• Eugene Weekly Loves You!
Share |

EW! A Blog.

August 5, 2016 04:01 PM

"The ultimate con artist," "The master of impersonations." In Eugene?

Eugene’s Downtown Athletic Club recently severed its relationship with its general manager Carlo DiMaria. According to an email sent to DAC members on Aug. 2 from DAC owner Rob Bennett, “We were made aware that Carlo intentionally misstated experience on his resume.”

However David Markland, an L.A.-based event producer, says he has reason to believe that Carlo DiMaria didn’t just intentionally misstate his experience. Markland alleges that DiMaria is longtime confidence man Fred Brito.

The man known as Fred Brito has a history of cons dating back to the mid ’80s, according to a timeline Markland maintains on his blog, “The Lies of Fred Brito.” Prior to that Brito, “bounced in and out of prison … by the mid-80′s he had shifted to inventing and assuming identities,” a 2005 LA Times article says.

Brito, as he is mainly known despite a litany of assumed names, was the subject of a 2007 NBC Dateline special, “The Ultimate Con Artist” detailing his history of cons from working as a court-appointed psychiatrist to high-profile fundraiser and even a Catholic priest who married couples and performed baptisms. One of the couples faced off with “Father Fred” on a 2007 episode of Dr. Phil after discussing how it felt to be married by someone who was not an ordained clergy member.

Markland says he is troubled by the fact many of Brito’s former employers don’t pursue cases against the fraudster, possibly because they are embarrassed at hiring a conman — even one who has fooled the UCLA medical center and state officials — or because Brito uses his gift for gab to convince people he would have a lawsuit if he was exposed.

Ironically, according to Dateline, Brito is a pretty likeable guy. Those whom he had conned say that he has a “good heart” and his homilies as a priest were “great.” In fact, when the DAC parted ways with DiMaria, the athletic club wrote, “While he has some done some positive things during his short tenure at the DAC, providing false information is not acceptable, and we are unable to move forward in our relationship.”

It’s not illegal to lie on your resume, though lying about credentials can lead to liability issues for employers and can of course lead to the employee’s work relationship being terminated. Eugene police says there is no record of an arrest or charges filed against either a Carlo DiMaria or a Fred Brito.

An anonymous source who contacted EW alleges that DiMaria is Fred Brito and that his approximately three-month tenure at the DAC led to the departure of several longtime employees. Markland’s source, cited on his blog, tells him that DiMaria “created such a hostile workplace that several of the tenured staff left in that time." A glance at the DAC’s staff roster on its website shows that between July 29 and Aug. 3 at least three employees working in membership are no longer listed.

EWhas called and emailed Bennett and Sarah Bennett, who are part of the DAC’s leadership, to confirm if they know if DiMaria is actually Fred Brito and has not heard back. The Bennetts' voicemails say they are out of town through Aug. 9. On the morning of Aug. 3, when EW began looking into the story, DiMaria was listed as the contact for the DAC on the Chamber of Commerce website, but by that evening his name had been removed.

Markland says he has been tracking Fred Brito ever since he began writing about him for the site Metroblogging L.A. more than 10 years ago, and people have been sending tips to his current “Lies” blog including Brito’s employment at an IHOP in Kansas City to a Beaverton, Oregon, Burgerville. According to the blog, Brito gets tripped up by disclosure of his past criminal history or the lies on his resume — according to Dateline, Brito was a five-time convicted felon by the time he was in his twenties.

Brito says in his Dateline interview that when he provides a reference, the number given forwards to Brito’s own number and he changes his voice and gives himself glowing recomendation.

A resume obtained by EW that Brito allegedly used to obtain his position at the DAC,  lists G. “Carlo” DiMaria as the applicant. It says he worked for “Southwest Hospitality Corporation” for about 30 years and says that the company was merged with Starwood Hotels in 2012. EW has contacted Starwood. The resume also says DiMaria served in the Marine Corps. According to the L.A. Times article, Brito enlisted in the Marines as Freddrick Esparza from 1973 to 1977, the same dates DiMaria provides on the resume.

Brito has claimed in interviews with the L.A. Times and in online videos (see below) that the fact he has a criminal record precludes him from getting second chances and leads to his fabricated resumes.

EWhas emailed and left phone messages for Brito, but has not had messages returned. 

Facebook photos from the Downtown Athletic Club appear to show Brito in the background, however DAC has yet to confirm if the athletic club hired the man known as Fred Brito, thinking they had hired G. Carlo DiMaria, a name Markland lists as among Brito’s many aliases. Brito has said in online postings that he has changed his name to Gomez DiMaria. EW's source says the man in the photos at the DAC is the man in the Dateline video, and says, "I knew 'Carlo' in Eugene and he is the same person who appears in the Dateline episode as Fred Brito." 

Markland says he is unable to confirm the identity from the Facebook photos.

Left: A man who is allegedly the conman Fred Brito at a DAC celebration for longtime employees in June. Right: Fred Brito from a Twitter profile image.

Markland lists Brito’s alias as including: G. "Carlo" diMaria, Giancarlo di Maria, Carlo di Maria, Freddrick Esparza, Father B. Gomez de Esparza, Father Federico Brito Gomez de Esparza, Federico Gomez de Maria, Freddrick Mark Brito, Federiqkoe DiBritto III, Father Fred Esparza, Fred Brito Gomez and Fred Gomez.

Brito has tried to parlay his conman career into seminars and public speaking gigs as can be seen in the video below, which also features the Dateline episode.

August 4, 2016 01:36 PM

After getting flak from all sides of the political spectrum for her neturality on Measure 97, formerly Initative Petition 28, Gov. Kate Brown officially endorsed the measure on Aug. 4.

The measure proposes a 2.5 percent tax on corporations with annual Oregon sales of more than $25 million. The revenue from that would go toward bolstering Oregon's underfunded school system as well as supporting senior services and health care.

From her campaign website:

I have spent my career fighting to make Oregon a place where everyone can thrive. I support Measure 97 because there is a basic unfairness in our tax system that makes working families pay an increasing share for state and local services, including public schools, senior services and health care. By some measures, Oregon is among the lowest in corporate taxes, and Oregonians expect everyone to pay their fair share.

Our state cannot move forward and meet Oregon's growing needs over the next decade without a more stable revenue base. Measure 97 is an important step forward, and I will make sure the funds the measure yields go towards schools, health care and seniors, as the voters expect.

Critics of Measure 97 say that there's no way to guarantee that the revenue generated by the proposed tax would actually be used for schools and other public services.

While the decision is ultimately up to the Oregon Legislature, having the governor on record promising to follow through on the intent of Measure 97 helps its credibility, and legislators have made similar promises on record.

However, someone ought to tell Oregon candidate for governor Bud Pierce that Brown has endorsed the measure — he still has a live clock running on his website counting the days until Brown takes a position on the business tax. He sent a letter to Brown last September urging her to come out against it. Now he has his answer.

In the same announcement, Brown endorsed five other ballot measures, including a measure to support outdoor schools with lottery funds and a measure that would allocate funds to bolster dropout prevention in high schools.

July 29, 2016 02:45 PM

Remember when Malheur occupation leader John Ritzheimer got all pissed off about all the dildos people were sending him and his fellow “patriots” who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in an armed occupation in early 2016? It seemed like men with guns couldn’t get any weirder.

They did. And the strangeness continues.

Back in April, Ryan Bundy got nailed for braiding his sheets into rope — just a rancher, practicing, he argued, — and hoarding boxer shorts and food. Given the Bundys forgot to pack enough underwear for their 41 day occupation, boxer hoarding is understandable.

Now Ryan Bundy, who is currently held at the Multnomah County Jail, has declared himself an “idiot” in court documents. Oregon Public Broadcasting calls his filings, which OPB uploaded,  “the latest in increasingly defiant and strange behavior from Bundy.”

Using a lot of lowercase letters, Bundy writes in a motion filed to U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown, “I, ryan c, man, am an idiot of the ‘Legal Society’; and; am an idiot (layman, outsider) of the ‘Bar Association’; and; i am incompetent; and; am not required by any law to be competent.”

Calling himself a member of the “bundy society” he defines man as “a sacred union between consciousness/spirit, flesh-bone blood and bio-electricity/energy created by that sound of which in the standard written English language is commonly translated as ‘God’ …”

A little further down, he writes, “I am neither “person”, nor “child”, nor “human being” as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, the unholy bible of the Legal Society.”

Bundy also mixes in some bits from the Declaration of Independence and the Bible.

The long, strange document also claims his home state of Nevada and Oregon are not within the United States and are in fact  “sovereign union states” because the jurisdiction of the U.S. is limited to the “District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories and federal enclaves within the states.” He also writes the Malheur refuge is not under U.S. jurisdiction.

In other filings he asks for $1 million dollars in order to accept the “role” of “defendant” or “inmate,” and a million to be judge or bailiff.

Bundy is representing himself in the government’s conspiracy case against him and other occupiers. One of the occupiers, LaVoy Finicum was killed during the occupation's resolution. 


July 26, 2016 02:03 PM

We were deeply troubled today when we received the letter below detailing incidents of racism and homophobia towards our friends at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

As evidenced by this and the recent cancellation of the Festival of Eugene due to an incident of racism, it's becoming more and more apparent that these are not isloated incidents but evidence of an alarming national trend. 

An Open Letter to Our Community

"[I am] a fool who believes that death is waste and love is sweet and that the earth turns and men change every day and that rivers run and that people wanna be better than they are and that flowers smell good and that I hurt terribly today, and that hurt is desperation and desperation is energy and energy can move things."
-Lorraine Hansberry, The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window

Dear Patrons, Supporters and Community Members,

"Inspired by Shakespeare's work and the cultural richness of the United States, we reveal our collective humanity through illuminating interpretations of new and classic plays, deepened by the kaleidoscope of rotating repertory."

This is our mission statement. Today, it feels woefully inadequate, not only in terms of describing what we should be doing as an organization, but also what we are doing. We cannot reveal our collective humanity without addressing the fact that the humanity of a majority of the human race is under attack. This threat is felt by people of color, by the LGBTQ+ community, by women, by people of various faiths, and—as the recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas remind us—the law enforcement community can be perceived as both a source of violence and a target for it.

You may have heard by now about the racist verbal assault directed at one of our actors, and about a death threat leveled at another female company member of color only days later. As far too many people in our community have experienced, these are not isolated incidents—they are happening daily in Ashland, and all over our country. They are happening to our Box Office employees, who bear the brunt of racially-charged and homophobic complaints about our approach to casting and season selection. They are happening to our Education staff, who sometimes must weigh their own sense of safety and ability to do their job against their instinct to turn an ignorant comment into a teaching moment.

Social justice is central to our mission. Doing whatever we can to provide a safe and welcoming environment for our company and our patrons is also a central priority. To both those ends, we will not tolerate hate speech or other acts of racism and prejudice on our campus, and we will not be silent when such acts are committed beyond our campus.

We have been inspired by recent OSF company member-driven efforts to address oppression and violence—from enlisting theatres and artists nationwide in the Every 28 Hoursproject, to quickly organizing a community vigil in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, to flying the LGBTQ+ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags over campus and wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts in the Ashland Fourth of July Parade, to taking flowers to the Ashland Police Department after the tragedy in Dallas.

We express our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement not to say other lives matter less, but to acknowledge that our society does not treat Black lives as if they matter as much. “We are committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people,” the Black Lives Matter website states among its Guiding Principles. “As we forge our path, we intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.”

We will continue partnering with other local and national organizations to bring about events like the community gathering on July 2 that packed the Historic Ashland Armory with people willing to try to unpack racism. We will work with the Ashland Police Department, the local business community and our tourism partners to address the bias that people of color encounter here regularly while driving, walking, shopping and dining.

We will continue to choose plays and cast them in ways that reflect the world we live in now, with pride and without apology. We will continue striving to bring greater diversity to our workforce and our audience. We will recognize that we have a long way to go to live up to our goals of equity, diversity, inclusion and justice, and that we don’t and won’t always get it right—but we will keep trying.

We hope you will join us.


Artistic Director Bill Rauch
Executive Director Cynthia Rider
And the OSF Leadership Team

July 21, 2016 03:18 PM

Update: This email went out on July 22 from the Festival of  Eugene email account:

"Racism cannot be tolerated. The 2016 Festival of Eugene is canceled. Our sincere apologies for those hurt and affected."


Allegations of racism have arisen against Festival of Eugene organizer Krysta Albert. 

Many of the allegations center on a comment of "U r exactly why we call u people niggers" made to Jamie Clark on a Facebook thread belonging to Nancy Berge that has been screen captured.

Albert's Facebook page has been removed and the Festival of Eugene event page has comments from sponsors saying they are pulling their support.

In response to EW's request for comment, Albert writes:

The Festival has consulted an attorney and we are in the process of issuing a Press Release. Suffice to say these allegations are untrue.

The Festival of Eugene, ran by a dedicated team of volunteers, does not in the past, present nor future discriminate against anyone for any reason; neither race, color, creed, national origin, religious, sexual preference or orientation or political. Nor has it participated in racism, bigotry or any other type of discrimination or hate. The Festival is about celebrating diversity, social tolerance and inclusion of all. For those who have participated in this event in years past know this to be true.

Recent FaceBook posts have subjected our event to speculation and allegations. The recent posts are under review by FaceBook and our FaceBook administrators.

It is always good to keep in mind social media is fertile ground for drama and speculation. The Festival its' reputation to be based on its history, mission and good will to the community at large.  

Albert also posted on the Festival of Eugene page (a different page from the event page) saying she didn't write or endorse the comment.

Kelly Asay, publisher of the news website Eugene Daily News has weighed in in Albert's defense, writing that her Facebook page was hacked and Facebook is looking into it.

In response to Assay, the Facebook page Diverse Eugene writes,

"Regarding Eugene Daily News's statement that racism would be 'completely out of character' for Festival of Eugene organizer Krysta Albert, we offer this quote from the Register-Guard, May 4, 2016: Reader comment about Donald Trump's visit to Eugene. 'I, for one, and absolutely voting for this man! And I would love to hear him speak! -- Krysta Albert' We're not sure how Ms. Albert expressing avid support for a racist politician translates to 'racism would be completely out of character for Krysta Albert'."

Others have argued that Albert has made similar posts, including longtime Eugene activist Alley Valkyrie who is now in Portland. Valkyrie writes in a public post that "I blocked her after she made very similar racist comments as well as anti-homeless comments on the thread of a mutual friend."

In one Facebook message conversation Albert says it was photoshopped and elsewhere she has posted she was hacked.

July 13, 2016 01:59 PM

Here at Eugene Weekly, we want you to send us pictures of your pets. Cute? Check. Ugly-cute? Check check. Just plain ugly? Yes, please.

Decide which of the following categories fits your pet picture best:

Best action shot

Most fluffy

Cutest couple

Email office@eugeneweekly.com with your picture attached, and say in the subject line what your pet's name is and which category you're submitting to. The higher the resolution, the better your picture will show up in print. We're looking for file sizes 1 MB or larger, but if all you have is a flip phone camera picture, send it to us anyways. In order for your picture to qualify for the contest, please email it to us by July 22. There is no limit to how many pictures you can send. 

After an extremely scientific judging period, we'll publish the winning pictures in our July 28 Pets Issue. It's a win-win proposition: We get to look at cute animal pictures and your beloved pet gets his or her face splashed on the pages of Eugene Weekly for all to see. Ah, prestige. 

July 13, 2016 09:36 AM

Not enough smashing and grunting at the U.S. Olympic Trials? The Queensland Outback Barbarians are coming from Australia to Springfield top play the Eugene Stags Saturday, July 16.

Eugene, Cascades and Coast Sports Commission says:

"The Queensland Outback Barbarians wrap up a North American rugby tour in Springfield when they take on the Eugene Stags this Saturday. This international friendly match has been in the making for over two years. The Barbarians are completing an international tour here in Springfield and are coming off a recent 72-7 victory over the Calgary Canucks. The Stags are excited to test their skills against a high caliber team from a country with a strong rugby history. Attendees are encouraged to wear a jersey of any sort to the match.”

The rugby match takes place 1 pm, Saturday at Agnes Stewart Middle School (South 32nd Street in Springfield). The cost is FREE and a post match social will be hosted at Docs Pad located at 710 Willamette Street in Eugene.

Eugene, Cascades and Coast says, “The Eugene Stags are a Division III rugby club that competes against teams from Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The Stags have been very competitive and completed last season with a top 3 finish in their division.”

July 12, 2016 04:02 PM


Eugene homeowners may see a 7.5 percent increase in their monthly storm water fee starting Aug. 1 and as much as a 27.5 percent increase over the next six years, after the Eugene City Council took a step in that direction at its July 11 meeting.

The motion is an emergency measure to help boost the city’s stormwater reserve funds, which have reached a dangerously low level. Only two weeks of the program’s reserve budget are left.

The City Council’s 5-3 vote is not the final decision on the matter, but instead authorizes city staff to prepare a final resolution for a final vote on whether to increase the fee by 7.5 percent in the next year and an additional four percent each year for the next five years.

As of press time, the council had not yet decided to make the final vote at a work session on July 13 or postpone their vote until the July 25 council meeting. If the motion passes on July 13, Eugene homeowners will see their rates go up on Aug. 1. No public hearing is planned. Eugene homeowners already saw a 13 percent increase in their storm water fee between 2015 and 2015. Small homes currently pay a $8.90 monthly fee. The first year of the proposed fee increase (7.5 percent increase) would raise a small home’s stormwater fee to $9.57; the next five years of increases would raise it to $12.02.

“From 2012 to 2015, we had a deficit in the stormwater fund and we used all the reserves to hold down rate increases,” said councilman Alan Zelenka, who voted for the motion.

The stormwater reserve funds are depleted in part because, over the past 10 years, the city has pushed about $2.5 million in other city services onto the budget of the storm water reserve funds, city engineer Mark Schoening said. Two of those services are the city’s riverbank cleanup program and the street leaf pickup program.

City Councilor George Brown voted against the motion, saying he feels the city is “backfilling” programs like the riverbank cleanup program with money from other programs. He said the city’s Public Works Department paid $250,000 last year to clean up homeless camps along Amazon Creek and the Willamette River; the new fee increase will pay for that service.

July 8, 2016 04:44 PM

Hundreds of people convened on the University of Oregon campus Friday, July 8, to remember the black lives lost to police shootings in the past few days, including Alton Sterling of Louisiana and Philando Castile of Minnesota. 

Addressing a crowd gathered in the Erb Memorial Union amphitheater as rain gently fell on attendees, youth pastor Kim McGrew gave a moving speech that focused on action and implementing change in the face of great negativity.

“I need you to remain positive,” McGrew said. “There’s already enough negativity that’s going throughout the nation, and they don’t need to see it on the UO campus.”

McGrew spoke to a solemn, introspective audience as she urged people to act as agents of change. “One thing I want you to be reminded of is that we’re a melting pot,” McGrew said as she gestured around the amphitheater and encouraged people to look at their neighbors. “Every nationality is right here on the UO campus. You can see the world sitting right here, saying, ‘We stand for one. And we stand for all.’”

McGrew shared that she is from Dallas, Texas, and that she knew many of the officers shot the evening of July 7 at a rally in protest of police violence against black people, calling the deaths by sniper “another tragedy.”

In a call to action, McGrew asked people to no longer stay silent or hold their opinions to themselves. “Today, I set a new standard,” she said. “Defy the odds and step up.”

She called on the audience to act as leaders in the community to be a voice of reason, “regardless of the obstacles that may be against you. I need you to view this challenge as an opportunity.”

She condemned further violence and said that this is an opportunity to stand together instead of stand divided.

“Black lives matter,” McGrew said. “White lives matter. Brown lives matter. Everybody’s lives matter today because after last night, everyone can become a statistic. Everyone can be a victim of a senseless act.”

As she finished her speech, she prayed for the group present, for the community and for the nation as a whole, and silence descended on the amphitheater as the people present honored the lives lost to violence.

After that, student activist Nicole Dodier spoke to the crowd, saying, “The longer we continue to be silent about these issues, the more black bodies will be laid to rest. We march here today to be visible, to show the world that we are fed up.”

She said action must be taken to resolve police violence against the black community.

“As I scroll down social media, I see a lot of backlash about our movement, folks saying that all lives matter. However, what many people fail to realize is that all lives cannot matter until the black community matters,” Dodier said. “And we cannot fight these battles alone. We need our allies to speak up and get behind us in leading the change. I find these truths to be self evident that black lives matter.”

At this point, the crowd marched down 13th Avenue through campus, crying out, “Black lives matter!” and “united we stand, divided we fall” while carrying signs.

Members of the crowd held pictures of black citizens slain by police officers and placed them on Hamilton Hall lawn to memorialize them.

At the intersection of Agate and 13th, Black Student Union member Jessica Brown led more rallying cries, and then organizers passed the megaphone to audience members, who shared their thoughts with the crowd.

Kayla Godowa-Tufti, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, spoke in solidarity with the black community.

“I feel the grief because they killed us, too,” she said. “They wanted us dead, too. If all of us stand together, there is no way this empire can ever survive. We need to stop the killing. Everyone needs to stop killing each other.”

July 8, 2016 10:06 AM

Last night at a Don't Shoot PDX  rally in Portland a counter-protester pulled a gun on people marching to recognize the recent shooting deaths of by police of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. 

Castile and Sterling, both black men in their 30s, were shot by police in Minnesota and Baton Rouge. Sterling's shooting was documented on video and Castile's girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, posted a video of the aftermath of his shooting saying he had been reaching for his wallet. Reynolds' young daughter was a witness to the shooting, Reynolds ssys in the video.

In Portland, a man The Oregonian has identified as Michael Strickland pulls a gun on several protesters. Freelance journalist (and former EW intern) Mike Bivins caught it on video. 

Bivins says in the video that Strickland told him he runs a YouTube channel called Laughing at Liberals.

You can watch Bivins' entire Periscope video here.

Although later in the video you here people chanting "Black lives matter," Black Lives Matter PDX (BLMPDX) clarified on its Facebook page that "the march last night was organized by Don't Shoot PDX. Membership in our organization is open only to Black and African identified folks but there are frequent opportunities for collaboration."

The Oregonian reports that Strickland will be arraigned this afternoon:

"Michael Strickland, 36, is facing misdemeanor menacing and second-degree disorderly conduct charges, according to jail records. He was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center late Thursday night, and then released on his own recognizance, jail and court records show."

Portland activist and former mayoral candidate Jesse Sponberg attempted to defuse the situation and Bivins documents the police detaining Sponberg. 

Sponberg posted about the incident on his Facebook page:

July 8, 2016 08:58 AM

The shootings of Philano Castile and Alton Sterling have us reeling. The killing of black men by police offices continues, despite the outage about Freddy Gray, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice. The shootings of police officers last night in Dallas were another shock. People post the videos and memes on Facebook and ask "What can I do?" 

What can we do Eugene/Springfield? How can we change this? The shootings may be in cities far away, but we all know racism happens here, police shootings happen here. Write us your thoughts letters@eugeneweekly.com. 

And for those of you who want to recognize what happened with others who feel the same, there is a memorial today. 

This message was posted by the UO Black Student Union letting people know about a vigil Friday July 8 for the families and communities of Baton Rouge and Minneapolis:

In light of recent police shootings, particularly those of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, we, the Black Student Union, along with the Black Women of Achievement, are holding a memorial tomorrow. We will meet in the amphitheater promptly at 1:45 pm for a moment of silence and prayer. Following, we will march to 13th and Agate to stand in solidarity along the corners, before planting stakes in the Hamilton Hall Lawn. We will give everyone a black bow to wear, hold photos, and plant stakes to represent the countless lives lost under the hands of police officers. If you can, please wear a black shirt.

Please join us to recognize and honor the black lives lost in these tragedies. We also ask that you pass this message on to others who may want to attend. Thank you and we hope to see you tomorrow.

The Eugene-Springfield NAACP adds that, "We at the Eugene/Springfield NAACP stand in solidarity with the families and communities involved," and "Folks are also welcome to leave flowers at the Mims memorial located at 330 High Street."

The Mims Houses commemorate "two of the oldest structures and black-owned properties in Eugene."

July 5, 2016 04:51 PM

Mahmud Hafiz travelogue writer and a senior journalist from Bangladesh dropped by EW’s offices recently to talk journalism and the Bangla, aka Bengali, language. Hafiz, a contributing editor to the news portal Bangla News 24 came to Eugene for his son’s graduation from the University of Oregon. He will be writing a travelogue about his experiences.

Hafiz says Bangla News 24 and its editor-in-chief Alamgir Hossain pioneered online journalism in Bangladesh and the news site is updated from all over the country. The site is partially available in English.

In addition to discussing journalism, Hafiz came to speak to EWabout Bangla, a language he says, “for which people died.” According to Hafiz, UNESCO declared Feb. 21 as World Language Day “remembering our sacrifice.”

Hafiz explained that when India was divided into India and Pakistan, it was originally divided into East and West Pakistan, united by the Muslim religion but divided by the land mass of India itself. In West Pakistan (now Pakistan) Urdu was spoken but the language of East Pakistan was Bangla.

The Bengali Language Movement arose when the government of West Pakistan attempted to impose Urdu as the state language. On February 21, 1952, five students and political activists were killed during protests near the campus of the University of Dhaka. Hafiz said that each year on that date in Dhaka there is a procession of people wearing black shirts carrying wreaths to commemorate the sacrifice.

Bangla is the official language of what is now Bangladesh and according to Hafiz has more than 300 million speakers around the globe ranging from Bangladesh to India to New York City.

While in Eugene Hafiz presentedEW with an impressionistic painting of a street in Bangladesh. EW will post links to Hafiz’s travelogues when they are available in English.

Journalist Mahmud Hafiz presents EW Editor Camilla Mortensen with a painting from Bangladesh

July 1, 2016 05:50 PM

According to a Register-Guard headline today, your car and its airbags have a hitherto-unknown superpower.


A "50 Percent Chance of  Dangerous Air Bag Rapture" to be precise.  What can we say? Jesus, take the wheel.

h/t retired editor EW Ted Taylor

June 30, 2016 03:13 PM

If people go to concerts to be witness to something, they go to music festivals to be part of something. Or to get duped into thinking they’re part of something. Or something. Here’s exactly how I feel about this year’s Sasquatch festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington: it was fun, and I’m never going back.


Friday, May 27

Just when all of us had almost dozed off around 3 am, Jane proclaimed, from the other end of the tent: “I brushed my teeth!” Look at where we were: Prince blaring from our neighbors’ homemade truck-top balcony, EDM pouring from the neon pizza stand and everybody at least half awake in a tent city big enough to get lost in, full of MDMA dealers and middle-class kids — and Jane, just proud to have brushed her teeth.

“I also put on moisturizer,” she continued. She asked if I had my retainer in, which I did, because I always do. The car in front of us turned its headlights on for God knows what reason, shining that yellow flood into our tent, and next to me, Mara looked just like a painting, her hair gold, her face so exhausted, already.

In the morning, it took hours for the sun to get hot in the sky, but when it did we woke up sweating. I took drug inventory again, wondering which to do for the morning and settling on a cigarette, which I had to bum from Hannah. We got dressed in front of Andrea’s full-length mirror, which was propped against her car. Then we ate bagels with too much cream cheese and got drunk and sometimes pretended like we were relaxing.

“I took this mysticism class where we learned about the ego,” Andrea said absentmindedly, applying dry shampoo, “and how the ego is the only real problem.” We each changed our outfits two or three times, and I caught a guy staring at my nipple piercing when I was naked in the front seat of the car.

“Where’s the face paint?” May asked. “Do we have any face paint?” Bailey said it hadn’t come in the mail on time, and May said, “I have glitter!”

We stumbled into the venue just in time for soul act Grace Love & The True Loves, whose set contained “No Diggity,” one out of three times we heard the song covered that weekend. Grace was to be my first interview of the festival, too, so after her set, I headed to the “media area,” a semi-permanent structure between stages where young reporters can be found on MacBooks flipping through hundreds of the exact same photo of the exact same band, noshing on complimentary Nature Valley bars and Kirkland water.

My agreed-upon meeting time with Grace came and went, and she never showed up. I hunched into the room’s lone armchair and began taking notes. I overheard one girl say that she “just can’t get into rap or hip hop or that type of stuff,” and another, no older than me, asked whether I was “going to leave any time soon.” I said I didn’t know, suddenly heartbroken to be getting stuck with this journalism shit on my college diploma.

Later, though, while everyone who’s into neo-soul wannabes like Leon Bridges was probably dancing to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the real heavy soul-hitter of the lineup took the main stage for a modest audience that nonetheless would crown her as one of the weekend’s best shows. Andra Day, even when her pants literally fell off, was the picture of womanly power and grace, with a face like Rihanna’s, a get-up like Amy Winehouse’s and a bowl-you-over voice completely her own. 

“Remember this is a conversation,” she said, holding her bunched-up pants and wiping much-earned sweat from her forehead. “This is not just me singin’ at you, this is us talkin’ — let’s talk. Let’s get it goin.’” Somebody from behind me yelled: “YOU’RE SO FUCKING SEXY!” and we all agreed. It was like Aretha Franklin for millennials. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Afterward I met my friends at Vince Staples, but our spot was far enough away that it occurred to me we were just watching Vince Staples on a Jumbotron and that, actually, our view would’ve been better if we were watching the concert at home on Palladia. At one point, that same Jumbotron cut to a flower-crowned girl sitting on the shoulders of (presumably) her dude, not singing along or even smiling, but taking a series of kissy-faced selfies on her iPhone. Not once did she notice that thousands of people witnessed this.

Next was A$AP Rocky, the headlining rapper of the festival, who phoned it in to such a degree that the first 20 minutes of his set consisted of two hype guys hopping around onstage, chanting “AYY-SAPPP” and asking the sea of screaming audience members if we were “ready” for him to come on. Note: Nobody ever said no.

When it started to get dark, I took a capusuleful of stuff that Ana had assured me was pure. In the white and relative warmth of the rave tent, I started touching Mara’s face and wound my fingers all around her curls. It is wonderful to remember when I asked to kiss her, and more wonderful to think of when she said yes, the little purple points of light circling us even when Todd Terje’s DJ board turned off after his seamless set.

“I’m so glad we all came here together,” I remember Mara saying, but the Instagram video Jane posted of this moment makes it all seem silly and embarrassing.

Hannah let me smoke another cigarette when we stood at the edge of the crowd for Chet Faker — always perfect for the comedown, ask anyone — and I mostly thought about how it’s so stupid that his name is Chet Faker, since no one cares about Chet Baker anymore. And then I thought of how awful and pretentious I am. 

On the walk home, I texted myself notes about the day. At the entrance to the campground, a small older woman working the festival kept saying to everyone, “Go get your rest, okay?” This felt significant, so I texted a note on it and it sent itself back to me, like an ethereal command: “Get your rest.”


Saturday, May 28

I started to hear my name everywhere we went. I saw people who looked just like other people. Mara, on our long morning walk to the venue, said, “Do you ever think about how beautiful this place would be if there weren’t, like, a huge amphitheater in it?”

This was the day I was determined to get drunk on something other than the $15 pina coladas they sell in the venue, so I double Ziploc-bagged six shots of tequila and stuffed the makeshift pouch into my underwear. By the time we walked in, about a third had leaked out, leaving the scent of cheap hard alcohol on my skin. 

This was also the day I had my first major interviews: the legendary Ishmael Butler, of ’90s hip-hop collective Digable Planets, and Seattle surf rock export La Luz

Even with an early 3:30 pm set time, a substantial crowd had gathered to bask in La Luz’s surf-noir shadow. The audience recalled Weirdo Shrine, the band’s second album: big-sunglasses-wearing women blew bubbles and shook their hips, and long-haired dudes swung their heads around and around. In an alt-rock world where watered-down surf sweetness like that of The Growlers gets most of the attention, La Luz, a crew of wildly talented women, is the real deal. Frontwoman Shana Cleveland’s guitar playing is full, dark and committed, while the light overlay of vocal harmonies gives away ’60s influences like The Shirelles.

When I ask Shana if people ever refer to La Luz as a “girl band,” she says “yes” and looks like she's been asked this before. “If they don’t say ‘girl band,’ the say something like ‘the all-female La Luz.’ It’s one thing to associate us with ’60s girl groups, because that’s part of our lineage. But being a ‘girl band’ isn’t a real descriptor. We’re just a band.”

I promised to keep our interview short, as we both wanted to catch garage-rock superhero Ty Segall, who actually produced Weirdo Shrine (in case La Luz’s sudden spike in fuzz pedal usage on the album didn’t already give that away). 

During his set with star-studded band The Muggers, Ty donned his signature flesh-colored baby mask, adding a long red umbilical cord to swing around during the rabid guitar solos of “Baby Big Man (I Want A Mommy).” Ty’s better-known bandmates were also in disguise, sort of: bassist Mikal Cronin did well enough to stand in the back wearing dark sunglasses and guitar royalty King Tuff was decked out in an orange prison-style jumpsuit and matching shutter shades. 

“IF I EVER RETIRE,” Ty squealed behind lingering guitar noise between songs, “I’M GONNA GO SWIMMING! I SAW MY DOCTOR, AND HE SAID I SHOULD EAT MORE VEGETABLES AND DRINK A LITTLE LESS, AND I THINK I’M GONNA!” Sensical, nonsensical, paranoid rambling, on and on and on.

In the middle of the most frightening mosh pit I’ve ever been a part of, two guys who said they’d been best friends since sixth grade asked if I could take their picture. It turned out great, and when I showed it to them they almost cried. “I’m rolling so hard,” one of them said. I couldn’t help thinking that molly seemed like the wrong sort of drug for this show — but then, I couldn’t really think of the right one. Ty’s set was like the repeated sound of glass being shattered, and we writhed and wrestled and loved every sweaty second.

When the time came for me to interview Ish of Digable Planets, we met up at the Toyota Music Den, a place that offered a fake rock-climbing photobooth and something called “skin marbling” in exchange for joining Toyota’s promotional emailing list. Ish asked to do the interview in his dressing room, but when I tried to follow him, a security guard told me I “didn’t have the right wristband” and he and I lost track of each other. (The day we drove home, I answered my phone, hungover, to an unfamiliar number, only to find out it was Ish, and we had an hour-long conversation, but there too much to say about that.)

If missing my in-person interview chance was disappointing, though, Digable Planets’ set was anything but. As put by Paul de Barros, the Seattle Times pop music coordinator I’d met in a corner of the media area that day: “They made all the other rappers at this festival look like children.” In contrast with the hardened bravado of most contemporary rap stage presences, Digable Planets were open, gracious and generous performers, expressing genuine joy on top of their de facto mastery of the genre. The crowd stuck around for the whole set, amazed.

That night also contained the biggest disappointment and biggest surprise of the weekend. Folk crooner favorite M. Ward attempted an all-electric set with no success at all, and by the time the show ended, even the eager front-row fans had left to find anything better to listen to. And they didn’t have much trouble, since oddball rockabilly outfit Shannon and the Clams was at the stage next door, winning over dozens of passers-by with a dirty doo-wop groove that went far beyond vintage charm.

What I remember most about M83’s set is sitting in the center of the amphitheater hill, our group’s perennial meeting spot, watching the sun finally spill down over the layers of red and the widening river curve of the Gorge, while I struggled to funnel my remaining tequila into the lemonade I’d bought (which cost about $15 anyway). A tall, olive-skinned guy next to us offered to help me; as I watched him rip open the corner of the bag with his teeth, I realized I recognized him from one of my classes. “Happy ‘Squatch!” I said — my weekend-long version of “mahalo.” It’s funny to think that for so much of the time, the bands might as well not have been there.

This cannot be said, though, of Major Lazer, who I’m tolerant of at best and fully annoyed by at worst. Mara and Jane, who’d taken another of the pills from yesterday, were happily obeying Diplo’s choreography commands down in the pit (“EVERYBODY RUN TO THE RIGHT! RUN TO THE LEFT! HANDS IN THE AIR!”) — while I, drunk but not drunk enough, fell asleep up on the hill with my head between my knees. 

There’s a little concrete tunnel, covered in graffiti and brightly lit, that you have to pass through to get from the venue back to the campground. “Here we go,” Hannah said as we walked back that night, “through the Tunnel of Sobriety.” 

“What?” Lola asked.

“The Tunnel of Sobriety! You walk in fucked up, and on the other end you’re all sober again.”

“I don’t know if that’s how it works,” said Lola.


Sunday, May 29

The first thing I did in the morning was wash my hair in the water spigot by the port-a-potties and ask Lola if we could do some cocaine. But the lines we did off a Frisbee in the magnified sun of her tent actually made me feel sleepy, so I sat in someone else’s folding chair and tried to read the Flannery O’Connor collection I’d brought.

Tim, the Canadian guy whose campsite was next to ours but who we’d found wrapped up in our blankets under our canopy that morning, asked if I wanted to buy any of his coke — “straight off the boat from, like, Colombia,” he said, shirtless now.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “I think I have a bad reaction to it. Lola told me it’s because I have ADD, but I didn’t know I had ADD.”

May said we could use her Wet ‘n’ Wild glitter again, so we smeared it all over, around our eyes, in the creases of our collarbones. We all smelled horrible, and then we took off.

This was the day the wind got so unbearably strong that the main stage was “closed,” resulting in several reschedulings and even some cancellations: everybody’s favorite high-school throwback Frightened Rabbit never got to play, and neither did Saint Motel or Houndmouth (neither of which was I heartbroken about). Leon Bridges, also edged out of his main stage slot by the wind, decided to set up shop on the hill for an impromptu acoustic set, where a small crowd gathered but soon dissipated upon realizing it was totally impossible to hear him over the gusts.

The way Mara describes the rest of the afternoon is that “it’s good we took mushrooms all day, because if not, we would’ve probably just been bored.” We ate the caps with avocados and salt between two soggy pieces of bread. I remember the bitter, unbearable taste exactly. I remember exactly how the tips of the trees looked, swaying a panicked dance in the hostile wind.

We wandered around as aimlessly as though we were just having a day in the park. The way I remember it, there were no bands playing at all, though I’m sure there were and we just weren’t interested. In our meandering, I overheard a kid remark to his friends: “We’re at a music festival right now and there’s nothing to do.”

Things slowed enough for me to notice the wide array of couples: one in the front row of an empty stage, dancing to the house music and touching each other’s faces psychedelically; an older one walking back early to their premium camping, the man saying, “I love you so much”; one in the middle of a hushed conversation, the woman saying, “We’re just going through a rough patch. Right?”

Jane was trying to meet up with the guy she’d met the other night. She’d approached him at Todd Terje and started petting his chest like he was a dog. I thought of my Teddy. I was glad he wasn’t here.

The first show we intentionally attended that day was the post-punk black magic of Savages, which proved too much for us in our state (though I wish now that we would’ve stuck around), so we took shelter in the big white tent where Olympia, Washington’s Briana Marela cast ambient electronic spells and alluring blue lights. We lay down on our backs and practiced breathing.

Then, at long, long last, it was time for our man: king of “slacker rock” and self-proclaimed inventor of “jizz jazz” Mac Demarco. True, now that Mac has accrued a fan base of mostly eighth graders and a more sad-boy attitude, he can never really be cool again — or at least not as cool as the cross-dressing, sound-bending weirdness of his highly underrated debut album Rock and Roll Nightclub

This new, wholesome Mac still puts on a hell of a show, though, and his bandmates still stage-dove, and everyone still lit ceremonial cigarettes during “Ode to Viceroy.” If you haven’t seen Mac live, you’ve got to; a good litmus test is that he shredded a cover of “Reelin’ in the Years” so hard that, since then, I’ve been listening to that song sincerely while lifting weights. Gesturing toward a sunset amazing enough that it could really only happen at the Gorge, Mac said, “The sun always sets on Steely Dan,” and the crowd wheeled around to take a look, all smiles.

For me, the festival could’ve ended right there, but as we each came down from our respective mélange of highs, we met up at Alabama Shakes, and we were shaken. Having harbored the false impression that Alabama Shakes was too mainstream to really be soulful, I was especially floored. 

Frontwoman Brittany Howard is a howler, a woman, a true force of nature — and she gave, and she gave, and she gave. “I appreciate y’all,” Howard drawled just before the last song, “and I ain’t never take it for granted that y’all come out to see us. We won’t never take that for granted.” The amphitheater roared.

Even radio hits like “Hold On” shined and shook as though we were all hearing them for the first time. “Bless my heart/ bless my soul/ didn’t think I’d make it/ to twenty-two years old,” Howard sang, and we knew what she meant, and we were all together, and we thrashed around under the big bright moon. There are pictures of this.

At one point, I reached down for my water and my hand instead found a singular, abandoned plastic rose. 

“Did you see that?” I said. “I just found a rose!” Nobody heard me.

The only thing wrong with that magical show is that I guess it tuckered everyone out so much that hardly anyone stuck around for The Cure. This is especially curious because, on top of being one of the fest’s most anticipated headliners, the only acts with competing time slots were rave guy Baauer and tepidly successful Big Boi-Phantogram collaboration Big Grams

Still, as Bailey and I settled in amongst the fortysomethings and Robert Smith started in on “In Between Days,” we knew something perfect was happening. “Yesterday, I got so old / I felt like I could die.” He sounded just the same as he’s always sounded: happy and heartbroken, grungy and sweet. Everything all at once. By the time we left, the hill was empty, the imprints of people left as expansive flat spots in the grass.


Monday, May 30

Andrea and her friends left early in the morning, following their usual breakfast of eggs from the camp stove along with a few thick spliffs. I watched their wheels grind up the gravel exit road feeling jealous. My back was sore, and when I blew my nose, black clumps of dirt came out. Why couldn’t we all leave? 

Instead of giving up completely, I decided to stay sober: a sort of departure in itself, at least from the paradigm we’d set. (I’m not counting the Adderall I took to prepare for my interviews, which I should, because who knows what else was in it).

As a result, perhaps the first fully coherent conversation I had with anyone all weekend was with Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, better known by his stage name Oddisee.

A rapper from Washington, D.C. who seemed to contain no end of articulate commentary on hip hop’s relation to race, literature and history, I asked Amir his thoughts on the way contemporary rap treats subjects like race and violence. “Unless new emotions are being created,” he said, “we’ve been writing the same songs since the beginning of time — but for the audience of the day. If you listen to popular songs from the turn of the century, you can find plenty of songs about people’s plight from racism, strife — you can find songs about Jezebels, harlots, and juke joints.”

You can imagine, based on this, how beautiful Amir’s rapping is, how wonderful his set was, how intelligent this man is in general. And you imagine correctly.

Next was Aaron Livingston, a.k.a. Son Little, whose criminally early 2:25 pm set time could not have afforded him the hearty audience he deserved. But those who did show up swayed smiling to his stripped-down but capable take on the classic soul sound.

The son of a preacher, Livingston is soft-spoken but talkative, comfortable and lovely. Having worked with such greats as Mavis Staples, he explains the increased white interest in historically black genres (as evidenced by all these soul and hip-hop acts on the Sasquatch lineup) like this: “Music's always been bent that way ... people are nostalgic.” He says one of the most powerful experiences of his life was "getting to hold Mavis' hand in the studio while she sang. Just being with her."

The Internet, a group often referred to as “soul” but heavily influenced by the Los Angeles beat production scene, verified something else Livingston said about the way marketing departments use genres like “soul” and “R&B”: that there are no real filters for these terms anymore. Where Son Little’s “thing” was carried off perfectly well with standard rock band instrumentation, The Internet’s wouldn’t have made sense without two keyboard players layering the sound up with percussive synth tracks and effects. 

The Internet certainly shouldn’t be faulted for this, though. Their set, scantly attended for it being on the main stage, was by far the festival’s best dance party. This is partially because every Internet song is a groove that builds, sort of like funk combined with Tame Impala, and also because frontwoman Syd tha Kyd can really, really sing. We’re all lucky she broke away from raucous rap collective Odd Future to do her own thing; she’s got the kind of rasp and thinness that instantly disarms and, on top of that, she’s quite an underappreciated representation of queer women of color in popular music (outside of explicitly queer-identified genres like queercore and riot grrrl).

I’m not sure where my friends went at this point, but they left, and I was fine with that. I have a theory that you can never know what a festival’s really like — what any place is really like — until your phone dies and you lose your friends and you wander all alone. 

There are few places better to end up when walking around alone than a Tim Heidecker show. The best part of this was the band — yeah, the band. Tim, of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! fame, has been producing music that everyone’s confused about: should we take it seriously or not? The lyrics, centered mostly on urine and Nicholas Cage, would send one message, but the deftness of the band sends another. Maybe the funniest part of this project is that the musicianship is very sincere. Confused onlookers left in droves, while others held up signs that said “rats off to ya” (a real inside joke among Adult Swim fans) and others, like me, were just along for the ride.

I stuck around the comedy tent to watch Todd Barry, another favorite funny guy of mine. If the best thing about Tim Heidecker is that he’s a totally loose cannon, Todd Barry’s winning trait is that he’s a really normal guy. A group of people in the front, who obviously loved him, kept giving him shit about how he isn’t “that famous,” to which he said, “Well, there’s a fence between me and you, so I must be pretty famous.”

Monday was a great day: I ran into friends in the mosh pit at Titus Andronicus, who never disappoint; I sat in awe of the spectacle that is Grimes; I discovered female alt newcomers like Wet and Ibeyi.

But here’s how it is: There is everything I’ve ever witnessed in my life, and then there is Sufjan Stevens, who I witnessed that night.

It sometimes feels embarrassing to identify as a Sufjan fan, though I haven’t quite figured out why that is. Not only has he played more than 20 instruments on his albums, each at a professional level, but he’s written everything from classical symphonies to comic books to pop songs and string quartets. Everything Sufjan makes is conceptual, whether an album of folk songs exploring personal history and a sense of location in specific U.S. states (i.e. Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State) or his most recent album of meditations on the death of his mother (Carrie & Lowell). Just because Sufjan isn’t self-promotional the way most people of his creative fortitude are doesn’t make him less of an artist. In fact, it makes him more.

After an unsurprising home-run show from Kurt Vile and the Violators, the rest of my mushrooms kicked in late, and God, do I hate tripping at night. Where did these people all come from? What are they on? Do they know what I’m on? What am we all doing here? Why the fuck is Florence and the Machine closing this entire festival? 

From the suffocating crowd gathered bizarrely for Florence, Mara walked me over to a nice empty field bathed in fluorescent lights, signs like “GIANT PIZZA SLICES” and “YAKISOBA NOODLES” lining the perimeter. “I feel stuck in ugly thoughts,” I said. “It’s hard to describe.” She rubbed my back and said she’d stay up with me all night if she had to. I fell asleep right there, my head pressed into her lap, in seconds.

She woke me up when everything was over, and I remembered something I read somewhere — that even the worst trips always end well. You always learn something, even if you don’t know what.

As we started up the long and dusty, winding path to camp, I saw some things I hadn’t seen before: all the people at the edges of the stages smoking cigarettes, shooting the shit with their friends, laughing like you do when you're not thinking of anything but how good you feel. A banner hanging huge and commercial above us, reading: “THANK YOU FOR BEING PART OF SASQUATCH! 2016.” 

Further on, I saw that there were so many stars, the stadium lights turning off one by one behind us. When we crossed the creek you have to cross, I heard frogs croaking the way they do at night. I even heard crickets. And for a second, it felt like the middle of nowhere.

Photos by Brinkley Capriola