Spring 2018 | Vol. 1o Issue 3
Portland rapper Wynne is
about to strike. Where will her rhythm flow?
The Community Cut A Eugene barbershop is more than a place for a trim pg 12
A Stolen Revolution One man's history of protest and change in Iran pg 46
Hyperreality Finding what's real and fake on TV pg 54
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2 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
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IS YOUR FRIEND GOING THROUGH A TOUGH TIME?
AMERICA, LET’SAMERICA, DO LUNCH
Asha Ida Bell, SINCE 1937. Ida Her Bell, life’s work is about the1 hopeless find Asha SINCE 1937.helping She and hope. Now, she and 6 seniors face thethreat threatof of hunger hunger and millions in16inseniors face the more live in isolation. So pop by, drop off a hot meal and say a warm hello. and millions liveisin isolation. Asha Ida Bell, SINCE 1937. Her more life’s work about helping So the hopeless find Volunteer for Meals on Wheels at AmericaLetsDoLunch.org
There are a number of signs to watch out for. But you know your friends best, so trust your gut. And if something seems wrong, ask.
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pop by, drop off a hot meal and a warm hello. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels at AmericaLetsDoLunch.org
hope. Now, she and 1 in 6 seniors face the threat of hunger and millions more live in isolation. So pop by, drop off a hot meal and say a warm hello. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels at AmericaLetsDoLunch.org
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Zero Waste isAMERICA, part of life at the UO.
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Please join us in the quest to eliminate waste and create resources. You can help Asha Ida SINCE 1937. Her life’s work is about the hopeless find byBell, following the instructions on helping the zero A s I da hope. Now, she and 1 inh 6 seniors facea the threat of hunger and millions waste stations. h o p e . N more live in isolation. So pop by, drop off a hot meal and say a warm hello.
m o r e l iv Volunteer for Meals on Wheels at AmericaLetsDoLunch.org V
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AMERICA, LET’S DO LUNCH
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An awkward silence can be the perfect moment to reach out. Visit seizetheawkward.org for more tips and advice on how to talk to your friends about mental health. @EMGESSENTIALS
WWW.WEMAKECOLLEGEBETTER.COM Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 3
CONTENTS Vol. 10 Issue 3
08 Changing the Face of the Conversation: A new club hopes to spark discussion on identity in America
32 A New Adjustment: A campus group helps newcomers to the U.S. by addressing mental health and building community
12 The Community Cut: Mos Faded, a Eugene barbershop, is more than a place for a trim
35 Permission to Bleed: Learning to accept and celebrate menstruation
18 Heart Culture: The appeal of communal living projects around Eugene, Oregon
36 Step in, Open up: Red tent events help Eugene women access their inner energy and power
22 From Cover Wynne: She wants to be a hip-hop queen. Are the genre, music industry and world ready for a white girl rapper from Portland to take center stage? 4 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
38 Digital Gold: Cryptocurrency gains ground among students
40 A River Runs Through It: The culture and connections of Oregon waterways
46 A Stolen Revolution: One man's history reflects a legacy of protest and change in Iran
54 Hyperreality: Understanding what's real and what's fake in the television show "Nathan For You"
ON THE COVER: Wynne hikes up the tallest dune at Honeyman State Park in Florence, Oregon. Photo by Will Nielsen.
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EDITORS Letters from the
Perspectives on our third issue, from the editorial team
very magazine starts with a single blank Google Drive page. Soon, contributors rush in and pitch stories. The document swells into more than 20 pages of potential. As editors, we comb it, comment on it, and then gather everyone together. Some people call dibs on their ideas, while others get assignments from us. Stories pivot and shift every week. Ideas get researched, interviews are conducted, photos shot, illustrations created. The process isn't smooth— it would be ridiculous if we expected anything else. Then, it all gets ironed through editing, back and forth, back and forth, never really finished, just up against our final deadline. Watching it all come together is my greatest joy and my greatest anxiety. This issue's process was no different. After a dull winter, Ethos is a light of complexity and nuance. We turned our eyes toward history and identity, toward race and revolution, toward music and menstruation. Like all pieces of writing, you might find a chance to disagree, to question or to approve. It is not our job to tell you what or how to think. We’ve worked to bring you stories, and my hope is that you learn something new within this magazine. MORGAN KRAKOW Editor in Chief
Journalists listen to the world around them, and then echo the full spectrum of life back to it through our work. At Ethos, we look for stories unseen and untold, as well as stories half-told, or misunderstood, or that tickle our personal curiosities and expertise. As writers and editors, we each have particular ideas of new and important information to explore: some of us examine what it means to be an outsider in an insular environment, and others illuminate community spaces where people find hope and home. We break complicated political histories down through intimate personal interviews. We pick apart individuals’ identities to find where they fit into greater cultural contexts. We identify the intangible influence of technology and media on our lives—we figure out what the heck cryptocurrency even is. When it’s all said and done, we print a magazine like a map, each story a meticulously carved path to understanding a different shade of life. TESS NOVOTNY Managing Editor
As editors, we work closely with writers throughout the term, first on research and development, then on refining their stories. While our deadlines may be spread out over a ten-week period, each story goes through many layers of refining, the language slowly being sculpted away until we find the most complete and informative form the stories can inhabit. Editing is an interesting task because if done well, the work of finding maximum articulation for each story speaks for itself in being buried under each story’s invisible strata of edits. As Copy Editor, I hope that the precision and clarity of language within this issue of Ethos connects readers of all backgrounds and interests to our diverse spectrum of content. PATRICK DUNHAM Copy Editor
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MORGAN KRAKOW Editor in Chief EDITORIAL Managing Editor TESS NOVOTNY Copy Editor PATRICK DUNHAM Climate Section Editor SAM SMARGIASSI Focus Section Editor SARAH HOVET Writers: ALEC COWAN, KYLE HEINER, SARAH HOVET, TASH KIMMELL, BRITTANY NORTON, TESS NOVOTNY, SYDNEY PADGETT, JAMIE ROLSTON, SAM SMARGIASSI, SARAH TAMURA, ABIGAIL WINN, AUSTIN WILLHOFT PHOTOGRAPHY Photo Editor KENDRA SIEBERT Photojournalists: TY BOESPFLUG, ALEX CHAPARRO, MEGHAN JACINTO, TASH KIMMEL, WILL NIELSEN, SARAH NORTHROP, ZARIA PARVEZ, BAILY THOMPSON, ABIGAIL WINN DESIGN Art Director LINDSAY WONG Artists: SAGE ASHER, SASCHA CHESLER, NATALIE GEORGE, KEZIA SETYAWAN Designers: EMILY HARRIS, ANNA RATH, JAMIE ROLSTON, MAILE SUR WEB Multimedia Editor SARAH NORTHROP Multimedia Staff: JEFF DEAN, MATTHEW DENIS, TASH KIMMEL, KIANA PONTRELLI, TIM VANDEHEY PUBLIC RELATIONS GIANNA NARDI Ethos is a nationally recognized, award-winning, independent student-run publication. Since its inception as Korean Ducks Magazine in 2005, Ethos has worked hard to share a multicultural spirit with its readership. Ethos recieves support from the ASUO. All content is legal property of Ethos, except when noted. Permission is required to copy, reprint, or use any content in Ethos. All views and opinions expressed are strictly those of the respective author interviewee. Ethos is a publication of the Emerald Media Group. Ethos is printed on 70 percent post-consumer recycled paper.
DANIELLE LEBLANC Empowering women in ﬁlm WORDS BY JAMIE ROLSTON PHOTO BY TY BOESPFLUG
Danielle Leblanc stands at the front of a classroom. Behind her, a wall with “Women and Film” projects across a pull-down screen. She prepares activities for the evening as dozens of young women pile in, eager for the hour-anda-half long meeting. Later, Danielle and I sit on the floor of her townhouse which is garnished with movie posters and DVDs. She conveys the struggles with sexism in film she faced during high school, which inspired her to start the club. Danielle’s school had a film department within the school, but every time she asked to join the crew, they refused to let her use the equipment or contribute ideas. Danielle expresses, “I had to do it on my own and I had to do it with my friends because I couldn’t do it with this ‘boys’ club,’ essentially.” In addition to her experiences in high school, Danielle noticed other pre-professional groups on college campuses that existed for women in traditional male-dominated fields. “If I had felt confident and supported at such an early stage in my life I feel like I would be a lot further in my film career than I am now.” Danielle joined a sorority during her freshman year because she wanted to feel the support of other women, but believes she would have benefited from an organization that was career specific. Danielle was motivated to create a supportive environment for women that she wished she had when she was a younger student. “So much of college for me has been finding the ability to feel confident enough to take opportunities and take chances and ask for what I want.” Women and Film is a branch of the University Film Organization, which was previously the only cinema club on campus. According to the Women and Film Facebook page, the club is “dedicated to increasing roles for women, non-binary and trans individuals within UO by promoting equal opportunities for creative projects.” The club hosts events, such as movie nights where members watch screenings of films
created by women. Women and Film also holds biweekly meetings where members discuss film production and practice skills and equipment use. The club also offers the opportunity for members to be matched with mentors who are experienced in the field of their interest. When Danielle was a freshman, she saw female students in leadership positions within film which inspired her idea for the mentorship program within Women and Film. “I think it was really important for me when I was a freshman to see girls creating content at the level that I wanted them to.” Shami Zellers, who has been attending the club since the second meeting, expressed the positive impact Women and Film has had on her. “This club has made me stronger in going for things that I wouldn’t normally have volun-
teered for, such as this internship that I have.” Shami is currently a video editor intern, and credits the club for encouraging her and other young women to be confident in pursuing their passions. Though Danielle will be graduating in June, she hopes Women and Film will continue to provide a supportive community for young women at UO. “I hope women who are a part of this community feel empowered so that they can live their college careers to the fullest and never let an opportunity that they want pass them by and I hope that this organization will grow and inspire women for generations and generations to come because I think that even if we make progress it will still be a good resource, an empowering place to be." Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 7
the face of the
conversation WORDS BY BRITTANY NORTON & SARAH TAMURA PHOTOS BY ZARIA PARVEZ
An upcoming club hopes to spark discussion on identity in America
achel Alm had just picked up her keys for her new apartment. She remembers it as a normal fall day in Oregon: slightly chilly, overcast. “Nothing should have been out of the ordinary,” she says. But as she walked out of the rental office with her mom, an older white man walked past them and slurred the words, “Fucking Japs.” Alm and her mom walked to her new apartment in silence. Alm says at the time she felt disbelief at the words she heard, but today, they would probably make her angry. She has spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a Japanese American on the mainland United States and this is a moment she has discussed with people close to her many times. “It’s one puzzle piece of me trying to understand the bigger picture of what it means to be Asian in Oregon,” Alm says. The Hawaiian native, who says her high school was 90 percent Asian, had never experienced this type of blatant discrimination before. “And being from Hawaii, I didn’t necessarily see myself as Asian. I saw myself as mixedrace, because I’m exactly half and half,” she says, referring to her Scandinavian and Japanese heritage. “I didn’t feel like I ever had to pick something. Mostly, I was happy to say I was ‘hapa,’ which is half. Then when I got here I realized that people want to put you in a box, and I wasn’t ready to be put in a box.” Experiences like these played a
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part in her decision to start a new University of Oregon chapter for Define American, a nonprofit media organization with the mission to foster dialogue surrounding identity and immigration in the United States. The advocacy organization was created by Jose Antonio Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter who publicly identified himself as an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines in The New York Times Magazine in 2011. Define American curates and creates media surrounding social issues. It also creates campaigns like its “#WordsMatter” campaign that encourages media outlets to stop using the term “illegal”
2017, which is where he met Alm for the first time. He pitched the idea of her starting the chapter for UO. The organization is currently undergoing the process to become recognized by Associated Students of the University of Oregon, and is holding preliminary meetings. “This issue of defining American is something that affected my family for a long time,” Alm says. She is Japanese American on her mother’s side, and speaks about her grandfather taking part in the 442nd Infantry Regiment in World War II. According to Public Broadcasting Service, this was a segregated unit in the U.S. Armed Forces composed almost entirely of Japanese Americans. Japanese Americans were only allowed to serve in the military after 1943, two years after the federal government started detaining them in internment camps. “Despite being from the territory of Hawaii, from this small island, he went and served his country because he saw what was happening as unjust, and wanted to show that Asian Americans were just as American as everyone else,” she says. This organization operates
“We’re the ones that get to decide in a day-to-day basis what American means. That goes for very small things, like being more aware of the way we interact with other people, to voting and to being more aware of what’s going on around us." when referring to undocumented immigrants. In addition, there are nearly fifty Define American college chapters on campuses across the nation. “It’s a story-based approach,” says Mariko Plescia, who is a part of the campus chapter and taught a Define American class in the fall of 2017. “If we can tell these stories people will become more humanized to these issues.” Vargas currently occupies the Wayne Morse Chair for Law and Politics, and he visited the University of Oregon in October
within a time when the national conversation around American identity is fraught with conflict: with a contentious 2016 election and heated debates surrounding immigration. In September 2017 the Trump Administration acted to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that promised to delay deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, given they met certain requirements. According to an article in The New York Times that reported the ending
of DACA, protests broke out in front of the White House shortly after the announcement. Since then, multiple U.S. district courts have blocked the administration’s decision, which allows people to continue to renew their DACA status. Since that announcement, many people have spoken out against the Trump Administration’s decision. In October 2017, President Michael Schill coauthored an opinion editorial in The Oregonian supporting DACA students, also known as “Dreamers." In the piece, he wrote that Dreamers live similarly to children born in the U.S., “with one big exception—they lack the certainty of knowing that they can remain in the only nation they have ever known.” Plescia mentions a moment in her class where a student asked rhetorically: “Who are you to tell me that I’m not American?” It caused her to reflect on who creates the definition. “We’re the ones that get to decide in a day-to-day basis what American means. That goes for very small things, like being more aware of the way we interact with other people, to voting and to being more aware of what’s going on around us,” she says. It’s a nuanced issue, and a definition that many people may disagree upon. But both Alm and Plescia have expressed hope that the Define American chapter at UO can help raise awareness of social issues and encourage people to have difficult discussions about identity. “I think it’s a key conversation, and I think it that it needs to happen in many different ways,” says Plescia. “I think it will happen through film screenings. I think it will happen through creative expressions, and creative production of media like videos produced by students asking other students: 'How do you define American?' I think it will happen by building coalitions with community groups.” The Define American Chapter at UO is sending out surveys to students to get a sense of what
conversations they want to happen on campus, and if they think they are necessary. While the design of the club is still being developed, it will likely happen in the form of meetings and events. Alm also hopes to receive a service grant from the Holden Center so the organization can take part in community service. “I’m hoping that our members will see that as much as we really want to have these critical dialogues, we also want to help people, and a part of that is this service work. That will be our second step—and something we’ll probably launch more in the fall,” Alm says. The first major event for the chapter will happen in the spring. It is a screening of "Human Flow," a documentary created by Ai Weiwei that follows people around the world who are displaced from their homes because of environmental or conflict-based reasons. The chapter is collaborating with No Lost Generation, another student group on campus that raises awareness of the refugee crisis, to show the film. There will be a discussion component that follows the viewing. Plescia says the screening will likely happen at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, which is currently showing an exhibit of Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.” Plescia stresses that the Define American class, and the organization, is about learning the history of the nation, how U.S. policies affect people and keeping an eye open to the struggles of others. Alm is able to put that fall day in greater historical context now. “I don’t have answers, and our club is never going to purport to have the answers either," she says. "I feel like a very gray question mark most of the time, and if other people feel that way—this is our chance to talk."
Faces of America
At random, we selected and interviewed members of the Eugene community. We asked these respondents three simple questions: “What do you identify as?”, “With that identity in mind, how do you ﬁt into or not ﬁt into the country?” and “How would deﬁne what it means to be an American?” From their responses, we uncovered many nuances that exist within American identity. Their responses have been lightly edited for ﬂow and readability.
“Usually when people ask me what I identify as, they’re asking me as far as what I look like. So, black-British is how I identify. There are assumptions about what I would like and wouldn’t like. I’ve actually been a vegan for eight years now. I don’t ﬁt into typical stereotypical realms of what a black person could look like. I think that being American should be all-inclusive. Historically, that’s what this place was about. So, that’s what our focus should be on—inclusivity and people feeling like they have a voice in this place.”
“I would say that it’s good to be hopeful that any kind of way you identify fits into the culture. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the case in our society now. My mom is Chinese and my dad is Jewish, so those are definitely minorities right there. But there are more marginalized communities. I’m lucky and fortunate but I’m still outside of the group. America is a diverse place that represents a lot of different things. It represents hope and having a pathway in life that maybe you wouldn’t have in a different country. America has a lot of potential to do a lot of good but it’s also done a lot of negative things in the world.”
Ryan Eberle “I’m dual-citizen, Canadian and American. I’d say I’m a proud American to some extent, but what our ﬂag represents and tells the rest of the world is something totally warped from what I knew growing up. To be American means that we have certain freedoms and liberties and that we have to protect them. It’s an important role that journalists have to play too, and that’s why I am a journalism major. I think we all need to keep the discourse going, we need to keep each other in check. Especially with things like mass shootings happening regularly, the discourse kind of runs in circles and loops in on itself. As Americans, we have a duty to not only have an opinion and voice but to actually act upon that.”
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Faces of America
Genta Uchiyama “I’m half Japanese but I look super white and I’ve got red hair. I don’t introduce myself as American. I lived in Japan for a little bit when I was younger, and I don’t quite agree or identify with a lot of American conventional values. I’m Buddhist. To say I’m American would be saying that’s where I’m from. Well yeah, I was born in Portland, Oregon, and I’ve pretty much grown up here for almost my whole life, but that’s about as American as I’ll get.”
Randall Scott Newnham Nita Bhojwani
“The ﬁrst thing that people notice about me is my ethnicity, especially coming to a school that is predominantly white. So, I always try to give my perspective above all since I’m not really represented in the school. The common phrase of America is that it’s the melting pot. I bring that diverse background to the country, which helps me ﬁt in. But it is tough because South Asians, speciﬁcally Pakistani, which I am, have been persecuted especially after 9/11. After 9/11, I felt like I wasn’t really welcomed. Coming to college, I can see that there is a strive for racial equality.”
“I guess I identify as a student and a musician, a little bit as a programmer. Those are the decisions I got to make for my own identity. I could have said I was a son or I identify as a male, but that’s more of a decision that’s not exactly up to me. It’s typically expected that, to be a programmer, you’re socially nonexistent but economically very affluent. But, it’s the complete opposite to be a contemporary musician. In this country, it kind of feels out of place to be both, but it feels like the best place to be both at the same time.”
Hadil Abuhmaid “As a woman of color I get stereotyped a lot. Whenever I would, let’s say email someone, and then they would see me in person, they’d be like ‘Oh, we were expecting you to look diﬀerently’ because they have this stereotype of women from the Middle East. Also, I’m here and my husband is back home. So, there’s this stigma of ‘How come you left your husband to come to school?’ I bet if I was a man nobody would ask me this question.”
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“I ﬁt pretty well into the country because I am part of the most powerful group—that is, white, male, cisgender heterosexuals. In my opinion, Americanness is ideally acknowledging a plural society that incorporates a lot of people of diﬀerent backgrounds and, ideally, respects all of those and has a place for them. Currently, being an American means not necessarily giving equal value to all of those diﬀerent segments. It’s a cynical acceptance of contradictions in terms of pluralism versus the hegemonic group that dictates policy.”
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Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 11
WORDS & PHOTOS BY ABIGAIL WINN
Mos Faded, a Eugene barbershop, is more than a place for a trim
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ason Thompson eyes a fresh hairline before going back in to touch it up. A gentle, persistent hum is in the air— the comfortable buzz of clippers skates the curves of a man’s head under fluorescent lights. Family photos and Blazers memorabilia hang from the walls. Rap music pulses from the old stereo system in the corner and there’s a basketball game on one of the TVs. Men with infectious smiles and knee-slapping jokes come in and out through the backdoor to talk about anything and everything. This is the barbershop. This is Mos Faded. Thompson started cutting hair when he was a middle school student in Eugene in the 1980s, first cutting his own hair before moving on to his friends. After graduating high school and getting his barber’s license, he moved back to Eugene and began working at Mos Faded in 2003. Today, he co-owns the bustling barbershop with longtime friend and fellow barber Alan McKinney. Though it’s traditionally understood as the only black-centered barbershop in Eugene, Mos Faded has always serviced people of all ethnicities, genders and backgrounds, something Thompson takes pride in. That message of inclusivity is even incorporated into the vibrant mural facing West 7th that covers the
whole outside wall of the shop, right above the window where passersby can get a glimpse inside. “It’s such a great place,” said Dena Kline, a small business owner who brings her sons Sam and Zach to Mos Faded. “You leave it at the door. You walk in and you’re able to feel comfortable.” Barbershops weren’t always accessible to everyone. From the 19th to the early 20th century, most blackstaffed barbershops only serviced prominent white businessmen and politicians. According to Quincy T. Mills in his book, “Cutting Along the Color Line: Black barbers and Barbershops in America,” black barbers had to balance the continued forced segregation after slavery was abolished and their own expectations of upward mobility. It wasn’t until around 1940 that these barbershops openly serviced black men and became commercial public spaces to them. Now, barbershops like Mos Faded create valuable communities where anyone can come in and feel welcomed. “I’ve never had love like this nowhere else,” said Beau Jefferson, a shop regular. “Love is the shop. The shop is love. It’s what we do.” McKinney credits Thompson for establishing the vibe and community in Mos Faded. “He’s just a super gentle soul,” he said. “It’s something I think he was meant to do.”
(Above) Jason Thompson trims CJ’s beard on a Friday night. Friday nights are for the regulars, when friends from all walks of life are brought together under the same roof. “It’s a place where people come and just be themselves,” said Beau Jeferson, a Friday regular. “Friday’s the only day I don’t think about my work. I’m with my buddies.” (Left )Thompson works on a fade during a quieter moment in the shop.
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(above) Three-year-old Maddox keeps an eye on the cartoons playing overhead while Thompson cleans up his hairline. Thompson pre-records a variety of TV programs such as cartoons, basketball games and news spots for his customers, adding to the consistency that keeps people coming back. (top middle) Thompson cleans every set of clippers he owns the same way. A hard-bristle brush gets most of the hair out, a quick blast of compressed air gets the rest, and a spray of disinfectant and lubricant keep things clean and running smoothly. Most of Thompson’s adult regulars have been seeing him for anywhere from 15 to 25 years.
(top right) Six-year-old Lakai watches TV while he waits for his turn in the chair. People of all ages have a place in Mos Faded. Some long-time regulars bring their own kids to Thompson. (bottom left) “It’s kinda like having more than one pair of shoes,” Thompson said of his clipper collection. “Each clipper kind of serves as a different function. Different situations call for different clippers.”
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Beau Jefferson (seated) says goodbye to another Friday regular. “I’m equal to everyone,” he said. “We all part of the melting pot that’s supposed to be. You come to the shop, it’s all love. We gon’ love you the same way.”
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Kevin Broadous talks with his hands during a shared moment of laughter with other regulars in the shop. The community at Mos Faded is unlike any youâ€™ll find in Eugene, one that welcomes everyone no matter who they are, where theyâ€™re from, or what they believe.
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The appeal of communal living projects around Eugene, Oregon WORDS & PHOTOS BY TASH KIMMELL
Joanna Castro lounges under a gazebo in the childrenâ€™s play area of Heart-Culture farm community.
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t’s an unusually hot February day in Eugene, Oregon. Kara Huntermoon wears only a tank top, exposing the yinyang and labyrinth symbols tattooed on either arm as she weaves together willow branches into what she calls a “living fence.” The 37-year-old mother of two is a part-owner at Heart-Culture Farm Community, a 33-acre intentional living situation tucked away next to the expansive Fern Ridge Wildlife Preserve. Nearly 30 people call Heart-Culture home, most of whom are young families. This 13-year project in sustainability and communal living has become Huntermoon’s “life project,” something I can easily understand on this exceedingly gorgeous day. Ducks mill around in their enclosure while neighboring newborn sheep lounge in the midday sun with their mothers. Children play in the expansive garden, jumping in and out of mud puddles, familial ties blurring as both children and adults interact with genuine ease. The scene is so wholesome it’s almost nostalgic. It’s a stark juxtaposition to the screen-obsessed pre-teens and their equally plugged in parents who seem so commonplace in the context of urban life. “Capitalism doesn’t care if we have time to sit in freedom, to talk and make music and have fun and enjoy nature, they care about us buying these technology ‘things,’” Huntermoon says, pointing with annoyance at the iPhone in my hand, an experience I’ll become accustomed to during my time at Heart-Culture. “And these technology ‘things’ interfere with human connection.” While communal living has existed since the dawn of humanity, periodically gaining and losing favor, the single family home has risen to the top of the housing hierarchy and remains the most accepted model of contemporary living. Communal living now seems relegated to the fringes of society as a relic of 1960s counterculture. And while the communes and co-ops of the 60s and 70s certainly laid the groundwork for a new generation of community oriented living, there are marked differences between those original attempts at intentional communal life and their modern counterparts. As Huntermoon explains, the influence of communism on the early communities created a push toward a com-
munal economic structure in which everything went toward the community. However, this model proved to be unrealistic for many. “That’s very challenging to have function well, even on a small scale,” Huntermoon said. “You have to have the trusting relationships first, and then the economic structure on top of that.” At Heart-Culture, instead of pooling the entirety of the residents’ earnings and funneling them back into the community, their economic model relies on clear agreements and financial responsibilities. Each person subsequently contributes what they can based solely on those agreements. Though newer communities have strayed away from the communist model, an overarching contempt for capitalism and consumer culture continues to play a part. Nathan Nelson, another part owner of Heart-Culture Farm Community, said that communal living is important because of what he sees as a breakdown of human connection within a capitalist culture. After years of living in a small apartment working 40 hours a week, Nelson felt deeply isolated. Though understanding of the comfort and convenience that comes with conventional living, he said that measuing quality of life by material goods and seeing independence as the ultimate form of success is deeply flawed. “Not only is loneliness fostered by the current system, it’s fetishized, it’s held up as a positive thing," Nelson said. "We’re a nation of individualists. We want to be independent. The whole idea of isolated nuclear families leads to all kinds of abuse and depression and general unhappiness." Huntermoon’s own experience aligns with these sentiments, as she describes her time in conventional living situations as “consistently involving isola-
tion and abuse.” While communal living initially served as an affordable option while raising a young child as a single mother, it’s now both financially and emotionally practical, as there’s always people around with “eyes” on her family who know and care for Huntermoon. “If we get off track, we can get help,” she says . While many might shrug off the revival of communal living as an idealist quest for alternative lifestyle, the connection between the influx of consumption, specifically in the form of technology, and the loss of fulfilling human connection is a valid one. A recent study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that there is indeed a direct correlation between high levels of screen time, and increased levels of loneliness and depression, especially in young people. people like Huntermoon,and Nelson live a more intentional, community-oriented lifestyle because of what they find at Heart Culture and what has been lost in conventional society. Joanna Castro, a new resident at Heart-Cul-
Nathan Nelson walks in the garden with a fellow resident’s two small children. Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 19
"There is a theme within the Heart-Culture community that living in togetherness is a central aspect of what makes us human."
Two residents of Heart Culture farm chat over cofee outside the property’s main house, a historical 1890s victorian. ture, moved onto the property with her 8-yearold son Willow after the dissolution of her own communal living project in rural Idaho. Though she’s lived both in and out of community, Castro didn’t want her son to grow up within the current social climate. Or, as she explains it, she didn’t want “the city life” to be his life. She wanted him to grow up close to nature without the influence of technology. “My son, he doesn’t have screen time, we don’t have one of these things,” Castro says, pointing to my phone in familiar judgment. “We don’t use these things. We don’t watch movies. We don’t watch television so the things that he’s gonna talk about are the things that are real and in his world, and I believe that’s really important to human development.” While there’s diversity in the reasons people decide to live in intentional communities, there is a theme within the Heart-Culture community that living in togetherness is a central aspect of what makes us human, and to live this way is to fully embrace one’s own humanity. Though communal living may seem outdated or unappealing to the millennial demographic, one must only look as far as the Janet Smith Graduate Student Co-Op just across from the 20 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
UO campus, to find a house full of young people choosing to cohabitate in an intentional way. Mark Landon is a senior in the UO School of Music who joined the co-op two years ago while looking for an affordable place to live. “We just eat together, live together and try to cultivate a space for not only the people who live here but for the general community,” Landon said of the 17-person community. Though financial practicality played a large role in Landon’s decision to join the co-op, he’s found much more over his two years at the Janet-Smith house. After living alone his sophomore year, Landon felt his introverted personality left him socially isolated. The co-op has alternatively proved not only a social outlet for Landon, providing him his “social quota,” but at times, functions more as his family. “I’ve never really had a sense of family or ‘lovey-doveyness’ and so all that’s very new to me,” Landon said. “I didn’t know that I needed it but I do need it, and if I were still living by myself in that studio right now I don’t know where I would be.” People chat idly in the background, some in the communal kitchen, others around a shared dining room table. Landon offers me a ripe avo-
cado from the bowl of them which sits on the kitchen counter. There is a calmness which encapsulates the scene, and again I am confronted with a strange nostalgia, perhaps in envy of the genuine human connections which seem to thrive around me. On my way out, as I reflect on the people I’ve met, and on my own life, I realize the greatest difference between the people who live in community and the people who live a more conventional city lifestyle is not that they don’t enjoy the comforts and convenience which come with modern living. Rather, it’s that they do not measure the worth of their lives using the same measuring stick. It is the quality of their relationships which dictates their quality of life. While a conventional lifestyle may foster a false sense of independence, autonomy and even success, without community it boils down to little more than a constant cycle of validation through monetary gain. For many living in community, it seems that living with others has granted them more autonomy and independence than living alone ever could. In Huntermoon’s words, “ I have permission to live the way I want, to experiment with my life the way I want.”
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WYNNE She wants to be a hip-hop queen. Are the genre, music industry and world ready for a white girl rapper from Portland to take the stage? WORDS BY TESS NOVOTNY | PHOTOS BY WILL NIELSEN
In the living room of Wynne’s tidy one-bedroom apartment, there is a glossy print photograph of her crouching deﬁantly behind two lions in a sepia-toned forest. The photo was taken on her family’s African safari vacation and reﬂects two sides of the 20-year-old rapper’s identity: a gutsy, fearless ambition and white and class privileges that aﬀord certain work and vacation opportunities. The photo hangs among other decorations emblematic of Sina Wynne Holwerda, the Portland rapper and University of Oregon junior from Lake Oswego who goes by her middle name. On one wall, a framed poster ranks rappers by the size of their musical vocabularies. An adjacent poster organizes rappers into a hip-hop periodic table of elements through sub-genres (pop-rap, gangsta, trap, etc.). A bookshelf balances an array of literature on hip-hop and politics alongside VHS cassette tapes and DVDs of Disney movies, and an intricate map of Disneyland covers a wall above a keyboard. Here, Wynne lounges on a crisp white couch and talks through every aspect of her identity (white, female, aﬄuent, Oregonian) and ambition (successful hip-hop star) to arrive at her current moment of career limbo—or “purgatory,” as her music engineer Itay “Ty” Lerner calls it. Although Wynne hasn’t released original music in over a year, her starpower has been growing. It has been seven months since a video of Wynne rapping went viral online with over 3.5 million views. The video led to accolades and connections from record labels, Grammy-winning producers and hip-hop big shots, not to mention loyal fans across social media: she has 75,000 followers on Instagram, 43,000 on Twitter and 35,000 on Facebook. In early March, she put out a remix of Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” on Soundcloud. Soon, when she’s ready, she’ll “push the button” and release the stockpiled music she has created over the past year with Ty and a select mix of famous and up-and-coming producers in Los Angeles, Portland and Eugene. To some, the blonde, blue eye-eyed, white girl rapper is an uncomfortable anomaly in an art form created primarily by and for black culture. As a woman, she is scrutinized through the misogynistic lens of the industry and genre. When she and Ty walk into a business meeting, the all-male attendees assume Ty is the artist and don’t acknowledge Wynne. I ask how that feels. She tips her head back, ponders the question for a beat, then says through a slight smile:
“Like revenge is coming.”
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n a night that culminates at Sprout City recording studio in Eugene, Wynne dons a baseball cap with the word “Captain” in bold lettering across the front. We grab her hype man Rafael “Raf” Newman, a 21-year-old selfdescribed “hip-hop kid” from Seattle, from his house and drive to Voodoo Doughnuts downtown to catch about 20 minutes of their friend Spencer Smyth in a rap show. After a little while, Wynne says it’s time to leave. The plan tonight is to track Raf’s vocals for a new song. Raf wears jeans and an oversized jacket reminiscent of a 90’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air style. He floats around the room saying bye to their acquaintances. Wynne waits near the door and checks her phone. In the car, Raf controls the aux cord and plays a few soul-tinged songs by hip-hop group Young Bull that I save to my Spotify library. We get to the studio around 10 p.m. and meet Ty, a 22-year-old music technology-major graduate of UO and Wynne’s righthand man. They talk about their recording goal for the session. Wynne says Raf’s old-school, R&B-style singing will layer well on this new song. She wrote it in 10 minutes (sometimes a song comes to her all at once.) It starts with a verse from a masculine persona who knows exactly what to say to get a girl
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to melt, then it fades to a catchy hook: “I’m a playa, playa, playa, yeah.” In the second verse, Wynne switches to a female “playa” perspective who sees through a boy’s phony charms, but indulges them anyway for her own objectives. Wynne interprets: “The female version of the player is like, ‘I know what you’re doing, but I want free drinks and I want things that you’re gonna give me if you believe that I believe what you’re saying.” Wynne and Raf take turns singing over specific parts of the song in the recording booth— sometimes they make up vocals on the fly, but usually they’re hitting a specific, pre-planned harmony or rhythm. At one point, Raf jazzily deviates from Wynne’s vocal instructions, then pokes his head out the booth to gauge her opinion. “Less runs, more sticking to the script,” she says with a straight face that cracks into a grin after Raf rolls his eyes and shuts the door again. Wynne said earlier that she wore the “Captain” hat because she would be the boss. When the energy sags around midnight, Wynne tells Ty to play a few of the duo’s finished songs that they are waiting to release. One is produced by Los Angeles up-and-comer Jonah Christian. A music composer for Beats 1 on Apple Music, Christian has worked with Anderson .Paak and Portland rapper Aminé. Someone with a production credit on the Black Panther soundtrack, and who has worked with Kendrick
Lamar, produced another track. Wynne doesn’t want to name that producer yet. As we listen, Raf bobs his head and dances. Wynne matches her hype man’s energy, alternating between rapping along to herself with surgical precision, and full-body vibing to each track. Ty jumps with the rhythm, and throws his hands over his face in a sort of tormented delight. He yells about wanting to release new music. Over the past year, Wynne and Ty have worked to sharpen all aspects of their craft, from singing and variety in rap flow to every minutiae of recording and mixing. Ty says these tracks break new ground. “As far as lyricism, cadence, flow, presence on the mic, thoughtfulness, the concepts and the execution of every single syllable—it’s some of the most technically advanced and well-executed rap music ever made,” Ty tells me. Ty admits he’s just a white kid from Oregon, but asserts that industry “gatekeepers of the culture” are similarly impressed with Wynne’s work. Wynne laughs at his description. Her take is more humble. “I’m excited to see how people react to it,” she says. “I want to get to where the technical skill is undeniable. That’s where Eminem had to get to, where it was like, ‘You can say whatever you want about what I look like, but you can’t deny my rapping ability.’ That’s the level I’m about to get to.” * * * Wynne grew up in Lake Oswego, an affluent suburb of Portland. Her mother, Kasey Holwerda, has a law degree but does not currently work. She is married to Wynne’s father Steve Holwerda, a chief operating officer of a capital management company. Wynne began rapping at 9 after her older brother introduced her to hip-hop. “I learned how to do what I do from listening to Eminem, which is such a common white thing to say,” she says. “He taught me to flow.” She consumed and practiced rap music by digesting the catalogues of artists from Jay-Z to J.
Cole. She gained enunciation skills by rapping along to their songs, and started writing her own material at 12. That’s when she knew she wanted to be a rapper. At first, Wynne was shy about her ambition, quietly refining her skills in her bedroom. Then in eighth grade, she performed an original song at her school’s talent show. The audience, which included her parents, was shocked. “People were surprised because she’d never done that,” Kasey says. “Nobody knew she had this secret talent.” Growing up in Lake Oswego, where less than one percent of the population is black, Wynne saw constant reminders of the privilege she and her community shared. Her peers often used the “N” word while reciting rap lyrics, but she didn’t. Lots of people listened to hip-hop, the lyrics so different than their everyday lived experiences. For Wynne, it was more than just party music. Hip-hop provided an opportunity to learn about black politics and black culture, she says. It gave her insight into her own privileges and the oppression of Black America. “If I wanted to do this with my life, I needed to respect it,” she says. “I spent junior high and high school reading hip-hop history books and listening to everyone I could find.” Race will forever be a point of contention in Wynne’s career. And justly so. She is an attractive white girl building her career in black culture. Wynne belongs to a group of white rappers like Eminem and Iggy Azalea who adopt the style and vocal cadence of black musicians as part of their own artistry. Loren Kajikawa, assistant professor of ethnomusicology and musicology at the UO, lays out three criteria by which white rappers are usually judged in hip-hop: skill, how they benefit from privilege, and political commitments to black culture. Kajikawa teaches a class on hip-hop music, culture, history and aesthetics at UO, and has had Wynne as a student in a number of classes since fall 2015. To illustrate these points, he
Wynne is flanked by her music partner and engineer Itay Lerner on the left, and her hype man Rafael Newman on the right. Ty and Wynne see themselves sticking together forever. “We both go really fast, we both think big,” Ty says. “We're overly ambitious. For us it's like, I wanna be one of the biggest artists in the world, I wanna change the world, I wanna be known by millions.” Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 25
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describes how hip-hop had different reactions to Iggy Azalea and Eminem. From the get-go, Iggy had skills, but the Deep South accent she used in music contrasted with her natural Australian affectation—some accused her of appropriating black culture. As Iggy’s popularity grew, her white privilege was scrutinized. But Iggy was defensive. “Her attitude was, ‘Screw you, I’m doing me,’” Kajikawa says. Iggy didn’t comment on what was happening in Black America during her ascent to fame—the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police, and the inception of Black Lives Matter. Prominent rappers like Q-Tip and Azealia Banks called her out. “To be a white female rapper in that political climate and not speak about white privilege, or what your participation in the art form means, or what’s happening in the world doesn’t seem right,” Kajikawa says. Eminem had a different reception. His skill was formidable, and he grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood. He acknowledges and uses his white privilege to fight for and bring attention to issues of Black America. In of other aspects of his life, Eminem is problematic, to be sure. But he understands he is a guest in black culture. Sexism may have also played a role in Iggy’s quick cancellation compared to Eminem’s sustained popularity. Kajikawa points out that misogyny in hip-hop (as in many music genres) likely intensifies criticisms of Iggy. Non-male rappers like Iggy and Wynne are automatic outsiders because of their gender, and to some, women rappers are seen as inauthentic. Perceived authenticity in hiphop can also sometimes be tied to adversity. Eminem grew up in poverty and abuse. Snoop Dogg was on trial for murder when he got big. 50 Cent was shot nine times before his music career. But to Kajikawa, good hip-hop does not need to be born from adversity. “It’s a disservice to artists, even those that have struggled, to equate struggle with art,” he says. “Going through bad shit doesn’t
produce good music. It’s messed up if you think about it because it takes away the creativity, hard work and genius of artists.” Wynne can’t rap about adversity how Eminem, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg can. But she could make music to inspire people; to help her audience to cope, to feel seen and heard. “That question about struggle will be answered by her art,” Kajikawa says. “Does the music convince people, even though she’s from Lake Oswego and hasn’t experienced struggles that they have, that they can identity with her?” Wynne’s use of black music aesthetics and her own white privilege make her wonder: is she plucking opportunities from black artists? Would she be getting the same level of attention if she were black? These are all questions she has considered throughout her career, things she mulls over in music and ethnic studies classes at UO— things she brings up unprompted at our first meeting in Lillis Cafe. “I've had a struggle in my life to
The last song she released in January 2017 was “An Open Letter to Donald Trump,” a scorching manifesto recounting America’s systemic history of racism, sexism and socioeconomic inequality which culminated in Trump’s election. It was inspired by a call on Christmas Eve 2016 from Kenny Burns, the senior vice president of marketing for rapper P. Diddy’s entrepreneurial business venture Combs Enterprises. “This is your time,” Burns told her. “There’s a reason that everything is happening around you right now, and there’s a reason why the people I know have started talking about you. It’s because Donald Trump is about to become president and you have the skill and white privilege to talk about it.” It felt like the scene in Lion King where Mufasa speaks down at Simba from the sky. “It was the trippiest phone call I’ve ever had,” she says. “We chatted for an hour about privilege and what to do with it.” Burns suggested writing a letter to the president to articulate her
“That question about struggle will be answered by her art. Does the music convince people, even though she’s from Lake Oswego and hasn’t experienced struggles that they have, that they can identity with her?" decide, am I hurting this culture by participating in it? Or can I help?” she says. “I always felt like, if you love something, let it go. I know what people are going to say about me. I can never say ‘you're wrong!’ because I know what this looks like. I know what it is.” In her studies as a popular music major, she grapples with the history of white people appropriating black music in America: first jazz, then rock, and now hip-hop. “I understand it, and because I chose to pursue it and participate in it, the thing that I can do is bring the message of what I'm against,” she says. What is she against? President Donald Trump, to start.
generation’s political frustration. She took his advice, then recorded the song with Ty at Sprout City. In the studio, they did several takes of the song in its entirety. “You can’t break the energy of that song,” she says. “In the best take we got, I was bawling my eyes out. The lights were all off.” Kajikawa says that in the bestcase scenario, Wynne could use her privilege to support social justice efforts and make positive change. But at the same time, can she be an effective ally when she’s also a competitor? “Nobody wants to hear a rapper say, ‘I’m the second best,’” Kajikawa says. “It goes with the territory that you’ve gotta promote your-
self, believe in yourself, and project confidence that you deserve to be there. That you’re the best.” Kajikawa says Wynne should also be careful navigating relationships with women rappers, especially black women. If she blows up, and especially if she gets recognition for working with famous black men rappers, she needs to stay humble and help bring black women rappers up. As a white women, it could seem like she’s receiving preferential attention from the industry and black men rappers. And at the same time, Wynne could be put in a “just women” box by working with only or mostly women. There has yet to be a successful, white, female rapper who stays popular and hits all the benchmarks for acceptance in hip-hop. Wynne could blaze that trail, but she’ll be analyzed and picked apart from every angle. Like Iggy, her vocal cadence is criticized by some, though Kajikawa somewhat shrugs that off: “you could say she’s imitating black speech, but that’s what hip-hop is: a black oral tradition. That’s the musical language, and either you can do it or you can’t.” Wynne’s whiteness sticks out from the tradition of hip-hop, but not in the Portland music scene. DJ Kylph, host of a weekly hiphop radio show on Portland radio station KXRY 107.1, put this in perspective: living in Oregon as a black man, he says white people rapping is nothing new to him— but he thinks Wynne has remarkable talent and intellect. Kylph, who helps curate a monthly hip-hop event in Portland called Mic Check, first discovered Wynne from a music video for her song "CVTVLYST" (pronounced “catalyst”). He describes her as a fierce rhymer who is soft-spoken in person. “You’re gonna have naysayers,” Klyph says. “I would be remiss if I didn’t say there are people who look at the fact that maybe she’s getting some attention because she is a white girl. As a curator in this city, it’s a task of mine to weed out artists who are nice and artists who are nice. Wynne is in the latter category. She’s different.” Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 27
* * * Wynne’s parents didn’t understand her drive to be a rapper until the past year or so. They never knew much about hip-hop. They played Motown in the house as she grew up. While supportive of her passion, they were skeptical of rapping as a career. She and her father, who she describes as careful and conservative, used to get in heated arguments about having a backup plan. “I don't believe in a plan B,” she says. “When you want to do something like this, you have to be crazy. If I had a plan B, that would be taking away time I need to put into this.” Wynne’s mother Kasey Holwerda, who described the extent of her hip-hop knowledge before Wynne’s career as “the song ‘Baby Got Back,’” recounts how she came to understand her daughter’s talent. In 2016, she accompanied Wynne to an underground hiphop showcase in Portland which Wynne was invited to perform at. They stuck out, Kasey says, as the only mother-daughter pair among the “cool” performers in their 20s running through soundcheck. She observed them while Wynne practiced. “Their jaws were on the floor,” she says. “That was when I real-
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ized, she’s better than most of these people. This is gonna be interesting.” Wynne closed the show. When it was over, they drove home in the family minivan. “Not many girls would let their mom drive them in a minivan to something like that!” Kasey says. “She’s who she is and makes no bones about it.” Wynne occasionally performed and consistently wrote music throughout high school. In college, she found like-minded friends in a hip-hop dorm community. Her freshman year, she joined the Illaquips, a hip-hop collective originally named the UO Hip Hop Ensemble, and became close with fellow members Raf and Smyth. Wynne met Ty separately about a year ago. Raf planned to audition for the group as a saxophone player, but in “typical Raf fashion,” Wynne says, forgot his instrument and switched to a freestyle emcee (rapper) audition. When an emcee freestyles, they rap to a beat completely on the spot. Jay-Z and Lil Wayne claim to never write down any of their lyrics—they only freestyle. This requires confidence and disposition to mistakes— Wynne, ever the perfectionist, had never freestyled before join-
ing the Illaquips. “I was solely a writer,” she says. “I didn't have the guts to freestyle. You have to be willing to fail a lot.” Over time, she got comfortable with freestyling thanks to Raf and Smyth. Her friends say she is now better at it than them. She aims to be at that Jay-Z/Lil Wayne level someday. As we talk in her apartment, soft Frank Sinatra and the scent of a brown sugar and chestnut candle waft through the room. Muted hip-hop videos of Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Jay-Z play on the TV—Wynne usually keeps a playlist of YouTube videos going on silent for constant creative inspiration. She is especially attuned to her senses, she says, something Ty, Smyth and Raf all separately mention to me. Wynne says she has synesthesia, a neurological condition that causes different senses to crossover with one another. For her, and other musicians like Billy Joel and Pharrell, synesthesia manifests as feeling correlations between color and sound. For example, Wynne gravitates toward purples and blues in sound—one of her favorite feelings is driving into a tunnel with purple or blue music blasting through the car speakers right as the song dips into the darkest shade of the color. The synesthesia also causes her to feel distinct parallels between music and other uber-specific, less tangible concepts. Ty is bewildered by it. “I’ll be trying to make beats and she’ll be like, ‘No those drums sound like birds flying through a yellow sky and I want more drums that sound like a raptor running through a forest! You know what I mean?’,” he says wide-eyed. “I’m like, I have no clue what you mean!’” Ty laughs, and recounts how, on the day they first met, Wynne sent him a photo of a poster of purple color splotches on her wall. “She…had circled the purples she was more in tune with at the time,” he says, deadpan. “She’s still like that. I don’t understand it an inch more than I did that day, but it’s what makes her her.” Wynne thinks her unique way of sensing the world has roots in
her infatuation with Disney movies, mostly older animations like Peter Pan, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. “I probably have a Disney reference in every song,” she says. “The thing that inspires me about Disney is there’s so much detail in everything they do—all their songs, colors...nothing is left untouched. I want to approach my music, my artistry, my brand, the same way. I want every line to mean something. I want everything to have a punch.” * * * Wynne does not have a record deal or manager, but she signed a publishing contract with a man named J.J. Corsini in September 2017. As her publisher, Corsini handles anything in her career that deals with money—like, making sure she gets paid by online streaming services. He is a crucial industry lifeline and mentor for Wynne and Ty. In addition to his publishing business, Corsini works as a consultant for Apple Music. The first of Wynne’s two viral videos was posted in August 2016. It got about 40,000 favorites and 20,000 retweets on Twitter, and was posted by Snoop Dogg to his Instagram. She says she “can’t even watch it anymore” though because she sounds too immature. The reception of the second viral video, posted in August 2017, dwarfed the first. It arose during a period of uncertainty for Wynne and Ty—they had recently received an underwhelming reaction to some songs they shared with cherished industry connections. The duo thought the songs were mindblowing; the industry heard nothing special. Submerged in this inspiration hiatus, Wynne didn’t think much of the video. She made it on a whim, then sent it to Ty for feedback. In the video, just over a minute long, she navigates the beat of rapper 21 Savage’s “Bank Account” with smooth metaphors, punchlines, humor and even props (lipstick and a honey bottle) to complement her rapping. Ty was with his girlfriend when he first saw it. He was so excited, he says, that he watched it four times and ran around the house.
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Over the phone, Ty told Wynne it would go “STUPID viral.” She didn’t believe him. “When you watch that video from the perspective of someone who understands hip-hop and lyricism, and the real science and art behind the language and manipulation—that level of execution was extraordinary,” Ty says. Wynne was alone at her family’s home in Lake Oswego when she posted it, first on Twitter and then Instagram. It took off on Instagram within 30 minutes, garnering hundreds of likes, views and shares per minute. Worldstar, a popular viral video social media group with 14 million Instagram followers, messaged her and asked if they could post it. She said yes— with credit—and it exploded. Wynne stayed awake for hours watching the video’s engagement climb higher and higher. Refresh: ten thousand more views. Refresh: another thousand followers. Refresh: a famous producer followed her. Refresh: a few record labels follow her. Refresh: a hundred new messages. Ty was busy with friends in Eugene, Wynne’s parents and her publisher J.J. were both on vacation and Wynne was practically in isolation for the greatest moment of her career up to that point. “I'm lucky because when I had gone viral the summer before, it was like a roller coaster,” she says. “When it happened the second time, I knew what it looked like.” Wynne says she received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the video. She knows her looks played a major role in getting attention, which made the amount of responses to the actual music content so stunning. “The biggest impact that it had for me was comments like, ‘this is what cultural appreciation looks like, not appropriation,’” she says. “That made me feel good because people saw that I spent my time studying and working on the craft of lyricism.” Around September 2017, Wynne and Ty began attending regular meetings with record labels and Grammy award-winning producers. She says their main takeaway from the industry ex30 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
perience is that they don’t need to jump at the first exciting offers coming their way. Wynne and Ty recently met with Scott Storch, a one-time giant in the industry who has produced for Beyoncé, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre (he did the song “Still D.R.E.”). Storch made a career comeback after overcoming cocaine addiction. Meeting him, they say, was unbelievable. In Wynne and Ty’s madcap recounting, they take an Uber to Storch’s mansion, about an hour outside of Los Angeles. Wynne is nervous because she had lost her voice performing a week before and can’t speak at the meeting. But she is too excited to cancel it. They arrive, step from the car, and are immediately hit with the smell of marijuana. They hike up a long driveway to a massive, Game of Thrones-esque door and text Storch’s manager to announce their arrival. After 30 minutes, a man opens the door. Inside, they are greeted by a towering mural of Storch, six Chihuahuas, a Pitbull and the producer’s posse of nearly 20 people. One of them is Storch’s manager, Steve Lobel, a hip-hop music consultant who has worked with the Wu Tang Clan. As they’re led through the house, they pass by Storch’s plaques and awards from work with Beyoncé and Eminem, a gigantic pool table, a bunch of tiny Storch bobbleheads, all of it seen through more marijuana smoke—“it’s like clouds, you can see clouds,” Wynne recalls—and arrive at a bar. “Scott’s sitting in this little chair behind the bar looking like fucking Scott Storch: full orange sweatsuit, big aviators with some Cartier frames, and smoking a big-ass joint,” Ty says. Storch's posse is posted around him eating Domino’s pizza. They introduce themselves then head to Storch’s in-home studio. The posse follows. In the studio, they hang out and play each other’s music. Storch and the posse smoke weed; Ty partakes, Wynne doesn’t. Lobel asks Wynne to articulate their vision, and since Wynne can’t speak above
a whisper, she looks at Ty to answer. “I’m high as fuck and I’m suddenly explaining our vision literally to my idols,” he says. “I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about.” “He was so confused,” Wynne
“I’ve known who I am as a person my whole life. But ﬁguring out who you are as an artist is about translating your soul and putting it into a tangible form.” says through a laugh. She still gives him a hard time for it. While she is stoked about her brushes with fame, Wynne is intimately aware of the musical and social maneuvers that lie ahead in her music pursuits. “There are a lot of eyes on me that I never thought would be on me right now and that’s why I’m taking so much time getting myself ready for what we’re about to do,” Wynne says. “I've known who I am as a person my whole life. But figuring out who you are as an artist is about translating your soul and putting it into a tangible form.” Wynne’s mom is impressed by her daughter’s deliberative, sensible approach to her career. Kasey recalls one extraordinary conversation they had in Portland the night before Wynne left for an important L.A. meeting. “I feel like I’m a single mother,” Wynne told Kasey, “and my career is my child and I’ve raised this child alone since I was 12. I’ve done a good job, my child is an excellent child, and now all of these stepfathers are coming around. They want to help me raise my child and I just feel like saying to them: what can you bring to the table that I can’t provide?” Kasey was taken aback. “This is where Sina’s meant to be,” she says. “We support her 100 percent.” * * * Unsolicited pictures of penises arrive regularly to Wynne’s social media inboxes—she used to get
them daily on Snapchat, but she set her account to private to stem the flow. These pictures, sent by people who likely identify as fans, represent larger realities of sexualization and misogyny faced by women rappers. Wynne says she works as hard if not harder than her male counterparts to get recognition, and even so, praise is inevitably tied to her gender: “she’s good for a woman” is a backhanded compliment she hears often. “I have had full mental breakdowns about this comment,” Wynne says. On this topic, her demeanor evolves from relaxed to agitated to defiant.
Wynne does not have a record deal or manager, but she signed a publishing contract with a man named J.J. Corsini in September 2017. As her publisher, Corsini handles anything in her career that deals with money—like, making sure she gets paid by online streaming services. He is a crucial industry lifeline and mentor for Wynne and Ty.
“What do you mean I’m good for a girl? I’m good period. You’re gonna tell me that I can spend ten years working on my craft and I’ll still only be good for a girl? What can I do to show you that I’m as good as these guys? That I’m better than some of them?” She launches into a diatribe against the patriarchal music industry. Women are pitted against each other, she says, and the industry forces a mentality that only one female rapper (if that) can be successful at a time. She hears stories of record labels passing on signing women rappers because they “already have one.” She grapples with supporting an art form that de-
grades women. “It’s like having an abusive lover,” Wynne explains. “I love this thing but it’s bad for me, it’s bad for women, and that’s hard to justify. My idol was Eminem, but he beat his wife. Can I separate the artist from their actions? Not really.” Kajikawa echoes her sentiments. “It’s so hard for female rappers,” he says. “It’s nasty, like, ‘There’s only room for one of us up here.’ Hopefully we get beyond that. We could have Wynnes and Cardi Bs and other people who deserve attention. How you get there is the challenge.” In the studio, surrounded by men, Wynne often feels com-
pelled to act “tomboyish” because of the dominating masculine energy. They’ll touch her differently, and go out of their way to hug her when it’s inappropriate. It’s uncomfortable, having to tone down your opinions and personality to be taken seriously in that environment. She describes a candid, backstage interview where Nicki Minaj sums up double standards for rappers of different genders. “When I am assertive, I’m a bitch,” Nicki says in the video. “When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. He bossed up! No negative connotation behind bossed up, but lots of negative connotation behind being a bitch.”
Women aren’t allowed to do what men do, Wynne says. She gestures to the TV where a muted, braggadocious Kendrick Lamar dances in his “Humble” music video. She asks if I’ve ever seen a woman do a video like that. Wynne remains optimistic that the industry is moving toward allowing more women rappers simultaneous success. “There are a lot of battles to be fought but I think it’s the perfect time,” she says. “If there has ever been a time for a female rapper to just come out and do what the guys do, it’s right now.”
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adjustment a new
A campus group helps newcomers to the U.S. by addressing mental health and building community
oon after graduating in 2016, Keqing Sun felt stuck. Her applied psychology degree from Heilongjiang University of Science and Technology seemed useless. In Chinese society, a career as a counselor psychologist isn’t easily attained because the topic of mental health, and treating it, is somewhat taboo. “I told some of my relatives I would study psychology in college, and they just responded asking ‘why’ and expressing displeasure with my decision,” said Sun, now a UO international student. “People think you’re weird and want to read others’ minds. There’s just a huge stigma whenever mental health comes up in conversations.” Internationally, the stigma surrounding mental health can become ingrained into individuals’ daily lives. This might lead to unfamiliarity with mental health and how to grapple with depressive or isolated feelings. It becomes especially problematic as non-U.S. individuals don’t communicate with family members back home, fearing ostracization. Sun decided to take initiative and help her cohort partners, Diana Kwon and Hoda (whose surname has been removed at her request,) start International Community Voices in the winter of 2017. The Couples and Family Therapy program's “cohort” model refers to students taking classes with peers, with one member of the group usually a year ahead in their studies. Although Kwon was the organizer, Sun took control of the group when the former graduated in the spring of 2017. ICV at UO focuses on building
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WORDS BY AUSTIN WILLHOFT | PHOTOS BY MEGHAN JACINTO
a closer relationship among nonU.S. individuals through weekly group therapy while fostering a community. Workshops and discussions demystify the stigma toward mental health in international cultures, allowing non-U.S. individuals a smoother transition into society. These workshops are sometimes held at the Mills International Center in the Erb Memorial Union.
Adjusting to a new life
When she arrived in Eugene, Oregon in the summer of 2016, Sun found herself racially alienated. Aside from feeling isolated, the language and cultural barriers caused a sense of disconnection. Eugene is approximately 85 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017. “After the first few weeks, I began feeling overwhelmed and anxious because I was completely lost in my studies,” Sun said. “It’s a long process adjusting to life in the U.S., and I’m still going through that phase emotionally.” Counseling services at universities provide an outlet where individuals impacted by these mental health concerns about academic performance seek advice and guidance. The American College Health Association reported in 2016 that 23.2 percent of college students felt anxiety to be the primary reason for doing poorly in school. In that same year, 31.8 percent of both undergraduate and graduate college students felt stress as the the primary factor affecting their performance in class. Although there are counseling services at UO, there’s no specific support group for international
students who suffer from cultural displacement and mental illnesses. At UO, more than 3,200 international students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs in the past academic year. Sun’s friends offered to accom-
“It’s a long process adjusting to life in the U.S., and I’m still going through that phase emotionally.” pany her to the UO Counseling Center in the fall of 2016. But there was a drawback: while she discovered professors specializing in helping international students, counselors themselves kept it mostly one-on-one. Sun needed a group to relate to and counselors who could empathize with her experiences on a cultural and emotional level. “At that point, my mom and I would talk every day on the phone or through Skype, but I would never tell her about my problems because I know she can’t help,” Sun said.
Call to action
Kwon, a former graduate student in the Couples and Family Therapy program at UO, felt passionate about addressing the emotional concerns of international students. Because she and Sun were study partners in the program, they met weekly, eventually leading to a friendship. Kwon acted as a mentor for Sun. Hoda has identified as an “international” person since an early
age. Her family immigrated from Iran to Canada, then she moved to London to study psychology. For her, ICV hits a soft spot. “Adjusting to a new culture has always been a struggle at different phases and countries in my life,” Hoda said. “I just remember being a teenager and going to school in Canada with no coherent English, aside from only remembering to say ‘I don’t understand’ to people, which my dad taught me.” Sun, Hoda and Kwon exchanged ideas about forming a group that would provide mental health services for newcomers to the U.S. They also considered the logistics, like funding, promotion and their overall goals. Beyond counseling and therapy, the three wanted to address the stigma toward mental illnesses within the international community. Sun understood as a Chinese person that if she is labeled mentally ill in her country, it’s similar to discrediting and insulting another person beyond what words could describe. In Hoda’s case, Iranian culture shares a similar attitude on mental health issues. Women with mental illnesses may struggle more than men because they could be ostracized from dating or marrying. “Generally, there’s just a contrast with the way international individuals deal with mental health and how they seek resources,” said Dr. Asha Stephen, a senior staff psychologist at the UO Counseling Center. Stephen used India’s mental health care as an example of a system where therapists are viewed as advisers, rather than in the U.S. where therapists encourage clients to
find their own solution in an inclusive space.
The bigger picture
Sun, Hoda and Kwon belong to over 800,000 international students who attended U.S. universities between 2016 and 2017, with roughly 42 percent from China, according to an Open Door survey. U.S. universities receive twice as many international students as the U.K. does; over one million were accepted in 2016. Statistics aside, when international students pursue their studies in the U.S., many arrive with a limited scope of cultural understanding, causing stress and emotional discomfort. Besides students, ICV also wants to extend its counseling services to foreign newcomers to Lane County. ICV could serve foreigners living in the U.S. under various visa restrictions, one of which is the F-2 Dependent visa. This restricts their access to work and study opportunities, compared to F-1 Student visa holders who have more flexibility. Sun, Hoda and Kwon all felt their personal narratives applied to a larger framework of connecting cultures. Hoda also believes the group highlights issues that domestic students are not aware of regarding their own culture to non-U.S. individuals.
Gaining administrative support
By the spring of 2017, ICV was created and began promoting its mental health services on social media, such as Facebook and WeChat. The message of the group resonated with Fei Shen, a visit-
Keqing Sun and Fei Shen, coordinators of International Community Voices (IVC), sit in the secluded place where therapy sessions are hold. Although small, the room holds a bigger meaning; it provides a safe place for UO international students who struggle with mental health. Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 33
ing instructor and clinical supervisor at the Couples and Family Therapy program. During Kwon’s time at UO, she worked as an assistant in the Office of International Affairs. She helped spread information about ICV. With Shen’s assistance, she reached out to Zhaohui Chen, an international student advisor at the office. “The idea of forming a group like ICV has been on UO’s agenda for a long time,” Chen said. “What we lacked beforehand was resources, whether it be finances or faculty personnel.” Around 2016, Chen, Shen and some UO professors noticed how deeply affected some international students are by mental health. Shen studied as a former graduate student in the Couples and
“I see it as we’re opening a door for them and a chance to tell their story,”
Family Therapy program, before becoming a faculty member and supervisor of ICV. Like Sun, she recalls feeling isolated during the early stages of living in the U.S. Coming from China, the stigma toward mental illnesses was all too familiar for Shen. When Chen heard about ICV in the winter of 2017, he immediately advocated for the group. Since then, according to Chen, the Office of International Affairs considered taking steps in addressing the mental health concerns of international students. Programs like ExplOregon that are geared toward connecting international and domestic students through trips around Oregon have not produced the results the Office of International Affairs expected. Chen notes the challenging aspects, faced by all U.S. universities, of integrating domestic and international student bodies. Although ExlpOregon doesn’t directly address mental health, its purpose shows the need for forming a system to help international students acclimate to campus life. Although they recieve resources from the Office of International 34 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
Affairs and the Couples and Family Therapy program, the group requires new clients to pay a $15 service fee each session. Shen stresses the fee can be waived, but it’s another factor affecting enrollment. After more than nine months, ICV still meets at the HEDCO education building every Friday afternoon. They run cultural workshops or group discussions of personal issues that clients bring up. “I see it as we’re opening a door for them and a chance to tell their story," Shen said. Aside from Shen, Stephen also visualized an “open door” when she took the leadership role of International Women’s Support Group a few years ago, a separate group to that of ICV in strictly connecting with female international students experiencing emotional troubles adjusting to U.S. society. The group is in partnership with the UO Counseling Center and the Women’s Center. Stephen stresses International Women’s Support Group promotes a different model of addressing mental health concerns of newcomers to the U.S. Her group doesn’t require weekly attendance in meetings and has a drop-in environment, so those who attend don't feel required to show up every time. “We do want clients coming in weekly because in that way, we track changes in their development and ultimately see if a group setting works for them,” Shen said. “If one person comes one week, skips the next three weeks, then returns, the individual already ruined the group dynamic among other clients.” She notes that support groups, such as ICV, act as a bridge in helping international students “feel accepted and not be ignorant regarding certain topics” when interacting with U.S. students. Furthermore, U.S. students also gain “invaluable perspectives and new cultural information.” The hope rests on wider integration of the international and domestic student bodies, and greater engagement on both sides.
Shen views the limited attendance of ICV at its weekly group meetings as a normal aspect of growth in any support group a few months into offering its services. Addressing mental health applies to a broader framework of adjusting to American culture. This includes distance from family, being immersed in an unfamiliar environment and basically “starting from scratch,” according to Stephen. Stephen said that an international presence on U.S campuses not only helps non-U.S. individuals fit in, but brings about cultural insight for domestic students who may have grown up in a sheltered environment. Stephen said that if universities allocated more resources for funding integration programs between the domestic and international student bodies, the responsibility of assimilating would extend to both groups. “A lot of international students don’t know what to say, what to do and what to ask,” Stephen said. She said that fewer attendees at recent International Women Support Group meetings offers two takeaways: lack of promotion because of insufficient funding, and stigmatization that convinces non-U.S. individuals not to seek help. The same problem persists for ICV. While Shen doesn’t attend every weekly group meeting, it’s usually Sun and Hoda conversing directly with clients. Both of them said there are inconsistencies with the number of clients per term. Early steps for any group, according to both Sun and Stephen, require time for branching out its presence within campus so a large part of the international community becomes aware of it. Connections function as a key component in spreading awareness of ICV, and also an aspect Sun expanded on when promoting the group on social media apps popular with non-U.S. individuals, such as WeChat, LINE and KaKaoTalk. Regardless, she and Hoda continue holding weekly group meetings with clients enrolled since the beginning of winter 2018. It’s
important to note that ICV never disclosed the exact number of clients enrolled in its program due to patient confidentiality agreements. Both Sun and Hoda developed their own process of handling the stress, isolation and depression caused by feeling out of place through facilitating the weekly group meetings. The experience of providing therapy to another person allows them to incorporate practical skills learned in their studies and apply them in the field. After all, one of the primary reasons Sun flew over 7,000 miles from northeast China to Eugene was the level of professionalism and insight she would never gain back home about counseling psychology. “In China, the stress and competition in school and when finding a job is increasing for our generation,” Sun said. “There’s a huge demand for therapists, but I don’t know when I will ever go back there and work.” Sun sees herself traveling back to China one day, however not after graduation. She views her experience at UO as more than getting a diploma. Sun plans on pursuing a state licensure in counseling psychology after finishing the Couples and Family Therapy program. “All the studies and research in China on psychology are purely based on white, American people,” Sun notes. “If I return, what will be difficult is applying my skills and what I learned in a Chinese cultural setting.” What matters most to Sun is assisting newcomers to the U.S., especially from her home country, to comfortably transition into American culture. “If I can’t help Chinese people back home, at least I can assist them at UO,” Sun said.
bleed permission to
Learning to accept and celebrate menstruation WORDS BY SAM SMARGIASSI | PHOTOS BY BAILY THOMPSON
’m crouching over my toilet, blindly feeling around, almost afraid to look too closely. I manage to pull out my menstrual cup without spilling too much. I open the jar that used to hold strawberry jam and empty my blood into it. I’m experimenting with how to engage with my cycles. Initially I’m shocked at how little blood is in my jar. I swear I nearly bleed to death every time I get my period. Maybe I’m a little dramatic though. Menstrual blood has nitrogen, phosphorus and magnesium: three essential nutrients for soil health. I’ve been aware of potentially using menstrual blood as fertilizer for a while, but didn’t feel compelled to try it myself until I met Anastasia*, who firmly believes in the power of returning menstrual blood to the earth. “The earth really misses women offering back their blood,” she said. “The earth is aching for us to reclaim our place.” Anastasia is a petite woman with large brown eyes. She moves gently and maintains a calm smile across her face. Still, she has experienced her share of major life transitions. A particularly impactful experience for her was participating in a psychoactive experience that is sacred to her Peruvian culture. Following the experience, she found herself very vulnerable to negative energy. She sought guidance from two female shamans and they recommended she use her menstrual blood to create energetic barriers around her home. All Anastasia had to do was collect her menstrual blood in a jar and infuse it into the earth in four corners around the perimeter of her home. She then took a moment to envelop the area with smoke from Palo Santo—a type of wood which, when burned, can be used to purify and seal energies. Anastasia felt emotionally and physically
stimulated during this process. “I felt this really intense buzzy tingling in my heart space and up through the top of my head,” she said. “And just a sense of, ‘I’m at the right place at the right time. I’m aligning with my truth right now.’” I wanted to feel that peace myself. I have personally struggled for a long time with menstruation. I remember my first period. I was so angry. No part of me wanted that. My mom kept telling me to be proud of it and that just seemed like nonsense to me. I still feel somewhat victimized by menstruation. You will not meet a person who complains more about her cramps and then even more about the spacey feeling pain relievers give me. My period has always left me feeling inconvenienced. Not to mention, I just don’t have the energy to go about business as usual. I find myself placing blame onto my cycle—and in turn, to mother nature—for the mistakes I make during my period. The inherent danger to all this is making menstruation even more stressful. So when my period came around again, I grabbed a jar, lodged my Diva Cup, and let myself bleed it out. Something surprising happened though. I wasn’t simply excited about what I was going to use my blood for, it was that I had the option to make use of it. My blood was no longer a waste. I became so much more accepting of the fact that it was a part of me. Anastasia has found that once you accept menstruation, and you give yourself permission to feel the cycle of emotions that come with it, many of the tensions dissolve. “You’re not fighting with yourself, you’re not fighting
with your body anymore,” she said. I think that’s the key to what changed in me. This part of my cycle didn’t feel like a hugely unwelcome thing anymore. I was open to it. I almost wanted it. I swear my cramps even alleviated a bit. Anastasia had a similar sentiment. “If you’re a cycling person you’ll find at times you get really cranky and anxious and you don’t want to be around anyone,” she said. “Before I used to think, ‘What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be bubbly and bursting all the time?’ And now I’m just like, ‘Oh, this is my time to feel that.’ And it’s just—the anxiety isn’t there anymore.” I ended up using my own blood for my plants. I was sure to thank my body for letting me nourish the earth in this way. Anastasia strongly believes in connecting with cycles—menstrual and otherwise. She too has felt the inconvenience of menstruation and had to challenge her feelings about it. In relearning, she has embodied the idea of cyclicity. To her, it means to be aware that there are phases in menstruation, your life, your day-to-day, everything. And more importantly, to be aware that the bad parts of the cycle do end and to take on those moments with acceptance and gratitude. “I find with the increased awareness of cyclicity and how I embody that, it helps me handle challenges in my life—both external challenges and internal ones—with more grace.”
Anastasia used an abalone shell throughout her ritual to catch the falling Palo Santo and sage embers. In many cultures the abalone shell is seen as a gift from the sea which is why it makes the perfect carrier for the cleansing ritual. *Name has been changed Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 35
Red tent events help Eugene, Oregon women access their inner energy and power â€œWhen a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.â€? Leviticus 15:19-21.
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WORDS BY SAM SMARGIASSI | PHOTOS BY TASH KIMMELL
he stigmatization of menstruation has longreaching historical roots that carry into present day. Many people still consider menstruation to be gross. Every person who has ever gotten a period probably has a story of being teased for it. These experiences can fill people with shame and maybe even disgust. Along with those stigmas, Red Tents—the spaces where women were sent to while they were menstruating—have traveled their way through history and time. In Eugene, Oregon, a woman named Athena hosts her own Red Tent events with different intentions. She has long-admired how they helped women bond emotionally and create relationships. So now, once a month around the new moon, she brings community members together. Her Red Tent events offer people many benefits like emotional support, a space to be heard and a sense of sisterhood.
“I am doing a lot of the things other women are doing and so it doesn’t seem unnatural that whatever I’m needing is probably what other people are needing—like a connection.” Athena exudes confidence when she enters a space. She holds her head high above her broad shoulders but never forgets to smile while welcoming in the people she has opened her home to. Athena started running her own Red Tent events so she and her daughter, Sylvia, could feel close to their community. She finds it necessary to establish a close-knit community with the people around
her and understands that Red Tents were a way to solidify these communities in ancient societies. “Now, many times people don’t even know who their neighbors are,” Athena said. “That seems kind of scary to me. I grew up in a small town so I guess I’m just trying to replicate that for myself and for my daughter.” Athena grounds her events in this necessity for community. She values emotional connections and having a space to be heard. She considers these thing when planning the themes and activities for each event. “I think about where I am energetically and what may be calling me and make them centered around that,” she said. “I am doing a lot of the things other women are doing and so it doesn’t seem unnatural that whatever I’m needing is probably what other people are needing—like a connection.” I attended one of Athena’s Red Tent events. The scene was ethereal and intimate. Athena lined her carpet, ceiling and walls with red sheets and blankets, bordered with white lights. Everyone sat in a circle on the floor. To our right was an altar with candles, incense, Palo Santo and tarot cards. Each person was invited to bring an item to place on the altar. I chose a necklace from a high school friend—a smiling sunshine pendant. Athena thought “Love” would be a good theme for the month of February. After everyone introduced themselves to the group, we read aloud affirmations: “Love is my guiding truth;” “I am creating loving and supportive relationships;” “I am fully open to giving and receiving love.” Following this, participants responded to prompts about how they experience love. Then we did
a guided meditation for opening heart chakras. Athena chose to set aside some time for socializing after the meditation and we finished with a talking circle. The talking circle was the longest portion of the evening. The group passed around a foot-long piece of pearly-white selenite—a crystal which is said to enhance mental clarity. Whoever held the selenite could speak. This was an opportunity to open up about our feelings and be heard. Sylvia, Athena’s 14-year-old daughter, is among the frequent attendees of the Red Tent Events. Sylvia actively participates and discusses her emotions, which can be a challenge for her because she has autism. “I embrace any opportunity I can find for her to socialize,” Athena said. “Kids on the spectrum tend to isolate and it’s difficult for them to feel motivated to go to something like that.” Sylvia also recognizes how the Red Tent events have benefitted her. “There is something very interesting about socializing—meeting new people, expressing each other’s feelings without worry, putting yourself out there,” Sylvia said. “You learn a new thing from this person, learn a new thing from that person.” But beyond her daughter’s needs, Athena feels these events could help all young people. “Even if they’re not on the spectrum, I feel like kids in that age, they’re really learning how to socialize,” Athena said. “They’re really learning their identity as far as sexuality and gender. It’s a very sensitive time for self-discovery. They could get more in touch with their emotions and in touch with a feminine-identified energy.”
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G I D IG T AL O L D $
Cryptocurrency gains ground among students WORDS BY SYDNEY PADGETT | ART BY SASCHA CHESLER
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he Van Gogh Museum gift shop was buzzing with conversation and filled with kitschy souvenirs. The chaos from the Amsterdam streets trickled in. Caitlin Eckvahl stared down at what she believed would be her most enduring memory of the museum, and the self-portrait van Gogh luggage tag stared back at her. Eckvahl was patiently waiting to pay for her keepsake when a stranger commented on her luggage tag. She would later learn he was a technological innovator and cryptocurrency investor. Here, over a knockoff Vincent van Gogh relic, Eckvahl began her relationship with cryptocurrency. Although Eckvahl was only in Amsterdam for two days, she kept in touch with her new friend and absorbed every bit of cryptocurrency knowledge she could. She began researching cryptocurrency, an infinite world of speculation and excitement. Like most first-time investors, Eckvahl knew very little and her research revealed a new realm of both risk and opportunity. Cryptocurrency is rapidly changing the way the world views investments and transactions. It poses an uncertain market, yet it attracts investors of all ages from around the world. Not only could it replace the role of banks, but its technology could also open a window into many alternate applications. Preston Crumbly, a cryptocurrency investor, believes in the future of the new internet asset community. “While there may be ups and downs in cryptocurrency, getting in now is kind of like getting into Apple, Microsoft or Amazon 20 years ago,” Crumbly said. Young investors like Crumbly are integral to this discussion. To Crumbly, a cryptocurrency investment does not follow the same rules as a traditional investment. “It is an investment in math and computer science, two of the most precise and robust sciences,” Crumbly said. Eckvahl’s research, like most cryptocurrency research, began with the 2008 financial crisis—the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. The crash occurred despite preventative efforts from the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury, causing many to question the viability of banks as effective guardians of the global financial system. Banks were crafted to serve as a trusted third party to regulate financial transactions, but their reliability was questioned in the wake of the disaster. Born from the rubble of the crisis, bit-
coin was a solution. The cryptocurrency was introduced in an eight-page paper titled, “Bitcoin—A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System.” The paper was written by a mysterious individual or group under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, who remains unknown to this day. Though Nakamoto’s technology was not the first of its kind, it was the first cryptocurrency to legitimately threaten the manipulative power of governments and banks. It gave people the freedom of privacy in their transactions. Like the U.S. dollar, bitcoin can be used to pay for things digitally. However, unlike the U.S. dollar, the distribution of bitcoin is decentralized—that is, no single institution controls the bitcoin network. The supply of bitcoin is limited, releasing unmined coins at a diminishing rate until reaching a maximum of 21 million. According to University of Oregon finance professor Stephen McKeon, this theoretically makes bitcoin inherently resistant to inflation. As of February 2018, nearly 17 million bitcoins have been mined. Eckvahl bought her first whole bitcoin in December 2016 for about $1,000. “When I first invested, I was skeptical. But 2017 was a very good year,” Eckvahl said. Now, Eckvahl is in it for the long-run. It was the first time she had ever invested in anything and she believes her early successes reflect a future of growth. “I believe it has the potential to hit $100,000 in my lifetime. When and if it does, I will consider selling half,” Eckvahl said. She has yet to sell any of her bitcoin. According to Eckvahl, cryptocurrency has the potential to be the new universal currency. She has faith in the technology, but recognizes an uncertain future. Eckvahl cautions that cryptocurrency is not an investment for everyone. To have cryptocurrency success, one must research trends and market value and maintain the mindset that in the end, the markets are impossible to predict.
A ledger that everyone trusts but no one controls
The banking system can manipulate figures and adjust exchange rates. Because of this regulative power, banks have been held increasingly responsible for severe financial crises. They take on the role of a bookkeeper, tracking transactions on a ledger that maintains an archive of what customers have deposited and what they owe. In order to foster an effective currency
independent of banks, an alternative technology to maintain the ledger is necessary. Enter the blockchain. Instead of placing the responsibility of the ledger in the hands of a single institution, the blockchain is a public ledger. Anyone can read the ledger, write to it and hold a copy of it. Crumbly explains that on the blockchain, “You are your own bank, you prove your digital ownership.” It is also difficult to cheat on this public ledger—if everyone is holding a copy of the same ledger, a single individual cannot get away with changing or altering it. Professor McKeon explained that the blockchain poses some limitations for cryptocurrency transactions. Where a typical visa card can process more than 1,500 transactions per second, bitcoin can only process three to four. The blockchain also uses a large amount of energy. The algorithms that computers must solve to verify a transaction require high computing abilities. At its height in December 2017, the bitcoin blockchain’s daily energy consumption was greater than that of the entire country of Ecuador. Moreover, bitcoin’s value compared to the U.S. dollar is volatile. It is not uncommon for a coin to rise in value 10 percent in a single day—sometimes even 100 percent— just to lose the same amount the next day. This makes it very difficult to use bitcoin on a day-to-day basis as it is not tied to any consistent physical assets.
What about altcoins?
“I threw some money at it and it worked out,” said Spencer Doubrava, a sophomore and economics major at UO who invested in altcoins. Like most cryptocurrency success stories, Doubrava’s is one of research. A U.S. Senate hearing in 2013 incurred unprecedented media coverage and a subsequent increase in the value of bitcoin. Bitcoin’s worth in the following months was volatile and Doubrava decided to jump into cryptocurrency. Unlike Eckvahl, Doubrava set his sights on altcoins. Since bitcoin’s launch, thousands of other cryptocurrencies have emerged. Altcoins are any cryptocurrency that is not bitcoin. Doubrava first invested in Ethereum— the fiercest rival to bitcoin. J.P. Morgan Chase, Intel and Microsoft allied to create smart contracts, a network that allows users to put code on the blockchain. Because these smart contracts are on the blockchain, they run without any possibility of censor-
Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 39
ship, fraud or third party interference. This feature lets Ethereum act as more than just a currency. Developers can use more complex code to build decentralized applications. These apps are less errorprone and more transparent, with greater built-in security. As of March 2018, there were over 1,500 altcoins. Prominent altcoins include Ripple, Litecoin and Monero. Lesser known altcoins include PotCoin, PutinCoin, Dogecoin and Garlicoin. Doubrava likened his altcoin investments to gambling. He based his decisions on the faith that the rest of the cryptocurrency world had in particular tokens. Doubrava is weary about the future of bitcoin. He said that the problematic network will not permit it to ever become a main-
stream currency. Nevertheless, Doubrava expects to make more money. For those looking to invest, however, he warns of the bad actors in the cryptocurrency world.
Stephen Paul’s cryptocurrency story begins two and a half years ago between two earbuds, while listening to podcasts about banking. “I was interested at that point, but I wasn’t educated enough to start investing,” Paul said. A business administration major at UO, Paul’s experience investing in stocks and conducting analyses to determine a company’s worth laid a foundation for his cryptocurrency research. In the summer of 2017, Paul dove into
the stock market, greater demand causes a higher market value. The cryptocurrency market has demonstrated this simple relationship in an extreme way. The rapid number of investors that joined the community in the last ten years has led to an unprecedented rise in value. Those who invested $1,000 in bitcoin the year it was introduced now find their investment to be worth $3.7 million. Paul doesn't treat cryptocurrency the same way he would a long-term investment. “It’s a currency, not a stock and it’s important to remember the difference,” Paul said. According to Paul, there is a lot of potential in cryptocurrencies. Although he said transaction times and costs will impede bitcoin’s growth, currencies like
the world of cryptocurrency. He considered mining and researching altcoins. When he began investing, a single bitcoin was valued around $2,500. Many believed this would be cryptocurrency’s peak, but Paul continued to invest. Almost a year later, Paul’s success reflects uncertainty. According to Paul, a key to predicting the worth of a cryptocurrency lies in its media presence. “It’s like gambling to see which one will be on the news,” Paul said. Media prominence incites dialogue. The more attention and demand a coin receives, the higher its value. From Netflix documentaries to front-page spreads, the more people talk about cryptocurrency, the more people invest. And like
how transactions work
3. 6. 1. 5. 4.
Sue wants to send Jess a bitcoin.
5. The bitcoin miners compete to solve the algorithm.
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2. Sue sends a transaction request to the blockchain and broadcasts her message to the bitcoin community by identifying her wallet, Bob’s wallet, and the amount transferred.
3. She proves she is the owner of the
4. Roughly every 10 minutes, these trans-
6. Once the victorious miner solves the algorithm, he/she announces victory to the rest of the network and receives a block reward of 12.5 bitcoin. Fifty one percent of the network must vote that the puzzle is put together correctly and then the process starts over again.
7. Sue’s transaction gets added to the blockchain.
8. Jess receives a bitcoin.
bitcoin using her private key: “To own a bitcoin means to own the right to transfer it. You do so using a private key. The easiest way to think of a private key is it’s like a password,” said Professor McKeon.
fer messages are collected in a group.
Bitcoin Price Index from March 2017 to March 2018 (in U.S. dollars) $15K
Growth in Dollars
Fe b M
M ay Ju ne
Source: coindesk.com as of March 20th, 2017
Litecoin, designed to reduce these impediments, may persist. Paul recognizes the large amount of risk in a cryptocurrency investment. However, he believes that profound research and financial responsibility can result in an effective venture.
Hold on for Dear Life
“Most people don’t know about crypto, but they want to get into it,” said Alexander Bang, a music and psychology major at UO. “I wanted to make something to facilitate the investments.” Bang was introduced to the world of cryptocurrency by his friend and future business partner, Crumbly. After he invested in Ethereum, Crumbly encouraged Bang to do the same. The two entered a world of opportunity and wanted to help others who may not understand cryptocurrency to join as well. “From grandmas to lawyers, tons of people have heard of bitcoin and blockchain, but are hesitant because they only see it as a way to get rich quick,” Crumbly said. Their solution was 21K Investment Group, a mutual fund for cryptocurrency that the two
roommates launched in December. Bang and Crumbly’s mutual fund is more of an investment than an exchange. Exchanges are a vital part of the digital currency market. They are institutions that allow customers to exchange cryptocurrencies for assets like dollars or other cryptocurrencies. Like traditional stock exchanges, cryptocurrency exchanges match buyers with sellers. In 21k Investment Group, investors purchase a coin that is specific to the exchange, and is more like a receipt than a currency. There are three rounds of investing. The coin increases in price every round, becoming more valuable with each wave. Everyone who invested in the first round will have doubled their investment by the second. Bang and Crumbly said they believe in the future of cryptocurrency. “There is a saying within cryptocurrency that says to HODL, which means to 'hold on for dear life.' We believe strongly in how cryptocurrency can be used in the future and how it can change so many aspects of our life.”
The Future of Cryptocurrency
Just like real gold, cryptocurrency is hiding under the surface, waiting to be brought to light and spent. Also like gold, cryptocurrency has had a turbulent narrative with an uncertain future. The decentralized nature and anonymity of cryptocurrencies has made them favored vehicles of illegal activities, including money laundering, drug sales, and weapons procurement. Networks that foster cybercrime like the Silk Road flourish on the blockchain, leaving many with a pessimistic view about the future of cryptocurrency. Governmental agencies are getting better at tracking pseudonymous transactions. However, altcoins that allow for complete anonymity, like Monero, persist. Many believe that the future of cryptocurrency is doomed at the hands of government regulation. As banks and governments realize this invention has potential to draw their control away, they may take steps to gain regulative control. However, there are potential models that could benefit both
parties. “Cryptocurrencies will persist. Each country has their own currency, but cryptocurrency provides a universal aspect to it,” Bang said. Moreover, banks around the world in places like Estonia, China and Sweden are experimenting with their own forms of cryptocurrency. Crumbly believes that the volatility of cryptocurrency is merely a product of its recent inception. In the short term, it will serve as a complement to the dollar, but banks will eventually have to update their methods of exchange to compete with cryptocurrencies. In the long term, “Crypto is perfectly situated to replace fiat,” Crumbly said. Bitcoin, the first major cryptocurrency, has been declared dead by the media 259 times, according to BitcoinObituaries.com. It is impossible to know whether bitcoin is merely a bubble or the future of currency. The only verified commander of cryptocurrency value is its investors.
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A RIVER RUNS through it
Culture and connections along Oregon waterways WORDS BY SARAH HOVET | PHOTOS BY ALEX CHAPARRO | ART BY SAGE ASHER
uch like the dynamics of water, cultural information also converges and percolates around rivers. “Water is life” has become the rallying cry of various water conservation and protection movements. A component of that: water is culture. The Willamette River spans over 300 miles if one includes the headwaters of the Middle Fork Willamette River and Coast Fork Willamette River, which converge by Springfield into the mainstem Willamette Oregon residents steward the Willamette and its other rivers through an array of watershed councils, culminating in the Network of Oregon Watershed Councils and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. These councils foster relationships between multiple stakeholders ranging from landowners to fish biologists to the Forest Service. This system reflects the community’s attitude toward the waterways that influence many aspects of the culture in the Willamette Valley, from fish to beer to art. The term “watershed” does not refer to a specific point or struc-
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ture, but a network. A watershed includes the entire geographic area in which water flows into a particular body of water. If a trickle on the east side of a ridge winds its ways through ferns into Lookout Creek, which flows into the McKenzie, the trickle and the ridge and the ferns are all part of the McKenzie watershed. Although the McKenzie River flows into the Willamette, the area in which water drains into the McKenzie is still the McKenzie watershed, not the Willamette watershed. Subsidiary watersheds nestle alongside the Willamette and the McKenzie, such as the Long Tom watershed. The Long Tom is a minor river running along Fern Ridge that flows into the Willamette. David Turner, who works in Arts & Administration Museum Studies Advising at UO, authored the book "Along the Long Tom River: Observations from the Past and Present" in 2012. In the introduction, he deems it a “guest book,” one “sharing impressions of how different people have spent time there.” “Oregon is ahead of the curve in terms of watershed management,”
Turner says. Turner became a member of the Long Tom Watershed board of directors after volunteering for projects on creeks near his home and observing how the organization “pulled community together.” The council is one of many local organizations alongside the McKenzie Watershed Council, the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council, and Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council. “Oregon is unique nationwide in the amount invested into its watersheds and these ubiquitous watershed councils,” says Jared Weybright, director of the McKenzie River Watershed Council. Nearly every major watershed in Oregon has its own watershed council. The councils are non-regulatory and originally came about as a vehicle for local decision-making. Between public and private entities, they foster voluntary conservation, restoration, education, and outreach. When asked what a typical day looks like at the watershed council, Weybright laughs: “There are no typical days.”
Winter on the Willamette river at the headwaters of Lookout Point Reservoir, a crucial ecological structure to the WIllamette river watershed. Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 43
The Willamette River seen flowing downstream of the Willamette fish hatchery. The river acts as a breading ground for trout and salmon, and is host to many native Oregon plants.
Salmon & Willows
Turner points out in his book that Amazon Creek, a tributary of the Long Tom River, flows through South Eugene, making the city part of the Long Tom watershed. Historically, Amazon Creek did not exist. Rather, a series of channels braided over the Willamette Valley, surrounded by wetlands in the winter. In the summertime, the wetlands dried up. The valley became habitable. Members of the Kalapuya tribe then accessed the lands to harvest camas, a blue lily with roots that were a staple crop to roast and eat throughout the winter. As settlers arrived, they began creating ditches to redirect the various channels from the land. The effects of this work intensified in 1950 when the Army Corps dug a channel from the headwaters of what would become Amazon Creek out 44 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
to the Fern Ridge Reservoir. This single channel became Amazon Creek. “A ditch is great for getting water off the land, but it simplifies the creek greatly in terms of vegetation and wildlife and fish,” says Eugene Parks Services ecologist Lauri Holts. “We’re trying to add back in that complexity.” Holts’s office contains a mobile of vibrant paper salmon dangling over her potted plants. The Chinook salmon is the Oregon state fish. Often reaching a length of two to three feet, its bluegreen or red speckled head has become emblematic of the Willamette River. Holts works to manage vegetation along the banks of Amazon Creek. The formation of the waterway as a ditch created a trapezoidal shape to the banks, which does not lend itself to vegetation growth. So Holts performs her work after
engineers, consultants, and excavators reshape the banks as part of a restoration project. The more gradual slope of the reshaped banks recreates its original configuration, allows space for the water to flood into, and provides a shelf on which willows can establish themselves. Every year Holts plants 200 trees along the Amazon Creek, including 2,000 linear feet of native willows. These native trees provide shade and cool the waters of the creek. Cooling the water is essential, because Amazon Creek flows into the Long Tom, which flows into the Willamette. The water temperature of the Willamette’s tributaries affects its fish species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, such as Spring Chinook salmon.
For many, beer is a sense of regional identity. A 2017 Insider article identifies Portland as the number one beer city in the U.S., having the most breweries and independent microbreweries of any city in the world. Zymurgy Magazine terms Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, of the Oregon Deschutes Brewing Company, one of the ten best beers in the country. Ninkasi Brewing, co-founded by UO alum Jamie Floyd who brewed his first homebrew in well-known campus coop The Lorax, features its “Beer is Love” program, donating free beer to nonprofits. As Amazon Creek is a tributary of the Long Tom, which flows into the Willamette, the McKenzie River also flows into the Willamette. The McKenzie features prominently in the culture of Eugene and Springfield. Local brewery McKenzie Brewing declares that “Since 1991, we have used the purest of water from the McKenzie River as the main ingredient in our beers.” “The water is the most important,” says Blue Hellenga, head brewer at the McKenzie Brewing Company.
The McKenzie’s water has a pH which hovers around 7.25 (depending on the exact point along the river), a soft water that the brewers actually need to harden in order to achieve a stout or a red. Different styles of beer entail different color, character, complexity, and mouthfeels, and water is an important component. Born on a commune in Washington, Hellenga comes off as the consummate Pacific Northwest resident, having lived in Washington, Eugene, Alaska, and Berkeley. However, he has also lived in Arizona and Miami, where he became interested in beer. He earned his American Homebrewers’ Association card in order to receive a discount at a bottle shop he frequented in Miami, where he savored Duvalls and Chimay Blues. He fell in love with brewing and moved back to Eugene to find the scene exploding. Although Eugene qualifies as a saturated market for beers, Hellenga claims the environment is more collaborative than competitive. “It’s different from the real estate market,” he says. “There’s so much communication. We make
each other better. If someone needs hops, we lend our hops to them, or malt, or anything, It’s a huge community, and it’s still growing.” Furthermore, the breweries understand their reliance on the surrounding watershed. “All of us collectively believe we need to invest our time and energy in ensuring it’s taken care of.” McKenzie Brewing, too, is growing, with a new production facility opening set to open in April. Hellenga anticipates the brewing company becoming more involved in water conservation as it expands. Ninkasi Brewing exemplifies this tendency for breweries to be active in watershed preservation. The company has partnered with McKenzie River Trust, McKenzie Watershed Council, Long Tom Watershed Council, Coast Fork Watershed Council, and EWEB. In fact, Ninkasi is a member of the Oregon Brewshed Alliance, a network of brewers, conservationists, and community partners. The term “brewshed” refers to the watersheds from which breweries draw their water, which composes over 90 percent of beer’s ingredients.
Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 45
Dorris Ranch, a working farm, National Historic Site, and public park, overlooks the headwaters of the Willamette at the confluence of the Middle Fork and Coastal Fork. About ten miles north of Eugene, the McKenzie meets the Willamette at Green Island, a property protected by the McKenzie River Trust. Meanwhile, the Long Tom enters the Willamette far north of Eugene, past Monroe. Before European settlement in the 19th century, the Willamette ranked as the 13th largest river in the U.S., although its volume has been cut in half since then due to channeling. And before that, about 50 mil46 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
lion years ago, the Willamette Valley lay under the Pacific Ocean. Turner records this history alongside over 200 visuals, ranging from blue sweeps of riverfront scenes to macro photography of lichens to various maps, both historical and topographical. Cartography relies on aesthetics as well as objective depiction. It can also illustrate a place’s history as well as its current geography. A Portland cartographer recently created a map of the Willamette using lidar that visualizes its historical channels, no longer extant, alongside its present-day channel. Turner accomplishes a similar project in "Along the Long Tom River,"
a book he hoped would illuminate “forgotten histories.” Turner demonstrates the artistic potential of Oregon’s rivers and those rivers’ histories, its signature spaces. The community organizing represented by watershed councils typifies the spirit of stewardship around Oregon rivers. These intersections between Eugene’s waterways and identity only begin to sketch their rich history, and do not even touch on other local gems, such as Delta Ponds or Millrace. Instead, they create just an impression of how these waters inform our lives.
(Left) The Mckenzie River emerges from an underground spring two miles upstream from the Tamolitch Blue Pool. (Right) Fern Ridge Reservoir, created in 1942 acts as a flood regulator and water storage system, with primary inflows originating from the Long Tom River and Amazon Creek. Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 47
REVOLUTION One man's history reï¬‚ects a legacy of protest and change in Iran WORDS BY ALEC COWAN | ART BY KEZIA SETYAWAN
48 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
n a typical weekday, Sammy Mazraekar stocks books in a quaint green vest and directs students to their supplies at The Duck Store. He uses a bright yellow X-Acto knife to open stacks of boxes, and when he stocks the shelves, he squints through his glasses to make sure each stack is geometrically exact. After work, he goes to the University of Oregon library and watches old Italian films, Pasolini and Fellini being his favorite auteurs. He catches up on soccer highlights. He’s also reading about his home—Iran. “You can easily find news on what’s going on in Iran,” Sammy said. “We have more information about Iran than Iran itself. They all want to escape from Iran and find another country.” Sammy is 64. He was born and lived most of his life in Abadan, a small city in southwest Iran. It is a relic of an unrecognizable Iran: one where citizens strolled down palm tree-lined boulevards in chic outfits and where people were as big an import as the sweets and movies they enjoyed. However, after numerous wars and a pivotal revolution, Iran has entered the world stage under an image of antagonism and state-sponsored terrorism. Sammy’s life is a history that challenges this image. It is the story of a revolutionary who overcame stealing street goods to survive and who worked to subvert Iran’s dictatorship by organizing protests in the world’s largest oil refinery. Sammy is at once the protector of Iran’s imperial history and its victim.
Sammy is encyclopedic. Ask him about the years and matchups for the previous 10 World Cups and he could tell you the results of almost every game his golden team, Brazil, has played. His memory of Iranian history throughout his life comes down to years and even months. The name of his kindergarten teacher is as familiar as a coworker’s. “Your character is based on your culture—your character, your past,” Sammy said. “I can remember everything in Iran.” The history of Abadan shaped the history of Sammy. In 1910, the British began building up infrastructure in the palm tree-dotted coast of the Persian Gulf. Abadan saw a large influx of foreign workers, most coming from the then British-occupied India. In the center of the city stood the Abadan Refinery, which was the largest oil refinery in the world for decades. The country was ruled by the Pahlavi dynasty, a monarchy founded by Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925. “Oil was the driving force of economic and urban development in Abadan, but it also became the lubricant for cultural development, shaping new forms of socialization and creating new imaginaries,” writes Rasmus Christian Elling, an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen, in his essay series “Abadan: Oil City Dreams and the Nostalgia for Past Futures in Iran.” “Oil opened up new horizons and made Abadanis think of themselves and their city in a global context.” As Elling summarizes in his essay, oil functioned as the zeitgeist of social Abadani life. Workday horns dictated the city’s internal clock, its wealth and bootstrap mantra pouring into its white and blue collar workers.
Sammy was born into an impoverished neighborhood. The Cinema Rex, an icon in working class Abadan, became a favorite place for Sammy. It’s where he developed his life-long love of Fellini’s films. The local football stadium is where he would surreptitiously sneak to catch world-renowned players. For Sammy, Abadan was a cultural capital. “Abadan gave birth to famous artists, novelists and cinematographers, many of whom would set the tone for the movement that culminated in the Shah’s overthrow in 1979,” Elling writes. Abadan would come to be colloquially known as “Second London.” But while the refinery brought wealth and diversity to the city, it also segregated it. As global powers started coming to Iran to partake in its wealth, their influence lead to changes in city infrastructure based on classist and racial divisions. When Sammy went to enjoy the splendors of Abadan it was often out of desperate need. “Why did they have this when we didn’t have it?” Sammy said. “I didn’t understand why we were different. I didn’t understand that we were poor and they were rich.” Sammy would run through neighborhoods and steal vegetables, flowers, pastries and blocks of ice which set him apart from what he considered the bourgeois Abadanis living just across the road from him. Home life was complicated as well. His father was a strict and devout Muslim, a fact that pushed Sammy away from religion for the rest of his life. While he and his family were scrounging for food, Sammy watched his father donate his earnings to the mosque. This marked two of the fundamental differences in Iranian values: those enmeshed within Western culture and those in conservative religious areas. Sammy summarizes this in one poignant sentence: “He goes to the mosque, I go to the stadium.” Sammy’s strain against religion would wind up being an important distinction decades later. While Abadan was measured by constant immigration and cultural innovation, other cities across Iran held a staunch religious identity. When the revolution began, theocratic powers would take a popular center stage. Sammy, however, would never fall into that camp. “I always fought with the system and everybody knew it,” Sammy said. “The people, my classmates—they knew when I was in the school that I was always fighting.” This youthful rebelliousness became a political revelation when he began his two-year service in the military, a mandatory enlistment for all Iranians post-graduation. “The minute I became political was in the army,” Sammy said. In 1972, when Iran was involved in small skirmishes along the Iraqi border, Sammy would tune to different radio frequencies at his post and listen to Iranian opposition radio programs. These programs criticized the Iranian elite’s mismanagement of wealth and their allyship with the West. These messages resonated with the disparities Sammy saw when looking across the refinery into the palace-filled roads reserved for administrators and foreign officials. “Because of that radio, the propaganda affected me,” Sammy recounts. “I became even more political knowing about what’s going on in the country. Where does poverty come from? Why are working class people like that?”
Spring 2018 | ETHOS | 49
Sammy had questions. Where did the wealth flowing out of Abadan’s pipes lead? His newfound articulation of class conflict as it had plagued Abadan pushed him to act out against the country whose military he was enlisted in. In his opinion, this lack of discipline is what saved him—while Sammy was held back to be reprimanded, many of the soldiers sent to the border did not return. But life after the military became mundane. Sammy found employment at a small bank and began supporting his family with his new income. He hated his job and preached to the company’s vice president about the great class struggle. His boss responded with a sobering statement that young leftists inevitably grow up to join the bourgeoisie. Sammy was fired, and the future looked bleak. So Sammy left Iran. A friend offered him a trip to Sweden and a chance to leave the difficulties of Abadan behind. Once there, he got an education and found inspiration in the growing political unrest against the Swedish monarchy. Sammy saw opportunity. “I had a desire to go back and be a political activist against the shah, the king, and to do something about bringing him down,” Sammy said. “I decided to go back, January 1976. I came back to Abadan.” Once home, he applied to the refinery, the colossus that had cast his childhood in its daunting steel shadow. He got a clerical position, but his reasoning for working at the refinery was more than just employment. “They didn’t ask what was on my mind. They didn’t know my plan for the refinery.”
Protests across Iran were building and crowds were growing in size each day. The most catastrophic event in catalyzing 50 | ETHOS | Spring 2018
Sammy’s activism was the burning of the Cinema Rex, called “one of the worst disasters of its kind in history” by The Washington Post in 1978. At least 420 civilians were killed when the doors were barred and the cinema was soaked in gasoline. It was one of the largest acts of terrorism pre-9/11. “They became ashes,” Sammy said. “I was in shock.” Sammy left work to go to the embers. Police were already carting bodies toward the graveyard. “I went to the graveyard too and saw all the dead bodies burning,” Sammy said. “My uncle’s wife’s sister was there too. She was pregnant with her husband and they both burned and died.” The culprit of the attack was never agreed upon. The Iranian government blamed Islamic radicals who pushed against the Westernized culture the shah brought to Iran. At the time, Sammy believed it was the Savak, the military police who had consistently quelled protests across the country. Iranians of every identity found common ground in their distrust of the West’s influence on their government. There was a strong Muslim resistance to the shah as a paragon of Westernization—a sentiment reflected in Iran’s subsequent history. For workers like Sammy, however, the call for revolution was for something else; something that supported the culture of cinema and sport, as well as the uniqueness of Abadani lifestyle, but erased the
vast disparities in wealth. So Sammy’s clandestine revolution began. “They chose me, because I was so brave,” Sammy said. “I thought: this is a revolution, there is no way we will be defeated by the shah. We’re going to burn this, bring this down.” While large strikes against the tyranny of the shah were taking place across the country, Sammy and his cohorts would lead the charge against the forces in Abadan that had put them in poverty: those who ran the looming spires that provided the city’s skyline of smoke. Under the cover of an Abadani evening, Sammy packed into a car with eight organizers and spoke in secret about which demands they should present to the oil company: better wages, housing and living conditions. The moment they could strike and call attention to themselves was the moment they could enact their political message against the shah. Sammy, in his encyclopedic memory, wrinkles his eyes and manifests the names of each organizer: Raman Gallehzan, Esmaeil Rigi, Heidar Agin, Majid Reisi, Abbas Sangian, Ali Khoshkalam, Ghasem Moradi, Abdi Shoja, Ahmad Taheri and Mohammad Tirandaz. “The Abadan refinery is a key point in any movement,” Sammy explained. He said that previous Iranian movements, such as the 1954 nationalization of oil from Britain, hinged upon the refinery’s involvement.
The strike came. Fifty oil clerks put forth their demands and striked for two hours. A week later, when the demands weren’t met, they threw several more strikes. The final strike brought in 80 workers and resulted in the arrest of eight leaders, Sammy among them. Sammy had evaded police before, both as a child and as a worker. The penalty was now much steeper as the country began to sow unrest. However, 10 hours after they were incarcerated, Sammy and the others were released. The whole refinery was on strike, thousands of workers walking out of the largest oil refinery in the world. “The whole oil industry in Iran knew the Abadan refinery went to strike,” Sammy said. But economic and theocratic revolutions competed. Cities on the fringe of the country’s Islamic center—cities like Abadan, teeming in a cosmopolitan culture—found themselves on the losing side of revolution when theocratic powers outweighed their socialist ideals. Their institutional leadership wasn’t there. “I saw the beginning of our defeat,” Sammy said. “I thought, we lose. Because they’re going to win. We did our job to reach freedom, equality, change the dictatorship and have freedom. But I saw we did not prepare.” The government officially collapsed on Feb. 11, 1979. Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power and replaced 2,500 years of continuous Persian monarchy with a new Islamic Republic. The formation of the theocracy, which was voted in through a national referendum,
marked a quick shift in perspective on the role of Western culture in Iran. It was massively popular among the majority of the country. For Sammy, not much changed. After Khomeini came to power and the revolution came to a close, Westernized cities like Abadan began an abrasive relationship with the newly religious law. Sammy and his colleagues continued to organize protests to affect some form of social and economic change. “All the workers were angry,” Sammy said. “They participate in the revolution, they were a key element in winning the revolution and bringing down the king’s regime. But still, Khomeini’s government is against them and trying to suppress them, and not giving them anything but more hardship.” When a mullah—a religious official—came to the refinery to speak on the prosperity of the new Islamic Republic, Sammy went on stage and stole the microphone. He listed the strikers’ four demands: the placement of two refinery workers in the revolutionary council, the expulsion of the Savak from the refinery, the dissolution and reinstatement of the army and the guarantee that all demands would be carried out. But their timing, whether pre or post revolution, didn't make a difference for their demands. Sweeping arrests were made across Iran as the Islamic Republic tried to solidify its control of the country. In a tragic foreshadowing, many who opposed Khomeini’s new rule were exiled. Eight of Sammy’s colleagues from the
refinery were killed. “They put all their killings in the newspaper and every morning everyone knew who got killed,” Sammy said. “Without any lawyer, without any court. They just kill, kill, kill. And some escaped, if they could.” Sammy’s family relocated to Shiraz, a city farther inland. He was working at a smaller refinery there when the 1980 war with Iraq broke out and put him in a war zone. The violence he’d seen enacted against his fellow workers was now manifested in a different form: missiles falling feet from his home. The disparity from the revolution, coupled with the physical violence around him, was a heavy weight on Sammy. “Sometimes, I was used to it,” Sammy said. “One time my father came and woke me, and he said ‘son, son, wake up.’ I said, ‘what is happening?’ And he said they were bombing us. And I said, ‘what can we do? If they’re going to kill us we can do nothing—just sleep.’” Even in such moments Sammy persevered. He continued to organize and protest, now against the Islamic Republic’s tightening stranglehold. In moments of Abadani deja vu, Sammy was put in prison for such protest. But besides living in a literal war zone, one where he witnessed neighbors and homes destroyed, the battle for the identity of Iran was one he was losing. The Iran he envisioned and had lost so much for would not live up to the vision he’d carried since his youth. For fear of his life, Sammy was smuggled out of the coun-
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try after this final incarceration. The future that oil workers hoped for was finished. Sammy had his last Iranian meal outside a small Pakistani border-town. It was a banquet of rice and warm goat to commemorate his departure. He and six others, accompanied by a camel, would cross the border undetected at the darkest part of the night. This particular night was full of moonlight. A dog barked in the village as they passed. A military vehicle came by, and it was this moment that Sammy believed he would be caught, his reputation in Abadan and Shiraz culminating in a life in prison—or worse, execution. The group laid on the ground as the car passed. Sammy felt ready to fight at any moment. But the car missed them. The group passed into Pakistan and, after having their money confiscated by the Pakistani border patrol, was free to go. Survival without money was something Sammy could handle. After venturing through Russia, Spain and France, Sammy came to the United States to begin a new life, one where he couldn’t be seen from the piercing towers of the refinery.
Today, Iran’s image is one of reformation and contention. President Donald Trump, a vociferous adversary of the Iran Nuclear Deal, agreed to extend the divisive agreement in January. The president tweeted his support for the budding December protests against a “brutal and corrupt” regime. Iran is also listed on the contested travel ban, which bars most travel from the country. Even though he hasn’t been back to Iran since leaving, Sammy spends much of his time at the library investigating current Iranian events. He scrolls through headlines laced with English and Farsi and comments his dissent on message boards. This has been his routine for the last 15 years he has worked a seasonal position at The Duck Store. Although Sammy has lived as an immigrant in the United States for the last four decades, he has found it difficult to connect with others. “When they know you are from the Middle East, especially from Iran, and they don’t know you — they know your accent, it’s very hard to connect with people” Sammy said. “They try to be nice to you, but actually marginalize you.”
His relationship with Iran is still intimate. He followed the December protests closely. To a veteran activist like Sammy, the unrest comes as no surprise. “In Iran, there were more than 100 cities protesting against the Islamic Republic of Iran. But only unemployed people and students without jobs were protesting. The regime still can suppress people and arrested more than 3,000. And they will be tortured,” he said. Sammy sees the same themes in these protests as the ones he fought for almost 40 years ago. Thousands were arrested, but this movement places itself in a larger arc of history; an arc that began before Sammy, lived through him and now presents itself again. “The suffering I had in the past is still going on,” Sammy said. “Iran was so rich. It still is a rich country, but when people make a revolu-
“I’ve been waiting for 36 years now. I hope one day Iran’s change comes. Otherwise, there is no point." tion to make things better, there is a dictator who comes to power.” Sammy sees similarities between Iran’s problems and those around the world. Between Iran, Europe, the United States and even Portland and Eugene, Sammy notices the same conflicting inequalities: a lack of access to food, shelter and security are problems endemic to anywhere with a divide between the rich and poor. “This is a horrible life. All hungry people, working class people, are exploited through religion, government, the system,” Sammy said. “We’re not supposed to be satisfied. We’re supposed to revolt. Every day.” Abadan hasn’t fared much better since the revolution. According to Elling, the cosmopolis that was Abadan lives as a shell of its former glory. “Current local officials and managers are accused of inefficiency and cronyism. Abadan’s municipal authorities are paralyzed by internal conflicts and strapped for funding,” Elling writes in his essay. “My interviewees complain
that people cannot or will not respect the rules, that they show no respect for public space and that the city has lost its aesthetic identity.” Elling writes about a local Abadani politician who allegedly ran on the slogan “we don’t want progress—we want to return to twenty years before the revolution!” In interviews with contemporary Abadani people, Elling found that many feel a deep nostalgia for a time before the revolution. Outside of Iran, protectors of history like Sammy live under the shadow of their usurped revolution. Due to his work in organizing protests, Sammy is exiled from his home country. “After I left Iran I was in Spain, and I contacted my family. They said the government of the Islamic republic of Iran sent a letter to my family, which said your son Sammy Mazraekar cannot leave Iran,” Sammy said. “That’s why I can’t go. If I go, I can be arrested.” Sammy’s parents have since passed away, and his brothers and sisters live throughout Germany, Canada and Holland. The Mazraekar diaspora spans the globe. He readily admits that his life today is simple. When asked what he thinks about his history, he shrugs and squints, the arch of his brows indicating a life spent in careful thought. “When I look back, it was natural to me,” Sammy recounted. “Protesting is in my blood.” The recent protests have given him inspiration. “I’ve been waiting for 36 years now,” Sammy said. “I hope one day Iran’s change comes. Otherwise, there is no point.” When scrolling through articles online, he critiques the protests’ organization: not a strong enough message, not targeting the right workers. He thinks back to his work in Abadan, and hopes the next time he’s able to organize, the same mistakes that drove him from Iran won’t be made. “I always hoped I could learn from the past what was wrong with the revolution,” Sammy said. “What did we do wrong, and what was the biggest victory for us?” Sammy has enough money saved up to buy a ticket and head to his home for action whenever the opportunity arises. In the meantime, he’ll continue to work his seasonal position at The Duck Store, watching soccer and classic films in the library, and holding onto the dream that the history he built will continue to inspire change. Hopefully, he’ll be there to see it.
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hyperreality Understanding what's real and what's fake in the television show, "Nathan For You"
WORDS BY KYLE HEINER | ART BY NAT GEORGE
hen a camera is recording, everything changes. People become acutely aware of their every movement, facial feature, and word said. The longer a camera rests on someone, the more prolonged time seems to be, and the more uncomfortable they become. Cameras are unforgiving mirrors whose reflections can’t be viewed until later, either edited, color corrected, or fed into a narrative that delineates from the reality of the original moment. Thus reality television, from "Jersey Shore" to "Survivor" to "The Bachelor," has never felt immensely real. The participants don’t fear the camera. They actively seek it in order for personal gain, and even still, every line sounds like a sound bite or production-fed scene. That inauthenticity is not the case for Comedy Central’s "Nathan For You." Created by Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder, a business graduate with self-proclaimed “really good grades,” the show explores the limits people will go to for the chance for recognition. Nathan first approaches various struggling small stores with his production crew under the disguise that they’re filming a business improvement show. After introducing himself, Nathan proceeds to pitch an unconventional plan to help solve the store owner’s problem. The catch? Each plan is more absurd than the last. When a realtor wasn’t selling as many homes as she would have liked, Nathan proposed
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she become the “ghost realtor,” someone who would alert homebuyers of the house’s spiritual presence or lack thereof. When an electronics store started losing customers to the neighborhood Best Buy, Nathan posited that they manipulate the retail chain’s price match guarantee by advertising their television sets at an extremely low price but making them nearly impossible to purchase (such as entering a room with an alligator). And most famously, Nathan made both national and international news when he opened up a cafe called Dumb Starbucks, an exact replica of the coffee empire except that every menu item had the word "dumb" in front of it. Through all of this, the show has found a way to subvert star powerhungry reality tropes by allowing sheer awkwardness to serve as the main theme. By welcoming people’s queasiness toward the unknown predicaments they find themselves in, and the outrageous plans they cautiously sign up for, "Nathan For You" stands out in a cluttered televised crowd. It has carved a niche in the reality television market as hyperreality television—something that blurs the line between an authentic shared reality and its simulation. In each episode, Nathan meticulously crafts his own “reality” in order to realize his hidden comedic mission, and those who inhabit it are merely pawns in a social game. Unlike many reality shows whose hosts provide commentary or let the featured players take center stage,
Nathan and his cameras are just as unwitting to what will happen as the business owners are. By staying stone faced and off-puttingly “normal,” his casual yet prodding questions are inconspicuous to those he interacts with, allowing them to fill in the blanks with their own personalities. The best and most obscure moments of the show arise from when the people he’s manipulating say or do something that even Nathan wasn’t prepared for, such as a gas station owner admitting to drink his grandson’s pee out of nowhere. Unbelievable, right? Well not so much—not anymore. On reality TV, stars are becoming more than just the persona they embody on screen. Anything is conceivable in the era of the unbelievable.
“The line between reality TV and reality is not just blurring or moving, it’s simply fading away." In 2016, we saw reality television reach new positions of prevalence when Donald Trump used his reality television riches to attain the highest seat of power in the United States. This same coin can be applied to Oprah who had such a powerful acceptance speech at the 2018 Golden Globes that it prompted hundreds of thousands Twitter users to use the hashtag #Oprah2020 in a rally cry for her presidency. It seems that reality TV is not just limited to the screen anymore, it’s spilling all over society in powerful ways. When returning to the screen in 2017, Nathan For You had the challenging task
of returning to its antics due to his growing cult-like popularity and new reality-exhausted American culture. Season four of "Nathan For You" had fewer episodes—Nathan created a syndicate network of spies to take down Uber, concocted the perfect anecdote to be used on any late-night talk show, and opened America’s first computer repair shop staffed by asexuals—yet included a groundbreaking two-hour plus special, a finale so bold that it reexamines the point of the show itself. While the first half of the finale has moments resembling past episodes, such as a fake movie audition and staging a 57th year highschool reunion, the unconventional journey of Nathan and previous guest star Bill Heath turns into a tale about perceived identities and the duplicitous connection between them. As the duo searches for Heath’s long lost lover, a woman named Frances who lives in smalltown Arkansas, Nathan and Heath (a selfproclaimed Bill Gates impersonator) try to uncover moments from Heath’s past that may lead them to this woman from another life. By the end, laughs turns to gasps as a new level of self-exploration, realization, and bitterness set in and the journey reveals what genuine connection can mean for both men involved. The beginning of Nathan’s undoing, and perhaps the show itself, is when Nathan meets an escort named Maci. Originally hired to test and see if Heath could hold a conversation a woman, Nathan takes the opportunity to talk to Maci himself. What could seem like a one-time use of someone’s profession instead becomes a foil for Nathan. Both Maci and Nathan play a role for someone else. Maci becomes the woman men want her to be, for a price. Nathan becomes a business lifeline from television, for those in need. Both embody a character that helps those who are reaching out in the first place. This personality dissonance—the character versus the person— begins to manifest in Nathan, who up to this point has always been “Nathan For You,” as he begins to interact with someone whose job it is
to dupe in a similar way. As the episode continues, and Nathan eventually unearths Heath’s past, finds Frances, and helps him move on in Los Angeles, the story doesn’t conclude. While the duo had hit a rut during their search for Frances, Nathan had continued to regularly meet Maci—at restaurants, bars, even his own hotel room. Thus, minutes before the episode ends, Nathan flies back to Little Rock to be with Maci one last time. As they both exchange an affectionate “I like you,” it seems their relationships has gone beyond strictly client business. Sitting on a park bench, Maci asks, “It’s kind of weird having the cameras around right?” Nathan responds, “We can turn them off if you want.” Maci: “Could we?” Nathan: “Do you want to?” Maci: “I feel like, does that defeat the purpose maybe?” Nathan: “What’s the purpose?” Maci: “You’re filming something. It’s kind of the purpose right?” Immediately, Nathan retracts into himself. In one brief glance he stares at the camera, and in another, he looks at his crew, clearly beside himself. For this is the purpose of the show, the camera needs to be on. But in this moment, it appears something real might be brewing outside of this reality. Without the camera to confirm the authenticity of their interaction, however, can it exist? After several seconds, Nathan admits that they have a drone, and that one last drone shot could be cool. Seconds later, a drone pans out from the two holding hands on the bench, revealing the five person crew, and recedes into the distance. Where Nathan once felt close to us, and us in on his secret, we the audience are cast away—transforming a reality television show into an actual reality for two people.
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Volume 10, Issue 3