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Mendocino County Today: Monday, September 8, 2014

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DANA CRUMB has died. A long-time resident of Potter Valley and a talented chef, she and her former husband, Robert, settled in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury just before the hippies kicked off, driving separately to Frisco from their home in Cleveland. R. Crumb, a genius both as an artist and a writer, became synonymous with hippies although he often parodied them in his art. The parting of the Crumbs was not a happy one. Dana told me once, “He may be a great artist, Bruce, but he's a nasty little man.” Could be. One never knows what goes on in the marital bower, but the Crumbs' son, Jesse, a fine artist in his own right, clearly benefitted from the hours of instruction his father gave him. Dana was smart, funny, tough and resourceful, going on to make a successful life for herself as her ex became a millionaire and a permanent resident of France where he is rightly regarded as a major talent.


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UKIAH AND CDF firefighters knocked down a fast-moving fire Friday afternoon just east of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas near Talmage. The blaze was confined to less than five acres, and its cause is under investigation.

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YOU'VE GOT THE BOONVILLE FAIR this weekend, perhaps the last county fair in the state with an old time feel to it, and with enough stuff for the kids to have fun and get an idea what they all used to be like. And while you're over here for the annual event, you're invited, er, check that, most of you are invited, to stop in at the AVA's open house Saturday at our office high above Boonville in the “historical” Farrer Building, scene of many pre-War community social events and even a couple of murder trials. Today, it seems surrounded by varicose veins slurping ice cream cones, both tamer and crazier than Boonville was in 1930. The newspaper you'll be visiting is something of a relic itself, the print paradigm having moved on, leaving us lost and alone in GizmoLandia.


COUNT THE WAYS: For openers, we can't even assemble the thing by hand anymore because the printers have all gone electronic, forcing us to go electronic, too. Second, and I've got to be careful here to avoid insulting whole generations of my fellow citizens, people under the age of 50 don't read newspapers anymore, or much of anything judging from their conversation. Newstands have pretty much disappeared, bookstores, too, although Mendo still has a few, and this publication depended heavily on newstands in our peak years, which now seem to have occurred circa 1990. But we're hanging on, still paying the bills and, hopefully annoying all the right people, although just the other day a guy wrote in to say we've lost our “edge.” Maybe, but I'm not sure what “edge” means. I guess I could get a tattoo.

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FROM MATIER AND ROSS, SF Chron: “Dig deep: State and federal agencies have been sent back to the starting line after the draft of the required report on the environmental effects of Gov. Jerry Brown's giant water-diversion tunnels came up short. The California Department of Water Resources, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and state and federal fish and wildlife agencies spent three years producing a 45,000-page draft for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to review. The report said the project would violate federal environmental standards - something that came as a surprise to the heads of some of the agencies that produced it. At that point, the EPA concluded that the report wasn't clear on how problems caused by the tunnels, which would divert Sacramento River water around the delta for the Central Valley and Southern California, would be mitigated - and kicked the report back for a redo. All of which means at least another six months of work before the state can even start talking to the Army Corps of Engineers - which has the final say on water projects of this magnitude. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the final two-plus years of the tunnel-sympathetic Obama administration."

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THAT NEW REALITY SHOW on Fox has its origins in Point Arena-Manchester where its creator, Jon Kroll, grew up at Oz, the well-known commune that thrived on the Garcia River from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Panda Kroll, Jon's sister, is a successful attorney based in Oxnard. Dad, who called himself “Redwood” when I met him once in Boonville, is alive and well and living in San Francisco.

PANDA KROLL WRITES: Check out reference to Oz in interview about my brother's $50M Fox reality show:

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CATCH OF THE DAY, September 7, 2014

Adams, Baker, Bumstead, Corona, Evers, Golyer
Adams, Baker, Bumstead, Corona, Evers, Golyer

KELLI ADAMS, Boonville. Drunk in public, probation revocation.


KEVIN ‘DAG’ BUMSTEAD, Glendale, AZ. Pot possession, sale, transportation, furnishing.

JORGE CORONA, Orange, CA. DUI, no license (revoked).


PAUL GOLYER, Ukiah. Court order violation, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

Halvorsen, Hernandez-Casteneda, Hernandez, Maldonado, O'Ferrall, Pejana
Halvorsen, Hernandez-Casteneda, Hernandez, Maldonado, O'Ferrall, Pejana

NICHOLAS HALVORSEN, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public. Probation revocation.

DIOYENARDO HERNANDEZ-CASTENEDA, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

HOGUIER HERNANDEZ, Ukiah. DUI, No license.

VALERIA MALDONADO, Ukiah. Domestic assault.

JACOB O’FERRALL, Covelo. Drunk in public.

JONATHAN PEJANA, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

Polen, Severn-Walsh, Smith, Thapa, Urbina, Wilson
Polen, Severn-Walsh, Smith, Thapa, Urbina, Wilson

DOUGLAS POLEN JR., Willits. False report of vehicle theft.

DAVID SAFIER, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Photo not available.)

PAULLEN SEVERN-WALSH, Philo. DUI, suspended license, probation revocation.

COLTON SMITH, Ukiah. Possession of meth. Probation revocation.

SUDARSHAN THAPA, Willits. Sale of alcohol to minor.


KEVIN WALKER, City/Charges/Photo not available.

SEAN WILSON, Willits. Domestic battery, probation revocation.

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The Search for Meaning in an Age of Pointlessness

by Kim Nicolini

I watched Richard Linklater’s Boyhood three times in two weeks, and with each viewing, the movie grew fresher and fresher. Running at nearly three hours, the film is the simple story of a boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) who grows up before our eyes. It is about his family, and it is about life in general. This is not a melodramatic coming of age story. It is not a story laden with traumatic or earth shattering events. It is simply a 160 minute slice of life delivered moment-by-moment. From the everyday minutiae of school, work, home, love, boyfriends, girlfriends, graffiti, GTOs, cigarettes, bowling, condoms, shotguns, and camping trips, the movie ebbs and flows with life’s little traumas and dramas, triumphs and failures, but it never stops and showcases a single moment as the Ultimate Life Changing Event. Rather it shows life as an accumulation of moments that push us forward. It is both the singularity of each moment and the entire sum of the moments that make life what it is and that make this movie so universally human.

How can such a story be so captivating? What drove me to tears the first time I watched it, and what compelled me to watch it again and again (including at this very moment when I want to rush to the theater to watch it a fourth time)? Perhaps it is because Linklater’s film is about the continuum of life and accepting life on its own terms in the very moment we are living it, whether we are a six year old boy, a struggling single mom, or an absentee father reclaiming a relationship with his kids. Though the movie is titled Boyhood, it could just as easily be called Motherhood, Fatherhood, or just Life. No matter who we are or where we are, if we are alive, we are dealing with life and the act of living itself is a challenge. No matter what the circumstances, we are propelled from one moment to the next, navigating the minefield of emotions and experience that comes with the simple fact of being human.

Ironically, one of the things that makes the film so emotionally effective is its lack of melodrama or extreme trauma. Mason grows up. He is faced with disappointments and triumphs. His single mom Olivia (in a show stopping performance by Patricia Arquette) makes what she calls a series of “bad life choices.” She goes through a string of lousy husbands and moves the kids from town to town, while still trying to be the best mom she can. In between, she gets a college education and becomes a professor. Biological father Mason Senior (Linklater veteran Ethan Hawke) grows from beer guzzling, muscle car driving, cigarette smoking rebel Dad to a subdued, minivan driving insurance salesman who marries into a Christian family and has a new baby. Mason’s sister Samantha (played by Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei) torments her brother, endures the Bad Stepdads, and goes off to college. Kids get high, drink, and have sex, but none of it is extreme. No one gets pregnant or overdoses. It is just accepted as how life is.

Still there is an underlying tension throughout the film. Except for the scenes with abusive alcoholic stepdad Bill (Asshole with a Capital A), the movie has very little outward violence or trauma, yet it still feels like we are constantly on the edge of disaster. The tension is so taut that we expect things to fall apart at any moment. The fact that they don’t and that life goes on makes the film even more emotional because we internalize the possibilities that exist in the spaces between moments. The movie puts us on alert, but then the bells and whistles go off inside of us rather than on the screen. We foresee the things that never happen — the car crashes, gun accidents, and other tragedies that never actually occur on screen but could under the wrong circumstances.

There are threats of danger — stepfathers brimming with loathing of the world and themselves, a party where drunken teen boys heave circular saw blades at a wood plank, a shotgun pointed in the wrong direction — but these scenes are presented with an even hand and a fluidity of perspective. They are delivered with the same emotional investment as scenes with kids riding skateboards or spraying graffiti on an underpass, girls singing songs and dancing, or a family gathering for a graduation party. Each moment meshes with the next, and we experience the film like we experience the continuum of life. We take it as it comes. In an interview on NPR, Richard Linklater talks about intentionally not inserting anything overly dramatic within the plot. He says: “Just getting through life is traumatic.” And it is. From the moment we are born, to coming of age, to having children of our own and watching them grow — living is itself a traumatic experience, and Linklater captures that beautifully in this film.

Certainly how the film was made provokes an emotional response in the audience and lends itself to capturing life as a continuous series of moments that we navigate by the seat of our pants. Filmed with the same actors over 12 years for 3 days a year, the movie traces the characters as they age in “real time.” Linklater took a gamble when casting a six year old Coltrane for a movie that would be filmed over twelve years, and gambling on this kid infuses the film with the gamble that we all go through in life. We can’t predict the outcomes of our life, and Linklater in many ways could not predict the outcomes of his film by casting this non-actor child in a role with a commitment of twelve years. In fact, at one point, Linklater’s daughter Lorelei wanted to quit the project and asked Linklater to kill off her character Samantha. He said, “We’re not making that kind of movie.” No melodrama!

By being a fiction, the film gives the audience room to inscribe our own narratives onto this story of life. We are not locked into the closed circuit of documentary truth. But by filming the same actors over time, the very real documentary evidence of the actors’ aging reinforces the very real passage of time in our own lives. The film becomes a kind of mirror for our own lives, and specifically about the passage of time. Though called Boyhood, really the movie is about the inevitability of becoming an adult. That itself is traumatic whether you are a child growing up or a parent watching your own children grow up. The movie is not about a single perspective. Rather, Linklater simultaneously navigates multiple spaces on the life continuum (childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenting).

Certainly the movie belongs to the boy Mason as we watch him go from being a curious child, to a boy who absorbs the world around him, and then growing into an active participant as a teenager and young adult. But the movie also very much belongs to Mason’s mother Olivia and his father Mason Senior. Patricia Arquette pours her very soul into her performance, and we see a woman at odds with trying to balance her own passions and ambitions with caring for her children. She shows tough love, but her love is real. She is both strong and exceptionally vulnerable. Mason Senior has to cope with “growing up” in his own way. Both he and Olivia try to do their best by their kids, but it is also clear that they are in the process of growing every bit as much as their children. In fact, the movie is about the fact that we are all growing every day, and that life is not a finite process. You don’t just be a kid and then be a grown-up. Instead, we are all always growing. It’s just when you’re a grown up, you become much more aware of your existential position.

Various iterations of pointlessness are interwoven throughout the story, and a sense of pointlessness seems to be the looming point in everyone’s life. What is the point? That is the question characters ask repeatedly. Samantha rebels against drunken Asshole stepdad Bill: “What is the point of dusting?” Bill answers: “Because I tell you to.” Well, submitting to authority to clean up dirt that is only going to reappear in a day is certainly one of the most pointless exercises we face in life. Even rebel dad Mason Senior sells his prize GTO for a minivan, betraying Mason Junior who was promised the car on his sixteenth birthday. “Life is expensive,” Mason Sr says. “Someday you can work hard and buy your own GTO.” What is the point of making promises that we forget or unable to keep because of pointless obligations?

Everyone in the movie is struggling to find identity — adults and children alike — when being faced with pointless choices. Asshole Bill has bought into the whole system, and the outcome is rage, alcoholism, and self-loathing. “You don’t like me much, do you?” he asks Mason Junior. “That’s okay. I don’t like me either.” This may seem funny on the surface, but ultimately it is tragic and true. Bill bought into the pointlessness and now is empty. He fills himself with alcohol just to run away from himself.

Olivia hits the wall of pointlessness over and over in her series of “bad life choices.” In one scene, she breaks down and tells her children: “Yes, life sucks. I don’t have the answers to everything!” In her final and saddest scenes in the movie, she buries her face in her hands as her son Mason leaves home for college and she is left with an empty nest. All her life seems to be flushed down the drain as her children grow up and leave. She cries, “I expected so much more than this!” And that is the last we hear from her. Expectations seem to be the source of pointlessness. Perhaps if we expected less, we wouldn’t worry so much about the point. After Mason graduates high school, he and his dad go to a concert, and Mason asks his dad: “What’s the point?” His dad answers, “Of what?” Mason Jr answers, “You know. Of everything?” Mason Senior profoundly answers, “How the fuck am I supposed to know? You’re feeling things, right?”

And that’s what the movie does. It makes us feel as these people struggle with the most traumatic part of life — trying to find meaning. Olivia tries to find meaning through men and education. Mason Sr finally finds meaning by forfeiting his Bad Ass GTO and succumbing to love and family over muscle car masculinity. As he tells Mason at the end of the movie, “I finally became the castrated man your mom always wanted me to be.” He may be castrated, but he is happy. He found a place where he can feel. The scene with Mason Senior’s new family is truly authentic. Bibles, shotguns, and sing-a-alongs, there is nothing remotely insincere about his new place in life. After all, in America, Bibles and shotguns are a part of everyday life. Some of the last verses in the song that the family sings together are: “Departures and arrivals go hand in hand.” And that is the cycle of this movie and the cycle of life. One moment departs, and a new one arrives.

The same could be said for the political backdrop of the movie. Linklater masterfully includes moments of political history situating the movie within a post 9/11 generation: the Iraq War; atrocities in Fallujah; the McCain/Obama election. But because his approach to the film is so subtly universal, he also allows us to reflect on the cycles of political history as well as personal growth in our own lives. For example, insert my childhood (born in 1962, the same year as Linklater), and I could add the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the Nixon/McGovern campaign. Same story, different years. Life goes on — even in a shitty world.

This is a movie about growing pains — the growing pains of children and the growing pains of adults. The pain of getting through life, and the moments of joy that are the compensation of that pain. While the adult side is portrayed with tremendous pathos by Arquette’s Olivia, Ellar Coltrane’s Mason gives us the full spectrum of life. We start by watching him believe in magic by doing things like shoving rocks in a pencil sharpener to make arrowheads and reflecting on the magical origins of wasps. As he moves through a world that is often unpredictable — from his mother’s parade of drunken husbands to new cities and houses — we watch through his eyes as he internalizes his experiences. He absorbs everything and the camera closes in on his open eyes taking it all in. We watch him experience pain and magic mostly in silence, and then finally we see him relinquish the idea of magic when he speaks out and tells his dad that “Right now, this moment, there really are no elves in the world, right?” From that point, Mason’s voice drops in tone and becomes more audible as he speaks up for himself externalizing his feelings. He inches his way toward the adult world and becomes an active participant. It is both a subtly nuanced performance and the witnessing of real life change as Coltrane literally does grow up on screen.

Mason grows, and life circles and cycles on itself as we see in a myriad of mirrored images. From whales to graffiti to peach schnapps, the movie turns on itself in a kaleidoscopic network of imagery that repeats itself in variations of reality and magic. Nearly three hours after we watch six year old Mason lying on the grass alone daydreaming at clouds, we watch 18 year old Mason high on pot sitting on a rock with a girl Nicole by his side and daydreaming at clouds. Nicole says, “You know that saying about seizing the moment? I think it’s the other way around. The moments seize you.” Mason looks all around him, and says, “Yeah. The moments. They are everywhere.” And in that moment, we understand the point of the pointlessness — it is in the moment. All of Linklater’s moments in this film have led us to this one moment of hope — two people looking out at the open world and letting the moment seize them. It really is the best we can ask for.

(Kim Nicolini is an artist, poet and cultural critic living in Tucson, Arizona. Her writing has appeared in Bad Subjects, Punk Planet, Souciant, La Furia Umana, and The Berkeley Poetry Review. She recently published her first book, ‘Mapping the Inside Out,’ in conjunction with a solo gallery show by the same name. She can be reached at


  1. Lazarus September 8, 2014

    Zap comics was the at the time, some of the funniest and most awakening stuff I’d ever seen….Thank you for the laughs.

  2. Jim Updegraff September 8, 2014

    Nah, you haven’t lost your “edge” but you probably have mellowed as the years move on.

  3. Rick Weddle September 8, 2014

    Keen edge yet, no mistake. More incisive each time, and regularly serving our ‘information’ needs in ways simply unavailable elsewhere. I don’t know of any other paper, or other media source at all which has an identifiable editorial snap, with obvious Human-type persons on the other end. This qualifies as Something to me partly because it’s so very missing anyplace else you look for ‘news,’ and so on; you will not be exposed to anything near as life-like on Fox, or any other mass outlet. Not to say AVA’s edge is just better than Fox’s…that’s like saying the Democrats are better than the Republicans …wup-de-doo… While DN!’s delivery is too many ambulances for regular consumption (how the hell do they do it?), there has to be something more to it than Current Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    Listing wrongs needs some citing of the right, as well, for balance, for justice, and for some functional way forward, and AVA does this really well; too bad they’re so damned unusual.
    It’s not edge that’s been lost, and I hope it’s not ‘mellowing,’ but maybe AVA’s into some territory out past Fighting Mad? I’m glad to see the well honed teeth and power of bite I see here all the time, both from ed., and in things submitted by other folk.
    On this subject, and the zap-era media doings, the brief flare of Horseshit magazine in the midst of the ’60’s was another very bright spot, with edge to spare…

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