Murder in the Cathedral- the Unthinkable, the Unacceptable

Back in the 1930’s when T S Eliot was writing his Nobel prize-winning play about the conflict between Henry II and his Archbishop, Thomas a Becket, a conflict that resulted in Becket’s death at the hands of four soldiers who may or may not have been carrying  out the King’s wishes, he picked a title that reflected the true horror of the situation. He called it “Murder in the Cathedral”.  A church or cathedral  is supposed to be a place of refuge. Unlike Becket, Father Freed was not murdered on the very altar, but for “cradle Catholics” like myself, the horror is palpable. I haven’t considered myself a Catholic since I was sixteen but you don’t have to be Catholic or Christian or religious in any vein in to be deeply disturbed by this crime and the death of an innocent man who by all accounts was a gift to the community.

Thank God there is a suspect in custody.  But we have already made the news on CNN and CBS and believe me,  there is no more efficient way to destroy the reputation of a city than a notorious murder.  Nor can we claim it’s the fault of the drug industry. No, this was an act of sheer evil, hard to comprehend but there it is. The candidates who seek office this year will all face the question: how do we combat evil in our midst while maintaining our civilization?

The Catholic Church is a huge and powerful organization which has been so poorly governed in recent years that systematic child abuse has been tolerated. That seems to be changing due to the refreshing candor of the new Pope and hopefully he will stay in office long enough to make some real changes. I will never be a Catholic again but I heart this Pope and while all the usual second-guessing and faultfinding with the police has already started, let’s think about the ways to honor Father Freed, the Pope and each other.  The New Yorker’s year-end cover was a cartoon of the Pope making snow angels. Religion should have a sense of joy. Hard as it may be, it is our job to reclaim that. Even us nonbelievers.

As for me, I’m leaving my Christmas lights up a few days longer than usual.  I think a lot of people are. They provide that sense of joy. We could use it this year. 


“Season of Wonder and Light”- Bah, Humbug!

I have my curmudgeon hat on today, an effect of reading this morning’s papers and blogs.   Any of you wanting sugarplum fairies should be reading elsewhere. To begin-

Eureka City Schools, Loleta Union School District Sued for racism, sexism.   Is this a surprise to anyone, especially considering the ongoing festering situation in Ferndale?  When I was attending Eureka High, the Native American kids were almost completely segregated, to Hoopa. Sounds like things haven’t changed much. If ANY of these allegations are true, and I suspect these may be just the tip of the iceberg, some heads should roll.

Chet Albin Appointed to Eureka City Council-  Anyone who has to take down his Facebook page out of fear that his constituents might see it does not have the moral fiber to hold public office. Nor do the folks who orchestrated this outrage.

Jason Singleton Vilified for ADA Suits- Both his letter to the North Coast Journal, reprinted this morning in the Times-Standard  and Chris Jones’ My Word in the Times-Standard this morning (links not available for either) tell it like it is. As I posted here last week, if the city/county staff were tasked to do MEANINGFUL ADA reviews before issuing permits, poof! Problem solved.  The most distressing news is that otherwise rational businesspeople are trying to address their issue through demonstrating at the courthouse, a useless circle-jerk. Gee, those “Occupy” demos worked out so well…

The GPU has been hijacked and thrown back to the Planning Commission  and the Planning Commission is one vote away from being controlled by HumCPR.    Not good news when any special interest group has this much clout, especially when the voters are demoralized and disorganized (in comparison.) I happened to notice yesterday while driving on 5th Street in Eureka that the CPR has a storefront now, where the Republicans’ office was. Don’t know how long they’ve been there.

Finally, Two Good People Have Left Us.  Leon Berliner and Silas Morrison the younger both had obituaries in the Times-Standard today. My first job in rehab was at Redwoods United, Inc. long after Leon had moved on to the  Cornucopia.  No agency helped more people with disabilities in this county and that program is sorely missed. Silas was a friend and an unforgettable personality. I will miss him a lot.

Sincere wishes for a happy holiday, despite the foregoing. You can’t ALWAYS have a Merry Christmas. There’s always next year.


Entrepreneurship- Seeking the “One Spark” of creativity

Redwood Coast businesses may not seem to have much in common with those in the sprawling megalopolis of Jacksonville FL, but take a closer look.  Both communities are port cities which need more business, both have downtowns which need revitalization, both have wealthy citizens who are willing to give back to the community, both have thriving art and music scenes, and both have avenues for those who are seeking funding for startup businesses. We have Economic Fuel, they have the new OneSpark.

OneSpark,  billed as “The World’s Crowdfunding Festival” took place over the  weekend of April 17-21 in the downtown area of Jax which was supposed to have received an economic boost from the Superbowl a few years ago, and didn’t. They chose to scatter the booths and exhibits throughout a “Creator Zone” and an “Entertainment District” stretching from Duval Street to the Jacksonville Landing on the river.  Even in the Florida heat- and in competition with the nonstop TV coverage of the Boston Marathon manhunt- the attendance over the five days reached 100,000 and there were exhibits or performances by over 900 Creators, 446 of which were officially entered in the Crowdfunding competition. Most of the rest were bands or graphic artists. Guests could vote or contribute ($5 minimum) for their favorite projects by Smartphone, by texting, by web or at a kiosk with the prize money allocated according to number of votes cast.  They could vote as many times as they wished, but only once for each project. Two stages were set up as “Pitch Decks” where creators could make a ten-minute pitch without even being registered at the Festival.

A major source of the prize money was Shad Khan, owner of the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, who has stated he might be good for another million for specified projects. The Jax Cultural Council has already raised $180,000 towards keeping the ‘Spark District” a permanent force in the city, and will be awarding $60,000 in grants to artists who put their studios in a specified six-square-block area. The Downtown Investment Authority is seeking proposals in late May from group[s interested in putting on daily events in Hemming Plaza, a central but underutilized location.  It appears that OneSpark is more than a one-shot deal.

So who won?  Of the four categories – Music, Technology, Science and Art- Art received twice as many votes as the nearest competitor, Technology.  Among the proposals were everything from bands looking for money to record their first album and buy a van, to a massive plan called the Riverpool, a giant floating concrete dock adjacent to downtown including a marina for kayaks, restaurants, swimming pools and a public beach. On e project would transform a water tower on Jacksonville Beach into a colorful giant jellyfish. One woman is making furniture from recycled milk jugs.

But the winner by a large margin was “Rethreaded”, a company that works with women escaping the sex trade by training them to produce children’s clothing and other items from castoff T-shirts. The almost $7000 they won will fund their next four-month class.  The founder, Kristen Keen, had a similar company in India.  This has been just a quick once-over of a terrific event.  Maybe something we could try in Humboldt?



Roger Ebert- lessons in courage and branding

It’s been a sad week. I’ve been watching or reading Roger Ebert for what seems like most of my adult life, first with Siskel and Ebert , then after Gene Siskel’s untimely death from cancer, with Richard Roeper and more recently on Salon. He was one of a kind.  He had character.

About twenty years ago , while I was still living in Hawaii, my friend and I bought tickets to the Honolulu Film Festival.  In what turned out to be a really bad decision, I opted out of one of the evenings and my friend went alone. Being  a gregarious type, he struck up a conversation with the couple next to him, who turned out to be Roger Ebert and his gorgeous stewardess girlfriend. They invited him to a party after the film,  with the kind of friendliness that is so typical of Chicago people.

Years later, it was hard to watch the cancer take its toll but Roger Ebert didn’t let a little thing like losing his voicebox deter him from his purpose in life. He carried on with artificial voices and surrogates.  He never quit working.  He retained the rights to the “thumbs up, thumbs down” routine and few of us will ever hear those words without thinking of this extraordinary man.  Roger Ebert, dead at 70. May he rest in peace.

Hiatus- I have to spend a couple of weeks in Florida for family reasons. If the gators, sinkholes and pythons don’t get me, I will see you in a couple of weeks. Enjoy the rest of April!