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Rajneesh: The Indian Sex Guru Who Slept with Hundreds of …

Posted: September 1, 2020 at 10:50 am

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by Tom Leonard The Daily Mail

Every day at 2pm on a dusty road through the mountains of Oregon, hundreds of young people dressed head to toe in various sunrise hues of red and orange would gather to wait solemnly for a car to go past.

It was always a Rolls-Royce, although a different one each day, and it would glide slowly past as they bowed and threw roses on the bonnet.

Inside, wearing robes, a tea cosy-style woolly hat, flowing grey beard and beatific smile, was the object of their devotion, the guru and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

Once he had passed by, the crowds would return to toiling in the fields or finding their true selves in group sex sessions.

Rajneesh not to be confused with the far tamer Maharishi, who was the Beatles Indian guru presided over a New Age sex cult that was second to none in its embrace of free love, unorthodox meditation techniques and sheer outrageousness.

In India, he was known as the Sex Guru and attracted tens of thousands of followers from all over the world, including celebrities, from the venerable British journalist Bernard Levin to film star Terence Stamp.

In the U.S. he was dubbed the Rolls-Royce Guru. Given that he owned 93 of the luxury cars, the title was more than fair.

His followers were often highly educated professionals ready to reject the strictures of middle-class convention and seek enlightenment first in India and later at communes in Oregon, Cologne and Suffolk.

Some left spouses and children, while others donated everything they had to the cult.

What they received in return were a bead necklace with a locket bearing the gurus picture, a new Rajneeshi name and the great mans thumb imprint on their forehead, giving them their third eye of insight.

However, it was the groups attempt to build a $100 million utopian city in a remote corner of the northwestern state of Oregon that became its downfall in the Eighties, resulting in a jaw-dropping scandal that included attempted murder, election rigging, arms smuggling and a mass poisoning that still ranks as the largest bio-terror attack in U.S. history.

The story of the Rajneesh movements slide from peace-and-love hippiedom into machine gun-toting, homicidal darkness is revealed in a new six-part Netflix documentary entitled Wild Wild Country.

The makers talked to key former Rajneeshis also known as sannyasins including the gurus terrifying second-in-command, Ma Anand Sheela. All of them seem nostalgic for those heady days.

The series uses some of the reams of previously unseen home-video footage shot by the movement, and has been criticised for leaving viewers to decide whether the Rajneeshis were a terrifying, murderous cult or as some of them still insist just a peaceful, persecuted minority religion.

The facts, say former prosecutors and other outsiders who came into contact with the toxic clan, are as indisputable as they are damning.

Rajneesh was a philosophy lecturer who, in 1970, founded a spiritual movement and commune in Pune, near Mumbai (formerly Bombay). His teachings were a bizarre mixture of pop psychology, ancient Indian wisdom, capitalism, sexual permissiveness and dirty jokes that he gleaned from the pages of Playboy magazine.

His dynamic group meditation performed with eyes closed and pop music blaring involved periods of screaming, frenetic dancing, standing still, and jumping up and down shouting Hoo!.

Sex lots of it and with as many partners as possible lay at the core of his philosophy. He insisted that repression of sexual energy was the cause of most psychological problems.

Rajneesh argued that monogamous marriage was unnatural and advocated unrestricted promiscuity, including partner-swapping, from the age of 14.

Blessed with a captivating stare from huge, soft eyes, he was so charismatic that many of his followers who would fill 20,000-seat stadiums to hear him speak believed he could be a second Buddha.

But Rajneesh, born in 1931, was no ascetic mystic in a loincloth. He couldnt get enough material possessions, collecting not only Rolls-Royces but expensive jewellery and diamond-studded Rolex watches.

He concentrated on luring affluent Westerners to his ashram (hermitage) in Pune, where he lectured in front of a 20ft-long banner which proclaimed: Surrender to me, and I will transform you.

The fees he charged for group therapies were so exorbitant that some women disciples worked as prostitutes to raise the money.

The actor Terence Stamp, star of the films Billy Budd and Far from the Madding Crowd, visited in 1976 after his girlfriend, Sixties supermodel Jean Shrimpton, left him. He stayed for several years, dropping out of society.

Anneke Wills, a British actress who had played Dr Whos sidekick Polly, joined the ashram in 1975. For the first few nights I cried into my pillow. Id swapped my wonderful home for a mattress in a communal dormitory, she recalled.

But there were some wonderful people there. I was a bit bored by the free love thing. Id had enough of all that. It was the meditation I was interested in.

She remained there for six years before following the Bhagwan when he moved to Oregon, where she became one of thousands of non-U.S. followers who undertook arranged marriages so they could stay there.

The late Bernard Levin, one of Britains best-known newspaper columnists and a former Daily Mail writer, was also taken in. He stayed at the ashram in his late 40s and later wrote a string of drooling articles about the Bhagwan, describing him as the conduit along which the vital force of the universe flows.

Rajneeshs move to Oregon in 1981 was prompted by an investigation by the Indian authorities over immigration fraud, tax evasion and drug smuggling. The group purchased a 64,000-acre ranch near the tiny settlement of Antelope, and the 7,000 disciples who moved in swamped the 50-strong resident Bible-bashing population. The two sides mistrusted each other from the start.

Rifle-toting ranchers started driving around with Bag a Bhagwan car bumper stickers but the Rajneeshis, by force of numbers, soon won control of the town in a local election.

Antelope was renamed Rajneeshpuram. The victors set up a heavily armed peace force, practising daily with Uzi sub-machine guns on their range, and drove a Jeep with a 30-calibre machine gun mounted on it around town.

A local park was reserved for nude sunbathing. One scandalised woman complained that she could hear peoples orgasmic experiences all day and all night.

Construction began on a self-sustaining Rajneesh city intended for 50,000 residents, with scores of houses, shops, restaurants and even an airport built. But local people jointly took legal action against the development, backed by politicians increasingly convinced that the Rajneeshis were a dangerous cult.

Alarming evidence of this included a BBC documentary in which a British journalist, the late Christopher Hitchens, filmed one of the Rajneeshis encounter sexual therapy sessions. Footage showed a crowd of naked men and women packed into a room, screaming and attacking each other.

Hitchens described another disturbing session in which a woman was stripped naked and surrounded by men who bark at her, drawing attention to all her physical and psychic shortcomings, until she is abject with tears and apologies.

He went on: At this point she is hugged and embraced and comforted, and told that she now has a family. Sobbing with masochistic relief, she humbly enters the tribe. Hitchens added darkly: It was not absolutely clear what she had to do in order to be given her clothes back, but I did hear some believable and ugly testimony on this point.

Rajneeshs own sexual needs were largely met by his long-standing British lover and care giver, an attractive long-haired brunette named Christine Wolf Smith (or Vivek, as he renamed her). Amid rumours that he had his own harem, he boasted to the media of having had sexual relationships with hundreds of women.

However, beset by health problems, Rajneesh had already stopped addressing his followers before he arrived in the U.S. He retreated into public silence, living in a heavily guarded compound and rarely venturing out apart from his afternoon spins in the Roller. He left day-to-day running of the movement to Ma Anand Sheela, his secretary, who became his official mouthpiece.

Sheela was a young Indian woman whose small stature and disarming smile hid a ruthless megalomaniac who walked around with a large handgun strapped to her hip. She would do anything to preserve the movements survival and her dominance.

In 1984, the Rajneeshis gathered up 6,000 homeless people from across the U.S. and brought them to live on the ranch as an apparent act of charity.

In fact, they had bused them in so they could register to vote in an election for the local county commission, which the Rajneeshis also wanted to control so they could get their new city approved.

When the ruse was foiled by officials, the homeless were put back on buses and dumped in surrounding cities.

Sheelas dominance was threatened when Hollywood became fascinated by the guru. Francoise Ruddy, the glamorous co-producer of The Godfather, started throwing glitzy fundraisers for him at her Hollywood Hills mansion, where guests indulged his greed for expensive baubles, including a $3 million diamond watch he had requested.

Rajneesh was also spending heavily to feed his serious dependence on drugs, taking large amounts of Valium and inhaling nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to get high. Possibly delusional because of the drugs, he became convinced that a global catastrophe was imminent. He asked his personal doctor, an Englishman named George Meredith, to supply him with drugs to ensure that he passed away painlessly.

By now the paranoid Sheela was bugging key personalities in the group, including the guru. Eavesdropping on Rajneeshs death discussions with Dr Meredith, she convinced her closest allies that the doctor was colluding in their masters death and had to be killed.

Jane Stork, an Australian disciple, jabbed a miniature hypodermic needle containing adrenaline into the doctors left buttock but he survived. I felt like Joan of Arc, who was going into battle, she says in the documentary. It was all about keeping the Bhagwan alive.

But the doctors name was only one of those on a hit-list of cult enemies drawn up by Sheela. It included local journalists, officials and the U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Charles Turner.

She knew Mr Turner was planning to charge the group with immigration fraud over the sham marriages it arranged so foreign members could stay in America.

Jane Stork again agreed to be the assassin, waiting all day outside Mr Turners office with a revolver. He didnt appear. Other officials were also staked out but the murder plots were scrapped.

Rajneeshs girlfriend, Vivek, was also targeted. She later told the FBI she believed Sheela once gave her a poisoned cup of tea that sent her heart-rate racing and made her deeply nauseous.

The cult had its own biological warfare laboratory and some targets were sent contaminated boxes of chocolates. A judge almost died after eating one.

A pilot who worked for the groups airline, Air Rajneesh, also claimed that Sheela made him drop a bomb from his plane over a courthouse. The local planning office was set on fire.

As relations within the group deteriorated, one night in September, 1985, Sheela and a small group of allies fled the ranch and went to ground in West Germany.

Furious at her desertion, Rajneesh broke his four-year silence and publicly accused her and her gang of fascists of various serious crimes, including three attempted murders and embezzling $55 million in funds. He suggested she had left out of sexual jealousy because he wouldnt sleep with her.

She didnt prove to be a woman, she proved to be a perfect bitch, he said.

She hit back, branding the movement a gigantic con practised by a man not remotely interested in enlightenment.

However, Rajneeshs allegations allowed the FBI to descend on the ranch, where they found a secret bunker under Sheelas home containing 10,000 tape recordings from her mass bugging operation, plus an arsenal of unregistered guns intended for a Rajneeshi hit squad.

As they questioned disciples, the Feds turned up even more devilish plots. In a bid to incapacitate non-Rajneesh- supporting voters in Antelope, the Rajneeshis had tried to poison the water supply of the nearest large town, The Dalles, by introducing beavers, on grounds that they carried harmful bacteria.

When the beavers proved too big to be slipped through the reservoirs covers, they were shoved into food blenders and their liquidised bodies poured into the reservoir instead. It didnt work but in a trial run for a more extensive effort to incapacitate voters, Rajneeshis contaminated food on display at salad counters in restaurants across the town with salmonella. More than 750 people fell seriously ill and a few, including a newborn baby, almost died.

Sheela and seven others were extradited to the U.S., where they were convicted of conspiracy offences including assault, attempted murder, arson, mass poisoning and illegal wiretapping. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison but served only 29 months before being released and deported. Jane Stork was also jailed. Two British disciples, Susan Hagan and Sally-Anne Croft, were charged with plotting to murder U.S. Attorney Charles Turner and served two years of six-year sentences.

Prosecutors were only able to charge Rajneesh with immigration fraud. They feared a bloody shootout with his heavily armed defence force if they tried to arrest him but Rajneesh obligingly fled in a Lear jet. He was caught when it landed to refuel just before leaving America.

The guru agreed to a plea deal and was deported. He returned to Pune, renamed himself Osho, and died aged 58 of heart failure in 1990.

Today, there are still small numbers of Rajneeshi devotees around the world.

In the years since the cults heyday, former members have exposed ugly truths about the free-love culture: some women were raped, abortions were sometimes enforced and nearly 90 per cent of disciples had a sexually transmitted disease.

Insiders have also admitted that Rajneesh had some very unsavoury views, including being a fan of Hitler and euthanasia.

In a final irony, the Oregon ranch that was once a haven for free sex is now a Christian youth camp where evangelical young Americans are taught the virtues of sexual abstinence.








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Heres what Netflixs Wild Wild Country doesnt explain …

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When Ma Anand Sheela first met the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in his apartment in Mumbai in 1968, she hugged him and cried. My whole head melted, Sheela says in the Netflix docuseries Wild Wild Country, which discusses Rajneesh and his cult. My life was complete. My life was fulfilled.

Rajneesh, who died in 1990, was a powerful spiritual guru who had thousands of followers in India and the West. In 1981, with the help of Sheela, who became his personal assistant, Rajneesh bought a ranch nearby the tiny town of Antelope, Oregon, and moved his cult there, creating a whole new city named Rajneeshpuram. Its no surprise that the situation snowballed, leading to heated confrontations with local residents, attempted murder, and mass poisoning. Wild Wild Country follows the saga in captivating ways, through historical footage as well as sit-down interviews with Sheela, who effectively ran the cult and was Rajneeshs spokesperson, and other members who had prominent roles, like Rajneeshs lawyer Swami Prem Niren.

But as Ronit Feinglass Plank notes in The Atlantic, the series doesnt really explain what the day-to-day life was like in Rajneeshpuram. And it doesnt really address how its possible that thousands of people could just give up their lives, wear only maroon clothes, and blindly follow one man. What are the psychological mechanisms at play?

Rajneesh preached to his followers about the idea of creating awakened people who live in harmony with their surroundings. But his cult also forced members to donate large quantities of money, while creating an isolated community that kept tight control over its members. The Netflix documentary doesnt show this, but Win McCormack, who wrote about the cult in the 1980s, points out in The New Republic that Rajneeshs followers were encouraged to get sterilized or have abortions. (For more on Rajneesh and his cult, read The Oregonians 20-part investigation from the 1980s.)

Rajneesh was just one of many cult leaders who have captivated and horrified people throughout history. In 1978, cult leader Jim Jones urged more than 900 of his followers to kill themselves by drinking poison in Jonestown, Guyana. In 1993, in a standoff with government officials, more than 75 Branch Davidians died in a building fire in Waco, Texas, together with their leader David Koresh. All of these groups, and many more less prominent cult organizations, have some things in common. I talked with Louis Manza, chair and professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College about how cult leaders control their followers, when people are most vulnerable to cults, and the difference between cults and religions.

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

How do cult leaders like Rajneesh exert control over their followers?

They can take a lot of approaches, obviously. On a real simple level, they could take control in a very physical way, restraining someone from leaving a space, but that doesnt seem to happen a whole lot. Its more of a psychological control. If you look historically at different types of cults, theres always an indoctrination period where the cult leader is going to form a bond with people. Once they have that bond, now they can get inside of someones head, because now those people start to trust that person. And now the leader can start to make other suggestions to them: You should move away from your family. You should come live with us, etc. Thats one of the critical things: there has to be that emotional connection thats made by the person whos running everything with the people they want to bring in with them. If you dont have that connection, its going to be really hard to get people to do anything.

What kinds of psychological mechanisms do cults use to keep their members in line?

Once someone forms a bond with a person, you can use that to your advantage, to a certain extent. You can withhold certain types of things. If youre the cult leader, [you can decide] we all get to meet at this point in time, and we all get to talk about our feelings, but you cant come this week because youve been misbehaving, or youve not been pulling your share, or whatever the case might be. Once you have that relationship with that person, punishing [or rewarding] them can get something out of them. Again, its not a physical-restraint type of thing, but it is a form of control.

Theyre also paying attention to what works, the same way that a spouse pays attention to what works with their significant other, the same way a parent pays attention with their kids. [Parents] can punish their children by making them stand in a corner for 10 minutes, and that works because that kid doesnt like to stand in a corner. But for another kid, that doesnt work, so they have to find something else. So they take the tablet away from them, or they dont let them watch television. People who are very good at understanding other people, are very good at paying attention, can get inside someones head and then exploit that. But the person whos exploited has to be exploitable. If someone is in a good place psychologically, then theyre most likely not going to be exploitable.

People who are very good at understanding other people, are very good at paying attention, can get inside someones head and then exploit that.

When are people most vulnerable to a cult?

On a simple level, when theyre in a state of psychological instability if something is not quite right in their life, if theyre missing something, especially on a relationship perspective. We are social creatures. Theres going to be some variability there; some people like much larger social circles than others, some people like to live in a cabin in the woods by themselves. But the majority of us fall in the middle. Its part of what makes us humans. And so if thats missing for individuals, and they dont have a way of meeting that need on their own, theyre going to look for someone else who can maybe provide that need for them. Now, lots of people will join cults as a way of satisfying that. Other people will join other types of groups.

I compete in ultramarathons, so I do a couple races a year. And that kind of satisfies that need for me. Now, is that a cult? I dont think so, not in a way we define a cult, when you think of like the Jonestown massacre and Jim Jones. If youre into certain sports teams, that social need is being met there. Its just that idea that someone needs some type of social connection. I think its one of the primary forces. If they simply cant find a way on their own to fulfill that, and then someone comes along and says, Hey, we have this group. And youre welcome. Join us! it can be a very subtle thing at first. If you want to get someone in, and you know how to manipulate people, its fairly simple to do: you bring them in, you establish the relationship, and then you just start sucking them in more and more, and eventually, someone just crosses a line and theyre in. And then they can have a hard time getting out, because now they have that social need being met. It can be a very subtle process along those lines.

What do cult leaders have in common?

They tend to be charismatic. Historically, if you think of the people we call cult leaders, like David Koresh, James Jones, they all had a certain charisma. That goes back to what I was saying about forming social bonds. If you cant attract people to you, then youre going to be hard-pressed to form a cult. Beyond that, its going to depend. You have to understand people, you gotta know whats going on inside of their heads, you gotta talk to them, you gotta be able to pull information out of them. Those are skills. All of us use them in different ways. Ive been teaching since 1992, so I know if I do this, I will get students to interact in class. Is that a form of manipulation? Sure it is. I wouldnt put it up with the same kind of manipulation that a cult leader is doing, but they are also doing that. Theyre understanding people, theyre studying people. They develop that kind of skill-set, but I think charisma has to be at the top of it, because just knowing people, its a skill people can acquire. Being charismatic and understanding people, thats another thing altogether.

People who are in power also like to keep that power, and they dont want to give that power up. The cult leader wants to control people, to a certain degree. When you look at people who run these organizations, if you look at the more historically famous ones, they had a need to control people, and when that control got pushed up against, they pushed back. When David Koresh and the Branch Davidians went down, Koresh didnt want to give up control of those people. And you had the gun fight and the burning of a building and all that. Jim Jones didnt want to give up control of those hundreds of people in Jonestown, and people died. I think wanting to control is a driving force from the leader, and wanting to belong is the driving force for the member. You put those things together, you create the perfect storm for getting people into a cult.

Whats the difference between a cult and a religion?

Religions are an organized belief system, and cults are organized belief systems. People will engage in lots of behaviors on the part of their religion, that can be very good but it can also be very bad. People have killed other individuals in the name of their religion. Now, will Catholics prevent you from leaving the church? Not to my knowledge. I was raised Catholic. Im an atheist now. No one held me back. So what we usually consider cults tend to exert a bit more control over their members, but thats not to say that that control doesnt happen in more organized, traditional religions. But with cults, you see that real psychological, physical-restraint thing kick in to a much higher degree than you see in Catholics, Lutherans, or whatever. If there is a dividing line, its along those lines, but they definitely share a lot of features, because theyre organized belief systems.

But there are lot of things that are not even religions or cults that are organized belief systems. Again, if youre part of a certain sports team, you have an organized belief system. But mental manipulation, psychological manipulation is something you tend to see more in cults than in organized religion.

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Heres what Netflixs Wild Wild Country doesnt explain ...

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COLUMN: Following in the boots of a legendary hiker – Baker City Herald

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I probably wouldnt have detoured from the trail except that my son, Max, insisted.

Im glad his power to persuade is considerable for a kid whos celebrated just nine birthdays.

Because without Maxs cajoling I likely would have plodded ahead, as though I were on a schedule, and in my stubbornness I would have missed one of those serendipitous and joyful moments that happily interrupt the humdrum passage of our days.

But thats not quite what happened.

We were, it turned out, two days too late for what would have been a memorable encounter for me and for my wife, Lisa.

Max would have remembered it, too, albeit for different reasons.

The person we missed meeting is not a celebrity on the level of, say, Paul McCartney.

But William L. Sullivan is, I daresay, famous among many of us who think one of the better ways to appreciate Oregons beauty and variety of landscapes is to get our boots dusty tramping its trails (or muddy, or snowy, as the season and the situation dictate).

Sullivan is to Oregon hiking guidebooks what Stephen King is to horror novels.

Not that I mean to typecast either of these fine writers.

King, as anyone knows who is more than slightly familiar with his work, has authored many compelling tales which feature no monsters and carry nary a whiff of the supernatural.

Sullivan, though he is best known for his series of 100 Hikes books that divide Oregon into five regions, has also penned many other books. These include Cabin Fever, a memoir about building a log cabin with his wife near the Oregon Coast, a history of the states greatest natural disasters, and six novels, including ones that feature such iconic (and real) Oregon characters as skyjacker D.B. Cooper and guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

But Sullivans first book has always been my favorite, and I suspect it will retain that title no matter what subject he turns his prodigious talent to.

Listening For Coyote is Sullivans story about the 1,361-mile solo backpacking trip he made in 1985 from Oregons westernmost point, at Cape Blanco, to its easterly extremity in Hells Canyon.

As someone who relishes hiking but rarely stays out for more than a couple nights in a row, or covers more than 30 miles in one excursion, I have long been drawn to accounts of truly epic journeys such as Sullivans.

I own several books describing hikes on long-distance routes such as the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails, and I can while away hours following in the authors bootsteps while I relax on a sofa or a reclining lounge chair in the backyard.

But none of these accounts has ever endured itself so thoroughly as Listening For Coyote.

I suspect this is due in some small part to my age when I first read it. I was in high school, an era when I think many of us are susceptible to the lure of an adventure story in a way that we never are later, as our own experiences accumulate and our sense of wonder at new things atrophies. Its a sad, but I think also inevitable, transition.

But for me the most powerful attraction of Listening For Coyote is that its simply a cracking good story, and Sullivan tells it with deft and piquant prose. I have probably read the book a dozen times, and never does the scent of Sullivans campfires fail to reach my nose, never do I not shiver when hes trudging through snow after an early blizzard in the Blue Mountains.

That snowbound trail where Sullivan left his tracks is the very one that Max, Lisa and I walked earlier this summer, the path that follows the North Fork John Day River through its wilderness canyon west of Baker City.

The conditions could scarcely have been different on the day of our trip. The mid-July afternoon was that rare sort when the old chestnut about there not being a cloud in the sky happened to be true.

We couldnt, at any rate, see so much as a scrap of cumulus or tendril of cirrus in the somewhat abbreviated scope of sky visible from our vantage point in the depths of the densely forested canyon.

We bought Max his first real backpack a couple of years ago and just lately hes been nudging us, like a frisky horse too long stabled, to get out in the woods. Lisa and I picked the North Fork trail, which we had hiked before, albeit without children in tow. We chose the path largely because, as riverside routes often are, it lacks the lung-straining climbs that can quickly sap a young hikers enthusiasm.

(And, if I must be honest, a somewhat older hikers.)

When Max spied the cabins metal roof glinting among the lodgepole pines he darted onto the spur path leading toward the structure.

Guy Hafer of Cove, who died in 2007, built the cabin on his mining claim. It stands on public land and the cabin is left unlocked. There were a few rodent droppings inside but it appears the people who use the cabin respect it, and Hafers legacy, and try to ensure it remains usable.

I noticed a notebook ensconced in a plastic bag on a table. It looked to be a sort of guest book. I pulled it out and was shocked by the most recent entry. It was signed William L. Sullivan. The date was July 16, just two days earlier. He was doing research for an updated version of his 100 Hikes In Eastern Oregon book.

I hollered at Lisa, who was outside.

We were both thrilled, albeit a trifle disappointed to have come so close to having met Sullivan.

I interviewed him in 2006 when he made a presentation at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

But meeting him on the North Fork trail would be another matter altogether. And the reason is that one of the most memorable chapters in Listening For Coyote is the one in which Sullivan, hiking through a rainstorm that soon turned to snow, was spared from having to pitch his tent in inclement weather when he came across another old mining cabin about a mile or so downriver from Hafers.

This other cabin, nicknamed the Bigfoot Hilton by someone who visited it before Sullivan, has become something of a shrine for hikers due to its inclusion in Listening For Coyote.

Not to belabor my earlier reference to Paul McCartney, but for me, coming across Bill Sullivan in a cabin on the North Fork John Day would be comparable to bumping into the ex-Beatle while taking the requisite photo in the most famous crosswalk on Londons Abbey Road.

It was not to be.

But I was pleased just the same to have shared a trail, in a manner of speaking, with the man who must be Oregons most famous hiker.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.

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COLUMN: Following in the boots of a legendary hiker - Baker City Herald

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September 1st, 2020 at 10:50 am

Libertarians Took Control of This Small Town. It Didn’t End Well. – Washington Monthly

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A new book shows the troubling consequences of Grafton, New Hampshires anti-government experiment.

From his books very title, its clear that Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling sees his story as one great big joke. As he describes it, A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear tells the strange-but-true story of Grafton, NH, a small town that became the nexus of a collision between bears, libertarians, guns, doughnuts, parasites, firecrackers, taxes and one angry llama. The bookhis firstis based on a lively article, published in 2018 in The Atavist Magazine, about an attempted political takeover of the small New Hampshire town by a motley crew of libertarians and survivalists from all across America. Their stated goal was to establish the boldest social experiment in modern American history: the Free Town Project.

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling PublicAffairs, 288 pp.

Their effort was inspired by the Free State Project, a libertarian-adjacent organization founded in 2003 with the goal of taking over New Hampshire and transforming it into a tiny-government paradise. After more than a decade of persistence, the project persuaded 20,000 like-minded revolutionaries to sign its pledge to move to New Hampshire and finally force the state to live up to its Live Free or Die motto. (Despite their pledged support, only about 1,300 signers actually made the move. Another 3,000 were New Hampshire residents to begin with.) The projects political successes peaked in 2018, when 17 of the 400 members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives identified as Free Statersalthough all but two were registered Republicans.

The affiliated Free Town Project set its sights on Grafton in 2004 because of both its small sizeabout 1,200 residentsand its long history as a haven for tax protesters, eccentrics, and generalized curmudgeons. The Free Town Project leaders figured that they could engineer a libertarian tipping point by bringing in a few dozen new true believers and collaborating with the resident soreheads. Over the next decade or so, Free Towners managed to join forces with some of the towns most tightfisted taxpayers to pass a 30 percent cut in the towns $1 million budget over three years, slashing unnecessary spending on such municipal frills as streetlights, firefighting, road repairs, and bridge reconstruction. But eventually, the Free Town leadership splintered and the haphazard movement fizzled out. The municipal budget has since bounced back, to $1.55 million.

But even though the Free Towners full-scale libertarian takeover of Grafton never fully materialized, they fanned the flames of a community culture that prioritized individual freedom above all elsewhether the individual sought the freedom to smoke marijuana or feed daily boxes of donuts to the increasingly aggressive local bears. The libertarian battle cry of Nobody tells me what to do! drowned out all other political debate, at least temporarily, and the results of their blindly anti-government,anti-authority mind-set were both troubling and predictable.

Hongoltz-Hetling presents the Grafton experience as a rollicking tale of colorful rural characters and oddly clever ursines. The Free Towners wacky political views, like their eccentric clothes, their rusting pickup trucks, and their elaborate facial hair, present him with seemingly limitless opportunities to display his own cleverness.

Certainly, the author is not alone in finding cause for amusement in Graftons funny little basket of deplorables. For years now, reporters and pundits have chosen to focus on the style, rather than the policy substance, of the growing libertarian right. Again and again, we read stories of rural rubes clad head to toe in MAGA swag, hunched over chipped cutlery in dingy diners, wielding biscuits to wipe the last of the sausage gravy from their oversized plates while vociferously proclaiming that taxation is theft and inveighing against the nanny state. In choosing to shoot these red, white, and blue fish in a barrel, Hongoltz-Hetling is in very good company.

But had the author not chosen snark over substance, his book could have served as a peculiarly timely cautionary tale, because the conflicting philosophical principles that drive this story are central to understanding American politics today. The differences between the libertarian stumblebums who moved to Grafton and the staff of the Koch-funded Cato Institute are mostly sartorial. And the sad outcomes of Graftons wacky social experiment are now being repeated in American communities every single day.

If it seems unkind to slam a writer for indulging in a bit of a laugh as he slogs his way through a story that basically boils down to fundamentally divergent views of tax policy, consider the chapter in which Hongoltz- Hetling drags his reader into an ultimately unsatisfactory discursion into the political dynamics of French- occupied Tunisia. In the chapter, he references the work of the Oxford University professor Daniel Butt, a noted scholar of colonialism. In his discussion of Butts academic work, Hongoltz-Hetling brutally torques his sentences to produce the phrases Butt heads, Butt wipe, Butt cracks, and Butt (w)hole. Oh, how devilishly cheeky.

Look. I get it. Snark is to reporters what salmon is to bearsthey thrive on it, and many cant survive without a lot of it. But back in my crime-reporting days, our city editor routinely tossed back any sophomoric attempts to inject witticisms into odd little crime stories by asking, Would this be funny if it happened to you?

Hongoltz-Hetlings chronic prioritization of style over substance brings his reportorial judgment and diligence into question at multiple points throughout the book. He lightly glosses over one characters conviction on 129 counts of child pornography, and later compares Graftons troubling influx of sex offendersfrom eight to 22 in four yearswith an equally disconcerting drop in the tiny towns local recycling rates. Later, he chuckles about a man found in questionable circumstances with a preteen who was [asked to] leave in an impolite manner involving a very visibly wielded baseball bat. I raise this issue not solely because I am a midwestern mom who is absolutely unamused by child sex abuse, but also because Hongoltz-Hetling does not mention that pedophilia and child pornography are profoundly schismatic issues for the American libertarian community. Mary J. Ruwart, a leading candidate for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination in 2008, wrote,

Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if its distasteful to us personally. Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess. When we outlaw child pornography, the prices paid for child performers rise, increasing the incentives for parents to use children against their will.

In 2008, the party refused to vote on a resolution asking states to strongly enforce existing child pornography laws.

The author takes a similarly lighthearted approach to his account of the Unification Churchs establishment of a summer retreat in Grafton in the early 1990sa lengthy episode that buttresses his portrayal of Grafton as a weirdo magnet of national proportions. In fact, there are numerous villages across this country where religious leaders have walked into town and proclaimed, This is the place, regardless of whether that place was already occupied by nonbelievers. The resulting conflicts between townspeople and the invading faithful can be deadly serious. When the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh founded a commune of 2,000 followers in Oregons rural Wasco County in the 1980s, for example, the groups resistance to land-use laws fueled a campaign of terror against local residents. Group members poisoned hundreds of people in the county by spraying salmonella bacteria on salad bars, and the communes leaders targeted state and county officials for assassination, sending one county commissioner to the hospital with a potentially deadly case of salmonella poisoning.

Againwould it be funny if it happened to you?

These shortcomings, and many others like it throughout the book, would diminish Hongoltz-Hetlings narrative even in normal times. But today more than ever, there is nothing remotely amusing about a group of wrongheaded extremists plotting to take over a government and impose its own dangerously eccentric views on an unwitting and unprepared majority. And it is this reality that makes A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear such a painful missed opportunity. With the story of Grafton, Hongoltz-Hetling was handed the American character in an ant farm. This New England hamlet twines together the most significant strands in our history: tax aversion, religious fervor, veneration of individual liberty, and a deep vein of cantankerousness, all counterbalanced by our equally powerful belief that we are on a God-given mission to establish on this continent a shining City on the Hill. In Grafton, we find a microcosm of the constant American tension between Dont Tread on Me and E Pluribus Unum.

Certainly, one cannot fault a writer for failing to anticipate the specific details of the present disaster. This time last year, none of us could have foreseen that a new, fast-moving virus would spark a global pandemic, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives, nor that wearing a mask to prevent infection would be viewed as a political statement. But the test of a great writer, or a great editor, is the ability to look deeply into a specific set of circumstances and to extrapolate from them, to assess the present and then take a leap of faith into a prophetic vision of the future. In the Grafton experience, we see clearly the chaos that can be created when a significant chunk of the community rejects the strictures of government, science, and the notion of community itself.

As I write this, more than 159,000 American lives have been sacrificed to failures of government at almost every level, and to the refusal of millions of Americans to curtailtheir sense of personal liberty and submit to relatively brief inconvenience to protect their neighbors and their communities. It is heartbreaking to think of how many more lives will be lost to COVID-19 by the time this magazine goesto print.

This is what happens when massively funded propaganda campaigns lead large numbers of Americans to lose faith in our system of government. This is what happens when that loss of faith leads to blind opposition to taxation. This is what happens when public services and public infrastructure are systematically starved of resources in the name of fiscal responsibility. And this is what happens, shamefully, when those who are best able to recognize the threat and sound the alarm choose instead to treat local politics like some sort of low-stakes sporting event for out-of-shapepeople.

Today, we are all living in Grafton. Armies of rabid bears are wandering through our streets, clawing at our window screens, and gnashing their teeth at our children while the phone rings unanswered at the state department of fish and game. The old village church is erupting in flames, but someone has slashed the tires on our towns lone fire truck, and the fire hydrantsunmaintained for adecadehave all run dry. Terrified, we beg our neighbors for help, only to be told that the Lord will protect us, or that the cataclysm in the streets is just punishment for our moral failures or our political misdeeds.

And all of this is happening because a large, disgruntled minority of Americans dutifully memorized the Declarations listing of our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without perceiving that these rights can exist only within the context of the social contractan Enlightenment concept so deeply familiar to the Founding Fathers that, tragically, they didnt consider it necessary to mention.

Right now, I am sitting in self-imposed quarantine with my husband, in a small Michigan town far from our home. Our beloved daughtersboth adultsare thousands of miles away, in California. We havent seen them now for almost seven months, and in my darkest moments, I wonder whether we will ever be all together again in this lifetime. We are separated today, and likely will be for long weeks and months to come, because millions of my fellow Americans have been unwilling to sacrifice even a shred of their perceived personal liberty to the higher consideration of what we owe to each other.

And its not funny. None of it is funny. It isnt funny at all.

Elizabeth Austin is a writer and political consultant. She lives in Oak Park, Ilinois.

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Libertarians Took Control of This Small Town. It Didn't End Well. - Washington Monthly

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September 1st, 2020 at 10:50 am

These 14 writers and bloggers investigate alleged cults and their leaders – Augusta Free Press

Posted: July 5, 2020 at 11:46 pm

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Published Thursday, Jul. 2, 2020, 12:55 pm

Front Page Business These 14 writers and bloggers investigate alleged cults and their leaders

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Journalists, bloggers, and book authors sometimes one and the same investigate all sorts of people and organizations. Though they often make mistakes that damage their subjects reputations and blow back on their own, their work as a whole is worth celebrating and protecting.

One of the more interesting investigative writing niches involves organizations alleged to be cults (and leaders alleged to be cult leaders). The reading publics appetite for stories about secretive organizations both well-known and not so well-known is all but insatiable, and theres plenty of material for intrepid writers to supply.

If you count yourself among the many readers intrigued by this type of writing, youve come to the right place. What follows is a list of more than one dozen writers and bloggers who currently or have in the past written about organizations and leaders alleged to be involved in cult activity.

Mike Rinders runs an independent blog devoted to exposing the follies and foibles of so-called cult organizations that more mainstream outlets dont or wont cover. He also covers more mainstream organizations that have courted controversy in the past, some of which receive sustained coverage in major daily newspapers, magazines, and TV outlets. His highest-profile target is Scientology; his motto is Something Can Be Done About It.

Writer Be Scofield is a self-proclaimed cult hunter whose investigations have appeared on several niche websites devoted to so-called cults and cult activities. While Be Scofields controversial approach has generated criticism, the writer remains active and continues to pursue new investigations.

Paul Morantz has an unusually high profile for a writer focused mainly on cults and cult leaders. Thats largely because hes also an accomplished attorney with a number of high-profile cases to his credit, several of which involve alleged misconduct by cult leaders. Hes the author of two books: Escape: My Lifelong War Against Cults and From Miracle to Madness: The True Story of Charles Dederich and Synanon.

Steven Hassan is a self-proclaimed former cult member who has spent the better part of 40 years investigating an alleged cult leader named Tony Alamo. He is also an advocate for victims of alleged child sexual abuse by members of various orders clergy, including the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovahs Witnesses.

Mitch Weiss is a reporter whose groundbreaking AP investigation tells the story of a victim of an alleged cult known as the Word of Faith Fellowship. Weisss story pulled back the curtain on the secretive North Carolina group, which claims hundreds of members.

Les Zaitz is a retired reporter for the Portland Oregonian newspaper. In the 1980s, he was part of a group of intrepid Oregon journalists on the trail of the sect led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Ma Anand Sheela years later, the subject of the popular 2018 documentary Wild Wild Country. The Columbia Journalism Review has more on Zaitzs accomplishments.

Emilie Friedlander is an investigative writer who spent months on the trail of Trumple, a social media cult that many observers brushed off as a troll until Friedlander began digging. Her work revealed a new model of rigidly hierarchical organization thats at once attractive and dangerous to young, tech savvy followers.

Dennis Yusko is one of several upstate New York reporters who began tracking the secretive sex cult Nxivm in the early 2000s. Despite his and his colleagues intrepid work, the group operated more or less without restraint until national media outlets picked up the trail in the late 2010s. Still, Yuskos groundwork proved vital in spotlighting the organizations seamy side.

David Thibodeau is a former member of the Seventh Day Adventist offshoot sect led by David Koresh. The sect is best known for the calamitous events at its compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, when a botched raid by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms left dozens of members dead. Thibodeaus book, Waco: A Survivors Story, is required reading for anyone interested in Koreshs organization and the origins of the modern-day right-wing militia movement.

Deborah Layton is a memoirist and former member of the infamous Peoples Temple sect, whose years-long presence in the jungles of Guyana culminated in one of the largest mass suicides in recorded history. Her book, Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivors Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple, is regarded as a classic of the first-person cult survivor genre.

As a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, Tim Reiterman traveled to Guyana with then-Congressman Leo Ryan to investigate the Peoples Temple sect. Years later, he would write Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People, a compelling companion to Laytons first-person account. Readers interested in the story of Jones and Peoples Temple, and aspiring writers looking for a model of cult journalism to follow, would do well to read Reiterman.

Jeff Guinn is the author of the definitive biography of Charles Manson (Manson: The Life and Times of Charles), one of the most influential cult leaders of the past 60 years. His work builds on investigations by others but remains a vital resource in its own right.

Sam Brower spent nearly a decade investigating the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamist derivative of Mormonism led by Warren Jeffs. His book, Prophets Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation Into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, is at once spellbinding and informative.

Lawrence Wright is one of the foremost investigators of Scientology. His book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, was made into a major Netflix documentary in 2015.

These writers are not the only ones whove made names for themselves investigating organizations and leaders alleged to be involved in cult activity. Many others are active in this niche, and anyone familiar with it knows that theres plenty of uncovered material out there.

Perhaps you think you have what it takes to write about alleged cults and cult leaders. Or perhaps youre just looking for a good read on a lazy day. In either case, your contribution helps keep honest those on both sides of the writer-subject divide and ensures more great stories in the years ahead.

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Ralph Sampson on Team of Destiny: Jerry and Chris have lived and seen it all, even before my time. I highly recommend this book to every basketball fan across the globe. This story translates to all who know defeat and how to overcome it!

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These 14 writers and bloggers investigate alleged cults and their leaders - Augusta Free Press

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July 5th, 2020 at 11:46 pm

10 Documentaries About Eccentric People To Watch If You Liked Tiger King – Screen Rant

Posted: May 23, 2020 at 2:50 pm

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Tiger King may feel revolutionary, but documentaries about strange people are nothing new. Here are 10 great docs for any Tiger King fan.

Every so often, a television show comes along that, due to a variety of factors, manages to become a true hit, saturating every aspect of the cultural landscape. The Netflix series Tiger King is one such series, elevating what was before a relatively minor (if strange) criminal case into nothing less than a national phenomenon.

RELATED:10 True Crime Documentaries That Are As Twisted As The Tiger King

While it is in many ways an utterly unique series, it is also part of a long documentary tradition documenting the lives of strange and eccentric people who occupy the margins of American society.

This is, arguably, the ultimate example of a documentary focusing on strange people. It focuses on two women, Big and Little Edie, who occupy a decaying mansion on Long Island. There is something utterly compelling about these two women (who were cousins of first lady Jackie Kennedy), their dysfunctional relationship, and the ruined grandeur around them.

The Maysles brothers who directed the film wring every bit of pathos out of it, inviting the viewer to sympathize with these women, even as they also remain strange and just a little bit unearthly.

Even the canniest viewer might be forgiven for not realizing that there is such a thing as competitive tickling. However, this subculture, if one can call it that, is exactly what is explored in this strange, subversive, and utterly compelling film.

Needless to say, there was some controversy associated with the subject matter (which, of course, has some rather unfortunate overtones), as well as the film itself. However, the critics absolutely loved it, and a sequel was actually produced.

Wine is one of those things that has a value even beyond its taste and its alcoholic content. Its quality, or lack thereof, says so much about not only ones class status, but about ones taste. Indeed, wine tasting and wine manufacture is a very serious business, which is why the subject of this documentary, wine fraud is so fascinating.

The film documents a scheme whereby Rudy Kurniawan took cheap wine and put more expensive labels on it. In showcasing the scheme, the film reveals both its brilliance and the way that wine is a powerful social signifier.

The Pacific Northwest has something of a reputation for attracting the kinds of people who want to set out on their own path, forging a new life for themselves. One of those people, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, is the subject of this documentary.

RELATED:Netflix's Tiger King: 10 Spin-Offs We Want To See

Its an admittedly rather disturbing portrait of the Rajneeshee movement. What started out as a consciousness movement soon became tied up with assassination and bioterror. The film was praised by critics, though some also took it to task for various aspects of its story.

This is one of those true-crime films that is certainly not for the faint of heart. It begins as a manhunt for someone who recorded himself killing two kittens by suffocation, but soon became a larger manhunt after it was revealed that he also responsible for the murder and dismemberment of a Chinese international student.

The film received only a lukewarm reception, both due to the dubious intent of the filmmakers and the unfocused nature of the story.

Timothy Treadwell is one of those people who is unlike almost anyone else. A noted advocate for wild bears, he spent the last years of his troubled life living among them, much to the consternation of wildlife officials and his family and friends.

This films director, Werner Herzog, brings his signature style of existentialist rumination to the career of this troubled man, who was ultimately killed and partially eaten by one of the bears he so loved.

Set in upstate New York, this film focuses on the unusual death of an elderly man who lived with his brothers in a ramshackle home far from any other people. In particular, it focuses on the trial of one of his brothers, who was accused by the police of having committed the crime.

RELATED:Netflix's Tiger King: 10 Riveting Documentaries About Animal Welfare Issues To Watch Next

It is a troubling rumination on the way that the criminal justice system works, and whether it actually works to the advantage of those who occupy the outer reaches of society.

The title of this film says it all. Its subject is the twisted relationship between a lawyer and his younger girlfriend and later wife. The bizarre aspect is that he hired a group of men to throw lye in her face, leaving her blind and scarred. Despite this, she later married him.

Its one of those films that is morbidly horrifying to watch. No matter how dismaying these people might be, and no matter how miserable they seem (and how miserable they make the viewer) it is almost impossible to look away.

West Virginia, and Appalachia more generally, has come to occupy a vexed place in American culture, as a place that has been largely left behind by modernity, occupied by strange and bizarre people.

The Whites are certainly both strange and bizarre, particularly Jesco, who has achieved some measure of fame as a dancer. The film is a startling insight into the lives of many Appalachians, which are scarred by decades of exploitation by various fossil fuel industries and the crushing weight of endemic poverty.

The right to privacy is one of those things that most people take for granted, and there are certain spaces one inhabits that are usually assumed to be off-limits to casual voyeurism. One of those is, certainly, the hotel room.

It is precisely the supposed inviolability of this space that makes this documentary, which focuses on a man allegedly liked to watch his guests, so viscerally disturbing. The film is a potent and troubling reminder of just how little privacy most people ultimately possess.

NEXT:10 Netflix True Crime Documentaries To Watch After Tiger King

Next Which Divergent Faction Are You Based on Your Zodiac?

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10 Documentaries About Eccentric People To Watch If You Liked Tiger King - Screen Rant

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May 23rd, 2020 at 2:50 pm

29 Oregon-filmed movies and TV shows to watch when youre home because of coronavirus – OregonLive

Posted: May 7, 2020 at 6:45 pm

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Even if coronavirus concerns are keeping us at home, we can still explore the beauty of the Oregon landscape, revisit jaw-droppingly strange-but-true history, and remember when locals got their noses out of joint over a comedy series that spoofed politically correct Portlanders. Whether you crave a virtual trip to the outdoors or are feeling nostalgic, streaming services provide a binge-worthy batch of Oregon-related movies and TV shows.

So, sit back, keep up your social distancing, and bring a little Oregon to your living room with our list of notable comedies, dramas, documentaries and animated features.


The Goonies: Viewers who were kids when they first saw this 1985 adventure have shared it with their own children, which is why the Goonies nostalgia train just keeps running. As Josh Gads recent YouTube reunion of the original cast demonstrates, theres truth to the catchphrase, Goonies never say die. The story of Oregon Coast kids who use a treasure map to search for riches that may save their family homes keeps viewers coming back, and draws tourists each year to Astoria, where much of the movie filmed. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video)

Stand By Me: Stephen Kings novella, The Body, inspired this 1986 classic, about four boys who come from different backgrounds, but form a bond as they search for a missing teen in the Willamette Valley. Stars Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry OConnell will make you laugh, make you cry, then make you laugh again. Locations include Brownsville. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video)

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made: Adapted from the bestselling book by Stephan Pastis, this Disney Plus movie tells the whimsical story of an 11-year-old boy whose imagination sends him around Portland investigating cases for his supposed detective agency, with his polar bear partner in tow. The Portland locations are down-to-earth glimpses of the city, and the cast, including Winslow Fegley as Timmy, is sympathetic and likable. (Stream on Disney Plus)

Free Willy: A 1993 family film about a boy (Jason James Richter) who makes friends with a captive orca whale, and hatches a plot to let the whale escape. Keiko, the real orca in the movie, was a crowd-pleasing attraction at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, in Newport for a few years. Locations include Portland, Astoria and the Hammond Marina, where, in the film, Willy jumps to his freedom. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video; stream on Hulu)

Twilight: It seems like 100 years ago that Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson starred in the first chapter of the saga about romance between a human high school student, Bella Swan, and the much older, but young-looking vampire, Edward Cullen. While the Twilight movies got sillier the longer the saga went on, this 2008 effort had the benefit of Northwest flavor. Stephenie Meyers novel was set in Forks, Washington, but Oregon was used for many of the movie locations, with scenes filmed in St. Helens, Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, and more. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video)

Kindergarten Cop: Another movie not exactly made to dazzle critics, this 1990 comedy stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Los Angeles Police Detective who, on the trail of a drug dealer, goes to Astoria, where he winds up working undercover as a kindergarten teacher. Sounds plausible, right? Locations include Astoria, the movie star of the Oregon Coast. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video; stream on Hulu)

Mr. Hollands Opus: This 1995 tearjerker is a salute to Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss), an aspiring composer who winds up teaching music at a fictional Portland high school. Its corny, but the movie was filmed on location in Northeast Portlands Grant High School, so students can get a virtual campus feeling even if they cant physically attend school. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video; stream on Hulu)


Wild: Portland-based writer Cheryl Strayeds bestselling memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail amid personal turmoil remains a perpetual favorite with readers. The 2014 movie adaptation of Strayeds book is well-made and heartfelt, with fine performances by Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, and Laura Dern as the authors late mother. Locations include Bend, Ashland, Cascade Locks and Portland. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video)

Leave No Trace: After The Oregonian reported on the case of a teenage girl and her father, who were found living in Forest Park, writer Peter Rock wrote My Abandonment, a novel inspired by the true story. This tale of a father and daughter living off the grid was adapted into a touching 2018 movie, directed by Debra Granik (Winters Bone), and starring Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster. Locations include the Portland area, Estacada and Newberg. (Free on Amazon Prime Video for Prime customers)

Lean On Pete: British filmmaker Andrew Haigh (Looking) wrote and directed this 2018 adaptation of Oregon writer and musician Willy Vlautins novel. Charlie Plummer stars as Charley, a 15-year-old who comes to Portland with his father, Ray (Travis Fimmel). When trouble arises at home, Charley spends time at a racetrack, where he helps cares for an aging horse named Lean On Pete. Locations include the old Portland Meadows in North Portland, and Harney County. (Free on Amazon Prime Video for Prime customers)

Wendy and Lucy: Portland-based writer Jonathan Raymond and director Kelly Reichardt have collaborated on a number of projects, most recently the quiet, but deeply affecting First Cow. The 2008 movie, Wendy and Lucy, is a characteristically minimalistic work, but one that becomes increasingly poignant as it goes on. Michelle Williams stars. Locations include Portland, Salem and Woodburn. (Free on Amazon Prime Video for Prime customers)

Related: Director Kelly Reichardt on First Cow, and why she makes films in Oregon

Night Moves: Another low-key, tense collaboration from writer Jonathan Raymond and director Kelly Reichardt. The 2013 movie tells the story of a trio of environmental activists who plan to blow up a dam. Its subtle, but gripping, and features striking work by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard. Locations include Roseburg, Medford and Ashland. (Free on Amazon Prime Video for Prime customers)

Meeks Cutoff: Kelly Reichardt and writer Jonathan Raymond again worked together on this 2011 Western loosely inspired by a historic event, in 1845. The film features a guide named Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), whos leading a group of settlers across the Oregon high desert. But the settlers begin to suspect Meek isnt all he claims to be. Michelle Williams stars. Locations include Burns and other Harney County areas. (Free on Amazon Prime Video for Prime customers; stream on Hulu)

I Dont Feel at Home in This World Anymore: Melanie Lynskey stars as Ruth, a nursing assistant whos already feeling down, and then finds out that her house has been burglarized. When the police dont seem interested in doing anything about the crime, Ruth, along with an unstable-looking neighbor (Elijah Wood), set out on a quest to find the thieves. Macon Blair wrote and directed the 2017 dark comedy-thriller. Locations include Portland, Wilsonville and Lake Oswego. (Stream on Netflix)

Drugstore Cowboy: Director Gus Van Sant lived for several years in Portland, and this 1989 movie is, among its other qualities, a postcard of the way the Rose City used to look. Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch star in a 70s-set story about drug addicts who rob pharmacies to pay for their habit. Van Sant made other features in Portland, including My Own Private Idaho, Elephant and Paranoid Park, but Drugstore Cowboy remains one of his best. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video)

The Shining: You could get all technical about it, and point out that the 1980 thriller, starring Jack Nicholson, did very little filming in Oregon. Yes, the exterior shots of Timberline Lodge are supposed to be the Overlook Hotel, where lots of bad things happen. But since were likely not getting to Mount Hood anytime soon, well take what we can get. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video)

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest: The late Ken Kesey wrote the novel that inspired the multi-Oscar-winning movie, starring Jack Nicholson in one of his best roles. Set in a mental hospital, the film focuses on the rebellious Randle McMurphy (Nicholson), and his clashes with authoritarian Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). The 1975 movie has elements that may feel offensive to todays viewers, but there are classic moments. Locations include the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, and the central Oregon Coast. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video)

Animal House: For nostalgic Oregonians, this 1978 rowdy comedy (sometimes known by its full name, National Lampoons Animal House) summons memories of toga parties, the outrageous antics of John Belushis Bluto Blutarsky, food fights, and blow-out blasts at the fictional Faber College and Delta house fraternity. More sensitive souls may find the 70s humor has dated, but its a kick to see circa-70s locations in Eugene, Cottage Grove, the University of Oregon, and more. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video; stream on Hulu, with the addition of Starz)

Paint Your Wagon: If youre truly desperate for something to watch, this 1969 musical Western offers more Oregon scenery. Thats the good part. Less great is the fact that Lee Marvin sings -- or tries to. Costar Clint Eastwood also lends his pipes to the tune, I Talk to the Trees. Critics mostly blew raspberries at this supposed blockbuster. The stories about what went on during the filming near Baker City, in Eastern Oregon, makes things sound pretty wild (hippie extras!). As for the movie, its hokey (sample song title: Hand Me Down That Can o Beans), but harmless. And did we mention the gorgeous Oregon scenery? (Free on Amazon Prime Video for Prime customers)

Related: Paint Your Wagon, The Goonies, Grimm and more: The Oregon film and TV office turns 50


Laika features: The Hillsboro animation studio is known for the painstaking care lavished on its stop-motion animated features. Examples include the Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated Missing Link (2019), about a Sasquatch living in a Pacific Northwest forest who joins forces with an explorer for globe-trotting adventures in the 1800s. (Rent on Amazon Prime Video; stream on Hulu.)

Other Laika features include 2016s Kubo and the Two Strings(YouTube Movies); 2014s The Boxtrolls (YouTube Movies); 2012s ParaNorman (iTunes); and 2009s Coraline (stream on Hulu).


Portlandia: Remember the good old days, when locals worried about what message a comedy sketch show was sending, instead of panicking about a pandemic and economic catastrophe? Return with us now to the balmy past, when the IFC series co-created by and costarring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein made Portland look like the world capital of political correctness. Even if youre sick to death of hearing about the feminist bookstore, and Colin the chicken, watching Portlandia -- which aired from 2011 to 2018 -- feels like a trip back to another, less stressed-out era. (Streaming on Netflix; and fuboTV)

Related: Saying goodbye to Portlandia, and the citys love/hate relationship with the show

Grimm: The premise was far-fetched, but the NBC drama about a Portland Police homicide detective who had the power to see the supernatural creatures lurking below the surface of seemingly ordinary folks developed a devoted following. In its 2011-2017 run, Grimm made Portland look like the scene of a dark fantasy you know, like Grimms fairy tales. (Free on Amazon Prime Video for Prime customers)

Related: Grimm may be ending, but its impact on Portland remains

Shrill: In its first two seasons of the Portland-filmed comedy, weve watched as Annie (played by Aidy Bryant, of Saturday Night Live fame) has struggled to deal with her own ambitions to be a writer, her lack of confidence, her messy relationships and a few other neuroses. Bryant is a fine lead, and shes joined by a terrific supporting cast. Catch up now, because the series has been renewed for a third season. (Stream on Hulu)

Leverage: The 2008-2012 series about a group of reformed crooks who took on jobs where they could stick it to fat cats and win justice for everyday people moved its production to the Portland area for Season 2. A rebooted revival is in the works for IMDb TV, with Noah Wyle starring (in place of Timothy Hutton) and other original cast members returning. (Stream previous seasons on the IMDb TV channel, which is available to Amazon Prime Video customers)

The Librarians: A spinoff of a series of TV movies made for TNT, the fantasy-adventure followed a group of gifted eccentrics who used their skills to solve mysteries and, sometimes, save the world. Like Leverage, the series filmed in and around the Portland area. It aired from 2014 to 2018. (Stream on Hulu)

Everything Sucks!: The series about a group of high school kids in Boring, Oregon in the 1990s had a good heart, and cast a compassionate eye on the travails and triumphs of the mostly misfit characters. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season. (Stream on Netflix)

Trinkets: Another moody/sensitive series about high school students struggling to find themselves, Trinkets tells the story of Elodie (Brianna Hildebrand), an unwilling transplant to Portland, who forms surprising friendships with schoolmates, Moe (Kiana Madeira), and Tabitha (Quintessa Swindell). The series will return for a second season, but that will be the last one. (Stream on Netflix)


Wild Wild Country: Oregonians who have lived here for a while already know about the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Ma Anand Sheela, and the followers who descended on Central Oregon in the early 1980s. But everyone else apparently first learned about this bizarre-but-true saga thanks to Chapman Way and Maclain Ways six-part 2018 documentary series. (Stream on Netflix)

Related: Netflix documentary on Rajneeshees in Oregon revisits an amazing, enraging true story

The Battered Bastards of Baseball: Before they dug into Oregon Rajneeshee history, filmmakers Chapman Way and Maclain Way made this entertaining 2014 documentary about the Portland Mavericks baseball team. (Stream on Netflix)

-- Kristi Turnquist 503-221-8227 @Kristiturnquist

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29 Oregon-filmed movies and TV shows to watch when youre home because of coronavirus - OregonLive

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May 7th, 2020 at 6:45 pm

Wild Wild Country documents the shocking story of a spiritual guru’s move to Oregon – Amherst Wire

Posted: April 10, 2020 at 2:48 am

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History textbooks seemed to have left this out

Shane Guilfoyle, Assistant Entertainment Editor April 9, 2020

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Airing on Netflix in March of 2018, Wild Wild Country holds all the makings of a great spy-flick. From assassination plots, political sabotage, manipulation and wiretaps, its all here but the catch is that this series details true events. Produced by Jay and Mark Duplass, the documentary follows the uprising and actions of an Independent religious movement, with a focus on the man who created it.

Some Background First

The spiritual guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Rajneesh or Osho, formed the Rajneesh Movement back in the 1970s. While American media grappled with a preoccupation with cults, the guru amassed followers, called sannyasins, in his home country of India. This congregation adorned a wardrobe based exclusively out of red and burgundy, with goals of raising humanitys collective consciousness. Following an uptick in size and capital, notably from young European and American students, Bhagwan and his council relocated the Rajneesh movement to the United States.


Settling in Oregon, Bhagwans council purchased the Big Muddy Ranch. Nestled just outside the retirement community of Antelope, followers, in the vicinity of 2,000 individuals, took to the task of constructing their guru a utopia in the form of a commune. This resulted in the establishment of the city of Rajneeshpuram, which sprawled across 63,000 acres and featured an artificial lake.

(Sannyas Wiki)

Drama thickens after the commune is constructed as if its establishment lit a stick of dynamite. The armed ranchers of Antelope make gestures of physical violence, pushing the community to erect its own police force and a stockpile of weapons. There are also clashes of brain and brawn here too. The leaders of the Rajneesh breach the surface of Wasco countys local government, gunning for seats on local and state municipal government while drawing allegations of Salmonella poisoning and immigration fraud from federal investigators. And in the midst of this political controversy remains the spiritually enlightened Bhagwan, who can be viewed entering a four-year-long period of silence, while forwarding his collection of over 100 Rolls Royces. This all but scratches the surface, the teeming chaos, that follows this communitys chronology.


Whats offered here

Wild Wild Country toys with Americas infatuation surrounding phenomena like cults, while highlighting our countrys interactions with these groups in the time surrounding the end of the twentieth century. The citizens of Antelope describe in interviews that the Rajneeshees were loud and noisy, while U.S. Attorney Charles Turner recalls his process of prosecuting Bhagwan and his council.

The documentary gives viewers an inside peek at who the Rajneesh were as people. Through interviews with Bhagwans secretary, Ma Anand Sheela and other key figures in the movement, such as Rajneeshpuram mayor David Berry Knapp, the motives, actions and after-thoughts surrounding their experiences in Oregon find the light. In what could be considered criminal confessions, it seems nothing is left off the table. As episodes play through the drastic measures taken by Bhagwans followers, out of their teeming devotion, grow extensive.

(Tumblr / pattern-53-enfield)

Much of the allure surrounding Wild Wild Country can be attributed to the bizarre nature of the events detailed across its six episodes. It is a forgotten history, as mentions of the religious movements move to Antelope and their eventual controversies are absent from the mainstream discussion. For the people of Antelope and the Rajneeshees, this was the event of their life-time and because of that, raw emotions bubble to the surface as these individuals detail their experience and forethought.

(Tumblr / Stillgotit)

Were roughly four weeks into quarantine now. If youve grown tiresome of the recommended Netflix stream, Wild Wild Country stands as an enthralling ride. Theres a deliberate blend of historical documentation and theatrical storytelling within the docu-series that holds a satisfying pace across its six hours of content. And think about the bragging rights to be attained, as you achieve the opportunity to flex this weird bit of American history in those routine close-quarter conversations.

Email Shane at [emailprotected] or follow him on Twitter @shaneguilll

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Wild Wild Country documents the shocking story of a spiritual guru's move to Oregon - Amherst Wire

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April 10th, 2020 at 2:48 am

Editorial: Kim Thatcher for secretary of state in the Republican primary – Bend Bulletin

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Voting in the Republican primary for secretary of state comes down to a simple choice: Do you want the candidate who speaks seriously about using 30-foot-tall water slides to get commuters across the Columbia River? Or do you want the candidate who is the reasonable choice in the race, who has a strong set of germane policy ideas?

For the water slide folks, your candidate is Dave Stauffer, 70. The former analyst for the state of Oregon has run for governor before as a Democrat. Now hes running as Republican in this race. Frankly, he seems much more interested in chatting about things such as water slides than the more relevant issues for the office.

For everyone else, the person to vote for in this Republican primary is state Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer.

Thatcher, 55, served in the Legislature as a representative from 200-2014 and has been a member of the Senate since 2015. She has run a road construction business and also a business that rents out traffic safety devices, such as those electronic signs that let you know construction is ahead. Its that combination of business and legislative experience that make her a strong candidate.

When we were interviewing Thatcher, one thing that stood out is how powerfully she spoke of her commitment to keeping the Secretary of States Office nonpartisan. She said she wouldnt make decisions based on party or whether she agreed with a person or an idea.

The office must be run evenhandedly, she said. And she emphasized that she knows what it is like to be treated differently because of personal views.

She wants to ensure that it would not happen.

Thatcher, of course, knows small businesses are struggling in the COVID-19 pandemic. The secretary of states small business advocate can help.

Thatcher said she hoped to do what she could to support and reinforce that offices effort to help businesses navigate government and find the assistance that is out there.

The secretary of states offices audits division could play a valuable role in learning lessons from the response to the pandemic, Thatcher said. She stressed she isnt aiming to parcel out blame. The important thing will be to find out how Oregon can do better.

The key to successful audits, she said in part from her time on a state audits committee, is buy-in. The state department or program being evaluated needs to buy into the idea of an audit and also to the solutions.

And legislators need to buy into the idea of providing the tools departments and programs need to succeed.

In the Democratic primary, all the candidates are nearly uniform in support of some changes same-day voter registration, ranked-choice voting and some sort of campaign finance reform. Thatcher said her job as secretary of state would not be to establish those policies. Those would be decided by laws passed by the Legislature or perhaps ballot measures. She did point out, though, on the issue of same-day voter registration that the reason that was implemented had a lot to do with the cult set up by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Wasco County.

The group tried to take over local government by busing in homeless people to vote. Because of that, voters passed the ballot initiative in 1986 to set the cut off for registration at 21 days.

Thatcher is clearly the best choice in the Republican primary.

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Editorial: Kim Thatcher for secretary of state in the Republican primary - Bend Bulletin

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April 10th, 2020 at 2:48 am

Best Netflix Originals series ranked by their Rotten Tomatoes rating – The Tab

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Finding new things to watch on Netflix can be a tough task. No matter how many new shows are added, you still sit and stare at your screen proclaiming there is absolutely nothing to watch. Rotten Tomatoes has released a ranking of the best Netflix Originals, which may just be the answer to all your troubles.

So if youre stuck trying to find something to watch here are the top 20 from the ranking, of the series which score the highest on the reviews site. Read this, then add every single one to your watch list.

2019 Netflix Original series, Russian Doll, has a rating of 97 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. The Netflix synopsis reads: Nadia keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party. Shes trapped in a surreal time loop and staring down the barrel of her own mortality.

2017 series Mindhunter is a chilling, crime mystery drama. It is based on the 1996 book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBIs Elite Serial Crime Unit, by former special agent John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. It has a ranking of 97 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.

It follows two FBI agents who expand criminal science by looking into the psychology of murder. The agents are tasked with interviewing serial killers to solve other open cases after a new type of killer emerges one with no specific motive. This leaves a huge gap in investigations. In order to expand their knowledge of why killers do what they do, they have to speak to those who commit these crimes themselves.

Lovesick is a comedy released in 2015. The Netflix synopsis reads: In his quest for true love, Dylan found chlamydia. Joined by friends Evie and Luke, he relives past encounters as he notifies all his former partners.

This 2019 series is a cartoon about two birds, Tuca and Bertie, who are best friends navigating their way through life. This may sound a bit random and weird, but its got 98 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and the people are never wrong.

Wild Wild Country is one of the best Netflix Originals true crime documentaries, with a rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 98 per cent.

It is a six-part docuseries about the controversial Indian guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He bought a plot of land in the Oregon desert and attempted to build a utopian society in 1981. He had built brand new homes that could house over 7,000 residents and the plan was to develop a food supply, police and fire stations, restaurants and a small airport.

However, tension was created just a year into the build. According to Netflix: This conflict would become one of the wildest episodes in American history and feature heated debates over land use, electoral mayhem, voter suppression, biological warfare, assassination attempts, deportations, drugs, sex and more.

British crime series, Happy Valley, has a Rotten Tomatoes ranking of 98 per cent. The show also won five BAFTAs. The Netflix synopsis says: Yorkshire police sergeant Catherine Cawood pursues the man who assaulted her late daughter, unaware he is now part of a secret kidnapping plot.

Unbelievable is another of the best true crime series on Netflix. It is a dramatised series, based on thetrue story of 18-year-old Marie Adler.Marie said she had been sexually assaulted at knife point in her apartment. Then she told police she had made the entire story up and was charged with a gross misdemeanour. She faced up to one year in jail.

Marie is played by Katilyn Dever in Netflixs eight-episode series Unbelievable. In the show she is asked to repeat the chilling story over and over again to police. Those closest to her and the police constantly doubted her story. The 2019 series has a score of 98 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.

2017 series, American Vandal, is a true crime comedy satire. The synopsis reads: In the wake of their first documentarys success, Peter and Sam seek a new case and settle on a stomach-churning mystery at a Washington high school. It ranks at 98 per cent.

Alias Grace just missed top rankings, scoring 99 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. The crime dramas synopsis says: In 19th-century Canada, a psychiatrist weighs whether a murderess should be pardoned due to insanity. Based on Margaret Atwoods award winning novel.

One Day At A Time is a comedy-drama is inspired by Norman Lears 1975 series of the same name. It follows the life of a newly single Army veteran and her Cuban-American family. The synopsis says: In a reimagining of the TV classic, a newly single Latina mother raises her teen daughter and tween son with the help of her old-school mum. It has a rating of 99 per cent.

Just coming in the top 10 of the best Netflix Originals is Crazyhead, scoring the full score of 100 per cent. The British dark comedy is about an unlikely duo of demon hunters. It follows two women in their early 20s who defeat literal demons, as well as their inner demons too. It comes from the creator of Misfits.

2019 true crime series The Confession Killer also scores 100 per cent. The five-part series tells the story of Henry Lee Lucas. He was first put into prison for murdering his mother, and then for the murders of his girlfriend and landlord. However when he was in prison he started confessing to more and more killings. The number got up to 100, then 150, then 300 and it wasnt long before Lucas said he was responsible for over 600 deaths all over America.

In the documentary, the local police force seem overjoyed theyve solved hundreds of cases they never thought they would. It must have been Henry Lee Lucas he could take police to crime scenes, give details of evidence and in some cases even draw the victims.

But it wasnt all it seemed. It soon unravelled that him being responsible for all these crimes just wasnt possible. Aside from it being physically impossible for him to travel to all the different locations crimes took place in over the time they happened, evidence began to stack up that made his confessions clearly false.

Dirty Money is a Netflix Original series which tells stories of corporate corruption, securities fraud and creative accounting. Rotten Tomatoes describes it as a thrilling investigative series from Oscar Award-winning director Alex Gibney, which provides an up-close and personal view into untold stories of scandal and corruption in the world of business and it has a score of 100 per cent.

Giri/Haji is a soulful thriller set in Tokyo and London, exploring the butterfly effect of a single murder across two cities. It is described as a dark, witty and daring examination of morality and redemption. It has a top class rating of 100 per cent.

Ugly Delicious is a cooking show lovers dream. Award winning Chef, David Chang, travels the world to visit culinary hotspots. Each episodes focuses on a different dish or food concept, and focuses completely on flavour not always looks. Its like if The Voice was about food. It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100 per cent.

Chewing Gum is a comedy series about Tracey Gordon, who is a religious, Beyonc-obsessed twenty-something who is fast finding out that the more she learns about the world, the less she understands. Its got a top score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Feel Good is a six-part semi-autobiographical sitcom by Canadian comedian Mae Martin. It centres around Mae and her relationship with new girlfriend George. It starts off with them in new relationship bliss before the realities of life start to kick in. George has never dated a woman before, and they actually know very little about each other. Because of Georges situation, shes frightened to introduce Mae to her family which causes even more rifts. We also learn that Mae is a recovering addict attending narcotics anonymous meetings.

It is available on 4OD in the UK and Netflix in the rest of the world.

This sci-fi comedy was first released on Netflix in 2018 and has a score of 100 per cent. The synopsis reads: The cult hit returns! Captured by mad scientists, new host Jonah survives a blitz of cheesy B movies by riffing on them with his funny robot pals.

Big Mouth is all about American teenagers going through puberty with a hormone monster. Which sounds weird, but its like a cartoon version of Sex Education on steroids. The series, which is rated at 100 percent, has a synopsis which says: Teenage friends find their lives upended by the wonders and horrors of puberty in this edgy comedy from real-life pals Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg.

The top rated, and therefore best, of all the Netflix Originals according to Rotten Tomatoes ratings is Master of None. This comedy features Aziz Ansari and was first released in 2015. It follows the personal and professional challenges that face a 30-year-old New York actor, whose trials range from the immigrant experience to what pasta he should eat for dinner.

See the full ranking of the best Netflix Originals according to Rotten Tomatoes here.

For all the latest Netflix news, drops and memeslike The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.

You can only call yourself a real Netflix addict if you get 10/13 on this quiz

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These 15 Netflix horror films are not for the faint hearted

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Best Netflix Originals series ranked by their Rotten Tomatoes rating - The Tab

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April 10th, 2020 at 2:48 am

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