Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Beat Goes on Every Sunday in Lake Redding Park

Photo by Joe McGarity

The Redding Community Drum Circle meets every Sunday evening in Lake Redding Park.  The Fantom Penguin staged a rap session with David Encore of Encore Entertainment.
What is the drum circle and what is the purpose of a drum circle?

David Encore:  “Well, a drum circle is a group of people getting together typically with hand drums or some sort of a percussion instrument, getting in a big circle, someone starts up a beat and everyone kind of just joins in.  It’s real simple.  Everybody can do it.  It’s a lot of fun.”

“The purpose of a drum circle is basically – unity, I would say, getting a connection with all the people that are involved and getting on the same beat.  There’s a spiritual quality to that, an ethereal feeling.  Once you get into what I call ‘the zone’ and you kind of forget everything that’s around you and you’re just immersed in the whole experience, it’s fantastic, very powerful.”
Are there drums available for people that don’t have their own instruments?

David Encore:  “Well, I can only speak for myself.  I bring an extra drum with me and I also play the congas and I don’t drum the whole time and people are always welcome to get on mine when I’m not playing them.  But, yeah, typically a few people do bring some extras.  But you know, one of our guys, he went down to Home Depot and bought one of these big water drums and then made a guitar strap on it and got a three-pound mallet and he’s just booming on that and that’s fantastic.  That was a great addition to the group.  So, it’s you know, creativity.  There’s no limit.”

How often does the drum circle meet and where at?

David Encore:  “It’s every Sunday at 5:00pm at Lake Redding Park.  It’s open to everyone.  The public’s welcome, kids, animals, whatever.  Bring it.  Have fun.  There’s no ceremonies or rituals or any of that kind of stuff.  That’s a sacred drum circle and that’s a different thing than what we’re doing.  We’re just here to have a good time and really enjoy each other’s company and meet new people.”

“Everyone that is interested, tell your friends.  Anybody can do it.  It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to connect with people and get out of the house, so come on down.”

Speaker to Discuss Genetically Modified Food in Redding

If there’s anything that brings people together and allows them to set aside their differences and enjoy one another’s company, it’s food -- genetically modified food.

The Fantom Penguin talked to Elizabeth Betancourt and Mark Burgon about Proposition 37.

How would you explain the situation to someone who had absolutely no knowledge of it?

Elizabeth Betancourt:  “I would start with saying that genetically modified food is food created in a laboratory that has not been adequately tested for safety.  It is labeled in fifty other countries around the world, including China and the U. S. and Canada are the only two first world countries that don’t currently have labeling laws.  So the basics of Prop. 37 is just that it’s our right to know what’s in our food.”

And Prop. 37 is on the ballot now.  You’ve completed the signature gathering process.  So, what is then the next step?

Mark Burgon:  “Voting.”

Elizabeth Betancourt:  “We’re trying to get the word out about what the proposition is about.  It’s got at least 75% support around the state.  Different polls show different numbers.  But as we’ve been asked many times, ‘Who would be against knowing what’s in your food?’  It’s not banning GMO’s.  It’s not about them being bad.  It’s just about us not wanting to be the experiment.”
So then, if this has broad support on both sides of the political spectrum . . .  Let me ask it in the form of a question:  Is that the case?  Does this have both Republicans, Democrats, Occupiers and Tea Partiers and everyone in between?

Mark Burgon:  “Yes, it does.  We had a meeting last night and I think that was one of my comments was, it’s nice to get onboard of something where it doesn’t seem like you’ve got one political party backing it.  But we’ve got people that are involved with the Tea Party that are there.  We’ve had interest from the Occupy people and you know, Liberals, Republicans.  Yeah, it seems like it’s across the board on this.  So it is a nice project to get behind.”

So, if that’s the case, where is the opposition coming from?  From someone apparently that stands to lose from this?

Mark Burgon:  “Well, apparently the manufacturers and the people that are creating the GMO’s are afraid that something’s going to happen if they are required to start putting it on the label.”
Elizabeth Betancourt:  “While the polls show some opposition, it seems like more of the opposition is people who haven’t yet decided or maybe aren’t yet educated on the issue.  The money coming from the opposition is coming, as Mark said, largely from big corporations that are creating these what we call ‘Franken-foods’ and also from companies that sell them.  The most common bio-engineered foods are corn, soy beans, wheat and cotton.  And, of course, corn, soy beans and wheat are some of the majority of the ingredients in processed foods and of course the majority of the foods that are subsidized by our government, by the Farm Bill.  So, a lot of the companies that are in opposition to this feel like they have something to lose by us knowing what’s in our food.  It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to eat those foods.  But it means that we just have the option.”

You have a guest speaker coming to town to talk about this issue.

Elizabeth Betancourt:  “We do.  Jeffery Smith is an internationally renowned speaker on genetically modified food and its health effects in humans and he’ll be coming to speak here in Redding at the Sequoia Middle School on October 19th.  We have a reception beginning at 6:00 where we’ll have music and food and community booths and then the talk will begin at 7:00.  We’ll have someone local introducing him, Jeffery will speak for about an hour and then we’ll have a great panel afterwards including the local speaker to take your questions and answers.  And then he’ll be there to sign books and sell DVD’s afterwards as well.”

The Fantom Penguin takes no position for or against any ballot proposition.  We welcome opposing views.

Watch the Video
Listen to the Podcast

Walking a Tightrope and Entering a Trance

Welcome one and all to the Fantom Penguin, a new independent newspaper serving the California Northstate!  I suppose I owe you all a big “Mea Culpa” this issue.  After vowing to take no position for or against any candidate or ballot measure, I found myself talking to some folks in support of Proposition 37 which will be on the ballot this November.  Proposition 37 seeks to require food that includes genetically modified ingredients be labeled.  While I still feel that it’s important for the Penguin not to take political sides, it’s also true that not all stories have two equal sides.  Many issues facing us today involve “big guys” versus “little guys”.  In my opinion, it is the proper role of an independent paper to present such stories in their proper context.  This seemed to me to be one of those situations. However, in fairness a quick look at seemed to be in order.  The first thing that pops up is this:  “Prop 37 is a deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme that will add more government bureaucracy and taxpayer costs by billions – without providing any health or safety benefits.  And, it’s full of special interest exemptions.”

They have plenty more to say about it, if you are interested.  Personally, I’m more interested in hearing if anyone local is against this measure and why.  If you are a real, local person and want to present another side to this story, please contact me.  I would very much like to hear your side of things.  But if the opposition is big and far away, then frankly, I’m not as interested in their side of things.  It’s a tough tightrope to walk and I’m not entirely certain that I’m right in the middle nor that I should be.  The Fantom Penguin seeks always to explore ways of resolving conflict and never to needlessly stir up controversy for its own sake.  Conflict makes me a little tense.  But there is a cure for that too.

If you are feeling tense too, stop by Lake Redding Park on Sunday evening at about 5:00 or 5:30 right near the boat launch and bring your drum if you’ve got one.  The Redding Community Drum Circle meets there each week.  RCDC was created by mobile DJ David Encore of Encore Entertainment (a Fantom Penguin sponsor).  Everyone is welcome to participate.  There are no religious ceremonies or requirements, just people and rhythm.  If you don’t have a drum, stop on by anyway.  You can always improvise an instrument or play your own natural percussive instrument (that is, clap).  I showed up to play reporter and ended up playing a drum anyway.  It’s difficult to resist.  It’s a kind of group meditation that happens.  Rhythm induces a sort of trance state.  About five minutes into a really good session, as I began to slip into this state, sliding further and further away from the physical universe, I was reminded of my late brother Johnny McGarity who was a drummer in a local band.  He always wore sunglasses when he played because he said he went into a different place and often could not clearly remember his performances.  When that happened his eyes would roll back in his head.  I think he’d seen a video of the band playing that embarrassed him a little.  After that he always wore sunglasses, but for those of us who knew why, we could always tell when it was happening.  I began to wonder if my eyes were doing the same thing, but I couldn’t reach my sunglasses without missing a beat, so if I look silly in those pictures that went all over Facebook, then so be it.  As far as I can tell, it looks like I was having fun and I think you will too.  I will likely see you there.  I still don’t have a drum.  Can I borrow yours?

I hope you are all enjoying this wonderful Northstate of ours as much as I am.  Please send us your thoughts, opinions, cartoons, recipes and photographs.  We love to hear from you and don’t forget to thank the great local businesses who support the Fantom Penguin by purchasing our unbeatably priced advertising and those businesses who generously allow us a bit of their valuable counter space every other week.  Take full advantage of the money saving coupons we print in each and every issue and make sure you thank them for supporting independent local media!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gay Pride Festival Family Friendly

Watch the Video
Listen to the Podcast

Let’s assume that some of my viewers and readers have not heard of Pride Day; they have absolutely no idea what it’s about.  How would you explain it?

Pride Co-Chair:  “Well, Redding’s trying to have their fourth annual Pride.  We’re trying to show the public that we are part of the community.  We’re trying to boost global equality and cultural diversity for the LGBT community, which stands for ‘Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual, Bi-Sexual’ and there’s also ‘Questioning’, ‘Allies’ . . .  It’s a huge long title, but we’re trying to be part of the community and create an awareness for families and friends and others.”

I think perhaps a lot of my readers don’t know or don’t think they know anybody in this community.  How large and how active is the (what are the letters?) LGBT community in Redding and Shasta County?  Anyone?

Konner Boswell:  “I don’t have the exact numbers or anything but I think there’s more people than maybe the common person realizes.”

Pride Co-Chair:  “Statistically, about ten percent of the population is part of that category.  Here in Redding, some people are out; some people are not out.  But I know that just in our community that are out, it’s probably 400 – 500 that we know about.”

I’m going to ask a few more questions about the relationship between the Gay Community and the community at large, if I can say that instead of repeating letters.  But let’s talk about the festival itself real quick.  What exactly is going to take place at the festival?  It’s not a parade like we see in San Francisco or is it?

Pride Co-Chair:  “Actually, it kicks off with a parade at the Downtown Promenade.  The parade is around the Promenade and it will last anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes up to an hour, depending on how many people show up for the march.  After that the festival is over at Library Park, same place that Market Fest is held and it’ll be family friendly.  So there’ll be a lot of entertainment.  There’ll be children’s games.  There’ll be educational booths from a lot of different organizations around the area.  Hopefully, we’ll get the community involved and have some good conversations as well.

I think that’s important for some people from outside the community that you say it’s family friendly, because I think some of the expectations in this area or from people that I know . . .  I lived in San Francisco and I went to the Pride Parade down there and there was, you know?  I’d lived in Redding all my life.  I was absolutely shocked.  So we won’t see things like nudity for example?  Probably?

Pride Co-Chair:  “No.  This focuses on community and wanting to be part of the community and wanting to be family and integrating ourselves into it.  We can’t control what random other people may or may not do.  That includes the general public.  But we’re trying as much as we can to keep it family friendly.  There will be security in case there’s a problem.  And I, myself, have children and am going to bring them myself, so I’m totally comfortable with it.”

And I feel almost apologetic for asking, but I just feel that there are people in the community that will have that expectation because of . . .  I’m not sure why necessarily, but . . .

Konner Boswell:  “Sure.  I think that’s another reason why it’s important for people to realize that we are just normal people.  Unfortunately there is sometimes that negative stereotype or image and that’s part of what we’re trying to promote is we’re just normal people.”

And that’s kind of what I wanted to ask about too.  I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but how would you describe the feeling in this community.  Do you think the community is hostile or is it a mix?

Konner Boswell:  “Personally, I’ve had good positive experiences, myself.  Unfortunately, I have friends that have, you know, the stories that they have shared of some real negative interactions with different people from the community.  But, me personally, my experience has been positive.”

This is possibly my most self-serving question that I’m going to ask, but how do you feel (and I mean either one of you want to answer this) about the way the local press and television covers an event like Pride Day or covers anything that has to do with the LGBT community?  Is it fair or is it not?  How do you feel about it?

Pride Co-Chair:  “I don’t think it’s really covered one way or another.  A lot of times if there’s a crime that happens, it’s kind of pushed under the covers.  But I don’t think there’s been a whole lot to cover.  So, I don’t really think that they’ve had a chance.  We’re hoping that this year they’ll say ‘Oh, look what positive influence there is.’  Sometimes there are comments on the Record Searchlight or whatever and then the public’s welcome to comment, but it’s been very minimal.”

But are you getting coverage of this event besides . . . ?  I don’t actually watch them, so I don’t know.  Are KRCR and Searchlight and the others, are they covering the event?

Pride Co-Chair:  “We don’t know yet.  We’re not sure.”

Oh, I’m breaking this story?

Pride Co-Chair:  “You’re breaking this story.”

Oh, this is a scoop!  That’s awesome.

So when we actually get to Library Park, what are we going to see there?  Is it going to look something like Market Fest with booths and so forth?

Pride Co-Chair:  “There’ll be booths, live entertainment.  We have a slew of bands and dancers.  We’re going to have food vendors.  We’re going to have crafters.  I’m not sure what else we’ll have yet, because we’re still in the planning process.”

The video may come out a little sooner, but the paper will come out one week from today.  That’ll be September 1st.  So, when this is published, do you think there’s still booths available for vendors or is that all tied up at this point?

Pride Co-Chair:  “It’ll be on an individual approval at that point.”

Is there anything about either Pride Day or gay issues in general that you think people in this area either don’t understand or could understand better?  (Or is there any issue that doesn’t fall into that category?)

Pride Co-Chair:  “There’s a slew of them.  Everything from religion and being gay (or trans or curious or whatever) to whether we’re hateful or whether we try to recruit people.  There’s tons and tons of issues, the lack of equality, the judgment that you get trying to get jobs and stuff even.  So, there’s a lot of issues.  Hopefully we can address and progress and hopefully Pride will be a key for that.”

Konner Boswell:  “Just education and awareness.  Like I said earlier, just us trying to show people that we’re just normal people.  Sometimes it just takes knowing somebody who identifies as LGBT and once they meet somebody, can actually meet a person and not just see the label then . . .”

Pride Co-Chair:  “It’s putting a name and face to it, you know, and you become real.”

Konner Boswell:  “It’s a person and not just a title.”

Almost the same as any other kind of prejudice, once you’ve made some friends, it’s a lot more difficult to hate people.

Konner Boswell:  “Absolutely.”

Pride Co-Chair:  “It is.”

So then, for the straight people in the audience, are they invited and what’s in it for them?

Both:  “Absolutely.”

Pride Co-Chair:  “Actually, the more the merrier.  That’d be nice, because it’s for the whole community.  It’s not about the LGBT, it’s everybody coming together.”

Konner Boswell:  “For the community at large.”

Pride Co-Chair:  “Everyone can use a little bit of education and socialization.”

I used to say down in San Francisco, the name of the parade kept getting longer and longer.  It was the “Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered” and then there were two or three others and I thought “You’re leaving out the straight people.  Now you’re being prejudiced.”  And my suggestion was call it the “Sexual Freedom Parade”.

Pride Co-Chair:  “It’s more than about sexuality too.”

Konner Boswell:  “It is.”

Pride Co-Chair:  “It’s about gender.  And actually now it includes ‘Allies” as part of the long list of names.”

Konner Boswell:  “LGBTIQQA”

They need to arrange them in a way that spells a word or something.

Pride Co-Chair:  “Otherwise, everybody’s welcome.” 

Redding Pride takes place September 8, 2012 in Library Park.

FreeThought Seeks New Center

Watch the Video
Listen to the Podcast

If someone had never heard of FreeThought Central and didn’t know anything about it, how would you describe it?

Christine Mitchell:  “I would describe it as a drop-in center where we welcome everyone to come in, discuss ideas, politics, read books, hook up to the Wi-Fi, have a cup of coffee, just a place to mingle and talk to people and get away from being stuck on the computer.”

Your organization has a political leaning, but you’re not affiliated with a political party.  Is that a fair statement?

Christine Mitchell:  “That’s correct.  Our organization is actually Shasta County Citizens for Democracy.  That’s who runs this drop-in center, FreeThought Central and we’re a progressive organization, but we are non-partisan.  So, that’s a lot of what people talk about here, but we certainly welcome all ideas.  We also have a lending library.  We also have books and DVD’s for sale.”

And T-shirts apparently.

Christine Mitchell:  “T-shirts, yes.  We have FreeThought Central T-shirts.  We have Occupy Redding T-shirts.  The KKRN Public Access Radio in Round Mountain, we have T-shirts to help support them.”

“Shasta County Citizens for Democracy along with the Viet Nam Veterans of America co-sponsored the Shasta County Veterans’ Collaborative and that’s every two months.  Every even numbered month we have a meeting at 11:30 at Shasta College, in the cafeteria and we have presenters who talk about different services for veterans.  We have veterans that come.  We have anybody that’s interested in veterans issues.  It’s kind of networking so people can find out about the different services and organizations and it’s been a real success.  We’ve been going on with that for about a year and a half now.”

How does Shasta County Citizens for Democracy and FreeThought Central fund itself?

Christine Mitchell:  “It’s all donations.  We have a great group of people that give us donations to keep the place open.”

And I assume the sale of these T-shirts and so forth?

Christine Mitchell:  “And the sale of the T-shirts and used books and DVD’s.”

And does that lead into what we came here to talk about, what you plan for the future?

Christine Mitchell:  “Yes, we are looking at getting a bigger facility.  We’d like to sell local goods, arts and crafts and things from the local area.  We really believe we need to work in the community.  The politicians are not going to fix the economy or fix the environment, so we need to try to do something for our community.  So we’d like to have a local little coffee bar and sell local goods and we need all the donations we can get to make that possible.”

Was a farmers’ market part of the plan?

Christine Mitchell:  “Yes, we plan to sell local produce and organic produce.  I’m thinking we may not do that as soon as we open the new place, but we will be working on getting that going too.”

What is it going to take to make this happen?

Christine Mitchell:  “Well, it’s going to take volunteers and it’s going to take raising money so that we can pay rent.  And I’m sure we’ll have to install a commercial sink and refrigerator and things if we want to have a coffee bar.  So, we’re going to need volunteers and we’re going to need people to help us with donations.  And when we open the place we plan on donating most of the profit back to community charities.”

Do you have a location in mind?

Christine Mitchell:  “We’ve looked at several but we don’t have a for sure location yet.  It will be in the City of Redding.”

And where are you located now, so that people can find you?

Christine Mitchell:  “We’re right on Bechelli.  We’re at 2675 Bechelli Lane and that’s right behind 2665 Bechelli.  Right past H & R Block, you’ll see a sign that says ‘Cookies’ in the driveway.  Just go in there and we’re #3.”

And the place next door actually has cookies?

Christine Mitchell:  “The place next door is actually a barber shop and the lady’s named ‘Cookie’”.

I just gave her a little free plug here.

Is that part of the reason for needing a new location?  Is this one difficult to find?

Christine Mitchell:  “Well, that and the fact that this is just too small.  If we want to go into retail, we have to have a bigger place.  Plus we want to have a place where we can show films and have meetings and this is pretty small facility.”

I realize that this is still kind of a long ways down the road, but what is your expected time table?  How long do you think it will take to get this done?

Christine Mitchell:  “I’m hoping within the next 2 – 3 months.”

That seems quite quick.  Do you think you can do that?

Christine Mitchell:  “Yeah, I think we can at least get the place and get a start on it by then.”

Do you have a dollar-amount target that you need to raise?

Christine Mitchell:  “We’d like to raise about $15,000 to get started.  But, you know, that’s a wish.”

What’s the contact information, website, phone number and so forth?

Christine Mitchell:

(530) 242-0309

Anything else you’d like to add?

Christine Mitchell:  “I think that’s it.  Thanks for the interview and we love your paper!”

Thank you.  I’m keeping that part.