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Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023

Dry Cold | Snowfall | Skatepark Meeting | No Fun | Adventist Rumor | Gualala Somber | Debra Keipp | 1930 Kids | School Needs | Tahja Talk | Gualala Mill | Lighthouse Tour | Fresnel Lens | Ukiah Win | Daffodils | CalFresh Benefit | Cabin Addition | Tiny Homes | 1913 Kids | Berryessa Manager | Heartwood | Marriage Advice | Yesterday's Catch | Fire Danger | Venison | Superbowling | Goosebumps | Gun Laws | Air Show | Dirty Laundry | Suisun Bay | Demon Copperhead | Arnold Rogers | Prostate Cancer | Spy Devices | Ukraine | Weather Balloon | Poppy View

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DRY WEATHER is expected across the area today. Thursday and Friday a weak system is expected to bring some clouds and a few light showers or sprinkles are possible in Mendocino county. Dry weather is expected for the weekend and Monday with the chance for more rain and snow starting Tuesday. (NWS)

SOME LOW TEMPS this morning: Laytonville 23°, Yorkville 27°, Ukiah 27°, Mendocino 28°, Fort Bragg 31°

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north county snow

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Thurs Feb 16, 6:30pm @ AV High, Room 6

The AV Skatepark Project has contracted Frontier Skateparks to complete our community's custom skatepark design. Frontier will work with AV community members over two design meetings to explore future users' preferences and ideas. In this way, we work together to shape our future park. 

 For more details on what to expect and how to prepare, visit 

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A READER WRITES: Have you heard any stories about people's payments to Adventist Hospital(s) being lost because Adventist changed their card merchant processor and seems to have lost track of payments on the former platform?

At some point Adventist changed their payment portal, but left the old portal up, and anyone who made payments on the old portal is out of luck because Adventist can't "find" a record of the money.

It seems to mainly be affecting people with payment plans.

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RANDY BURKE OF GUALALA: Gualala community center fire aftermath. The hall was a total loss. The town was very shocked and somber yesterday.

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DEBRA KEIPP'S passing at Fort Bragg Hospital was unexpected, by me anyway. A fast-moving cancer brought her down, and true to form, always tough, always her own person, Debra refused treatment, not that it would have saved her. 

I always admired Debra. Other people were less enthusiastic, but I got to know Debra just after she'd lost her daughter, age 13, her only child. That loss, unimaginable to any parent, was explained by her mother this way:

“I grew up exposed to countless buckets of pesticides and herbicides sprayed by my father and cousin on our 400 acre farm — buckets labeled “Monsanto”, “DDT” and “2-4-D”. Because of my exposure, my daughter’s early death was genetically programmed into the twist of her DNA from the get-go, to kill with the onset of puberty. She was done before she even got started. In death there are no kind consolations. No easing of the pain with words meant to butter the brain in sympathy. Death can consume those of us who are left behind to grieve with aching hearts.”

Maybe. Who could know for sure? But Debra kept on, and kept on keeping her own company, providing her own therapy. 

Debra owned a place in Point Arena but spent a lot of time in the Anderson Valley where she boarded a horse or two. Debra knew animals and was fiercely devoted to and protective of them.

And she wrote for the AVA. 

Let me put it this way. Debra, or Doobra as her friends called her, presented an editorial challenge, in that her tendency to make unsupportable assertions about people she didn't like had to be scrupulously removed, although our shared critics would probably debate how scrupulously I edited Debra. 

Debra always seemed in motion. I mentioned to her that I was having some neck pain. The next day the office door flew open and here's Debra with what I thought was an ironing board. She set the thing up, told me to take my shirt off and lie down on it. "I can fix your neck, Bruce." I didn't seem to have any choice. Her diagnosis was simple. "Of course an uptight guy like you is going to be tense as hell," and she attacked my shoulders and neck so vigorously at first I thought maybe Debra had wigged out, that she intended to break my neck, not uncoil it. Debra had the strength of, well, a farm girl who'd grown up bucking hay bales. She knew her massage stuff, and after about 30 minutes of pounding my neck was un-kinked. 

Another time, she roared up in her battered pickup — Debra drove like the hounds of hell were on her tail — and motioned me over. Rolling her driver's side window down, she said, “I've got something to tell you, so I'll be back.” When I asked what it was, she said, “Sorry, Bruce, I don't have time for your bullshit today.” Huh? And she slammed it into reverse, turned around and roared off. 

I'll miss Debra, a one-of-a-kinder, a farm girl out of the Midwest, then a Berkeley hippie, then a mom, then a master herb gardener, always a vivid Point Arena-Boonville presence, a talented chronicler of our odd region, a strong woman who'd endured the worst that really had seemed to make her stronger. And independent to the end. I wish I'd known she was sick, wish I could have said goodbye to her, wish I hadn't gotten the sad news on such an achingly beautiful late afternoon as today's, an afternoon Debra would have enjoyed best riding the hills on her horse.

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Blue Lake School, 1930

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OPSC TEAM SITE VISIT AT AV HIGH (OPSC: State Office of Public School Construction)

Friday, February 17, 10:00 a.m.

Anderson Valley High School

Check in at the High School Office

Introductions and refreshments: Dome B

Walk High School Properties: Dome, Wells, Septic near Creek, Science Wing, New High School, Uneven pavement walkways/trip hazards.

Old High School wing not remodeled since 1954

Middle School: Gym Exterior Bathrooms, Rotting canopy Walkways, Gym Interior staining/mold and floor rotting, Cafeteria/Music, Uncertified Shop, Hanger/Field.

12:00 Lunch in Dome B

12:45 Elementary Tour

Abandoned District Office, Peachland (No ADA Access), Old Independent Creek–Leaks, Bus Barn, Water System, Septic on Playground near Creek, Main Entry of School and Building Wing/Remodeled, Bathrooms, Asbestos tile in walkways?, Lead paint.

Uneven parking lot surfaces trip hazards throughout site, Staff Bathrooms that seep water and create mold on walls, Rotting Exterior, Cafeteria–insufficient electrical, Exterior four-fifths, Sped Room–Collapsed pipe in bathroom, rotten floor.

Health And Safety Immediate Needs

Septic replacement at Elementary site: Cost Estimate $1.8-$2.0 with reports/pumping etc.

Septic repair at High School: Cost Estimate $350,000 with reports/pumping etc…/Destroyed field due to septic trenching

High School Dome B bathrooms and building structures

High School Shop uncertified building with shop soil issues/rotten structures/doors

Public 1954 non-ada bathrooms at High School Exterior

Disintegrating Hanger building at High School

Peachland Non-ADA Access at Elementary Site

Elementary Sped Room collapsed floor and pipe

Independent Creek leaking roof (can not be fixed) moisture issues

Ancient Bus Barn

Hanger building a wind hazard

Call me if you want more details, and join us if you can.

Take care,

Louise Simson, Superintendent

Anderson Valley Unified School District

Every Student • Every Possibility • No Matter What

Cell: 707-684-1017

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Historian Katy Tahja will be talking about her book “An Eclectic History of Mendocino County” this Saturday, Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. as part of the Point Arena Lighthouse lecture series. Admission to the lecture is $5 per person, payable in the Fog Signal Building where the lecture will be presented. The Lighthouse is located at 45500 Lighthouse Road in Point Arena.

“Historians are always gathering odd facts about subjects of interest and filing them away,” says Tahja. “I finally pulled them all out and with 100 photos made a 150 year history of the county from 1852 to 2002. My book includes the natural world, native populations, industry and agriculture, social life, hippies, sports, roadside attractions, you name it – it might be in the book! If you want to know what Winston Churchill was doing in the county in 1929, or where we had mud volcanos, or lady singing stagecoach drivers, or our own Miss America, or a spectacular plane crash, come to my lecture for some memorable facts about the county.”

Tahja is a retired librarian and an author of several books on north coast history. A Comptche resident for 47 years, her husband’s family has been on the coast since 1884. She docents at the Kelley House Museum in Mendocino, and previously presented “Lady Lighthouse Keepers” as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series in 2018.

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Gualala Mill, 1890

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Sunday, February 19, 2023, 10am - 4pm, $5 - $10 707-937-6123

Join volunteer docents at Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park for the unique opportunity to climb to the top of the lighthouse tower and stand next to the historic 1909 Fresnel Lens. These tours happen rarely, and are always a delight!

- Tours are first-come, first-serve, no reservations

- First tour of the day goes up at 10am, last tour of the day goes up at 4pm

- $10 per adult, $5 per child (under 18)

- All children must be over 42 inches tall to climb the stairs

- There are no babies or animals allowed on this tour

- Tour guests must be masked at all times

- Tour guests must be able to climb three sets of steep ladders

Don’t forget about the half mile walk from the parking lot to the lighthouse! Give yourself plenty of time to arrive before our last tours of the day head up the stairs.

Tours last between 20 - 40 minutes, and are led by the experienced docents of the Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association. For more information, you can call the office at 707-937-6123 or email us at

There will be more lens tours on the second Saturdays of March - October 2023! March 11, April 8, May 13, June 10, July 8, August 12, September 9 and October 14, 2023.

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A close-up view of the Point Cabrillo Fresnel lens. It hasn't left our light station since June of 1909, and is still operational as an Active Aid to Navigation, under the jurisdiction of the US Coast Guard. It was lit with kerosene and wicks in 1909, but these days we use a 1000 watt halogen bulb!

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At the 35th annual Mendocino County Mock Trial competition on February 4, members of the Ukiah High School Mock Trial team edged out Laytonville High School to claim the Honorable Judge Ron Brown Memorial Perpetual Trophy. Ukiah High School students will represent Mendocino County at the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s (CRF) California Mock Trial Finals in Los Angeles March 17-19.

Sponsored by the Mendocino County Office of Education (MCOE), the Mendocino County Mock Trial competition gives high school students the opportunity to acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society.

“Congratulations to all of the students who participated in this annual event. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to compete in mock trial,” Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Nicole Glentzer said. “Seeing these students in action is an excellent display of the work that's happening in schools today. Undoubtedly, these students are the future leaders of our county, our state, and our world.”

This year’s Mendocino County high schools teams are Laytonville High School and Ukiah High School. In addition, students from Fort Bragg Middle School and Three Rivers Charter School formed the Mendocino Coast Mock Trial team, the only middle school team in Northern California. Those students traveled to San Luis Obispo with Coach Michael Lang to compete in their county tournament, February 7- 9.

In a mock trial, student teams argue both sides of a fictitious case developed by the CRF. With the assistance of teacher and volunteer attorney coaches, students portray all key roles including attorneys, witnesses and courtroom staff in the fictitious case of People v. Franks. In the trial of Jordan Franks, a performer on a cruise ship’s production of ‘Macbeth at Sea,’ Franks is charged with robbery, larceny, and battery causing serious bodily injury.

Mendocino County Mock Trial team members from Ukiah and Laytonville High School argued their case in front of practicing Mendocino County judges and a packed house of supporters. After both teams delivered compelling witness statements, incisive direct and cross examination, and passionate opening and closing arguments, Ukiah High School was declared this year’s Mendocino County winner by two panels of local attorney scorers.

2023 Mendocino County Mock Trial High School Participants:

The Laytonville High School team, coached by Erin Lehman, includes the following students: Achsa Hill, Brigid Henry, Hailey Musgrave, Jackson Gamble, Karan Patel, Kylie Neuroth, Mariah Zaragoza, Matthew Posey, Rylee Doyle, and Savanna Athey.

The Ukiah High School team, coached by Matthew LaFever, includes the following students: Diego Fernandez, Elizabeth Lu, Eva Pintane, Hannah Todd, Helena Rooney, Isabel Van Sant, Jacob Kubin, Kaylie Reeser, Molly Kaluna-Jones, Noah Edelman, Owen Sangiacomo, Bode Gower, Madeline Armstrong, Essie Montano, Neilyn Alvarez-Rodriguez, Kobi Hasunuma, and Shanti Fernandez.

Attorneys Alexander Rich, Elina Agnoli and Luke Oakley assist teams. Volunteer judges that officiate and evaluate the competition include the Honorable Judges Anne Moorman, Cindee Mayfield, Keith Faulder, and Patrick Pekin. Volunteer attorney scorers included Alison Mannwieler, Charlotte Scott, Doug Rhoades, James Brusseau, Jonah Walsh, and Patricia Littlefield.

Mendocino Superior Court provided use of the Ukiah Superior Courthouse and a weekend security detail.

For more information about Mendocino County Mock Trial, visit

(The Mendocino County Office of Education provides leadership, resources, services, and programs to improve the educational experience and outcomes for Mendocino County students.)

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Disaster CalFresh Offered in Contra Costa, Mendocino, and Ventura Counties 

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) announced February 6, 2023 that individuals and families affected by the recent severe winter storms in three counties, including Mendocino, may be eligible to receive Disaster CalFresh food benefits as part of continuing disaster recovery efforts. 

Who Can Apply? 

Any individuals and families who lived or worked in Mendocino County between December 27, 2022 – January 25, 2023, may be eligible for Disaster CalFresh food benefits if the household experienced at least one of the following as a direct result of the severe winter storms: 

• At least one person in the household was not getting regular CalFresh food benefits, 

• Money was spent because of the storms or related power outage, 

• Money was lost from work because of the severe winter storms, or 

• Money was spent because of damage to a home or business. 

How To Apply 

Households may apply between February 13-15, 2023, by calling their local county social services office, submitting a paper application, or submitting a pre-registration online application, and will be accepted in Mendocino County at 

Disaster CalFresh food benefits will be provided via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. 

For more information about Disaster CalFresh, call your local county social services office: 

Fort Bragg office: 707-962-1000 

Ukiah office: 707-463-7700 

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by Claire Wheeler

Often referred to as THOWs, tiny homes on wheels offer a simple solution for many people to the problem of providing comfortable and affordable housing. Their price, ease, and speed in being installed are unsurpassed. Since they are legally Recreational Vehicles, they are registered at the DMV like other RVs. So, being legally vehicles, they are considered temporary residences which are moveable and not actually small houses. 

Since they have no foundation to be attached to the property, they do not add to the property tax bill. Whether they add to the value of a property sale or not depends on the agreement between the seller & buyer at the time of sale. 

While a regular THOW is typically 8’-4” wide, as limited by the width of a typical flatbed truck which they are often mounted on, a 32-foot long THOW for example provides about 266 square feet of living space + optional loft. 

A THOW that is wider than 8'6” in width is considered a “Park Model.” Park models are basically wider homes on wheels that still fall under the RV classification. Under California law, a THOW must be under 400 square feet. By having a Park Model, you can get that maximum square footage in a much more comfortable living space. Park Models are usually built to ANSI (American National Standards Institute) code (for RVs). 

Where they have been legalized, THOWs are considered to be a type of ADU or Accessory Dwelling Unit and, I was told by a lender, may potentially be considered for a grant to help defray costs. They are currently legal in Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz county and just recently approved for the city of Oakland. 

Mendocino County is planning to legalize them this year. In some other areas they can be approved as a caregiver unit. 

(This is the first article in a series. Carolyn Wheeler can be reached at (510) 402-9333 or by email at:

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Schoolchildren, Blue Lake, 1913

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The Bureau of Land Management California and the Mendocino National Forest announce the selection of Melissa Hovey as the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Manager. Her career in public service and natural resources spans over 30 years. She now embraces the challenge of overseeing management of more than 330,780 acres of public land in a region stretching from Napa County to the mountains of the Mendocino National Forest north of Clear Lake. 

“The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument encompasses some of the most spectacular public lands in the country and I am excited to take on this new role. I am looking forward to working with the communities of northern California, our partners, and the visitors to ensure this special place is available for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations,” Hovey says. 

Hovey has a strong background in natural resource programs and project management for the BLM in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming as well as at the BLM headquarters. She was instrumental in developing the agency’s first Report on Annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Trends and several adaptive management plans for air resources. She also has experience managing and developing environmental programs for municipal and state governments and assisting industrial clients with environmental permitting. “We are fortunate to have

Melissa’s experience, wisdom and collaborative leadership style as part of BLM California,” says BLM Central California District Manager Chris Heppe. “Her extensive knowledge of natural resource management and community partnerships will benefit the monument’s scenic and biologically diverse landscapes.” 

“I am extremely pleased to welcome Melissa to the region,” says Mendocino National Forest Supervisor Wade McMaster. “I share her excitement for the opportunities here and gratitude for the monument and the collaboration among our agencies and partners.” 

Originally from the Boston area, Melissa has been “out west” for over twenty years. She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees in civil and environmental engineering. Melissa enjoys hiking, camping, skiing, and spending time with her family including two border collie puppies. 

Mendocino National Forest Presser

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Happy Valentines Day from Randy Burke

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by Justine Frederiksen

For years when I drove by the cemetery in Ukiah, I saw a man visiting his wife’s grave every morning.

When it was hot, he wore a hat and short sleeves; for the rain he brought a raincoat and umbrella. First he would tidy up the flowers and grass near the headstone, then he stood with his arms folded for about 15 minutes.

For all those years I wanted to talk to him, yet did not for fear of disturbing him. But finally, something made me go into the cemetery one day and approach him with a small wave. When he waved back I asked, “Are you visiting your wife?”

“Yes,” he said, nodding at the fresh red roses lying on the grass. “Today is our wedding day.”

“We were married for more than 66 years,” he said of his high school sweetheart. “And you’re not going to believe this, but in all those years we never had an argument. We both grew up in homes where people were always yelling at each other, so we made up our minds that we weren’t going to do that. And we didn’t. We had a lot of discussions, though, with time for me to talk and for her to talk. And by the time we went to bed, we had worked everything out.”

To stay married, he said, you’ve got to be “willing to listen and you’ve got to be willing to admit when you’re wrong. And usually, my wife was the one who was right. As a husband, there are two things you should say every day: ‘I love you’ and ‘Yes, dear.'”

When asked what he liked about his wife when they met, he said it was her beautiful smile. “I don’t think there was another woman with a more beautiful smile. And she was pretty inside and out.”

When asked why he visited his wife’s grave every day, he said he was in his nineties, so “I don’t have much else to do. And she gave me her life. It’s the least I can do.”

Update: After reading this story in the newspaper, the man’s daughter, Linda Talso, contacted me to say that her father, Lewis Martinelli, now 97, continued to visit his wife’s grave every day “until he gave up his driver’s license on his 94th birthday.”

Talso said she still takes her father to the cemetery about once a month and “always on special occasions to take a dozen red or pink roses. Today, Valentine’s Day 2023, we went in spite of the rain, cold and bit of slushy snow.”

Talso explained that Valentine’s Day is particularly special to her father and mother, who was named Dolores and died in 2012, because she was born on Valentine’s Day.

“Every year, Dad tells me the story of my mother handing me to him for the first time and telling him, here’s your Valentine,” she said.

(Ukiah Daily Journal)

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Galarz, Horney, Mallett

JULIAN GALARZA, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

CHRISTOPHE HORNY, Ukiah. Domestic battery.

JANET MALLETT, Laytonville. Suspended license, failure to appear.

McGee, Parkin, Ruiz, Vargas

TYLER MCGEE, Los Angeles/Ukiah. Battery, resisting.

COLE PARKIN, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

BARAQUEL RUIZ, Lakeport/Ukiah. Paraphernalia, parole violation.

JUAN VARGAS-GONZALEZ, Hopland. Burglary.

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When the Glass Fire came over Rincon Ridge on the night of Sept. 27, 2020, we had to evacuate. I drove two blocks before joining a stationary line of vehicles on St. Francis Road. There we sat for over an hour. We couldn’t move because Highway 12 was completely jammed with vehicles fleeing the fire.

After a while watching houses and forest on the ridge a quarter-mile away explode into flames, I thought I might have to leave my vehicle and run for it. But older folks who were also trapped could not run and were terrified as the enormous flames crept closer.

We survived because the wind was not strong and because of the bravery of the firefighters. Had the winds been as strong as in the 2017 fires, scores or possibly hundreds of people could have been incinerated, trapped in their cars.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen Highway 12 become increasingly clogged with vehicles as more and more housing was built. Any further housing development along Highway 12 east of Calistoga Road is insane.

This is the wildland-urban interface and a known fire corridor. Somebody tell the planning department.

Leo Jones

Santa Rosa

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Destroying the Demonic (and Fuhgeddabout Returning this World to Righteousness)

Walked into the Throwing Axe establishment in downtown Ukiah, California Sunday afternoon, to discover one bartender, one cook, and no customers. The huge high definition sports screen was turned on, several billiard tables on two floors were available, nobody was throwing any axes in the booths provided, but you could, and while centering the wandering mind at its Source, chanting the warrior goddess Kali Ma mantram which is "Om Aim Hrim Klim Chamundaye Vicche", I ordered a pint of Sierra Nevada's Hazy Little Thing, and then took a seat at a table directly in front of the sports screen. The three of us enjoyed the entire thrilling football game, the postmodern(?) half time show, the awarding of the Lombardi Trophy, and the final game analysis. 

I considered the prospects of a global spiritual revolution during the course of consuming the pint of Sierra Nevada, two bottles of Blind Pig, two shots of Johnnie Walker Black Label on the rocks, and enjoying a steak 'n cheese grilled sandwich complete with Miss Vickie's Sea Salt & Vinegar chips. It is my joy to announce to the world that the problem is solved. Whereas it is very important for a spiritual revolution to succeed on the planet earth, it is not our responsibility to also ensure that society's return to righteousness necessarily follow. Therefore, spiritually focused global direct action may begin immediately. 

Nota Bene: I am prepared to exit the Building Bridges Homeless Shelter located at 1045 S. State Street in Ukiah, California. Telephone messages may be left at: (707) 234-3270. Of course I am accepting money, being both practical and sane.

Craig Louis Stehr,

Happy Valentine's Day

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What, if any thing, will our federal legislators do about the current terrible epidemic of mass gun shootings? These supposedly very bright, enlightened "leaders," supported by powerful well-funded interest groups, including, of course, the NRA, have control of Congress preventing any progress of anti-assault gun laws through Congress. So far, there can not even be any meaningful debate of either background checks or bans of assault weapons in the halls of Congress.

Yesterday on the campus of Michigan State University, a suicidal 43-year-old shooter killed three students and critically wounded five others. According to Dana Nessel, Michigan's Attorney General, the shooter had a record and should not have been able to even possess such a weapon according to state law. Her two sons were present but were unharmed.

Her statement today (MSNBC): "We need new federal gun laws. When will we ever learn to love our kids more than we love our guns?"

Frank H. Baumgardner, III

Santa Rosa

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by Marilyn Davin

King Lear laments that “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” He’s referring to his daughter Goneril in the first act of King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s best known tragedies. Lear compares having his daughter with a snake bite. And though much has changed culturally since Shakespeare wrote those lines in seventeenth century England, its theme of familial ingratitude is so universal it has endured nearly thirteen centuries to emerge in our own as a platitude about familial ingratitude, emblazoned today on t-shirts, greeting cards, refrigerator magnets, and other pop-culture items. 

Relationships between kids and their parents, thankless or not at either or both ends, have been fraught throughout human history, tangled up as they are with the competing needs and expectations of children, their families, and the culture they jointly inhabit. So it’s hardly surprising that in our media- and status-driven contemporary culture the ugly patina of politics has entered the family stage, especially for politicians’ children. It’s a rare bipartisan issue.

Enter 52-year-old Hunter Biden, troubled second son of President Joe Biden. Though open about his alcohol and crack-cocaine addictions and stints in rehab and charged with no crime, investigating Hunter’s activities has become one of new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s top legislative priorities. (Didn’t he run on a commitment to tackle inflation, taxes, and immigration?) Following in former President Donald Trump’s footsteps, McCarthy has jumped all over Hunter’s alleged compromising emails and such, searching in vain for anything serious enough to splash back on his father in the run-up to the next presidential election. Even respected news organizations now sadly stoop to the twenty-first century normal of celebrity gossip, tawdry personal revelations, and, for the self-absorbed, endless pieces on diet, exercise, and the latest plastic surgery “enhancements” and cosmetic products that promise to make you look young when you’re old. 

Hunter Biden did fail to pay his taxes for several years, apparently during one of his druggy periods (though according to news reports he has since repaid them), and much to Republicans’ chagrin no charges have been filed against him as of this writing for either his late-but-now-paid taxes or for an alleged false claim on a gun-purchase application. In any event we would have neither known nor cared about Hunter and his problems had he not been the President’s son. If or until he is criminally charged with a crime, he’s just another troubled adult and should be left alone to fight his demons. 

Even young minor children aren’t spared the bottomless maw of social media. Barron Trump and Chelsea Clinton were widely and cruelly written about during their awkward pre-teen White House years, and both endured cruel public comments about their appearances. Then there was Jenna Bush, who appeared to be way under the influence in a photograph taken at a university rager where she was a student. Kids should be off limits, especially now when every person with a cell phone is a mobile camera. 

Harry and Meghan, Inc., are either top contenders for the thankless kid award or bold pioneers who escaped “oppressive” royal lives, depending on your viewpoint. Had the high-profile couple fled their privileged lives to selflessly dedicate themselves to promoting income inequality and inclusion, they would today be living examples of personal integrity. They’ve chosen instead to offer only tiresome (though highly lucrative) tales of the royals’ dirty laundry to the highest bidders. Media consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are paying them big bucks to vicariously wallow in the royal dirt, though this interest will surely evaporate as the couple’s tearful revelations grow stale. In a twisted way the couple is now more tightly bound to the British Monarchy than when they were living in Frogmore Cottage under its protection. It looks like it’s all they have to peddle. Personally, I’m with Team Charles, who was widely quoted at his father’s funeral requesting of his squabbling sons that they “not make my final years a misery.” It’s hard not to admire the new king’s dignified silence in the face of Harry’s public attacks on his family and, by extension, on the monarchy itself. 

Getting back to King Lear, the children of today’s powerful parents may or may not feel “thankless” toward the high-profile parents who dragged them into the unforgiving glare of the public arena, where opposing political operatives use them as PR tools to discredit their parents, especially during political campaigns. This dynamic is so commonplace it doesn’t raise the eyebrows it should. But it’s still wrong, and we have a collective civic responsibility to both oppose and deny it the cash that is its life’s blood. Don’t buy tell-all memoirs, don’t pay to hear or watch their podcasts. Don’t feed the beast by supporting what you don’t believe in. 

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US Navy Ghost Fleet, Suisun Bay, 1947

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by Jonah Raskin

To write her most recent novel, (2022; 549 pages; $32.50; Harper Collins) her tenth in the past 35 years, Barbara Kingsolver turned for inspiration to Charles Dickens whom she calls her “genius friend.” In the acknowledgements, she writes, “I’m grateful to Charles Dickens for writing David Copperfield, his impassioned critique of institutional poverty and its damaging effects on children in his society.” She adds, “Those problems are still with us.” Isn’t that obvious? Why hit us over the head with it?

In the body of the novel, Kingsolver’s protagonist and narrator— a poor white kid, a drug addict, an orphan and a born again artist— explains that while Dickens was a “seriously old guy, dead and a foreigner, but Jesus Christ did he get the picture on kids and orphans getting screwed over and nobody giving a rat’s ass. You’d think he was from around here.” For Copperhead, whose hair is the color of copper wire, “around here” means Appalachia, where Kingsolver lives on a farm with her husband. The time is now, though there are very few references to contemporary events. The Iraq war is one of them.

Readers who welcome and relish protest fiction, whether Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, might enjoy Kingsolver’s novel.

Readers who are wary of protest fiction as a genre will likely be put off by Kingsolver’s hammering away at social issues including injustice and inequality, the evils of tobacco, alcohol and OxyContin as well as her indignation about the stereotyping of “hillbillies,” “rednecks” and “melungeons”— the Appalachian ethnic group descended from poor whites, American Indians and Black slaves.

No one has accused Kingsolver of cultural appropriation, though they might. She’s not impoverished, doesn’t belong to the drug culture or to Appalachia’s under class. Still Appalachia is her backyard. She has plummeted its depths and feels its pain.

But she is no Charles Dickens; to try to lodge herself in his literary company only sets her up for unfavorable comparisons. Were he alive today what would he write about and where would he set his novels? Probably not in Appalachia and not among the rural poor, but rather in Philadelphia, New York, or Los Angeles where he’d skewered the movie industry, the culture of celebrities and explore the hell of homelessness.

To focus on Dickens as a novelist who offers critiques of the ills of society is to reduce him to a stereotype of an author waging cultural warfare against his society. That perspective leaves out his comedy, his love of the grotesque and his creativity as a literary architect who built big complex novels with suspense, mystery and inimitable characters.

Among all of Dickens’ many novels, including Oliver Twist, Martin Chuzzlewit, Hard Times—and his late masterpieces, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend and Little DorritDavid Copperfield clearly offered Kingsolver the most accessible. Like David Copperfield, Demon Copperhead is told in the first person by a young man finding and losing and finding his way in the world. Kingsolver adopts the role of a ventriloquist and speaks through her “dummy,” who is much wiser than his years.

As a narrator, Copperhead is largely unconvincing. Had he sounded like poor white and southern Huck Finn he might have been more believable, but then Kingsolver would have had to add race and caste to her picture and that would have been much more than she could have handled.

He does sound like Thomas Wolfe, the author of Look Homeward Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again—who was born in North Carolina, on the edge of Appalachia— when he waxes poetical and says, “It was that fall type of day where the world feels like it’s about to change its mind on everything.”

Unlike Dickens’ Copperfield, Kingsolver’s Copperhead provides no characters as memorable as Mr. Micawber, Uriah Heap and Copperfield himself whom Dickens describes as “the hero of the story.” Kingsolver doesn’t call Copperhead a hero. He’s too tarnished and too implicated in his own use of drugs and downfall to be dubbed heroic.

The real demon in the novel— that might be called “addiction fiction”—isn’t the main character but rather OxyContin and the opioid crisis brought on by Fentanyl, the drug that has afflicted the entire nation, including poor whites in Appalachia. At the end of Demon Copperhead, Kingsolver thanks Dr. Art Van Zee “for his groundbreaking exposure of dangerous prescription opioids.” Along with a nun and a lawyer (his wife), Dr. Van Zee led the charge against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, nearly three decades ago, when his crusading might have saved lives. Sadly, very few people listened to him and his team. Now, more deaths are on the way with little relief in sight.

 There’s plenty of material for a novelist of Kingsolver’s caliber to get worked up about and indignant over, and a long shelf of addiction fiction worth expanding, including William Burroughs’ Junkie and Naked Lunch, Nelson Algren’s The Man with the Golden Arm, Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries, Phillip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly, and the progenitor of them all, Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an Opium-Eater from 1821.

Demon Copperhead doesn’t come remotely near any of them, though the Guardian described the novel as a masterpiece that Kingsolver was “born to write.” In 2022, Oprah selected it for her book club, which has translated into a mass audience and big sales.

Writing in The New York Times, novelist and critic Molly Young, who has recently touted Phillip K. Dick’s fiction, offered a voice of moderation and noted that the optimism of both Kingsolver and her main character “takes on the quality of delusion.” There’s something smug about the book, as though the author knows it all.

“I have the disturbing idea that I’m writing the same book again and again,” Kingsolver noted years ago. In a review of her 1990 novel Animal Dreams, novelist and critic Jane Smiley wrote “Ms. Kingsolver never really wrestles with the larger concerns that she raises. For one thing, there are simply too many of them.” Much the same might be said of Demon Copperhead which wrestles with rural poverty, drug addiction and the abuse of children.

In his pivotal 1955 essay, “Everyone’s Protest Novel,” which tackles Uncle Tom’s Cabin, James Baldwin, no stranger to protest, offers a quotation from a man he calls “an American liberal” who tells him that as long as protest novels are “being published everything will be alright.” Indeed, the protest novel, along with idealistic protesters, social causes, and do-good organizations make up the bedrock of American liberalism that Baldwin loathed as much as he detested racism and segregation.

“It must be remembered,” Baldwin wrote “that the oppressed and the oppressor are bound together within the same society.” He added, “the failure of the protest novel lies in its rejection of life, the human being, the denial of his beauty, dread, power in its insistence that it is his categorization alone which is real and which cannot be transcended.” That’s a blanket condemnation that’s difficult to swallow. Baldwin might have gone overboard, though he rightly recognized that “The ‘protest’ novel is an accepted and comforting aspect of the American scene.”

In The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead’s 2015 novel of bondage and freedom, in which the real and the phantasmagoric merge, the escaped slave, Cora Randall, and the slave catcher, Arnold Ridgeway, literally embrace one another in one of the narrative’s most vivid scenes. The “enterprise” of slavery, Colson writes, “bound slave and master alike.” The Underground Railroad isn’t a protest novel, though it depicts slavery as a brutal institution that dehumanizes both the enslaved, who are chained and whipped, and the slaver who does the whipping and the chaining. There’s a fine line between the novel that protests social conditions and the novel that calls for empathy and compassion.

All protest novels, it seems, must depict “a shit show,” to borrow a phrase that frequently appears in Demon Copperhead. They must exaggerate, stir up moral indignation and call upon readers to do something to change the world for the better. Easier said than done. Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five, his 1969 autobiographical anti-war novel, noted that anti-war novels have never stopped wars.

B. Traven, the author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and six linked novels about oppression and liberation in Mexico, observed that while newspapers expose injustices and briefly capture the attention of readers they don’t end injustices. True enough, but that point of view has never prevented novelists, journalists, poets and playwrights from aiming to sound alarms and awaken readers to the horrors of war, slavery and the immorality of the criminal injustice system.

In 1945, nearly one hundred years after the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin George Orwell wrote “I would back Uncle Tom’s Cabin to outlive the complete works of Virginia Woolf.” One wonders what readers will think of Demon Copperhead in one hundred years.

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This photo of a Revolutionary veteran was sold on eBay in 2013. The seller’s description read: “Revolutionary war soldier Arnold Rogers with hat - Tin-Type, measures … Nice condition. Hand written in pencil along bottom of matting says "Arnold Rogers (I think it says Arnold) Revolutionary Soldier owner of the old gun, Joseph and your great-great grandfather." It appears to be a post-mortem image. Nothing more is known. 

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by Gavin Francis 

At the small family practice in Edinburgh where I work as a physician, I happen to be the only male staff member—all my medical, nursing, and administrative colleagues are female. Perhaps that’s why I see a great many men about their prostate problems and carry out a disproportionate number of prostate examinations. The attitude of most men is an odd mixture of anxiety and jokey bravado; they find it easier to make wisecracks about the prostate than to confess their fear of disease. I’m reminded of a routine by the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, who joked about reaching an age when his doctor had lost interest in his balls and become curious instead about his ass (cancer of the testes being a young man’s disease).

You can feel the prostate through the thin wall of the rectum, about a finger’s length inside the anus. Visualizing it isn’t easy: imagine a tiny doughnut that sits just under the blader. Urine passes through the hole in the middle. The usual size comparison (for a young man’s healthy prostate) is that of a walnut. I count the prostate as normal when it’s soft, smooth, symmetrical, with a groove running vertically down the middle, and not jutting back into the rectum.

The gland has a variety of functions. It secretes between a quarter and a third of the fluid that constitutes semen—most of the rest is produced in the seminal vesicles—and its muscular elements contract at ejaculation to expel semen into the urethra and out of the body. It operates as a kind of junction box or valve that controls the flow of fluids, ensuring that urine doesn’t pass out to the testicles during urination and that semen doesn’t go up into the bladder during ejaculation. It helps protect against urinary tract infections, and for some men it’s an erogenous zone.

Women too have glandular tissues around the urethra (known as Skene’s gland) that during orgasm expel fluid into the urethra or the vagina itself. Though this gland is sometimes referred to as the “female prostate,” it rarely causes medical problems. For transgender women taking feminizing hormones; the prostate is very unlikely to cause the Kind of problems that I’ll be discussing in men. 

The tissues of the prostate are sensitive to circulating levels of testosterone which stimulate it to grow, and so the prostate increases in size throughout life as long as the testes continue to produce that hormone.

Prostate cancers, because they are made of prostatic tissue, usually grow in response to testosterone as well. By the age of seventy, up to three quarters of men have prostatism (some degree of prostatic obstructife symptoms) which in its more severe forms enttails poor urinary flow, difficulty initiating urination, dribbling after urination, and nocturia (having to get up at night to pee). These can all be caused by the gradual growth of prostatic tissues and resultant pressure on the bladder, as well as the tightening of the space through which urine has to pass. To widen this channel and improve flow, a surgical procedure called transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is commonly carried out on older men.

For a small proportion of men, these symptoms will turn out to be caused not by this gradual growth but by cancer within the gland. If that’s the case, radiotherapy can help, as can surgery to remove the entire prostate—with attendant risks of incontinence, impotence, and loss of ejaculation. For some men, the loss of the prostate as an erogenous zone is cause for grief. A recent article in The New York Times calls for urologists to be more sensitive to the psychosexual effects of such surgery, in particular for gay men.

Sometimes the cancer can be controlled by hormonal manipulation, shutting off the supply of testosterone that encourages the cancer to grow. As a result, men sometimes begin to grow breasts, lose their libido, and become impotent. Cancer of the prostate has a tendency to spread to the bones, and I’ve known several men over the years for whom bone pain or a fracture in a tumor-weakened bone, not trouble with urination, was the problem that brought their cancer to my attention. One fractured his femur while getting up from the toilet; another fractured his spine when he fell off a chair. Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in the US (after breast cancer), and it was estimated that almost 35,000 American men died of it in 2021 (5.6% of all cancer deaths). It’s an ancient problem: evidence of prostate cancer has been found in the bones of Egyptian mummies and Scythian kings.

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Ukraine says it has repelled Russian attacks in Luhansk after Moscow claimed its troops had broken through two fortified lines of Ukrainian defences in the eastern region.

Germany backs raising NATO’s military spending target as member states’ defence ministers meet for a second day in Brussels.

Ukraine appeals to the UN and Turkey to press Russia to immediately stop “obstructing” the Black Sea grain deal.

The UN says $5.6bn is needed to provide humanitarian aid to millions of people in Ukraine and other countries who have taken in those fleeing the war.

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The Washington Post has a weird new article out citing multiple anonymous US officials saying that the Chinese “spy balloon” we’ve been hearing about for the last two weeks was never intended for a surveillance mission over North America at all.

The article is titled “U.S. tracked China spy balloon from launch on Hainan Island along unusual path,” and throughout it alternates between the objective journalistic terms “suspected spy balloon” and “suspected Chinese surveillance balloon” and the US government’s terms “spy balloon” and “airborne surveillance device”. There is at this time no publicly available evidence that the balloon which was famously shot down on February 4th was in fact an instrument of Chinese espionage; the Chinese government has said that the balloon was a civilian meteorological airship that got blown off course, and the Pentagon’s own assessment is that a Chinese spy balloon would not “create significant value added over and above what the PRC is likely able to collect through things like satellites in Low Earth Orbit.”

What makes the article so weird is that it actually contains claims which substantiate Beijing’s assertion that this was in fact a balloon that got blown off course, yet it keeps repeating the unevidenced claim that it was a “spy balloon”.…

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  1. Louis Bedrock February 15, 2023

    Sorry to hear of the death of Debra Keipp.
    I always enjoyed reading her articles in the AVA.

    Yeats’ epitaph would fit Debra well:
    “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by.”

  2. Chuck Dunbar February 15, 2023

    I didn’t know Debra Keipp, but she was clearly a force of nature, a woman to be reckoned with. Your remembrance of her, Bruce, is tough and blunt and very moving. That last sentence is gorgeous, and heart-breaking. The world needs more folks Debra Keipp.
    Thank you.

  3. Kathy February 15, 2023

    I am sad to hear of Debra’s passing. She was a gutsy gal and I am proud to have known her.

  4. Randy February 15, 2023

    Debra Keipp. Remember her horse in bar story up in Garberville. What a charm she was. Will miss her truth in fact.

    • Bruce McEwen February 15, 2023

      This sudden death, coming on our old comrade Debra out of the blue, as it were, makes clear her recent attack on our esteamed Editor, a screed, an incoherent screed, denouncing him as a sexist — which caught me off guard.

      Sure, Debra could be shrill at times — ask Larry Chalk or Jimmy Humble or any of the other legends from the Mosswood coffee klatch — but this seemed out of character;now we know she was battling the big C and grieving a buried child. She bore her burdens bravely and now I get it that she was likely on a heavy dose of pain meds when she posted it up a few short weeks ago… bless you, Debra, your troubles are over.

    • George Hollister February 15, 2023

      Great story. She was scented with Patchouli oil when she took her favorite horse into a bar in Garberville, and smelled up the place. The bartender told her to get out, but that the horse was welcome to stay.

  5. Craig Stehr February 15, 2023

    Kali Mantram Recited by Pandit Somnath Sharma

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