Mendocino County Today: Saturday, Apr 2, 2016
by AVA News Service, April 1, 2016
NAVARRO SILTING UP ALREADY?
Navarro mouth, dogleg left, taken around 4pm, 1 April 2016
(photo by Mike Kalantarian)
STEVE SCALMANINI, mayor of Ukiah, is living proof of our oft-repeated observation that in Mendocino County you are whatever you say you are and history starts all over again every day. He blew in from wherever, affiliated with inland "activists," and next thing we know former Ukiah mayor Mari Rodin, herself a carpetbagger, appoints the guy to the Ukiah City Council, from which Scalmanini is magically elevated to mayor of the town. (The position is rotated. Scalmanini is yet to be elected to anything.)
THE OTHER DAY, Mayor Scalmanini calls an "emergency" meeting of the Council to discuss the completed tear-down of a building of zero historical value and less aesthetic appeal. Why the special meeting? A friend of the mayor’s apparently wanted to salvage some of the wood from the scrapped structure.
SCALMANINI'S special meeting was probably illegal since emergency meetings are supposed to be reserved for emergencies, which this was not.
JUSTINE FREDERICKSON of the Ukiah Daily Journal to the rescue, explaining what happened and leaving it to the always grounded councilman, Maureen Mulheren to put Scalmanini's emergency meeting in the reality lived by most people in Ukiah:
"Describing herself as a woman with a full-time job, two children and other commitments, Council member Maureen Mulheren said she was ‘displeased’ to have the special meeting scheduled with only 24-hours notice. She suggested that since the mayor is not elected, and instead each council member gets the role by rotation, that all of the council members are equal and ‘we should all respect each other’s opinions, and a special meeting should only be called when at least three members feel passionately about a topic’.”
SCALMANINI, as usual missing the point, came back with, “I believe it is my duty as mayor to gather the council to discuss a topic when I believe it is in the public’s best interest. Frankly, I take pride in the fact that I did it. Had I not done so, I believe I would have been derelict in my duty.”
YO, SCAL! Write this down: Scrap wood is not a reason to call an emergency meeting. The guy who wanted the wood should have been able to work it out with the contractor all by himself.
FUNNY THING IS, this project has been in front of the City Council several times and the Mayor voted for approval along with everyone else. And the land is owned by the City or its Redevelopment Agency, including the lot with the now demolished house. The time to object was prior to voting approval for the project. The odd thing is that the Mayor spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony that was recently held for the project. This guy's bubble seems permanently off center.
CRUMLEY LIVES! James Crumley often visited Mendocino County where he stayed in Elk with his close friend, Mike Koepf. Mike writes: "Got this from a friend in London this morning. I know this bookstore. It’s at the crossroads of the world and one of the most important bookstores in smoke town. The typical fate of a writer. Dies pursued by the IRS; after death, the publishing world resurrects him. I pray that his widow gets something out of this."
MORE COAST HOSPITAL TAX MANEUVERS
by Malcolm Macdonald
You know there is a problem when you type the following phrase into your search engine, 'Is free cell solitaire an addiction?' and all that comes up is page after page of differing versions of free cell solitaire. If you truly need help, the only answer is endless variations of your addiction.
Pretty much like the health care dilemma in the good old U.S. of A. The sicker we get (see numbers on obesity, diabetes, and more or less any self-inflicted calamity known to man or womankind) the bigger mess we allow to be made of our overall health care system.
Not that we aren't granted little nibbles of hope. The Affordable Care Act (ACA — what most Americans, in our short attention span glory, can only recall as “Obamacare”) allows us to switch insurance companies without being penalized for our previously existing medical conditions. On the other hand, if you think large insurance companies and Big Pharma haven't profited while the ACA has been rolled out, well, then you probably don't know much about health care finances let alone that Burl Ives played Big Daddy in the film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Health care, in general, is indeed a mess in this country, and yet there are doctors and nurses doing their level best all over the place. They just get re-wound every so often, like an old watch that's supposed to keep on ticking no matter how much you use and/or abuse it. Ten to fifteen years ago the medical profession admonished its practitioners to honor pain relief for patients. Today the pendulum has swung the other way. Even senior citizens who have never sniffed a mimeograph let alone had a problem with booze, marijuana, cocaine, or heroin are being pee-tested and asked to sign a contract in order to get their next dose of pain relief from excruciating rheumatoid arthritis. Tough love has found the land of the dope grower and the home of the weed; on the Mendocino Coast a good opioid is hard to find.
I come not to praise medicine, but to question how it can afford to go onward at Mendocino Coast District Hospital. The answer may in part lie in the “California Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement Initiative” which will be on your ballot, not in June, but during the November general election.
A little background to get us to said initiative. The federal government's Medicaid program helps pay for health care services provided to low-income patients. Mendocino County has a whole bunch of those/us folks.
This program is called Medi-Cal. For California to receive federal Medicaid funds, the state has to contribute a matching amount of money. In 2009, a new program was created in which California hospitals were required to pay a fee to help the state obtain available federal Medicaid funds. That program has resulted in California hospitals receiving about $2 billion a year in additional federal money to Medi-Cal. However, year after year the state has been diverting a higher and higher percentage of these Medicaid matching funds away from the hospitals and into the state's general fund. Currently that diversion amounts to more than 20% of the matching Medicaid money. If passed by the electorate in November, the “California Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement Initiative” would not only continue the funding more or less in perpetuity, but cap the state diversion of Medicaid funds at 24% permanently.
The catch for Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) is that currently it is not in the aforesaid reimbursement system. This is what the latest brouhaha at MCDH is about. The major item of new business at the Thursday, March 31st MCDH Board of Directors meeting was a telephone presentation from attorney Lloyd Bookman (from the firm of Hooper, Lundy & Bookman).
According to Bookman, in order for MCDH to become a recipient of the Medi-Cal “Provider Fee” program the now public hospital would have to become a private non-profit hospital whose day to day operations would be under the direction of its own non-profit board. Presumably the non-profit board members would be appointed by an overseeing Board of Directors who would still be elected by the public.
In order for that process to take effect the Mendocino Coast District Hospital voting public would have to approve the change. At the March 31st meeting, no one asked directly whether or not the hospital's employee union would have a yea or nay vote on the matter.
MCDH Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon are touting anywhere from a $3 million to $6 million gain in funding over the current methodology employed at MCDH. At one point Sturgeon asked Bookman if the new system would allow MCDH to keep all of the parcel taxes it collects annually. Somewhat cryptically Bookman replied that MCDH would continue “to receive a portion” of its taxes. Neither Edwards or Sturgeon nor anyone on the MCDH Board of Directors followed up to ask what that portion might amount to.
The considerable number of people in the audience (mostly hospital staff) were not allowed to query Mr. Bookman. This leads us back to the MCDH Planning Committee meeting from the prior week. At that gathering a letter, either from Mr. Bookman or a competing legal team, concerning the hospital reimbursement program was discussed at some length by CEO Edwards and other members of the Planning Committee, including Board members Kitty Bruning and Peter Glusker. When this writer asked for a copy so that the public could read about the letter and its contents, CEO Edwards more or less leaped to his feet, declaring, “Trade secrets.”
In an email to this correspondent later that day, Edwards added the phrase “attorney-client privilege” to the “trade secrets” claim. This should continue to make the public wonder why the voting public of the Mendocino Coast Hospital District cannot be privy to information about an issue they may very well be asked to vote on?
When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's 'off with her head!'
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head.
I'm going to move the red queen onto the white knight and beat this darn free cell yet.
(Malcolm Macdonald's website is: MalcolmMacdonaldOutlawFord.com.)
AVA COLUMNIST and flower lover Katy Tahja reports it’s a great year for wildflowers over in Bear Valley in Colusa County.
Folks may not know one of the “hot spots” for wildflower viewing in the state is about two hours away off of Highway 20. Thirty plus species of flowers were identified and enjoyed on the trip over and back. The Bear Valley floor is awash in lavenders, whites and yellow blossoms. The landscape has been protected by conservation groups from development so all you see is a few ranches and cows, and they all coexist together. When you travel with a grandson next to you the most memorable moment for him was not the beauty of the flowers but the first cowboys on horses he had ever seen in his life. They stopped to say Hi and had a trio of ranch dogs following them. Grandson was in awe…then they crossed a high creek splashing through the water. One dog was slower than the rest and the cowboy waited on the shore for the little dog to paddle through the current. Coming home to family that night all grandson wanted to tell everyone about was the cowboys. More than 28 years ago when we took this little man’s mom and brother over to the same place to see those flowers they found a dead coyote, shot by a rancher, hanging on a barbed wire fence. The photo-op of the day was a field of wildflowers with two kids and a dead coyote…The kids LOVED that photo.
SO, FORT BRAGG UNIFIED fires four teachers but hires an outside contractor…
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Carrie Mayfield, an art teacher who was arbitrarily terminated put it this way, as quoted by Kelci Parks of the Fort Bragg Advocate: “I know I’m not supposed to speak about closed agenda items, so I came up to talk about Action Learning Systems…” She took issue with the fact that the district had hired ALS, a company geared toward helping districts meet student achievement goals. “They hired dynamic personalities for a lot of money. To be exact, $126,000. So you’re telling me in a district that has fiscal situations, can’t keep people, not enough money, that you can pay people with dynamic personalities $126,000?”
“We the undersigned request that the district discontinue working with Action Learning Systems to provide professional development and we request that there is significant effort to communicate with teachers about what we do need,” she said. “It’s important to understand this though. When the letter was being circulated at Dana Gray there were several people who said they agreed with this letter but were afraid to sign it. They feared repercussions. I circulated the letter at Redwood and someone said to me, ‘Am I safe?’ Also, not a single middle school teacher would sign this letter, although, when they called an emergency FBDTA site meeting all the teachers in attendance, 15 out of 20-something, said that they agreed with this letter. They asked me to specifically include them as supporting this statement but do not want their names attached. So it begs the question - why are there so many teachers afraid of repercussions?
“As far as my position, I’ve received nothing but excellent evaluations. I was still let go on Monday and on Tuesday I was voted teacher of the month by the parents and by the students. As far as the fairness of my position being cut, I’m going to leave that to the attorney designated by the California Teacher’s Association and let him handle it.”
AB SEASON OPENS ON NORTH COAST
Divers and scuba shops looked forward to the opening of the abalone season Friday.
“Abalone bars, floats, wet suits, fins, masks and snorkels – things like that, where they free dive,” Santa Clara’s Diver Dan’s Dive Shop owner Dan King said were selling ahead of the opening.
The drought hasn’t affected abalone, but the warm water conditions have, reducing the kelp abalone feed on, leaving them noticeably leaner than in the past.
Plucking the highly prized abalones from the ocean comes with serious risks.
“Usually some of the free divers that we do see in here are people over 50 years old for example that maybe it’s a little bit of a physical challenge for them, and the north coast can be a little unforgiving,” King said.
Four divers died within the first 10 days of the abalone season last year.
(Courtesy, KCBS, San Francisco)
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Abalone Season Opens Along the Northern California Coast. The red abalone sport fishery season will open April 1 in most waters north of San Francisco Bay. However, parts of Fort Ross State Historical Park remain closed to the take of abalone. A map of the closed area can be found online at
Fishing for abalone is allowed from 8 a.m. to one half hour after sunset. People may travel to fishing locations before 8 a.m. but may not actively search for or take any abalone before that time. The annual limit is 18, but only a total of nine can be taken from Sonoma and Marin counties. A complete list of abalone fishing regulations is available in the 2016 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, which is available wherever fishing licenses are sold or at
Abalone licenses and report cards may be purchased online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing. Abalone report cards are required to be reported online at
or returned to CDFW’s Fort Bragg office, 32330 North Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg, CA 95437-5554.
(California Department of Fish & Wildlife)
APRIL IS SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH
by Rachel Kradin
Let's admit it: sexual assault is not your typical dinnertime conversation. But during the month of April, Project Sanctuary (PS), Mendocino County's domestic violence and sexual assault crisis and support center, along with hundreds of agencies like it throughout the country, join together to raise awareness about sexual assault. At Project Sanctuary, we see approximately 200 sexual assault survivors each year throughout the county, and the demographic breakdown of the those survivors mirrors that of our county as a whole: approximately 20% of those clients are Latino/a, two-thirds are Caucasian, and 4% Native American (Project Sanctuary Data, 2014-2015). Agencies like PS want to educate the public about what defines sexual violence, and want to encourage you to consider the issue and discuss the importance of sexual assault prevention with those around you (and especially to the young people in your life). Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) also gives us an opportunity to dispel common misconceptions about what sexual violence is and how the average person can prevent a sexual assault from happening.
Let's Define Sexual Violence/Assault
There are several common misconceptions about what constitutes sexual assault or violence. The most commonly held myth is that sexual assault is defined only as rape, and rape happens when women are out alone at night on a deserted street with poor lighting and a stranger jumps out at them from the dark corner of an alley. These are the stories that we are warned about when we are young. The fact of the matter is, sexual assault is defined much more broadly than rape; sexual assault includes: child sexual abuse and incest, intimate partner/marital sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact/touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and trafficking, showing one's genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent, masturbating in public, and watching someone in a private act without their knowledge or permission ("peeping Tom").
What Is Consent?
In short, sexual violence can occur whenever someone "forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent" (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2016). The key factor in the above definition is the absence of consent. It is important to know that in California, consent cannot legally be given under any circumstances in the following situations: the person is under age 18 and the adult is 18 or older the person is mentally disabled, the person is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, in California in 2014 the Governor signed the "Yes Means Yes" affirmative consent law which requires affirmative (that is, saying the word 'yes'), "conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity".
Currently, this law only applies to sexual encounters that occur on college campuses in California, but it's a law that many people can see translating into the general population as well. In addition, what many do not realize is that this law also requires that California school districts teach their students about the "Yes Means Yes" law and provide sexual violence prevention education in high school health classes (NY Times, 10/1/2015). Take a look at this short video created by Project Sanctuary's Youth Leadership Team illustrating the definition of sexual consent:
Facts About Sexual Assault Survivors
Here are some other facts about sexual violence that might surprise you:
1) Chances are that you know someone who has been sexually assaulted. Approximately one in five women are raped during their lifetime (NSVR website, 2016). The statistics around sexual assaults in this country are jarring. By the age of 18, 1 in 6 women have experienced an attempted or completed rape; more than half occurred before a woman turns 18, and 22% before the age of 12 (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). By the age of 18, 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted (Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis & Smith, 1990). Using the definition of sexual assault found in the above section, and taking into consideration the statistics cited above, it is no wonder that many of us would know someone who experienced sexual assault in one form or another..
2) Victims usually know their assaulter.
A 2005 study by Maston and Klaus found that 73% of adults who were sexually assaulted knew the attacker, 38% were friends with the attacker, 28% were in an intimate relationship with the attacker, and 7% were related to the attacker. Likewise, about 40% of sexual assaults take place in the victim's own home, while another 20% occur in the home of a relative, friend or neighbor (Greenfield, 1997).
3) Rape is the least reported and convicted violent crime.
An estimated 63% of sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement (Rennison, 2002). Although the prevalence of false reports in cases of sexual violence is low (Lisak et al., 2010), when survivors come forward, many fear scrutiny or encounter barriers to making the report or conviction. There are many reasons why someone may choose not to report to law enforcement or tell anyone about an experience including:
* Concern about not being believed
* Fear of the attackers retaliating against them
* Shame or fear of being blamed
* Pressure from others not to tell
* Distrust of law enforcement
* Belief that there is not enough evidence
* Desire to protect the attacker (Remember, 73% of victims know their attackers.)
Silence is the enemy when it comes to preventing sexual assault; silence and secrecy perpetrate further assaults and allow abusers to re-offend. Use Sexual Assault Awareness Month as an opportunity to spread the word and discuss why it's important to be able to discuss the issue openly.
Here are some other important ways that you can help prevent sexual assaults in our community:
1) Be an active bystander! Intervene to stop problematic and disrespectful behavior when you see it.
2) Help attack the root causes of sexual assault. Promote and model healthy attitudes, behaviors and relationships.
3) Believe survivors, and help them find resources like Project Sanctuary. Project Sanctuary provides free services to sexual assault survivors throughout the county at our Fort Bragg, Ukiah, and Point Arena offices. Call 961-1507 (coast) or 462-9196 (inland) for more information about our hours of operation. PS provides confidential crisis counseling, individual counseling, support groups, information/referrals, legal advocacy, and shelter services to survivors. Learn more about Project Sanctuary by visiting www.projectsanctuary.org.
Associated Press, California: sexual consent lessons now required, New York Times, October 1, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/02/us/california-sexual-consent-lessons-now-required.html?_r=0
Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., Lewis I.A., & Smith, C. (1990). Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: Prevalence, characteristics, and risk factors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 14, 19-28.
Greenfeld, L.A. (1997). Sex offenses and offenders: An analysis of data on rape and sexual assault (NCJ 163392). Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Lisak, D., Gardinier, L., Nicksa, S. C., & Cote, A. M. (2010). False allegations of sexual assault: An analysis of ten years of reported cases. Violence Against Women, 16, 1318-1334. doi:10.1177/1077801210387747
Maston, C., & Klaus, P. (2005) Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2003 statistical tables: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCJ 207811). Retrieved from Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/ pdf/cvus03.pdf
Project Sanctuary, Data Collection, 2014-15.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2016 www.nsvrc.org
Rennison, C. A. (2002). Rape and sexual assault: Reporting to police and medical attention, 1992-2000 [NCJ 194530]. Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics: http:// www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsarp00.pdf
Tjaden, P. and Thoeness, N. (2000). Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women: finding from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Retrieved from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf
(Rachel Kradin, MSW, has been the Coast Services Director at Project Sanctuary since March 2013. Prior to that, she worked with the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County, Mendocino Coast Clinics, and the Alliance for Rural Community Health (ARCH). She moved to the Mendocino Coast 11 years ago. Her interests include counseling, youth empowerment and mentoring.)
NO ON SEGWAYS
I am opposing the City's plan to permit Segways to operate on city park trails, specifically Noyo Headlands trails. I delivered a letter with my objections to Linda Ruffing and Tom Varga on Wednesday. I urge you to join me in this opposition process. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me off list and I will happily send a copy of the letter I gave them setting out my concerns. This is not anything personal - Lynn Baumgarner was friendly and open about answering my questions. I just feel is a bad idea and a terrible precedent to set. Thank you,
A study published online March 23 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science found that chronic marijuana smokers in New Zealand who use cannabis four or more days a week for many years, are likely to wind up in a lower social and economic class than their parents. The study was headed by Magdalena Cerda, an epidemiologist at UC Davis Health System, as well researchers at Duke University and King's College London. The research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Aging, New Zealand Health Research Council, New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, UK Medical Research Council and the Jacobs Foundation. The data came from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study in New Zealand.
The study tracked persons born in New Zealand in 1971 and 1972 who went on to become heavy marijuana users. By age 38 they experienced downward social mobility and financial problems as compared to their peers who did not regularly or ever smoke marijuana. Cerda said, "They end up in jobs that are lower paid, less prestigious and that require lower skills." Cerda said the study was not directed at influencing public opinion on measures in California and other states that are considering legalizing marijuana for recreational use. However, she said, "It's very important to understand what the long-term economic and social consequences of regular use of marijuana will be." Researchers in comparing both heavy cannabis and alcohol users said both experienced declines in social and economic status: however, marijuana users had more financial difficulties.
In peace and love,
CATCH OF THE DAY, April 1, 2016
Blackwell, Francis, Gibney, Hernandez-Sutherland
ERIN BLACKWELL, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
XAVIER FRANCIS, San Francisco/Ukiah. Participation in criminal street gang, probation revocation.*
DEBRA GIBNEY, Fort Bragg. Domestic assault.
MIGUEL HERNANDEZ-SUTHERLAND, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
Johnson, Lincoln, Matthias
MADISON JOHNSON, Redwood Valley. DUI, suspended license.
ERIC LINCOLN, Covelo. Probation revocation.
WANA MATTHIAS, Ukiah. Petty theft, probation revocation.
Sanchez, Simpson, White, Wiles
DAMION SANCHEZ, Willits. Hit&Run with injury or fatality, probation revocation.
STEVEN SIMPSON, Ukiah. Meth possession, failure to appear, probation revocation.
NICOLE WHITE, Clearlake/Calpella. Suspended license, stolen property, paraphernalia.
MICHAEL WILES, Ukiah. Drunk in pubic, parole violation.
KGO WEEKEND RADIO TALKSHOW HOST PAT THURSTON posted this notice on her facebook page today in response to numerous inquiries about the idiotic filler audio that the 50,000 watt iconic SF station blasted up and down the west coast on April Fool’s Day:
I have been inundated with queries and comments and outrage. Many of my wonderful colleagues at KGO, true professionals, lost their jobs today to make way for the "new KGO". I don't know any more than the rest of you do about what that means. It begins on Wednesday and it looks like there will be no local news programs. Ronn (Owens) is moving to KSFO as of Monday. I think I'm still on weekends. As for the Mon-Fri program I've heard the same rumors you have about Armstrong and Getty*, but I have heard no more. These wonderful friends who have lost their jobs are reeling right now. I love you all. I'm sorry to say good-bye to you, but you are so well regarded I'm feeling confident you will land on your feet. Have a drink for me at Grumpy's. I'm thinking of you ... and very sad.
* * *
(Armstrong & Getty are cookie-cutter right-wing yellers.)
ELIZABETH WARREN: Reform student loan system
SCHOLARSHIPS OFFERED FOR WRITERS CONFERENCE
Scholarship applications are now available for the 27th Mendocino Coast Writers Conference to be held August 4 through 6 at the Fort Bragg Campus of Mendocino College. MCWC places a special emphasis on identifying potential recipients for the full-tuition Under-25 awards presented each year to talented young writers ages 16 to 25. The scholarships are merit-based; no entry fee is required. Applicants are encouraged from throughout Mendocino County and beyond.
Applicants must submit a completed application form, writing sample and brief cover letter postmarked by May 15. Judges will evaluate writing samples based on the power of the written word and appropriate use of grammar and punctuation. Academic grades are not considered.
Scholarship winners will be notified by May 31. Awards cover conference fees only. They do not include travel or lodging expenses. Prior scholarship recipients within the past 3 years are not eligible to apply.
Each Under-25 recipient participates in an individually chosen intensive writing workshop as well as afternoon lectures, panels, literary readings, open mic sessions and networking activities. Their work is considered for publication in MCWC’s journal, the Noyo River Review.
The conference faculty features authors who have also excelled as teachers, editors or literary agents. Faculty and enrollees interact in a friendly setting that inspires mutually beneficial learning and supportive relationships. New this year, is a one-day publishing Boot Camp to be held on August 7.
Two special Under-25 awards are the Mathey Under-25 Scholarship and the Linda Crocket Memorial Scholarship, a name held dear by South Coast patrons of Gualala’s Four Eyed Frog bookstore. Thanks to the generosity of friends of the conference, MCWC also offers fellowships and scholarships to adult writers, including the: Suzanne Byerley Memorial Scholarships; Clay Craig Scholarships; Friends of MCWC Scholarships; Ginny Rorby Award for Young Adult Literature of Social Significance; Carmen Etcheberry-Freund Memorial Fellowship for excellence in writing by an older Mendocino Coast writer; and, the Mary Bradish O’Connor Memorial Scholarships for older women writers.
Conference details and scholarship applications available at www.mcwc.org.
Dogwood In Fort Bragg (photo by Susie de Castro)
SPRING YOUTH ART CONTEST
On April 5th the Mendocino County Library, Fort Bragg Branch is hosting Spring Youth Art Contest. Starting April 5th, our Spring Youth Art Contest begins. It is open to local youth ages 5 to 16. There are three age categories: 5-8, 9-12, and 13-16, and there will be three prizes for each category. Our theme for the contest is "Enchanted Forest". Accepted mediums are watercolor, acrylic, oil, pencil, ink, markers, crayons, pastels. Turn in your artwork with an entry form at the Fort Bragg Branch Library by April 26. Art will be displayed and the winners announced at the Art Reception on April 30th from 4:00-5:00 pm, at the library.
Administrative Services Manager I
Mendocino County Library
105 N Main St
Ukiah, CA 95482
ROBERT CRUMB HATES YOU
The world's greatest cartoonist in a sprawling, exclusive, lurid interview about misogyny, America, art and tushes that look like 'two giant basketballs'
by Jacquez Hyzagi
With this generation of overfed, spoiled-brat writers, every long, arduous journey into uncharted territories is called a Heart of Darkness—GPS and lack of war notwithstanding. The man that I’m looking for in the bowels of France is thankfully deprived of any irony. Robert Crumb has been living in a godforsaken medieval village, where cars are banned and spotty Wi-Fi has only been recently discovered. This true American has been locked up in self-exile—in an unlocked house—for the last 20 years.
There’s a direct line of salt-of-the-earth, irony-free, all-American icons, passing from the painters Thomas Hart Benton and Reginald Marsh, the musicians Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, all the way to Crumb. America, for them, wasn’t its flag, but its dirt. They eluded political and religious affiliations and labels: Guthrie liked the K.K.K. in his youth and Dylan became an evangelical Christian, for instance, yet they all fought against the oppressive American conformist machine. The Kennedys slept with Marilyn Monroe; Crumb did Janis Joplin’s friend Pattycakes.
“Can I smoke?” I asked Robert Crumb, sure that he would say no in his studio, where we spoke off and on for more than three days.
“Yes, I don’t care,” he said.
There’s an extraordinary Crumb comic, 1988’s Memories Are Made of This, that made a lasting impression on anyone who read it. He takes a long bus ride under the rain to go to this attractive woman’s house. She is his type: stocky with big, fat calves. She doesn’t really seem interested at first, but she gets drunk and he ends up having destroying sex with her from behind. He then looks at us and tells us that from now on, no woman will want him because he copped to this story. The drawing is precise, sharp, simple, straight to the point—until it reaches the sex part, and all hell breaks loose. The eyes are popping, the tongues are erupting and the orgasm transforms the woman into a Cubist
“That story is an extremely unromantic view of love and sex,” Mr. Crumb said. “Any normal, intelligent, college-type woman would find this story disgusting, would say look at how he’s portraying this woman. She gets drunk and then puts out, this guy is a creep, that’s just hateful to women. It’s very unromantic; they want romance. Some writers have a talent for seducing women through their work, you read their stuff and you know they are seducing women. It’s an art. Some men know how to talk to women and I just don’t have that.”
“Writers like Martin Amis or Christopher Hitchens are like that, you can tell that their writing is meant to bed women. They used to hit on everything that moves,” I told him.
“My publisher told me that women don’t buy my stuff,” Mr. Crumb said. “When I do book signings and I spot an attractive woman on the line I know she’s gonna ask me to sign the book for her husband or boyfriend, who is a big fan of my work. I tell you, it’s almost 100 percent predictable!”
“I know many women who like your work. Some women don’t care about romance; they know that the guy who gives them flowers, carries their shit and holds doors will end up cheating on them.”
“Yes, in private those are the guys who say the worst things about women,” Mr. Crumb said.
“I was in a restaurant with this very attractive woman once and I could tell I was losing her,” I said. “I was so intimidated, insecure and meek. I was broke but invited her to Nobu, just that in itself was ridiculous. I decided to flip the script and go for broke. I was getting weaker by the moment, she was sensing my weakness and probably saw me as this almost effeminate guy.”
“Yes, you were castrating yourself,” Mr. Crumb said.
“Exactly. I knew she would never see me again anyway, so when she came back from the bathroom I told her: you have the most beautiful ass, I would love to eat it—and it worked. In one of your comics, you say that women will always go for the most obnoxious guy.”
“They will protest and say, ‘I hate that kind of offensive, arrogant male,’ ” Mr. Crumb said. “Many women will tell you that what they really like in a man is a sense of humor. The two funniest men I know with the best sense of humor are these bitter, self-deprecating Jewish guys, with a very negative, ironic sense of humor. They are total losers with women. Women see the self-deprecating part—you point out a weakness about yourself; they might laugh, but they perceive the weakness. Even if it’s hard to generalize, if you make a joke about yourself that you are awkward or a failure, that’s what sticks in their mind.”
I responded, “I once asked a gorgeous guy if he had ever been rejected, and he told me, ‘All my life.’ He said what women don’t realize is that by the time we find one who says yes, we bring to her the 50 nos we got before, with all the angst, bitterness that comes with it, the prior rejections that destroyed our self esteem.”
“I have tried to talk to women about that very issue of male domination, power and feminism many times before to no avail. They don’t wanna hear about it. One rejection and that’s it for me. That just kills me,” said Mr. Crumb. “I couldn’t take all those nos so I don’t do anything. I’m just paralyzed. Women expect men to take the initiative, to be forceful, assertive; they expect to be courted and seduced. In spite of feminism, women still want to be the object of attraction, and the male’s confidence in courting her is a test that he must pass in order to win her.”
“So, before you became famous, how did you get laid?”
“You must have a big ego,” I told him.
“Gigantic, but fame changed all of this,” he said, “I got married to the first overweight woman passing by, this deeply neurotic, insecure woman. I was living the life of a wage slave in Cleveland and then one day in January, 1967, I just hitched a ride to San Francisco without telling her, and left my job in the greeting card business. The hippie culture of Haight-Ashbury, where it all started for me, was full of men doing nothing all day and expecting women to bring them food. The ‘chick’ had to provide a home for them, cook meals for them, even pay the rent. It was still very much ingrained from the earlier patriarchal mentality of our fathers, except that our fathers, generally, were providers. Free love meant free sex and food for men. Sure, women enjoyed it, too, and had a lot of sex, but then they served men. Even among left-wing political groups, women were always relegated to secretarial, menial jobs. We were all on LSD, so it took a few years for the smoke to dissipate and for women to realize what a raw deal they were getting with the ne’er-do-well hippie male. Men who acquired preeminence at the time were all frauds, fake gurus who were paying lip service to peace and love, “With fame you didn’t have to avoid rejection and jerk off forever,” I observed.
“It was the most remarkable change in my life,” he agreed, “and it came very suddenly, too. All of a sudden beautiful women started flocking to me. It happened, like, overnight, in the year 1968. It took my breath away.”
“When you have sex in your drawings, like in the bus story, it is usually from behind,” I observed. “But we never see if it’s anal sex or vaginal.”
“I’ve never been asked that before,” Mr. Crumb said. “It’s vaginal, although the act of penetration itself is not the main event for me. It’s the psychological stuff around it, what’s called ‘foreplay,’ I guess you might say. That’s where the big thrills are for me. Intercourse for me is just, you know, the icing on the cake, or something. These things are hard to talk about. Anyway, it’s all in the comics.”
In those comics, Crumb seems to be obsessed with riding a woman piggyback style or on her large shoulders or humping her big, fat, socked calf while banging on her enormous butt cheeks. It is pretty obvious to anyone reading his comics that there’s no distinction between the eponymous creature he draws and the real Crumb, although spending time with him and staying at his house, I noticed that he leaves a lot of fascinating things out. As Umberto Eco said, “The only thing we know to be true is that Clark Kent is Superman.”
“What is your favorite sexual position?” I asked him.
Mr. Crumb giggled nervously and shifted in his chair. “I dunno… Is that something I really have to…? I can’t really talk about it. I can draw it in my comics, but I can’t actually talk about it… It’s embarrassing. Then how was I able to draw it for all the world to see, you might ask? I don’t know the answer. I like to be sucked while I’m sitting on a chair with the woman kneeling, all spread out sprawling so I can slap her big ass,” he said. “A big ass is just heaven. Like two giant basketballs.”
Once, when leaving David Remnick’s office after The New Yorker commissioned two stories by Mr. Crumb and his wife Aline—one on the Cannes film festival and the other on New York Fashion Week—Crumb told the unamused editor: “Hey David, no dicks and cunts, right?”
“Remnick,” Mr. Crumb recalled. “A hateful guy if any.” He drew a cover for the magazine on gay marriage that was never published.
For all his talk about coming on at the altogether perfect time in the late ’60s, Robert Crumb might have reveled in becoming known in our times, when the awkward, odd, wimpy, angry dork seems to reign supreme among women—ironically, just as his own interest in sex is waning.
“How do you feel about your life of pleasures coming to an end?” I asked him.
“My sexual drive has really diminished a lot by now,” he responded. “It’s like finally being allowed to dismount a wild horse.” (No doubt that living cloistered in a lost village of a thousand hicks dramatically helped getting off that horse.)
“Really? Because they say there has never been as much banging as in nursing homes. There’s an entire industry of old people’s porn.”
“This sex drive causes so many problems,” Mr. Crumb said, “because I spent so much of my time and energy chasing women, thinking about women, jerking off. It keeps everything unstable, makes life crazy. You can’t think clearly, let alone maintain a stable relationship. I could never have been in a monogamous relationship. I couldn’t do it. I was too obsessed with all those incredible girls out there. I never had any preferences for hair color or race, if they were big, strongly built, thick-limbed, that’s all that mattered for my imagination to start racing. I had no control over this thing, this sexual libido.”
“These stories you draw are highly personal,” I told him. “You don’t advocate misogyny in any way, you just put yourself out in the world naked and that’s probably what annoyed many people more than anything else. Most men and women can see themselves in the story of your bus ride under the rain, women who need alcohol or a buzz to fuck boring guys and men who can’t conceive that a woman would like them sober…”
“This guy I know counted the number of times I decapitated women in my stories. I forget the number. I was kinda horrified at myself,” Mr. Crumb said.
“Could you kill someone?” I asked.
“No, I don’t have it in me. I don’t have that kind of violence in me; if anything, I would have killed myself.”
“Not sure,” Mr. Crumb said. “I guess I had a lot of anger in me. It actually came out after I became famous. I put it all out there to test their love—my earlier underground comics are actually pretty soft, but after I became famous I exposed my deepest, darkest thoughts for all to see. Many women at the time were talking about the abuse men had subjected them to; it was the first big wave of the women’s liberation movement and the last thing they wanted to see was this male anger. I kinda got it out of my system, though.”
“Your character in your work is more vulnerable than that—brutally honest, but human. I don’t see misogyny in your work,” I told him.
“It’s there,” Mr. Crumb replied. “I would be lying if I said I had no beef with the female of the species.”
“Was the anger because of the constant rejection you were submitted to by women as early as high school?”
“I might as well have been a lamppost, I was invisible. I got beat up by a girl when I was in third grade. I was a very wimpy kid, a sissy. She told me, ‘Oh, go on home and cry to your mommy,’ and she and her girlfriends laughed. She broke my glasses. And the nuns in Catholic school were brutal. They hated boys. They were psychologically and physically sadistic,” Mr. Crumb said.
“If anything, I see hatred for men in your comics,” I said.
“Oh, I hate men much more than women,” Mr. Crumb said, “They are just horrible. It’s men who do all the raping and pillaging, the mass killing. Fame also exposed me to a very seedy, sleazy side of humanity I wasn’t aware of before. I was just a naïve, 26-year-old schlub with a boss working for a greeting card company. I was just a worker drawing these cards. After I started doing these comics, suddenly a lot of very carefully coiffed men in leather trench coats and open shirts with gold chains wanted to talk to me and make deals.”
“You turned them down?” I asked
“Always,” he said, “but I took the free trips. They wanted to have me sign exclusive five-year contracts, trying to diversify and capitalize on this hippie thing, somehow to commercialize the underground culture. I didn’t want to be owned by anybody for five years. That was a trap. It would have been inconceivable at the time to sell out like that. Coming from the greeting card business with very narrow, strict rules about what you could draw and what you couldn’t draw, to finally find the freedom of underground Zap comix in California and LSD was very liberating.
We didn’t need much money to live, you could rent a room for $30 a month. You could draw whatever you wanted and get published, see it in print, no restrictions other than the ones I put on myself, it was magical. The magic of print, the whole thing was miraculous, a brand new thing, very revolutionary, and people were buying them and we began to make a little money out of it. Completely uncensored, unrestricted comics. The only place it had existed before was in these deeply underground pornographic 8 pagers in the 30’s that were sold surreptitiously . Those booklets were the real underground comics full of dicks and cunts, very explicit, but funny, with titles like, ‘Position is everything in life,’ or ‘Play this one on your violin.’”
“Where did you find the strength to just leave everything behind?” I asked him.
“I was just dying there, it all fell into place perfectly, at the right time. I was a drop out. I quit my job, ran away to San Francisco, it was the summer of love, people were dropping out of their jobs, colleges and flocking to the West Coast, the mecca of love. It was the high noon of the cultural revolution of the Sixties. It all gradually fell apart through the 70’s, and by the 80’s with the rise of the yuppies, Reagan’s election and the real estate boom. In California it was always about real estate ever since the Gold Rush, but the 80’s saw a new explosion of it. They went crazy. Everybody was getting their real estate license. They kept on building these hideous housing developments where we lived. It used to be farmland there when we first arrived, then everything became a fight. Dow Chemical tried to come there, we fought that. Then the Super Collider, we fought that. It was this constant battle against these forces of development and business. They are still fighting them there in California right now.”
“With all these women and fame, you did get married again, to Aline. I don’t understand that. Do you guys have an open relationship?”
“Yes, when we first got involved I told her how I went through hell with my first wife and other women with the jealousy issue. I can’t be faithful and she said, ‘O.K., I can live with that.’ There’s an art to it, you have to be sensitive, discreet about it. You can’t bring a woman home and say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna sleep with her in the other room.’ You keep it out of her face,” he continued. “I’ve had this other girlfriend in Oregon for 25 years. We see each other a few times a year. I got involved with her a few years before we moved to France in the early ’90s. And Aline’s had some boyfriends, one she’s been seeing off and on over here for almost 20 years, her Latin lover.”
“Fame brings you to a point, I imagine, where women know already what you have accomplished. You don’t have to explain yourself for hours like the rest of us schmucks.”
“Yes. It was astounding to me that attractive women actually became ‘interested’ in me, I couldn’t believe it. The whole game suddenly got a lot easier. I didn’t have to prove anything. They are already impressed before you say anything.”
“How many women are we talking about here? Thousands?” I asked.
“I made a tally once. I actually had sexual intercourse with 55 women,” Mr. Crumb said. “Out of those 55, 10 were really pleasurable. I’m kind of sexually quirky. Some women find it creepy and repulsive, but fortunately there are some who like it. There are so many variations in human sexual preferences you could collect them like a zoo. I was at first very shy and reluctant to show my true colors, preferences. I was conforming to the standards of sexual behavior I had seen in Hollywood movies, what’s considered normal, socially acceptable. Gradually with fame I became bolder and found out that some women not only accepted how I was but truly got off on what I like to do with them and that was some amazing discovery. I ended up having a fabulous sexual life beyond my wildest dreams, the most profound experiences. Maybe it’s that eastern religious idea of duality, you have to suffer to experience the profound thrills of life.
“The first female obsession I had was with this TV character called Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. She was played by a 6-foot-1 voluptuous actress, Irish McCalla, wearing this skimpy, leopard skin outfit and living in the jungle. I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night and fantasize about what I would do with her. I built up a rich fantasy life through my teen years, and then, to finally be able to act all that out was so profoundly thrilling. It’s inexpressible. It’s beyond words. The best thing in life, way better than drugs.”
“After the Fritz the Cat movie debacle, did you try to write a sexual movie on your own? Because your comics are very storyboarded,” I asked.
“That whole story around the Fritz the Cat movie was hateful. I didn’t know how to deal with high-powered media professionals… I should have told Ralph Bakshi, the director, in no uncertain terms that I did not want to do the animated film with him, but I couldn’t stand up to him. Finally, he flew to San Francisco and got my [then-] wife, to whom I had given power of attorney, to sign the contract. I can’t blame her, really. She got $10,000 immediately. I had run away and left her to deal with the rather assertive Mr. Bakshi,” Mr. Crumb recalled.
“I love the way you turned that around when you had Fritz the Cat assassinated in a comic right after the release of the movie. Yet this episode didn’t deter you from working in Hollywood?”
“Well, in the late 1980s, I got involved in writing a film script with Terry Zwigoff. We went down to Los Angeles and took some meetings. He told me later that that Woody Allen described to him how even he gets jerked around by Hollywood. So we pitched our script at these meetings but you know some of these meetings were classic, you can never tell what’s going on in them. When you get back to your car you wonder, what just happened in there? Was that a yes, was that a no? It was based on a comic story I did in the ’70s about this giant, fur-covered Sasquatch female character. There’s this wimpy guy like me that gets captured by her and carried off into the forest. I was proud of it. I worked for six months on the damned thing; I learned the scriptwriting formula. We thought it was a solid script, a humorous social commentary. They told us it was a well-written script but not a very commercial idea and that it went against family values because the guy leaves his family for her. ”
“I wonder if your script wasn’t self-destructive. In Hollywood, who’s gonna produce that giant furry woman? It reminds me of a short film that Fellini made about this guy who finds immoral this giant gorgeous temptress woman on a billboard ad by his house and she ends up stepping down from the billboard and talking to him and captivating him,” I said.
“Yes, Boccaccio ’70. The billboard woman was Anita Ekberg, big and beautiful,” Mr. Crumb said. “I love Fellini, I was always inspired by him, especially 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. He liked big women, like I do. He once said, ‘So I like big women, do I have to apologize for that, too?’ It was naïve of me, I didn’t know better, I was innocent. We got many suggestions to change the script and got confused by it all. We made the changes and the thing fell apart, the whole idea got lost. They said we’ll put up five million dollars, write us a porno script. Terry was supposed to direct it. So I set to work on this script based on this Bigfoot story. But the brothers spent all their money in lawsuits, the city was trying to shut them down. They were always involved in the courts, fighting obscenity cases. So Terry urged me to finish the script so we could pitch it in Hollywood. I had this vision of bringing to life this big furry female creature, that for me was the seductive idea, finding a giant actress and putting her in a fur suit and having her act out this fantasy of mine. It was quite naïve for me to believe I could pull that off in Hollywood. It was classic… You know, seduced and abandoned.”
“Have you ever thought of actually committing suicide?” I asked.
“Yes. The last time I came close was 1986,” Mr. Crumb said, “I was at the peak of my fame. The BBC came to my house to make a documentary on me and I got a tribute at this comic convention, the Angoulême International Comics Festival in France. All of these ordeals had to do with being famous. I needed money, so I accepted the BBC offer. They invaded my house with their cameras, lights and their shit — it was awful. Then I went to this big comics convention in France, where I was the main event. They built a giant head of me, people could actually walk through it. All my comic stuff was pasted inside this giant head. It was torture. There were journalists, photographers everywhere. I felt disgusted with life.
“So who buys your shit? Some fat, balding wanker guy in mommy’s basement?”
“Yes,” Mr. Crumb said.
“No wonder you want to kill yourself.” I said.
“I see them at conventions,” Mr. Crumb said. “Nerdy guys or fat, aging hippies. One time I was signing books next to this guy Peter Bagge, who had young cute teenage girls lining up for him. His comics are very funny stories about young punk rock-type kids, a very sympathetic portrayal of their world. My work creeps women out. The very thing that you are talking about that you think should make it sympathetic to them, they find very creepy. This introspective, self-loathing guy who then wants to dominate and do all these crazy things to women. In real life, some women might respond to that sort of man, but believe me, it’s not what they want in their entertainment. They want Fifty Shades of Grey, which sold 50 million copies, all to women.”
“Along the way, you met some very talented graphic novelists,” I told him. “But many of them didn’t make it,” I said. “What were they lacking?”
“They couldn’t tell a coherent story,” Mr. Crumb said, “It wasn’t readable, accessible to an audience. My brother Charles was my master. He was a genius at drawing comics. He was very dominant. He really influenced how I see the world. I always wanted to please him and he was always talking about a narrative, a story in comics. He had a very powerful vision of the world, much stronger than mine. He even started making mystical, spiritual advances while he was still in his teens. Then everything went bad for him, he tried to commit suicide by drinking furniture polish in ’71 and they pumped his stomach. The state, because my parents had no money, put him on a very powerful tranquilizing drug and that flattened him out for the rest of his life. He knew it was bad, but he couldn’t get off it.
“Were you devastated when Charles eventually did kill himself?”
“No, I was relieved,” Mr. Crumb said. “A sad, tragic character. The last time I saw him, he told me, ‘If I can’t dig myself out of this, I’m gonna kill myself.’ He was a fascinating, interesting writer, too. A great cartoonist when he was young, but he lost interest in cartooning. He was very proud of my success because I was like his student.”
“There are a lot of people in America who live in their beds like Charles did; it’s an American thing. I knew many people like that, men and women. He was gay, right?” I asked.
“He never had sex. He liked young boys. That’s an American thing—that extreme isolation, alienation, loneliness.” Mr. Crumb observed.
“You see that in Edward Hopper,” I replied. “Do you like his work?”
“Not really,” Mr. Crumb said. “He had a shtick, some of his paintings are kind of weak. I’m much more interested by Thomas Hart Benton, Reginald Marsh. Their paintings are beautiful, so sensuous. Benton’s autobiography is really interesting —about his travels across America where he goes to meet farmers and workers, like Woody Guthrie did.”
“There’s a dark side too, this love of the farm dirt and ukulele fetish thing, there was something very patriotic, nationalistic about Benton,” I told him, “and Guthrie started early on as a KKK lover, influenced by his dad.”
“What?!” Mr. Crumb exclaimed.
“That’s why the hero thing is always idiotic,” I offered.
“I don’t care if artists are right wing or not,” Mr. Crumb said, “as long as they are not anti-Semitic or anti-black and their work is strong. I really like painters like George Grosz, Otto Dix,Christian Schad .”
“Yes, the New Objectivists are some of the most fascinating painters of the last century. I went to spy on Grosz’s house in Long Island,” I said.
“Really? I didn’t know you could do that. I also like Brueghel, Bosch all that school of Netherland painters.” he said.
“Robert Hughes from Time used to call you the Bruegel of comics,” I told him.
“Even though my work is nothing like Brueghel’s, the truth is you don’t invent anything. You borrow, you steal,” he said
“Whom did you steal from?” I asked “Harvey Kurtzman? Max Fleischer?”
“Yes, of course it’s all in there, they were big inspirations,” Mr. Crumb said. “You steal a little idea here and a little idea there; you can’t make anything up out of a whole cloth.
The way the art world works to make heroes out of this guy or that guy is absurd, it’s hype, a sales pitch. They pull these hero artists out of their context.”
“But what you did is unique,” I argued.
“I happened to be the guy on whom things crystallized but there were some people who went much further than I did. S. Clay Wilson for instance. He made remarkable underground comics. He was more original than I was. I don’t know where he came from. No one had ever done anything like that before, but he was less appealing to a larger audience than my work was. Wilson is a little hard to take. My work had a wider appeal. I kept my work much more readable than Wilson did. Justin Green is one of the best of that period of American alternative underground comics. But it’s more homely, subtler than my work. There was much more linearity, readability in my comics than in theirs. I recently took a look through my collection of underground comics from the late 60’s – early ‘70s. Very few of them were coherent or readable, a surprisingly small number. Most of the artists were so fucked up on drugs they couldn’t make anything readable. Who was buying and trying to read this crazy shit? But Wilson and Green stood out, they were at the top, outstanding.
My work reached a mass audience because I used a very traditional way of drawing to say something more personal and wacko. I used the traditional, standard newspaper comic strip style to say something crazy, some personal things that somehow reached people. Also, I was always very aware of orienting my work for an audience, what to do and not to do to make it readable, to keep it entertaining.”
“This is a very market-oriented approach for an underground cartoonist to have.”
“But it wasn’t about marketing. It was about communicating,” he replied. “I was using these traditional cartooning skills to communicate my own personal experience. Cartooning was a medium I had deeply loved all my life. And it was the only way I knew to connect with the human race.”
Sure, I desired recognition. I was ambitious. But I wanted recognition on my own terms. I didn’t want to draw their ideas. I wanted to draw my own visions, and I had plenty of them whirling around in my fevered brain.”
“Did fame affect the way you work?”
“It became paralyzing,” he replied, “to the point that I became so self-conscious I was only working within the confines of what was expected of me. It was like moving pianos to get the work done, a supreme act of will. You end up in a prison cell of fame.”
“Is that why you mostly draw out of photographs now?”
“Your comics work because they are subversive and cute, tender and crazy, innocent and rough.”
“That’s exactly what my wife Aline says about them. She was trying to explain that very mixture to me the other day,” Mr. Crumb said
“The comics you made with her in Drawn Together are great. It’s surprising that your two very different styles could mesh so well.”
“Yes, but we took a lot of flack for that, people were saying that she was riding my coattails. People are just awful. I hate everybody equally, I don’t discriminate,” he said.
“You had a revolutionary creature at some point [in the ’60s]—Frosty the Snowman—who was throwing bombs at the Rockefeller mansion. Do you think that’s why the IRS came after you right after that?”
“What do you think?” he said
“Were you interested in the Weather Underground at the time?” I asked.
“Peripherally, I had left-wing sympathies,” Mr. Crumb said, “but a lot of these extreme left-wing groups became hopelessly doctrinaire to the point where they became rigid and dogmatic and unattractive. Life is not that simple…when people start spewing Marxist doctrine around, I just fade out. One of my best friends, the cartoonist Spain Rodriguez, was a very committed Marxist, and his point of view was subtle enough that he gave me a lot of clarity regarding class allegiance. The difference between the value systems of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie used to be much clearer than it is nowadays. Spain would always bring it back to that class difference. Who are you going to align yourself with? The values of the working class or the bourgeoisie? That was very enlightening; it helped me a lot because the bourgeoisie is always trying to erode the other side away, to obfuscate it. But then he would defend the Soviet Union, even people like Joseph Stalin. He used to say that Stalin might have actually saved Western civilization. It was Stalin who beat the Nazis. Stalin ruthlessly industrialized Russia and that enabled him to beat the Nazis. Had he not done that, the Russians wouldn’t have had the weapons to beat the German army, which was after all the best army in the world at the time.”
“Yes but Western civilization produced the Nazis in the first place,” I told him.
“Yeah, so maybe it’s not worth saving. I’m fascinated by the birth of the industrial revolution, the Victorian era too and this period when the Nazis occupied France. The documentary The Sorrow and the Pity by Marcel Ophuls is one of the best documentaries ever made, just people talking for hours, it’s fascinating, everybody should watch it. The Nazis could have never survived without the help of big banks and corporations, many of them American. If the Weather Underground was bombing banks I’m all for it as long as they weren’t killing too many people,” Mr. Crumb said.
“That was their creed at first, to bomb empty buildings,” I said.
“We should still bomb motherfucking banks,” he said.
“What did you make of Occupy Wall Street?” I asked him.
“I thought it was a worthy effort,” he said.
“I walked through Zuccotti Park and these fools were calling for ‘good’ banks, the church and Thomas Jefferson’s ideals.”
“That’s sad. 2008 was the biggest robbery in history and who goes to jail? Some poor black kid who stole some sneakers at a fucking Wal-Mart if he gets lucky enough to not get shot in the back on his way there,” Mr Crumb said,
“A black kid recently in New York ended up at Rikers Island for stealing a backpack. He couldn’t make bond, always denied the charges, stayed at Rikers for years and after he finally got out, killed himself. Obama, in his final year in office, finally realizes that he spent his presidency trying to please the white man who hates him on sight, he did nothing to help black people.”
“Yes. He’s a house Negro,” Crumb said.
“That’s what Osama bin Laden said about Obama.”
“Really? Wow! I didn’t know that. And the bankers and corporations keep on raping America and most of the poor don’t vote at all, and when they do, they keep on voting their shills into office. I’m so glad I don’t live there anymore. I haven’t had a boss since 1967, when I quit the greeting card company. I’m an exceptionally free agent in this world. Ninety-nine percent of the population lives in fear of losing their job. I’ve been lucky that way I’m free to speak my mind and not fear for my livelihood,” Mr. Crumb said.
“Yet, you are still depressed.”
“Yes, but I’m doing better. The pain of attachment, the fear of loss—especially when you have children and now grandchildren.”
“In retrospect, wasn’t it a big mistake to leave America? Your voice is greatly missing there now,” I asked.
“Do you think so?” Mr. Crumb said. “I don’t miss that culture. The America that I missed died in about 1935. That’s why I have all this old stuff, all these old 78 records from that era. It was the golden age of recorded music, before the music business poisoned the people’s music, the same way that ‘agribusiness’ poisoned the very soil of the earth. In the old days, music was produced by common people, the music they produced to entertain themselves. The record industry took it and resold it, repackaged and killed it, spewed it out in a bland, artificial, ersatz version of itself. This goes along with the rise of the mass media, the spread of radio. My mother, born in the 1920s, remembered walking in the street in the summertime in Philadelphia, and in every other house, people were playing some kind of live music. Her parents played music and sang together. In her generation, her brothers didn’t want to play an instrument anymore. It was the swing era and all they wanted to do was to listen to Benny Goodman on the radio. The takeover of radio happened much later. In places like Africa, you can still find great recorded music from the ’50s. I have many 78s from Africa at that time that sound like some great rural music from America in the ’20s. In the U.S at that time there were thousands and thousands of bands, dance halls, ballrooms in hotels, restaurants had dance floors, school auditoriums, clubs in small towns. A small town of 10,000 would have a least a hundred bands. In the mid 30’s radio spread very fast in America and the depression killed a lot of the venues where live music was performed. You could go to the movies for 10 cents. Then in the 50’s TV finished it all off. Mass media makes you stay home, passive. In the 20’s there was live music everywhere in the States. I talked to old musicians who played in dance bands. This old musician bandleader Jack Coackley in San Francisco told me that in 1928 when you went downtown in the evening on the trolley car to play at a ballroom, the streets were full of musicians going to work, carrying instruments in cases. Same thing happened in France with the death of musette, the popular dance music of the working classes. There hasn’t been a decent popular music in America for a long time.
The current pop music in the Western world is just plain god-awful. America is long gone. The ’80s killed it for me. The Reagan era, AIDS. It was an awful decade.”
“I think your Book of Genesis is your most unassumingly disturbing and subversive work to date,” I said. “You just illustrated it and let its absurdity speaks for itself. You didn’t satirize any of it, didn’t add anything to it, just illustrated.”
“Ha, you are right,” Mr. Crumb said. “It’s by far the biggest selling book I ever did. I made a lot of money with it. ’Cause guess why? It’s the Bible! Who knew? I certainly did not anticipate such a success. The fact that I didn’t ridicule it or satirize it, but instead did as straightforward an illustration job as possible means that my version could theoretically be used in ‘Bible study’ classes. But how could they read my illustrated version and not then see how crazy it is to use this book as a source of moral or spiritual guidance? Maybe the teachers will miss that and give it to their children to encourage them to read the Bible. So maybe it will have a subversive effect. That would be ironic. Anyone in their right mind reading it would understand how bizarre the Bible is and yet some people use it to introduce their kids to the Good Word or in Bible studies. That’s America for you.”
(Courtesy, the London Observer)