My People

If anyone still wonders why I am the way I am, this video should clear up any misconceptions…

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The Empire Strikes Back

Empire Mine Petition484As you may have heard, the state is considering dumping the Empire Mine State Park, due to the high cost of toxic clean-up related to its mining history. Many of us old timers are outraged by this slight to our mining heritage, including Virginia Brunini, who has taken it upon herself to write up a petition to present to the legislature. She will be outside the Grass Valley SPD Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 5. Don’t let her get too lonely out there by herself…

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Silly Season Is Upon Us

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Fooling Myself474Okay, so there is no Nobel prize for cartooning, but I did win an award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. I just don’t know whether it’s first or second place. Maybe they’re just fooling.

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Pacific Chivalry472Anyone who knows anything about California history knows that the Chinese were treated abysmally during their first half century in the golden state, as this cartoon by Thomas Nast so vividly illustrates. (Nast was a champion of downtrodden Chinese and Native Americans, but don’t talk to him about Irish Catholics!)

The “Celestials,” as they were sometimes called, were industrious and notoriously cheap labor. They were a threat to white workers who had become the dominant power in California after displacing the Mexicans, who had displaced the Spanish before them, and the Indians, who were virtually wiped out by all of the above.

The Chinese built the transcontinental railroad. You can still see examples of their workmanship all over Nevada County, most notably the rock walls and tunnels at Donner Summit. Every hamlet in California had a Chinatown, until they were driven out by jealous whites. Rather than revolt, they worked harder and kept their complaints to themselves, earning a degree of respect by the time the twentieth century rolled around. And they’ve still been fairly quiet when compared to other minorities, until recently.

That’s when commentator-comedian-faux-republican Stephan Colbert attempted to ridicule Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Snyder, who has come under intense pressure to rename his football team, recently announced the formation of a slush fund foundation to aid Native Americans. Colbert announced the creation of “The Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” on his wildly popular television show, where such absurdities are standard fare.

But when the same wording appeared on twitter, Colbert was accused of blatant in-your-face racism. Immediately the hashtag “#CancelColbert” spread like bird flu through the Internet. Colbert passed the buck onto “someone else” but the fallout continues.

Yeah, sometimes we purveyors of humor push the envelope to new lows. I’ve always been surprised that no one calls liberal icon Bill Mahar on his assertion that Japanese men have dinky dicks and all Asians are bad drivers. It’s a theme he refers to frequently, but I’ve yet to see any blowback.

And just as Chinese-Americans were cornering Colbert, San Francisco State Senator Leland Yee had to come along and steal the headlines. Yee has been tagged by the Federal BI as a corrupt, gun-running gangster, along with supposedly reformed crime boss Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. It’s American Hustle with an Asian cast, and it will no doubt sweep the Oscars ten years from now.

But today there is sorrow in the Chinese community. Even if Yee manages to evade justice, the jokes will flourish and the stereotypes will remain in the smaller minds of the public.

Posted in Culture, History, Politics | 15 Comments

Cold War II

Russia464I’m no expert on Russia. I’ve known a few over the years, was even related to one by marriage for awhile, but they are still a mystery to me.

Like most of us western boomers, I was elated when the Soviet Union collapsed. The “evil empire” after all, was the source of our anxieties all the way back to our duck and cover days in elementary school. Even so, I had a lot of respect for the long-suffering Russian people. They managed to overcome crippling poverty and a brutal leader to fight their way to Adolph’s bunker in WWII, and they managed to beat us Yanks in the early rounds of the space race. They were smart and resourceful, considering their handicaps.

So when that wall finally came down, I saw it as the beginning of a golden age. I wasn’t worried about the former eastern bloc nations joining NATO. Heck, I thought Russia would join NATO, seeing how the alliance would benefit both sides economically and strategically. Who could possibly stand against such a juggernaut?

Yeah, so I was among the starry-eyed idealists who believed in the reset. It seemed worth the risks; to prove to our former adversaries that we could all prosper from cooperation and maybe make the world a better place for all humanity. It was a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, Vlad Putin turned out to be the one with no brain, or at least a brain that was still stuck inĀ  illusions of empire: An unrepentant homophobe who sends girls to gulags for a crime that would earn you a $100 ticket and a few hours of community service in the west. And then there’s this business with Ukraine.

Even worse, the majority of the Russian people appear to be on board with this bullshit. Thanks a lot. You’ve just given a whole new generation of Americans a negative stereotype to hang onto for another seventy years or so.

And you’ve given the Cold Warriors another reason to ramp up defense spending; money that could have been used to clean up the toxic mess left over from Cold War I, and maybe feed and clothe the millions of people who still live in wretched poverty and filth in the 21st Century. Instead we’ll get Star Wars and thousands of shiny new nuclear warheads to keep the bear at bay. Such a deal.

Posted in Culture, History, Politics | 18 Comments

And The Winner Is…The Status Quo!!!

City Council Election463Well, it looked like Nevada City was going to have an election this year, but only two days after the filing deadline, the third candidate (John Valdeman) dropped out, citing “no differences” with candidate councilperson-in-waiting Evans Phelps or incumbent Duane Strawser.

And why rock the boat? Things are going so well in the city. So well, in fact, that they don’t need any help from the Rotarians to build a trail on Sugarloaf. They didn’t need a new bulletin board that someone spent countless hours building and painting and didn’t cost the city a cent. (Wrong colors.) The campaign to raise money for a courthouse study fizzled. (Plan B: Do a cheaper study with tax dollars.)

Hopefully, the new bakery will help redeem Commercial Street’s tarnished image. There are days when it resembles San Francisco’s Tenderloin, or maybe the Safeway parking lot in GV. I’ve seen prospective buyers looking at the empty Cirino’s on Broad Street, but no takers as of today.

Somebody must be doing something right. Nobody is sufficiently unhappy to challenge the current crop of politicians. Let the good times roll…

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Spring Has Sprung!

Green Rush393Winter, if you could call it that, has departed for another year. With any luck we’ll get some more rain and limp through the growing season. Looking forward to the return of the Farmer’s Markets. Enjoy the green fields while they last.

Posted in Food, Local | 3 Comments

A Letter Returns To Sender

Mistress457A few days ago I was looking for a reference to the band Mistress when I discovered that a song I wrote eons ago that was recorded by the group had found its way onto YouTube. The song, Letter To California was originally written by Charlie Williams (Center of photo) and me when we were living in a two-room shack in Georgia, the only thing separating us from a horrible strangling death by kudzu were two goats. Before we found jobs there was little to do except, well, write letters to home. Although the song has the line lay at the beach on a warm California night, it meant the beach at the Yuba River rather than the ocean some might suppose.

Letter was the last song on the record, heavily produced with lots of guest musicians. The legendary Douglas Dillard plays banjo, Doobie brother Tom Johnston sings back-up, Doobie Bro. and Southern Pacific member John McFee adds pedal steel guitar, and Michael Utley of Jimmy Buffet’s Coral Reefer band plays piano on the track. Producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye added some strings for good measure.

When Charlie first played the song for the band’s management, everyone thought it was a natural single, a catchy tune with a good hook, but by the time it was finished it ran over four minutes and didn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the album. Another song, Mistrusted Love became the single and made it to the bottom of the top forty.

Mistress had been careful choosing a record label. RSO (which stands for Robert Stigwood Organization) seemed like a winner. The label hosted Eric Clapton and the phenomenally successful Bee Gee’s soundtrack album from Saturday Night Fever. They didn’t handle many other acts, so it stood to reason that the band would get the support they needed to be successful.

Amazingly though, the record company went belly up only a year or so later, leaving Mistress without a label or a hit record. They broke up shortly thereafter. Bass player David Brown went on to play with Norton Buffalo until Norton’s untimely passing, and guitarist Danny Chauncey plays with .38 Special. Charlie is retired, and we keep in contact as much as possible. Here’s the link to the song…

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Snakes In A Bar (Part Three)

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