Where Did the Week Go…

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— Ryan Beltram, EDN

With the calendar officially turning to December, we can all get into Christmas mode. One of the things that gets me in the spirit of Christmas is the lights. There’s nothing better than seeing a house decked out in holiday lighting both on the lawn and the house and it’s even better seeing a row of houses lit up so well, the street they’re on could be used as an emergency runway.

But as much as I love people who fully commit to decorating their houses, I equally dislike people who put up one string of lights along the garage and decide–that’s enough, I’ve done my part. We’ve all seen these houses: Bulbs burnt out, drooping lights, sections that blink while others don’t. I also love the person who puts the one strand of lights on a completely random part of the house.

So if you decide to be festive and put up lights this year, go all in or don’t try at all. You should want your neighbors to not only become jealous of your house-lighting abilities, but also wonder if they could see your house from space. I get that more lights means a higher electric bill, but come on it’s Christmas time.

Unconventional Holiday Movies  

Besides putting up lights, the beginning of December is also the time to watch Christmas movies. It’s weird how one month in the year is the only appropriate time period to watch a certain type of movie. No one is going to watch It’s A Wonderful Life in the middle of July and there’s a reason retail stores don’t put out holiday movies until the holidays because no one would buy them any other time of year.

But when it comes to Christmas movies, there’s always the usual suspects: Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation and of course that one starring Jimmy Stewart I mentioned earlier. All of those movies are perfectly fine.

But I also have a few holiday movies I like to view every year that might seem a little anti-Christmas but that’s okay. Not every one of them has to be jolly and happy. The adults occasionally like something a little more subversive. 

So beginning this week and all through December I’ll recommend one holiday movie you either don’t know or perhaps you hadn’t thought of as a Christmas movie. This week’s pick is a comedy involving extortion, kidnapping and cat piss.

It's a Christmas movie, really.

The Ref was a box office dud when it was released in March of 1994. (Probably because it was a Christmas movie released in March). But over the years this hilarious film has become somewhat of a cult classic.

Starring Denis Leary, The Ref follows an extremely unhappy couple (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) as they try to pull it together in anticipation for hosting a big family Christmas. Things couldn’t get any worse until cat burglar Gus (Leary) holds the couple hostage while awaiting transportation outside of town. He thought being on the run from the police was hell. Not only does he have to deal with the constantly bickering couple, but once the rest of the family arrives, he has to pretend to be the couple’s therapist to avoid suspicion.

What makes this film memorable is that it holds nothing back. This is a true R-rated film with crass humor and language. It’s a perfect juxtaposition to the holiday season. But despite the R- rating, The Ref never feels mean-spirited. It’s about an unhappy family refusing to put on a facade during Christmas and by the end you might actually feel a little warm inside like most holiday films.

Ducks hope third times the charm in BCS Bowl game

The inaugural Pac-12 title game was a little closer than some were expecting, but in the end Oregon rose (had to do it) to the occasion with a 49-31 victory over UCLA. With Wisconsin narrowly beating Michigan State, the Rose Bowl is set. Oregon will no doubt be the favorite, but based on their recent bowl performances, fans should feel a little worried.

The last three non-conference losses for the Ducks were to Ohio State in the ’09 Rose Bowl, Auburn in the ’10 National title game and LSU opening week this year. What did all of those teams have in common; bigger and more physical players who could also match Oregon’s speed. The apparent size and speed disparity was even more obvious when the vaunted Ducks offense was on the field. The quick-scoring, explosive offense we were accustomed to seeing was reduced to short-yardage plays and quick three-and-outs. This opponent should be easier than the previous three were right?

In Wisconsin, the Ducks have to look forward to yet another big, physical team. The Badgers only two losses this year came back-to-back and in both cases from a final desperation throw from Michigan State and Ohio State. Wisconsin may not be as flashy as Oregon, but they will most certainly be ready. The last three non-conference teams Oregon lost to also have another thing in common. Those teams had weeks to prepare for Oregon. Wisconsin will have the same benefit. Let’s just hope the end result is different this time for Oregon.

New Book explores the evolution of shoes

Shoes have become synonymous with Eugene and the University of Oregon. The innovations in running shoes by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight in the 1960s along with the successful track program at the university eventually led to Eugene garnering the title of TrackTown USA. Knight also founded a little company called Nike, perhaps you’ve heard of it.

That's a lot of shoes.

But it was the collection of 10,000-year-old shoes at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the UO and the more recent developments in footwear that led Brian Lanker to publish “10,000 Years of Shoes: The Photographs of Brian Lanker.” The book features a wide variety of photographed shoes ranging from old sagebrush bark sandals to Steve Prefontaine’s running shoes from the early 1970s.

Besides photographs, the book also features essays by professors, museum directors and marathoners on the history of shoes. The topics they discuss include ancient archaeological findings of the first shoes worn, what these ancient sandals reveal about the people who wore them and Bowerman’s fascination with the sandals and how they inspired him in his own innovations.

Sadly, Lanker was unable to see the project to its completion. He died of pancreatic cancer in March of 2011. Those interested in seeing the final work of photojournalist Brian Lanker can purchase the book through the end of the year at Past and Presents, the museum’s store, for $34.99. The book will have a wider distribution in January.

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