Summer Solstice | Orr Springs | Growing Season | Cactus Garden | Benefit Concert | County Employees | Manzanita | Shattuck Says | Ed Notes | Log Chute | Ground Breaking | Boonquiz | Geriatric Newspapermen | Housing Workshop | Yesterday's Catch | Multivitamin Taken | Oak Knoll | Counterculture Culture | Sir Mick | Train Songs | Eye Smiler | Relationship Problems | Dogshit Way | Sir Ian | Strange Days | Class Reunion | Assange Extradition | Ukraine | Station Pigeon | Writing Life | Farmer Explosive
NEAR NORMAL temperatures are forecast for the next several days across Northwest California as an upper level disturbance meanders eastward. A cut-off low and upper waves will aid in afternoon and evening thunderstorm development near the Trinity horn and Yolla Bolly Mountains through the end of the week. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): Summer begins at 7:58am (bet some of you slept right thru it) this Wednesday morning on the coast. A crisp 46F under clear skies for the solstice. Today should be mostly clear but cloudier conditions return tomorrow. Yep, more of the same in general for the next week.
REPORT FROM A SMALL BOONVILLE FARM
The growing season is finally kicking into gear after a slow start caused by cool, wet and uneven weather. The temps are a bit more consistent now although the swings are still often dramatic. The kitchen crew is busy canning what remains in the freezers from last year's harvest as well as the items we are busy harvesting right now: onions, gherkins, capers, scapes, garlic, shiso, strawberries, cherries, herbs, favas, shelling peas (which we eat), tay berries, and soon wild plums.
It's all a lot work but doesn't stop us from admiring, no, reveling in, the beauty of the place. The abundant rain this winter has brought out the best in every plant. Colors are richer, leaves are larger, flowers are more abundant, and some plants have doubled in size. It's beyond wonderful to gaze up at the oaks we planted from seed 17 years ago and not be able to see their tops. Watching the birds using them for nesting, food and hiding from predators is an emotional high.
Those of us working on any given day, gather at lunch hour at the picnic tables next to the house to eat and gossip and enjoy quiet time beneath the hundreds of years old Valley oak in the front garden. She is the mother tree and tends to all the garden plants and smaller trees, shading them from above and feeding them from beneath. She is a good mother with open arms reaching far and wide. With good eyesight and the aid of binoculars we can watch what's going on way overhead. The birds nesting in her branches entertain us with their antics, chattering, squawking, chirping, competing for food and nesting spots, and just plain playing. The acorn woodpeckers, long time, year-long residents, own the tree and make major noise akka akka-ing when deciding with whom they're mating and where, or when a foreigner tries to join the tribe. But they do rent out space for other species. On a far western branch and on another to the east, orioles return each year to breed and show off their stunning golden coloring. Their babies are just now learning to fly. On a southern branch a nest hangs low on a thread and swings in the wind. There's a bit of blue baling string entwined in it and it was probably once a tit mouse nest. Morning doves own the dense but less tall live oak to the east next to mom oak. A house wren zips around and has been seen nesting in a skull at the garden gate. "Our" swallows, half year residents for at least 5 years now, that return to their nest at our front door every May (along with all the siblings) forcing us to use the back door, are busy feeding one loudly peeping chick. Usually there are four chicks but something untoward happened this time. They can produce three sets during the season so we're hoping to see more. The scrub jays are mating somewhere nearby but are feared for their nest robbing as are the corvids who generally leave our garden alone. The phoebe lost her first batch to the crows this season and is now considering using a former swallow nest tucked into the cement wall of the house just below the roof. A mom losing babes...it's painful no matter who the mom is.
Our plantings express the health of our soil which is mostly rich and fertile, but we continue to apply what we are learning to improve it. In that vein, we've made two batches of compost tea and fed them to our vegetables. It's a fairly simple process using bubblers, a fish tank pump, a five gallon bucket, compost/worm castings, molasses, and a pair of pantyhose and only takes 36 hours. We haven't the time to do comparison trials, but my sons are doing some with a few plants. With nature, it's never easy to know exactly what is causing which result. But if it could possibly benefit the growth of the soil and the plants, we're all for it. Staying open to learning and experimenting never ends and may be the whole point of living.
The birds are here all year or return each year to breed...not to entertain us but because there is good habitat for raising young. Good habitat means there are a diversity of trees, plants, flowers and seeds in a non toxic environment. Those plants are thriving because the soil is healthy and so far water has been provided to feed them, naturally with rain and by us building ponds. Since we arrived nearly two decades ago, the numbers of birds has exploded which to us is a definition of success.
Now we're working on keeping the population of rats in balance which is why every snake is valuable be it rattler (see the note in the farm report), gopher, red racer or king. We humans have created the imbalances and it will be painful, but the natural world is going to recalibrate everything that is out of balance since nature, which includes us, evolves with its own checks and balances.
Nikki Auschnitt & Steve Krieg
BENEFIT CONCERT FOR NOYO CENTER FOR MARINE SCIENCE
Listen to music among the beautiful redwoods and support the Noyo Center for Marine Science Education programs on Thursday, June 22 starting at 4 pm. Music will be Moon Rabbit, Aaron Ford and Laualee Brown. Festive taco dinner (vegan option and gluten free) is included in the ticket price with beer and wine or sparkling water available for purchase. There will also be a silent auction with some fantastic art pieces among other items. The concert is open seating, bring your own lawn chairs and blankets. Providing your own water helps reduce the use of single use plastics.
Purchase your tickets here: noyocenter.org/music-in-the-redwoods
Tickets are $35 on line and $40 at the door. When you purchase online you will get directions and additional information and ensure we have plenty of tacos for all!
25209 N. Highway 1 at Charlene Lane (past the Cleone grocery store) between mile marker 65.5 and 66. Look for signs to get to the property.
This should be a fun night and for a great cause.
If you'd like more information contact email@example.com
EMPLOYEE HEALTHCARE COSTS ON THE RISE?
SUPERVISOR GJERDE TO EMPLOYEES: ‘IT’S IN YOUR COURT’
by Mark Scaramella
A large and uncharacteristically loud contingent of County employees showed up Tuesday morning to demand some kind of pay raise. As usual, the Board responded with: there’s no money.
After one of the employees remarked that increasing health insurance contributions from employees was a de facto pay cut, Supervisor Dan Gjerde irritated the employees even further by replying:
“County employees are using the plan as a group more aggressively than city employees and therefore our plan is 25% more expensive. The only way the County can cut the cost of the healthcare plan is with the support of the employee bargaining groups to work with us to reduce the cost of the plan. So it’s back in your court.”
The room erupted in boos, groans and grumbles. Supervisor Chair Glenn McGourty tried to quiet the employees by saying, "OK. Come on. This isn’t the Jerry Springer Show.”
Employees Union President Julie Beardsley got a big round of applause and approving yelps when she told the Board, “If you don’t want to lead, get out of the way. You are bargaining in bad faith. It’s good that there’s no expensive lawyer [negotiating with the employee reps], but you have given no direction to your bargaining team.” She then marched to Board clerk’s desk and grandly handed a sheaf of unfair labor practice complaints that she said had been filed with the state.
There was some discussion about the County’s failure to collect taxes due which went nowhere.
A staffer from Public Health wanted to know what the County’s improvement plan was for adding existing parcels to the tax rolls and collecting taxes. He got no response at all. (More on this later.)
When First District Supervisor Candidate Carrie Shattuck announced that she would take a 50% pay cut if elected, the room erupted in applause.
After a couple dozen more employees presented their various dire financial complaints without any substantive response, they all filed out chanting, “No contract — no peace” over and over.
Later in the afternoon, after Sheriff Matt Kendall and his staff presented his new crime statistics and mapping software system, Supervisor McGourty, tried —unsuccessfully — to make a little joke: “It’s nice to get something positive from you, Matt.” Nobody but McGourty laughed.
Soon after that, McGourty cracked another “joke” in the direction of Supervisor Williams who had proposed a review and reform of the County’s civil service commission and hiring practices: “If we didn’t have you putting on agenda items,” said McGourty, “there wouldn’t be much to our meetings.” (More on this later also.)
CARRIE SHATTUCK, candidate for First District Supervisor, writes:
[Regarding our proposal that the County demand that the state pay for the jail expansion overrun]: The County received $25 million, the state maximum for the jail expansion. Your follow-up suggestion to "get it in writing", that there is no further state contribution, is a definite must.
[Regarding our proposal that the re-establishment of the Water Agency and associated consulting costs be postponed]: The water agency budget reflects only the state mandated programs and memberships, per Howard Dashiell, Director of Transportation.
[Per our recommendation that the County dispense with San Francisco lawyers to do their labor negotiations]: The County is not contracting outside counsel for labor negotiations this coming fiscal year, Cherie Johnson, in the CEO'S office is handling the negotiations. They may consult with an outside attorney at times, to make sure they're following the law, with a maximum of $30,000.
The County needs to have current default property tax reports. A tax auction has not taken place since 2019.
Per my website, votecarrie2024.com
Considering that the coming year’s budget (2023-2024) was balanced by using one time funds, which is not sustainable, and the Board did not even consider taking a cut themselves, I will, if elected, take a 50% reduction in the current Supervisor's (McGourty) salary, of $100,002.78 (2022-23) before retirement and benefits, to immediately help the County with its budget crisis. This Supervisor seat is not about the money or prestige for me, it is about OUR County, the people's home.
I have attached the current Board's salaries.
I WONDER what happened to these Boonville school beautification plans described below. It’s always seemed to me that a big contributor to the prevalent, and growing mass insanity we suffer in our doomed country is school architecture. Lock kids up in medium security-like structures for 12 years and…
UKIAH HIGH SCHOOL, a windowless Kafka-esque tube that seems to go on for miles, is an extreme example of crazy-making school design, not to mention the campus’s rounded off shrubbery and its big lawns. The total aesthetic of the place is a silent scream.
AT THE DECEMBER, ’97 MEETING of the school board, big plans — very big plans — for all three school sites were discussed by the school board and its lively, articulate architect, Mark Quattrocchi. Intelligent, witty presentations are such a rarity in the school board setting it’s always surprising when one occurs.
QUATTROCCHI, who spent his formative years in Mendocino where he was a classmate of AV’s ace teacher, Mitch Mendosa, took about an hour explaining what he had in mind in the way of enhancements. The crumbling and dispiriting classroom complexes at both the elementary and junior/senior school sites would have been transformed if Mr. Q’s plans, assuming they were approved and funded, would have been a giant step forward in school visuals.
THE LOCAL IRONY being that as late as 1956, the entire Anderson Valley school effort was housed in graceful old pre-war structures complete with arches, an oval for the high school marching band, big museum windows. Then the Gradgrinds took over, and from there on it was boxes — little boxes, long boxes, squat boxes and, of course, cancer-causing interiors.
MR. Q’S plans also emphasized a long overdue series of basic repairs to existing structures, much of which is just now being addressed by Superintendent Simson. The estimated cost in ’97 for all of it, including new construction of a combination gym and assembly room at the Elementary School, and a new community-friendly library building between the high school and the junior high, all to be completed in phases over a period of several years, was 16 million dollars, sources to be named later, but some of which will automatically be directed our way by the state out of existing upgrade funds.
WHAT SOLD ME on Mr. Q’s plans is his constant emphasis on making both school sites look and feel good while at the same time making them work in the mechanistic sense.
FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT:
Septic Ground Breaking. Friday June 30 9:00
We are trying to plan a little kid-centered septic ground breaking on Friday, June 30 at 9:00 a.m. I am awaiting confirmation from the contractor. If you can attend at the elementary school site it would be a festive moment as we start our bond construction and celebrate all of the local support we have had for our kids. Good stuff.
I will keep you posted. It will only take 15-30 minutes.
Louise Simson, Superintendent
Anderson Valley Unified School District
NEXT BOONVILLE QUIZ IN JULY
Excellent Quiz last week that resulted in ‘The Three Greys and a Ginger’ winning with a top ten all-time score! Now, with a fourth and fifth Thursday in June, we have a break until the first Thursday in July on the 6th. Hope to see you then, if not somewhere else before. Cheers, Steve Sparks, The Quizmaster.
THE AVA, MENDOCINO COUNTY'S ONLY GERIATRIC NEWSPAPER
PA WORKS IT OUT
City of Point Arena City Council Housing Workshop June 27, 2023
In-Person and via Zoom
View this email in your browser (https://mailchi.mp/6a050e7a1659/city-council-housing-workshop-june-27-2023?e=d0e3cdc057)
Upcoming Point Arena City Council Study Session Will Focus On Housing
The City of Point Arena is hosting a City Council study session at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 27th at 6:00 PM. The study session — which will be held both in-person and via Zoom — will focus on addressing the housing crisis within the community. The following topics will be addressed:
* Modifications to commercial and multi-family zoning districts to encourage more housing;
* Changes to the phasing requirements for the Hay Annexation area;
* Establishing standards for single room occupancy (SRO) units;
* Review of proposed modifications to the City’s LCP to implement policies in the City’s Housing Element and/or recent State legislation relating to housing.
The City of Point Arena is committed to addressing the pressing need for affordable and accessible housing within the community. Residents are encouraged to attend and contribute their insights and suggestions to the discussion.
What? Point Arena City Council Study Session Focused on Housing
When? Tuesday, June 27th at 6:00 PM
Where? Point Arena City Hall & via Zoom 451 School Street Point Arena, CA 95468
CATCH OF THE DAY, Tuesday, June 20, 2023
DANIELLE AVILA, Willows/Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JEFFREY CARVER, Willits. Grand theft, controlled substance, paraphernalia, bringing alcohol or drugs into jail.
GAGE GORMAN, Laytonville. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
LATOYA HOAGLEN, Laytonville. Burglary, elder abuse with great bodily harm or death, probation revocation.
DENA MORRIS, Ukiah. Parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)
RYAN OKERSTROM, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
TIMOTHY SHANOFF, Willits. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, criminal threats.
THE DIVINE DONUT
Important Message for Bruce Anderson
The Para Brahman Report
Awoke early at the Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center in sunny Ukiah, California. Following morning ablutions, ambled north to the Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op for a bean & cheese burrito and a cup of coffee. Took a multivitamin. Continued on to the Ukiah Public Library, and am in front of computer #5, tap, tap tapping away. Enjoyed watching the videos from the recent Turning Point Summit, which Earth First!er Andy Caffrey shared. Identifying only with the Divine Absolute, and not the body nor the mind, which are the instruments only. The body breathes in and breathes out. The mind thinks. The Divine Absolute is mysterious and has its ways. This is enlightenment. Here. Now. Forever! Contact me if you want to do anything.
Craig Louis Stehr
ONCE, THERE WAS A COUNTERCULTURE. Back in the ‘sixties, as the last of the old world crumbled, the marginal energies that had been building for nearly a century exploded into a revolution that still shapes us. The Man became the enemy. Strictures, limits, boundaries, norms, old ways: all would go. Free love, wild music, the end of the family, the end of all the old repressions and secrets and lies. The eclipse of religion by ‘spirituality’. The New Age. Aquarius rising. We had been hemmed in for too long.
People of my generation, the children of the boomers, we grew up in the wake of this. We never got to experience Haight-Ashbury or Swinging London, but we got to see the backwash: the broken homes, the new drug culture, the pop charts, the mockery of all authority, the easy sex and booze, the loosening of the rules, the strange sense that anything was permitted and yet nothing was centred or lasting. The counterculture had, in its own way, taken aim at the Machine, at Mammon, at the military-industrial complex, but it had stood on the ground of extreme personal liberation, and that ground turned out to be too swampy to hold. It took two decades for the hippies to become yuppies; three for the simple-lifers to become Silicon Valley billionaires; four for ‘imagine there’s no countries’ to become the policy of the WEF and the WTO. Now everything is hanging out everywhere. The counterculture has become the culture, and everyone is having a bad trip, man.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
There are popular songs that have been written about jets and planes… (‘All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go’…). There have been many songs written about sailing the Sea. Songs have been written about space travel… even UFOs (‘I’ve Seen The Saucers’…).
But nothing compares to the volume of songs written about Trains and traveling every corner of the Nation. From the old Blues songs of the South to the Folk songs of the 60s (‘I gotta Ramble!…’) and up to today in most every kind of music style… there are deep connections to traveling the true Veins of America… the rails from big cities to small towns and long empty stretches of parched deserts.
Why? Because deep in our spirit we sense something about this form of travel that is not just nostalgia or a corny silly desire to return to a simpler time of relative innocence. Train travel is in our National blood and DNA. The rails are our Nation’s bloodlines that deliver what the National Body needs to survive and prosper.
I WAS GLAD my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it's impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren't feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I've also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It's sure to be a phony.
— Roald Dahl
OUR CIVILIZATION IS SICK because all its systems ensure that human behavior is driven by profit, and health isn't profitable. Nobody gets rich from everyone staying healthy all the time. The gears of capitalism will still keep turning if its populace is made shallow and dull by bad education and crappy art made for profit. Billionaires aren't made by leaving forests and oceans unmolested, consuming less, mining less, drilling less, using less energy. The economy doesn't soar when the world is at peace and nations are working together in harmony.
If you programmed an advanced AI to arrange human behavior solely around extracting the maximum amount of profit possible using existing technologies, its world wouldn't look a whole lot different from the real one. We're being guided by unthinking, unfeeling systems that don't care about the good of our minds, our hearts, our health, or our biosphere, which will sacrifice all of the above to accomplish the one goal we've set them to accomplish.
It's just a dogshit way to run a civilization. It doesn't work. It's left us with a dying world full of crazy morons hurtling toward nuclear armageddon on multiple fronts. Our systems have failed as spectacularly as anything can fail.
It's simple really: we settled for capitalism as the status quo system because it's an efficient way to churn out a lot of stuff and create a lot of wealth, but now we're churning out too much stuff too quickly and society is enslaved by the wealthy. So now new systems are needed.
— Caitlin Johnstone
by James Kunstler
“Team Brandon has also made the USA utterly toxic to 80% of humanity. Sort of what they accused Trump of doing but they actually did it! LOL. They are the gift that keeps on giving.” — Jacob Dreizin
Strange doings at a strange time in a strange land. Videos of widespread military vehicle maneuvers around our nation popped up on the Web at mid-weekend while the American citizenry went about its holiday weekend business (including Father’s Day revels and “Juneteenth” celebration mass shootings): Scenes of armored personnel carriers rolling down Walnut Street in downtown Philly; B2 bomber wings over Minnesota; Tank columns galumphing along an Idaho highway… leading to widespread suspicions that something untoward is up. Durned if I know what it is.
Among things one can know: The “Joe Biden” presidency is whirling around the drain in plain sight, and with it, likely, the Globalist hopes and dreams of making everybody eat bugs while they take away everything you own. Last week, audiotapes surfaced of the main parties to the Ukraine grift (Biden and Poroshenko) working things out in 2016 over the phone in “JB’s” final days as vice-president. Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee has got its mitts on Biden family bank records galore detailing the abstruse money-laundering activities that were run through obscure European banks and innumerable Biden shell companies. Well, sonofabitch…!
It’s getting hard even for Democrats to ignore the accumulating evidence of the Biden family’s global grift operation, and “JB’s” obvious advancing mental deterioration, provoking moves that should lead to his ejection from office. Last week, their captive mainstream news media broadcast a cavalcade of embarrassing public idiocies committed by the Commander in Chief — declaring “God save the Queen” incongruously at the end of a Gun Safety Summit in Connecticut; groping actress Eva Longoria’s boobs after a White House movie screening; cracking a weird joke about the “Philadelphia girl” in his bed (Dr. Jill Biden); being introduced at an I-95 bridge collapse event by brain-damaged PA Senator John Fetterman who tossed up a word salad about the federal “delegadation” aiming to fix “infructure,” while dressed-up looking like Uncle Fester out of The Addams Family. The indignity of it all was really something to behold.
You understand, “Joe Biden’s” reelection campaign is another rank hoax, yet another trip laid on the American public by a desperate, degenerate Democratic Party that doesn’t know what to do next with public opinion souring on it. There’s no way this gibbering near-corpse can run again. He can’t even perform as a puppet anymore. He’s a broke-down engine pulling a train of failure, perfidy, and treason five miles long behind him. The Ukraine war project he presides over looks more and more like an effort to conceal and cover-up his family’s bribery schemes by laying waste to the pitiful chump of a foreign land that went along with the grift — and which, anyway, is winding up as yet another American military humiliation with the Russians finishing off what’s left of Ukraine’s army in the failed “spring offensive.”
Do you suppose that all these military vehicle movements around the country in recent days signal a constitutional crisis in the offing, necessitating martial law? Let me lay it out: Absolutely no one believes that Vice-president Kamala Harris is up to the job of stepping-in when “Joe Biden” gets bum-rushed out of the White House. Nor, I’m sure, are they willing to force her to resign hastily without a substitute vice-president (say, Gavin Newsom) in place — a cumbersome process that requires approval by both the House and Senate. But if Harris were flat-out forced to resign, then Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would automatically become president.
Mr. McCarthy is, arguably, just another houseboy of the now-heinous administrative state (or deep state, or permanent bureaucracy, or blob, as it’s sometimes called). But he is not a Democrat, and is subject to the fractious pressures in the Republican Party, and could plausibly be induced to fire-and-replace post-haste the whole honking host of seditious rogues running the executive agencies — from AG Merrick Garland, to FBI Director Chris Wray, Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas, Treasury Secretary Yellen… every last one of them — which could even lead to prosecutions of these scoundrels.
Any way you cut it, it looks like the sudden catastrophic downfall of the Democratic Party, an existential crisis that would amount ineluctably to one possible outcome: nominate Bobby Kennedy, Jr. or die. But then, what would Mr. Kennedy do about all the remaining bad actors in the Party of Chaos? My guess is that almost all of them down to the rank-and-file would snap out of the mass formation psychosis they’ve been locked in for seven years and completely flip, denouncing the tyrannical madness that their deposed leadership inflicted on our country. They might even believe it never happened, or that they were not responsible for it, like the whole thing was no more than a bad dream.
Or maybe, what we’re seeing in all these military movements is the prelude to a real live military coup d’état? Just sayin’….
In April, 2023, Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) Kathie Breault was indicted in the Eastern States District Federal Court for “Conspiracy to Defraud the United States” for giving vaccination cards to people who did not receive Covid-19 vaccinations. Her defense is that the vaccinations were ineffective and harmful, and to administer them would violate the Hippocratic oath of health professionals (First do no harm). Her legal battle against a dishonest and vindictive federal government will require lawyer’s fees that exceed her ability to pay — a reminder that “the process is the punishment.”
Kathie has also been accused of “professional misconduct” by the New York State Licensing Board for prescribing Ivermectin via telehealth visits in July 2021. Many other medical practitioners across the United States have been similarly persecuted and some have lost their licenses to practice. Kathie has been under investigation by New York’s Office of Professional Discipline since March 2022. No decision has been reached as of May 2023.
THE IMMINENT EXTRADITION OF JULIAN ASSANGE and the Death of Journalism
Julian Assange’s legal options have nearly run out. He could be extradited to the U.S. this week. Should he be convicted in the U.S., any reporting on the inner workings of power will become a crime.
by Chris Hedges
The extradition of Julian will be the next step in the slow-motion execution of the publisher and founder of WikiLeaks and one of the most important journalists of our generation. It will ensure that Julian spends the rest of his life in a U.S. prison. It will create legal precedents that will criminalize any investigation into the inner workings of power, even by citizens from another country. It will be a body blow to our anemic democracy, which is rapidly metamorphosing into corporate totalitarianism.
I am as stunned by this full frontal assault on journalism as I am by the lack of public outrage, especially by the media. The very belated call from The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País — all of whom published material provided by WikiLeaks — to drop the extradition charges is too little too late. All of the public protests I have attended in defense of Julian in the U.S. are sparsely attended. Our passivity makes us complicit in our own enslavement.…
UKRAINE, TUESDAY, 20 MAY
Moscow launched “another massive air attack” on Kyiv Monday using Iran-made drones, Ukraine’s military said, marking the second time this month that Russia has used those drones against the capital.
In the west, a fire erupted after a key infrastructure facility in the region of Lviv was hit Tuesday morning, and Russian shelling struck several buildings in southeastern Zaporizhzhia city and surrounding suburbs, according to Ukraine's military.
On the southern and eastern front lines, both Ukraine and Russia claim the other has seen heavy losses. Russia says Ukraine’s attempts at offensive actions have not been successful, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that his country has not lost any of its positions.
ON WRITING: AFTER FIVE TRIES, GIVE UP
by Matt Taibbi
Every good writer is at least a little overconfident. Absent the conviction that you can always say just what you want with economy and style, you wouldn’t be in this racket. Now and then the over-estimation shows. You will find yourself trapped in a cycle of building and tearing down misshapen sandcastle-paragraphs on the way to an ingenious passage you’re sure is just ahead. It’s not ahead. You’re lost.
Satan will sometimes amuse himself by telling a writer after hours of flailing that he or she actually got the passage right the first time. Psst! Try that first thing again! If you catch yourself listening as the Evil One whispers such encouragement about a paragraph you rejected twice or three times already — “Hey, maybe that dogpile I threw away two hours ago wasn’t so bad” — quickly cross yourself and delete the whole page. I find if I can’t express myself in five tries, it usually means what I’m trying to say is so rancid in its stupidity that no amount of wordsmithing will hide the smell, and failure is my subconscious rebelling and screaming epithets to give up. Do so without shame.
* * *
The Anthology of Funny
I’m old enough now to worry about leaving things for my sons to read when I’m gone. Eventually I’ll have to explain how I went from being a depressed teenager who hated authority figures and was addicted to life-imperiling activities (and drugs, eventually), to being the near-functional adult they know, whose authority problem is whittled to manageable levels.
In my mind’s eye I imagine sitting them on a knee and saying, “Boys, finding a way to monetize your severest personality disorders is the promise of the American dream.” But, the image doesn’t work. For one thing, by the time they’re old enough to understand, they’ll be too huge to sit like that. Also, it’s the wrong message.
I went from unwell to happy by reading, but it took 30 years. The process could have been shortened if someone had picked the right books for me at the start. Hence the idea of putting together an anthology. If any of my children have the misfortune to turn out like me, this letter from the past may help provide a map to an approximation of sanity. The first book that turned out to matter in my adult life featured a short story called How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials.
I was fourteen and disinclined to anything taught in school. I still suspect many curricula are designed to turn kids off to reading. Some teachers view reading as an exercise in torturing a book until it screams and confesses its “message.” I recall being assigned, too early, texts by the likes of Chaucer or William Faulkner, whose pages seemed indecipherable even to the adults “teaching” them. In class, we’d be asked: “What is the author trying to say?”
If you have to ask what an author is trying to say, it seems clear he or she is not saying it well. But instructors insisted a good book was something not immediately enjoyable to read, containing an Important Message written in oblique language so its meaning could be divined via an ennobling ritual of painstaking research and group analysis. This seemed the same thing as Catholic church, another operation I was souring on. One of the few teachers I liked gave me an old copy of Great Russian Short Stories, edited by Norris Houghton. This teacher was a funny person who would often interrupt class to ask if he had something on his nose (he didn’t), and it was rumored that he had a dentist’s chair in his basement, for no reason. The rumor turned out to be true, as we learned on a class visit to his home. Whatever this teacher was about, I was drawn to it, so I made an effort with the book.
I liked the Houghton paperback. Its page-edges were stained a silly turtle-green. (These things matter.) The cover illustration featured a cartoon Tsarist double-eagle, like a Joe Camel logo for “Russian literature.” The book was also beaten from use, to the point of being soft as a baby’s blanket to the touch. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, who became Real as its boy-owner played with and adored it, when a book is worn it usually means it was loved by someone, and is therefore often pleasurable to the touch. To this day I distrust old books that feel new, a la the “Great Literature” sets some people buy to fill shelves, with pages freshly cut or even stuck together from unuse ten years later . Speed-flipping though the anthology, I stopped on How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials, by someone named Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin. It was a few pages long, appeared to be nearly all dialogue, and low on long words. It began in spoof fable language:
Once upon a time there were two Officials. They were both empty-headed, and so they found themselves one day suddenly transported to an uninhabited isle, as if on a magic carpet.
They had passed their whole life in a Government Department, where records were kept; had been born there, bred there, grown old there, and consequently hadn’t the least understanding for anything outside of the Department; and the only words they knew were: “With assurances of the highest esteem, I am your humble servant.”
Having introduced his fairy tale heroes, Saltykov-Shchedrin described their surprise dilemma:
Waking up on the uninhabited isle, they found themselves lying under the same cover. At first, of course, they couldn’t understand what had happened to them, and they spoke as if nothing extraordinary had taken place.
“What a peculiar dream I had last night, your Excellency,” said the one Official. “It seemed to me as if I were on an uninhabited isle.” Scarcely had he uttered the words, when he jumped to his feet. The other Official also jumped up.
“Good Lord, what does this mean! Where are we?” they cried out in astonishment.
A teenage boy who can’t connect with a story whose premise is Morons Awake on Desert Isle is probably not going to read at all. I had total buy-in by the first few paragraphs.
Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Tsarist functionaries — Russian is an onomatopoeic language and the word for such bureaucrats, chinovniki, sounds like what they are, “pea-brained pseudo-people” — spent their whole lives in copying offices and couldn’t begin to figure out how to take care of themselves. Where does food come from? How does wheat that grows out of the ground become a hot roll? Why does the sun rise in the East and set in the West, instead of the other way around? (That’s easy, one of the gentlemen decides. Because we always go to our offices when the sun rises, and go home when it sets, and we couldn’t do it the other way around).
They search the island for food, and though they find brooks overflowing with fish, and woods thick with partridges, they don’t know how to catch any of these things. The only thing they can get hands on is an old copy of the Moscow Gazette, and who can eat that? They start weighing the percentage in eating boots or gloves. Next, madness of the type that really does occur in people dying of hunger hits these fellows, only it sets in not after a week of wandering a desert or floating at sea, but a few fleeting minutes of discomfort:
The two Officials stared at each other fixedly. In their glances gleamed an evil-boding fire, their teeth chattered and a dull groaning issued from their breasts. Slowly they crept upon each other and suddenly they burst into a fearful frenzy. There was a yelling and groaning, the rags flew about, and the Official who had been teacher of handwriting bit off his colleague’s order and swallowed it. However, the sight of blood brought them both back to their senses.
The brush with cannibalism chastens the friends for a moment. They try to talk through their dilemma, but no matter what they discuss, conversation turns to food. Making what seems like the first good decision of the story, they elect to stop talking altogether, which grants them just enough self-possession to read that Moscow Gazette Saltykov-Shchedrin skillfully introduced a few paragraphs before.
A sign you’re dealing with a master is when you see the joke coming from miles off and it’s still funny when it hits. Once the Officials “began to read eagerly,” you knew in your gut what they’d find on the page: Banquet Given By The Mayor
The table was set for one hundred persons. The magnificence of it exceeded all expectations… The golden sturgeon from Sheksna and the silver pheasant from the Caucasian woods held a rendezvous with strawberries so seldom to be had in our latitude in winter…
The two are on the verge of total despair when one of the gentlemen comes up with a solution: find a muzhik, i.e. a manservant. That’s what they’d do at home, after all.
The difference between a good and a bad writer is that instead of tracking with logic, the good writer’s inventions track with the unpredictable arc of the universe. It makes sense that clerks marooned on an island would pine for domestic service, but it takes genius to see a servant would in fact be there. Throughout history, outnumbered nitwits have been surrounded by a limitless supply of supplicating skilled helpers, and the reason for this is… Well, as Russians would say, Bog znayet shto, i.e. God knows why. Saltykov-Shchedrin captures how his idiots save the day by remembering this eternal truth just in the nick of time, at which point help for the marooned pair magically appears.
“Hm, a muzhik,” says one. “But where are we to fetch one from, if there is no muzhik here?”
The other replies with flawless aristocratic reasoning:
“Why shouldn’t there be a muzhik here...? There certainly must be a muzhik hiding here somewhere, so as to get out of working…” They wandered about on the island… until finally a concentrated smell of black bread and old sheep skin assailed their nostrils... Under a tree was a colossal muzhik lying fast asleep with hands under his head. It was clear that to escape his duty to work he had impudently withdrawn to this island. The indignation of the Officials knew no bounds.
They officials wake the muzhik up, chastise him for laziness, and start ordering him around. Caught out, the servant resigns himself to his fate: “He had to work.” Next thing, the officials are eating huge meals and warming by a fire. The muzhik asks if he can rest. Officials generously grant permission, as soon as their savior makes a “good strong cord.” Saltykov squeezes in a last bit of mischief describing how expertly the muzhik lays “wild hemp stalks” in water and beats them, fashioning from nature’s raw materials the rope his new masters will use to tie him to a tree.
This is where the schoolteacher interjects in triumph: “See! The story has a message after all! Saltykov-Shchedrin is making an important point about class exploitation! He depicts the working class forging the very chains the bourgeoisie uses to wrap it in submission!” And so on. I’m not sure. As I hear that imaginary teacher’s voice, I imagine him stopping mid-scold to slurp a sip of the fragrant hot soup that, by the end, the industrious muzhik has learned to cook “with his bare hands.” The story is too real to be preachy. To me this is mostly just a hilarious tale about how the world tends to bend toward jackasses, who seem always to end up in charge even if they can’t find their backsides with a map. The story ends when the men order the muzhik to construct them a ship that takes them back to their home in St. Petersburg. Problem solved! Saltykov-Shchedrin is brutal to his clerks, but makes them out to be as much victims as monsters. Like perma-scrolling New Yorkers who walk up and down 6th Avenue so engrossed in Current Thing controversies that they’ll walk groin-first into parking meters or traffic even, the ink-stained clerks of the Tsarist era had heads so pumped full of propaganda that there was scarcely room in there for anything but directions to the office.
Today’s netizens are the same. They can conjure six different Amish porn sites in a snap, but would die of exposure if left outside without phones for a night, even surrounded by flint and firewood.
Saltykov-Shchedrin had the misfortune to live and work in an era that produced some of the greatest prose artists of the modern age, from Tolstoy to Gogol to Dostoyevsky and Turgenev. He was also cursed to live in an era of Russian history overpopulated with some of the most pretentious literary critics ever, many of whom lauded the “literature of social intent” and became intellectual forefathers of one of the unfunniest ideas ever, Bolshevism.
In the assessment of such critics Saltykov-Shchedrin was often demerited for “laughing for laughter’s sake.” It’s one of a writer’s greatest compliments.
As a young person all I knew was that his story took a few minutes to read and made me laugh out loud a half-dozen times. It didn’t make me hate people, but did suggest taking them less seriously. If you’re beginning a reading life, this small, perfect, hilarious fable a good place to start.