Friday, November 14, 2014

Huffman to GOP: Get off the Pipe! (The XL Pipeline, that is)

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 10:44 AM

North Bay U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman took to the floor of Congress this morning and WENT OFF on Republicans eager to fast-track that dumb pipeline: 

“Mr. Speaker, we are considering yet another bill to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline outside of the regular order required for all other international energy infrastructure projects. This is a very early Christmas present from the United States Congress to one specific Canadian company. This vote effectively exempts TransCanada from the rigorous analysis and the permitting standards that all American companies are held to. Worse yet, TransCanada will be exempt from paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund that all conventional crude companies are required to pay into.

So Merry Christmas, TransCanada.

And what gift can we expect in exchange? Well, carbon pollution, heavy crude shipped through our country to export terminals, and higher gas prices! Let’s remember that TransCanada is on record saying that Keystone XL would increase the price of oil in the United States. Meanwhile, the regular permitting process is already in progress and on track. So instead of rigorous, deliberative process, the GOP majority is rushing to raise gas prices in this country. This Christmas present to TransCanada is actually like a lump of coal for U.S. consumers at the pump. It’s certainly a lump of coal for communities who are sure to be impacted by this pipeline when something goes wrong. And it’s absolutely a huge lump of coal for our global climate. Congress should reject this massive corporate giveaway. We still have another 41 shopping days until Christmas. There’s no need for us to play Santa for TransCanada today.”


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Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Cliché on Wheels

Sonoma magazine's latest cover looks like a wine country parody.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Just a typical holiday scene in wine country.
  • Just a typical holiday scene in wine country.

Yesterday I had my thinking cap on and was trying to come up with compelling cover image ideas for our winter issue of Boheme, a pocket guide to retailers, wineries, breweries and spas in the North Bay. I want a photograph to evoke winter in the North Bay and wine country, something visually appealing but not too staged or phony. A couple walking through a yellow-leafed vineyard with sweaters on? Someone sipping a cup of hot chocolate? A crab boat?

Then I saw the cover of the new Sonoma magazine. The magazine is generally quite beautiful with lavish photography, attractive layout and well-written articles that seem designed for the nightstands of affluent guests at the Hotel Healdsburg. But this issue's cover image killed me. It looked like a parody of J Crew catalog: an old pickup truck with a holiday wreath on the grill and precariously stacked presents on the roof. At the wheel is what looks like an adorable springer spaniel. You know, just your typical wine country scene. I guess the owner of the vintage truck was driving through his vineyard on his way to deliver his cargo of handmade and sustainable gifts to all his fellow winemaker friends while his beloved dog waited in the cab. He better watch his speed though because those presents are threatening to topple over at any moment.

The wine county is a place, but also a trope that's built on mythologized images of bucolic bliss and rustic charm. I've never seen a better example of this fantasy than Sonoma mag's current cover.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Eye of the Beholder

What was behind that cover image anyway?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 5:00 PM

What do you think is happening here?
  • What do you think is happening here?

One of my favorite parts of my job as editor the Bohemian is working with artists and photographers to create each week’s cover. The cover almost always relates to our feature story and is designed to be eye-grabbing from up to 10 feet away and make readers say, “hey, that looks interesting. I better pick that up and read it.”

For our fall literature issue last month, I wanted an artist to illustrate the winning entry in our annual fiction contest, “The God’s Eye” by Jeff Cox. I reached out to Brooklyn illustrator extraordinaire Danny Hellman. He’s inked work for dozens of magazines and newspapers. I sent him the winning story, an Agatha Christie-esque story about a stolen jewel, and asked him render a scene. I thought the illustration he sent me was spot-on. It showed a woman on her knees looking for the missing jewel while a sinister man with a gun loomed in a doorway behind her. A big eyeball floated between them. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t read the story: the thief stashed the jewel in the empty socket behind his glass eye, hence the floating eyeball on the cover). But that’s not what a few readers saw.

I got angry calls and letters complaining that the image was “sexist,” “salacious” and “detestable.” One writer said the image portrayed an impending rape. Does a woman on the floor automatically signify sex or rape? Could there be another connotation? Not in the mind of these readers. Sexist and disgusting. Case closed. Never mind they didn’t actually read the short story to which the illustration referred.

Alternative weeklies are known for publishing some pretty provocative stuff and by that measure I think the cover was rather tame. I’ve seen more sex and violence on the cover of magazines in the supermarket checkout line.

Violence against women is real and is not something I take lightly. The cover image drew on the tradition of pulp fiction and was intended to be visually striking, but puzzling enough to get readers to open the paper to find out what was going on. What is she doing on the ground? What’s up with that eyeball? To readers who were offended and saw nothing but sex and violence, consider the possibility that your interpretation was wrong.

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Palm Drive Hospital: Open by April?!

Dan Smith says YES (at least that's the plan)

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Take three aspirin and call us in April
  • Take three aspirin and call us in April

There’s still a ways to go, but Sebastopol philanthropist-businessman and out-front Palm Drive Hospital booster Dan Smith says to keep an eye out for April 6, 2015.

That’s the “projected opening date” of the now-shuttered West County hospital, says Smith, who has been working with the Santa Rosa pulmonologist Dr. James K. Gude on a board-approved plan to try and reopen the hospital as a financially viable, sustainable business with an emphasis on specialty services. The beloved hospital went bankrupt and closed in late April.

In the intervening months, Gude has spearheaded an effort that would reopen Palm Drive and make the facility a “center of excellence for certain kinds of services that would draw people from places outside of West County,” says Smith. The reopen plan offers limited in-patient beds, acute-care services and an emergency room—but under the aegis of “a specialty service building that’s also a hospital,” says Smith.

So far, Gude and Smith have lined up commitments from a neurologist, a urologist and a specialist in minimally invasive spine surgeries, all from other area health outlets, says Smith. “They are part of the plan, and they have made commitments that they would bring their practices here,” says Smith. “That’s all happening because we have Dr. James Gude.”

The plan has gotten “positive” feedback from the Palm Drive Health Care District board of directors, says Smith, though “there are still people who are trying to understand whether it can be financially feasible, and that’s a process we’re still in the middle of. The issue is: How much start-up capital do we need? We’re restarting a business with 200 employees from zero.
That’s a complex problem—and we’ll need $9 million to $12 million to get started.”

Board Vice President Marsha Lustig is one of those people. She’s “very hopeful and hope that’s what happens,” insofar as the proposed April reopen, but says she’s still are waiting for the financials. “Some financials,” she says. “We haven’t seen any!”

They’re coming next week, says Smith. He expects that the facility would need about $1 million annually for plant upkeep and maintenance—“It’s well within the district’s ability to find funding for that.”

The proposed April reopening, Smith says, is moving right ahead. “We’re putting all the pieces together to meet that goal,” says Smith, who is pushing a fundraising effort that aims to raise $9.2 million. “In the last week we received commitments for $1 million. It’s going extremely well, even better than I had anticipated.”
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Beautiful Earth

Bella Gaia seeks to deepen our appreciation for our planet

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 11:50 AM


This Saturday, Oct. 11, the immersive multimedia performance known as Bella Gaia will be exhibiting a special display of their world music and dance performers accompanied by breathtaking scenes of cosmic imagery. The multi-sensory experience combines images of Earth and nature courtesy of NASA satellite photographs paired with live performances of music and dance from around the world. It is coming to the Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium for a very rare performance, and for one night only.

The ensemble’s purpose is to deepen appreciation for our planet and the environmental challenges it faces. And it seems to be working; data from a NASA-led survey shows that “90 percent of the audience reported a transformed perspective of the Earth, and a doubling of respondents say that the Earth plays a more important role in their personal lives and their family” after attending Bella-Gaia.

“At the time, I had no idea what to do, how I would do it, or what it would look like,” says creator Kenji Williams. “But chance meetings, introductions, and a stubborn persistence led me to win several grants to start production, and develop the project. It really grew organically, through synchronous meetings, and collaborations. Bella Gaia chose me, not the other way around!”

It began with a collaboration between Williams and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who had lived on the International Space Station for over a year. Williams recalls: “I asked him 'what changed when you went into space?' and he told me that before he went to space, his favorite planets were Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, but once he went into space and looked out the window of the space station, he completely fell in love with planet Earth, and Earth became his favorite planet. I just got really inspired by this story, and got me thinking 'How could I bring this transformative effect that Mike Fincke had, to those of us who cannot yet go to space?' This was the primary motivation that led me to create Bella Gaia.”

“The long term goal is to create our own stand-alone custom theater,” says Williams. “Bella Gaia currently exists on multiple platforms using HD and traditional theaters, full-dome planetarium, and more. But I would like to design a theater screen and stage that combines the best of all these different types of experiences, into one ultimate experience.”

His vision is to scale up the technology and audience relationship to the performance in a new theater entirely different from anything in existence, one that caters to the many aspects of the experience of Bella Gaia and reaches more people.

At their upcoming show Bella Gaia wishes to build support for their latest single, "Biosphere Pulse”, and their forthcoming album Bella Gaia—Beautiful Earth which has a release date of Nov. 11, as well as to share this audio-visual extravaganza with the North Bay.

Tickets are $25-$75. Click here for more info.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Beard and Loathing in Santa Rosa

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Actor-humorist Nick Offerman is coming to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts tomorrow, Saturday, for his one-man show, Full Bush. Should be a hoot. I interviewed Offerman for the paper a couple of weeks ago, and the star of NBC’s hit sitcom Parks and Recreation was the very picture of bearded affability and generosity with the fun quotage.

One of the cool things about Offerman was his unbridled enthusiasm for all things North Bay. He and his wife, actor Megan Mullally, spend lots of time up here, much of it in the nude.

Offerman recalled coming to Santa Rosa when he was younger, and described it with a sort of boyish wonder, as a kind of Oz-like place where he could “be as weird as I wanted to be in the Santa Rosa neighborhood.”

Nobody cared, nobody batted an eyelash, he said, and noted that gigging at the Wells Fargo Center has been a dream gig of his all along. He’s arrived.

Santa Rosa has some weird people on its streets, to this day. Any morning visitor to Peet’s Coffee on 4th Street knows this: It’s a rolling parade of pipe-poking travelers and bug-eyed sub-mystics shaking the morning dew from their backpacks and eyebrows. I had this vision of Offerman, pre-fame, wandering among the misfits of Santa Rosa, wholly in his element, and a wooly one at that.

Anyway, it was a cool chat with Offerman. Go check out the interview if you didn’t see it. Saturday’s show promises lots of laughs, but with a message. He told me that “as a humorist, I’m fed up and frustrated, and all I can do is continue to promote individualism, free thought and human decency.”

But the message he’s pushing out in Full Bush goes beyond a simple cry for civility and shared libertarian values—his are of the left-of-center libertarian ethos, with big-ups to Teddy Roosevelt along the way. Offerman says he aims to point out to his audience that consumer choices we make have ripple effects that are easy to blow off. Whether it’s a certain brand of clothing or gasoline, he says, “people are doing damage to other people.”

I spent a few minutes talking with the hirsute humorist about a beard competition I covered down in New Orleans last year for the local daily. Lotta fun. There were a lot of very high-concept and super-groomed guys making the scene at the legendary club Tipitina’s for the event, but the coolest thing about it was the guy who won the overall award for Best Beard.

That guy had a wild, disheveled beard that was kind of scary, and mesmerizingly cool at the same time. Sort of like New Orleans itself. The dude looked like he’d just come off a six-month stint on Survivorman. He looked like someone you might see hangin’ out in front of Peet’s on any given morning.

Offerman took the bait, oh, but he did: “It’s quite comforting to hear that at least the National Beard competition had the sagacity to award the Full Bush participant.”

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Ode to a Patty Melt

Pt. Reyes Station's Pine Cone Diner delivers the goods

Posted By on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 2:42 PM


We were on the road from Santa Rosa to Bolinas on Wednesday in the luxe and powerful Grand Marquis, rolling large and in charge, with morning business concluded: Check in with the Santa Rosa office, whack out some online business, get ready for next week’s issue.

My companion had previously dumped his car at the wrecker’s in Santa Rosa with the tow guy, and needed to grab a check for his car; now he had money burning a hole in his pocket, even after blowing $72 at the Santa Rosa Barnes & Noble and some tea at the nearby Peet’s on the main downtown drag.

We purred through Petaluma, stopped at the McEvoy Ranch for some olive oil and information—and then debated and discussed in great and animated detail, the various Pt. Reyes Station lunch options down the road—Station House Café, Osteria Stellina, Pine Cone Diner.

The piscatarian in the car emphasizes that he doesn’t eat meat, though I did recall selling him a large, barbecued and quite deliciously nasty Polish sausage at a recent Bolinas Community Center Fund-Raiser…hmm. Well.

We all have our little slips now and again.

I was about to have one of my own. I turned 47 about a month ago and decided to lay off the red meat awhile.

Maybe a long while.

Maybe until lunch Wednesday, after we rolled into Pt. Reyes Station with hunger and mirth on the mind—and the Pine Cone in our sights.

The Pine Cone Diner falls into the category of institution. You can know this even if you’ve never been there before. As diners go, it is not especially cheap, but as Marin County eateries go, it’s very affordable.

It’s a diner, and diners are by, for and of the people. I come from Long Island. We know diners, and we know when someone’s trying to jack you with some $23 offering of grandma’s meatloaf.

If journalism, at its best, is about afflicting the comforted and comforting the afflicted, let’s afflict the comfort food wannabes that ape diner food and try to convince you that macaroni and cheese is haute cuisine because you rubbed your truffles on it. The Pine Cone Diner is not one such place. Its comfort is built in, unaffected, even a little cranky at times. That’s cool.

Goshamighty, all this talk of food reminds me that I had the craving. I had the mind-eyeball for a cheeseburger, a fat, juicy burger. With a dollop of mayonnaise squeezed on the side of the plate, for extra-dipping pleasure. With French fries, glorious French fries bathed in the oil of excess.

But I thought of the pact: lay off this stuff, man.

So I scanned the menu, and scanned it again. I ignored the cheeseburgers with great effort, I scoffed at the turkey burger, I shot poison darts at the garden burger. One or two items sounded like Alice Waters was hiding under the placemat, and I ignored those, too.

And then I spotted it. Patty melt!

Hey, I thought, that’s a big step-down from the big and juicy burger. It’s verily a compromise. Why, it’s practically like ordering cottage cheese on a fantail of iceberg lettuce and some treacle-fruit from the can, right?

The Patty melt, to put the finest of points on it, was an exquisitely humble take on the old standby: butter-grilled rye, sautéed onions, melted cheese of indeterminate origins, and that godforsaken patty of love-hate-love, cooked to perfection. It’s Marin Sun Farms meat—comes from right down the road. It’s good for you.

In retrospect, I should have ordered the double patty melt.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

High Kaliber Good Times

Catching a game of football with non-alcoholic beer

Posted By on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 4:08 PM


The year was 2008 and the New York Football Giants were in the Super Bowl. I was sober and single, living in New Haven, Connecticut, and I settled in for the game.

And what a game it was!

On the menu: A six-pack of Kaliber non-alcoholic beer, and a bag of peanuts in the shell. A pile of socks and other random stuff next to my chair, to throw at the television as the incredibly tense game wore on.

That was, perhaps, the greatest night of my life. Sad, but true. The New York Football Giants won the game, now considered one of the Greatest Super Bowls Ever. A true nail-biter. I must have thrown 50 socks at the TV that night.

That Super Bowl was memorable for “The Catch,” the most insane pass play in the history of the game: Eli Manning to David Tyree, deep in the fourth quarter. Tyree somehow trapped the ball on his helmet and kept a fourth quarter drive going that would end in Victory! Victory! Victory!

(Oh, you say: “The Catch” in these parts refers to the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark end-zone game capper in the 1982 NFC championship. Nice catch, Clark, and thanks for beating the hated Cowboys—but that was no Tyree grab. I’ll fight anyone for bragging rights to “The Catch.”The loser’s on the hook for some tasty fake beers.)

I drank that whole dang six-pack of Kaliber that night and felt like a drunken reveler when those last seconds ticked off and the Giants had, very improbably and with the miracle of The Catch, won the game. I toasted the Boys in Blue with that final Kaliber, collected the socks, and went to bed. In the morning: No hangover!

Hangovers suck, I try to avoid them whenever possible, and, as such, I’ve tried just about every available non-alcoholic beer there is on the market. My taste for the stuff is split across two poles: I love the extremely bland Busch non-alcoholic beer, mostly because you can drink ninety cans and feel you’ve done a fine job of hydrating yourself. It’s healthy!

On the other end, the delicious, nutritious Kaliber, which is made by the Guinness folks, has that same rich, creamy and slightly bitter backbite that characterizes the stout. It’s the upper-class non-alcoholic beer, and for my money, anyway, it blows all the other high-endish non-alcoholic offerings out of the water.

The popular St. Pauli Girl non-alcoholic version is one that comes to mind, and I’ve tried it. I’m a pretty bitter person at times, but even that stuff is too much for me.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Local Pols Push Obama to Fast Track Disaster Aid to Earthquake Zone

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 2:58 PM

Napa Congressman Mike Thompson today called on President Barack Obama to not waste time and open the FEMA coffers to individuals who took a hit in the Aug. 24 temblor that shook Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties.

Thompson joined Sen. Barbara Boxer in tag-team statements issued this afternoon. Obama yesterday said the quake zone was a major disaster site—a key declaration that opened the doors to federal assistance, but not for individuals. At least not yet.

The local pols’ statements follow on Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a state of emergency—and a state push on Obama to declare the area a disaster zone.

“The approval of these federal disaster funds is an important step in our recovery, wrote Thompson.
“They will help our cities and towns repair the damage that was caused by the earthquake. However, these funds do not help individuals in our community who are still struggling to get back on their feet. I urge the White House to take the next important step and approve federal disaster assistance for individual families as requested by the State of California.”

A key stat underlying the Thompson and Boxer statements is the difference in public and private damage wrought by the earth-rocker: “Local assessments show the earthquake caused $55 million in public damage ad $362 million in private damage,” notes Thompson. Much of that was born by wineries and other businesses—most of whom were not carrying earthquake insurance.

California’s request for individual assistance is under review by the federal disaster agency, which has been on-scene in Napa and the affected region for weeks, inspecting homes and other properties affected by the quake.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Help Kurt Stenzel Heal!

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 12:41 PM


Back a few months ago we did an online exclusive interview with Kurt Stenzel, a San Francisco–based composer who scored and played the spooky, synthy music on Jodorowsky’s Dune. Kurt’s an awesome guy, a veteran punk rocker from New York who loves him some Devo, Hawkwind and Jethro Tull.

The film that Kurt scored, you might recall, was about the kooky filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and his failed attempt, in the 1970s, to make the filmic version of Dune, which was eventually made by David Lynch. That version was pretty terrible by most accounts, despite—or was it because of?—the presence of Sting.

Not so the documentary. Just as Jodorowsky’s Dune was taking off—numerous indie-film award nominations, a national release—Stenzel talked with Nicolas Grizzle about the film and his work on it.

But just two freaking days after Grizzle spoke with him, Kurt suffered a massive stroke, and he's still recovering from it. Geez.

Three-plus agonizing months later, the good news is that Kurt went home this week—finally got out of the hospital. His fiance Jen reports that he's relaxing at home and checking out the remastered soundtrack to Jodoworsky's Dune—as they await the arrival of the 2 LP soundtrack on vinyl. That's fine medicine indeed.

But he needs yer help. Kurt has a long way to go, as he racked up some mighty medical bills while his recovery has slowly unfolded. His health insurance has run out, according to his partner—and those suckers won’t cover speech rehabilitation in any event.

Such times as these: Kurt’s partner created a gofundme account with a goal of generating $100,000 to pay off the bills and get him set up in the new home with the medical gizmos he'll need moving forward. As of today, Kurt’s received over $20,000 from 172 people through the gofundme portal—in just one week. Help this man heal!

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