Cheers and jeers

Thumbs up to musical support, new freeway lane; down to phones on planes

Cheers — to the community support that put real instruments in the hands of South Medford High School's new mariachi band. The student group needed special guitars, among other instruments, after school officials approved the mariachi class but provided no funding for instruments. Community members responded with three violins, the Medford Jazz Festival contributed a trumpet and cash donations purchased two guitars. Studies have repeatedly shown that students who are active in music perform better in academic subjects and are more likely to stay in school. This is one more way to offer music instruction.

Jeers — to the Federal Aviation Administration, which recently relaxed the ban on cellphone usage during airline flights because the devices don't really cause any interference with aircraft operation or communications. Cell conversations do, however, disturb everyone within earshot — which, on the flying sardine cans we call airliners, means everyone for several rows in either direction.

Air travel is stressful enough, what with the security screenings, the baggage restrictions and the airlines' constant efforts to cram ever more bodies into the same space. The least they could do would be to continue barring voice conversations in flight — in fact, any noise at all from phones. Want to text? Check Facebook? Play Angry Birds? Fine. Mute the damn thing and peck away. But don't subject the rest of us to the results of your colonoscopy.

Cheers — while we're on the subject of travel annoyances — to the completion of a new climbing lane on the steep grade leading up to the Sexton summit between Hugo and Glendale on Interstate 5. Anyone who has made the journey north knows that stretch can be frustrating and sometimes downright dangerous when tractor-trailers jockey for position as they crawl up the hill. The new lane will make traffic flow much more smoothly and should reduce the risk of collisions.

Cheers — to a lottery-funded project to notch the crowns of four railroad tunnels in the Glendale area to accommodate modern high-capacity freight cars, which are too tall to fit through. That puts shippers in Southern Oregon at a disadvantage, such as the Murphy Plywood mill in Rogue River, which is forced to truck its veneer to Eugene to be reloaded on railcars to continue north. This is exactly the kind of project the economic development portion of lottery proceeds was intended to accomplish.

Cheers — to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is debuting a play it commissioned on Broadway next spring. "All the Way," by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Shenkkan, will star Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") as President Lyndon B. Johnson. OSF continues to extend its reach far beyond Ashland, demonstrating a level of excellence matched by few theater companies.

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