally located both to the University of Oregon and downtown Eugene, making it an easy place to meet up or play a round of pinball. With only a handful of bars to choose from in the college town, Level Up offers Eugenians a place to get away from the regular bar scene and try out something new or old, depending on their level of gaming expertise.

It’s only been open since April of this year, but Level Up is already becoming a hot spot, drawing people of all ages to stop by. “Happy hour is from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. If your kids get off of school and you get off of work, you can have a beer while your kids do their thing,” says K-I, assistant manager at Level Up. “It’s a safe place and there’s always a good vibe in here.”

Level Up also wants to reiterate to its customers that it’s not a nightclub. The space used to be occupied by The District, the troubled dance club that had a history of problems with the law. The barcade does offer daily and weekly events for patrons to enjoy. Customers will soon be able to purchase hanging pieces of artwork featured by local artists and Thursday and Friday nights cater to those looking to blow off some steam on the dance floor.  Andre Sirois also moonlights as DJ Foodstamp during Next Level Fridays. But don’t expect to hear any LMFAO or Nicki Minaj. “DJ Foodstamp is more of a turntablist. He plays the classics which is the vibe we’re trying to maintain in here,” K.I. says. The bar is open until 2 a.m. and kids are welcome to play games until 9 p.m.

It’s refreshing to see that these vintage games have a home again. With the advent of in-home gaming systems like Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstation, kids never had a reason to leave their rooms in order to play their favorite games. Thanks to barcades, now people can congregate together, play against each other, and compare scores and gaming techniques. This environment encourages a more active approach to gaming, rather than the sedentary lifestyle that so many gamers have become accustomed to. “We are used to video game masturbation; that is, playing by ourselves,” Sirois says. “Barcades get us away from our computers and allow us to play games socially. Not like fake socially via a network, but in person.”

It may be 2012 but walking inside Blair Alley Vintage Arcade in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene, feels like strolling through an arcade in the 1980’s. It celebrates a time when machines and video games were packed into one giant room and people came together. Located directly behind Ninkasi Brewing Company, this pinball haven offers food, dancing, and plenty of games for the whole family to enjoy.  It’s a little off the beaten path but that’s part of its charm. As owner Chad Boutin says, “It’s a speakeasy arcade.”

Arcade sign located outside of Ninkasi Brewery

What started out as Boutin’s 350 square-foot photography studio waiting room turned into a full fledged bar and arcade in a matter of months. “My friends brought four pinball machines over and I had one already. We started opening up the space for Friday night art walk and people loved it,” Boutin says.  Within three months, they added a bar, two bathrooms, increased the size of the entrance door, obtained a liquor license, and opened their doors for business. “It’s that place, when you have a friend in town, that you take them to because only a local would know about it,” he adds.

Blair Alley Vintage Arcade also offers food and has happy hour specials. Kids are welcome until 9 p.m. and all the machines are set up so they can easily be moved and played outside once the DJ arrives. It certainly has the old vibe of a classic arcade, with all of the machines lined up inside a dimly lit room and the sounds of quarters clanking in the background. “After you’ve been here 5 minutes you know without a doubt that this is a place you want to spend some time in or thanks but no thanks, I’m never coming back. Don’t you wish all your relationships were that up front in 5 minutes?” says Clark, a regular customer and part-time worker at the bar.

August, age 3, masters mini bowling at Blair Alley

Now residents of Eugene don’t have to drive out of town in order to play their favorite vintage games. Ground Kontrol, located in downtown Portland, and Shorty’s, located in Seattle, used to be the only options for barcade enthusiasts living in the Pacific Northwest. Wunderland, a family-owned nickel arcade, has franchises all over Oregon but it’s catered more to children and those under the age of 21.

Although the barcade isn’t an entirely new concept, the community of Eugene appears to be catching up to the trend. Who wouldn’t want to grab a beer, play a round of Pac-man, watch a game on the big screen, and dance until it’s time to go home? With two barcades opening over the past year and half and another console-based lounge set to open in the near future, it looks like this trend isn’t going anywhere.

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What if I don’t live in Eugene? No problem. Take your quarters here:

Barcades are popping up all over the country!  The original barcade in Brooklyn, New York came about thanks to five friends coming together back in 2004. They bridged their love for gaming with their love for American craft beer and established Barcade. Just this year, two more Barcades have opened in Jersey City, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over in Grand Rapids, Michigan, gamers can head over to Stella’s Lounge where they can enjoy Sunday brunch and their favorite vintage video games.  Denver, Colorado is the latest city to get on board with the arcade/bar concept. The 1up opened in June 2012 and features three lanes of Skee-Ball and multiples sets of Giant Jenga, in addition to 45 classic arcade games and 15 pinball machines. Game on!

Barcade in Brooklyn, New York
(credit: barcadebrooklyn.com)

Barcade in Jersey City, New Jersey
(credit: barcadejerseycity.com)

Barcade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(credit: barcadephiladelphia.com/)

Stella’s Lounge in Grand Rapids, Michigan
(credit: heinemanbarco.com)

1Up in Denver, Colorado
(credit: the-1up.com)

The women’s bathroom at Ground Kontrol in Portland, Oregon

Shorty’s in Seattle, Washington
(credit: http://www.shortydog.com)

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Click-clack, click-clack.

The sound can be heard through the halls at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art with its decorative molding and iron grillwork. It’s the sound 6-year-old Debbie’s shoes make as she walks across the floor.

It makes her feel like a princess walking through a castle.


Debbie Williamson-Smith, now 40, works as the communications manager at the Jordan Schnitzer and still loves to hear the sound of her heels against the floor.

Although the art didn’t matter much when she was 6, Williamson-Smith does remember what her art teacher taught her when looking at art. “You have to allow yourself to feel,” she says, adding that when she first looks at art she asks herself “Does it make me feel mad, sad or glad?” To Williamson-Smith the medium doesn’t matter as much as the feeling she gets from looking at art. Responding to art as a child is something that she would challenge anybody to do.

Williamson-Smith hopes to pass her love for art on to her 3-year-old niece. She likes to take her niece to art exhibits and show her the pieces that she is drawn to and hopes to see a reaction from her niece. Although her niece’s attention span doesn’t allow for long days at the museum, it’s those small moments when the art makes her giggle or cringe that Williamson-Smith looks for. “I love experiencing art through her eyes,” she says.

For Williamson-Smith the art also has a therapeutic effect. “I have to be bouncing around almost all of the time,” she says. “When I feel the art, it has a calming effect.”

A Eugene resident from birth, she remembers the field trips to the museums and the way her parents encouraged her to embrace art. “They’re sports people, but I responded to art as a child, and they took me to museums,” she says.

The museum gets school visitors almost daily. September and May, around 5000 children from all over Oregon visit the museum.

Her favorite exhibit was Carl Morris: History of Religion which was on display in 2007. The art debuted at the 1959 Oregon Centennial Exposition and had not been collectively shown since their debut. Morris was asked to create a piece representing religion and he chose to do so through large mural representing things that religions have in common; such as light, struggle, and sacrifice. “The art took up a large part of the museum, but it was just beautiful,” Williamson-Smith says. “It told a story with no religious bias,” she says as goose bumps appear on her arms while talking about the exhibition. She says a tingle went down her spine just thinking about the exhibition. As she begins to talk about the possibility of the exhibition returning a smile appears on her face.


As a lifelong Eugenean, Williamson-Smith had always dreamed of becoming the Slug Queen, an unofficial ambassador of the city and the reigning “monarch” of festivities at the Eugene Celebration. In August of 2011, that dream came true when Holly GoSlugly, her alter-ego, became the new queen.

In her sparkly green dress, Queen GoSlugly attends arts shows throughout the city, spreading arts awareness and advocating for arts education. Holly GoSlugly is a character Williamson-Smith based on Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Holly GoSlugly is louder and more outspoken than Debbie Williamson-Smith, but their goal is the same: “Trying to raise $10,000 to target arts programs.” The money will go to several different places. The two most important ones are Fill Up The Bus, A stipend the Jordan Schnitzer Museum provides for field trip transportation; and Outreach Kits, suitcases from the Museum filled with arts lessons so that teachers without a background in arts will be able to teach children about the arts.

Although she’s sad that her ‘rain’ –instead of ‘reign’ because of rainy Eugene- as queen is soon coming to an end, she is happy with the changes that Holly GoSlugly brought to her day-to-day personality of Debbie Williamson-Smith. “I’ve become more of the person that I wanted to be.”


Even now, 36 years later, the click-clacking sound of heels serve as a reminder of the royal life that the museum has brought Williamson-Smith.

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Antonia Gomez – Theatre Arts


As she sits on her couch in her apartment on Hilyard Street, flipping through channels, Antonia Gomez comes across Les Miserables (the 1998 version with Gerard Depardieu) and can’t help but to sing along (loudly). It’s a cloudy Saturday morning and Gomez will soon be heading to Villard Hall on the UO campus, for a Pocket Playhouse performance.

Gomez, a 21-year-old senior (soon to be graduate) in the public relations program at the University of Oregon is also a theater arts minor who’s interested in acting.

“I’m good at public relations, but it’s not really what I’m passionate about,” Gomez said. “I love theater, and I think that’s what I’m meant to do.”

Originally from Piedmont, California, Gomez has plans to move to Chicago and pursue an acting career and to receive her Actors Equity certification after graduation.

“My parents aren’t super thrilled about the idea of me focusing on acting as a career,” Gomez said.  “I either want to go to Los Angeles or Chicago, but my parents really want me to have a ‘real’ career.”

Gomez realized about halfway through college, (around the beginning of sophomore year) that she wasn’t as interested in public relations as she originally thought. Since acting was something she had been thinking about for a while, Gomez decided that a beginning level theater class would be a good starting point.

“In high school I was really interested in theater but refused to admit it,” Gomez said. “I didn’t want to tell anyone that I wanted to act because then I would have to pursue it, and the possibility of failing was always looming.”

After making the decision to pursue theater arts more seriously, Gomez decided to add a theater art minor to her public relations major. She pushed herself to take a beginning level acting class, to become comfortable acting in front of others and since sophomore year, Gomez has tried her best to become immersed in the theater arts department at the University of Oregon through plays, Pocket Playhouse performances, acting classes and various other activities

One of the biggest roles Gomez has played was as Elizabeth Procter in the UO Theater Department’s production of “The Crucible” during winter term. The play was shown at The HOPE Theatre on the UO campus and ran for two weekends, packing in eight performances. Gomez claims it was one of the most intense experiences of her life.

“By the time the last performance came I was so done,” Gomez said. “I was so into my character that I couldn’t help but cry uncontrollably at the end of each performance. I was Elizabeth Proctor, and afterwards it was hard to separate myself from that role.”


At the beginning of spring term, her final term of college, Gomez stands in her kitchen chopping onions, tomatoes, and avocados for guacamole. She moves quickly and efficiently as she combines her ingredients to provide a delicious snack for her fellow Pocket Playhouse performers. Gomez who always using her hands to emphasize her point (and adjust her large-frame Ray-Ban glasses) discusses her love for the arts fervently.

Gomez attended a theater workshop in Ashland Ore. over spring break and said that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was a life-changing event.

“I saw the play White Snake when I was at this workshops and was like ‘Yep. That’s what I need to do, for the rest of my life,’” Gomez said.  “I just want to work, and make enough money to live, and to do what I love to do.”

With light music playing in the background Gomez intermittently sings with the Juno soundtrack as she talks of the importance of theater programs and classes, and how they have changed her life.

“I think that everyone should have to take Acting One (a beginning level acting class at the University of Oregon) everyone,” said Gomez emphatically. “I learned more about myself in that class than I could ever have with years of therapy.”

Gomez has participated in a myriad of impromptu performances since becoming involved in theater, and is also a part of the UO Theater Department’s Pocket Playhouse performances on the weekends. She compares the process of becoming a part of theater to gaining a new home. As she finishes up making her guacamole, Gomez talks about how she anticipates her parents reacting to her career choice. According to Gomez, her parents tend to think of her theater participation as more of a hobby than a future career, and because they are paying for her college education, Gomez doesn’t want to disappoint them. With plans of moving to Chicago after completing her undergraduate degree, Gomez isn’t sure of how to approach her parents with her potential plans.

“I know my parents don’t really take my acting seriously, but I hope they see that it’s ultimately what makes me happy,” Gomez said.

Lisa Gomez, Antonia’s mother says that she approves of her daughters choice of a major and minor, and also loves the fact that Gomez is doing something she enjoys. At the same time, Lisa says she hopes that Antonia can still make a career out of her degree.

“Who can say what the future will bring?” Lisa Gomez said. “We hope she is happy wherever she lands. Maybe a job in the development office of a theatrical company would be a good fit for her interests and skills.”

Later that afternoon, Gomez walks into Villard Hall – the theater department’s main building – and starts dancing down the hallway toward the doors of the Pocket Theatre. She opens the door and starts singing a line from Les Miserables (opera style) to her fellow actors and actresses. She gives the group her freshly made guacamole along with a bag of chips and makes her way back stage.

The Pocket Theatre is small, but cozy. Gomez has a small role in this particular short play, but her presence dominates the scene. With her hair pulled back into a long ponytail, Gomez waltzes out in a black t-shirt, dark skinny jeans and black vans. She looks simple but sophisticated as she walks out on stage and shouts “NONSENSE, NONSENSE I SAY,” and continues with the short play. The premise of the play, titled “Actors Nightmare,” is supposed to be a play within a play. Gomez bosses people around, shoving actors to and from the scene in her role as the stage manager, and commands attention for the brief amount of time she spends on set.

John Schmor, a professor in the Theater Arts Department at the University of Oregon, had Gomez as a student for a two-term Shakespeare class during fall and winter term, and currently has her in a cinema studies class.

“Antonia started out a little self-critical and even shy at the beginning of the fall Shakespeare course, but she quickly took my coaching and was always willing to try,” Schmor said. “She has great gifts, including what acting teachers call “emotional access” and she’s not afraid of feeling out loud.  She’s funny, boisterous, openhearted, smart and very courageous, Schmor said. “I truly admire Antonia and feel lucky to have had her spirit and her efforts in three classes this year.”

After her performance at the Pocket Playhouse, Gomez drops off some paperwork with one of her group project members and proceeds to run down the giant flight of stairs that is Lillis Business Complex (singing the whole way).

“I think theater, and the arts in general, are still very important and relevant to the world we live in today,” Gomez said. “Theater is something I love, and I want to continue to pursue that love, even if it means I never get rich.”

With a passion for acting, and a degree in public relations, Gomez says has plenty of options for the next step of life. Boisterously walking down Hilyard Street after a long Saturday, Gomez laughs and sings with her fellow classmates – content with where life has taken her for now.

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Food Justice 2011's logo

The University of Oregon‘s Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics is in the middle of hosting a three-day conference on food justice.

Find the program for the day here.

Students from the #J463Arts (Writing About the Arts) class at the UO, along with me, their professor, will be live-Tweeting and live-blogging various sessions at the conference, mostly on Monday but some today as well. We’ll do that using Cover It Live and Twitter, and you can follow the #foodjustice hashtag on Twitter for more info. (Also note that the conference itself has someone Twittering at FoodJustice2011.)

Click on the link below to participate in the Cover It Live blog, or ping me on Twitter (@suzisteffen) so I can add your name to the captured tweets list!

Cover It Live live blog for Food Justice conference Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011

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It is not unusual for shirts to be created for collegiate events and programs. When the Oregon Ducks went to Arizona for the BCS Championship game in Tuscon, BCS-themed shirts, sweatshirts, and hats, cropped up in the Duck Store.

The University of Oregon’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity got in on the game this year, crafting its own spirited shirt for the event. What is unusual, OIED Vice President Charles Martinez says, is both the content of the shirts and their context.

The brilliant yellow T-shirts are printed with “Universidad de Oregon” and “Arribas los Ducks” on the front. The back displays a porra, a Latin-American cheer typical of sporting events around the world. Martinez produced the shirts with design help from Brand Management.

In April 2010, Arizona passed SB 1070, a controversial bill that imposes anti-immigration measures that have been called strict by the New York Times and has raised questions about potential civil rights violations resulting from its enforcement.

In response, the Phoenix Suns wore “Los Suns” jerseys to protest the law. Martinez was inspired by the combination of sport and politics. Part of the appeal of the Universidad de Oregon shirts is that they make a statement without being overly political.

Rather than shying away from the political discourses swirling in Arizona, he wanted to approach the broader context of immigration debate head-on. “We’re trying to say something about our community and our institutional priorities,” he said in a telephone interview.

The office produced only 500 of the shirts, which were not available for sale. Instead, they were given to select members of the university, including president Lariviere, the ASUO Executive, and MEChA, a student group whose members identify as Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano.

Perhaps because they were not sold in stores, Matrinez says the response to the shirts has been extraordinary. “They created a lot of buzz because you couldn’t buy them,” he said. The OIED brought 100 of the garments to Arizona to distribute to those who hadn’t already received them.

In addition to asking about where they could purchase a shirt of their own, those who approached Martinez also asked how to pronounce the chant printed on the back. He was more than happy to help—for Martinez, the shirts became a bridge that allowed people to communicate and educate each other about the pronunciation and meaning of the words.

Considering the positive responses he’s seen, Martinez is considering a retail version of the shirt. If there’s demand, he says, it is because Oregon is changing. He sees the garments as a way to keep issues of diversity and equity centered on campus—and as a way to use institutional resources to better support students.

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The eyes of the nation were upon them.

Under fluorescent lights, the winged bastions of Oregon streamed onto the field, fleet feet robed in Day-Glo, silver helmets adorned with their proud crest, standing breathless, exulted.  Toe to toe against the roughest in the state, the sometimes champions, the present defenders of the field.

The stadium, divided in two, roars, shakes, threatens to collapse from the frenzied passion of the crowd.  On one side, burnt auburn and deep azure and Southern twangs pack the stands, the audience slashing the air with fevered fists, chanting a war cry.  Across the battlefield, the stands are decked in emerald, the spectators lifting their hands in perfect Os, arms outstretched and hopes soaring to the top of the fluorescent stadium, deep in the desert and far from home.

The minstrels of either side bring the crowd to a fever pitch, weaving the rhythms and melodies native to their homelands through the stands, across the field, twining around friend and foe alike.  The choruses appear, one beaked and breezy, the other fierce and feline.  They dance before the crowd, raising their furred and feathered forearms in anticipation, drawing walls of noise from their audiences.  They are ready to narrate the show.

The warriors approach the field, and—all of a sudden—the battle begins.

Sweeping up and down the field, the men sprint and clash, weaving routes, crashing helmet-to-helmet, wrapping their uncommonly large bodies around the ankles of their opponents.  Feathers fly again and again, but a glimmer of hope appears on the scoreboard horizon; the ball sails triumphantly though the posts, the rule-keepers lifting their hands in tandem, signaling a small victory.

The stadium thunders.  It’s too early in the game for risks—and there is a collective gasp when the brash fowls fool their feline adversaries, shooting into the endzone, and lighting up the numbers overhead.  For a second it seems that all falls silent, and we wait with bated breath.  But our upholder, our superbly swift runningback dives, slow-motion, across the lines and inside the pylons.  It’s unexpectedly impetuous.  But it’s impossibly successful.  And there is hope, there is pride.  There is the tangible feeling that these soldiers, with silver wings painted on their broad shoulders, belong on this field.  To win the day; the taste is almost tangible.

Midway through the battle, the players collapse onto hard wooden benches, soaked in sweat and breathing hard.  The generals of both gesticulate wildly, banging on lockers, on clipboards, on the shoulders of their men.  “This is our day,” they say.  “This day belongs to us.”

On the field, the choruses and the minstrels once again take up their crafts, inspiring big hearts and high hopes in the chests of the crowd.  “This day belongs to us,” they say.  “The eyes of the nation are upon us, and this is our day.”

The respite is over all too soon.  The two lines of men push against each other.  They drag and dash and dance, leaping vertically and diving into the turf, sometimes exploding out of the collapse of bodies, other times falling to the ground, the coveted ball slipping loose or finding its way into the hands of the enemy.  It is war by attrition, as each run on and off, up and down the field, desperate for the pride of victory, for the vanity of the title, for the return home triumphant and victorious, secure in the comfort of conquest.  Both stand upon this grass undefeated, the grave reality that only one will leave as such begins to wear on the minds of the teams.

They are worn, they are tired.  Their costumes are streaked with dirt and grass, some with blood.  Whistles sound over the crowd and the thundering stampede of cleated feet begin to show signs of fatigue.  The clock ticks down slowly, and then time seems to speed, the numbers seem to drop faster and faster as the Oregon citadels watch their hopes dwindling, dwindling, dwindling… All of a sudden, there is no time, and there is no hope.  Every eye turned towards the field, whether intimate or remote, begins to believe what is tragedy for some and triumph for others.

The Day-Glo smeared with dirt, the yellow crests indelibly marred from helmets violently crashing against each other, the Ducks limp off the field, surrounded by the furious fever of the once-more victorious Tigers.  Their perfect season marred by a single hash mark in the “loss” column; their unprecedented trek to national recognition book-ended by heartrending defeat; their one chance at the big dance over.  The trip home will be quiet.  Some will speculate at next season; for others, it’s too late.  Next season they’ll be gone, perhaps to greater victories or perhaps to meaningless jobs.  The vestiges of national glory have faded faster than the last cymbal clash.

The heat, the noise, the light, the drama.  The highest rated cable broadcast ever.  The meteoric rise of a once-mediocre franchise to stand against repeated champions of the nation.  The pride of the team, the students, the community.  The tension and the resolution, the ecstatic cheers and dejected sighs.  The costumes and the music, the tension and the rivalry.  The presentation, the exposition and the conclusion of the 2011 BCS Championship game was more than theatre—for those sporting green and yellow in all corners of the country, the final game of the postseason was a tragedy of Elizabethan proportions.

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