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December 15, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Mad scientists abound in Eureka

11 Questions for Joseph Orozco


The Weekly Wrap

TICKERTAPE: The Eureka Police Department and the California Highway Patrol announced a new mutual service agreement, in which the CHP will help out in patrolling much of downtown Eureka for the next six months ... Kat Zimmerman, the Critical Mass organizer arrested in last month's Eureka-Arcata bicycle ride, was charged last week on six counts relating to the incident, including felony assault on a CHP officer. After the hearing, Zimmerman and her supporters walked up to the fourth floor of the courthouse and met with DA Paul Gallegos and attempted to make the case that it was the police who assaulted the Critical Mass riders, not the other way around.

A state appeals court reversed a 2003 Humboldt County Superior Court decision in the case of EPIC v. California Department of Forestry. The earlier ruling invalidated the Pacific Lumber Co.'s Sustained Yield Plan, a document that set out the company's logging rights over the next 100 years, on the grounds that it did not conform to state forest practice regulations. The appellate judge disagreed. ... Meanwhile, protests continued around a Pacific Lumber timber harvesting operation near Nanning Creek in the south county.

Two environmental organizations, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and Humboldt Baykeeper, threatened to file a lawsuit against the current and former owners of a plywood mill near the foot of Del Norte St. in Eureka unless more was done to prevent alleged dioxin runoff from the site into Humboldt Bay.

McKinleyville resident Pat Higgins, a fisheries biologist and a member of the local Democratic Central Committee's board of directors, announced that he would run against first-term Fifth District Supervisor Jill Geist in next year's elections.

 

THE HOSTEL AND THE HOTEL: It looks like Eureka may get both, after all. At last Tuesday's surprisingly civil meeting of the Eureka City Council, both the backers of the "eco-hostel," a proposed youth hostel and technology demonstration center, and the Hampton Inn, an upscale hotel, got to make their pitches for a vacant piece of land on the Eureka waterfront. (See the Journal's Dec. 1 cover story, "Eco-hostel or eco-hostile," for more background on the issue.) While it initially seemed like an either/or kind of proposition, everyone concerned seemed to bend over backward to find a place for both projects. After hours of testimony from residents, the city council declined to make a decision right away. Instead, city representatives undertook to meet with both sides to see if either of them might instead be interested in another vacant, city-owned spot on the waterfront, this one near the Adorni Center.

 

YUMMY HOLIDAY TRASH: Fortuna residents in the Home Avenue and Carson Woods Road area have been complaining of late of a bear ravaging their trash receptacles, reports the Fortuna Police Department. The bear reportedly is "damaging property" in its beary haste to get to the tasty leftovers that humans have scorned as unfit for consumption.

The FPD rightly points the finger at the humans, and admonishes them to bear-proof their homes and property and to not enact violence upon the bear. "It would be against the law for any citizen to harm or otherwise dispose of the bear because it was only damaging their property," says the FPD in a news release.

Instead, citizens should contact the state Department of Fish Game (445-6493). But even more important, do that bear-proofing: Deodorize trash cans with bleach or ammonia; double-bag garbage; put wet garbage in an odor-tight container; freeze meat bones and other smelly items until pick-up day; clean those BBQ grills; pick up fallen tree fruit; put away pet food and bird feeders at night; close windows at night to keep the beasts from blundering in for a midnight snack; don't leave that pie (or any other food) to cool on the window sill; close off crawl spaces; and install bear-proof garbage and compost containers.

Sure, it's a chore -- but you're in the bear's neighborhood and it's just trying to survive, says DFG wildlife biologist Jeff Dayton. He offers perhaps the best suggestion of all: Put your trash cans out the day of pick up, not the night before. "A bear may figure out that trash day is Monday and may make the rounds there Sunday night," Dayton says. "Bears are smart. And, we're habituating bears to trash. The bears typically come through under the cover of night. Raccoons do this sort of stuff, too." But the DFG actually hasn't had too many bear reports, says Dayton, and he figures the FPD is merely "being proactive" with its news release. "This time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there tends to be a lot of food trimmings in the trash cans," Dayton says. "So there tends to be turkey and ham smells in the trash cans ... and the garbage is a little more ripe than usual."

 

MONKEYWRENCH ARRESTS: In what appears to be a walloping message delivered to all would-be idealists turned scary destructionists, six people across the nation were arrested Dec. 7 and indicted by federal grand juries on charges that they participated in one or more attacks on businesses and infrastructure (a lumber mill, a tree farm, an animal plant inspection facility, a power tower) in Oregon and Washington state between 1998 and 2001, according to a Dec. 8 news release from the United States Attorney's Office. The release notes that the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, but does not link any of those arrested.

Sarah Kendall Harvey, also known as Kendall Tankersley, was one of those arrested. Associated Press writer Jeff Barnard, who wrote about the arrests on Dec. 9, reveals that Harvey noted in a job application with Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff (where she began work this fall) that she graduated from Humboldt State University with a B.A. in cellular and molecular biology. Barnard also notes that she previously worked for a nonprofit in Eureka.

Harvey, arrested in Flagstaff, was charged with taking part in a 1998 fire at U.S. Forest Industries in Medford, Ore. (She was not, however, indicated in the downing of a high-tension power tower owned by the Bonneville Power Administration near Bend in 1999.) "That fire caused an estimated $500,000 in damage," writes the U.S. Attorney's Office. If found guilty, Harvey "faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison."

 

1091 411: Some may remember our very first Reader's Request column back in October, when we answered bluesman Don Haupt's burning question -- what's the deal with that funky warship docked on the east side of the Samoa Bridge? Well, for those of you interested in the current activities of the Ten Ninety One -- a land craft infantry ship that served in World War II and the Korean War -- it was officially donated to the Humboldt Bay Naval Sea/Air Museum last weekend.

Ralph Davis, of McKinleyville, the 72-year-old former owner of the ship, which he used mainly for albacore fishing, happily bid the Ten Ninety One bon voyage but said that he'd "still be attached to it and that kind of stuff." The ship will remain where it's been moored for years until a new home is found for it, possibly in Fields Landing.

The Journal welcomes Humboldtcentric questions like Haupt's. Send your query to newsroom@northcoastjournal.com and write "Reader's Request" in the subject line.

 

CONGRATS! She's into books, worms, dirt, chickens and blogging. Her hair's kind of wild and she's been known to whack herself in the face with a thorn bush now and then, but we promise she's not mental. In fact, we're so keen on Amy Stewart we asked her write to about her favorite things in a column for the Journal every week. Our gardener/bookworm/writer friend from Eureka is so very talented, in fact, she just won a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship, one of 50 people to do so in the prose category -- among them Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri. (We should also mention that other local stars, Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theater in Blue Lake, also won an NEA grant for their Peer Gynt project, which will wrap up this week and tour again next summer and fall.)

Stewart's fellowship will go toward her work on an upcoming book, Gilding the Lily: The Quest for the Perfect Flower, which is due out next year. She is the author of From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden and The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, which was named the winner of the 2005 California Horticultural Society's Writer's Award and a "Best Book" of the year by the San Jose Mercury News. She was also picked for the Discovery Channel's Book Club Selection, Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Authors program and has been praised up and down in major newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly and many others. Guess that dirt fetish paid off. You go, Amy.

 

CORRECTION: While we have no doubts that Siskiyou Land Conservancy director Greg King's daughter is a genius, we incorrectly said in last week's issue ("Putting the civilization back in wilderness") that she would be "attending HSU soon." Egads, the child's just entering grade school -- we regret having wished upon the lass a curtailed childhood as well as the premature advent of credit card offers flooding her family's mailbox. Sorry.


Mad scientists abound in Eureka
But show creator says any resemblance to reality purely coincidental

by HANK SIMS

Is Eureka nothing more than a secret government conspiracy?

There are no doubt plenty of Humboldt County residents who would be intrigued by the idea, and soon they will have an opportunity to mull it over at length. For such is the premise of Eureka, a new television show that will begin airing on the SciFi Channel -- a cable network -- in the summer of next year.

The show was created by 36-year-old writer Andrew Cosby, who works both in television production and in comic books -- his previous show, Haunted, ran on the UPN television network.

Reached at his Los Angeles office Tuesday, Cosby said that he as never been to Humboldt County, and that the town in his series is not meant to be Eureka, Calif., exactly. He said that he got the name of his fictional town by looking at maps.

"It just seemed like the perfect name," he said. Apart from the scientific connotations of the word "Eureka" -- the Greek philosopher Archimedes is said to have shouted it when he happened upon a novel method for calculating the volume of an object -- for Cosby, the name had a sort of Everytown quality.

"If the government was hiding a small town, they'd want to give it a John Smith kind of name," he said. "The Simpsons has its Springfield; we'll have Eureka." (Originally, the show was to be called Eurekaville).

Small-town life is the subject of the series, albeit small-town life of a very peculiar sort. According to a press release from the SciFi Channel, the show concerns a "picturesque hamlet" located in the Pacific Northwest that is "shrouded in secrecy." In fact, the entire town is a secret government project, one designed to tuck all America's brightest scientific minds into an obscure corner of the country in order to conduct clandestine research.

The scientists are none too careful with their experimentation, however. Things blow up; neighbors get mad at one another; hijinks ensue.

For Cosby -- who describes his show as "Twin Peaks meets Northern Exposure" -- placing his fictional Eureka in the Pacific Northwest was an important element in setting the story, even if it could lead to viewers confusing his town with the actual Eureka.

"Definitely, the Pacific Northwest setting felt right, with the trees and the mountains," he said. "For me, I love the towering feel -- the redwood wall. If the government has tucked away a town, they'd want it among the giants."

Anecdotally, it seems that the Pacific Northwest has become an increasingly popular setting for novels, movies and television shows. Last year, Eureka native Josh Emmons published his debut novel, The Loss of Leon Meed. Emmons' novel, which was widely reviewed, took place in Eureka and, like the upcoming TV show, painted the small town in a somewhat paranormal or supernatural light.

Jim Dodge, one of Humboldt County's most successful authors of fiction and poetry, said he believes that writers find the Pacific Northwest an attractive fictional setting for a number of reasons. There are the region's declining natural resource industries, its environmental awareness, its orientation toward Asia rather than Europe -- all issues facing America as a whole in the 21st century.

In Humboldt County specifically, Dodge said, the county's renown as a center of marijuana production can serve as a ready-made plot device sure to draw readers in.

"This is outlaw country, and American has always had a romance with outlaws," he said.

But while the specific setting of Eureka, the show -- a strange, exotic small town isolated from the rest of America, with many secrets hidden beneath its surface -- may in many ways feel like Humboldt County, Dodge said that he didn't believe there was anything unique about the city of Eureka in that regard.

"It's strange underneath the surface everywhere," he said. "In America, especially, there's always this appearance of daily quotidian life, and underneath that are all these seething passions. I don't think that is particular to Eureka, except the isolation."

The series will be filmed in Vancouver, Canada. That causes Humboldt County Film Commissioner Barbara Bryant some consternation. Bryant hadn't heard about the series before last week, and never had the opportunity to pitch executives from the SciFi Channel on the benefits of filming in Humboldt County.

She said the county could still profit from the show, though.

"The more we brand Eureka or Humboldt County, the more interest you raise," she said. "It gives us the opportunity to expand the production industry's image of what Eureka has to offer, and we plan to take advantage of that."

Bryant added that many productions are filmed in Vancouver because the Canadian government offers companies tax breaks to film there, and that she and others are lobbying the California legislature to offer similar breaks in order to keep production at home.

Even though the TV Eureka will not be our Eureka, exactly, there are still plenty of creative scientific researchers who call the Victorian Seaport home. Among them is David Kornreich, a physics professor at Humboldt State University.

Kornreich -- whose recent scholarly paper, "N-Body Galaxy Dynamics Simulations on a Homogeneous Beowulf Cluster," presented to the American Astronomical Society last year, discusses the potential of using a particular mathematical model and a clustered supercomputer to help determine the distribution of dark matter in our galaxy -- said Monday that the show sounded appealing.

"I like the idea of a super-secret government conspiracy of top minds," he said.

Uh oh. However, Kornreich said he was not aware of any such program funding the innovative work being done by Humboldt County researchers.

"I don't think there's any conspiracies involved," he said. "If there were, I wouldn't tell you, though."

The last major television series to take place in Humboldt County was "Just the Ten Of Us," a short-lived sitcom from the late 1980s in which a man relocates his family of 10 to Eureka in order to take a coaching job at a Catholic high school.

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