Monday, July 20, 2015

Interview: Melissa Etheridge talks LGBT equality, marijuana, and spirituality

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 10:28 AM

We caught up with Melissa Etheridge while she was staying in Niagra Falls in preparation for a performance at the Artpark Festival in Lewiston, New York, to talk about the changing landscape for LGBT equality, the future of legal weed, and the role her spirituality plays in her music. She performs at the Athletic Club of Bend as part of the PEAK Summer Nights series Wednesday, July 22.

Source Weekly: June was a really exciting month. How did you celebrate?

Melissa Etheridge: I was so glad I was with my wife the morning of [the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage]. She was with me and we were in Iowa of all places, I was playing in Iowa. And just the feeling of relief and celebration and it was so funny that all around the world, so many millions were celebrating love. And I was trying to think, oh my gosh, the people that were against this, how strange it must be to feel like, “Well, they’re celebrating love, what am I celebrating?” What’s the opposite of that, you know? Hate and fear? So I thought, it must be a time when everyone’s like uh, ok. It was just so beautiful to see to feel the relief to feel [that], okay, we’ve all agreed now by a majority that love is love and even though this might make some people uncomfortable, that’ll pass, and we’re all part of this beautiful fabric of America.

SW: It was definitely a nice thing to happen before Independence Day.

ME: Independence Day and right on Pride Weekend. It’s like the justices planned it, it’s like perfect.

SW: How have you seen the landscape for LGBTQ equality change over your career as an out musician?

ME: Oh good lord, it has gone from zero to 100. I came from the early ’80s. I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s where there was no mention of gay or lesbian. I remember the first I ever saw it was in a psychology book where they said, “We don’t think it’s a mental illness.” I’m like, oh shit. Oh no. And that’s where it came from. And then when I landed in the early ’80s in Long Beach I found myself among a very political group of people, it was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and organizing was happening on a small level but it made all the difference. That’s really what brought the community together. And once we found there were numbers and safety in numbers, and kinda [got] out of the bars—yeah, we love to have a good time and dance, that’s a big part of our culture, but there’s a whole other part of us—and once we got that together, and then seeing that grow in the ’80s and then feeling the power; in the early 90s I was like no, I need to be truthful, there’s no being in a closet. I’m not in the closet, I was not in the closet to anybody but the general public. So coming out was important, and then watching it go through the ’90s and our struggles. And being a top topic on president debates, we could just feel our power was huge. And here we are, we’re a responsible part of our American community.

SW: What do you think is next for the movement and what role do you see yourself playing as an artist and activist?

ME: Wow. I think the best thing I can do as an activist is to be the best person I can be, is to make the choices that, when people put me in a category of an LGBT person, that it’s a plus mark you know, it’s a good example.

SW: Speaking of political issues—as you likely know, recreational marijuana became legal in Oregon on the 1st. I know you’ve been active in supporting access, particularly to medical marijuana.

ME: It’s funny, I see the cannabis movement very similar to the LGBT movement in that a lot of people that are cannabis users are in the closet and a lot of people don’t even know it because they think that people might look down on them to see they’ve chosen this over all the pharmaceutical options. And it’s also a very old, old, old herbal tradition from hundreds or thousands of years ago, so it’s got this sort of scariness about it and it’s time to come out of the closet, as it were, to bring this amazing medicine and amazing part of our culture that we have turned our backs on. We’ve embraced the problem solving culture of caffeine and stimulants and then alcohol and we’ve really let go the consciousness exploring. We’ve made that illegal. And I think that’s what’s next in our society, to understand exploring your own consciousness is a human right, it’s a civil right.

SW: When did you come out of the cannabis closet, so to speak?

ME: When I went through chemotherapy. Before then I had been a social [user], not a steady user. When I went through chemotherapy and just was so clear on the effects and how much it helped me and saw my option of pharmaceuticals was just a pill for the pain and a pill for the pill you take for pain and it was just ridiculous when I could get releief and my appetite and everything from this herb. That was in 2004. And in 2005 I remember I told [then “Dateline NBC” host] Stone Phillips, I did an interview with him and said, look I want to talk about medical marijuana and so the second time he interviewed me he asked me and there it was.

SW: Do you think your weed-infused wine is going to be available outside California at any point?

ME: I think when there’s recreational, or when California and Nevada go, we’ll just have the gold coast, you know. California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Canada, we will be able to hopefully work out crossing those borders and trading and stuff and I’m just waiting for that to happen.

SW: Your openness about various parts of your personal life has made you a source of inspiration for a lot of people. Where do get your strength and inspiration from?

ME: I read a lot. I have a large spiritual sort of base, in myself, that comes from a great belief about why we’re here and reality and so I get that. My belief about what life is is such a joyous energetic gift and so every day I’m inspired.

SW: So why do you think we’re here?

ME: I think we’re here to create, I think we’re here to learn. I think this is a life school and we are all endowed with this opportunity to live, to be a human being and then to learn to create and to strive for joy, that’s what I think it is.

SW: Sounds good to me!

ME: Right on.

SW: A lot of folks, when I mentioned I’d be talking to you, wanted to know why you so often mention angels in your music.

ME: You know what’s funny, I started writing about angels before I ever really understood my own beliefs and my own spirituality. And I just, I would use the term angels for that unknown force, that unknown place or spirit that seemed to be there either guiding or judging or something. It wasn’t until afterward, right around my breast cancer stuff, that I started understanding the term angels and the spirit of what that is and so now, I sort of use the term still, it is bringing up that sort of spiritual side, yes.

SW: What’s next for you musically and how do you shift between more personal and more political work?

ME: Well they all come from the place that I create from, and that’s just going inside and telling my personal experience, and politics can be a part of that. And the plea or the question that I want to put into the listener about what is life, what is spirit, what is the meaning, and then look at my own experience of my own relations, and what are my relations with my lover with my family? These are the places that I write from and create from and I’m always gonna do that.

SW: When you sit down to write these days, what’s most pressing on your mind?

ME: Hmm. That’s a good question. It kind of depends. It’s always a good place to start from my own personal relationship, like with my wife, I usually start from there and then start looking outward, and then oftentimes it depends on the music, what the inspiration is and what the drive is.

SW: What do you think folks should expect from your show coming up here in Bend?

ME: To have a rally good time. I’m gonna be playing the hits, I’m gonna be playing a couple new songs from the new album, I’m gonna be doing a few deep album cuts and just playing the heck out of the night. You will leave feeling better than you came. That’s my plan.

SW: How do you describe or define your own music?

ME: You know, when I think about that question I always end up with just saying, I’ve just got to call it rock and roll. Because in the end, rock and roll can only be defined as a music that incites, that brings about thought and rhythm and sexuality and spirit and that’s what I try to put in my music so I just end up saying it’s rock 'n' roll and I like it.

SW: Anything else?

ME: Bring your comfortable shoes and dance your butt off.

Melissa Etheridge

5:30 pm, Wednesday, July 22

Athletic Club of Bend, 61615 Athletic Club Dr.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

INTERVIEW: Orange is the New Black's Piper Kerman talks prison reform—and who she'd want to bunk with

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2015 at 9:59 AM

Tonight, Piper Kerman, author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison—now a popular Netflix original series entering its third season—speaks in Bend tonight as part of the Deschutes Public Library Foundation's Author! Author! series. I chatted with Kerman for a profile in this week's issue, but she had more to say than fit in print. Check out our full interview below, in which Kerman talks about alternatives to incarceration, her work teaching writing to inmates, and what qualities she would look for in a prison bunkmate.

Source Weekly:
Oregon is one of the states that’s pushing to “ban the box,” and help end job discrimination against people with criminal convictions. Have you encountered any difficulties with that personally?

Piper Kerman: For me, I was so incredibly fortunate. I had this strong network of family and friends and former employers, and a guy that I new ran a company and he hired me and I started work the week after I came home from prison. And it’s impossible to overstate the importance of that first job I had coming home from prison. The data also shows that whether someone gets to work right away and whether they earn a living wage, obviously, has a huge impact on recidivism. It’s my point of view that the other thing that’s important, not just the money that you earn for yourself and your family, also, I shed my skin as a prisoner and regained my place as a citizen because of that job. It’s so important. And this is the number one thing that hear from other people who, like me, have a felony conviction. They just apply for hundreds and hundreds of jobs and they can’t get a break.

SW: You mention that privilege pretty early in the book. In what ways do you feel your relative privilege impacted your experience with incarceration and in what ways do you feel like incarceration had a leveling effect?

PK: I think it had a huge amount to do [with it]. I always say that the most unusual thing about my story is not that I committed a crime. Because we know that middle class people and wealthy people commit crimes, they’re just much less likely to be held accountable than poor people. And 80 percent of people accused of a crime are too poor to afford a lawyer to defend them in court, even though that doesn’t necessarily match to everyone that commits a crime. So the most unusual thing about my story is that I was policed and that I was prosecuted and that I was punished with prison. And that has a lot to do with privilege—class privilege, racial privilege. And you know, that’s readily apparent to anybody who looks at the criminal justice system, and it’s ironic because of course we have this expectation that the system will treat all Americans equally and that every American will get a fair day in court, but that just doesn’t match up to reality. So we have a lot of work to do.

While you’re incarcerated, there’s a degree of leveling—everyone’s got eight numbers next to their name—but of course, if you have a family on the outside that is able to come and visit you and to put money on your commissary books, those things make a huge difference. Those lifelines to the outside world are important in terms of people returning home successfully and it seems like being able to afford soap and toothpaste and stamps and phone time are all really important as well.

SW: You’re obviously a big advocate for prison reform. Are there a few reforms you’d most like to see move forward?

PK: I think the number one most important thing is for us to stop putting so many people in prison and jail in the first place. I think there are many people who currently fill up our prisons and jails who shouldn’t be there for a variety of reasons. Either their offense is really low level and doesn’t warrant confinement, [or] in some cases, people’s primary issue may be substance abuse or mental illness, and prisons and jails do nothing really to address those problems. And so, when somebody comes back to the community, which the vast majority of people do, those issues are best solved in the public health system not in the criminal justice system. So there’s a lot of opportunity to get people out of prisons and jails who don’t need to be there without impacting public safety. We know, actually, that the states that have reduced their prison populations the most have also seen the biggest declines in crime, so no one should imagine that having a big prison population is doing a lot to increase public safety, in fact the opposite may be true. So I think that’s the single most important thing.

SW: What do you think are the alternatives to incarceration?

PK: I think that victims of crime have to have a strong voice in what alternatives to incarceration look like because it’s incredibly important to make sure that victims of crime, that the harm to them is recognized and that the system, and also the offender themselves, make those folks whole to whatever extent is possible. That’s important, but it’s also important to recognize that our idea of who is a victim of crime is a little off, because the people who are most likely to be victimized by violence are young men of color, and we rarely think about them as victims of crime and we rarely ask them what needs to be done to make them whole when they get victimized by violence or other crimes. So it’s important to sort of recognize that crime and violence do affect different communities differently and the criminal justice system as it currently functions doesn’t address those things real well. We know that for low level offenders—people who’ve committed low level drug crimes, low level property crimes—that interventions that don’t include incarceration generally get better outcomes.

And so there’s programs like Justice Home, which is run by the women’s prison association where I’m on the board, that’s in New York. Women who are looking at at least a year or more in prison when their district attorney agrees, they get the opportunity to stay in their homes, stay with their kids, go through whatever programs are necessary for them—and it varies—it might be mental health, it might be substance abuse, it might be parenting classes. There’s a variety of things that come into play. And if they complete their program successfully, sometimes they get the chance to actually have their record expunged. And that program has been incredibly successfully. It costs about $17,000 per family, per woman, and incarceration in New York state costs $60,000 a year per person. So it seems to me like a no brainer.

In the Pacific Northwest there’s some really interesting programs that have been done. There’s one in Seattle called LEAD, which stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. And this focuses on certain neighborhoods in Seattle where the local police have been seeing what are often called “frequent fliers,” people who are arrested again and again and again, often for very low level offenses. And LEAD creates an intervention where the cop themselves, the law enforcement professional, maybe catches someone committing a crime or is going to arrest someone for committing a crime, and has the opportunity to give them the opportunity to go into treatment services or get other kinds of help and interventions that they might need rather than being arrested and going to prison. And the program has been in place for several years and the results are quite impressive.

SW: What do you think are the barriers to having more programs like these? As you said, it’s not more expensive. Do you buy into the idea that we’re kind of reliant on the money that the system makes?

PK: Yes. I think that we have built the biggest prison and jail population in human history, and when you build something so big, suddenly, a lot of people start to draw benefit out of it. And I think that is probably the single biggest obstacle to doing more common sense criminal justice, is that a lot of people are making a lot of money off the current system. So it’s incredibly important to address the fact that folks are making a lot of money off the status quo if we want to change the status quo.

SW: Did you encounter a lot of women who were in prison because of their efforts to survive?

PK: Yeah. I mean, again, we see such a vast number of people who are accused of a crime in the court system who come from the poorest communities. And who really are in very desperate straights before they’re arrested. I think that’s true across the board. Certainly if you look at women and girls in the system, you see that to be true. And you see, women do not tend to commit violent offenses. Two-thirds of women and girls in the system are there for non-violent offenses, so they do tend to be drug offenses and property crimes.

SW: To bring it back to the book, can you talk about why you felt moved to write it and why you took that leap to turn it into a now very popular television show?

PK: I just thought that if anybody experienced the things I experienced and saw the things I saw, they would think really differently about the criminal justice system. And they would think really differently about who’s in prison and why they’re there and what really happens to them there, which from my experience, really departed from what many people assume. Many people assume that, first of all, most people don’t necessarily think of women first, people assume that everyone who’s locked up in prison is there for a violent crime, which is not the case. And many people also assume that there’s a lot of rehabilitation happening in prisons and jails, and there’s just not. There’s a lot of warehousing of people. So I hoped that if people thought a little bit differently about the real people who fill up our prisons and jails that they might ask for things to be done differently. And it’s really important for people who are fortunate and who might be lucky enough never to have their lives touched by the criminal justice system to advocate and ask for a better system. Because the people who are most impacted by the criminal justice system tend to come from communities with the least political power.

SW: Did you ever worry that the after the book came out, that it could affect your career or other prospects?

PK: I just always felt like I was fortunate to be able to be straightforward about my past, about my mistakes, and the fact of my incarceration. During that entire six years between pleading guilty and actually being sent to prison we spent a lot of that time trying to keep that under wraps and nobody wants to be living a lie, people want to be able to be honest about themselves, but they also want to be able to move past their past and be able to move forward, that’s a really important opportunity.

SW: What was the biggest mental shift between your perceptions of prison and your experience? What did you learn that you weren’t expecting, or what myths were busted for you?

PK: The thing that I feared, of course, was violence, because that’s associated with prison and prisoners. And some American prisons and jails are extremely violent and dangerous places, but you know, I never saw any violence while I was incarcerated. There’s plenty of conflict because prisons are crowded and prisons are scarce—and scarcity by design is part of what prison and jail is—so there’s always gonna be some conflict, but I didn’t experience violence while I was incarcerated and that was a big difference between what we currently think about.

SW: Is there anything you miss from that time of your life?

PK: There are people I miss. There are people depicted in the book that are still in my life in some way and I stay in touch with them and those friendships are really important to me. There’s nothing I miss about the experience of being incarcerated but there are definitely people I think about and I’m like, I wonder how she’s doing. Not every single person in the book is in touch and obviously I didn’t write about every single person I encountered in the book because obviously I was incarcerated with hundreds and hundreds of women.

SW: Is there something specific you’re hoping people in Bend will walk away with from the Author! Author! presentation?

PK: I just hope that people come away and recognize that our current situation really isn’t serving them well and that’s why its well worth it for them to speak up or take action in some way to get some improvement in Oregon’s system and obviously in the national system as well.

SW: Tell me something you’re excited about in the third season of “Orange is the New Black.”

PK: I’m really excited about the third season, there’s all kinds of great stuff. Great character development with the folks that people are already in love with and some new characters as well. The thing I’m personally most excited about is there’s a story line in the new season, which reveals something about the American criminal justice system many people don’t even know about, they’ve never heard of it. So I’m excited about that.

SW: Do you have a favorite new character?

PK: Everybody asks that, it’s so hard to pick. I can’t pick. There’s just too many. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

SW: If you could choose a prison bunkmate who would you pick?

PK: You want somebody who’s got a lot of skills. Let me think about this for a minute. Who would be good, who would be good...

SW: Maybe this question is easier. Is there a prison in America that, if you had to go back, wouldn’t be as bad?

PK: I’m teaching writing right now at a men’s medium security [prison] in Ohio, which does more rehabilitation than any prison I’ve ever seen. It’s still not a place you’d ever want to spend a night, but still they’re doing some really interesting and innovative things there.

SW: How’s the teaching going?

PK: Great. My students are great. I’m also teaching at one of the women’s prisons in Ohio as well. So I’ve got a men’s class and a women’s class and they’re writing nonfiction and it’s great.

SW: Do you have a favorite prison memoir?

PK: Were reading a huge number of prison memoirs as part of these classes. All the books we’re reading are first person narratives grounded in the criminal justice system. So probably it would be Joe Loya’s The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell.

SW: Is there a movie or other media portrayal that you think does a good job showing with the criminal justice system is like?

PK: “Orange is the New Black!”

SW: Did you have any other thoughts on that bunkmate question?

PK: I keep on thinking of Queen Latifah, but I wouldn’t want another African-American woman locked up in prison. I never want that.

Author! Author! presents Piper Kerman
7 pm, Friday, May 29
Bend High School Auditorium, 230 NE 6th St.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Interview: Comedian Ian Harvie Talks About His Big TV Break

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2015 at 10:45 AM

  • Austin Young
Ian Harvie has made a name for himself as the first openly transgender comedian, but he's not just riding on the coattails of novelty. He has toured with comedy icon Margaret Cho, hosts a live comedy show with high-profile celebrity guests like Jane Lynch and Alan Cumming, and he even nabbed a small role on the Golden Globe-winning Amazon Prime series "Transparent." What's more, he recently shared on social media that he just landed a part in a film—though he won't say yet which one. 

We chatted with Harvie about his path to comedy and acting in advance of his show tonight at Volcanic Theatre Pub. Here's the full interview.

Source Weekly: How did you get started in comedy?

Ian Harvie: I was in Portland, Maine, working as a web developer and received a postcard in the mail, quite randomly, about a standup comedy writing workshop that was being held at the local comedy club on their dark nights, and hosted by one of the writers from "The Daily Show." From the time I was little I loved to entertain people. It struck me like a bolt of lightening, when I hit the stage my first time after taking that writing class, that comedy was my art medium. I was hooked from day one even in the writing class, but performing it was what cemented it for me.

SW: How did you end up getting involved in “Transparent”?

IH: A trans guy friend of mine was helping the Jill Soloway, the show creator, with casting trans people in trans roles. I was asked to do background work at first, but later was asked to the writers room by Jill to share my story, and after that she told me about the story arc between a trans guy character (Dale) and the youngest Pfefferman daughter (Ali). After spending the day in the writers' room, Jill asked me if I would be interested in playing Dale. She brought Amazon executives and show producers to one of my standup shows, and had me work with her writers and some of the cast in an acting workshop before I was officially offered the part. When she called to tell me, I thanked her and said, "I won't let you down." She quickly said back, "No, I won't let you down." I knew I was about to embark on something really beautiful and revolutionary in art making. I just didn't know at the time just how far the reach would be and how moving to so many others outside the trans community it would be.

SW: How has being a first-time TV actor compared to your “regular” gig as a stand-up comedian? Do you see yourself doing more acting in the future?

IH: It was so similar in that I am simply hooked and chasing it the same way I was with doing standup when I first started. It opened up a new part of me again. I always love finding parts of me that I wondered if it existed, and to have that confirmation that I am also that kind of artist too is really fun. I love how just when you think you might have plateaued or settled somewhere, there is another cracking open waiting for you if you want it. I was cracked open as an artist with standup, which led me to acting, and now that has led me to another cracking open with writing. I just wrote a TV pilot loosely based on my life as a trans man. Keep you posted on what happens with that.

SW: It seems like you’ve had your fair share of lucky breaks—opening for Margaret Cho, making your acting debut on a Golden Globe-winning TV show—what’s your secret?

IH: I have so many wonderful breaks, yes, I agree. My secret is largely "The Secret." I have vision of what I would like my life to be like—the kinds of things I want to do, create, be engaged in, the relationships I want to cultivate—and I almost never let negative language come out of my mouth about any of it and if I do it's usually brief and I correct myself. That is a choice I make; usually it's a daily choice. I am also in recovery, been sober for 22 years and I think that has a lot to do with my frame of mind. I credit my recovery with giving me a clear heart and mind and the ability to dream and also the ability to take action on my own behalf to make those dreams real. Picking up and moving from Maine to L.A., becoming a touring comic, an actor, writing a script, all of those things I had a clear vision of inside me and I had to make efforts to make them happen. When things I want don't happen, I just move on and pick the next dream to focus on. I want to be pushing the right boulder and it shouldn't feel like work, it should feel like love.

SW: Obviously, you take on some topics in your comedy that might make audience members uncomfortable. What subjects or types of jokes cross your own personal boundaries?

IH: Child abuse and first degree murder.

SW: On the flip side, how can comedy help break the ice and build understanding?

IH: People often think that because you are laughing that it's somehow not intimate, but I think it's one of the most vulnerable things we can do with each other. The moment after we share a laugh, our shoulders lower, our guard goes down. So when you combine that kind of disarmament with funny and education or human storytelling, you can be truly seen, heard and connect with people over shared experience. And even if they can't relate, there is connection over a simple human laugh.

SW: People like to use the retort, “It’s just a joke!” to excuse comments that others find offensive. As a comedian, when do you think that’s called for, and how does the overuse of that sentiment belittle both people’s legitimate concerns and the art of comedy?

IH: I believe in freedom of speech, no matter what, in all forms of art and discourse. I may not agree with it or even despise it, think it's not funny—as people might find with some of my jokes. But I also don't think its useful to intentionally shame people because we are hurt or angered by someone's poor writing/material. If they are a decent comic, they will be listening to the audience response the moment they hit their punchline, and know if it's working or not. I think it's okay to have a dialog about that joke and what it made us think of with each other and the comic who wrote and delivered it. But I think the dialog stops the moment we intentionally shame people. I think it's better to ask questions of the person who wrote it, like, "Why did you think that, or where did that come from for you?" And being a comic is kind of like being a songwriter, they are not all going to be hits. In fact, I think it's harder for comics, because about 1 in 10 of our jokes—if that—are keepers. It's a tough business to be in and stay fresh, sometimes we might mistakenly reach into places that we have no business in, but we do and sometimes it's exposed and sometimes it's not. It's art and art is subjective and one size does not fit all, nor should it ever strive to.

SW: You’re very open about your life and your identity. Have you ever wished you could put that cat back in the bag?

IH: Absolutely NOT.

SW: Have you been to Bend before? If so, what do you like best about it? If not, what’s your impression of the city?

IH: I was driving from Boise to San Francisco once and got really lost. This was before GPS and it was the middle of the night. I remember it was small and cute, but that's it. I'm anxious to see what it's really like. I know a few folks there that just rave about what a great little artist community it is there.

SW: What kind of experiences have you had performing in cities that have conservative leanings?

IH: I've had only great experiences and I think it's because I only am sharing my own story, in a funny way, and my story is inarguable. People can't say, "No, that isn't your story, that's not your experience." I think that makes for good trips, even to the red states.

SW: Who—and what—are your comedic inspirations?

IH: My family, Fortune Feimster, Johnny Ater, Sarah Hyland, Kevin Neales, Selene Luna, Tuck Tucker, Jill Soloway, George Hamm, Margaret Cho, Dan Frederickson, Jason Dudey, Felon O'Reilly, Dana Goldberg, Erin Foley, Liam Sullivan, Dustin David, Sax Carr, and my list goes on...of who is inspiring for me with with what they do...truth tellers.

As for me, I have visions, specific ones, that I prefer to keep close just for me or sometimes I share with my partner. I just want to keep fresh and living in the questions, enjoying the questions, until I find a few answers. Simply participate in my life and say yes to nearly everything. I will keep writing jokes and scripts, performing standup, acting, learning more about the craft, furthering my life education with it and do more creatively. I love to be regularly working on the road, traveling and performing, everywhere, always—that too would be inspiring to my various arts, because you have nothing to write about if you never go anywhere and I want lots more experience to draw from.

SW: If you weren’t a comedian (or actor), what other career could you see yourself having?

IH: Writer, teacher, community organizer, queer or comedy summer camp director.

Ian Harvie with Gail Lovelace Menasco

7 pm. Monday, March 9

Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.

$15 advance, $20 door, $30 VIP.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Interview: Get-Lit's Diane Lane on the Power of Poetry

Posted By on Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Last week, we chatted with Get Lit-Words Ignite founder Diane Lane, who is in Bend this weekend for the MUSE Women's Conference. Her program uses poetry to encourage teen literacy and empowerment. (Scroll down to the video to see those results in action.) Lane had more to say then we could fit in print, so here's the full interview, in which she talks about the power of poetry, how she got hooked, and what some of her Get Lit alums are up to now.

Source Weekly: Why is teen literacy especially important for girls/young women?
Diane Lane: Spoken word poetry gives girls the opportunity to express the parts of themselves they don't usually reveal. The writing of a poem is not finished until you feel sated and spent. You only get to that place by telling the deepest truth you can tell. That truth can be funny, it can be clever, it can be nuanced and hidden, or even scholarly, but it is not superficial or pat or untrue. Interesting art requires some kind of honesty. Girls live in a world where they are encouraged to "cover up" their acnes, scars, opinions, weight—and reveal, even flaunt, what has been deemed pleasing. It's liberating for girls to realize that they matter for a whole other set of criteria. And that their first obligation is to tell the truth to themselves. Once they are aligned with that feeling, they have the choice of whether of not they want to share it. Publishing, performing, these are all ways of getting it out. And then often they discover how their truth can move and liberate others.

Teen literacy is important for girls because knowledge—about anything—brings confidence. Incidentally, I know people who don't love books but they are "literate" in surfing, cooking, sewing. Just deeply know something...anything...and then sharing what you know—that’s my definition of a happy, deeply joyful life.

SW: What is the relationship between literacy and empowerment, and what role do you see Get Lit playing in that?

DL: When you know something, anything, you are empowered—filled with power. I know about books. I love them. I always have. I love poets. I love authors. I have spent most of my life reading. Anything. Everything. If I had to walk to the deli to buy some milk, I went there with my head buried in a book. So again—it's really not about being "literate" as in "reading a lot." It's about knowing whatever you are passionate about deeply. Because our school careers are so tied to reading, it helps in our society to read well. But there are many successful people who don't read well. One gift of Get Lit is that it doesn't require that people who are not inclined to read books to read and read and read. It just asks that you go deeply into whatever you do read. And I mean deep. You have to listen to poetry; you have to claim the poem that speaks to you—actually raise your hand and reach for it; you have to memorize it; and then you have to perform it. Learn about the person who wrote it. And then you have to respond to it by writing a poem of your own. This increases someone’s confidence. Greatly. Enters them into a world that was heretofore restricted. Gives them a secret society. Makes them hungry for more. "A specialist in a particular brand of study." A scholar.

SW: Tell me about the Poet Puff Girls. Did they come out of the Get Lit program?
DL: The "Poet Puff Girls" are comprised of Rhiannon, Belissa, and Zariya. Originally, they were three freshman girl that attended LACHSA (Los Angeles County High School of the Arts) and were studying the Get Lit Curriculum in school with their teacher, Susie Tanner. They graduated from the Get Lit program and then competed against the other LACHSA students to represent their school at Get Lit's annual CLASSIC SLAM—the largest teen poetry festival in Southern California, and the only slam to combine classic recitation with spoken word response in the nation. They, along with three other teens, won LACHSA's slam and competed in the Classic Slam. The LACHSA team came in second of 22 teams. This year there are 40 schools competing. Rhiannon was the top scoring poet of the night. When it was over, she started coming to Get Lit classes after school and on weekends and eventually the other two Poet Puff Girls (Zariya and Belissa) came too. They auditioned to be on Get Lit's Brave New Voices team representing Los Angeles and were three of the six poets who won. They went to Philadelphia to compete in BNV, the international teen poetry festival, and came in third place after Washington, D.C., and South Africa. But it wasn't over. John Legend heard about their poem, "Somewhere In America" and booked them to perform with him at the Hollywood Bowl. Queen Latifah saw them there and booked them on her show. Their video went viral with over 5 million views and is the most watched video from The Queen Latifah Show ever. Now Rhiannon, Belissa, and Zariya—along with our other Get Lit Players, including Marquesha, are flown around the country to perform and their poems are requested by counties all over the world including Japan, India, Australia, and more.

[Check out video of the Poet Puff Girls below.]

SW: How many schools have adopted your program and how can more get involved?
DL: The Get Lit Curriculum is currently being implemented in over 50 schools—including some middle and elementary schools. Schools can request the Curriculum by contacting us at

SW: Tell me about the support and recognition the program has received from President Barack Obama.
DL: Recently, the Get Lit Curriculum was selected by President Obama's TurnAround Arts Committee to be placed in California's lowest performing elementary schools.

SW: What impact—measured or anecdotal—do you see the program having on graduation rates?
DL: It makes them soar, because it gives kids a joyful reason to come to school that builds skills and knowledge. We always say, "Get Lit builds scholars not statistics."

The impact of Get Lit's Curriculum in school has been well documented by Arts Evaluator Professor James Catterall. It has also been told by the success of our students. Most recently, one of our Get Lit Players, Walter Finnie, told his story of dropping out of high school and selling drugs before finding Get Lit and turning his life around. The Get Lit Curriculum introduced Walter to Langston Hughes. Walter learned that Langston attended Lincoln University, so Walter applied to Lincoln. He was accepted and today is a freshman on the honor roll. His poem "Stand Clear" about his journey won first place in a national contest about the drop out problem called "Raise UP.” Walter was flown to The Kennedy Center where he performed his poem and won a scholarship. 95 percent of our Get Lit Players go to college and over 70 percent with scholarships.

SW: Oregon has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country. Do you think Get Lit would work in rural environments, as well as urban ones?
DL: Absolutely! It is currently being implemented near Bakersfield, which has the absolute lowest literacy rate in the nation. The magic all starts with "claiming" a poem. Poems are like medicine. You choose the right one that speaks to you and then through memorization, it does its work transforming and elevating you, and then your life.

For people who struggle with reading, poems are short. They are not intimidating like a book. And just because you struggle to read, doesn't mean that you are not brilliant. That you are not insightful. That you are not struggling heroically with huge issues every single day. Poems are short, but they are deep. They give the mind and the heart and the soul something to chew on. So they appeal to people who are beyond children's stories emotionally, even if their reading skill level has them at a lower level. There are many reasons that people can't read. Lack of intelligence is usually not one of them. Many brilliant people are dyslexic for example. They were meant to do other things than sit on a bed and read for 20 years like I did!

SW: What will you be bringing to the MUSE Conference?
DL: Well first of all, I am bringing Marquesha. Or actually, she is bringing me! Marquesha is the embodiment of the talent, possibility, and generosity that is Get Lit.

SW: What are your favorite poems to perform?
DL: I love to perform Walt Whitman. Jimmy Santiago Baca. Everything. But right now I am too busy running Get Lit. Two different sides of the brain!

SW: What was your education around literature and poetry like? How did you come to fall in love with the written/spoken word?
DL: I was afraid of my own shadow as a kid. Although I do remember the first poem I ever performed—my first show. I played the grass. "I am the grass so green and sweet. I am soft. I am cool. I am kind to your feet. I take many days to grown and to grow. You will find me on hillsides and wherever you go." I was terrified! But afterwards I wanted to do it again. It was thrilling! I didn't perform in another play until I was over 20 years old.

I hated poetry in high school. It was always about—coincidentally—flora. Fauna. By dead old men with white beards. Taught to me by teachers who acted like they loved it and like I should love it too. But I didn't understand what they were talking about. I didn't give a hoot about flora. I was from New Jersey. So I cared about the height of my hair. And who I was socially. And where I was going in the world. There weren't any poems about things like that. I loved to read. I read Danielle Steele and Norma Klein and books about beautiful girls finding love. Later, because my parents were salespeople I was exposed to Zig Zigler and Dale Carnegie and read them by the ton in college. I didn't know anything about classic literature until I was 19 years old and went to model in Japan. There I went on a weekend job to Hokeido with models from Russia, France, and Australia. While we waited to shoot they discussed the books they were reading. Stendhal, and James Clavell, and Dostoyevsky. It was unsettling. I had always read more than anyone else that I knew. And here were these models, some of whom hadn't graduated high school, reading classical literature—for fun! It blew my mind! Literally! Allison, from Australia, asked if I would like her to share with me the list that her brother in law—a college professor—had made for her. I worked off that list for the next 10 years of my life, later adding poetry and plays.

As much classical literature as I was reading—and I fell in love with Tolstoy and Twain and all of it—I still hated poetry. Until I was in my early 20s and a Broadway actress named Viveca Lindfors (72 years old) cast me in a play and then joined my theater group, recruiting us all for her guerilla poetry troupe. She performed Walt Whitman's "Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born?" And it was if time stopped. I understood it. It was how I'd always felt. The same thoughts. I'd almost forgotten: "I'm old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise...Stuff'd with the stuff that is course and stuff'd with the stuff that is fine." And it was as if, for the first time in my life, my inner world was addressed. Brought into the room. And I was not alone. I had this new best friend, Walt Whitman. I delved in deep. Frequenting every old bookstore in New York. Buying used books from Russian booksellers in the street. Finding poems that I could understand and wanted to memorize. Then later I'd perform them live in the streets of New York with our group. I discovered DH Lawrence, ee cummings, Anna Deveare Smith. Viveca said that we each had to have an hour repertoire. It was a thrilling time in my life. I was becoming a scholar. Knowledgeable. I felt so sad for the years I sat bored out of my mind in high school believing that this kind of "advanced" learning wasn't for me. For who, then? I learned that Twain sold his books door to door so common people would read them. Dostoyevsky said that he learned to write in prison and that the prisoners were his brothers. And that Walt Whitman said, "Camerado, I give you my hand. I give you my love more precious than money." And that Tolstoy was excommunicated by the Pope for teaching the peasants to read. And that these writers were not the property of the kids in the honors classes. No. These warriors would embrace my profound averageness. They would love anyone who loved them. And then later, I met Jimmy Santiago Baca when I read his story about learning to read and write in jail. And how he fell in love with Wordsworth and the great poets. And I read and I read and I read until, as Walt Whitman says, you get to the point where a little voice inside your head says, "You contain enough. Why don't you let it out then?" Which I did as a one person show about books. I invited Jimmy to come. And the rest is history.

SW: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DL: I'm very glad to be going to Oregon and the Muse Conference! It is my first time!

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ralphie May talks about the man behind the comedy routine

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 11:57 AM

I chatted with stand-up comic Ralphie May—former runner-up on "Last Comic Standing"—in advance of his show in Bend. Here is the complete transcript of that conversation. May performs tonight at the Tower Theatre.

Source Weekly: You're 17 and you win a contest to open for Sam Kinison- super exciting or pants-shitting nervousness?

Ralphie May: Uh, both. I was doing really well and then I was so young and dumb I slipped a punch line and a set up and that joke bombs and another joke bombs and then I did what Sam told me to do when I was in trouble and started yelling and cussing.

SW: Did that pull you out of it okay, his advice?

RM: No, not that night. He told me to cuss the audience out and scream at them if I got in trouble and I loved it so that's what I did. I got booed by 3200 people, I started crying a little bit, I ran off stage and then one of the biggest names in stand up comedy comes running out and tells me I'll never be in stand up comedy again. And I'm really crying now. I got used, you know? I got set up. The audience, they love Sam now. It was a brilliant move.

SW: Right.

RM: Absolutely brilliant. I didn't know what was going on. It wasn't until a year later that I asked all the questions and saw that it was a status thing at the time. But he was just great, you know. One time I called him collect to come pick me up from a venue so I could get out of there and Bill Kinison, Sam's brother shows up and says “Hey, Sam loved it. He thought you were great. Why don't you come party with us?” And I said “Okay!” Now, a Sam Kinison party, afterparty, is no place for me now, much less a 17-year old boy. I was drinking wine coolers, okay, and getting fucked up and Sam comes into the room and there's a bunch of people there and a huge line of blow in front of us and Sam was like “Hey kid, order some pizza” so I ordered some pizza. Pizza comes and when it does, Sam pays for the pizza and tips the guy three little baggies of cocaine. 20 minutes later we get a phone call in the hotel room: “Hey, you guys need more pizza? We can bring you more no problem.”

SW: Man, that's a crazy way to get started there.

RM: Yes.

SW: So, going from that into, a few years later, Last Comic Standing, was that entire thing a good experience or is there anything you feel like you would have done differently?

RM: No, not the first year. That was awesome. I came in second. I did everything I could. They gave standing ovations every time I did different material (because I thought that's what it was about), you know?

SW: Yeah.

RM: Entertaining people in their homes. You know, they're letting us in and I don't take that for granted. I want to give them something different every time. And then they got a little greedy because of the success of the first two seasons and they wanted a hybrid show. Maybe for that there should be an apology and probably shuld apologize for. Two teams are going up against each other. There wasn't a prayer. It was just so lopsided, it didn't make sense. And I tried to get out of it but then my Daddy was dying of cancer and on the second night of Last Comic, 15 minutes before I went out, I got the notice that my dad had passed and I wanted to be there with him. Instead, I had to fly back for the show and I scratched that and give a little memorial for my daddy and I did his favorite jokes, you know. All the jokes that he loved. That was a real tough one. They should have let me not perform. I tried to quit and I got edited out.

SW: I know you tour with your wife sometimes and that's got to be an amazing experience.

RM: It is. That's the best.

SW: What are the challenges and rewards doing it that way?

RM: The challenge is that she's now a headliner and she's moved into the opening position just for me. So I got to follow a headliner before I even go out. You know, that's bullshit.[laughs] It's too hard of a position to be in. I'm very fortunate my friends are very talented. I look up to my friends. Sam Kinison before he passed. Doug Stanhope now. Mitch Hedberg before he went, you know? He was a dear friend. There was a lot of nice people along the way that I look up to and love. I love stand-up comedy. I wish I could see more comedy. In the age where stand-up comedy is so readily videotaped and compared across the nation, across the world really, about whose material is whose in this comedy police world an accusation is as good as a conviction. It'll ruin your career very, very fast and so I avoid the problem so I don't watch stand-up comedy anymore. I just keep to myself and it sucks because I love stand-up. I love to laugh. I don't really watch much because I keep myself from being accused of anything ever.

SW: That's smart nowadays. It really is.

RM: Thank you. It's a good strategy for me.

SW: You've been doing this so long, do you ever struggle with stage fright anymore?

RM: Oh goodness, not at all. After this long it finally feels the same on or off stage. Except for on-stage I talk about what's going on in my mind and I just put it out there like that.

SW: Did it take years of doing it before you felt that sense of naturalness being on-stage or was it something you always felt from the beginning?

RM: No, I would get nervous before big shows but I was always excited to be there in order to perform, so whatever butterflies or anxiety I had they were certainly surpassed by the desire and love of stand-up.

SW: Do you feel like nowadays we're living in a culture of outrage, where we're always looking at the next thing to get offended by or freaked out about?

RM: Yeah and, moreover, we live in a violent, hateful and more divided, lost, community, world, than I've ever seen in all my days of living in America. We have overt racism and discrimination, death because of skin color. It's bad man. Sometimes I watch the news and the misery that man inflicts upon man is staggering and makes me cry a little bit. Sometimes I think we're living in a world where Biff Tannen still has the sports almanac.

SW: If you had the power to change things one day at a time, what do you think the first step towarda making it the country or the world you wanna see would be?

RM: Man, I don't know. There's so many things. Simple things. We can't get any more money out of gas right now. It's the biggest thing to happen for middle class tax relief and welfare enhancement in years. You cut someone's fuel bill, especially someone who drives for a living, you put hundreds and hundreds of dollars in their pockets every month and make a huge difference, you know? We stimulate the ecomony, that's good. We need to legalize marijuana which takes the burden off the criminal system so then we have the space and time to convict real criminals and leave the petty small crimes like drug convictions and marijuana (which should be the equivelant of public intoxication or possession of an intoxication substance). Be responsible for it. Tax the hell out of it. Pay off a lot of debt. You know we have a huge national debt and could use every source of income to help pay it. There's a lot of great products and ideas that could come from just needs to happen.

SW: Yeah, Oregon just legalized it, which kicks in around July, I think. And the OLCC is going to be in control of it which seems like it should be pretty hysterical. With your situation with edibles a few weeks ago, do you...

RM: The reporting on that is erroneous.

SW: Is it really?

RM: Yeah, yeah. I was not too messed up to perform. To be honest, if anything I had too much cold medicine. As you can tell, I have a “Know When To Say When” problem. I have a consumption control, portion control problem. [laughs] I have a sinus infection. I couldn't stop due to huge boogers in my head because I'd gone from the Bahamas where it was 84 to Denver in a couple of days and I had a sunburn and I was cold. It's something, man. My sinuses were jacked up.

SW: Right.

RM: I took every cold medicine I had and then I got shakey. Then I took NyQuil. I played NyQuil roulette and I guess I lost. There were sound, issues which is why they were saying I was slurring words. I wasn't. My mics were too high. There were two wireless mics, live, and turned way up and two moniters in front which were turned way up and every word hit max. So part of a word would get amplified and I hoped the problem would get fixed so I turned away from the mic and had to yell out what I was saying so the funniest part of the joke, the last part that hits hardest wasn't getting amplified and so some people didn't hear it. And I do long pieces. They're are 15 minutes long and the situation when I get into them are predicated on actions on certain jokes and they need to be heard, so I would repeat them so people could hear over the applause or the noise of the other jokes. I was basically flying blind. Every theater above a certain elevation, as part of their insurance, if there's a performance on a stage, there's two EMPs in the wings, sitting there with oxygen watching the show, prepared to help in case you're not getting enough oxygen. I'd just been checked out by medical professionals and, honestly, it was a little humiliating when they took my blood pressure and it was so good one of them went, “That can't be right, let me do it. I'll get mine,” and does the same thing.

SW: [laughs]

RM: I felt vindicated, but I swear to god at the time I was mad. I was like, “How fat and out of shape do you think I am when the blood pressure is too good and causes the EMP to check it again.” I felt like an asshole, I was like, “Oh man, I need to lose some weight, bad.” But I just went out and performed. I didn't know all this drama was going on until I came off stage and I found it so funny and ridiculous what they were saying about me. They checked, the cops, they went in my bus and searched everything. They were looking for cocaine because there were reports of powder.

SW: [laughs]

RM: [laughs] Do I look like I do cocaine? I've never done that drug in my life. To be honest, I had such a bad sinus infection, all I ended up with was $800 worth of boogers. I could've been taking cocaine all day and I wouldn't have known it. I still got them boogers. It's a bad one. I can't hardly shake it.

SW: I'm sorry, man.

RM: Awww, it's not your fault. I apologize.

SW: Well let me just ask you two more questions and I'll let you get back to resting a little bit. I just wanted to ask: it seems like over the years you've struggled a bit with weight loss and gain. Does that effect your audience's perception of you in any way?

RM: You know, since "Last Comic" I've lost over 300 lbs. I don't make my weight my central focus. I'll certainly address it if the situation applies but I certainly don't make it the focus of my stand-up comedy. My audience has accepted me for a long time as, you know, not a fat comedian but a comedian who happens to be fat. That's a huge difference. I mean, there's a lot of fat guys out there doing fat jokes like Louie Anderson, John Pinette, Gabriel Iglesias, so you know, it's been done by guys I respect and laugh at and I just don't want to really try and compete. I'd rather do new stuff and be the best person talking about the newest topics and controversy and try and make it impact people's perception and beliefs and mores and morale. I try to push my audience, through comedy, into believing the simple: do unto others and they'll do unto you. Be kind to your fellow man. Be better as yourself. Admit your faults. Get 'em out there. It's better. You know, purge yourself of your hatreds. That's kinda the general message and I like it. I like that positivity.

SW: Alright, well let me just ask you one last question so you can get relaxing. If you had to give up either sex or comedy, which would it be?

RM: [instantly] Comedy.

SW: You answered that pretty fast.

RM: I've done stand-up hard for 25 years. I didn't get easy breaks. I didn't get TV shows to help with it. I'm known as a stand-up comedian and that's the hardest way to have the fame and success that I have. I'm probably, minus the movie star comics and the TV star comics, I'm probably one of the most successful comics working today. If not the most. The volume of material, ticket sales, the fact that I own my own bus...there's not too many people that are at that level. Ron White, but he's done movies and TV...a lot of TV. He's doing it the same way, you know, just by being funny.

SW: How much longer do you see yourself in comedy? Is stand-up comedy going to be in your blood forever or is there something you want to move towards?

RM: Well, you know, stand-up comedy was never work until I had children. Being a great stand-up means there's a price to pay in that that I have to pay, too, and that's that I'm not with my children and my wife. That takes a toll. You miss the things that matter. From pulling teeth to being there in the night for nightmares, snuggles. To sports triumphs, school triumphs. Shows. Things you should be a part of as a parent. Bathing and getting dressed and brushing the teeth of your children and reading stories before bedtime. You know, and that's what it's really about, man. That's something that I miss a lot and I don't wanna miss it anymore. It's really hard. So, if I could find something else that would pay as much, or a quarter as much, as what I'm doing now, I'd do it in a heartbeat just so I could sleep in my bed next to my wife and hug and kiss my babies and see them everyday.

• • •
Ralphie May
Thursday, Feb. 5, 7pm.
Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Q&A: Therapist Kristi G. Erlich on Cults and Healing

Posted By on Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 2:34 PM

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc
In this week's issue, we talked to a local cult survivor who recently spotted members of the Brethren (aka Jim Roberts Group), the cult to which she once belonged, in Bend. As part of that story, we also chatted with Portland-based therapist Kristi G. Erlich, LMFT, who was born into a cult and specializes in helping people recover from experience with cults and high demand groups. Our full conversation is below.

Source Weekly: What makes cults dangerous? Assuming they aren’t passing out poison Kool-Aid, what’s the harm?

Kristi G. Erlich: Cults and high demand groups are dangerous and harmful because they require individual loss of identity in favor of group imperatives. These imperatives, which often appear harmless or even meaningful on the surface, conceal agendas of power of one or a few. They slowly and systematically instill shame in the individual for thinking critically and aligning with or developing their own system of values.

SW: What makes a person vulnerable to the influence of a cult?

KGE: In a psychological sense, people who join cults in adulthood typically come from broken or abusive families or experienced some disruption in their individual identity development. They somehow missed learning a healthy balance between the internal dialogue, and external challenge to their thoughts, emotions and values, that shape the actions and directions they take in life. They may unconsciously seek to have their identities fully defined by an outside source, or to search for the functional family and community they never experienced in their early lives.

For those who are born and raised in a cult, the vulnerability to remaining influenced by the group lies more in the fact that they have never known how to think outside of the dogma and philosophy of that group. Either they have no "normal" to gauge their experiences against, so accept what they know without question, or the fear of attempting a life in "normal" society is emotionally paralyzing.

From the perspective of survival, people who leave cults often face difficulty gaining employment. They often have no skills, no education and no work history. Depression and anxiety are often factors, and are deepened by the inability to survive in the "real world." This is very often what drives people to either seek another group or to go back to their original group. This also one of the insidious ways that cults retain members—by keeping them socially, psychologically and financially dependent on the group.

SW: What lasting effects can cult membership have, even after leaving the group?

KGE: It is ironic that the very reasons that people seek out cults and high demand groups (alienation, loss of family and community, identity disruption), are also the experiences that become deepened and exacerbated by group participation. People, especially those who were born and raised in cults, feel a profound sense of alienation from others. They often have the internal experience that they simply don't fit in to the world at large. They often align and attach to others who, for other reasons, feel alienated or misfit. This is, in part, because they enter the "real world" with an ingrained and deeply internalized thought system and language that is outside the norm. They face some of the same challenges that immigrants face with enculturation and integration into a new world. It can take decades (if ever) to feel entirely assimilated.

Whether an individual was born and raised in a cult or joined as an adult, there is typically long-lasting trauma associated with any kind of group participation. They may have difficulty working collaboratively, speaking up in class, socializing in groups, etc. They suffer frequently from drug and alcohol issues stemming from social and general anxiety, and can be hyper-vigilant, distrustful and unable to form deep, lasting relationships. Often, they have no sense of what healthy intimacy looks and feels like. They either associate intimacy with emotional intensity, or are unable to reveal enough of themselves to form truly intimate bonds with others.

Finally, many people experience all manner of abuse in cults—sexual, psychological, physical, spiritual, emotional. These are complicated issues to heal from, even on their own. Add in the fact that they are (in a cult) mixed up with morality, purpose, social development, and financial survival and these issue become vastly more difficult to unwind in ourselves as we seek to heal. Profound shame is a common experience among cult survivors. The origins of that shame are difficult to identify when these issues are confounded, and therefore difficult to heal.

SW: What’s the best way to support someone who you believe may have joined a cult, but who isn’t interested in/ready to leave? 

KGE: This is a difficult scenario for any family or friend. The "tough love" approach is often what drives people deeper into group/cult participation. Family and friends are eager to liberate their loved ones from these groups, but must not push too hard. Of course every person is different, but by and large the best approach is to remain a tether to the outside world, lovingly and gently. Be honest about your feelings, but not judgmental, and come from a very personal place, rather than a political or intellectual argument. For example, it would be much more effective to say "I miss you so much and am so sad you're not a part of my life anymore," than "you are getting involved in some evil, dangerous stuff and you should leave as soon as possible." Cults ALWAYS have arguments and structures in place to deal with outside detractors and they will stop at nothing to silence them to retain control over the individual.

Lastly, it may be necessary to enlist the help of a professional or close family/friend. It's critical that when we approach the individual that we are coming less from a reactionary place (for example, extreme fear for our loved one's safety). Having a trusted place to discharge some of our reactions, judgments and fear, can help us approach with more clarity, compassion and curiosity. In general, those things are going to be less off-putting to the individual

SW: What is your background with this issue?

KGE: I was born and raised in a cult that I defected from around the age of 17. My family was heavily involved and all suffered many abuses as a result. My parents, who were teens in the 60s and expecting a baby when they joined, were lured in by the promise of having a better relationship (which was failing) and having more control over their emotional reactions and lives, in general. They found family and community among the members that was unlike their own. They found purpose in helping humanity become better.

SW: Are you aware of much current cult activity in Oregon? What qualities about a place make it attractive to cult leaders?

KGE: I am aware of various cults in Oregon. They are sometimes masked by other organizations, like schools, drug treatment programs, or social welfare programs. Unsuspecting people avail themselves of their help or services and are unwittingly lured in slowly and methodically.

Cult leaders typically set up shop in areas where there are plenty of disadvantaged and disenfranchised people. They may also prefer locations that are somewhat remote or outside city limits in order to conceal their activities more easily. And, of course, it's much easier to locate in a community where religious freedom is supported.

SW: Anything you’d like to add?

KGE: If you hear yourself saying and/or thinking the same things over and over again, unquestioningly, it's time to step back and take a critical look at it, and/or enlist a friend to challenge you. Be open to feedback.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Activist Emi Koyama on Addressing the Roots of Youth Exploitation

Posted By on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 2:28 PM


Last week, I wrote about the growing awareness of the sexual exploitation of youth in Central Oregon  It's a controversial topic that many people would rather not talk about. I wanted to get some additional perspective from Portland-based anti-violence activist Emi Koyama, who writes and speaks about the addressing the roots causes of exploitation and violence. Koyama has been vocal in her critique of some mainstream anti-trafficking organizations as well as the FBI's stings and "rescues." She shares her perspective on the issue below.

Source Weekly: What is your background/experience as it pertains to the subject of child sex trafficking?

Emi Koyama: I was once a runaway teen and a sex worker (as an adult). I have been working in the movement against domestic and sexual violence for almost 20 years, and frequently write/present about sexual violence, sex trade, and sex trafficking.

Also, please don't refer to the youth as "children." There are certainly "children" who are trafficked, but they are clearly outliers; most are 16- and 17- year olds who resent being referred to as "children."

SW: You’ve critiqued the “rescue” approach. Whether these so-called rescues involve cash transactions or law enforcement, why are they problematic and what are the alternatives?

EK: I support direct cash transfer. Unfortunately that doesn't happen very often... The law enforcement approach is problematic because the law enforcement is a major source of violence to people and communities that are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including street youth and immigrants.

"Rescue" approach presumes that young people have a safe home to go back to and the only problem is the presence of the "trafficker." That is not the reality for the vast majority of young people who are in the sex trade. Youth often engage in sex trade in order to escape from violence and abuse at home or in the child welfare system (foster families, group homes, etc.). "Rescue" only sends them back to the unsafe situation that they are escaping from in the first place.

Alternatives are voluntary, non-judgmental services as well as grass-roots organizing. We need housing, jobs, comprehensive healthcare including substance use and mental health care, and other resources that would enable young people to live free from violence.

It may be convenient for the society to pretend that the violence only comes from pimps and sex buyers, but it is not true. According to Young Women's Empowerment Project, police, hospitals, and schools are much larger source of violence than pimps in the life of street youth, especially youth of color and queer and trans youth.

SW: Do you believe there should be a difference in how advocacy groups, law enforcement, etc. respond to youth engaged in survival sex and youth who are being trafficked/coerced/pimped out?

EK: There is a role for the law enforcement in addressing abuse and exploitation of the vulnerable. The reality however is that the law enforcement is often the source of violence and abuse, not only for the youth who are in the sex trade, but also for people who are profiled as suspected pimps—i.e. Black and Brown men of color (in a recent community forum on sex trafficking that I attended, for example, Des Moines, Washington police chief claimed that rap music was partially responsible for sex trafficking—which is not just a racist slip, but reflective of his force's routinized profiling of Black and Brown youth as gang members and pimps). Advocacy groups that work with the law enforcement need to keep a critical distance from them in order to center youth, whether they are trafficking victims or not.

SW: Most people involved in this work have preferences around language (i.e. child victims vs. underage prostitutes, purchasers vs. johns, etc.). What are yours?

EK: I talk about youth in the sex trade, because it is a neutral descriptive phrase. "Victims" and "prostitutes" are both about what people are, while "youth in the sex trade" describes the circumstances they are in. I think it's important to call youth "youth" rather than "children." King County's public health department uses the phrase CSEY (commercial sexual exploitation of youth) as opposed to CSEC (which Multnomah County still uses), and I think it's an improvement.

As for johns/buyers, I really don't care much one way or another.

SW: What do you think efforts to prevent child sex trafficking should be focused on?

EK: Addressing the root causes of poverty, racism, abuse (including homophobia and transphobia at home that lead to youth homelessness), and state violence (imprisonment and deportation of parents). We also need to overhaul our broken child welfare system that often fails to provide safety net for young people who do not have safe and supportive home.

SW: You’ve called into question some of the more sensational statistics re: this topic, such as the average age of recruitment. Why are potentially-inflated statistics problematic?

EK: Bad numbers lead to bad policies. For example, if we were to accept that most youth entering the sex trade are in elementary school (which they definitely are not), we might think that the solution is to have more police surveillance at our schools and public places. But the reality is that most youth are much older, and are harmed by the increased surveillance of public spaces; it can, for example, make it necessary for runaway or thrownaway youth to find an adult to stay with in order to avoid being harassed by the police, and that might put them at more risks than if they had remained in public spaces.

SW: Who’s on the right track? Are there any individuals or organizations that are addressing this issue in a way that is respectful/aware/effective?

EK: Grass-roots organizing groups like Young Women's Empowerment Project of Chicago and Different Avenues of Washington, D.C., have been forced to fold under the constant threat from the anti-trafficking movement. Power Inside from Baltimore, Women with a Vision from New Orleans, and Native Youth Sexual Health Network are some of the remaining organizations run by and for young women of color that support youth fight against violence including the state violence. And Streetwise and Safe, which organizes youth of color in New York.

As for anti-trafficking organizations, Prax(us) from Denver has a youth organizing project Hartcore which is doing wonderful stuff. Safe Horizon in New York has a street youth services called StreetWork  which is one of the three original recipients of federal anti-domestic sex trafficking funds (and only one out of the three that provides harm reduction based voluntary services).

SW: What else would you like to add?

EK: See this blog post and this blog post
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

SASQUATCH Interview: White Sea

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 7:58 PM


Morgan Kibby has cut her musical teeth in more ways than one. A solo artist as White Sea and member of the French electro pop group M83 for the last few years, Kibby has also lent her talents to movie trailers and television shows like HBO's popular series Girls.

Her debut as White Sea, In Cold Blood, is a self-described "break up" album and it's a very good one.

Last weekend Kibby appeared at the SASQUATCH! Music Festival and we sat down for a little chat shortly after her performance on the Yeti stage.

SW: Do you like doing interviews? Do you feel pressure to come up with really great answers to questions?

I don’t think it matters. I think as long as you are being truthful and genuine then it doesn't matter.

SW: Do you actually like to talk about yourself?

I like to talk about my work. I don’t like to talk about myself. I mean, who I am as a person is irrelevant I think. It informs my work but I think there is a very very thick piece of red tape between Morgan as a human being and my personal life and how that translates into my work. I’m always really excited to talk about my work. My personal life is boring. It’s not that interesting. I like people to be able to listen to my records and not superimpose my personal life onto the listening of the songs. I want them to be able to interpret [the songs] and have their own experience with the lyrics and the emotions that come. I like people to own the songs in their own way.

SW: Do you think it’s odd that there are strangers all over the country who are interested in you though?

I don’t think people are interested in me as a person. At least I don’t get that impression. It’s not like I’m fielding tons of emails or tweets or anything. I just get excited when people want to talk about my music.

SW: Okay, well then let's do that. Your debut album is titled In Cold Blood, what’s that referencing?

It’s not referencing the Capote novel, although it’s easy to think that. I love the expression and it came to me when I was trying to think of a title in the sense that this is a break up record. Myself, and a lot of other people that surrounded this very traumatic breakup for me, kind of divested themselves of any empathy or compassion and acted in ways, we all acted in ways, that I just didn’t even realize was possible. Good people acting very questionably. So this expression to act in cold blood is very appropriate for describing the experience I had when I lost my partner.

SW: I read where you said you are less of a storyteller and more of a stream-of-consciousness songwriter?

I guess it depends on how you define storyteller. I don’t think of myself as a storyteller. I think a lot of my lyrics come out more as a jot everything down, poetry type things. I try to string them together to make sense of them within the context of a song to make them cohesive. I make it work it somehow.

SW: So where does you song "They Don’t Know" come from?

I wrote that a very long time ago, almost 3 years ago. It was kind of a demarcation of the beginning of the end if you will of this relationship I was in.

SW: Okay. It is a bit brighter than some of the other songs on the album.

It is. Absolutely. That’s very perceptive.

SW: That brings me to my favorite song on the album, "Small December," a much better use of the phrase wrecking ball than that other song that is out there I might add.

(Laughs) I was so pissed when I heard that! I actually love that song as a pop song I think it’s fantastic, but when I heard it I was like you gotta be fucking kidding me.

SW: So is that song the low point of the album or a description of the time right before the low part? There does seem to be a struggle happening there.

That is the oldest song on the album. I must have written that 6 years ago. I think that’s why it sticks out a little bit like a sore thumb. It didn't necessarily fit within the context of the way I had produced the other songs. It’s a moment when I tried to be a little more vulnerable and just be honest in my sense of loss as opposed to constantly being angry. I feel like in the grief process of letting go, you know there’s those five stages of grief, I spent a lot of time in the anger stage and that’s where I wrote a lot of the songs from.

SW: You do have a way about your performances, you have a very passionate approach. Does that come from your connection to the music? Does it come from the voyeuristic nature of being on stage and having people watch you?

I’m a theatre kid. I’m just an emotive person and I don’t give a shit about trying to be cool to be honest. When I feel things I go for it. It’s not to everybody's' liking but I can’t help it. Sometimes I feel like I get stuck behind the keyboard, which is why in the White Sea set I like it when we play "Prague" because I get to come off the keys and really just sing which feels great. But sometimes it’s nice to have that as a shield and focus on playing my instrument and not get lost. It’s very easy sometimes to get lost in trying to connect with people in the audience and then it’s like you almost spiral down if you see people aren't with you, it can be very discouraging. So it’s nice to be able to hide sometimes. I hate talking to the audience. Anthony (M83) and I are the same way. You’re not here to hear me tell you what the name of this fucking song is. You want to listen to music so I’m going to play music for you.

SW: So speaking of relationships, I also read that you're a big fan of The Bachelor?

Yes! It’s so embarrassing! I think it’s pure comedy it’s totally ridiculous that these people come together and think that love is something you can find in three weeks. And I love the editors, I think they are really the stars. I think it’s hilarious. That’s not to diminish the fact that I think there are some very genuine people on the show who really are searching. It’s just a walk of life I don’t know. I would never in a million years consider putting myself out there like that.God that show is so good! That shit is comedy gold.
I’m convinced that they hire alcoholics to be on the show.

SW: I do think that this season, Andi might be one it in for the right reasons.

Andi is so adorable though and she is clearly really smart so I think it’s going to be a good season.

SW: And if it doesn't work out and she gets her heartbroken, she can always turn to your record!

Call me Andi!

Listen to White Sea's debut album In Cold Blood below.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ask Brandi Carlile A Question!

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Brandi Carlile double feature X-Mas special Dec. 7
  • Brandi Carlile double feature X-Mas special Dec. 7
We know that there are tons of you Brandi Carlile fans out there in Central Oregon... and this is your chance to ask her a question! Leave a comment below with your serious or fun question for Brandi and we'll pick a few to ask her in our upcoming interview with the singer. We'll even give you the credit in the interview! Carlile will be in town on December 7 for two very special Christmas shows at the Tower Theater. Make plans to attend if you haven't already!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Rest of My Interview With Todd Snider

Look for our interview with Todd Snider in this week's issue of The Source Weekly and check out what didn't make the piece here. You'll be glad you did.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Todd Snider

Ahead of his Tower Theater appearance on April 17th, I had the chance to ask Nashville (via Portland) songwriter Todd Snider, some questions about his latest album Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables, his own wicked sense of humor, and his views about songwriting. You’ll be able to catch a scaled down version of that discussion tomorrow when the latest issue of The Source Weekly hits stands. I’ve also picked out a few of my favorite responses from Snider that didn’t make the piece and posted them below for you to check out. Be sure to grab a print copy tomorrow and read the rest of what Snider had to say. If you’re a fan of his… part of it may shock you.

On writing songs…

“…from my world view making records is just acres of words and emotions being sorted and shifted by instinct with the hope of someday, doing something that moves me as much as The Stones or Dylan moves me…”

On life and death...

“I’m sad that I’m going to die, but I’m not worried about it. It’s not something that might happen, it’s all we know for sure. Hope isn’t something that I have ever craved or needed… faith either. I like to look at the now for what it is, not for what it could’ve been. Right now we know we are here. We don’t know why we are here or where we’re going when we leave here… and that’s a huge lack of information to try and live with. Denial of this drives mankind crazy and causes war and famine. We want to pretend we’re not dying, so we build things, play sports, save trophies, make scrapbooks, have pageants and proms. Count me out.”

On his “Stoner Fables”…

“… no lessons. If you learn something from me, it’s your own fault and I will not be held accountable in any way.”

On his approach to live shows…

“…I truly don’t give a shit how the shows go or who takes what away from them. I don’t care if I’m cheered or booed. Which I think tends to make my shows go well. It’s more a bi-product of indifference than it is a product of hope or effort. For me it’s like surfing. The only part of it that’s up to me is getting in the water. The rest is instinct and acceptance.”


“The key is not to have goals. For me the key to everything is to avoid goals. They are a waste of notebook paper.”

On the music of Jerry Jeff Walker…

“I do feel blessed by music and I feel an enormous dept to Jerry Jeff and his wife for carving out the art they did. His art watered the seeds of my discontent as a young man. In fact… fuck Metallica. I’m going to spray paint “Jerry Jeff Walker” on the side of my old school. He’s ten times more dangerous and unpredictable of a man than that whole band and all their friends combined.” (see the print copy for added context)

On the recording session for an as yet unreleased album of Jerry Jeff Walker covers…

“Between you and me, the police should have been called to this session. Luckily they were not and everybody came out fairly intact.” 

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Interview: Unpacking Derby with Front Man Nat Johnson

An interview with Derby lead singer, Nat Johnson

Posted By on Sat, Feb 5, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Derby Nat Johnson
  • Derby Nat Johnson
The Doug Fir Lounge crowd is buzzing. Just finished are the Portland band Ravishers. Before that, Seattle rockers Curtains For You. Next up is Derby, another Portland band. It is a special night for them, an EP release party.

The band's first-ever vinyl offering and first new music in over 2 years is finally available to their fans. Everyone there is ready to watch one of their favorite bands perform a semi-rare live show. Nat, Dave, Rian, Matt, and Isaac are dressed super sharp, and the show starts. First is a stirring quiet number as Nat and Rian knock out "Episode", the final song from Derby's second album, Posters Fade. It's a special thing to have a rock band capture an audience at the beginning of a set by playing a raw slow song, and it set the stage for the rest of the night... perfectly.

Little more than 24hrs prior to that moment, 83Music was able to ask front man Nat Johnson, some questions about this band and their formula for success.
Continue reading the interview at 83Music (with video) and look for Derby's Bend Winterfest show Friday February 18th at 7pm.

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