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Mendocino County Today: August 14, 2012

TWO LARGE FIRES, causes as yet unknown, continue to burn in northeast Lake County. Highway 20 between Highway 53 in Lake County and I-5 in Colusa County was closed early Monday morning and remains closed as of Monday evening.

THE LARGEST of the two fires, the Wye Fire, which began Sunday afternoon, was only 25% contained as of Monday afternoon. The second, or Walker Fire, was about 30% contained. The Wye fire has caused the evacuations of the community of Spring Valley, the occupants of some 500 homes. Calfire is bringing in firefighters from across the state.

A WILDLAND fire on the Ukiah end of the Willits Grade was 100% contained Monday morning; it burned 60 acres.

ON JULY 27th, the National Association of Letter Carriers adopted a resolution at their National Convention in Minneapolis to investigate establishing a postal banking system. The resolution noted that expanding postal services and developing new sources of revenue are important to the effort to save the public Post Office and preserve living-wage jobs. Many countries have a successful history of postal banking, including Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and, not so long ago, the United States itself. The Letter Carriers maintain that postal banks could serve the nine million people who don’t have bank accounts and the 21 million “who use usurious check cashers,” giving low-income people access to a safe banking system. “A USPS bank would offer a ‘public option’ for banking,” concluded the resolution, “providing basic checking and savings — and no complex financial wheeling and dealing.”

THE POST OFFICE has been declared insolvent, but it is not because it is inefficient (it has been self-funded throughout its history). It is because in 2006, Congress required it to prefund postal retiree health benefits for 75 years into the future, an onerous burden no other public or private company is required to carry. The USPS has evidently been targeted by a plutocratic Congress bent on destroying the most powerful unions and privatizing all public services, including education. Britain’s 150-year-old postal service is also on the privatization chopping block, and its postal workers have also vowed to fight. Adding banking services is an internationally proven way to maintain post office solvency and profitability.

THE PETALUMA NATIONAL LITTLE LEAGUE team of 12 and 13-year-olds will play in the Little League World Series beginning Thursday, August 26th in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the first time a Little League from the Northcoast has made it all the way to the national finals.

Price

THAT KID wanted for murder in Texas, Zachary Ryan Price, age 20, had attended the Gaia Festival at Wavy Gravy's Camp Wancha Cash, aka Black Oak Ranch, north of Laytonville, before he was arrested last Thursday. Price was arrested when the California Highway Patrol at Garberville received a tip of an unoccupied white 2000 Pontiac Bonneville with Texas plates parked by the side of the road near the Black Oak Ranch. The vehicle was registered out of Cedar Park, Texas, not far from Liberty Hill, Texas, where Price is the sole suspect in the stabbing death of his stepfather.

ACCORDING TO TEXAS news accounts, Price reportedly said his stepfather, 51-year-old Richard Meyers, “deserved it.” Witnesses told police that Richard Meyers yelled that he had been stabbed and for someone to call 911. First responders found him lying on the kitchen floor, but were unable to save his life. Detectives noted that Meyers had been stabbed at least four times in the upper torso and had suffered what appeared to be defensive cuts to both of his hands.

THE JULY 3rd stabbing apparently began after an argument Price had with his mother about the death of a cat, and that during the argument, Price became angry and punched the wall hard enough to damage it. At that point, the stepfather stepped in and the argument continued in the kitchen and became physical. Detectives said it was during the struggle in the kitchen that Price grabbed a large kitchen knife and stabbed Richard Meyers several times. A teenage witness reportedly stated, “Why did you do that? You’re going to jail now,” to which the defendant reportedly responded, “He deserved it.” As of Monday, the kid was being held in the Mendocino County Jail awaiting extradition.

A READER WRITES: “A couple of weeks ago KZYX General Manager John Coate was on hand for the bi-weekly Friday afternoon open topic call-in program hosted by Doug McKenty, probably in anticipation of a flurry of angry callers protesting the firing of newsman Dave Brooksher, the cancellation of the daily half-hour community news report, and more NPR news in its place (announced earlier that week.) Indeed, that was the case. While Coate attempted to seem sincere and forthright with his reasons, he came off sounding more like the Artful Dodger. He was defensive, circumlocutory, and downright snarky to a couple of callers. He explained that running NPR programming, and receiving it from a certain satellite, requires buying a ‘package,’ sort of like a club membership. So, with increasingly dwindling station revenue — cutbacks on grants, fewer memberships during the recent pledge drives, etc. — it would save money to jettison the community news and the news man (salary & benefits) and just run more NPR, apparently already paid for in the ‘package.’ He repeatedly expressed his belief (which he reiterated at the station board public meeting a few days later, according to Sheila Dawn's most recent KZYX report) that current volunteer programmers could make up for the loss by covering more local stories on their own shows. Disingenuous. Lame. If I want to know why traffic was horribly snarled today on 128 between Yorkville and Cloverdale, with ambulances and helicopters all over the place, I'm not going to hear about it on the Farm and Garden Show or Women's Voices. There's another aspect to it that Coate won't cop to, pubicly anyway: the remaining big check writers all LOVE NPR. There's no way in hell he'll do anything to alienate them. Ironically, several of the callers that Friday afternoon said they had stopped giving money to the station precisely because of all the NPR programming. (I know others who have done the same.) Was Coate sitting there with a spreadsheet and calculator comparing their tithes to those of the NPR worshippers? It was unstated, but implied in his reasoning. So it appears that KZYX, like the small countries in Southern Europe, is in an austerity death-spiral. Less membership revenue = more NPR; more NPR = less membership revenue, and so on. That raises another issue of possible relevance: in the current crappy local and county economy, the sub-culture of true political progressives and radicals may be much more cash-strapped than they were several years ago and less able to give to the station even if they want to. Thus, the well-heeled, the golden parachuted retirees, and the millionaire second-housers who've been trickling into the county during the past decade or so — many of them politically center-right or Lexus Libs — increasingly can influence programming with the power of the purse. Give them Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! over Democracy Now! any day. This is not the place to launch into a lengthy historical critique of NPR news. Suffice it to point out that if we peel away the platitudes and occasionally interesting human experience stories, we are left with: a fealty to militarism, market fundamentalism, consumerism, conformism to hugely corrupt politics, and a timidity or unwillingness to challenge power and the propaganda of power — a group of bourgeois stenographers indistinguishable from the corporate, palace court press; a complacent, insulated, inside-the-beltway bubble commentariat talking to each other, more concerned with the minutiae of the latest Department of Whatever manipulated economic report than the suffering of nearly half of all Americans. As but one example of NPR obtuseness, a few days ago they did a story on the predicted increase of surveillance drones over the US. They began by noting the cost savings and logistical benefits it will have for law enforcement agencies nationwide. They added “balance” with a 3.5 second soundbite from one spokesperson from a civil liberties group. But the major take-away of the report was not cheaper law enforcement or the ominous threat to privacy rights. No, the main issue for NPR news was: there's a lot of money to be made! The explosion of spy drone sales will be an opportunity for entrepreneurs and might even lead to another high-tech boom which will be good for the economy! As I and no doubt other listeners were lifting our jaws off the floor and shaking our heads at the unnerving prospect of our nation's skies filled with flying spy-bots, it's likely a not insignificant number of the NPR lovers were rubbing their chins and thinking: 'Hmmm. I'll call my stockbroker in the morning and have him look into that’.”

KZYX could do a quick cure by firing Coate and demoting Mary Aigner to some place where she doesn't deal with other people. A non-profit of any kind with unpleasant persons up front is a doomed non-profit. Structurally, though, the KZYX board of directors is unlikely to fire anybody. The board has always been rigged in a way that Nambo is certain to replace Pambo, elections always having been dominated by a shrinking cadre of insiders. Lately, Nambo and Pambo, have been recent arrivals in the County with no institutional knowledge of their public radio station's history or any apparent curiosity about that history. The only person on that board whose name I recognize is Holly Madrigal, a nice person from Willits whose politics seem to consist entirely of being a nice person. Lots of unhappy listeners complain there's too much NPR or too much crazy talk or too much leftist dirge-type news, or too much bluegrass music. But there's plenty of air time for everyone and everything. Or should be in a county like this one where no two people are likely to agree on much of anything. Smart, sophisticated management would build exciting radio on that very assumption. Smart, exciting public radio has been done, not that there seems to be any in-County awareness that it's been done. Even NPR, away from its nuzzlebumming, gutless politics and the nauseating fake bonhomie of its simpering hosts, does some stuff well. The root of the prob here in Philo, however, is bad management. Coate and Aigner are rude and arrogant, a consensus opinion by the way, not just ours. A visit to station premises is like driving up on a crank lab deep in the hills — unwelcoming, hostile, generally boorish. The station desperately needs intelligent leadership. It's only had intelligent leadership briefly in the 20-plus tumultuous years of its disappointing history. But Nambo and Pambo haven't got Clue One as more and more people tune permanently out.

STATES OF MIND, states of nature: William Keith paintings reveal unity of inner and outer — by Roberta Werdinger

“The Comprehensive Keith: A Centennial Tribute,” an exhibit of over 50 paintings of Northern California scenes by master landscape artist William Keith, will open at the Grace Hudson Museum on Sunday, August 26. An opening reception, lecture and book signing by art historian Alfred C. Harrison, Jr., President of the North Point Gallery in San Francisco and contributing author to the 2011 catalog, “The Comprehensive Keith,” will take place from 2 to 4 pm. The event is free with admission to the exhibit. This exhibition is organized and circulated by the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art to mark the centennial of Keith’s death.We live in an era of constant technological change and discovery. As we download new apps onto our smart phones or browse photos on a website, we view images of a natural world that has, for the most part, been thoroughly explored and recorded. William Keith, who lived from 1838 to 1911, was part of an era when newcomers to the Americas encountered a world they could hardly have imagined. The high waterfalls of Yosemite, the open meadows of the Sierra Nevadas, the landscapes carved by water, sheltered by mountains and blanketed by fog in the San Francisco Bay, were newly presented to an eager and ambitious population. William Keith took hold of that moment and translated it into luminous and expressive paintings that captured the excitement of a culture newly arrived at its furthest edge.

William Keith was born in Scotland and immigrated to New York with his mother and sisters in 1850, where he apprenticed as a wood engraver. In 1859 he traveled to San Francisco, then an arduous 23-day journey via Panama by land and steamer boat in the days before the transcontinental railroad. There he worked as a wood engraver and illustrator and studied oil painting with still-life master Samuel Marsden Brookes. His real breakthrough, however, came when he visited Yosemite in 1866 and beheld its unparalleled splendors for the first time. He began visiting Yosemite and other wild places of Northern California, including Donner Lake and Mount Tamalpais, and painting watercolors, switching to oils in the next year. By following the wild reaches of nature, Keith was also following the Hudson River School of American landscape painting, originating in New York in the 1820s, which elevated the forests and mountains to symbols of America and revelations of divine laws.

In 1872 Keith's life changed again when he met naturalist, writer, and fellow Scotsman John Muir, an acquaintance of his wife's illustrious relative, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Keith and Muir quickly formed a lifelong friendship and embarked on backcountry trips that perhaps reminded them of the craggy and fog-drenched terrains of their native land. While Muir documented Northern California's natural riches in his writing, urging their preservation, Keith did much the same in his paintings. He later combined this affinity for wild land with trips to Europe, then considered the center of art and Western civilization, to study and view new trends in the field. In France he was influenced by the Barbizon School of landscape, which advocated a return to nature as a way of fleeing the social ills attendant to industrialization and urbanization. Barbizon artists also worked directly from nature and had developed a quicker, broader brushstroke technique and resulting simplification of their subjects.

Not long after this Keith met another figure who would provide an abiding influence, the Swedenborgian minister Joseph Worcester. Named after Swedish scientist and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, this mystical and highly unconventional Christian sect believed that the natural world was a reflection of the spiritual one, and that viewing it uplifted the soul. The dramatic landscapes and generous vistas of Northern California filled this order perfectly. Keith's paintings typically begin by literally inviting us into the landscape. Foregrounds are shaded and roughly sketched. A winding stream or other body of water leads the viewer's eye confidently into the middle distance. Backgrounds commonly feature mountains lifting dramatically to the sky. Thus the viewer is given a satisfying experience with a beginning, middle, and often majestic ending. The viewer can feel he or she has moved through darkness to a sunlit, soaring realm. The paintings don't just depict reality: they transform it.

“Grand Forest Interior,” for example, captures a forest clearing surrounded by the lower halves of thick oaks with the undefined figure of a woman in the middle background. At this time Keith often painted nature at moments of either sunrise or sunset, when light was at its most dramatic. Here, the fading light throws most of the foreground and background in shadow, so that the woman's figure in a half-cleared area creates an effect much like that of a spotlight. In spite of the scene's clarity, the woman's features are blurred; standing to the side of a path, she appears as simply one more natural object at home among others. Awash with a watery, reddish tint, the scene can't help evoke a feeling of quiet wonder.

Although his paintings convey a level of technical mastery wedded to expressive force that can seem daunting, Keith once remarked to an interviewer, “It's not work at all. It's all fun and fun all the time!” Perhaps this attitude sustained him through a lifetime that included considerable commercial and critical success, and showed a willingness to evolve and change, incorporating new trends and ideas. Later paintings forsake the grand vistas of the West for its quieter pleasures, portraying more level vistas where cattle graze in grasslands and oak savannahs. The paintings often feature a lone figure in the landscape's midground or no person at all, a common trope of the Tonalist school of the late 19th century. (It also brings Keith more in alignment with Ukiah’s own Grace Hudson, a contemporary of Keith's.)

This world-class exhibit of art celebrating our region's wondrous natural heritage has come about through a long effort by curators at Saint Mary's College's Museum of Art, formerly the Hearst Art Gallery. It began over a century ago when Brother Cornelius, F.S.C., an early aficionado of Keith's work, undertook to collect his paintings and write his biography. (His dedication almost took a tragic turn when Cornelius, attempting to trace Keith's footsteps, became lost for four days in the Sierra Nevada wilderness and had to be rescued.) In 2011 the College organized an exhibition to mark the centennial of Keith's passing and also of the College’s research and collection of Keith’s work. Grace Hudson Museum’s own Marvin Schenck, a former curator at the Hearst Art Gallery and thus intimately familiar with the Keith collection, selected 53 paintings for the present exhibit in Ukiah from the original Saint Mary’s Museum of Art exhibition. The accompanying catalog, “The Comprehensive Keith,” includes incisive biographical and artistic essays and a number of stunning reproductions of his work.

“The Comprehensive Keith: A Centennial Tribute” will be on display until January 27, 2013. The Museum will feature several events around the exhibit this fall, including a docent and member tour by Schenck on September 11 and a public tour, also by Schenck, on October 21. . Funding of this exhibition was made possible by the Sun House Guild, the Thornhill Family Foundation and the Neel Foundation. The Grace Hudson Museum is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah and is a part of the City of Ukiah's Community Services Department. General admission to the Museum is $4, $10 per family, $3 for students and seniors, and free to members or on the first Friday of the month. For more information please go to www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or call 467-2836.

Handley Cellars To Host Studio Tour — Coast artists participating in the North Coast Artist’s Guild upcoming annual Studio Tour will show their art at the historic Handley Cellars winery, near the town of Philo, this weekend, August 18 and 19, from 11am to 5pm.

Exhibiting will be artists who are also a part of the Arts Council of Mendocino. There will be a variety of mediums shown including clay sculpture by Ann Berger, Jeanne Gadol’s prints, the multi-media of Sheryl Marshall, nature oils by Lori Robinson, watercolors by Bruce Jones, venetian plaster paintings by Jane Head, abstract oils by Denise Otterson, and encaustic paintings by Larain Matheson who is the show’s coordinator.

Walt Rush will exhibit his jewelry and in addition, Jim White and Bill Apton will show their photography. The porcelain clay pieces of Zola de Firmian will also be on view.

“Traveling to see art is what makes Mendocino County a destination for visitors,” notes Matheson. “Pairing that with wine tasting from the Handley Cellars in the Anderson Valley makes this preview exhibit special.”

The Handley Cellars winery is located at 3151 Highway 128, five miles northwest of the town of Philo. The outdoor patio area will be the location of the show.

The North Coast Artist’s Guild is celebrating its 20th year of studio tours on the coast. Local artists will open their studios on the weekends of Aug. 25 and 26 and Sept. 1 and 3.

GREAT DAY IN ELK — The 38th annual Great Day in Elk, a benefit for the Greenwood Community Center, will be held on Saturday, August 18. Starting with a parade at noon through the North Coast village of Elk, the day's festivities at the community center include carnival games and crafts for children, live entertainment, belly dancing, watermelon-eating contest and sack races, cake auction, silent auction, raffle, and $100 grease pole contest. Food and drinks will be available all afternoon. A barbecue dinner will be served from 3 to 7pm. This year's dance from 7pm to 1am features three DJs. Elk is located 5 miles south of Highway 128 on Highway 1. For more information go to www.elkweb.org or call 877-1105. No dogs please! — Rosi Acker

ATTENTIVE, SUPER ATTENTIVE AVA readers will recall this item from November 2, 2011 in which we, a year before all other media, wrote: “BY PURE COINCIDENCE we spoke with former Hendy Woods Park maintenance man Joe Falanga; it was his agitation (at the risk of his job) that got the water system at Hendy upgraded. Falanga confirmed that, yes indeed, the state had, since Falanga's transfer to the Sierras, spent something like $40k to upgrade the water system. But now, having made the investment in the water and septic systems, the state plans to close down Hendy Woods and 69 other state parks. Falanga suggested that we check out a recent report circulating among State Parks employees that State Parks Deputy Director Manuel Lopez recently authorized large expenditures — around $600,000 — of accumulated vacation pay to retiring State Parks bigwigs.”

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