General News


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Can events in nature foreshadow events in the human world — e.g. a devastating storm before a  big battle?  The storm may not cause the battle but merely symbolize events to come. 

 

Mass burial. The first nine days of Russia’s shelling of Mariupol in Ukraine led to bodies of civilians being dumped in mass graves. It’s a horrid scene. Widespread death is certainly becoming a metaphor for our time.

Appropriately enough, a vulture swooped down outside our front window today and put on an impressive display. My first thought was: that’s one big buzzard! My second was: this carrion eater reminds me of Vladimir Putin hovering over Ukraine. It’s hard to get that war off one’s mind.

A true diversion. Seven blacktail deer outside our kitchen door today.

The deer made Newy, the stray cat we adopted, curious, and she wandered over for a closer look. The deer were obviously curious about her too. Newy arrived at Mitchell cabin last year with a family of raccoons, and she enjoys watching wildlife as much as we do. In fact, sometimes she seems to think of herself as wildlife, but Lynn makes sure to get her in at night and makes her bed nice and cozy.

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.

Vladimir Putin likes to be photographed without a shirt, and this picture of him horseback riding barechested in Siberia in 2009 circulated worldwide. 
Perhaps it inspired this well-publicized spoof showing Putin riding a bear. “I have seen ‘photos’ of me riding a bear,” the Russian president has said. “I have not ridden a bear yet, but there are such photos already.” Is yet the operative word here?

In his apparent quest for Russia to regain its Soviet Union hegemony over much of Eastern Europe, Putin may yet be gobbled by a bear, for not even all Russians are happy with his invasion of Ukraine.

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Who’s waffling?

I bought a pint of “Organic Maple Syrup” to go with my daily waffle, but when I brought it home, I noticed it didn’t taste quite as I expected, so I examined the tub it came in.

Printed on a label atop the tub is a “California Proposition 65 WARNING: Consuming this product can expose you to chemicals including lead, which is known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/food.” I checked the warning and found: “Lead and lead compounds are on the Proposition 65 list because they can cause cancer.  Exposure to lead and lead compounds may increase cancer risk.”

Yet the syrup is promoted as “organic” and “non-GMO” (without genetically modified organisms). How can something that sounds so healthy also be dangerous?

It’s all craziness.

 

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Standing with Putin.

During Donald Trump’s controversial presidency, it was never a secret how much he admired Russia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin, whom he described as a friend. Amazingly, Trump’s fawning admiration only grew when Putin this week sent troops into the Ukraine, and Russia fired missiles into its cities.

Putin’s strategy has been for two political districts (oblasts) of the Ukraine, which are dominated by separatists, to become independent statelets friendly to and dependent upon Russia. On Tuesday, members of Russia’s parliament officially adopted Putin’s plan and recognized the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent of the Ukranian [sic] government.

“Russian MPs Greenlight Putin’s Recognition of Rebel Ukranian Regions,” A Moscow Times headline noted.

Russia meanwhile claims its troops in the Ukraine are only there as “peacekeepers” to defend Donetsk and Luhansk from the Ukrainian government.

Numerous people have been killed, and several Ukranian cities have been struck by Russian missiles this week. Putin’s imperialism offends much of the world, but Trump on Tuesday praised it as “genius” and “very savvy…. Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?”

By Saturday, however, Trump had decided Putin may not have been so smart when he directed an invasion of the Ukraine. “I just think it’s a shame that this is going on. It’s something that should not be going on,” Trump said. “Thousands of people, I mean, this can lead to much bigger than this one area,” Trump warned.

“This could lead to a lot of other countries and can lead to world war…. You never know how it starts, in a world war.”

Trump, meanwhile continues to portray public events as all about himself. Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, he claimed, “all happened because of a rigged election.” If Trump had been declared the winner of the 2020 national election, he told Fox News, “this would have never happened.”

 

Trump toadying up to Putin on a 2020 political pin.

When Russia appeared to be preparing for an amphibious landing in the Ukraine, Trump mistakenly commented on Fox News that US troops had carried out an amphibious landing and criticized Fox correspondent Laura Ingraham for reporting on this supposedly top secret US military action.

“You shouldn’t be saying that because you and everybody else shouldn’t know about it. They should do that secretly, not be doing that through the great Laura Ingraham,” he said sarcastically.

“No. Those were the Russians,” Ingraham corrected him. “Oh, I thought you said that we were sending people in,” Trump responded. “That’ll be next.”

Putin’s charm offensives seem to work.  In 2010, for example, he promoted himself as a good guy by singing Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill (click to watch) for a charity fundraiser. This Russian Television video of the event shows how he charmed celebrities like Kevin Costner, Goldie Hawn, and Gérard Depardieu, all of whom are a clearly more sophisticated than “the Donald,” as his first wife, Ivana, called him.

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To ressurect one of my Valentine’s Day photos, I’ll start off with a skein of Canada geese flying past Inverness Ridge.

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This posting is late because I’ve been grappling with interference from some hacker, who’s dropped hundreds of odd symbols seemingly at random in posts I recently put online and posts from years ago.

Some examples:

—Journalist!
 
— Salvadoran
 
 the Gibson
 
 
 The author

 

I suspect the hacker is Vietnamese since the symbols also show up in foreign-language comments, which Google identifies as Vietnamese.

 

 

 

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The oddest West Marin news in the past fortnight came in the Feb. 3 Point Reyes Light. Here it is word for word.

Sheriff’s Call — Sunday, Jan.10: 

NICASIO: At 7:42 p.m. a woman who said she was moving to town from Southern California reported that someone who works at the post office was shooting metaphorical arrows, meaning witchcraft and sorcery, and that God had told her she needed to eradicate witchcraft and sorcery. She said the man was going to make her have demonic serpent offspring and she could not report him to his supervisor because the supervisor was likely in the same region of warlocks, and she wanted to assure deputies that she had not been struck by the arrows because she was protected by the blood of Jesus — she had an X-ray to prove it.

When I showed this to a friend in San Rafael, what he found equally amazing is that tiny Nicasio has its own post office.

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This weekend I rediscovered a trove of old t-shirts when a knob came loose on a dresser drawer in the bedroom. The drawer, which I had rarely opened, turned out to be full of badly worn shirts I’d collected during the past four decades but then forgotten about. In picking through them, I found many of these t-shirts were souvenirs of places I’d been and things I’d observed. T-shirts are often sold as such, but what I discovered is they can be arranged to tell stories.

This Synanon t-shirt, which an ex-member of the cult gave me, was an instant reminder of the late 1970s when I edited and published The Point Reyes Light and when Synanon was headquartered in Marshall. As The Light revealed, Synanon’s focus had evolved from drug-treatment to making money. It claimed to be a church in order to avoid regulations, as well as taxes on that money. Its lawyers began referring to Synanon as a “cult.” From there it was a short step into becoming a criminally violent organization. This history makes the shirt’s “Synanon the People Business” message all the more ironic.

Now here’s a souvenir I can use some help with. The shirt commemorates “The First Annual West Marin Oyster Festival.” I vaguely remember such an event, but I don’t recall where it was held nor whether there were more West Marin Oyster Festivals. Any reader who does remember is encouraged to let us all know know in the comment section.

“It Was Another Safe & Sane 4th in Bolinas.” What year was this? What prompted the boast?

How about this t-shirt from  the Gibson House, once a highly regarded bar and restaurant in Bolinas? Was there a particular issue that inspired this? If so, when?

The Marshall Tavern had its own shirt. Does anyone remember when this came out?

The Point Reyes Light distributed a number of t-shirts. This one from the 1970s is a reminder of the days when the cover price was a tenth of what it is today.

One of The Light’s particularly popular features was Tomales cartoonist Kathryn LeMieux’s Feral West. As seen, there was a time that graffiti artists frequently scrawled “SKIDS” along West Marin roadsides.

The vast majority of Mexican immigrants in West Marin are from Jalostotitlán. Beginning in the 1980s, The Light sent reporters to southern Mexico three times to document the historic immigration from Jalos.

As for my own foreign reporting, in the early 1980s, I took a two-year leave from The Light to report for The San Francisco Examiner. The then-Hearst-owned daily sent me to Central America for three months to cover fighting underway in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Surprising acronym. One of my favorite t-shirts from these adventures was from the SPCA Salvadoran Press Corps Association.

Because unfamiliar people showing up during a firefight can easily be suspected of being enemy personnel, the back of my SPCA shirt carried the message: !PERIODISTA! !No DISPARE! Journalist! Don’t shoot!

An example of  the violence in the air when I was in Central America. However, since “your country” referred to El Salvador, why was the message in English and not Spanish?

 

 

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This week I’ll reprint a bit of the humor that’s been emailed to me in the past week, including a few unlikely photos.

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A good looking man walked into an agent’s office in Hollywood and said, “I want to be a movie star.” Tall, handsome and with experience on Broadway, he had the right credentials. The agent asked, “What’s your name?”

The guy said, “My name is Penis van Lesbian.” The agent said, “Sir, I hate to tell you, but in order to get into Hollywood , you are going to have to change your name.”

Just a pinch

“I will NOT change my name!” the man replied. “The van Lesbian name is centuries old. I will not disrespect my grandfather by changing my name. Not ever.”

The agent said, “Sir, I have worked in Hollywood for years… You will NEVER go far in Hollywood with a name like Penis van Lesbian! I’m telling you, you will HAVE TO change your name or I will not be able to represent you.” The guy responded, “So be it! I guess we will not do business together,” and he abruptly left the agent’s office.

Five years later, the agent opens an envelope sent to his office. Inside the envelope is a letter and a check for $50,000. He reads the letter enclosed: “Dear Sir, Five years ago, I came into your office wanting to become an actor in Hollywood. You told me I needed to change my name. Determined to make it with my God-given birth name, I refused. You told me I would never make it in Hollywood with a name like Penis van Lesbian.

“After I left your office, I thought about what you said. I decided you were right. I had to change my name. I had too much pride to return to your office, so I signed with another agent. “I would never have made it without changing my name, so the enclosed check is a token of my appreciation. Thank you for your advice.”

Sincerely, Dick van Dyke

 

 

 

Praising the sun

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CNN (click to read full story) — Former President Donald Trump railed against his one-time close ally Benjamin Netanyahu in a new interview series, saying he felt betrayed by the then-prime minister of Israel’s video message to Joe Biden congratulating him on winning the presidency.

“It was early. OK? Let’s put it this way; he greeted him very early. Earlier than most world leaders. I’ve not spoken to him since. Fuck him!”
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Duck surfing a dam.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Among those performing with drummer Michael Aragon Sunday was Rob Fordyce, guitarist for the band Fuzzy Slippers.

It was a musical event to remember. Sunday afternoon, Jon Fernandez of Inverness and his wife Patsy Krebs rode with Lynn and me to San Rafael to be guests at a wonderful jazz reawakening.

Although he’d become widely respected in the Bay Area jazz scene, drummer Michael Aragon, 77, retired two years ago for health reasons. By then, his quartet had played the Friday night gig at Sausalito’s No Name Bar for 36 years. Jon and I, sometimes accompanied by Lynn, attended most Fridays in the last five years.

Last weekend, Aragon hosted a jazz party at the San Rafael Yacht Club, and a number of fellow musicians, along with fans from his Sausalito days, showed up.

‘Twas a convivial gathering in which the afternoon’s performers mingled with the guests. From left: keyboardist KC Filson, brothers Gene and Joe Handy, and caterer Diane Johnson, who showed up with a scrumptious array of hors d’oeuvres.

The San Rafael Yacht Club with its beautiful location on the San Rafael Canal has been around since 1938, but I was unfamiliar with it before Sunday’s party.

During a break, Aragon chats with Ray E. Smith, who with his partner Vivian, for years showed up at the No Name most Friday evenings to hear Aragon’s quartet. Also taking part in this discussion are Patsy Krebs and her husband Jon. Sitting next to me is Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of the Ocean Voyages Institute, which was all over the news a year ago. “The [institute’s] first mission brought back an impressive 103 tons of plastic debris after 48 days at sea, setting a record for the largest open-ocean cleanup to date,” the North American Marine Environment Protection Association glowingly reported at the time.  (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Conga drum player Luis Carbone helped arrange for the party to be held at the Yacht Club and contributed a savory pot of chicken adobo to the hors d’oeuvres table.

Aragon is already talking about having another party at the Yacht Club. As evidenced by the enthusiasm of Sunday’s crowd, many of us would like to see it become his regular venue now that he’s performing again.

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.

 

Billy Hobbs holds a croton houseplant my wife Lynn gave him Wednesday as a house-warming present.

A NEW DAY has dawned for a long-time-homeless resident of Point Reyes Station, Billy Hobbs. Billy, who was homeless for seven years following the breakup of a 25-year marriage, is now housed.

Thanks to the California Section 8 Housing Program, Billy two weeks ago moved into a pleasant, one-bedroom apartment in San Rafael. The second-floor apartment comes with a fireplace and the deck on which he is standing above.

In his younger days, Billy, now 63, worked in construction, house painting, agriculture, and more. In recent years, however, he’s occupied himself with art.

 

Here he is seen drawing outside the Point Reyes Station postoffice two years ago.

Billy Hobbs was sleeping outdoors in Point Reyes Station when the rain and cold winds hit two winters ago, so Lynn and I offered to let him wait out the bad weather in Mitchell cabin. Once he did, Billy was able to resume showering and getting his clothes cleaned regularly. Add to that a haircut and a beard trim, and he had dramatically cleaned up his act.

This past winter, I parked my second car (since donated to KQED) on Mesa Road downtown for him to sleep in; the car had to be moved every 72 hours to comply with the law. Earlier this year, he stayed briefly in a San Rafael motel at county expense. His Section 8 housing is funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

By now, Billy’s situation is known to editors around the world. A posting I wrote about Billy two years ago was reprinted by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and distributed among members in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia, South Africa, Nepal, and China. And these reprints do get read. A reprint of my Aug. 20 posting, in which I mentioned breaking my shoulder falling on the stairs, drew a get-well message from France.

I know of folks who have been on the waiting list for Section 8 housing 20 years, so Billy would probably appreciate it if readers who know a bit about his story wrote to congratulate him on his new home: 100 Laurel Place, Apt. 17, San Rafael, CA 94901.

 

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“A bird in the hand,” wrote Cervantes, “is worth….

 

“two in the bush.” (Don Quixote, 1605)

 I had opportunities to enjoy both this past week, and at least for entertainment value, the bird in the hand is definitely more interesting. It was the third time recently that I’d had the opportunity to hold a live bird. Our cat Newy catches birds outdoors, brings them indoors as gifts for Lynn and me, and drops them on the floor where they are relatively easy to scoop up by hand.

As I noted last week, it appears that the experience of being carried around in the cat’s jaws is enough of a shock that it leaves them fairly dazed for brief period. But that doesn’t last, and the bird I’m holding above flew off after I took it outside.

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Environmental news

Of course, in West Marin even what animals belong outside is matter for debate. One of my favorite sections of The Point Reyes Light are its Sheriff’s Calls. On Sept.28, the column reported, a Woodacre man complained to deputies that “his caretaker fed the raccoons, and he was worried the animals would become dependent on people and turn into a larger issue. He said there were too many animals outside.”

That left me guessing: Was he only concerned with an abundance of raccoons? What other kinds of animals might he have on his mind? Just the name Woodacre would seem to refer to wooded acreage where wild animals might be expected.

And now for some more nutty national news

“A woman is accused of fatally shooting a man earlier this week,” The Chicago Sun Times reported Saturday, “when he refused to kiss her and instead asked his girlfriend for a kiss. The three were hanging out and drinking at their home….

“While they were drinking Thursday [Claudia] Resendiz-Flores asked 29-year-old James Jones for a kiss and became jealous when he refused and instead turned to his girlfriend and asked for a smooch,” prosecutors allege. “That’s when Resendiz-Flores’ demeanor changed and she again demanded he kiss her…

“When Jones said he wouldn’t kiss her, Resendiz-Flores took his gun, which was tucked between couch cushions at the home and aimed it at him,” prosecutors added, noting that Jones tried to push the gun down, but she “shot him once in the chest, killing him.” Resendiz-Flores has been charged with first-degree murder.

It’s as nutty as last week’s story about a man who shot his brother to death because his brother, a pharmacist, was administering Covid-19 vaccinations. The killer was convinced that the vaccinations are the government’s way of poisoning people. And while he was busy killing his brother, he took time out to also kill his sister-in-law and an 83-year-old woman who was a friend of hers.

It’s all tragically nutty.

 

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A Cal Fire helicopter on Thursday crosses Inverness Ridge to drop water on a containment line for the Woodward Fire in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Smoke from back-burns rises through the forest.

The Woodward Fire, which was started by a lightning strike Aug. 18, was 85 percent contained by this evening after having grown to more than 4,800 acres. Part of the containment has included setting back-burns along Limantour Road. Full containment is expected by Tuesday.

Smoke from the fire has at times made the air in much of West Marin unhealthy, and smoke from hot spots may last for months, the Park Service has warned.

Vidas Negras Importan

The Black Lives Matter movement is sometimes getting overshadowed by the chaos at just a very few of the hundreds of protests around the country. In these isolated cases, looters and vandals have taken advantage of there being crowds in downtown areas. On at least one occasion, however, a covert white supremacist damaged property during a protest to discredit the protesters. Despite all this, only 7 percent of all the protests nationwide have had such problems, The Washington Post reported this past week.

 In an effort to refocus public attention on what the movement is really all about — stopping the unwarranted killing of Black people by overly aggressive police officers in several cities — I came up with a sign in Spanish. Its intent is to show that criticism of the killings transcends the Black and Anglo Saxon communities.

Maddy Sobel, who often sell jams and jellies in front of the Point Reyes Station post office, is also an artist, and she illustrated one of my signs. Her thought is that if I make some copies of her illustration, she can give them to kids to color with crayons. Sounds good to me. I gave another copy to Toby’s Coffee Bar, and you can see it displayed there without illustration.

Bumping elbows but not shaking hands. From left: Phil Jennings, yours truly, and Gordon Jones

Before the pandemic and sheltering in place, I went to the No Name Bar in Sausalito to listen to live jazz every Friday night. Sunday afternoon, two friends from the No Name dropped by for an outdoor visit. I gave them both copies of the sign, and Jones was so enthusiastic he said he may have it imprinted on t-shirts.

My own family’s efforts to get justice for Blacks date from before the Civil War. My great-grandfather Luke Parsons was a member of John Brown’s Army but did not take part in the debacle at Harper’s Ferry. Instead he went on to command a Union Army company of Native Americans fighting in the Oklahoma Territory.

My late father was a Republican who supported the NAACP.  I formally joined the movement in the spring of 1968 while I was teaching high school in Leesburg, Florida. At the time, Willis V. McCall was the sheriff of Lake County, Florida, where Leesburg is located. He had come to be called the worst sheriff in the US and in private bragged he’d “killed more n-ggers” than any other man.

When McCall came up for reelection in 1968, a well-regarded Leesburg police officer ran against him, and I signed up to canvass voters in Black neighborhoods for the challenger. Unfortunately, McCall again won but was defeated four years later after yet another cruelty: a mentally impaired Black man was kicked to death in the Lake County jail.

Civil rights activist Julian Bond (center) in 1970 with members of an Upper Iowa University group, the Brotherhood, who had invited him to speak on campus. While he was studying at Morehouse College in the early 1960s, Bond had established the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a.k.a. SNCC (pronounced “Snick”).

In the fall of 1968 I began teaching English and journalism at Upper Iowa University and the next semester became a faculty advisor to the new Black student union. As the group explained in a flyer: “The Brotherhood was founded and chartered in February 1969. It is an organized group open to anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of Black culture…

“Under the able leadership of our past president, Rick Weber, and the helpful assistance of our advisors, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. [Robert] Schenck, the Brotherhood has enriched campus life by promoting various social functions, such as the annual Black Night.” Besides that variety show, the Brotherhood has sponsored “an inter-racial forum, and a play, A Raisin in the Sun. Our biggest accomplishment was, of course, acquisition of a Black Cultural House.”

Half a century later, I still recall advising the Brotherhood as one of my most informative experiences.

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