Press "Enter" to skip to content

Mendocino County Today: Monday, Aug. 13, 2018

* * *


The largest fire in state history has entered its fourth county, reached the shores of Lake Pillsbury, and consumed most of the Pine Mountain Project area.

(click to enlarge)

CALFIRE'S MENDOCINO COMPLEX UPDATE (Monday 7am): 344,890 acres; 68% containment; 301 structures damaged or destroyed.

"With minimal humidity recovery during nighttime operations the Ranch Fire was very active in the northwest corner and continued to burn towards Lake Pillsbury. As the fire moves in this direction, fire crews in and around the surrounding areas of Lake Pillsbury are preparing and defending structures. Fire crews are still working on bringing the Ranch Fire below and west of Lodoga Stonyford Road and back into the Mendocino National Forest. Dozer lines along with contingency dozer lines will continue to be put in and improved. The southern area of the Ranch Fire continues suppression repair and be patrolled. The River Fire had no movement. Suppression repair along with patrol will continue on the River Fire."

(click to enlarge)

* * *


Brief update from this side of the Cow:

The Lucerne Alpine Senior Center (originally constructed as an elementary school in the first half of the 20th Century) has served roughly 500 families who have suffered losses in the Mendocino Complex Fires, so far, with support from multiple state agencies, county departments, and numerous charitable organizations. The whole show is coordinated by an amazing county Department of Social Services staff person, Theresa Showen, and a county administrative staff person, Nathan Stangler (hope I got his last name correct). Hot meals have been provided twice daily by the Red Cross, who has a large contingent holed up in one of the former classrooms.

Delivery of “meals on wheels” to Northshore community participants is scheduled to resume on Monday, August 13, provided by the kitchen services at the Lakeport Senior Activity Center.

Most excellent volunteer staff person at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, Paula Bowman, fields calls for information and assistance at 707-274-8779. A member of the center’s board of directors is on hand throughout the day for further support.

The center has been opening at 10 am and closing well after 8 pm, and these hours are anticipated to continue through the week; the plan is to keep the Local Assistance Center in place until the end of the day on Friday, August 17. We’ll have a report for listeners to KPFZ on Sunday August 19, between 2 and 4 pm.

Lines are long, heat and (thankfully clearing up) smoky air, frustration, and aching souls are gracefully managed by a cadre of Red Cross volunteers, Lake County Department of Social Services staff, and people are unbelievably patient and kind with each other and the workers from multiple organizations, cramped conditions indoors, limited and ancient plumbing, and long long long wait times for initial processing. And the agencies are getting a first-hand picture of the beautiful, caring community served by our senior center in the impoverished Northshore district of the Area Agency on Aging.

* * *


(Not in Mendo, it won’t)

by Mark Scaramella

JOHN ARTEAGA, a regular columnist for the Ukiah Daily Journal, recently mentioned the expensive lawsuit filed by the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District against the City of Ukiah. The lawsuit has been in the works for more than five years now and has made Ukiah attorney, and former Mendo DA Duncan James a millionaire, assuming he wasn’t one before this endless wrangle fell into his lap.

Arteaga: “…This brings us to the subject of the county’s [actually the Ukiah Valley] Sanitation District taxpayers and ratepayers. I (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling) am filled with futile rage at the most egregious instance of vampiring on the public’s fiscal jugular that I’ve witnessed in my several decades of residence in our fair county; let me pose some questions that might better be answered by a grand jury than an ordinary citizen without full background knowledge. Who provided legal services to the Sanitation District before their current Attorney was hired by the district? Is the former Attorney’s office that handled the Sanitation District really the Mendocino County Counsel? Who worked for the County Counsel, and then went to work for the Sanitation District’s current Attorney?”

Arteaga is referring, of course, to Doug ‘The Midnight Rambler’ Losak, former County Counsel who abruptly resigned as “interim County Counsel” in September of 2015 to take a job with Duncan James, the firm which filed the Sanitation District’s original lawsuit and which continues to provide costly legal services to the Sanitation District paid for by District customers through ever higher sewage rates.

Arteaga continues, “Now, if my information is correct, instead of the county handling legal matters for the Sanitation District in-house at a relatively reasonable rate, the SD decides to go with what must be the highest priced lawyers ever to hang a shingle in our modest little Burg. An apparently naive SD board seems to have been hoodwinked into filing a preposterous $30 million suit against the city for a claim that goes back to ancient times. Apparently, their contention is that the city’s contributions have not been in accordance with their contract for decades.”

The current Sanitation District Board, however, is not the same board that filed the lawsuit — there are three new District Board members, retired geologist Julie Bawcom, Ukiah massage therapist Andrea Reed and Ukiah contractor Ernie Wipf, each of whom were elected last November on a platform of ending the controversial and expensive litigation. But, so far, it shows no sign of ending as Duncan James and Losak run up the legal tab.

Arteaga continues: “Check it out; they have already racked up legal bills with this unconscionably mercenary law firm of $8 MILLION! Before they have met a single time in a courtroom!”

We’re not sure who “they” are in this context, but the lawsuit has mysteriously been transferred to Sonoma County where, we last heard, a judge has ruled that the Sanitation District cannot claim money due them prior to the statute of limitations, which means that the starting number for the lawsuit is much less than the $30 million in the original claim, which went back to the 1950s.

Arteaga continues: “It seems to me, as an uninformed layperson in the matter, that it must constitute either malfeasance or negligence on the part of the board of directors of the Sanitation District to have squandered this much ratepayer money on this quixotic roll of the jurisprudential dice. I have news for them; they are not going to recover $30 million from the city of Ukiah. No way. What kills me is the pathetic reluctance of virtually everyone involved to simply take the bull by the horns, schedule an all-night session with all the authorities on both sides and hammer out a deal that is at least conceivable to both sides, and to stop squandering the public’s money on these avaricious lawyers! Eight million dollars could have settled the whole matter! If only there were some kind of leadership in these supposedly public agencies!

“The city already has onerously high connection fees for its goldplated, many-millions-of-dollars recently upgraded sewage treatment plant. I’ll bet that the designers and contractors on that gig looked upon the upgrade funding as free money. Well, there is no such thing as free money, and the city and surrounding areas will be paying the price for decades to come in foregone possibilities for creating new housing, employment, industry etc. due to the sky high connection fees that are perhaps now, especially after this horrible hemorrhaging of the public’s meager tax take, cast in stone for the foreseeable future.”

Nothing to disagree with there.

And Arteaga is right that it’s very fishy that Doug Losak suddenly became the Sanitation District’s much more expensive attorney soon after resigning to take a position working for Duncan James. Losak still appears regularly at the Sanitation District Board meetings, charging hundreds of dollars an hour for unnecessary legal advice having nothing to do with the lawsuit. Although they do spend considerable time in closed session about the still-pending lawsuit, emerging from closed session with the time-worn announcement that “direction was given to staff.” Obviously that direction has not included, “Settle this now.”

The three new Board members who presumably want to settle the case have had no perceptible impact on the lawsuit which seems to have acquired a life of its own and is out of the control of the Sanitation District Board or Ukiah’s city council. Of the three, Ms. Bawcom is the only one who seems to be trying to conscientiously represent the District’s customers.

The one entity that escaped Mr. Arteaga’s irritation is the local court system, which should have ordered the parties into settlement conferences immediately after the case was filed. Instead it has dragged out now for years with no end in sight as the lawyers — the very expensive lawyers — find more and more detailed ways to calculate how much is supposedly owed to whom — including to them.

It’s all a primo example of insider trading, Mendo style.

* * *

VIA ITS FACEBOOK PAGE, the Sho-Ka-Wah casino in Hopland has announced it's closed for renovations and has laid off its work force of some 45 people. The closure coincided with the terrible fires, one branch of which broke out not far from the casino. The fire caused the closure of Highway 175, making the casino virtually impossible to reach. And there's an overall problem of the competition from downstream casinos, especially the monster casino complex at Rohnert Park. Whether or not Sho Ka Wah reopens would seem to be anybody's guess.

* * *


by Jim Shields

With the state legislature returning from summer recess, the proposal to impose a statewide tax on drinking water could return before the end of the current legislative year on August 31.

The proposed tax on drinking water was introduced in 2017 by Sen. Bill Monning (SB 623). The primary purpose of the bill was to fund solutions in some disadvantaged communities without access to safe drinking water, which are primarily located in rural areas in the Central Valley. In September of 2017, the Assembly Appropriations Committee moved the bill to the Assembly Rules Committee, where it currently remains as a two-year bill. The proposal would have generated roughly $110 million per year through a 95-cent monthly fee on home water bills as well as taxes on businesses of up to $10 per month. Another $30 million would come from higher fees on agricultural and dairy businesses, industries whose chemicals contribute to the problem of contaminated groundwater.

I’ve argued it’s a very bad idea because it is the proverbial camel’s-nose-under-the-tent: It surely would be the first step towards more taxes on public drinking water.

Keep in mind, there’s money available from other sources — such as the state’s general fund — that could be used for contaminated groundwater remediation. The quick and dirty answer to this problem is that the people who caused the contamination are the ones who should at the head of the line to pay for its remediation.

The main contaminant is 1, 2, 3-TCP. It’s a man-made chemical, used historically in industrial cleaning solvents and some soil fumigant pesticides. It’s also a recognized carcinogen that may cause cancer after long-term exposure. It has been found in groundwater sources, primarily in the Central Valley. Pursuant to a new regulation, it now requires that more than 4,000 public water systems statewide to begin quarterly sampling for 1,2,3-TCP in their drinking water sources.

In January of 2018, the Brown Administration proposed a budget trailer bill that was very similar to SB 623. In June, the Budget Conference Committee decided not adopt the budget trailer bill after Gov. Jerry Brown abandoned the bone-headed idea that would have taxed water for the first time in California history.

I said it was a very bad idea because it was the proverbial camel’s-nose-under-the-tent: It surely would be the first step towards more taxes on public drinking water.

In reaching the deal to abandon the universally unpopular tax, Brown and legislative leaders agreed to spend $5 million from the general fund to deal with lead in drinking water at child care centers.

They also plan to allocate $23.5 million from the general fund for various safe drinking water provisions as the legislative year is wrapped up shortly. However, backers of the statewide water tax, a strange bedfellow coalition of agriculture and dairy interests and environmentalist groups, may try to advance their proposal through SB 623 or another legislative vehicle.

I’ll keep an eye on the situation and get back to you if there are any developments of interest.

Library Consolidation 3rd District Election Issue

As I’ve said a number of times, the Supes’ action incorporating three separate departments/programs — the Library, Museum, and County Parks — into a new department, the Cultural Services Agency (CSA) was a huge mistake. Their bungling in the library caper created a prodigious issue that resonates with voters throughout the county, but especially in the 3rd District which is headquarters for two extremely active “Friends of the Public Library” groups in Laytonville and Covelo.

In this space I said that it’s never a good idea for elected officials to pick a fight with an advisory board they created for the specific purpose of giving them advice.

It’s considered good public policy to encourage citizens to participate in the governing process and volunteer their time and share their expertise to assist the decision-makers in making their decisions.

It’s considered bad public policy when elected officials go out of their way to insult and vilify the very folks they appointed to serve as an advisory conduit to them.

This past week, John Haschak, candidate for the 3rd District seat in the November election, released a statement that squarely puts him on the right side of the Library issue, in other words, he understands you don’t pick a fight with folks who are a powerful political bloc.

Haschak said, “Mendocino County wants open and transparent government. Recently many people were disappointed that the Board of Supervisors approved the Cultural Services Agency, a new county department that combines the Library, County Museum and parks. The supervisors made this move disregarding the advice of their advisory boards, the public and Friends of the Libraries. The Board of Supervisors acted as if they didn’t care what people think. Their willful disregard for the public and of volunteer citizens who try to enhance our community is cause for concern. Mendocino County’s current and past Board of Supervisors approved an asphalt plant in a flood plain, overly complex cannabis rules and a Cultural Services Agency without considering the effect on its people. This behavior has to stop.”


(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live:

* * *

LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Caw-caw. Anybody out there speak crow? I need to learn to insult these bastards in their own language. Since I complained about them yesterday they've stepped up their harassment of me. Help!”

* * *


by Anne Cooper, Kelley House Museum curator

We were reminded at the Kelley House this past week that a political campaign without rancor would be a rare thing indeed. The 1934 race for the office of California’s governor provides one example.

The Republican candidate was Frank Merriam. The Democratic candidate had been a member of the Socialist Party and was nationally known as the author of “The Jungle” — the horrific 1906 expose of the Chicago meat packing industry — Upton Sinclair. A year before the election Sinclair had published another book entitled, “I, Governor of California and How I Ended Poverty: A True Story of the Future,” which laid out his proposed plans to “End Poverty in California.” EPIC became Sinclair’s campaign slogan.

Concrete evidence of one tactic used to smear Sinclair by associating him with the color red (signifying the opposition’s contention that Sinclair’s plans came straight out of Moscow), arrived at the Kelley House Museum in the postal mail by way of a donation of photographs, postcards and other documents belonging to the Mathison family.

The item, from the gubernatorial campaign of 1934, was made to resemble a dollar bill and printed with red ink on both sides of a piece of thin paper. Across the top, the words “ONE SINCLIAR DOLLAR” were centered above the words “Easy Pickings in California,” a play on Sinclair’s “End Poverty in California.” To the left of the centered medallion it stated that the paper was “Issued by Uppy & Downy Bank.” To the right was the caveat that this bill was “Redeemable, If Ever, at the Cost of Future Generations.”

The bill had two “signatures”: Tom Phoney, Secretary of Finance, and Utopian Sincliar as Governor. The letters “I O U” are substituted for a numeric denomination in each of the bill’s four corners. Along the paper’s bottom, set off in block print, was the caution, “Assets, if any, Guaranteed by I, Governor.”

On the reverse side, the insults to Sinclair’s campaign continued with the following summation of statements: “The Red Currency — I, Governor of California, hereby issue this Labor Credit with the Demand that it be accepted as full payment of wages for labor performed and for all merchandise — Not Very Good Anywhere — Good Only in California or Russia — Endure Poverty in California.”

In archival circles, this item is a piece of ephemera, a term used to denote, “the minor transient documents of everyday life.” That definition for paper ephemera came from Maurice Rickards, at one time head of the British Ephemera Society. There is an American equivalent, too.

The particular branch of the Mathison family involved was that of Charles John and Irma Brown Mathison, once residents of Little River, a camp at Ten Mile and, eventually, Fort Bragg. Charles was born in Little River to parents John Peter Mathison and Caroline Mathison, natives of Norway. Irma’s parents were George Tansy and Florence Etta Brown, who raised their children on their farm in Anderson Valley.

Charles and Irma Mathison owned a candy shop, The Poppy, on Franklin Street in Fort Bragg and had two children, Robert and Lillian.

The “SINCLIAR DOLLAR” was among the things sent to the Kelley House Museum by a distant family member who had inherited the items. Charles would have been about 47 years of age in 1934, Irma 34 years old. It is safe to assume that the Mathisons would have sided with Governor Merriam’s campaign, since Charles had registered as a Republican at one time.

Although Franklin D. Roosevelt did not endorse Sinclair’s campaign, the EPIC movement as conceived by Upton Sinclair has been noted by some historians as a source for concepts that led to programs of the New Deal under the FDR administration.

(If you have any ‘minor transient documents of everyday life’ from your Mendocino Coast family, please contact the Kelley House Museum at 707-937-5791 or

* * *


MSP watched as a few people came back from their 7-miles "Railbike" tour of the Skunk Train rails Friday afternoon - and were amazed at how "light" the bikes were as they were taken off the tracks.

The bikes aren't cheap - it'll take you back $79 for a ride.

Here is more information on an "human-powered" alternative to taking the train:

(Via MendocinoSportsPlus)

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, August 12, 2018

Cena-Cruz, Donahe, Ellis, Faust


MICHAEL DONAHE SR., Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)

RAYMOND ELLIS, Talmage. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

MATTHEW FAUST, Ukiah. Failure to appear.

Garrison, Gonzalez, Hamel, Harden

SHAWNDELL GARRISON, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Domestic abuse.

VICTOR GONZALEZ, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. DUI, suspended license.

ROBIN HAMEL, Ukiah. Domestic abuse, false imprisonment.

TONA HARDEN, Ukiah. Controlled substance, under influence, paraphernalia.

Henry, Hodges, Meyer

AMY HENRY, Ukiah. No license, licenses suspended for DUI, probation revocation.

JODI HODGES, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.

BENJAMIN MEYER SR., Potter Valley. Assault with firearm, battery, cruelty to animals, criminal threats.

Newton, Offill, Palma-Solano

DAVID NEWTON, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)

JOHATHAN OFFILL, Guerneville/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol-drugs.


Revuelta-Salgado, Vega-Galvez, Vessey

MARCO REVUELTA-SALGADO, San Jose. Domestic battery, battery.


COURTNEY VESSEY, Lakeport/Redwood Valley. Vehicle theft, controlled substance, paraphernalia, failure to appear.

* * *


Nobel prizewinning writer of novels, short stories and bleak accounts of displaced people started from his own experience in his native Trinidad

by Kenneth Ramchand

The greatest literary virtue of the Trinidad-born writer VS Naipaul, who has died aged 85, was instant readability. He constructed clear, irreducible sentences, and marshalled them into single-minded paragraphs. His control of language and the rhetoric of his novels were such that he could persuade you into belief even when his truths were only partly true.

Naipaul, the winner of the 2001 Nobel prize for literature, was regarded by many as the greatest novelist of his time. In his early fictions he trusted description, character, dialogue and event to evoke the world that had shaped him. Beneath the comedy and the almost kindly satire of these early works there are glimpses of the bleak view of human existence and effort and self- fictionalizing that were to become the key themes and motifs of his later work.

The first of his 14 non-fiction works, The Middle Passage (1962), was a lively if unsparing report on West Indian societies as “half-made societies that seemed doomed to remain half-made” because they lacked the self-knowledge or the will to reinvent themselves in the independence period. By 1970, the urge to express ideas and opinions about a world growing everywhere more unstable and insecure began to take hold.

He admired journalism (the occupation of his father, Seepersad Naipaul) because it was much better than the novel at keeping up realistically with the changing world. To widen his net he started to shape combinations (In a Free State, 1971), hybrids (The Enigma of Arrival, 1987), and “sequences” (A Way in the World, 1994) that blurred distinctions between fiction and non-fiction.

Of his 29 books, at least seven are likely to endure: his first collection of stories, Miguel Street (1959); the three novels A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), The Mimic Men (1967) and A Bend in the River (1978); a work of non-fiction, The Loss of El Dorado (1969), an original and challenging historical work on the making of Trinidad and its polyglot capital, Port of Spain, that Naipaul described as “the synthesis of the worlds and cultures that had made me”; the global fiction In a Free State; and the ambitious The Enigma of Arrival, part autobiography, part fiction, part meditation on life, time, death and the writing life.

In these works, he created palpable geographical, social and cultural contexts in which to locate people, their stories and their emotions; and in all of them, symbolism and ideas of universal import spring unforced out of realistically rendered detail.

The scholarship in The Loss of El Dorado added conviction to the key Naipaulian preoccupation with the futility of human effort and the perils of the impossible dream. Much of his experience as a student at Oxford and as an anxious inhabitant of London in the 1950s was filtered into the constitution of Ralph Singh, the narrating character of The Mimic Men. In this novel, the miscellaneous collection of misfits and refugees with whom Singh associates for a time were soon to become a conscious part of Naipaul’s vision of a restless world of people cut off from the landscapes of their birth and not able to find purchase somewhere else. He was the first writer to stumble upon this theme and he took it further than anybody else.

His native island, the former British colony of Trinidad, with its extraordinary meeting of peoples and cultures, was his seedbed. Long after he decided he would never live in Trinidad and Tobago, he could still say: “From the writing point of view, this land is pure gold … Pure, pure gold.” Trinidad made and haunted the writer, and the evidence is in many of his books.

Born in Chaguanas, on Trinidad’s west coast, south of Port of Spain, Vidia was the second of the seven children of Seepersad and his wife, Droapatie (nee Capildeo). They were married in 1929, the year that Seepersad began his journalistic career as the Chaguanas correspondent of the Trinidad Guardian. Vidia’s early childhood was mostly spent in or near the Capildeo family residence known as the Lion House, a unique example of North Indian architecture that dominated the main street of Chaguanas, a country town in the sugar belt where the majority of Trinidad Indians lived. Seepersad quickly felt his individuality threatened by the communal life of the Capildeos. The acute tensions of this period would have been felt by his son.

When the chance came in 1938 to work in Port of Spain, as a full-time reporter with the Trinidad Guardian, Seepersad left Chaguanas to occupy rooms in a Capildeo house in Luis Street, in the Woodbrook district. The move in 1938 introduced the six-year-old Vidia to the life of the street, the pleasures and sights of the city, and in due course to the cinema, all of which were to inform the comic and compassionate stories and sketches of Miguel Street.

From 1938 to 1942, Vidia was a pupil at Tranquillity boys’ school, after which he began his “sound colonial education” at Queen’s Royal college, the country’s oldest and most British secondary school. At the same time, he witnessed his father working at being a writer, self-publishing in 1943 a remarkable collection of stories, Gurudeva and Other Indian Tales. “I loved them as writing, as well as for the labor I had seen going into their making.”

Seepersad’s example made it possible for a young boy in a colony to dream of a literary career. The purchase of a house of his own in 1946 brought much needed relief to Seepersad. To Vidia, in his last two years at QRC, and to the family, it brought peace and desperately needed stability.

In 1950, Naipaul went to University College, Oxford, to study English and become a writer. Five years later, he married Patricia Hale, who would be the one reliable element in his life for 41 years until her death. Pat may not have been his muse but she remained in all seasons note-taker, sounding board, listener to drafts, common reader and excited fan.

A stillborn first novel as well as book-reviewing for the New Statesman would have made it clear enough that Naipaul did not really want to be (could not be) the kind of writer envisaged by the raw 18-year-old in The Enigma of Arrival.

The example of Seepersad’s book, and the older man’s constant recommendation of West Indian raw material were reinforced by the years Naipaul spent as editor of the BBC’S Caribbean Voices program, reading hundreds of manuscripts from the islands and sharing fellowship with the writers hanging out in the freelancers’ room at the BBC.

When he started to turn to his natural raw material, it was to three of those writers, the Caribbean Andrew Salkey and Gordon Woolford and an Englishman, John Stockbridge, that he excitedly ran with what became the opening story of Miguel Street: “Without that fellowship, without the response of the three men who read the story, I might not have wanted to go on.” After the breakthrough, he produced The Mystic Masseur (1957) and The Suffrage of Elvira (1958) in quick time and then tussled with his demons for three years to land his greatest work, A House for Mr. Biswas.

In London in 1958, in a time of different stresses, he was able to go back in memory to the traumas of life in the Lion House and to the years in Woodbrook as raw material for his masterpiece. The three-generational novel depicts the exposure of descendants of Indians to the shifting society of Trinidad and describes their evolution from 1906 to 1953. Comic richness arises from the battles between Mr. Biswas and his in-laws, and the manic journalism of the main character, who, like his prototype, Seepersad Naipaul, works on the city newspaper. Mr. Biswas saw that the world is what it is and refused to allow himself to be nothing.

Naipaul was well regarded for his travel books and for innovations in the genre of travel writing, and spoke of valueing them above his novels, an opinion that few readers would endorse. He travelled to the Americas, Africa, India, Mauritius, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and every corner of the earth touched by invader or colonizer to report on failed and failing states and to expose what he regarded as the malformed or undeveloped selves in them. He stocked his “travel” books with character, scene and dialogue and rendered episodes.

He wanted Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples (1998) to be thought of as a book of people and stories unshaped by the writer’s opinions, but opinion and idea dominated his later work. His topics included imperialism, freedom, emergent nationalisms, religion, revolution, fundamentalism and the colonial mentality. He saw the terror waiting to be unleashed upon the world by half-baked revolutions, mutinies and holy wars, and by fundamentalism and fanaticism of any kind. By the 1990s he had made himself the cynical poet of post-imperialism and the peculiar prophet of violence, global disorientation and homelessness. He was considered by many to be the first modern global writer.

His fellow West Indians began having difficulties with Naipaul early in his career. He was accused of writing “castrated satire.” A sentence in The Middle Passage that “history is built around achievement and creation; and nothing was ever created in the West Indies” has been held unforgivingly as proof that he was anti-West Indian. He has been accused of racial prejudice against people of African origin, for saying that Africa has no future, and for presenting women negatively.

In interviews he seemed to go out of his way to provoke. He remained unchastened, and his detractors continued reading him, watching for what came next. In 1983, a taxi-driver at Piarco airport in Trinidad pulled him aside and asked: “You is Naipaul?” When he owned up to the name the driver looked at him with compassion: “Look, you better travel with me, yes. We don’t like you down here at all.” He told this story with delight. Although he was severe on the US and Britain, it was his harsh accounts of India, the Islamic world and former imperial possessions that led to his being denounced as a spokesman for the west against developing cultures and societies.

In 2008, he gave fuel to his critics by allowing an authorized biography, The World Is What It Is, by Patrick French, to publicize bold confessions about his visits to prostitutes, intimate details of his obnoxious behavior towards Pat and his mistress, Margaret Gooding, and many of the cruelties attending his relationships with them and other people. He acted as if he did not care. He would sacrifice anyone or anything for his vocation.

He saw himself as a man without a place. With The Middle Passage, Naipaul had effectively written off Trinidad and the West Indies as places to live. After writing An Area of Darkness (1964), he knew that whatever it might mean to him, India was not home. Within months of the publication of The Mimic Men, the life he had been constructing for himself as a literary figure in the UK was shaken by Britain’s new immigration laws.

He wrote to a friend about “a very special chaos” he felt coming to Britain, and reported feeling that “I could no longer stay here.” He flirted briefly with the idea of living in Trinidad. In July 1968 he and his wife were settling in Canada, but by September had changed their minds and returned to the UK. It was at this time that Naipaul completed In a Free State, an overwhelming map of dislocation, of fractured worlds, and of damaged individuals in a violent free state. In the prologue, a crazed and lonely old man avows that he is a citizen of the world; and the epilogue closes with the image of defeated soldiers “lost, trying to walk back home, casting long shadows on the sand.”

At the end of 1970 Naipaul’s friends rescued him from his own dislocation. A bungalow on the grounds of Wilsford Manor in Wiltshire was secured for him at a minimal rent, and after 11 years as tenants there, the Naipauls moved into their own house, Dairy Cottage.

His life from 1972 to 1995 was dominated by a triangular relationship with Pat, who stayed at home, and Gooding, an Argentinian woman whom Naipaul met in Buenos Aires in 1972. Their tempestuous affair was conducted in several continents for more than 20 years, and was terminated abruptly by Naipaul only in 1995, when Pat was dying of cancer and he met and proposed to Nadira Khannum Alvi in Pakistan. He received in this period almost every major literary award and recognition, including a knighthood in 1990. He established himself as a phenomenon and a spectacle, “the writer” personified.

His outstanding work of this period was A Bend in the River, a real novel issuing from a novelist possessed. It is Naipaul’s most frightening presentation of a world without meaning or the possibility of meaning. Meaninglessness and ineffectuality became his subject in Half a Life (2001) and Magic Seeds (2004), which pick dispassionately through the unremarkable life of Willie Chandran, from India to London to Africa to India, and back again to London, making an epic of nonentity and purposelessness. Naipaul secretes into them elements from earlier books and his own life in London as if to remind us how fragile are the foundations, and against what dispiriting odds anything is achieved in the world.

The World Is What It Is was a fitting title for the biography of a writer who struggled all his life between poles. On the one hand, there was social and personal anomie, on the other a commitment to vocation. He had a mutated Hindu view that all the world was illusion and only the self was real, and yet his writing showed him observing and reporting the external world with precision. He was a difficult man to get to know.

His meaning for the island of his birth, and for the world after the centuries of empires and colonies, “everything of value,” as he put it in his Nobel lecture, was in his books: “I am the sum of my books.” In time, that will be seen as his most appropriate epitaph.

In 1996 he married Nadira. She survives him, along with their daughter, Maleeha, and his sisters Mira, Savi and Nalini.

Vidia (Vidiadhar) Surajprasad Naipaul, writer, born August 17, 1932; died August 11, 2018


* * *

A LOT OF PEOPLE have these glorious memories of the 60s. They weren't that great. But one thing that did happen in the 60s was that some music of an unusual or experimental nature did get recorded and released. Look at who the executives were in those companies in those times. They were not hip young guys. These were cigar-chomping old guys who looked at the product that came to them and said, "I don't know! Who knows what that is? Record it! Stick it out there! If it sells, all right."

We were better off with those guys than we are now with the supposedly hip young executives who are making the decisions about what people should see and hear in the marketplace. These young guys are more conservative and more dangerous to the art form than the old guys with the cigars ever were. You know how these young guys got in there? The guy with the cigar said, "Well, one day I took a chance. And we sold a few million units. I don't know what it is. But we have to do more of it. I need some advice. Let's get a hippie in here." So they hired a hippie. They bring in a guy with long hair. They are not going to trust them to do anything except carry coffee and bring the mail in and out. Nothing else. Then after a while, they realize they can trust them to bring the coffee a couple times on time. So let's give him a real job. Okay, he becomes an A&R man. From there, he moves up and up and up, he gets a haircut, he's got his feet on the desk and he says things like, "Well, we cannot take a chance on this because it's not what the kids really want and I know what they want." He had that attitude. You need to get back to that attitude about, “Who knows? Take a chance” — that entrepreneurial spirit where even if you don't like or understand what the record is that's coming in the door, you produce it and release it. The person in the executive chair should not be the final arbiter of taste of the entire population.

Frank Zappa, 1985

* * *



I'm sorry if I hurt the feelings or insulted the gentlemen I talked about last week. But whenever I hear somebody talk about anti-Americanism, insulting our president, that has to be people like draftdodgers or just anti-American liberals and I have to say something about it.

San Francisco is the filthiest city in the world. The two people who are responsible for it are Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom. They have done nothing to help. Neither have the other politicians in San Franciisco -- Pelosi, Feinstein, Maxine Waters -- they are just as dirty as the city. They are a perfect match for the city.

Those liberals who want to fight, antifa, are the most chicken cowards on earth. You liberals who want to fight? You are going to get it really good in the end! Because Mr. Trump is the best president we have ever had. It's too bad we have so many rotten liberal judges and schoolteachers and the political correctness which is rotten to the core and it's also anti-American.

Where are our county and state taxes going? The roads are being annihilated and all the other infrastructure is completely outdated and ready to go. It's hard for me to talk about how sorry it is. And then you have these gentlemen talking bad about the United States and the government and our law enforcement doing the best they can to keep the freedom that we have. They are enjoying all the social things that are available to them but yet they talk bad about the country and the law enforcement they hate which keeps them safe. Unbelievable!

The CIA and the FBI? They are saturated with Obama leftovers. They are trying to screw President Trump anyway they can. He has to get rid of all the Obama leftovers in the CIA and the FBI.

So the anti-American liberals like Pelosi and Maxine Waters and Dianne Feinstein and all the rest of them who are in charge of San Francisco are supposed to be our leading Democrat liberal opponents? They want to lead this country. But look what they've done. They have let a city like San Francisco turn into a mass and they stand by and do nothing about it. It makes me sick.

God bless Donald Trump.

Jerry Philbrick


* * *


Wildfire Victims Among Those Stung by Trump’s Trade War

The Trump administration’s tariffs have raised the cost of imported lumber, drywall, nails and other key construction materials. One building association official said the tariffs could raise the price of a typical new home in California by up to $20,000, and it could be more for individual homes being custom-built on short order.

* * *



Let’s get some things straight. It is my understanding that Assembly Bill 33 is needed to bail out PG&E. If there’s no bailout, then PG&E would go under, because it cannot pay off the billions that it would owe. It’s similar in one dimension to the situation back when the banks were going under. My question, which I do not have the answer to, is what would happen if government stopped intervening and let companies that should go under, go under?

I suppose the real question that should be debated is how much government should get involved when huge private companies fail the people they serve. Maybe we as a people feel powerless because companies that don’t answer to the people don’t have to because of government protection. And to whom does the government answer? Last June’s state elections saw Sonoma County at 49 percent voter turnout and the rest of the state with an average of 28 percent.

Samuel Hutchinson

Santa Rosa

* * *


To the Editor:

Our local fires have raised many questions, including who ultimately pays for the damages caused and how are those damages measured. So far the debates I’ve read have pinpointed the potential payers or losers as PG&E ratepayers, taxpayers, utility shareholders, or the damaged property owners, if they are not fully insured. An important point in the equation is that when facilities owned by a utility (such as PG&E) are implicated in causing the damage, the utility is liable whether or not any fault on its part is involved.

In Ukiah, and its surrounding area, electrical distribution facilities are owned, or controlled, by governmental entities not PG&E. I don’t know, but assume, these public entities are subject to the same rules determining liability and measure of damages as apply to PG&E.

As I look at the forested and populated hills surrounding our (Ukiah) valley - and breathe a sigh of relief that so far we’ve not experienced first hand the devastation being caused elsewhere by recent fires - I wonder if any thought is being given to the question of how homeowners, and other property owners, in our area, will be compensated if a fire is caused by a publicly owned utility other than PG&E.

The answer can have great significance, not only for damaged property owners, but also for all of those who rely on future payments (such as pensions) from the public agencies, i.e., the City of Ukiah, that own electrical facilities that may cause fires.

Jared G. Carter


* * *


Someone above stated that the government bureaucracies are inept. I disagree. The bureaucracy I deal with is very efficient from my view. Medicare and Social Security work very smoothly. I have never had a problem with the post office or the IRS. The FAA seems to get the air travel piece well enough. I do not care for TSA but I have never had a problem with them. The interstate highways seem in fair shape all things considered. The National Park system generally keeps the parks in ok condition. So what is the problem? The problem is a complete collapse of good manners, dignity, ethics, honor. It isn’t the government that is causing our problems but it is us. We want Mr. Rogers but we get a Manafort, a Trump, a Clinton. There ain’t no Mr. Rogers around. Don’t look for one. We are at the mercy of corporations who exist for their own welfare. Even in WW II some of them played on both sides. They are the ones who flood our lives with pollution, perversity, scams et al. Without a functioning govt it could be a lot worse.

* * *

* * *


Attention: PG&E "Smart Meter" Opt-Out Customers

I am currently involved in a dispute with PG&E because they will not interconnect my new solar system (now 1 year old) because I will not accept a "smart meter" (even though I pay $ to opt-out of "smart meter"). I have filed a complaint with the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) and have found a sympathetic attorney who is helping.

How can you help?

We are collecting declarations from PG&E opt-out customers who would like to go solar but are reluctant to because there is currently no option available for a “non-smart” meter.

Please email me at and I will respond with a template for your declaration, to be signed and mailed to my atty.

Deadline is Aug 25th to be included in my testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission.

Thank You,

Mike Coltan, Comptche

* * *

* * *

HOW MANY TIMES have I looked at people's postings & wondered, "why don't they say where, what, who, when or why this picture was taken?" So many cool pictures! Such skimpy info!

How many times have I, editor and student of English, said to myself, "Oops! Little mistake here" on my writing and lots of other people's?

How many times have I thought, "So-and-So should know better than that bit of broken grammar & syntax"?

'Scuse me. I'm a little slow. The absence of explanatory material online is partly--pretty BIG part--due to people's fear of looking dumb because they're out of practice at writing anything harder than cellphone texts and shopping lists. This is more than "unfortunate." It's serious! The Net has become the biggest revolution in human communication since Gutenberg and maybe since the invention of tongues and larynxes.

In a volatile world where we represent mortal danger to each other as well as (potential) God-given succor and aid, free communication is a necessity, and 140 characters is too tight a straitjacket for complex interaction in a complicated time.

People, read your Strunk and White (the little, skinny, amazing and evergreen book on the rules of English, available online for a buck ninety-nine, called THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE), but don't wait to write 'til you're up to snuff. If you're a genius but a poor writer, please don't deprive me of your genius because you think I'm judgmental about your writing. I'm not, very (and I try to turn the bloomin' editor off), and I need to know what you know. I depend on my frenz to keep me honest and to keep me smart.

(Mitch Clogg)

* * *


So freaking sad…my son will be his age in a few years. I can imagine what his parents & other loved ones are going through. I lost my best friend/soulmate to an overdose in 2011. I woke up to his lifeless body next to me, tried cpr to no avail, watched him be removed from our home in a body bag, & was blamed by his family for his death. Now, 7 years later, and I am only beginning to find normalcy again & have tried to take my own life several times since. To those speaking of the selfish nature of suicide, the people that go through with it are usually thinking living & being a burden (emotionally, physically, or financially) to their loved ones is more selfish than taking their lives.

Sometimes, once someone has made up their mind to kill themselves, there is no changing their plan. I know I had done everything I could to get my best friend help, including talking to his family, calling the VA helpline, trying to make him understand how many people would be completely devastated if he was gone,….and more. Short of having him committed, there was no saving him.

Please treat everyone with love & compassion, you never know what battles they have been through or the ones right around the corner. Make sure you & those you love have a will written (&notarized) stating whether you wish to be buried or cremated & what you want done with any of your possessions, pets, kids, etc. Leaving your loved ones and spouse/friends to duke it out after you go is truly selfish and unkind.

My best friend/soulmate wanted to be cremated & told me & other friends that specifically on more than one occasion. Instead, he was buried at a veteran’s cemetery in his uniform, two things he would have been very upset about. Losing him was the most devastating experience of my life & I hope none of you ever have to go through that kind of pain & loss.

* * *

MARILYN MONROE'S LONG LOST NUDE SCENE has been uncovered more than half a century after she stripped off for 1961 feature The Misfits.

(pictured, Ms. Monroe and co-star Clark Gable)

* * *


Like the SF Weekly, the SF Chronicle strives in vain to be cool to cater to the city's many young people who don't read newspapers (The Chronicle endorses Critical Mass).

The Chronicle's latest pathetic attempt is a lavishly-illustrated story about teaching girls how to create graffiti/tagging "art":

Raised in rural Ohio, [Nina] Wright remembers when she was 16 sneaking out in the middle of the night to spray-paint barns with simple stencils depicting a robot holding a flower in its hands, an early piece that set the tone for Girl Mobb’s colorful and cartoonish style. Wright eventually moved to the Bay Area to attend the Academy of Art University, but quickly found it boring. To her, the streets seemed like a more immediate and playful canvas than the conventional art world could offer.

Of course the story provides a lame disclaimer:

That’s not to say Wright’s camp advocates vandalism. She does not encourage her students to partake in illegal graffiti, and all her classes are taught in spaces where they have permission to spray-paint (Graffiti Camp for Girls teaches how to break into boys’ club of street art).

Right. Like the boys, the girls will never use their new skills to indulge in vandalism, which the city now spends $20 million a year to mitigate.

* * *


A gas drilling well pad behind a farmhouse in Fairdale, Pa., in 2011. (credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

Book Review by Joanne Wypijewski:



  1. Bruce McEwen Post author | August 13, 2018

    Lots of ash settling in on Ukiah, and the smoke and ash puts me in mind of when Mt. St. Hellens blew her top, creating a spooky primeval atmosphere; also when I was a kid in San Diego, and the smog was so awful, my cousins, all us boys out with buckets of soapy water washing the greasy smog off the side of the trailer house. the cabana on the side, the cars… all those cousins have died of cancer now, all but me and one or two others…

    • George Hollister August 13, 2018

      Speaking of spooky primeval atmosphere, last Fall during the devastation of the Redwood Valley Fire, I awoke to frost, smoke, and ash falling like snow. I doubt I will experience that again.

  2. Stephen Rosenthal August 13, 2018

    Interesting photo of Jimi Hendrix. He was a left-handed guitar player, yet is playing the accordion right-handed.

  3. George Hollister August 13, 2018


    I guess the writer knows nothing about the US Forest Service. It appears this agency is made up of pyromaniacs. There policy is, “Let’s see how big a fire we can make.” Oh yea, and when the show begins, blame it on “Climate Change”.

    • Harvey Reading August 13, 2018

      George, you might wanna check to see if California’s assisted suicide law covers terminal dementia?

  4. james marmon August 13, 2018

    “Environmentalism kills jobs, kills nature, kills people. We should never forget this. Nor should we forget that it’s generally conservatives – who understand and live with nature, whether as farmers or hunters or landowners – who make the best conservationists”

  5. Eric Sunswheat August 13, 2018

    N95 masks often are not properly fitted, and don’t protect from the gases. Put your house or car air conditioner on recycle mode, then what? Head to your oxygen producing greenhouse bunker, or the ocean beach with negative ion producing crash waves. Mendocino has closed all fire evacuation centers although roads remain closed, and pollution could be 9/11 lethal levels, at hot, low, thick air spots. The County has nothing left to give, even though it’s a federal disaster area. Perhaps given the County bureaucrats an extra 20% pay raise for working in a hazardous region, or better yet bus them in out. It’s the least we can do. Trickle down economics, piss on you!

    • Eric Sunswheat August 13, 2018

      I don’t think Stump has declared federal disaster for Mendocino Complex Fire. President is holding out to stop wasting rivers water in the ocean, and to finish cutting down the trees in the forest, so there, get back to trades not tariffs, you are fired!

  6. james marmon August 13, 2018

    Its time to start looking forward for real solutions other than just buying a Prius or solar panels, or wind machines. The Lake Pillsbury communities are off the grid but are still in danger of burning up. The fuels around the lake are terrible.

    Ryan Zinke Suggested Cutting Trees To Stop California Fires

    “There’s an obvious cause to the forest fires ravaging California this summer: the trees. That’s what Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary said on Sunday, when he blamed environmentalists for the fires and suggested that the forests need to be cleared to reduce the “fuel.” Yes, Ryan Zinke suggested cutting down trees to stop fires in the forests of California.”

    “And, though Zinke claims the climate change argument doesn’t matter while out touring the damage, he later clarified that he doesn’t think it plays a roll. “I’ve heard the climate change argument back and forth,” Zinke told KCRA. “This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management.””

  7. chuck dunbar August 13, 2018

    James, I’m sorry that you have lost your little brother–that’s a hard,sad loss…

  8. michael turner August 13, 2018

    Notice that Philbrick never mentions Russia?

  9. Malcolm Macdonald August 13, 2018

    Good to see Jerry Philbrick can write without the vulgarities. However, Jerry, get your politicians straight before you criticize. Maxine Waters does not represent San Francisco or anyone in the Bay area. Her constituency is in the Los Angeles area – three different districts since the early 1990s, which may provide a clue about California style gerrymandering.
    Come on, Jerry, Donald Trump as our greatest president!? First, he hasn’t served two full years, let alone two terms. Secondly, on the Republican side of things, you’ve got Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, just to name a pair.
    Jerry has raised valid points about our local, state and national infrastructure. I just wish that he would give up calling fellow citizens who have political views contrary to his own,”anti-American.” From my point of view, Jerry, your name calling is simply a form of spoiled bullying tactics; however, I see no reason to label you “anti-American.”
    You have done many good things, Jerry, in your long and varied life and career. Keep doling out your opinions when you see fit, just try to do a little Atticus Finch-ing (looking at things from the other side’s perspective as well as your own).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *