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Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

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THAT FIRE burning toward Leggett north of Branscomb remains mostly uncontrolled in rough, hilly terrain and, by Tuesday evening, had scorched nearly 4,000 acres, threatening some 17 homes and outbuildings. A small army of firefighters, supplemented by three ambulances, is on the fire line. The ambulances seem to be present in anticipation of heat stroke and other likely injuries firefighters can suffer beating back flames in very hot weather as they run up and down precipitous hillsides.

THE BLAZE is in the general area of the Angelo Coast Range Reserve, a wilderness set aside now managed by the University of California, and a wonderful place to visit for a day hike. Used to be an excellent place to watch migrating fish, too, and may still be because the entire length of Elder Creek is confined to the Reserve until it meets the South Fork of the Eel. Elder Creek is so thoroughly protected it serves as a benchmark stream by which the USGS measures atmospheric pollution. The Angelos were a stalwart private couple who fought off the timber companies lusting after the virgin timber on their uniquely untouched property. They sold it to the Nature Conservancy who, it seems, turned it over to UC. It's one of the most interesting and beautiful areas of Mendocino County, probably because it isn't well-known.

CALFIRE'S MORNING UPDATE [7 am] has jumped the number of threatened structures from 17 to 43. "The fire has spread east along the Eel river canyon and moved to within 1-mile of the Big Bend Lodge area, along Low Gap creek. Firefighting personnel and equipment are actively working to construct fireline across the northern boundary of the fire....A community meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. at the Harwood Memorial Park hall. The hall is located at 44400 Willis Avenue in Laytonville."

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EAGER TO READ the County Office of Education's response to the scathing assessment of its functioning by the Mendocino County Grand Jury, I called lameduck Superintendent Tichinin's office to see if I could get his rebuttal e-mailed to me. No way of knowing, but I'll bet it was the first time in weeks Tichinin's phone had rung.

FOUR HOURS AFTER I CALLED, I received this terse e-mail from Tichinin's “confidential administrative assistant,” Victoria Gulick: “Bruce, We will not be releasing the grand jury response to you electronically. It has been submitted to the Grand Jury and they will post to their website.”


SHE CALLS ME 'Bruce' but doesn't even kiss me goodbye with a grudging “sincerely” in the sign-off. I don't know the lady; strangers address me by my first name all the time. Ordinarily I don't care, but with the MCOE crew I prefer to stick to the basic formalities, and will now take this opportunity to point out that this agency spends annual millions but does not perform a single task — not one — that the individual school districts of Mendocino County could not do better and a lot cheaper. And permit me to add that one looks no farther than the overpaid incompetent occupying the Superintendent's chair for a study in what has gone terribly wrong in American education.

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MITCHELL HOWIE, left, talks with Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen, Thursday July 31, 2014 under the Orr Street Bridge near Highway 101 in Ukiah. The homeless/transient issue has continued to become [sic] a problem in Ukiah as litter discarded at the homeless sites clogs local waterways. (Courtesy, Kent Porter, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT'S FRONT PAGE photograph Tuesday morning is reprinted above, and no further explanation of how lost our county (and our country) is necessary. Supervisor McCowen, by the way, was cleaning up the most blighted sites long before he was elected to represent the Ukiah area, but the problem has grown far beyond the capacities of the few civic-minded volunteers like him who try to clean up after the “homeless,” recognized by most of us as institutional-quality drunks, drug addicts and free range mental patients, a growing population of people who used to be confined to the state hospital system before Reagan dismantled it.

McCOWEN would be the logical guy to lead a concerted effort to get this population off the streets and away from Ukiah's stretch of the Russian River. The County's Superior Court is crucial to an effective homeless strategy because they are responsible for the futile catch-and-release non-policy that endlessly recycles the same core group of people through the County Jail and the courts.

Howie: Aug 2011, Apr 2012, May 2012, Sep 2012, Mar 2013, Aug 2013.
Howie: Aug 2011, Apr 2012, May 2012, Sep 2012, Mar 2013, Aug 2013.

THE CASUAL mid-day tippler photographed chatting with the bemused McCowen is named Mitchell Howie, 33, a local boy with an occasional indoors Redwood Valley address. His record of arrests goes back to 1999, when he was popped for a DUI. Since then Mitch has racked up an impressive 25 busts, ranging from domestic abuse, to booze and drugs, to petty theft. And he's still a young man, meaning he's probably got another quarter century of court appearances and two-day jail stays before his liver conks out. Mitch, and the hundred or so chronics like him in the county, is a perfect candidate for a county farm where he'd be court-ordered to stay for at least a year at a time.

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A MICRO-ORGANISM called the hemp broadmite is chewing up pot plants in many areas of the county at a rate that has growers terrified. Entire gardens are being devoured by the thing. The rest of us should be uneasy, too, because panicked pot planters are turning to the most vile pesticides available to combat the broadmite when a safe organic alternative called 'Nuke 'em' is locally available.

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POINT ARENA will hold a “community discussion” of their parks, open space and trails on Tuesday, August 12 at 6pm at the City Council chambers. (PS. It took the City’s admin staff two large pages of agenda format boilerplate in a non-text graphic version of a .pdf to deliver to us this one simple sentence which we still had to retype. Note to PA: We applaud your attempts to notify the public about community events. But please send these items out in a brief simple press release, not in a complicated email with a link to the city’s website where we still have to find and download whatever agenda item it is and then retype and reformat it just to make a simple notice. In the future, such notices will not be published unless they are simplified and straightforward. PPS. Good luck with keeping your drunks and druggies out of your parks, open space and trails!)

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RICK REDFERN, 1935-2014

Redfern85Richard Lewis Redfern MD of Albion passed away suddenly from a heart attack on February 19, 2014. Rick was born in Eugene, Oregon on November 21, 1935. His parents were Louie Redfern and Sibyl Redfern, and he had a brother, Roger Redfern. He is survived by his son Brett Redfern, daughter Summer Rexrode, Elaine Kirkpatrick and his grandchildren Darren Rexrode and John Rexrode.

Rick was a well respected Radiologist, a generous and involved member of his community and a loving and dedicated father. He opened his home and heart to so many people throughout the years. Rick loved music and hosting musicians as he had 120 bands, some dozens of times, stay in and enjoy his home, hot tub and hospitality. Many lifelong friendships were created. He loved to read, garden, dance, travel to warm places and relax in his hot tub with friends and family. Rick was a do it yourselfer, and could fix anything on his old homestead property. He also built several structures including a large Redwood barn.

After graduating from University of Oregon Medical School in 1961, Rick moved to the Bay Area. He was an intern at Oakland's Highland Hospital, and a resident at UCSF San Francisco Hospital and Veterans Administration Hospital until 1966. He then became a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps until 1969 when he took a yearlong sabbatical to Europe. Upon returning, Rick worked at Redwood Radiologists in Santa Rosa until 1972, the year he moved to Albion and started raising a family. Rick worked at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital in Fort Bragg for nearly 30 years. He then worked locum tenens for several physicians, hospitals and medical facilities throughout northern California. He always kept up with the latest advancements in his field. Rick never really retired because he enjoyed what he did. He was a true small town doctor who loved to help people.

Rick was kind, gentle, funny, witty and very knowledgeable; the kind of person you want to ask advice and learn from. Loved by so many in this community and far beyond, he will be greatly missed, especially by his family and extended family.

A Celebration of Life will be held for Rick Redfern starting at 2pm on Saturday Aug. 9th, 2014 at the Caspar Community Center. It is a potluck so please bring a dish to share and/or pizza toppings. There will be live music to dance to.

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THREE CASES of Legionnaire’s disease have been treated at the Adventist medical complex in Ukiah. The County Health's boss, Stacey Cryer, said the three victims had stayed at the Discovery Inn on North State Street, Ukiah. Legionnaire's is a pneumonia-like affliction that people contract from breathing mists or vapors off contaminated water. Two persons have been treated and released, a third remains in the hospital. Lots of people get it from lounging in grungy hot tubs, which isn't to say the hot tub at the Discovery Inn is grungy, but one has to wonder at the grunge who would risk a motel tub.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, August 5, 2014

Capponi, Douglas, Flora, Lllamas-Ornelas, Olson
Capponi, Douglas, Flora, Lllamas-Ornelas, Olson

MICHAEL CAPPONI, Fort Bragg. Probation violation.

ROBERT DOUGLAS, Ukiah. DUI (drugs only), driving on a suspended license (two counts), reckless driving, failure to appear, probation revoked.

SHARREEN FLORA, Talmage. Probation revoked.

MARIA LLAMAS-ORNELAS, California. Felony 1st degree burglary, felony vandalism, probation revoked.

JEFFREY OLSON, Kapaa, Hawaii. Probation revoked (two counts).

Ortiz, Sellars, Varney, Vongargen, Watson
Ortiz, Sellars, Varney, Vongargen, Watson

JOSE ORTIZ, Ukiah. Under the influence of a controlled substance.

RODGER SELLARS, Ukiah. Domestic battery, court order violation.

JOHN VARNEY, Fort Bragg. Misdemeanor battery.

ERIN VONBARGEN, Fort Bragg. Felony domestic violence.

RUSSEL WATSON, Fort Bragg. Felony assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.

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Dear Editor:

At some point Israel will withdraw its troops from Gaza and Hamas will stop firing rockets. Prime Minister Erdogan has been very harsh in his criticism and a couple of days ago he called Israel's action Hitler-like fascism. He has said that the next time Turkey sent an aid ship to Gaza it would be accompanied by Turkish warships. If he makes good on his threat that will break the blockade. The IDF is good at killing women and children but they would take a terrific beating if they try to take on the Turkish armed forces.

In peace, James G. Updegraff, Sacramento

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A GOOD MECHANIC will always find work. Folks in the bullshit professions have a struggle — write up their bullshit resumes, make friends with bigger bullshitters, learn what kind of bullshit is valued and how to produce it, maybe even buy a bull — but a mechanic can walk into a shop and establish his bona fides in ten minutes, and once they know you can do the work, nothing else matters.

— Garrison Keillor

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I hear you singing

A merry air.

My book was closed,

I read no more,

Watching the fire dance

On the floor.

I have left my book,

I have left my room,

For I heard you singing

Through the gloom.

Singing and singing

A merry air,

Lean out of the window,


— James Joyce

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Pavans of an Almost Unbearable Beauty

by David Yearsley

John Holloway’s moving and austere recording of John Dowland’s more-than-400-year-old collection Lachrimae just released on ECM upsets at least two received notions.

The first is that England, so long derided by Germanocentric critics and musicologists as “das Land ohne Musik” (the country without music) made no important contribution to the canon of chamber classics. English composers from the reign of Elizabeth I through the Glorious Revolution of 1688 produced dozens of volumes of highly-crafted, often startlingly original works that have been reanimated in the course the early music revival since the 1960s. Yet, as Holloway shows, Dowland’s 1604 publication was a European-wide sensation, a masterpiece of chamber music that enchanted professionals and amateurs alike with its bleak brilliance. It continues to do so into our era.

The entire set has been recorded countless times, most frequently by viol consort, though other combinations of instruments have thrown themselves at this alluring creation, from brass quintets to recorder ensembles. A fretted bowed instrument, the viol is a flatbacked-cousin of the guitar and no blood relation to the more curvaceous violin. The frets offer the dabbler the distinct advantage of playing much more easily in tune, assuming the instrument is itself in good order and the open strings precisely adjusted. For this reason royals, aristocrats, and burghers found in the instrument companionable outlet for their musical impulses, from the time of the musical, murderous monarch Henry VIII to that of Bach’s Princely Employer, Leopold of Cöthen, himself a viol player.

Aristocratic and royal households acquired sets of viols ranging from bass to treble. The collective noun used to describe such sets was a nest. Like a nest of vipers, a nest of viols hisses: the bow drawn underhand across the string pulls from it an edgy sound, rich with pleasing noise — a seeming oxymoron for modern ears weaned on arid recordings plagued by noise reduction technologies. There is an urgent sweetness to the sound of a viol, simultaneously soothing and unsettling, and unsurpassed in capturing both the raptures of love and the tears of sorrow.

The commercial viability of publications for viol in Dowland’s day and the renewed interest in the instrument since the middle of the twentieth century in professional and amateur circles alike has meant that as a consort work Dowland’s Lachrimae has been thought of as primarily viol music. This is the second assumption that Holloway’s new recording disabuses us of.

The title page of Dowland’s publication states clearly that the pavans and other works were “set forth for lute, viols, or violons.” Accordingly Holloway assembles around him four other world-class string players to form an ensemble of two violins, two violas and a bass violin, the somewhat larger forbear to the now populous cello.

This panoply of violins — instrumentation clearly sanctioned by Dowland for the performance of his masterpiece — inevitably aligns Holloway’s quintet with the string quartet, that supreme chamber music configuration since Haydn’s day. The great quartets of the past and present represent for many classical music lovers the apogee of ensemble refinement. Holloway’s band is ready to join those ranks.

The skeleton of Holloway’s recording is provided by the first seven pavans of Dowlands 1604 publication — poised, plaintive dances all derived from his lute song “Flow my tears,” originally published in 1600, but composed as an instrumental work in the 1590s when Dowland was refused a post as Elizabeth I’s lutenist and therefore sought his fortune on the continent. (Dowland claimed that he was denied the post because of his Catholic faith.) That first tearful pavan was hugely admired by the European musicians Dowland encountered as well as by those who learned of his music through the brisk exchange of manuscript copies. Almost all the important northern keyboardists and lutenists of the period made their own settings of the pavan as a tribute to the composer and as proof of their own talents at elaboration, that essential skill of the improvising musician. Dowland himself wrote many versions for the lute that show not only the richness of his mind and the nimbleness of his hands, but also the way these elements could be combined to paint somber scenes shot through with beams of hope and troubled by shadows of despair.

It was partly to disseminate a definitive version of that first celebrated pavan that Dowland published the Lachrimae set. But he also wanted to weave a troubled tapestry of ample dimension, and therefore added six more pavans; old tears were followed by old tears renewed; sighing tears; sad tears; forced tears; lover’s tears; and true tears. All of these begin with the four-note descent that was already, and has since Dowland’s time, become the marker of lament.

In the original print, these pavans are followed by a dolorous self-portrait with the punning title Semper Dowland, semper dolens—a worthy calling card for this musical merchant of melancholy. The collection is then filled out by a series of character pieces that demonstrate the composer’s unmatched ability for capturing personality through harmony, figure, and silence.

Holloway and his colleagues give us only the seven pavans, inserting between each one a work by another English composer of the seventeenth century and thereby further challenging the errant notion that the island did not produce chamber music of lasting greatness. After Dowland’s first pavan comes Henry Purcell’s Fantasy upon a one note in which middle C sounds ceaseless in the middle of the texture, an extreme exercise in self-imposed limitation that provokes from this genius who died too young a seemingly unbounded narrative of contrapuntal searchings, seemingly impossible harmonic detours, and dancing celebrations—a welcome brightness amongst the stretches of Dowland dark.

The unwavering precision and constantly shifting nuances of Holloway and company’s ensemble playing brings to this optimistic music as much richness as it does to the profound ruminations of the Dowland pavans. The ardent, almost grainless voice of these violins smooths out the texture of the expected viols. But in the hands of such expert musicians, the fretless violins allow for a pure tuning of intervals (of the fifths especially) that the tempered frets of the viol preclude. The ringing clarity of these chords, sounded with almost no recourse to a softening vibrato, cut directly to the soul.

The pavans have three strains, each to be repeated, and the professionals of Dowland’s day would surely have added ornaments the second time around, decorations not meant to mar the soundscape with flares of self-aggrandizing display, but rather to vary the musical texture while also representing pangs of doubts and the coursing of tears. Holloway forsakes all but the smallest of such imaginative alterations, remaining as “true” to Dowland’s text as the Emerson String Quartet was to Beethoven’s. This historically specific—and surely anachronistic—form of faithfulness shows Holloway’s recording of Dowland and his successors to be a modern creation. How could it—and why should it—be otherwise? What results from this almost ascetic reading is an intense stillness more celestial than human. Dowland’s pavans become a paradoxical music seeming to emanate from a vast distance and from within the unknowable interior of the psyche — devastingly lonely and almost unbearably beautiful.

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

One Comment

  1. Bill Pilgrim August 6, 2014

    Just imagine what could be accomplished if the millions wasted on the county Supe. of Ed. office was instead funneled to infrastructure for assisting the homeless.
    Of course, to be truly worthwhile such a program must be operated by experienced people who clearly understand the needs, NOT appointed political hacks.

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