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Friends are continually sending me humor to brighten these dark days. It works, so I’ll use this posting to pass along a few laughs.

I wish the California vote alone could decide the presidential election. The San Francisco Chronicle noted last Sunday that in this state, “Republicans now account for less than 25 percent of registered voters.”

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When news media in Western democracies inaccurately report something, most are quick to own up to their mistake, whether serious or simply ridiculous.  I belong to the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE), and its members of late have been laughing at some of their own bizarre goofs. Here are two.

Manitoulin is an island within the Province of Ontario, and the editor of The Manitoulin West Recorder sent in examples of bloopers caused by misplacing items. Notice what’s “for sale” in this page of classified ads.

“Thankfully the parents got a kick out of it,”  the ISWNE member reported.
 
The Canadian editor also recalled, “We once had a front page picture of the final service of a church in a community on our island’s most western end. The photo was of the oldest congregant leaving the church for the last time and chatting with the minister. This particular week was also the week of one community’s fall fair, and what’s a fall fair without oddly shaped vegetables? Sadly, one of the veggie pics’ cutlines (captions) was placed with the old-lady church photo and began with: ‘This crooked specimen…’ She ALSO had a good sense of humour, thank goodness.”
 
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Until I read this headline in The San Francisco Chronicle last week, I’d always wondered how busy government officials could find time for hookups and courtship, let alone a wedding.
 
 

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Coronavirus. As noted in US News and World Report on Sept. 8: “Over 400,000 motorcycle enthusiasts gathered for the annual rally from Aug. 7-16 [in Sturgis, South Dakota], and it was reported that social distancing and mask wearing at some of the events was not observed.” 

“The rally was officially linked to hundreds of coronavirus cases across more than 10 states and at least one death. But the study that relied on cell phone data to track movements estimates that over 250,000 reported coronavirus cases from August 2 to September 2 are due to the rally – nearly 20% of the national cases during that time period, according to Andrew Friedson, one of the authors of the report.”

A friend in Point Reyes Station, however, claims a correction is needed:

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And finally: Why doctors don’t go on strike

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

There’s certainly been a lot going on this past week, some of it very good and some of it very bad. On the good side, I would count the Democratic convention with its focus on education, empathy, reducing racism, stopping climate change, raising working-class wages, and expanding healthcare.

On the bad side, I would count the coronavirus pandemic, which in less than six months has killed 175,000 Americans and sickened 5.6 million. In West Marin, the most unavoidable bad side is the huge wildfire in the National Seashore, which was only 5 percent contained at 6 p.m today after four days of firefighting.

The Woodward Fire as seen from Mitchell cabin in Point Reyes Station Tuesday. The fire west of the Point Reyes National Seashore’s Bear Valley Visitor Center and just south of the Woodward Trail, broke out Tuesday following lightning strikes, which ignited numerous wildfires around the Bay Area.

What was first spotted as a three- or four-acre fire….

quickly grew to hundreds of acres and then thousands. The fire more than doubled in size Thursday night to 2,260 acres. (Marin County Fire Department photos)

While all this was going on here, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden halfway across the country in Wisconsin eloquently addressed his party’s convention, earning praise from even conservative news media.

The Woodward Fire was ominously reflected in the clouds over Inverness Ridge at sunset Tuesday.

Meanwhile the Covid-19 pandemic continues to keep almost everyone on the streets in West Marin six feet apart and wearing masks. The pandemic has taken a terrible toll on many small businesses. The Bovine Bakery on Point Reyes Station’s main street is remaining open by selling its pastries out the door to mask-wearing customers.

Likewise donning face masks at the Democratic convention in Milwaukee Thursday were (from left): Dr. Jill Biden and her husband, presidential nominee Joe Biden; vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. The importance of safe, loving families was a major theme of the convention.

An air tanker approaching the Woodward Fire Friday. Air support for the ground crews was late in arriving because most planes were being used to fight the many other lightning-caused wildfires elsewhere in Northern California. Cal Fire aircraft finally began showing up Thursday, and more arrived Friday. With the fire grown to more than 2,260 acres, residents of Olema, Bolinas, Inverness Park, and Inverness were alerted that a mandatory evacuation might be ordered.

A “super scooper” collects Tomales Bay water to drop on the fire. (Marin County Fire Department photo)

A Cal Fire helicopter over Mitchell cabin Friday en route to the Woodward Fire. The heavy air traffic low over Point Reyes Station went on throughout much of the afternoon.

Aside from the fire, the convention, and the pandemic, life around Mitchell cabin also had its tranquil moments this past week. Here a jackrabbit contentedly grazed beside the cabin Sunday.

Also relaxing. The stray cat we’re sheltering had been roaming with raccoons when we brought her into the cabin three weeks ago. Here she watches one on Tuesday eating kibble with a skunk on our deck. She’s five to six months old and in need of a good, permanent home. A veterinarian has confirmed her good health.

Newspapers are publishing poetry these days as an antidote to the gloom of isolation. More people are writing it too. Maybe face coverings, so obviously concealing a lot of who we are, have led to this increased self-expression. My wife Lynn tells me that the writing of poetry was on the rise before sheltering-in-place was imposed. She herself returned to it some years ago after decades of a prose-filled professional life. Recently an Irish literary journal published the following poem of hers. 

How Much

Low stream flows, deceptively gentle
incubate fish eggs, keep them safe,
while storms would sweep them away
toward predators downstream.

Birthing salmon and steelhead, fins flinch,
shudder in waters too calm for swimming
to tributaries, their birth canals.

In the main stem, they dig up
each other’s eggs, lay their own. Animals
fond of ikura, meaning salmon eggs
and also how much, quickly feast.

Sword of storm, sword of calm hangs above.
How often we celebrate, scoop caviar,
lives swallowed like casual swords
cutting through first life.

Custom of delicate spoons, as if fearing
fragility of wealth, prone to slip away
overnight, glistening pearly ounces, as if
taking less dignifies the taking, as if

life’s thrashings disappear beneath
gleaming dishes of roe, as if
too much would reveal our gaze
deciding who survives cycles,
dying, regenerating.

Fish ache to fly upstream like birds
swim through clouds like blooms
welcome the sun, as fawns bond
in faint cries to their does.
Doe and fawn graze, lie on grass,
each blade holding its own weight.
                                                Lynn Axelrod

With friends and relatives sheltering in place because of coronavirus, many are trying to brighten the gloom by forwarding humor. In that spirit, I’ll pass along a couple of recent examples.

And these sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services:

• The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.

• Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

• The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’

• Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

• Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.

• Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

• For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

• Next Thursday there will be try-outs for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

• Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

• A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

• At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.

• Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

• Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.

• The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.

• Pot-luck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow.

• The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

• This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

• The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.

• Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM.  Please use the back door.

• The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

• Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

And this one just about sums them all up…

• The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday: ‘I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours.’

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Like others, I have a love-hate relationship with the Internet, and one thing I love about it is email, which allows friends to forward some of the more intriguing humor they stumble upon. This week I’m posting a selection of some of the stuff that’s been sent along.

We’ll start with awkwardly worded headlines.

The San Francisco Examiner (where I was once a reporter).

The News & Observer of Raleigh, NC.

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Some of the humor I receive is, of course, in the form of cartoons.

______________________________

Naturally much of the humor is slightly risqué.

“There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz SL500.” — Frank Sinatra

“It isn’t premarital sex if you have no intention of getting married.” — George Burns

“My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch” — Jack Nicolson

“According to a new survey, women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front men than they do undressing in front of other women. They say that women are too judgmental where, of course, men are just grateful.” — Robert De Niro

“You don’t appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle-aged woman. Stuff you pay good money for later in life.” — Bob Hope

“It’s been so long since I’ve had sex, I’ve forgotten who ties up whom.” — Joan Rivers

“Sex is one of the most wholesome, beautiful, and natural experiences money can buy.” — Steve Martin

_______________________________________________

A second grader came home from school and said to her grandmother, “Grandma, guess what? We learned how to make babies today.” The grandmother, more than a little surprised, tried to keep her cool. “That’s interesting,” she said warily. “How do you make babies?” To which the girl replied. “It’s easy. You just change ‘y’ to ‘i’ and add ‘es.'”

One day a firetruck zoomed past with a Dalmatian sitting on the front seat, which prompted three children to discuss the dog’s duties. “They use him to keep crowds back,” offered one child. “No, he’s just there for good luck,” said another. The third child then brought the argument to a close. “They use the dogs,” she said firmly, “to find the fire hydrants.”

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Tomales celebrated its annual Founders Day Sunday with a parade up the main street (Highway 1) and a festival in the town park. For the second year in a row the number of parade entries was down, but the crowd was still enthusiastic.

Tomales Volunteer Fire Department was one of several fire departments represented in the parade.

The Hubbub Club from Graton, Sonoma County.

Wild Blue Farm is an organic-vegetable farm in Tomales. Cute pup.

Tomales rancher Al Poncia drove a three-wheeled motorcycle that pulled a trailer carrying barrels marked “Papa’s Grappa.” Another cute pup.

Walter Earle, former co-owner with his wife Margaret Graham of Mostly Natives nursery, rides as Grand Marshal, the sign noting “In Memory of Margaret Graham,” who died in 2018 in a Colorado car accident.

E Clampus Vitus, a fraternal organization dedicated to the study and preservation of Western heritage, has twice posted historic markers in Tomales. Loren Wilson (the driver), who once lived on the Cerini Ranch just north of Tomales near Fallon, is an ex “Sublime Noble Grand Humbug” of all the Clampers, as well as a past Noble Grand Humbug of Sam Brannan Chapter 1004.

The festival in the town park included dozens of booths selling jewelry, arts and crafts, food and drink.

The Pulsators from Petaluma performed in the park’s bandstand during the festival.

The sun shone on Sunday’s small-town festivities as a happy crowd picnicked and strolled about.

A couple of John Roche’s goats, part of his grazing service, showed up under an antique buckboard. John is an Inverness Volunteer Fire Department captain. He and Athena Osborn are looking for a house in West Marin for rent or as a care-taking work-trade. The couple and their baby have been running an ad in The Point Reyes Light.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

A mother raccoon and two kits on the deck at Mitchell cabin.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am fascinated by the raccoons that show up nightly on our deck, so as might be expected, I found an article in the Science section of last Thursday’s Washington Post to be particularly disturbing: ‘Caged raccoons drooled in 100-degree heat but federal enforcement has faded.’

The Post reported that “for two days running in the summer of 2017, the temperature inside a metal barn in Iowa hovered above 96 degrees. Nearly 300 raccoons — bred and sold as pets and for research — simmered in stacked cages. Several lay with legs splayed, panting and drooling, a US Department of Agriculture inspector wrote. 

“On the third day, the thermometer hit 100, and 26 raccoons were in ‘severe heat distress’ and ‘suffering,’ the inspector reported. Then a USDA team of veterinarians and specialists took a rare step: they confiscated 10 of the animals and made plans to come back for the others. 

The Ruby Fur Farm in Iowa. A USDA inspector during one check found the heat in the farm’s raccoon cages had reached 117.2 degrees. (Photo obtained by The Washington Post.)

“But after an appeal from an industry group to a Trump White House advisor, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and senior USDA officials intervened, according to five former USDA employees. The inspectors and veterinarians were blocked from taking the remaining raccoons and ordered to return those they had seized.”

One inspector, who had worked 20 years for the Department of Agriculture, quit later that year, explaining to The Post: “It feels like your hands are tied behind your back. You can’t do many of the things you’re supposed to do when it comes to protecting animals.”

A mother raccoon sleeps comfortably in Point Reyes Station.

The Post article goes on to describe the Trump administration’s also easing bans against cruelty to horses. This particularly affects Tennessee Walking Horses, which compete in horse shows with high-stepping gaits. Some owners unfortunately short-cut their training of the horses by driving spikes into animals’ front hooves, burning away the center of the hooves’ bottoms with caustic chemicals, or tying chains tightly around their ankles. This “soring” makes it so painful for a horse to put much weight down on its hooves that it becomes used to quickly drawing them back up.

Here again, I have a personal interest in the topic. In 1970 while teaching at Upper Iowa University, I became a Fayette County delegate to the Iowa State Democratic convention where I advocated a ban on the soring of horses. Later that year, the ban became part of a new federal law that made soring a violation of USDA regulations. Sored horses could no longer be entered in competition.

Under Trump, however, the USDA has more compassion for horse owners than mistreated horses. The USDA now says that sored horses should no longer be disqualified from horse shows unless it can be demonstrated that they belonged to their current owners at the time they were sored.

I’m sure the owners of fur farms and Tennessee Walking Horses will be voting for Trump next year.

 

Inverness’ Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History on Sunday revived from a 1990 show a fascinating exhibit of some of the architectural styles notable in West Marin during the past 150 years.

Tocaloma — This farm house on Platform Bridge Road went up around 1865. As the display notes, it is “a simple Italianate house modified by a gable roof with dormers. The projecting architectural moldings supported on consoles at the head of the windows are typical [of the style].”

Southwest of Tocaloma  in Olema stands Druids’ Hall. It was built in 1885 as a social hall for the Ancient Order of Druids, a fraternal organization founded in London in 1781. It is now operated by Sir and Star inn and restaurant.

The museum display describes the building as “handsomely proportioned with details similar to the Olema Hotel” where Sir and Star is located. The design of both buildings is “attributed to Joseph Codoni, the carpenter craftsman who combined his skill in traditional building using local materials, with pictured details from pattern books.”

The first house in Inverness was built by Capt. Alexander Baily. About 1900 Baily enlarged it to accommodate children and other family members. “A wing with gabled roof was added, thus creating more attic and the name ‘The Gables,'” according to the exhibit. For years it was the home of historian Jack Mason, his wife Jean, and daughter Barbara. Jack left the home for use as a museum when he died in 1985. The exhibit notes that the late architect “Ted Boutmy skillfully did the architectural remodeling.”

Point Reyes Station — There are some surprises in the display. Most West Marin residents are familiar with the Mission Revival architecture of the derelict Grandi Building, which was built as Hotel Point Reyes after an earlier brick building was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

The surprise is in Visalia, Tulare County, where the Hyde Business Block included this near-identical twin of the Grandi Building (as seen in a 1906 sketch). The architect is listed as B.G. McDougall.


Still standing at the corner of Third and C streets in Point Reyes Station is an old, brick structure which was built around 1907 as the Taddeucci Bakery with an adjoining house. The bricks and corrugated iron roof “perhaps … were there to make the bakery fireproof,” the museum display speculates.

Home on pilings over Tomales Bay —  “Since early days, over-water houses have been a characteristic feature in West Marin,” the exhibition notes. “Two types of construction are evident: buildings which rest partially on land above the high-tide line and extend over the bay on pile supports, and structures built entirely over the water at some distance from the shore and approached on oiled, wooden walkways.” This Inverness home built in 1955 was designed by architect Harold Wagstaff. The display comments this is “perhaps the last of the over-water houses because of coastal regulations.”

Highland Lodge, as seen in its “heyday,” on Callendar Way in Inverness was built in the early 1900s by Mary Florence Burris. She immediately set up the two story house as a full-board hotel, and in 1908, she had another two-story house built nearby for her home and as a residence for her staff, most of whom were relatives.

The lodge began attracting many prominent guests, including future President Warren G. Harding, and in 1909, Mary advertised that “Highland Lodge is open only to those who give satisfactory references.” 

Mary put her young niece Grace through teachers’ college in San Francisco, and Grace went on to teach for two years (between 1915 and 1917) at the one-room Marshall School. Grace later became a teacher and then principal at Belvedere School. “As Mary grew older, her niece Mabel took on more and more responsibility,” Meg Linden wrote in the exhibit’s program, and when Mary “died on Dec. 3, 1942, Mabel soon closed down the lodge.”

In recent years, it has been the home of former Marin County Planning Commissioner Wade Holland and his late wife Sandra.

Point Reyes Open Studios drew a crowd to artists’ workplaces around Tomales Bay over Thanksgiving weekend despite inclement weather. More than 25 artists took part in the biannual event, which will be held again Memorial Day weekend. This fall, I did most of my touring on Sunday to avoid Saturday’s rainstorms.


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Camouflaged, Inverness Park photographer Richard Blair (right) managed to blend into one of his nature scenes while talking with a visitor.


Point Reyes Open Studios “was established in 1997 to promote the work of artists living around Tomales Bay,” its literature notes. “Realizing the wealth of talent in the communities of Point Reyes Station, Inverness Park, Inverness, Olema and Marshall, the group’s founders sought to bring local artists together to form a group with an identity distinct from artists living in the rest of Marin County. A key aspect of PROS identity is ….to act as a resource and support for group members and other artists.”


100_4643 Painter Sue Gonzalez of Point Reyes Station makes open water a thing of beauty.  She drew numerous admirers Saturday despite the rain.


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Kathleen Goodwin of Inverness Park exhibited a variety of her paintings. She and her husband Richard Blair share a studio atop Inverness Ridge.


thumb_100_4648_1024Along with displaying his photography, Richard Blair offered a couple of his books of photography for sale at good prices. He told Lynn Axelrod (left) that Costco had ordered a large number of copies of different books. They had sold well, and these were the remainders.


Watercolor artist Mark Ropers of Inverness exhibited an engaging variety of landscapes and birds.

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Laurie Curtis paints and does ceramics in her colorful studio behind the veterinary clinic in Point Reyes Station. thumb_100_4660_1024


The next time you hear some haughty person refer to the uneducated masses as “the hoi polloi,” you can take secret pleasure in knowing the person is revealing his own lack of education. Hoi polloi, which comes from Greek, means “the many,” so “the hoi polloi” is literally “the the many.” Thought you’d want to know.

When former Point Reyes Station computer techie Keith Mathews (right) in 2007 moved to Augusta, Georgia, where his son lives, he gave away some of his possessions. I was lucky enough to receive his venerable copy of the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins.

I’m fascinated with etymology (the study of how specific words evolved), and because I don’t know many people who have copies of William and Mary Morris’ reference book, I’m devoting this posting to some fascinating tidbits from it. For example:

When you hear someone exclaim, “Holy Toledo,” he’s not referring to Ohio but to Toledo, Spain, which became a center of Christian culture after the Moors were driven out in 1085.

I had always assumed that when a person referred to “the honcho” or “head honcho” (meaning big shot or boss), he was using a word derived from some European language. But I was wrong. According to the Morris Dictionary, “honcho” actually comes from the Japanese word hancho meaning “squad commander.” American servicemen picked it up during the occupation of Japan following World War II.

More puzzling yet is the Japanese word banzai. “The war cry ‘Banzai‘ meant, ‘May you live 10,000 years,'” the Morris Dictionary notes, adding, “The Japanese, with a logic incomprehensible to Western minds, used to shout it when launching a suicide attack.”

My parents (at right in 1945) occasionally referred to stylishly dressed women as “fashion plates,” but even though my father was in the printing business, I doubt he knew where the phrase comes from.

I just learned myself. To quote the Morris Dictionary, “The original ‘fashion plates’ were the printing plates from which illustrations were printed in early magazines of fashions.

“Then came the expression, to describe someone who dressed in the latest mode, ‘She’s an animated fashion plate.’ The final step, to the point where the person herself was described as a ‘fashion plate,’ is obvious.”

Apropos the albino robin photo that neighbor Jay Haas contributed to last week’s posting, here are some connections I never would have imagined without the dictionary. “The robin, the traditional harbinger of spring, bears little resemblance to a German soldier — but the word has much to do with soldiers.

“It is derived from the Old High German heriberga, which meant ‘shelter for soldiers.’ Originally, a harbinger was one who went ahead of any army or a royal party to arrange for lodgings and other accommodations.

“Since then it has come to mean anyone who goes ahead to announce the coming of others — or a person or thing which hints of coming events. That’s how the robin got into the act.”

To “smell a rat” is to suspect something devious is going on. But what does the phrase literally mean? It turns out to be an allusion “to a cat’s ability to smell a rat it cannot see,” according to Morris. Makes sense.

We’ll end with the expression “knock off work,” which I’m about to do. According to the Morris Dictionary, the phrase originated back when galleys were rowed by slaves. “To keep oarsmen rowing in unison, a man beat time rhythmically on a block of wood,” the dictionary explains. “When it was time to rest or change shifts, he would give a special knock on the block, signifying that they could ‘knock off work.'”

Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins is still available online and probably in some bookstores. Any writer with the ambition of rising above the level of Wikipedia ought to have his own copy.

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