- 253 Fire
- James Nickless
- Pet Clara
- Shelter Stats
- Brown Sisters
- Primary Voting
- Psychiatric Beds
- Neighbor Arrested
- Dental Chaperone
- Hungry i
- Defensive Thinking
- Kezar Stadium
- Covelo Book
- Yesterday's Catch
- Subscription Cancellation
- Close Driving
- Marbut Undercover
- Tipping Point
- Peyote Religion
- Job Security
- Browner Shade
- Real Danger
- Wall Costs
- Trump U
- Progressive Tax
- Naked Verdi
- Paid Nothing
- Proper Impeachment
- Found Object
SHOWERS spread across the area this morning and will continue through roughly Tuesday afternoon, bringing light rain and high elevation snow. A stronger storm will bring heavy rain and heavy mountain snow Wednesday through Friday, with lower snow levels and travel impacts expected. (NWS)
STRUCTURE FIRE OFF HIGHWAY 253 YESTERDAY AFTERNOON
January 10, 1927 – December 29, 2019
James Nickless passed away peacefully on the morning of December 29, just shy of his 93rd birthday.
Born January 10, 1927 in Indiana, he was raised and spent his early years in Ohio. In 1944 he enlisted in the Army Air Corp with the hopes of training as a pilot. That dream was put on hold in December 1944 because of the “Battle of the Bulge” in Europe as the Army needed foot soldiers. However, Jim was sent to the Philippine Islands in early 1945 and saw combat as an infantry rifleman on Leyte Island. Jim was preparing to be deployed to Japan when the world learned of a new weapon which brought about the surrender of Japan. He was discharged from military service after serving briefly in the occupation of Japan.
Following his military service, Jim lost no time in furthering his education and fulfilling his dream of becoming a pilot, earning private, commercial and glider pilot ratings. He attended Cal Aero Technical Institute, School of Aviation Mechanics, and had a long and successful career in aviation maintenance, testing and analysis throughout the United States and overseas. For a brief period, Jim worked with the Flying Tiger Line, the first scheduled cargo airline, a major military charter operator during the Cold War. Jim served as a Field Representative for North American Aviation on the F-86 fighter program in Korea and the F-100 Super Sabre, a supersonic jet fighter.
Jim was a long-time member of American Legion Post 385 Boonville. His love of flying was lifelong and led to his living on an airport in Boonville, where he moved with his wife Jeanne in 1987 following his retirement. He voluntarily provided many maintenance tasks on the Boonville Airport for many years, considering it a labor of love. He owned and flew a variety of aircraft and flew regularly until the age of 86. He was a strong supporter of general aviation and maintained memberships in several flying organizations, was an active member of the local EAA Chapter 1027, and was a founding member of the OFFA (Old Farts Flying Association) of Boonville.
Jim is survived by three sons, Michael, Patrick and Mark. His loving wife of 38 years, Jeanne, and her three sons, Steve, Warren and Paul.
Special thanks are extended to the many friends in the Boonville community who came together to support Jim during his last years following recovery from cancer surgery and treatment. And, special thanks to Anderson Valley Health Center, Anderson Valley Ambulance and Phoenix Hospice. A memorial is planned at the Boonville Airport, corner of Estate Drive and Airport Road, on Sunday, February 9, 2020 at noon. Main dish and salad will be catered. Additional food items welcomed.
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Clara is an adorable older gal. She's at least 10 years old but has the personality of a dog much younger. Her fluffy coat and sweet, gentle ways will win your heart. Clara weighs just 7 1/2 pounds. Our little munchkin recently saw the shelter "dentist" and all her teeth have been removed. But now she is pain-free and happy and does not need dentures! Clara is eligible for the shelter's SENIOR DOG DISCOUNT.
The Ukiah Animal Shelter is located at 298 Plant Road in Ukiah, and adoption hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit our website for information about our canine and feline guests and all of our services, programs and events: For more information about adoptions please call 707-467-6453.
UKIAH SHELTER STATS FOR THE YEAR 2019:
Cats: Adopted 324; returned to original location 5; returned to owner 31, trapped/neutered/released 77; transferred 83.
Dogs: Adopted 422, returned to owner 507, transferred 152.
Livestock: Adopted 25; returned to owner 6; transferred 1.
Many thanks to the mighty AVA for your ongoing help!
SF LANDMARKS, THE BROWN SISTERS
KATHY WYLIE REMINDS US,
How to cast your vote in the March 3 2020 Presidential primary
HOW to cast a vote in the March primary (spoiler alert - its a little more complicated than before):
The California presidential primary will not use the familiar “Top Two” ballot; When you vote in the presidential primary (March 3, 2020, it’s back to the old partisan system: Democrats on the Democratic ballot, Republicans on the Republican ballot, and so on.
Registered Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians and other party members, rest assured. You are guaranteed a primary ballot with all of your party’s presidential contenders on it. But voters who don’t belong to a political party — the fastest growing voting block in the state — will have to navigate a more daunting set of obstacles to cast a presidential primary vote; these voters do have to specifically request the ballot they want.
MENDO LOOKING AT ADVENTIST PARTNERSHIP FOR MENTAL HEALTH FACILITIES/SERVICES
President Jason Wells of Adventist Health submitted a letter to the Supervisors last month proposing that the county designate funds for remodeling part of the Mendocino Coast District Hospital for use as an inpatient psychiatric 10-bed unit. The proposal also asked the Supervisors and the Measure B Committee to use the empty six-bed former intensive care unit in Ukiah for additional in-county psychiatric beds to solve money and spacing problems.
FOUR COPS appeared mere feet from the AVA bunker early Thursday afternoon to arrest this guy for felony domestic abuse. We don't know the man, but the way we live now, even here in the tiny population of Boonville, the peoplescape has changed so thoroughly and so often we don't know most of our neighbors. In this case, I knew the grandfather — great grandfather? — of the youngish woman who seems to have inherited the property, but this guy? Total stranger probably associated with one of the young women who live next door, all of them with small children. To be charged with felony abuse, Macho Man probably hospitalized his wife, mother of his children, neighbor of mine.
A READER WRITES: On my way out of the dentist’s office in Ukiah last week I was surprised to see a good-sized Mendo deputy accompanying a middle-aged toothless tweaker-looking woman in a gray jumpsuit with a big grin on her face showing very few teeth. I couldn’t tell if they were on their way in or out. (The cop and his ward, not her teeth.)
HUNGRY i, KEARNY 7 COLUMBUS, 1959
GOING OVER AN OLD End of Year Award from the 1990s, we found an award we made called “Educator of the Year” which went to a County School Board candidate from Willits named Bob Hagen. Mr. Hagen said he was a retired US Air Force civilian administrator. When asked what he thought about spending priorities which were heavily skewed in favor of Defense at the expense of education, Mr. Hagen replied: “I worked for the Department of Defense for 30 years and we’ve got to have a strong defense. Because just think about it for a minute: if we didn’t have a strong defense, we wouldn’t have any kids; and without any kids there wouldn’t be any need for any schools.”
When asked about his lack of involvement or knowledge about County schools and the seat he was running for, Mr. Hagen said, “I just want you to consider one thing: Does a person really have to know anything in order to run?”
AS I SETTLED in to watch the 49ers take on the Vikings, it occurs to me that I belong to an exclusive club — people who saw the 49ers play at Kezar, me in 1950 or so for the first time.
THEN IT WAS OUT TO CANDLESTICK and then to Santa Clara, a place so far from San Francisco I didn't know if it lay before Palo Alto or after on Highway 101. Not that I care because, even with the offer of a free ticket, I wasn't about to devote an entire day and part of an evening getting in and outta there, wherever it is. I'd also vowed to stop watching pro football when the NFL went to special timeouts for advertising, thus disrupting the flow of the game. But here I am with the rest of the Bay Area's frontrunners looking forward to Saturday's game via television, having finally figured out that it's possible to tape the game then, instead of tuning in at 1:30, tuning in at 3:30 to fast-forward past the commercials.
MY OWN FOOTBALL career ended with high school where, tall and skinny and slow, I didn't fit anywhere so they put me at center where I took a regular beating whenever the coach — there was only one in those days — decided there was nothing left to lose. But he, a math teacher named Dick Miller, did give me an occasional shot at gridiron glory at quarterback because I could throw a football farther than the regular qb. The idea was that the fastest guy on the team, Freddie Thomas, a state finalist in the sprints, would "streak" downfield from his half-back position and I would heave the ball as far as I could in his general direction. We tried it several times, never once connecting or even coming close. My preferred sport was baseball, which we played year-round in San Francisco's semi-pro leagues between the winter rains. Basketball? Played a little in junior college but not in high school because I didn't like the high school coach, whose name I can't remember other than recalling that for some adolescent reason he annoyed me more than I'm sure I annoyed him.
RECOMMENDED READING: Families, A Pictorial History of Round Valley, 1864 to 1938, A Project of The Friends of Round Valley Public Library, Covelo. Anyone interested in the history of Mendocino County will want to have a copy of this very nicely produced book which, apart from its copious and fascinating collection of photos of early Covelo and its residents, also contains many passages from memoirs and newspapers of the time illuminating the history of a very small place with a very big history. The book has been steered to completion by Elmer Bauer and Floyd Barney (father of Mendo Sheriff’s Lieutenant Shannon Barney), Covelo old timers whose roots go back almost to the middle of the 19th century when the first white slavers and outlaws — since upgraded to pioneer and explorer status — stumbled into Round Valley. I was especially fascinated by excerpts taken from the memories of Judson Liftchild, Covelo’s first doctor who seems to have arrived in town in the 1880s. Of a time when educated people not only were expected to be able to write and talk, Liftchild, as many educated people of the time, wrote in a vivid prose which, like no other I’ve read on local history, enables us to feel what it was like in this unique, and uniquely volatile little community in eastern Mendocino County.
“CARTER ROHRBAUGH was the opposition lawyer and indulged in a number of sallies at my expense, in what I thought was rather poor taste, and I resorted to a little sarcasm myself, to the great enjoyment of the spectators, who always expected to be entertained whenever Judge Redwine’s court was in session. To my client’s surprise, as well as my own, as I really believe he was guilty, he was acquitted by the jury and Brad was returned to society, his remaining period of existence being spent in getting drunk and sobering up again. Poor Carter died under mysterious circumstances several years ago, having been shot while riding home one night. It was probably accidental, as he was too passive a character to incur enemies and passed through life as easily as possible, being satisfied with plenty of smoking materials and a book. He received an excellent education but lacked initiative. And there was little in Round Valley to stir his ambition, so he found refuge among his books, becoming a sort of literary hermit.”
BAUER AND BARNEY have made a large contribution to County history with this wonderful book which is available from, and whose proceeds go to support, the Round Valley Public Library, P.O. Box 620, Covelo, Ca 95428.
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 11, 2020
ALOYSA ANDERSON, Redwood Valley. DUI, misdemeanor hit&run.
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON, Willits. False personation of another, stolen property.
TIMOTHY BANUELOS, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ALBERTO CEJA-CEJA, Ukiah. DUI, probation revocation.
MICHAEL CURTIS, Dallas, Texas/Ukiah. DUI.
THOMAS CUTHBERT, Ukiah. Battery with serious injury, child endangerment.
HEATHER DEWOLF, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, failure to appear. (Frequent flyer.)
ERNEST ELLIOTT JR., Hopland. Battery, domestic abuse.
MATTHEW HILL, Orland/Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, evidence tampering, disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.
JODI HODGES, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
AARON JOHNSON, Laytonville. DUI, failure to appear.
LAMBERTO MAGANA-PEREZ, Boonville. Domestic abuse.
MICHAEL MCGEE, Ukiah. Controlled substance, metal knuckles.
JESSE MOON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.
MARIO PONTELLO, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ROGER SCHOENAHL, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JULIO SIFUENTES, Covelo. Probation revocation.
FOREST SNYDER, Fort Bragg. DUI.
September 27, 1974
Woody Creek, CO
David Obey at the main Rolling Stone office in San Francisco has forwarded your letter of Sept 18 to me—the one where you cancelled your subscription to RS because of my “vulgarity.” … and I also want to tell you right now that I never answer mail from readers; but I couldn’t resist talking back to a 91-year-old lady full of zip—and despite the prevailing ignorance of your letter, that zip came thru in every line. If I ever get to be 91, I hope I’ll be as mean as you are.
In any case. I’m enclosing the most recent RS, with my compliments—and despite your nasty language about me, I’m sure you’ll read it. You’ve lived long enough to know that words are just tools, for a writer, and when I write about Richard Nixon I’ll use all the tools I can get my hands on, to make people like you think about why Richard Nixon was elected by a landslide in 1972. My primary idea, whenever I sit down to write, is to get the attention of people like you, and make you think—and your letter of cancellation to Obey tells me I was successful in your case.
If you read the enclosed piece (“The Scum Also Rises") with any kind of wit, you’ll see that what you react to as “vulgarity” is only a prod to make you listen . . . and if you disagree, well … I’ve done what I can, eh? You can run, Carrie, but you can’t hide … not even after 91 years; and if you voted for that cheap, thieving little bastard, then you deserve what you got.
If not, I guess you’re on my side—but I doubt if we’ll ever meet. Anyway, I admire your balls in canceling your subscription to Rolling Stone … But I get a lot of letters from people with balls, and not many from people with brains.
Why don’t you read the enclosed article and write me one from your head next time?
Hunter S. Thompson
TRUMP’S HOMELESS CZAR WENT UNDERCOVER IN FRESNO. NOW HE’S MAKING PLANS FOR CALIFORNIA
Before President Donald Trump picked him to reshape the nation’s programs for the homeless, Robert Marbut Jr. had already built a complicated legacy as a consultant in California cities and across the country.
AUSTRALIA FIRES SIGNAL GLOBAL WARMING TIPPING POINT IS NOW
As extreme wildfires burn across large swaths of Australia, scientists say we're witnessing how global warming can push forest ecosystems past a point of no return.
GOOD MORNING, PORTLAND
THE UNPREDICTABLE CACTUS
The trade in peyote beyond its natural habitat is probably as ancient as its use by humans. The buttons were dried in the desert sun and easily transported. The Apache adopted the use of horses in 1680, which allowed them to conduct raids into Mexico, and they seem to have been the progenitors of the peyote religion that spread north into the United States in the 19th century. Its songs have been linked to the Lipan Apache, who in the early 19th century lived at the northern edge of peyote’s natural habitat, near Laredo, Texas, and who may have been the earliest distributors of peyote among the plains tribes. “The many Comanche, Apache and Kiowa tales of the discovery of peyote all place it in the distant south,”says Mike Jay, author of “Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic.”
By the middle of the 19th century, Laredo had become a hub of the barter-based peyote trade. As the US government forced tribes from their homelands and deported them to reservations, peyote gatherings became a pan-tribal assertion of spiritual resistance. “‘Rooted in ritual practices older by millennia than the United States,” Jay writes, they “opened a path to the survival of Indian identity.”
In 1890 James Mooney, a Smithsonian Institution ethnographer who was the first white man to document a peyote meeting, noted the attendance of Kiowa, Comanche and Apache people. Peyote’s greatest advocate at the time was the Comanche leader Quanah Parker, who codified some of the religion’s rites and served as the “roadman,” or facilitator of ceremonies, in peyote meetings with the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Pawnee, Osage and Ponca. Both Parker and Mooney believed in peyote’s potential to, as Jay puts it, “square the circle of tradition and assimilation.” They shared a strategy for presenting it to white audiences “as a medicine and a sacrament rather than an intoxicant, and a companion rather than a rival to the Christian faith in which privately neither of them believed.” Quanah Parker gave Mooney a 50-pound bag of dried peyote buttons, which, when distributed, enabled the first scientific trials and early personal experiments, in the US and Europe.
Peyote reached the attention of the pharmaceutical industry in 1887, after a doctor in Texas bought some from a Mexican supplier and published an article in a medical journal about its stimulating effects. Parke-Davis, the US’s leading supplier of cocaine (which it marketed as “the most important therapeutic discovery of the age”), was looking for alternative “vegetable drugs” because cocaine’s habit-forming potential was beginning to gain attention. They began marketing a tincture extract of peyote in 1893, recommending its use as a “depressant, respiratory stimulant and cardiac tonic.” The first scientific trial was conducted two years later, on a 27-year-old chemist. After eating three peyote buttons, he described “a train of delightful visions such as no human ever enjoyed under normal conditions.” But as more people tried peyote, it became clear how unpredictable its effects were. Not everyone experienced “visions,” and for some the primary sensation was prolonged nausea. William James, eager to have a mystical experience, instead had a day of vomiting and diarrhea. The insights into altered states of consciousness he describes in his “On the Varieties of Religious Experience” came from nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
Westerners interpreted the peyote experience very differently from the practitioners of the peyote religion, where the focus was “ritual, song and prayer, and to dissect one’s private sensations was to miss the point.” Writers such as Havelock Ellis, who published an essay on his peyote experiences in the Lancet in 1897 (it’s likely that he also administered the substance to his friends W.B. Yeats and Arthur Symons), instead tended to focus on its visual effects. Ellis described “the brilliance, delicacy and variety of the colors” and “their lovely and various textures.” Peyote reached Europe in tandem with the X-ray, cinema and electric lights, Jay notes, and “nothing delighted the eye of the mescal eater so much as the new electrical sublime.”
The psychoactive ingredient in peyote was identified that same year, 1897, by the German chemist Arthur Heffter. He extracted five distinct alkaloids from the dried cactus and ingested them one by one, monitoring their effects. The most abundant, the compound he named “mescaline,” produced effects like those he had experienced after eating peyote buttons. The root word “mescal” was applied in the 19th century to the agave spirit we now call “mezcal,” to the red “mescal bean” (Sophora secundiflora, a seed that was ingested by some Mexican groups as a medicine) and to the peyote cactus. It was used, Jay says, as “a portmanteau term for all local plant intoxicants” in northern Mexico and the American Southwest.
In the early 20th century, peyote and mescaline were embraced by mystics, who saw them as a way to stave off the alienation of modernity and what Jay calls “‘the loss of the sacred” and “‘the tyranny of reason.” Aleister Crowley used peyote in his séances. Frederick Madison Smith, the grandson of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, explored it as a possible means of achieving religious ecstasy. Smith also lobbied against the prohibition of the peyote religion, which had grown since the 1890s and was now attracting opposition. After a bill to prohibit peyote was narrowly voted down in the Senate, representatives of the Cheyenne, Oto, Ponca, Comanche, Kiowa and Apache tribes gathered to sign the charter of incorporation of the Native American Church in 1918, which they hoped would give the peyote religion First Amendment protections. Despite repeated attempts at state and federal prosecution in the decades that followed, the church successfully defended itself until a Supreme Court case in the 1990s rescinded its rights. A backlash to the court’s decision resulted in the 1994 amendment to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which protects the church’s right to peyote in federal law, though attempts at local bans have continued.
— Emily Witt, London Review of Books
I WILL NOT SUPPOSE any premature decay of the mind or body; but I must reluctantly observe that two causes, the abbreviation of time, and the failure of hope, will always tinge with a browner shade the evening of life.
— Edward Gibbon
IF I WERE A MEMBER of the class that rules, I would post men in all the neighborhoods of the nation, not to spy upon or club rebellious workers, not to break strikes or disrupt unions; but to ferret out those who no longer respond to the system in which they live. I would make it known that the real danger does not stem from those who seek to grab their share of wealth through force, or from those who try to defend their property through violence, for both of these groups, by their affirmative acts, support the values of the system in which they live. The millions that I would fear are those who do not dream of the prizes that the nation holds forth, for it is in them, though they may not know it, that a revolution has taken place and is biding its time to translate itself into a new and strange way of life.
—Richard Wright, Black Boy
I sent my brother a copy of the book, Trump U - The Inside Story Of Trump University by Stephen Gilpin.
"Sexton and Highbloom also made a startling request. They told several senior executives, including me, that Mr. Trump wanted to obtain a copy of Barack Obama's birth certificate, and had made a public announcement of this. They stated he was willing to pay as much as $150,000. I actually took the challenge, and… procured a copy of it, made copies and we passed them around the office, and we joked about it.
"So what was the outcome? Was Trump told about my successful mission? If he was, he chose to ignore it. I never saw the prize money! Three years later, in 2011, when he was first considering a run for the presidency, Trump publicly embraced the birther conspiracy…"
So what this book shows clearly is that Trump knew in 2008, that Obama had a legitimate birth certificate, but lied about it deliberately and repeatedly for political and personal gain. For six years Trump went on Fox News and lied about this, and still there are morons who believe it.
"On March 31st 2017, Judge Muriel approved a $25 million settlement for the three cases against Trump University."
Overall I highly recommend this book for all good AVA readers, including you Mr. Philbrick. By the way, have you been bucked off your high-horse lately after shooting your gun at gophers? That was so crazy of you. How's your brain injury? Better I hope!
OF FLYING MICE & CORSETED COURTESANS
by David Yearsley
Spurred more by ethnographic fascination than by the pursuit of artistic uplift or even a desire for quality entertainment, I hatched a plan to brave that most Germanic of seasonal obligations: taking in Johann Strauss’s operetta Die Fledermaus over Christmas. A friend from London was also in Berlin and when I floated the possibility of buying tickets for the batty hijinks on offer at the Deutsche Opera he sent this email shot across my bow:
“I’ve seen Fledermaus. Believe me, never having seen it is a far better place to be, and one you should not give up lightly. I even saw it, last January, at that other home of German culture, the Staatsoper in Vienna. It was like going to a Brexit rally. The guys wore felt. Everyone knew the words. Still more bafflingly, everyone knew the utterly banal music and, worse, laughed at the jokes. I would rather have been at Gilbert and Sullivan done by an am dram collective in Sussex. What I hope is coming across is that I am imploring you not to go to Fledermaus. You would be damaged by it, as I have been. You would lose faith in German, Germany, and probably human nature. It would wreck your Christmas.”
Thus dissuaded from a potentially disastrous course of action, I ventured with my friend and our respective families to the Comic Opera where, in my long experience with this most adventurous of musical institutions, felt is never worn. More often, at least on stage, the singers—or, as dictated by directorial fiat, sculpted supernumeraries—wear nothing at all.
If ever there were an opera that would court the Comic’s proclivities for debauched display it is Verdi’s “La Traviata.”
After launching the 1850s with the opera-of-yore triumphs of Rigolettoand Il trovatore set in a distant medievalized past, Verdi wanted to set a work in his own time and confront its excesses and exploitations, its new money and old prejudices. The heat of the industrial revolution raised the temperature of star-crossed love.
But the moralistic Austrian censors in control of northern Italian theaters didn’t go for the idea and bounced the story back a couple of centuries to the “France of Richelieu” so as to the take the teeth out of the work’s societal critique and gain some historical distance from its supposed depravity.
Traviata’s premiere in Venice in 1853 was a disaster, the audience at the theater of La Fenice visiting much of its displeasure on the singers. Many judged the famed soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli too old (38) and too fat (no historical tale of the tape survives) to convince in the role of Violetta. A year later at a different theatre in Venice, with a younger, slenderer soprano in the lead, the work was wildly successful. The opera swept across Western Europe, and even to America and Constantinople, where, in 1858, Salvini-Donatelli, now an ancient 43, took the lead one last time.
The opera’s popularity came both because, and in spite, of its transgressive morality, hardly blunted by displacing its plot to the bodice-ripping baroque. During the Traviata’s first London run in 1856, music-loving Queen Victoria and Prince Albert piously stayed away from Her Majesty’s Theatre, although that didn’t stop the royal pair from hearing—and even performing—the opera’s hit numbers at nearby Buckingham Palace.
Verdi had to wait another thirty years for his first essay in the present tense to be restored to its contemporary setting: Paris of the Industrial Age.
The opera’s landmark modernism is fitted to a tawdry tale of a high-priced prostitute, Violetta, and her lover Alfredo, a young man burning through the newly amassed family fortune through the tried-and-true means of gaming and whoring. Societal and familial forces bear down on the lovers in the form of Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont, sung with stentorian resolve by Giuseppe Altomare, the only Italian in the international cast made up mostly of Eastern Europeans. Altomare’s powerful baritone, dark as if blackened by worry and coal-fired soot, was the very embodiment of genetic, capitalistic greed. Yet there was whiff of compassion in his voice, making his character’s cruelty all the more crushing. Where his distant predecessor in the role in Venice in 1853 was assailed by boos, Altomare was rewarded with surging applause spiked with bravos.
Going behind his son’s back, the manipulative father convinces Violetta to spurn her amour so as not to shackle him in sin and—more crucially—not to shame the nouveau riche Germont family. It’s a soap opera without the soap, the cleansing agent provided by Verdi’s soul-scouring music. The opera effervesces with one great tune after the next: arias buoyant and bathetic; rollicking, admonitory choruses; sumptuous party scenes; and, at last, dying strains that hymn immortal, even chaste devotion.
Violetta is wasted not just by the stifling mores of the time, but by consumption. (Spoiler alert) She dies in the last moments of the opera in the arms of the younger Germont, who has returned to her when, too late, he learns of the real reasons that she’d sent him packing. It had all been an act—that deception a fitting allegory of opera itself: there would be no tragedy, save untimely death, without Violetta’s own play-acting on stage.
Since the story centers around a high-class prostitute, veteran Comic Opera-goers surely anticipated—even expected—nudity, technological up-dates, tatoos and piercings. These came, but not in spades.
To start, no curtain hid the stage. A pair of PVC platform shoes with open toes and stiletto heels strutted their stuff at the lip of the orchestra pit. An iMac shone on a nearby desk.
The overture’s portentous four-note figures were separating by rests ten times longer than Verdi called for: it was an grandiose exercise in the stage wait. One feared major interventions into the score would follow, but, after these initial yawning gaps, masterfully managed by the young Latvian-born conductor, Ainars Rubikis, the music proceeded unmolested. The Comic Opera orchestra has long been an elite ensemble, rightly praised for its precision and expressive reach. Newly crowned director of the Berlin Philharmonic, Kirill Petrenko, was chief from 2002 to 2007, and his parabolic ascent could well be matched in the coming years by Rubikis, who took over as Music Director in 2018. Rubkis is a conductor of exacting energy, his great control encouraging, not inhibiting risk-taking by the singers.
Predictably, the modernity of Verdi’s gilded age of steel and railways was updated by stage director Nicola Raab to our own digital days and nights. During the overture Violetta tip-toed to her desktop, and video sex hookups seemed forthcoming. Instead, she checked her chest x-rays, projected on still larger screen at the back of the stage even while her real ones were encased in a late-model corset of black leather.
For the second act gaming scene a long table with a dozen iMacs appeared, gambling and sex, being two sides of the same coin. Two models disrobed and were creepily ogled, but not groped. The gambling men, arrayed like a Victorian board of directors transposed to Silicon Valley, set their top hats aside and took off their frock coats and cravats to reveal corsets and kindred cross-dressing accoutrements. There was little bang and no bite to these displays. The music rose above stilted poses and sexless stares.
Perhaps such distance from the real body served a dramatic purpose. That a tubercular woman can sing with such grace and endurance is a paradox that La Traviata addresses by gloriously ignoring it.
As Violetta, Natalya Pavlova was a mixture of pathos and pride, her lithe and accurate voice hearkening back to the bel canto of the nineteenth century, a time when the world was getting louder but still far less assaultive than the expected volume of street and theater. Pavlova’s graceful ornamentals—now flirtatious, now despairing—did not come off the assembly line of modern singing. Her famous aria at the end of the first Sempre libera was a tribute to the Verdian style and to musical freedom, even when set upon by dark forces and a bad cough.
(David Yearsley is a long-time contributor to CounterPunch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His latest book is Sex, Death, and Minuets: Anna Magdalena Bach and Her Musical Notebooks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
FULL IMPEACHMENTS FOR TRUMP WILL SHAKE SENATE REPUBLICANS FROM KANGAROO COURT
by Ralph Nader
Many Americans have forecasted that the outlaw Donald Trump will commit even more illegal acts to increasing his support in the 2020 presidential year. Remember Wag the Dog, a film about using a fabricated war to draw attention away from presidential misdeeds. Those Americans have been proven right by Donald Trump’s attempt to provoke an unlawful war with Iran. Likewise, Trump has illegally ordered his staff or ex-staff to ignore Congressional subpoenas to testify and provide documents.
As the most impeachable president in American history, Trump continues to shred our Constitution and its critical separation of powers. Trump has repeatedly, brazenly seized Congressional authority in an attempt to turn the presidency into a monarchy. Trump once went so far as to say, “I am the chosen one.”
Unlike Nixon, who slinked away because of the Watergate scandal, every day Trump is providing more evidence to the Congress about his impeachability. He never stops. He never expresses remorse or apologizes for violating the Constitution or federal criminal statutes, such as the Antideficiency Act. Likewise, Trump has shown no respect for international treaties to which the U.S. is a solemn signatory.
Trump’s mantra of usurpation is clear. He declared that because of Article II of the Constitution, “I have the right to do whatever I want as President.” Trump seems to have neglected Article I, which gives Congress the exclusive authority to declare war, to appropriate funds, and to conduct investigations of the Executive branch with the plenary authority, i.e. issue and enforce subpoenas. Congress is the primary branch of government, not a co-equal branch.
Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns, unlike previous presidents who released them every year. Trump has much to hide in terms of entanglements with foreign entities. He is a walking violation of the Emoluments Clause (Article I, section 9, paragraph 8), which prohibits any president from profiting from foreign interests. Trump profits when foreign dignitaries patronize his hotels and other properties.
The Constitution requires Trump to faithfully execute the law. Instead he is destroying health, safety, workplace, and environmental laws through his corrupt henchman. The Trump regime is dismantling congressionally mandated federal agency law enforcement programs and, in so doing, is removing lifesaving protections. At the same time, Trump is corruptly raising money from the corporate interests that want to dismantle these agencies, from Wall Street to Houston’s oil barons.
The most morally distinguishing impeachable offenses come under the heading of what Alexander Hamilton called “abuse of the public trust.”
Consider these abuses of the public trust:
- Trump’s chronic, obsessive, pathological lying and falsifications (he has made over 15,000 false or misleading claims since January 21, 2017);
- Trump’s history of being a serial sexual predator working to delay numerous court cases and escape demands for depositions under oath by many victims;
- Trump’s endless racism and bigotry in words and deeds. Since becoming president, Trump has backed voter suppression aimed at minorities; and
- Trump’s incitement of violence on more than one occasion.
Trump should be impeached and convicted. If the supine Republican-controlled Senate fails to convict Trump, the voters should landslide him in November.
It is almost as if Trump looks to setting records in how many parts of the Constitution he can violate. He interceded with the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent two members of Congress visas to Israel. Trump’s actions prevented these members of Congress from exercising their oversight responsibilities under the Speech and Debate Clause (Article I, section 6, clause 1). No president has ever dared such an intervention.
For the elaboration of twelve impeachable counts under one major Article, see the letter by me, constitutional law experts Bruce Fein, and Louis Fisher in the Congressional Record (December 18, 2019, page H 12197).
Speaker Pelosi must add some of these impeachable offenses, backed by constitutional law specialists, or Trump will trumpet that though she had the votes to do so, she didn’t because they are “fake, lies.” Exonerating him will prove to be a devastating precedent for future presidents behaving similarly, as the standards for presidential behavior keep dropping lower and lower into lawless immunity and impunity.
Conservative Fox News commentator, constitutional law scholar, and former Judge Andrew Napolitano has said if he were the Democrats, he would reopen the impeachment case “on the basis of new evidence. That would justify holding onto the articles of impeachment [from the Senate] the articles of impeachment [abuse of power and contempt of Congress] because there’s new evidence and perhaps new articles.”
Pelosi can strengthen her hand constitutionally by enlarging the impeachment case against Trump. This move would give millions of Americans a stake in impeachment because it would directly relate to protections and services they lost because of lawless Trump. In addition, more articles of impeachment would make the Senate Republicans led by “Moscow Mitch” McConnell far less able to hold a hasty kangaroo court trial without witnesses.
Fein, Fisher, and I have written Speaker Pelosi and Senator McConnell urging that the trial’s procedures should be established by Chief Justice John Roberts, subject to Senate majority repeal, to assure not only fairness, but the perception of fairness (See the letter here). Right now in the Senate there is too much bias, prejudgment, and conflict to avoid a farce.
Moreover, when will the American Bar Association, with over 194,000 lawyer-members, insist on constitutional observance and the rule of law? When will all those original members of Trump’s cabinet, whom he fired in favor of “yes men,” stand up patriotically for America? When will Colin Powell, George Shultz, and other leading figures from past administrations stand tall and speak out? When will former President Barack Obama stand up to Donald Trump? All of these people are privately worried sick over what Trump is doing and will do to our country.
These are very dangerous times for our Republic, its democratic processes, and our freedoms. Trump is going to “wave the flag” and try to intimidate and bully his opponents and the citizenry. Don’t fall for it America!
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!)