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Mendocino County Today: March 15, 2013

FRIDAY’S FIRE in Albion now looks like arson, as the following press release from the Sheriff's Department makes clear. The second item describing another episode in the ancient saga of domestic mayhem is not related to the Albion arson fire.

ON MARCH 9, 2013, at approximately 6pm the Albion Fire Department responded to a call of a residential structure fire at 30520 Albion Ridge Road in Albion, California. This residence was vacant, without electrical service, and no cause for the fire was discernable. The fire was extinguished without incident before it could endanger other homes in the area. Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies, with the aid of CalFire investigators, are investigating the cause of the blaze. Anyone with information that would aid in this investigation is encouraged to contact Mendocino County Deputy Sheriff Jonathan Martin at (707) 961-2421.

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ShellyHottellON MARCH 12, 2013 at about 10pm, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a residence located in the 33000 block of Jefferson Way in Fort Bragg, California for an unknown problem. Upon their arrival the Deputies contacted Shelly Hottell and her cohabitant and found that there had been an altercation between them. Investigation of the incident, which included witness interviews and evaluation of physical evidence at the scene, resulted in the arrest of Hottell for violation of 273.5 PC (Domestic violence) and 594(B)(1) PC (Vandalism). The victim received minor injuries, which did not require immediate medical attention. Hottel was lodged at the Mendocino County Jail for the listed violations with $25,000.00 being the set bail.

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“SUDDENLINK fiber-optic cable was cut in multiple locations early this morning in what appear to be further acts of vandalism. We have again contacted the Sheriff’s Department and are offering a $5,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the responsible individuals. Our technicians have been dispatched to the damaged areas and are in the process of restoring service. The cuts affected service for about 10,000 customers in Trinidad, Big Lagoon, McKinleyville, Fieldbrook and parts of Arcata. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, are working to restore service as soon as possible, and are supporting local law enforcement in their efforts to stop these crimes.” — Statement from Wendy Purnell, Suddenlink’s Humboldt director of operations:

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CLARIFICATION: In yesterday’s item about new business awards: Crush Italian Steakhouse did not win best new business honors for their frozen yogurt — they won out over the frozen yogurt place, U Top It frozen yogurt.

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Need4SpeedWEDNESDAY AFTERNOON’S movie meeting at the Boonville Fairgrounds was after the fact. The Supervisors (and all other agencies) had already fast-tracked and granted permit approval for a cretinous, big budget Dreamworks (co-produced by Disney) epic based on a video-game about careening vehicles and dead bodies, not to put too fine an aesthetic judgment on the film Dreamworks will make here beginning in mid-April.

DREAMWORKS claims they’ll drop several mil in Mendocino County while filming “Need For Speed.” (At ease, tweakers, this isn’t about you. We know you need speed.)

AND THAT PROMISE of money persuaded the Supes that it is perfectly reasonable to shut down local roads for extended periods of time to get this baby in the can, as they say in Tinsel Town.

THE BOONVILLE FAIRGROUNDS’ yawning deficit will be eliminated for at least a year while the film company rents the Fairgrounds for their headquarters, so count me as a reluctant Yes vote for the temporary inconvenience while show biz does its thing in the Anderson Valley.

ONE SALES PHRASE invoked Wednesday promised that “millions of people will be exposed to beautiful Mendocino County,” a major negative to my mind, a guy who would have pulled up the gangplank after I arrived in 1970. You get the feeling here that if Dreamworks had appeared before the Supervisors to say, “Of course in return for the five million we will spend in Mendocino County we expect the residents of Anderson Valley to donate their wives and daughters for use by our troupe during our sojourn here,” the vote for the movie company would have been 4-1, Carrie Brown dissenting, instead of the 5-0 it was.

RATHER AN ODD performance by Supervisor Hamburg who, his Chihuahua secure in the Supervisor’s lap, said things to the effect of, “Gee, you people opposed to this thing are the kind of negative nabobs who try to stop everything.” Ordinarily, libs are on the receiving end of that particular canard, and here Mendolib’s herd bull was dishing it up on behalf of a multi-mil corporation. Even though nobody had said they were against the movie industry or tourism.

AND CALTRANS has commented that the Ukiah-Boonville Road is their property, which will be news to most citizens of our fair county, and one more piece of evidence that Big Orange is way, way outta control.

GENE HERR of Philo writes: “As you will see from the schedule for Hwy 128 and Hwy 253, both roads will be closed partially or wholly in some areas during some times the first two weeks of April. Helicopters filming with low overflights along some road corridors will take place. Helicopters may fly as low as 500 feet. On April 2nd, Hwy. 128 will be subject to intermittent closure with up to 20 minute delays, around the Flynn Creek Rd. intersection, and from Handley Cellars to Greenwood Rd, then from east of Boonville to near the CDF fire station. On April 11th and 12th there will be an extended traffic control from the Coast to the Demonstration Forest/Masonite Road Area, with a pilot car. The area around the Hwy 128 intersection with Flynn Creek Rd, for the first mile of Flynn Creek Rd. will be subject to temporary closure from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm. Traffic via Masonite Road through Rancho Navarro to Comptche may be possible. Hwy 253 will be closed Saturday and Sunday, April 6th and 7th from 6am to 3pm. Through traffic is directed to find an alternate route to Hwy 101. On April 9 — April 10 Hwy 253 will be subject to intermittent closures with traffic control and 20 minute delays. Film location managers and a Cal Trans representative spoke Wednesday to a group of about 60 residents at the fairgrounds to answer questions (which were many: why was there no community input solicited or allowed prior to decision; is this a done deal?; what does the Anderson Valley get out of this disruption; what do individuals whose lives are being disrupted get out of it, who selected the much travelled and critical life-line roads, etc.). The answers are, this is a done deal. While final permits have not been issued from all the various permitting agencies (pending the just-decided movie makers final schedule) they are either approved (County of Mendocino, FAA, State Parks) or approved in concept. The CHP whose presence will be required will provide off-duty officers in large number at no cost to the Agency, but does not have to issue permits. That is done as a part of the CalTrans permitting. With the exception of the County of Mendocino permit, all the other are issued by out of area Agencies, the main one out of CalTrans district seven (LA) through a special office for film permits. The County of Mendocino “permit” was not issued as such. Supervisors abdicated responsibility to the Coastal Commission (part of the filming will be done on the Coast near Point Arena). Our Supervisor Dan Hamburg said any lack of local contact should be blamed on him, soliciting Mendocino filming was a County policy and an important revenue generator for the County, if residents did not like it they should tell the Board. Although county roads will be closed where they intersect highways, and county Department of Transportation permits have been issued, no public notice was available by yesterday. What do we get out of it? So far it appears that the selection of the Fair Grounds to be used for a month as a base for filming operations may result in payment in the range of fifty to sixty thousand dollars, possibly enough to keep the near bankrupt facility afloat for one more year. This contract is not yet final. Otherwise there was lots of talk from the Mendocino County film commissioner (not a county employee, works under the aegis of the Coast Chamber of Commerce) about how the 150 people associated with the filming will be spending big bucks in the local economy. And there were two anxious speakers who wanted to know how to apply for work as extras. Mark your calendars, or leave the area. Cheers, Gene Herr.

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IN THE HOME OF AGED MUSICIANS

(In A Foreign Country Called ‘England’)

by David Yearsley

According to long-accepted, though unverifiable anec­dote, the idea for the first charitable fund for musi­cians was born when three London players had just exited a popular coffee house in the Haymarket in 1738 and saw two young boys driving donkeys up the street. There would have been nothing particularly noteworthy about the scene, except for the fact that the three musi­cians recognized the boys as the sons of Jean Christian Kytch, a well-respected oboist who had played bassoon in the premier of Handel’s first London opera, Rinaldo, back in 1711. A Dutch emigrant, Kytch had died earlier in 1738 and his survivors quickly found themselves in desperate straits, as the sight of his boys in the Haymarket brought home to his musical colleagues as they stood in front of the Orange Coffee House.

Within weeks the Royal Society of Musicians had been founded, its charter granted the following year with many of the most important musical figures of the age joining it and contributing in various ways to its primary charitable mission, the establishment of a “Fund for the Support of Decayed Musicians or their Families.” Among the founding members were George Frideric Handel, William Boyce, Thomas Arne, John Christopher Pepusch, and Henry Purcell’s son Edward.

The new organization’s first benefit concert was held in March of 1739, with Handel directing the oratorio Alexander’s Feast; the advertisement boasted “particu­larly of a new concerto composed by Mr. Handel on pur­pose for this occasion.” Over the first several years of the Royal Association’s existence Handel played a crucial role in its financial success, bringing his prestige, music and acclaim as a performer at the organ to the group’s aid.

Soon Handel’s Messiah, became a mainstay of the Association’s annual Lenten concert even while the same oratorio provided help to another institution robustly sup­ported by Handel, the Foundling Hospital, which had been established in 1741. Adjusted for inflation, and tak­ing into account interest accrued on the donations derived from its performances over the last 250 years, Messiah might well have out-earned later charitable pro­jects of the mass-media age, such as Live Aid; if so, the Hallelujah Chorus has racked up more karmic credits than We Are the World.

Although native born Englishmen made up the majority of the founding members of the Royal Associa­tion of Musicians, Germans (like Handel) and Italians (like Giuseppe Sammartini and the Castrucci brothers) were also well represented. The group was radiantly cos­mopolitan and reflected the diversity of the London musi­cal scene in the mid-18th century. In the polarized emigration politics of today’s Europe and America, one could well have imagined Kytsch being maligned for being a foreigner who had had the nerve to die and leave behind his impoverished children to drain the resources of the host nation. Deportation rather than welfare might well have been the result, if the scene in the Haymarket were transposed to the present.

Handel’s London was flooded with foreign musi­cians. Some of the brightest stars of the day — the famed castrati Farinelli and Senesino, among others — retired to Italy taking with them fortunes, and manners, gained on the English stage. Others remained in their adoptive country. What would English music have been without Handel and other emigrants? For that matter, what would have become of the benevolent aims of the Royal Asso­ciation of Musicians?

There was need for support beyond London, too. As Pippa Drummond documents in an essay published in Music & Letters some 25 years ago, the New Musical Fund was established in 1786 “for Decayed Musicians residing in England,” that is to say for those living out­side the metropolis. Then, as now, the cities and towns set in the countryside were ethnically monotone. Far from the energy and resources of the big city, this new charitable endeavor soon failed, the mission of “alleviating distress and misery … and administering comfort to age and infirmities” reverted to the Royal Musicians’ Association.

Similarly placed in an “England” outside of polycultural London is the recent film Quartet directed by Dustin Hoffman with a script adapted by the Oscar-winning writer Ronald Harwood from his own stage play of the same title. In it, four aged opera singers — two male, two female — are reunited at a retirement home for eld­erly musicians. Back in their collective heydays the four had worked together on the London and international scenes. Called Beecham House in honor of the famed English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, the mansion’s graceful bay windows look out over sumptuous gardens and beyond to hills and fields, the view framed distantly by picturesque oaks and a glimpse of the Thames. “England” indeed.

QuartetThe Beecham name spurs one of the better lines in the script, a crack about the appropriateness of an old folks’ home named in honor of a musician whose family fortune derived from a laxative factory. But even this quip, uttered by the dyspeptic diva, Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) doesn’t measure up to the celebrated comic gifts of Sir Thomas Beecham himself, he of “everything should be tried once except Morris dancing and incest.”

Three of the quartet of opera singers have been residents of Beecham House for some time, and the fourth (Smith) is on her way there, having run through her fortune and now in need of assistance. She keeps her dimming spirits from being enveloped in darkness by listen­ing to recordings of her own classic performances, although she denies that she would ever do such a thing when asked by one of her colleagues. We see a quick shot of her magnificent, empty London apartment, and then ride with her as she is chauffeured to the retirement home where the aged tenor and her ex-husband Reggie (Tom Courtenay) is ensconced, ready to be badly shaken by her arrival. The pair had been married for only a few days several decades earlier and the reunion, feared by both, attempts to provide tension in what counts as the movie’s plot.

The model for the retirement home in Harwood’s 1999 play and in the present movie version seems to have been Ivor Bolton House, which was established with funds from the estate of Ivor Bolton, the great English piano accompanist. The place was run by another charitable organization, the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund from 1981 to 2008, at which point the house was uncere­moniously sold and the residents sent elsewhere to live among the non-musicians in what would seem at first glance to be a violation of Bolton’s intentions.

Likewise, the fictional Beecham House is faced with closure unless the singers reunite to perform their signa­ture ensemble number at a benefit gala: the quartet from act three of Rigoletto. With the legendary Horton headlining, premium prices can be charged and financial ruin for the old folks’ pile averted. But there are two big problems with this scheme: first, Horton doesn’t have the nerve to risk failure, preferring to seek sanctuary in the comfort of her voice in its prime as preserved on LP; and second, there’s the matter of her brooding ex-husband. Since this emotional landscape is surveyed with such predictability it hardly takes the illuminating flare of a spoiler alert to discern from the get-go, that discord will resolve into harmony.

Rather than use the potentially rich scenario to say something interesting, never mind profound, about how great singers come to terms — or not — with the decline of their voices, the film traffics in banalities, as in the line the Alzheimers-afflicted mezzo-soprano Cissy Robbins (Pauline Collins) utters repeatedly during the film’s 90 minutes: “Old age ain’t for sissies.”

The final member of the quartet is the lecherous Wilf (Billy Connolly): yet even if the spirit is strong, the flesh is unwilling. At the start of the movie, Wilf goggles and gropes a Polish nurse and she seems not to be offended, remaining respectful of her elder rather than slapping him in the face. Indeed, Wilf propositions — jokingly of course — all the women he encounters, including the home’s young, blonde head doctor. They counter with patient smiles and giggles, rather than a slap in the face or knee in the groin. Only a septuagenarian male writer would think this stuff is funny and endearing.

Meanwhile in dance class, a black woman teaches a group of old white musicians to shimmy their hips. Nearby, hapless Tom the Tenor gives one of his Tuesday lectures to a group of schoolkids which even includes some black faces. One of those belongs to a young rapper who improvises some verses about love and opera and thereby earns the aged singer’s respect. These attempts to show wider cultural awareness on the part of the characters, or more especially, the filmmakers consistently misfire.

In Handel’s cosmopolitan London, the foreigners were vital as performers and composers. In Quartet the emigrants change the bedpans and deflect unwanted advances from randy, superannuated tenors. Rather than updating the sentimental story and expanding the frame beyond the rarefied world of opera, these ploys project an unintended message: although the landscape seen through Beecham House’s sash windows looks familiar, it is clear that this aged quartet of singers has, like Farinelli and Senesino before them, fled to a foreign country — one called “England.” ¥¥

(David Yearsley is a long-time contributor to Counter­Punch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His latest book is Bach’s Feet

3 Comments

  1. Arch March 14, 2013

    At the 2011 Comptche BBQ, Carrie Hamburg held a Chihuahua she called her therapy dog.

    Please show some compassion.

  2. Jerry Burns March 15, 2013

    Can we start calling him “Spiro” ?

  3. Will March 15, 2013

    30520 Albion Ridge Rd. seems to have 25 BIG … christmas trees visible in the yard on google earth.

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