Archive for the ‘Edited by Erin’ Category

I have always wanted to try mud pie. When I was little, my brother and I would wait for the puddles that a rainy day left behind. We would prepare pie after pie, but we were never allowed to eat our delicious desserts. My mom said we could only take pretend bites. “Mud is yucky,” she would add, and then her face would scrunch up tightly.

Fifteen years later, I’m in the bateyes (pronounced “bah-tays”) of the Dominican Republic, the poverty-stricken section of the country’s sugar and banana plantations. Here, cooking mud pies is more than a child’s game. When there isn’t enough food, the locals bake a mixture of dirt and water over an open fire to make mud cookies. In the bateyes, mothers feed their families mud pies simply to stay alive.

It’s March 2011 and I’ve signed up for a community service trip with the University of Oregon, thinking that the experience will satisfy my desire to help save the world. As I board the plane with a group of 15 students and advisors, I already feel proud of what I plan to accomplish during the next six days. I’ll be working alongside North American doctors and dentists to provide medical care for those living on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Ten hours later we arrive in Monte Cristi, a sleepy Dominican coastal town about an hour away from the bateyes. The locals are friendly and chatty. The kids, all dressed in tidy school uniforms, enjoy showing off their broken English. The small town has a few restaurants, a grocery store, a hotel, and an ice cream shop. While this isn’t a luxury area, the quality of life in Monte Cristi is drastically different from what we later witness in the bateyes.

Each morning our group travels to one of the several poor batey communities in the area (there are an estimated 400 such towns along the border). On the first day, I gaze through the window at the line of people waiting for us. Many of the adults have dark skin and prominent cheekbones, but it is their large eyes that I notice first. Despite their vivid beauty, they gaze out emotionlessly.

The people in line stare at us while we set up our makeshift clinics. Most of the women hold smiling babies in their laps. The children’s eyes seem different than those of the adults. They glisten with innocence and a blissful unawareness of what they don’t have: basic human rights and an identity in their own country.

While both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are independent countries, they share the same island, Hispaniola. Geography plays a primary role in their drastic economic differences. Mountain ranges force the majority of rain to fall on the Dominican Republic, leaving Haiti with an arid climate unable to support much vegetation. The Dominican Republic’s fertile land means the residents have greater access to resources while Haiti struggles to feed its rising population.

Eighty-two years ago, these economic differences, aggravated by a history of political conflict, resulted in widespread discrimination against Haitians within the Dominican Republic. It was 1930 when Rafael Leonidas Trujillo took control of the Dominican Republic and began his infamous push to “cleanse” the nation of Haitian blood. In October 1937, he led a campaign to brutally murder any Haitian found outside of the bateyes. The Dominican Republic refers to this one-month massacre as El Corte, or The Cutting.

Today the mass killings have ended, but the Dominican government continues to support Trujillo’s “cleanse” by denying citizenship to Haitian immigrants and residents of Haitian descent. According to the international organization Human Rights Watch, the Dominican government deports 10,000 to 30,000 Haitians annually. To avoid this fate, many settle in the bateyes, providing a steady supply of cheap labor for the wealthy plantations.

Each batey community is built around an open dirt field where barefooted children run around snapping whips or playing soccer. Tiny homes made from uneven wooden boards and tin roofs dot the landscape. Most of the homes have a wood stove used to cook meals of rice or beans. That is, if there is any food that day.

As I begin my first day in the bateyes, I question the dreams I had of saving the world. While watching a woman sweep outside her hut’s crooked front door, I realize my ignorance in thinking that these people belong to a world different from my own. The woman’s sweeping may only reveal a layer of caked dirt, but she keeps cleaning the small square in front of her home, taking pride in what she owns.

Orphanage Outreach, now known as Outreach360, coordinates medical care in both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

Each morning we travel to a different batey where I am assigned to a registration table to pass out brightly colored bracelets for the day’s medical clinic. In Maguaca, a small batey on the outskirts of Monte Cristi, a large iron gate surrounds the concrete area where we set up the clinic. The doors stay tightly closed until the clinic is ready, preventing a crowd of antsy children, desperate mothers, and weathered old men from rushing my table. Tiny brown hands grip the iron bars and huge round eyes peer through the gaps. I sit on the other side of the fence and try to avoid their gaze.

When the gates finally open, I give each person a bracelet printed with a registration number and ask them for their name, age, medical complaint, and nationality. Few say Haitian. Those who do don’t announce it with pride like those who say Dominican. Once a patient has a bracelet, he or she must wait, sometimes up to four hours.

To pass the time, I do my best to make people smile. I soon learn my digital camera is the best way to connect with people. The kids beg to have their pictures taken, but I’m surprised to find the adults also enjoy being photographed. When I point the lens at an older woman, her smile reveals several gaps where teeth should be. Before I push the button, I notice a glimpse of the same shimmer I see in the children’s eyes. She looks at the picture on the tiny digital screen for several minutes before asking me to take another. I wonder how long it has been since she really looked at her own face—there aren’t many mirrors hanging up in the bateyes. Perhaps this woman can’t even recognize herself.

Most of the time, I can’t understand the pronunciation of a prospective patient’s name so I try to spell it out to the best of my ability. When I’m wrong, most people scoff or laugh and take the sticker with a misspelled name. I wish I could take the time to give them the dignity of wearing a correctly spelled name tag, the only form of written identification the bateyes residents typically have.

Throughout the week, I notice how much the people enjoy simply interacting with the volunteers. We acknowledge them as humans through a gentle touch, be it a hand to hold while the dentist completes an examination or an offer to cradle a baby while the mother has a tooth pulled. One four-year-old boy stands by my table for a long time before he decides to sit on my lap. Every time I look down at his face, he grins; this becomes our game. I wish I could remember his name.

A mother and child wait for a dental exam.

I have a name on my passport that reminds me that I am a citizen of the United Kingdom. That piece of paper is not what makes me feel human. I felt human when I shook my principal’s hand at my high school graduation and when I gripped my best friend’s arm as we sat through our classmate’s funeral. I feel human when my dad lets me stand on his toes while we dance around the kitchen, or when my boyfriend rubs his thumb across the top of my hand while we walk. A human touch is a powerful thing.

For the first time it strikes me that the people we are helping are not “others.” I cannot give these people a piece of paper with their legal identification on it. Nor can I provide clean toothbrushes for every child or meals for every person in the bateyes. However, I can make each person feel accepted as a fellow human being by speaking to an old man in his own language, by taking pictures alongside smiling children, by comforting babies as they wait for their mothers. I can touch their lives and remind them that they are human. And they can do the same for me.

Written by Kerri Anderson, 4/2/12

Edited by Erin Peterson


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Joey Larko’s fingers shuffle through the blue and black crates that lie at his feet under his desk. Just above them sit two turntables and a couple of two-foot-tall speakers where a college student would typically keep books. He lands on a bright yellow twelve-inch square cardboard case with italicized helvetica print on the cover and pulls out the album contained inside: Dutch Flowers by Skream. He turns the turntable on to forty-five rotations per minute and drops the needle. A base-filled beat follows the scratchy sound of the needle running across the album’s surface.

“I pretty much always choose vinyl if given a choice,” Larko says. “The bass is so much warmer, so much heavier. There’s nothing like it.”

Larko, a twenty-one year old University of Oregon student from San Francisco, has been collecting vinyl records for the past two years. In a time where compressed music formats such as Mp3s are the public’s main form of music consumption, Larko continues to add record after record to his 300-piece collection.

“I call it black crack,” Larko says. He spends roughly fifteen dollars a week on new vinyl. “I just party less so I can afford it, which is better I suppose.”

Record enthusiasts like Larko are finding their way into music stores more often. According to a study conducted by the Nielson Company, 3.6 million vinyl albums sold in the United States in 2011, a thirty-seven percent increase from the previous year, and an increase that has been steadily moving upward since 2006. This is in stark contrast to 1993, when only 300,000 vinyl albums were sold nationwide.


In a music industry dominated by digital files, vinyl growth is unexpected. Eight-tracks, an early form of cassette tape, gained popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s but was completely phased out of the market by 1982. Cassettes peaked in popularity during the late 1980s, but have now become so obsolete that last year the term was removed from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Compact discs dominated the market until recently, when Mp3s, which could be acquired almost effortlessly (and often for free from file-sharing programs like Limewire), took over.

Greg Sutherland, a record buyer at House of Records in Eugene, Oregon, says the growth and resilience of vinyl can be attributed to several factors. “I think collecting is a huge part of it because it’s a substantial thing,” Sutherland says. “A record is a packaged piece of art that includes visuals and sound.”

He says CD cases are made of cheap plastic and are a hassle to open. He believes adhesive ribbon on the top spine of CD cases has been a source of annoyance to many since the security measure was introduced. Mp3s are simply invisible megabytes in cyberspace and in many cases do not include album artwork.

Sutherland says he feels a sense of nostalgia for vinyl records.

“It’s kind of romantic to me,” Sutherland says. “Something so ‘sci-fi’ that is the future—music on a file and as many files as you want. Instead of that being the future right now, it looks more like this older form that has been around since the late ’40s or early ’50s is going to be the future.”

Robert Bielski has collected records since 1959. During his time as a traveling salesman, he would stop at music stores and purchase records when he heard a song that he liked on the radio. “It was a hobby that got out of control,” Bielski says, acknowledging his addiction to collecting vinyl. “I’ve already sold off a lot of my collection, but I still have about ten thousand at home. I filled up my basement and half of my house.” Bielski sold a small percentage of his collection at the Eugene Record Convention this past February.

Larko is a new-age collector, as opposed to Bielski, who collects vintage records. Whereas many people believe that record collecting is restricted to older music, most of Larko’s personal collection is comprised of bands and groups that have released music in the past decade. He has to ship many of his records in from the United Kingdom because his favorite artists in his preferred genre, a type of underground dance music called dubstep, are mostly based in the UK.

“With dubstep, vinyl is so much better because you can feel the bass,” Larko says.

The compression process used with CDs and Mp3s standardizes the levels on the music tracks: the softer sections are made louder, whereas the louder sections are made quieter. Depending on the amount of compression used, a recording could lose most of its dynamic range.

“I think that a lot of kids who were born in the late ’80s or early ’90s grew up without records in a digital world,” Sutherland says. “Because kids never experienced what it’s like to listen to a record, the very first time they hear it is pretty shocking to them. Mp3s and CDs don’t sound as good as records do.”

With records, there is no compression process. What a listener hears is pure, unadulterated music. “It sounds really organic when you’re listening to a record,” Larko says. “Sometimes it sounds like you’re in the studio with them.”

With records’ surge in popularity more and more modern bands are releasing their albums on vinyl. The Black Keys’ most recent album release, El Camino, was widely sought after. House of Records received twelve copies of the album a week after its release date—they sold out in a week and had special orders for more.

Printing fewer records allows for more exclusivity among vinyl albums. To enthusiasts like Larko, the drive to accumulate records is partially inspired by the rarity of an album. From collecting white labels—promotional vinyl discs that were handed out in limited quantity—to digging through crates to find a hidden gem, collectors will look for records few others might own.

“Exclusivity is a huge part of it for me,” Larko says. “It’s really cool to know that you’re one of a couple hundred people who have that sound in the world.”

To many vinyl enthusiasts, it’s not about collecting to resell or make a profit. Bielski believes that fewer than 25 percent of vendors who attend the Eugene Record Convention are there to make money. Most vinyl collectors are unique in that way. Albums are typically purchased with the intention of being opened, listened to and enjoyed, in contrast to something like action figures, which many collectors leave in their original packaging in order to preserve the toy’s condition.

At the Eugene Record Convention, Bielski sits back at his table and watched as people eagerly flipped through the collection that he has culminated over the course of his life.

“If I wanted to make money [from collecting], I would go back to work,” Bielski says. “It’s just a hobby. For me, it’s very hard lugging these records around. But it’s fun, so I do it.”

Written by Brandon Andersen, 3/8/12

Edited by Erin Peterson

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When Idy Maigari arrived in Portland three years ago with his wife and nine children, it was the first time he had seen tall city buildings, paved roads, or traffic jams. The city was a complex maze of moving cars, people talking on their cell phones, and sleek towers embedded with rows of windows. Because no one in Maigari’s family could read or speak English, communication was nearly impossible. The Maigaris had suddenly entered what seemed like another planet with no one to turn to but each other.

“We were shocked to see how advanced the country is … everything is so sophisticated and new,” Maigari says of the experience.

Maigari is half a world away from the cardboard walls of his shelter at the refugee camp in Chad where families still live under plastic-bag roofs. Like many families living in Central Africa, Maigari’s was transported to the camp in 2006 for protection from the violence of the civil war occurring in the Central African Republic.

The Maigaris spent three years living in squalid conditions while they waited for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to relocate them to the United States. They arrived in Portland in September of 2009, where an African community had been growing since the 1970s when the first wave of refugees arrived. The community encourages resettlement agencies to place people in Portland because a supportive network and cultural base has already been established, says Joseph Smith-Buani, a University of Portland professor of African Studies.

Refugees are eligible to receive financial support from the state’s Refugee Cash Assistance and Refugee Medical Assistance programs for up to eight months after arriving in Oregon. During this time, refugees are expected to learn English and find a job so they can become self-sufficient.

“There are so many choices and it is very complex,” Maigari says, communicating through a translator. Although he is trying to learn, Maigari has yet to master English. “We were frightened because there are so many things you have to learn in order to survive.”

To cope with the language barrier and other cultural differences, refugees often rely on outside support to help them assimilate into America’s fast-paced culture while still maintaining their own cultural values and traditions.

Africa House, a branch of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization in Portland, is one place for Africans to find the assistance they need to adjust to this new life. Located in Northeast Portland, the facility was originally a large home before it was converted into several offices and meeting spaces.

Africa House was established five years ago and now offers services to more than 200 African refugees and immigrants annually. In the offices, large African maps hang on the walls and a spicy smell wafts from the small kitchen where employees prepare lunch. Every chair in the small waiting area is usually occupied. The majority of the organization’s clients are refugees rather than immigrants or American-born Africans. Whereas immigrants choose to leave their country in order to have access to better jobs or education, refugees are forced to leave their home country for a safer environment because the threat to their lives is too great.

Establishing a community setting is an important part of Africa House because it reflects the value of relationships between friends and family, a prominent aspect in most African cultures. “There is tremendous solidarity between the community,” says Gloria Ngezaho, a youth program coordinator at Africa House.

The facility offers refugees a place to meet with other people from their continent to socialize and practice English in a comfortable environment. The organization also offers assistance with green card and housing applications, help with paying bills, and literacy classes. At Africa House, people learn to become part of a new culture without losing pieces of their own.

For Maigari, Africa House has become a second home. “When I wake up in the morning, there is no other place to go than Africa House,” he says.

Every day Maigari rides the bus to meet Djimet Dogo, the organization’s manager. Maigari brings a plastic bag filled with his mail because he is unable to read it himself. He cannot run simple errands, make appointments, or talk with his landlord or his children’s teachers without assistance from one of the employees, most of whom are immigrants or refugees from Africa themselves.

Until he met Dogo, another former Chadian, Maigari could not communicate with anyone outside of his own family. Dogo taught him how to use public transportation and purchase groceries from the store using his food stamps.

At Africa House, Maigari and his children learned how to write their names in English for the first time.

“Thank God we came to the United States,” Maigari says. “I never expected that in my life I would be able to write my name. I never believed that one day my children could write and read.”

Three years after their arrival in Portland, all nine of the Maigari children are attending school and speaking English. Maigari says he is too old to grasp the language as quickly as his children, but he continues to take lessons.

Kamar Haji-Mohamed, the community services coordinator for Africa House, wears a bright yellow head wrap with a floor length black dress. When she was eleven, she moved with her family to Oregon from Kenya, where her family found refuge after fleeing their home in Somalia to escape a violent civil war. Working at Africa House has allowed her to better understand some of the challenges her parents and family faced when they arrived.

She says the language barrier is one of the toughest challenges to overcome. Without the ability to read or speak English in the U.S., understanding something as simple as an electricity bill becomes an arduous process.

“If you speak the language, it’s much easier to access basic resources,” Haji-Mohamed says. “The main thing we do and we want is for [refugees] to be self-sufficient and not to depend on programs or resources always.”

For Maigari, the language barrier has hindered his attempts to find a job. Currently, his family is living entirely on welfare support—something Maigari is anxious to change.

The processes of submitting applications and attending interviews are just some examples of cultural adjustments refugees must adapt to. Maigari, who is a member of the Fulani people, a nomadic and herding culture in Africa, says before he came to America it was possible to wake up and find a different job to do for the day without filing any paperwork.

“Here it is not this way,” Maigari says. “I have to take classes and I take employment training and all of kinds of things to prepare me to get a job.”

Africa House works to help families understand cultural differences that can make everyday routines seem complex. Ngezaho says new laws, social customs, and even relationships take time to adapt to. In Africa, for instance, it is common for a twenty-one-year-old man to be with a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old woman, but here that is illegal.    “There are a lot of rules and laws in America that have an impact on how people view life here,” Ngezaho says.

Despite the challenges, both Ngezaho and Haji-Mohamed agree that most refugees are happy to be in Portland and anxious to establish a new life here. “There is a lot of issues [refugees] face, but there is a lot advantages they see,” Ngezaho says. “They always have hope because they have been at their bottom, so this is doable.”

Families are also excited at the opportunity to provide a better life for their children with new opportunities.

“America is a safe haven,” Smith-Buani says. “[Refugees] find this to be a good place—a safe place—to raise a child and live their life to its fullest.”

In Portland, Maigari’s children are experiencing a life of freedom and comfort for the first time. In the Chadian refugee camp, the family of eleven lived inside a cardboard structure. The Maigaris received rations every twenty days from the United Nations. Desperate for food, Maigari says people often fought to make it to the front of the line on distribution days and some stole from other families. Anyone who was seen causing disorder was beaten with iron bars the soldiers carried. It was unsafe for children to leave their cardboard shelter. Maigari and his wife chose not to send their kids to the camp’s school because the teachers were known for beating students.

The children feared the teachers would beat them because they could not speak English on their first day of school in Portland. Now the children wish classes were held on weekends. “When the children get home from school they are happy,” Maigari says. “They are not hungry. They make friends and the children are friendly with the teacher. It’s not like at the refugee camp.”

The family’s townhome is in a safe neighborhood with a park. Maigari’s children spend their free time using the computer, playing basketball, and riding their bikes with friends.

Maigari is amazed he can go to the grocery store and buy food whenever he wants. “Here, I don’t have to worry about somebody coming home and attacking my family to take that food away,” he says. “For the first time I have peace of mind.”

Maigari is overjoyed that his children can experience the once-foreign luxury of making their own choices. He wants to incorporate pieces of American culture into his family’s lifestyle to help his kids feel at home here.

Africa House encourages all of its clients to maintain a balance between acculturating to American life and maintaining African values and traditions. Haji-Mohamed says that most adults make it a priority to keep African tradition and values in their homes and to raise their children in that environment. For youth, however, attending school and making friends with Americans proposes an interesting dichotomy that can be challenging for those trying to maintain two identities.

The African Immigrant Mentoring project, one of the multiple youth programs offered at Africa House, connects children with mentors who teach them about their heritage and offer support with balancing their American school life with traditional expectations their families uphold at home.

For Ngezaho, who moved to Portland from Burundi as a refugee when he was eighteen, the combination of cultures is a valuable asset. “I’m an American, but I feel like I have a culture that I came here with,” he says. “You have to take from both sides, and they do shape you.”

Maigari says he will maintain his native language and religion in his home, but is happy to see his children speaking English and “behaving like American kids” outside of the house. The children are also introducing their parents to some new cuisine—burgers are a common request in the Maigari household.

The preservation of African culture in America is evident in Northeast Portland, where many African-owned restaurants and stores are eager to share traditional food or clothing with others in the community.

“It is our way of contributing to American culture,” Ngezaho says. “It brings pride.”

Smith-Buani, the University of Portland professor, says these reminders of home don’t only help immigrants and refugees with the acculturation process, but also allow them to contribute to America’s melting-pot society.

“When people go places, they change the places they go, but they are also changed by those places,” Smith-Buani says.

For refugees, assimilating means creating a new home with the knowledge that returning to a life in their war-torn nation will be difficult or impossible.

But Maigari doesn’t hesitate to call Portland home. He still hopes he and his wife can find a job and become self-sufficient. To Maigari, Portland has provided a secure life for his family with a bright future.

“I have hope and optimism that one day I will make it,” Maigari says. “At one point, I will get a job. This is my home. I am not going back.”

Maigari thinks that in one or two years, his children will know English well enough to help him with basic tasks like reading bills so he doesn’t have to ride the bus to Africa House before starting his day.

But for now, he will stick to his morning routine.

Tomorrow, Maigari will ride the bus to Africa House with his stack of mail. Before he meets Dojo, he will stop at the registration desk where there will be a clipboard holding a sign-in sheet. On the next open line, he will write his own name.

Written by Kerri Anderson, 2/28/12

Edited by Erin Peterson

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Born out of a powerful convergence of social consciousness and a widespread availability of mind-altering drugs, “psychedelia” burst out of the 1960s like the beads of a shattered kaleidoscope. It was a movement characterized by tie-dye and fringed vests worn by hippies who danced to the likes of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead at places like Woodstock and Ken Kesey’s notorious Acid Tests in San Francisco. The substances that defined the culture—mescaline, peyote, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and, most infamously, lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD—were embraced by youths who found themselves seeking heightened states of consciousness while “tuning in and dropping out” across the nation. The psychedelic art of the culture, comprised of free-flowing forms, vibrant colors, and hyper-detailed mosaics, helped shape and will forever identify the time’s vibrant counterculture.

Fast-forward 50 years: The bell-bottoms and love beads of yesteryear have been replaced by skinny jeans and ear buds. Gone are the days of velvet trousers and flower power, and as all such things must evolve, a new generation of artists has emerged, producing intense imagery similar to that of the 1960s, though not quite for the same reasons.

This modern genre, known as “dense” videography, has been dubbed psychedelic because of its use of deep color layering, flashing lights, and stratified visual media. But rather than trying to convey the “far out” experience of hallucinogenic drugs, contemporary artists create these multi-dimensional videos using digitalized shapes and media-sourced imagery that embodies the present technological age. Inspired by an unprecedented flow of non-stop information, these artists aim to offer an engaging alternative to the monotonous narrative of mainstream media.

“Part of the intent [of the videos] is to purposely put more in there than you can get out of it in a passive way. We’re already bombarded with so much information, and everything is created to be so passive. It was kind of a reaction to our current environment,” says Portland-based multimedia artist Eric Mast, who is professionally known by the name E*Rock.

“Palace of Light (Revisited),” a collaboration between Mast, who recorded the video’s soundtrack under his record label Audio Dregs, and New York-based multimedia artist Yoshi Sodeoka, begins as an assault of layered colors and flashing light that smears across a computer screen to a staggered electronic drum beat. The intermittent bass takes a back seat to tunnel-like effects that originate from a distant vanishing point in the center of the screen. A confetti of white lights erupts as the seconds tick by; muted red faces begin to wash in and out of view as laser patterns play against a starry backdrop. The visual layers get deeper and deeper, and as random imagery flashes on-and-off screen, complex scenes emerge with information so densely put together that the video requires repeated viewing to process everything.

“My stuff is for your senses. If you see one of my videos and you get stressed out, that’s one thing. But, if you see a video and it makes you excited, that’s good too,” explains Sodeoka, who has been creating videos for over 15 years.

Other artists, like Christian Oldham, known professionally as Megazord, are taking the dense video art form to another level entirely. “Psychedelic is often associated with the artwork of the 1960s and 1970s, which was often inspired by LSD acid trips,” Oldham says. “I’ve never done drugs. I don’t know if my videos look like an acid trip. I’m trying to express something more along the lines of a [technological] lifestyle.”

In early 2011 Oldham debuted his real-time Internet-based performance piece “Burning Down Your Facebook” to a crowd of about 40 in the basement of Portland concert hall, the Artistry. Dressed in head-to-toe black, a style he best describes as cyberpunk, Oldham sat with his back to the audience. IDM (intelligent dance music) saturated the lower-level floor as he used the large wall screen as a canvas upon which to deliver a rapid-fire assault of technological overload.

“I was showing Mark Rothko paintings next to photographs of war crimes with iChat right under that, and then a YouTube video of a Hummer going off-road all at once,” Oldham says. “Within the one screen there would be about six different things going on.”

He explains that despite the overwhelming effect of the initial layers, which overlapped each other in quick succession, the levels actually went much deeper. By opening and closing programs, Oldham had real-time video chats with audience members while looping videos flashed in and out of view at high speeds throughout the performance.

Oldham amidst projections from a video he created to mirror the song “Preyouandi” by musician Oneohtrix Point Never.

Adam Forkner, who was in the audience live video chatting with Oldham, says that the show stirred mixed feelings in the audience, as some members were uncomfortable with the intensity of the show’s intimacy. Such reactions, Forkner says, reflect how he believes people privately engage on the Internet by scavenging around and overwhelming themselves with random information—a time-wasting behavior they may not want to discuss publicly. “It was a good mirror cast to what goes unsaid about how people spend their time on the Internet,” he adds.

Even while each artist manipulates electronic media to express his or her own stylistic nuances, there is no denying that the psychedelic genre utilizes the ubiquitous nature of modern technology not only as a delivery method, but as a source of inspiration. An array of influences from characters inspired by the original Nintendo Entertainment System to clips of kabuki dancers in Japanese make-up advertisements can all be found streaming through dense media layers. Music of all kinds—electronic, punk, and even metal—also plays a powerful role since many artists often design their videos to complement music they have already created.

“It just makes sense to do everything at once. If I made a painting, I wouldn’t let other people touch it,” says Sodeoka, who creates dense videos as a compliment to his self-produced albums.

Regardless of its source, every layer created by a dense video artist is designed to stimulate the audience, although the narrative may not always be instantly understandable. But, like bringing any new art form to fruition, it’s all about pushing boundaries. In the 1990s when Mast began experimenting with videos, files had to be the smallest size possible in order to maximize the amount of content jam-packed into one video. The limited technology and dial-up Internet of the time restricted the density of layers and would often cause Mast’s computer system to crash.

“Part of the exercise was based on how much you could make with how little you had,” Mast recalls. Now, he says, technology is so advanced that it is harder to push those limits, but it also means that the possibilities are infinite.

Written by Lacey Jarrell 1/9/12

Edited by Erin Peterson

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She smiled. When others might cry, yell, or show resentment, Diane Holste smiled and explained that her life was only slightly different than anyone else’s. Born with one fully developed arm and the other ending at the elbow, Holste was chosen at the age of seven months to be one of 21 children to pilot the Child Amputee Prosthetics Project (CAPP). Focused on children and their use of custom-made prosthetic limbs, Holste’s program was based at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). CAPP was so successful in providing therapy and teaching adaptability with prosthetics that participants were asked to counsel an array of newcomers ranging from Vietnam veterans to preschoolers. Today, 50 years after receiving her prosthetic arm, Holste continues to counsel people, often taking time off from her position as a substitute teacher in Portland, Oregon, to give advice on adapting to life’s many challenges.

Neethu Ramchandar: What’s different about your life than that of a person with two arms?

Diane Holste: Although I may look a little different, I can do nearly everything a two-handed individual can do. During one of my visits to a preschool the students wanted to know not what I could do, but rather what I couldn’t do with just one arm. I let them take their guesses and they ranged from writing a letter to cooking dinner to getting dressed in the morning. I can do nearly everything and gave them a clue that the only limitations with my disability had to do with the opposable thumb. A young boy gave me a smirk and said, ‘Well, you can’t play video games.’ I laughed and said, ‘No, I can’t, but that’s nothing to cry about.’

NR: How did you lose your arm?

DH: I was born in 1961 in Deadwood, South Dakota, in a hospital run by nuns. My mom went into labor and was given drugs that made her unaware of what was happening to her body. When my mother woke up after childbirth, a nun came in and expressed how sorry she was. My mom thought I had died until the doctor came in and said ‘Why are you crying? You have a baby. She’s just missing an arm.’ We didn’t know why I was born this way for many years. Even today, after much education, we only know that during the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy the limbs are developed and can sometimes be limited in growth. They twist-tie off. [Holste points to the twisted lump of skin on her elbow that marks where the growth of her arm ended.] 

NR: How did your family react after your birth?

DH: When I look through the boxes of baby cards I understand why my mom was such a Mama Bear. They read: ‘Congratulations on your new baby girl! I’m so sorry for what happened.’ My mom taught me not to be sorry for who I am. She raised me as an independent person who can adapt to any situation. I chose my claw for maximum efficiency so that I can do daily activities with ease.

NR: How did you use your experience at UCLA to inspire others?

DH: Because I was part of the first group of participants, the engineers asked us to help new patients adapt to their limbs. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was happy to help. When I was seven, I was asked to counsel a young lady who had been in an accident and lost her arm. She was very beautiful, grew up in Beverly Hills, and was on her way to Vassar College in New York. We didn’t have much in common in terms of how we each lost our arms, but we talked about how the [prosthetic] arm felt and functioned. When she asked me about being teased, I replied, ‘I usually just beat them up and don’t tell my mom.’

NR: Was it ever difficult to counsel at such a young age?

DH: It was difficult to understand the patients’ anger. I wasn’t angry about my arm because I was born with it, but many of the people I met had a lot of pent-up anger. I remember working with a Vietnam War veteran when I was nine. I learned most of my swear words from him.

NR: How did you begin giving talks at schools?

DH: When my daughter, Katherine, entered preschool I felt a lot of the students peeking at my arm and wanting to ask questions. I asked the teachers if I could talk to their classes and they welcomed me to do so.

NR: What do you teach students when you give speeches?

DH: Preschoolers want to touch my claw and ask physical questions. Elementary school students ask how the arm works while middle and high school students learn about the anatomy and physics that went into creating my arm. It depends on the audience and what they want to know.

NR: What’s the appropriate way for someone to ask about disability?

DH: Look into their eyes. Just by looking into their eyes you’ll know if it’s safe to ask. If you see pain, turn around and walk away. Don’t hurt them any more than they are already hurting.

NR: Have you ever been asked a question that you weren’t comfortable answering?

DH: Usually it’s the way people ask that bothers me. Once there was a young lady in a middle school who marched down the hall toward me and demanded to know, ‘What the heck is wrong with you?’ That really angered me and so I told her that she had no right to demand an answer from me. I made her walk back to the end of the hall, return, and ask me politely. It was a learning experience that she desperately needed.

NR: Have you ever been discriminated against because of your disability?

DH: During my first week of college a boy pulled me aside at a bar and said, ‘I can’t believe you came here.’ When I asked why, he explained that where he came from they put people like me away. So yes, it does happen. After college, when I was applying for jobs, I found it difficult to be hired because employers were nervous about sending me into the public.

NR: Have you ever struggled with having a claw or prosthetic arm?

DH: I remember when I was pregnant with Katherine I visited a nursing instructor. I was planning on taking off my claw around Katherine so as to not scare or hurt her and wasn’t sure how to breastfeed. Neither was the nurse. She sent me home and I began the search for literature about a handicap parent taking care of a baby. There was none and to this day there is none that I know of. So I improvised my way through three children.

NR: What advice would you give future generations of people who have the same disability that you were born with?

DH: Seek out all of your opportunities in the prosthetics community. Apply them in the ways that fit your needs both physically and mentally. Know why these options are good for you and don’t be afraid to interview your doctors. And finally, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re less because of your abilities.

Written by Neethu Ramanchar 1/9/12

Edited by Erin Peterson

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Towering over the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, Dominic Luebbers peers out his window, noting the weather. There’s not a cloud in sight. Every ten minutes he uses his binoculars to look for smoke in the area, searching for anything abnormal.

Although he now considers it a hobby, in the past Luebbers spent every summer from 2001 to 2006 working as a fire lookout for the US Forest Service. On most days the occasional voice on the dispatch radio was his only company.

While human society is built around interaction and communication between groups of people, there are individuals who willingly live in isolation for long periods of time. Some do it to fulfill an innate desire to be alone, while others find themselves living in isolation because their jobs require it—not necessarily because they want to.

Whatever their occupation—be it maintaining trails, conducting research studies, or keeping lookout for forest fires—these people make the choice to trade in their mainstream lifestyles and live a large portion of their lives in solitude.

Luebbers finds the isolation exuberating.

“A few days of hiking and camping can bring you closer to nature; however, there isn’t anything quite like living in the middle of it for three months,” Luebbers says.

According to Sarah Levy, volunteer and service programs coordinator for the US Forest Service, volunteering in isolated environments is rare; most volunteers who go to remote areas usually work in groups, and those that do have gone through extensive safety training. These volunteers sometimes maintain trails where camping overnight is a necessity due to the distant location of a site.

“We do our best to make sure that every group of volunteers that go out is able to stay in communication with their forest or ranger district,” Levy says.

Exceptions to the norm include fire lookouts, like Luebbers, who would sometimes go as long as five days without any face-to-face interaction with another human being.

“I found it was rather easy to go days without seeing anyone, but going days without having a conversation with another person was more difficult,” Luebbers says.

Luebbers has worked at multiple lookout locations, each one different from the last. The average lookout tower in the Willamette Valley is about five thousand feet in elevation.  The average n  Although it was difficult for Luebbers to adjust to the isolation at first, he soon began to enjoy it.

“I found that I would talk to myself a lot and did a lot more in-depth thinking about things than I would normally do,” Luebbers says.

Licensed counselor Anne Allanketner says there are many possible reasons why certain people prefer to work or live in isolated environments. For instance, some may find it an important source of personal nourishment. Often the person may consider him or herself an introvert and enjoy time spent alone to “regenerate” after losing energy from day-to-day interactions.

According to Allanketner, being motivated by a mission is another reason why some people are drawn to solitary environments. She says people, such as astronauts, explorers, missionaries, and military personnel, are so intensely absorbed in completing the job at hand that they don’t consider the human deprivation their work requires from them.

When University of Oregon graduate Kevin Silagi applied to be an interpretive intern with the US Forest Service, he knew the position would require him to be stationed in a remote area. After a few weeks on the job, he was hooked.

“It was one of those things where I figured I’d be gone for three months and then I would have to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life when I got back,” Silagi says. “Now there is no question in my mind: this is what I want to do.”

Silagi has worked as an interpretive intern at the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area in Eastern Oregon for the past five months before becoming a volunteer. Although he sometimes interacts with children and park visitors, he will often go entire days without encountering another person.

This solitude doesn’t always entail the loneliness one might imagine. In fact, it’s one of the aspects Silagi enjoys most about his job.

“It’s funny but I’m never afraid of being alone in the woods, like running into cougars or bears,” Silagi says. “When I’m alone in the wilderness, I worry about running into people because it breaks the spell that the woods have over me.”

For Luebbers, the perks of his jobs greatly outweigh any loneliness he might experience.

“I enjoy spending time in a place with spectacular views, like people who want to have a corner office in a tall building,” Luebbers says. “I have seen amazing sunsets, heard thunder echoing in canyons, seen tremendous storms, and intense fire activity.”

Both Silagi and Luebbers have always had strong ties to nature. Silagi says that living in a cabin in the woods has been a dream come true.

“I was an only child so I was used to being alone,” Silagi says. “Pair that with a love of nature and you have a great recipe for a park ranger. I enjoy my time in the woods alone, exploring the forest and wandering in my mind.”

These kinds of solitary jobs are not only important to the people who do them, but also to the community at large. According to the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, the number of major wildfires between 1950 and 2000 has increased dramatically not only in North America, but all over the world. In July The Oregonian published an article about the decline of fire lookouts—fewer than 20 percent of Oregon’s one thousand lookout sites still have structures, and only 106 of them are staffed.

Luebbers is nothing but passionate about the work he has done with the US Forest Service.

“I believe it is of the utmost importance for those working at lookouts to do their best and prove that lookouts are still a viable form of fire detection in order to preserve this unique piece of history for future generations,” Luebbers says.

Although Luebbers no longer works as a lookout, he continues to travel to these isolated areas. He estimates he’s been to around 220 individual lookout sites.
During his travels Luebbers encountered a variety of individuals also drawn to the beauty and peaceful solitude these places provide.

“I have met people writing books, doing art work, wood carving, sewing—and then some people who don’t like people at all,” Luebbers says.

Author Henry David Thoreau famously secluded himself on the shores of Walden Pond for two years, and like Luebbers and Silagi, Thoreau found that this period of isolation granted him time for introspection and reflection. Perhaps these men have tapped into a form of self-discovery that can only be found in moments of solitude.

“The silence and lack of distractions allow you to reflect and really get to the root of our actions,” Silagi says. “It gives you time to question the things you have done, your aspirations, and your purpose.”

Written by Allie Gavette 12/2/11

Edited by Erin Peterson

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The birth of Elaena Shepard’s first son happened so quickly that she barely made it to the futon, where her husband caught their son. Odin was born three years ago in the Shepards’ old home before their midwife even arrived.

Now seven months pregnant with her second child, Shepard has yet to experience the smell of latex-gloves and sterilizing cleaners indicative of a hospital. She doesn’t plan to give birth there either.

Shepard helps make up the 1 percent of women in the United States who have chosen to give birth in their own home with a midwife.

“I felt like if I went to a doctor, I would be someone who had an appointment that day—a piece of paper,” Shepard says, preferring instead a natural and personalized birthing experience.

Midwife Carla Viles has been providing homebirths for the past twenty years. She assisted Shepard with her first pregnancy and is guiding her through her second. The two women share a close bond and chat freely with one another during appointments.

But unlike an obstetrician at the hospital, Viles has never been to medical school and doesn’t carry a license to practice. Viles learned her trade through field experience and by completing apprenticeships with other midwives. Some medical professionals argue this training isn’t sufficient for midwives to handle complications during birth.

The conflict between doctors and midwives concerning the safest way to give birth has been going on for years, and the issue recently faced legislative action. Homebirth midwives are illegal in ten states and eighteen states require midwives to practice under a government-regulated license.

The question of whether or not a compromise exists still lingers in Oregon—one of only two states that still allows voluntary licensure for midwives.

Only seventy-seven licensed midwives practice in the state of Oregon, and they are required to follow regulations set by the Oregon Health and Licensing Agency (OHLA). A license guarantees that a midwife has accomplished a certain level of training and permits her to carry medications. It also allows the OHLA to investigate a midwife’s records if a patient or doctor files a malpractice complaint.

Midwives who choose to practice without a license are not allowed to carry medications and are not held accountable by the government.  This is the issue that Margarita Sheikh of Eugene, Oregon, now faces after losing her son during her homebirth in July. When Sheikh hired an unlicensed midwife to help her deliver her first baby, she never imagined her midwife wouldn’t know how to perform CPR on her son when he was born without a heartbeat. “I didn’t know my midwife was lying to me,” Sheikh says.

Sheikh says the midwife made false claims about her experience and training, but she can’t receive any aid from the government because the midwife is unlicensed.

This tragedy put midwives in the media spotlight, placing the push for mandatory licensing—once again—at the forefront of the homebirth debate in Oregon.

Melissa Cheyney, a licensed midwife and chair of the Oregon Board of Direct Entry Midwifery, argues that mandatory licensure is not a matter of making the practice safer but a matter of holding midwives accountable and making sure every midwife has a minimal entry level of training.

“The real danger in our state now is that you could have somebody who knows absolutely nothing, but calls herself a midwife,” Cheyney says.

Oregon Representative Mitch Greenlick has been pushing for mandatory licensure for several legislative sessions after he realized there were midwives practicing without the credential. “That to me is completely crazy,” Greenlick says. “Midwifery is a real health profession. Why is it not licensed?”

But Cheyney is wary about establishing a law so soon without data proving licensed midwives produce better birth outcomes than those without a license. Though a project to obtain this data is under way, it will take at least three years to compile the information and determine the results.

Greenlick isn’t waiting for this information. He plans to once again present a bill in 2013 that would mandate licensure and allow the OHLA to set regulations. The regulations would establish specific training requirements and possibly restrict certain home birthing situations including twin births, breeches, or VBACs, which occur when a woman attempts a vaginal birth after previously having a cesarean section.

Oregon license holders currently receive entry-level training in those procedures and only face minor limitations assisting high-risk births. But midwives who oppose licensure and government involvement in the practice fear that restrictions will only tighten.

According to Viles, if Greenlick’s law passes, the number of hospital transfers could increase. “It could prevent women from getting the experience they really want,” Viles says.

Many women who are uncomfortable with having cesarean sections in hospitals often look to homebirth as a natural alternative. Viles fears the government might prohibit certain options, infringing on a women’s right to choose her own birthing method.

“It’s an issue of women’s reproductive rights, not midwifery rights,” Viles says. “My main concern is that birthing women will lose their rights.”

Colleen Forbes has held a license for all ten years that she has served as a midwife. She says a lot of energy is spent preserving the rights of a small number of women instead of thinking about the 99 percent of women who choose to give birth in hospitals.

“Shouldn’t we be promoting the safety and credentialing of midwifery so that more of the mainstream population sees it as a viable alternative over medicalized hospital birth?” Forbes asks.

She believes more women than the 1 percent currently choosing homebirth fit into the low-risk category, and therefore more women should be choosing to give birth at home with a midwife. “I don’t think [mandatory licensing] is going to make a damn bit of difference in terms of safety,” Forbes says. She thinks mandatory licensing should be viewed in terms of setting training standards and increasing accountability for all midwives so women, such as Sheikh, are more protected.

Forbes says midwifery should be held to the same standards as other health practices.

“The government has a responsibility to oversee the practice of midwifery, just like they oversee the practice of medicine or getting a tattoo or getting your hair done,” Forbes says.

Sheikh agrees that the government needs to take action. “If the state is not going to protect you from untrained practitioners, how can you protect yourself?”

The death of Sheikh’s son could be the last push legislators need to finalize a new law. But barriers still prevent some midwives from obtaining a license, like the hefty licensing fee that recently increased from $630 per year to $1,800 per year.

“It’s a really significant problem,” Forbes says. “At $1,800 it’s really cost prohibitive for some midwives.”

Forbes is able to charge $3,300 per birth and performs about thirty births per year. Lane County has one of the highest planned homebirth rates in the state, with thirty-eight this year according to the Midwives Alliance of North America.

Cheyney is concerned for many midwives, including those with fewer client bases such as student midwives who are just starting out, midwives who work in rural towns, and midwives who work with under-served populations. If those midwives can’t afford a license under a new law, they would be forced to give up their practice.

“Would that mean that those communities then have no one to serve them? That seems like a problem,” Cheyney says. “I have always been a fan of bringing the cost down and giving an incentive to midwives to license.”

Greenlick is also aware of the issue and says he hopes to reduce the cost of a license and possibly wave the fee for the first year if his bill passes.

Obtaining a license gives midwives the ability to legally carry medications such as anesthetics and antihemorrhagics, a drug that controls bleeding. Cheyney says she is more comfortable attending a birth with those medications.

While many unlicensed midwives choose to use herbal remedies in place of medicine, Viles says medication makes the birthing process much safer.

However, Cheyney argues that the intent of voluntary law is to protect those midwives who want to practice traditional midwifery for cultural or philosophical reasons. “I have less sympathy for a midwife who wants to practice like a licensed midwife but doesn’t want to pay to get the license,” Cheyney says.

Cheyney wants to maintain protection for traditional midwives regardless of licensing laws. She suggests allowing midwives to apply for exemption from mandatory licensure to preserve those traditions. “I think it’s a travesty around the world that Western-style obstetrics have come in and annihilated long traditions of traditional midwives,” Cheyney says.

Tradition holds a different meaning for Eugene midwife Amanda Moore, who says the license training requirements disregard the traditional learning aspects of midwifery.

“Midwifery is something that is passed down. You gain experience by seeing things happen over and over again,” Moore says. “It is not textbook. It is not something you learn at school; it’s [a] midwife teaching a midwife.”

The majority of midwives who choose to serve the mainstream population may be forced to adapt to modern changes in their practice. “Midwifery has always changed and morphed and evolved to fit the community and the culture that it’s working in,” Cheyney says.

Despite the high costs of acquiring a license, midwives covet the long-term economic and security benefits that come with credentials, such as the ability to serve women who rely on the Oregon Health Plan. “It opens the door to more women who would never be able to pay out of pocket,” Forbes says.

Even midwives who don’t agree with licensing are making the shift to secure their business. Moore just received her license in August, after practicing the trade for five years. “I could serve more people,” Moore says.

And an increasing number of mainstream women are choosing to eschew hospital sheets and epidurals for the comfort of birthing in their own home. Many mainstream women feel more confident hiring a midwife that carries state-recognized credentials and can access medical care if it becomes necessary. “It’s not just radical women choosing to have radical births anymore,” Moore says.

When the time comes, Shepard plans to have her baby on a couch in her Oakridge, Oregon, home. She wants her husband to be there for support and hopes her three-year-old son will get to be a part of the process. There are only two months left until the baby comes, but Shepard feels confident and ready with Viles by her side.

At a prenatal appointment on a Tuesday afternoon Shepard lies down atop a pink duvet cover in a small bedroom in Viles’s home. The two women sit quietly as Viles runs a handheld Doppler over Shepard’s bulging tummy. A rhythmic pulse fills the room. Both women smile as they listen to the strong heartbeat.  “It sounds like a girl,” Viles says.

Written by Kerri Anderson 11/30/11

Edited by Erin Peterson

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