Friday, May 24, 2013

Otep: Seduce and Destroy

by Trysten Redmond

Photo by Trysten Redmond

Saturday, March 9th – I attended a concert in Chico at the Senator Theater, part of the Seduce and Destroy world tour. Otep was headlining with the opening bands, One-Eyed Doll, and Picture Me Broken. These are all bands front lined by women. Personally, all of these bands resonate with me in one way or another. Seeing strong, independent women pursue their dream is an inspiring act to witness. It was unfortunate the show came up last minute; this caused a smaller crowd than usual. Which can arguably be a better show with more breathing room; it’s all dependent on your personal preference. As they say, let’s get this show on the road!

The first band to take the stage was Picture Me Broken! The guitarists began their rifts, drummer chiming in, Layla "Brooklyn" Allman moved onto the stage with a presence—a certain charm surrounding her. The crowd immediately cheered on the enthusiastic band members, calling out to them, and receiving a response. They were loud, interactive, and obviously happy to be a part of the tour! They openly consider themselves a rock ‘n roll band, attempting to bring back the artistry that has faded in the industry over time. Which in my opinion, and the crowd’s reaction throughout their entire set, they achieved it. Original songs as well as instantaneous attention grabbing stage antics, there was no way this band wasn’t going to be successful that night. Since this show, they have gained another avid fan. Their unique sounds completed the live experience. 

After the aforementioned; One-Eyed Doll set up on stage. The mood was shifting a bit, knowing Otep would saunter before us after this band; also in hopes of seeing another phenomenal performance. I had the pleasure of meeting Kim and Junior before the doors to the theater had been opened for the show. A friend and I decided to walk down to a coffee shop on the corner; low and behold there she stood! Kim proceeded to turn around and compliment my Otep t-shirt, after which I asked, “Are you Kim, the vocalist from One-Eyed Doll?” She was excited that I knew who she was, considering Chico isn’t a large city, she was under the assumption they wouldn’t have a large fan base in this area. They took a photo with me and we began to converse about coffee and various teas, she even shared hers with me. I have never met an individual who radiated such a laid back persona, speaking to me as if we had known each other for years. It’s refreshing to come across musicians with that nature about them. Reverting back from my digression, the moment they moved onto the stage we knew this was definitely going to be interactive, audience participation: mandatory. A mixture of Halloween and Anime was a visual impact, strawberry shortcake combined with Jack Skellington; smacked us right in the dome. Again, that personality and now a very visible show stopper were more than prominent. The entire set required us to sing along with her or give responses to bizarre questions. I would say she definitely reminded me of a female version of GWAR! It was something we had not expected when they emerged from behind that black curtain. Even with a smaller crowd, the waves of people attempting to get closer to the impossible-not-to-love lady on stage, was immense. You could not go wrong with this punk rock style, power rock duo. The music and stage props were on point; her story telling brought us all to laughter with a side of ear drum rattling cheers. When you can entice an audience to that degree, you know you’ve just witnessed something truly special. Needless to say, we were prepared for Otep Shamaya.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the pinnacle of the evening, the reason we all gathered at this event. We are tribe--the chanting began before the lights had the opportunity to dim, “Otep, Otep, Otep, Otep!” our voices moving in a mellifluous rhythm, reverb circulating throughout the theater. Her tribe waits, the guitarists set in motion the glorious uproar of screams as Otep Shamaya graces us with her presence. Bodies begin to crash into one another as circle pits form and people fight to reach the stage. Your hands are gripping the railing, perspiration makes it difficult to grip, but you aren’t letting go. Our legs are on fire from standing and holding off the raging crowd, it’s worth it. The guitarists are dressed in a manner that causes you to think of a horror film, potato sack over the head, and a mouth piece with black straps. Otep provides us not only with older songs for the more seasoned fans, but also music from her brand new album—Hydra. We have the ability to interact and yell out song titles in hopes of hearing them live, of course she delivers. Otep Shamaya is an inspiration to many individuals, she supports human rights, LGBTQ rights (as she is a very out and proud lesbian), a pronounced advocate of speaking one’s mind, but she also takes the time to interact with her fans. Always providing a meet and greet at the end of the shows, even accepting gifts and keeping them. Her arms are covered in bracelets from fans, necklaces, as well as her microphone stand—which is known to be a catch-all for valued gifts over the years. This makes a show with her not only worthwhile, but, memorable. I know from a personal perspective I will never forget meeting her afterward and taking in every compliment she extended my way. I spoke to Kim (One-Eyed Doll vocalist/guitarist) after the show. She immediately pulled me into a hug and exclaimed, “I was so happy to see you up front!” She then bit my poster and wrote, “Kim was here.” the perfect night cap to an extraordinary evening.

It was an honor and privilege to attend this show and speak with these individuals.

Representing the Fusion Pit

Trysten Redmond

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Anti-Panhandling Posters not Black and White

by Joe McGarity

Photo by Joe McGarity

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Posters encouraging the public not to give cash to panhandlers have been circulated by the Redding Merchant Crime Watch Group causing some to applaud and others to boycott local businesses belonging to the group.  What is the Redding Merchant Crime Watch Group really about?  The Fantom Penguin had a conversation with the group’s spokesperson, Ed Rullman who is one of the partners and General Manager of the Best Western Hilltop Inn and C. R. Gibbs Restaurant.  

C. R. Gibbs is a Fantom Penguin sponsor.

Fantom Penguin:  “The group was originally called the Hilltop Merchant Crime Watch Group, wasn’t it?  What happened?”

Ed Rullman:  “It actually started out as Hilltop and Churn Creek merchants that got together and saw the need to sort of find a way to communicate and we decided the easiest way to do it was via email.  So, we put a group together, started gathering emails and eventually it just grew to . . .  We’re just close to 400 emails right now.”

Fantom Penguin:  “And those are mostly local business owners or the loss-prevention managers of various businesses?”

Ed Rullman:  “They’re businesses all over the city, everybody from doctors and lawyers to the loss-prevention people at most of the big box stores.  We’ve started to get a lot of smaller merchants.  People typically will call to get on the group because they’ll hear about it and they’ll have an incident where somebody maybe has burglarized their building or maybe siphoned gas from one of their vehicles or some way done some sort of a property crime that makes them think, ‘Hey, we gotta do something’, because we’re not in this alone and as a group I think we can accomplish more.”

Fantom Penguin:  “And then when one of these incidents takes place they send an email to the entire group and let them know, ‘This person has just left our premises and watch out,’ for example?”

Ed Rullman:  “We have set up an email. helped us set up and they’re one of our members, so it was easy for them to do that, but set it up so that you can’t access the group without being put on there first by the administrator, which right now is me.  So, somebody will email me their information.  I will get them set up as part of our group, which is a crime watch group.  And when there’s an incident they have an instruction page that tells them how to access the group.  So, they’ll send an email out to one email address and it goes to all four hundred people.  And it can be anything, like I said.  If you have say somebody on your property that is creating problems.  I had an incident with a gentleman yesterday where he walked into the lobby and sat down and was creating a big disturbance.  He was very intoxicated, very aggressive.  And so I just asked him to leave and followed him out to the street and made him walk down the street.  When I finished that I came into the office and I just sent an email out telling everybody the guy’s description, what he’d done and that we’d sent him on his merry way.  And just gave the directions of where I saw him last heading and a description of him and sent it off.  And then that way, everybody that’s on Hilltop or maybe even the rest of the city, if they recognize him or they see him coming into their property, at least they have a heads-up that somebody that’s intoxicated and could be a little more aggressive than the normal person, that they’re there.”

Fantom Penguin:   “And have you gotten feedback from the other businesses that this information has actually helped them in some way identify people or prevent crimes?”

Ed Rullman:  “We actually have.  We’ve had some great success stories.  The best stories I think came during the Holidays when some of the loss-prevention officers were having problems with people that would walk into one of the big box stores and take a cartload of stuff and roll it out to their car and throw it in their trunk and then be on their merry way.  And they were able to actually catch people because a lot of the big companies have great camera systems in their stores, so they get great video or they get great photographs.  And they’ll take pictures not only of the person that’s committing the crime, but they’ll get pictures of their vehicle as well as their license plate.  When you put that information out it helps the police identify the problem and actually solve the crime.”

Fantom Penguin:  “And are the local law-enforcement agencies members of this list?”

Ed Rullman:  “We have probably close to a dozen different officers and/or administrative people with RPD that are on the list as well as the Sheriff and I think we even have one Highway Patrol.  We have most of Redding City Council on there, as well as some city staff.  So that when there is an incident, a problem , it goes out to enough people where  if it’s serious enough for say RPD to maybe contact somebody, they make contact on that.  A lot of times, I’ll get an email back saying, ‘Ed, what do you know about this?  Can you get me any more information?’  Or they’ll send me maybe a photograph of someone that they think may be the person and we’ll send that out as another post for the group to see.”

Fantom Penguin:  “And the Fantom Penguin is also on this list, I should disclose.  So, I’m just asking you this to get you to say it.  And I have seen these emails and frankly I’m shocked at the amount of crime that takes place in businesses and I think my readers and viewers are probably unaware of just how many incidents businesses, especially in this part of town, are dealing with, seemingly on a daily basis.”

Ed Rullman:  “Probably the biggest comment I get when somebody does come on to the list, if I happen to see them out and about or if they happen to contact me is, ‘Gosh, I just really didn’t realize how many problems the city of Redding had to deal with.’  And people will even say, ‘I didn’t realize things like that happened in Redding.’  I think what happens is the general public sometimes gets a little bit complacent.  You know, they’re comfortable.  If they don’t see it, it doesn’t happen around you then it isn’t happening.  You just sort of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.  And I think just making people a little more aware helps us to maybe identify problems quicker and it helps us help the police department.  I think that if you were to ask any of the officers or any of the administrative people in the Redding Police Department, including the Chief, I think they would agree that we’ve done some things that have helped them solve crime or have made their jobs easier and I think a lot of that I think is just by making people aware.  The Redding Merchants Crime Watch Group has really just elevated itself to be in every part of Redding and in some cases in Shasta County in general.  There’s people in the unincorporated areas that are part of our group too because they want to see what’s going on and it’s important to them to know that there’s a situation happening on Hilltop that could eventually move its way to Lake Boulevard or Eureka Way or south of town.  Criminal activity isn’t just isolated to any one area.  Property crime people are basically opportunists.  When there’s an opportunity, they take it.  If there’s a laptop in a car and the windows are closed, a lot of these guys have that device that you can just punch the window out with, reach in and grab the laptop off the seat and off they go.  The victim is really giving them the opportunity to commit the crime and that’s where I think we have to be better at educating the community.  Don’t leave stuff out in your car.  Don’t leave stuff in an area that’s easily accessible.  Make it difficult for criminals to commit a crime.  Now that isn’t gonna stop it, but that’s gonna deter a lot of the little petty things that happen day in and day out.  The thing that I try to do is I have several managers on property.  There’s somebody here all the time.  We have security that goes from 7:00pm to 7:00am everyday.  So, I have people watching and I think that that’s a great preventative.  It doesn’t stop it all, but it does help to prevent crime.”

Fantom Penguin:  “We haven’t actually talked about the thing that the real news has been covering, the posters that have been passed out.”

Ed Rullman:  “The Handouts Don’t Help campaign.”

Fantom Penguin:  “Would you tell me about that just a little bit, please?”

Ed Rullman:  “The Redding Merchants Crime Watch Group started about a year and a half ago.  And the first, I don’t know,  maybe six or seven meetings we had everywhere from . . .  The first meeting was probably twelve people and we’ve had as many as maybe seventy-five at several meetings.  Typically the meeting will be somewhere around 40 -50 merchants throughout the community.  The thing that always surfaced to the top in the first half-dozen meetings was that the panhandling situation in the community was getting worse, that people were going to businesses and almost in some cases being accosted by people as they get out of their car.  I’ve had women to me, ‘You know, it’s a really, really horrible feeling when you get out of your car and there’s a person right there in your face asking you for money and you’re, like almost scared for your life.’  I think that’s really wrong.  I think we should protect our citizens and our customers and our guests and as business people we recognize that.  So, one of the things that the group wanted to do is they wanted . . .  Naturally they were going to Chief Paoletti and Sheriff Bosenko and saying, ‘What can you guys do to prevent this?’  Well, there’s not a lot.  There’s some civil rights issues that you have to deal with.  The right to be able to panhandle as long as you’re in public space is okay.  The cops really can’t do much about it and so they felt their hands were tied, but we as merchants don’t have to let them on our private property.  So, we’ve made a conscientious effort to try and educate the community not to give money to those people.  And the reason why is:  If you don’t give them money, hopefully they go to some other city that isn’t quite as aggressive maybe as we are.  They city of Red Bluff and the city of Chico are now working on programs to do the same thing that we’re doing, which is to try to get the community to not give people so that they can go out and buy beer or whatever with it, because most of them, 99.9% of them, aren’t buying food, aren’t taking care of their kids, aren’t doing the things they want to.  Unfortunately, when we started dealing with the panhandling issue there was a group of people who thought we were out after the homeless and that’s the furthest thing from the truth.  They’re two totally different populations.  And the thing is that if you’re truly a homeless person and there’s a reason why you’re homeless or you’ve chosen to be homeless, there are programs out there that can help you.  Those programs are funded mainly by businesses who make donations to them, but by individuals as well.  So, what we ask is that that money that you would typically give a panhandler, who is probably not spending the money to do what they need to do to help themselves, is to give it to an organization that can really do something to help the people that need help and want help and seek help.”

Fantom Penguin:  “Since you mentioned that, there is a specific program; I attended your last meeting.  There is a specific program.  Did you want to mention that or is it too soon?”

Ed Rullman:  “It’s kind of in its infancy stages, if you’re referring to the Handups Do Help program that Lisa Jeter and Jessica Delany are working on.  That program is actually just the perfect fit for what we’re doing because one of the other comments that a couple of merchants made is, ‘How can we collect?  Can we put a box in our businesses and collect cash?’  If a person wants to do that, they can.  The problem with that is I think those boxes become susceptible to people walking in, grabbing the box and running out the door with it.  And trust me, I’ve seen it happen when you’ve had donation boxes for whatever fundraiser sitting on your counter.  We don’t do them anymore for that particular reason.  We’ve had people walk in the front door, grab the box and run because they know it’s full of coins and dollar bills.  So, the Handups Do Help program is actually something that Lisa and Jessica are working on with United Way.  I’m sure most people have probably gone to some of the big box stores like Costco and they have the little, I think it’s like an emblem of a balloon and they try to sell it to you for a dollar at the register.  Well, that money is collected and then at the end of the month the business would pay the check to United Way.  So, we’re going to do something similar to that.  The program is, like I said, in its infancy stages and probably won’t get off the ground until I think Lisa thinks maybe June.  But when that happens, she’s targeted about 25 businesses in the community and I would gladly participate in it.  I’ve told her that I’m right there up front with her.  We would put a key on our register and if a person wants to donate a dollar or $20, we collect the money right there.  We ring it into the system.  At the end of the month, we tabulate what that amount was and pay it to United WayUnited Way is working with several organizations to disperse that cash to those people in need and gearing it around the young people, the kids in our community that are homeless, that need a little bit more support is the angle that we’re gonna take.”

Fantom Penguin:  “And did I hear them say at the meeting that they were going to try and guarantee that that money would be spent locally?”

Ed Rullman:  “That money will be 100% local.  That’s why it’s taking a while to get it organized.  Because what you don’t want it to do is you don’t want to mix that in with typical big United Way funds where it goes off to the national organization.  You want those to be strictly local funds and there are ways to assure that that happens.”

Fantom Penguin:  “Is there any other final thought that you wanted to add, maybe something I haven’t thought to ask or anything else?  Misconceptions, perhaps?”

Ed Rullman:  “I think one of the problems that we have as a community is we’re actually a big community in a large space in Northern California.  We’re the biggest city north of Sacramento.  And because we’re sort of isolated up here by ourselves, we don’t have a lot of neighboring towns and cities that we can join with and so Redding is kind of carved out on its own.  It’s easy to get a bad reputation and that’s really what we’re trying to help prevent.  I think we live in a beautiful pristine area and we need to do everything we can to protect that and at the same time we’ve got to grow.  We’ve got to grow our community to the point where we have adequate jobs and we have a stable economy.  And we can only do that if the image of Redding is a positive image to people who are entertaining the idea of moving here or moving their business here.  I know there’s a lot of anti-growth people there, but there’s also a lot of pro-growth people.  And I think that a strong community is a community that when you think about it you don’t really have to worry about am I gonna get violated in some way?  Am I gonna have my car ripped off or is my gas tank gonna be empty when I get up in the morning?  Or those two bikes that I spent $1500 on, are they going to be stolen off my bike rack.  You don’t want that kind of reputation, especially being on an Interstate 5, on that corridor.  It’s very, very important that Redding maintains an image that’s a positive image, so that we have people that want to come and visit us and people that want to move here and people that want to move their businesses here so that our economy can grow.”

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