Remember Dr. Ring's Single-Payer Puppet Show ? We wrote about the local contribution to the health care debate in April when the musical puppet show, The Sound of Moolah , was a work in progress. Since then the troupe has taken the show all over the county with plans in the works for a road trip to Oregon and to the S.F. Bay Area, where they'll hook up with the San Francisco Mime Troupe . Meanwhile they've begun producing a series of YouTube vids breaking the musical up into bite-sized digestable pieces. Here's the first; there's another up and more to come. They encourage all to pass the message along with hopes to take the whole thing viral and help get single-payer on the table.
This happens periodically, but it's still worth noting: Eureka has once again taken then title for highest gasoline prices in the lower 48 , according to the American Automobile Association.
AAA Northern California spokesman Matt Skryja explains, "California is among those states that have the most noticeable low demand for retail gasoline."
So, wait. How does supply and demand work again?
You may remember Mary Ann Lyons from last year's presidential race. She was Humboldt County's Obama Girl , the early adopter who ended up running the local portion of his campaign. Last week we got a call from her. She was on the road, on her way to Los Angeles.
She was among those who won the ad hoc lottery and received what she called "a golden ticket" - an opportunity to witness history by attended the memorial service for the King of Pop. We asked her to share her thoughts when she returned. Here's what she wrote:
Pilgrimage for Michael.
By Mary Ann Lyons
“Michael Jackson died,” my son, Josh, told me. It was the sort of news item I never believe, so of course I went straight to the Internet. Yes. He had died of cardiac arrest.
As the day wore on and I searched for more news, I realized that this was no ordinary passing in my life. The child in me felt I had lost an old friend. When I was 11 years old, I inherited my Grandma Mert’s old phonograph and 78 records: the Andrews Sisters and Ink Spots. My first 33 1/3’s were the Jackson Five and the Monkees. I remember dancing in front of the screen on the turned off black and white television set so I could watch myself — and just loving it. My childhood was not an easy one. It was filled with violence and unhappiness, but little Michael Jackson could get me up on my feet and I would dance and dance and dance. He grew up with me. I grew up with him. "A-B-C, It’s easy as 1-2-3."
By the time Michael Jackson was a solo artist, I was becoming a mom. MTV appeared one day over the airwaves. Music videos played 24 hours a day and the announcer kept telling us cable was coming to our area soon (Riverside) and when it did we should ask for MTV. Michael's videos were awesome. They were short stories. They were art. My children danced along with me as I aged with Michael.
I backed him all the way: in good times and bad. I was a true fan. I knew about his eccentricities and his illnesses. I followed his trials and tribulations. Over the years, like many others I watched as the child our culture had made into an icon was torn down and cast aside as we have done to so many others.
I lived my life far away and far removed. Like a little girl I daydreamed that I could go to Neverland and show him there are good people in the world who want only other people's happiness, not their money.
When I heard he sold out 50 shows in England, I was happy and excited that he was able to pull himself out of the despair and wanted to make us all dance again as only he could. I was rooting for him. Go with your bad self, Michael! You can do it.
And then he died.
I was surprised at how strongly I was affected. I wanted to go. Wanted to pay me respects. But then I read and saw how many others around the world were saddened by his death. I entered the lottery along with 1.6 million other fans who, like me, wanted to attend his memorial in L.A. The website and all the news outlets said we would find out on Sunday after 11. The time came and went and I resigned myself to watching it on TV.
Then… at 8:30 pm, I checked my email again and — there it was: Congratulations! I was one of the chosen! I had to make it to Dodger Stadium by 5 p.m. the next day to pick up my wristbands and tickets for the Tuesday Memorial at Staples Center!
Two hours later, my daughter-in-law, Tomire, and I began our pilgrimage. We drove all night to get there early enough to assure a seat inside Staples Center. We went through the checkpoints down the street from Dodger Stadium. In the middle of an empty parking lot, we drove between row of cones lined with friendly LAPD officers and stadium staff to receive our wristbands, then, tickets in hand with time to kill, we bumped to "Thriller" as we drove to Hollywood Blvd. to pay tribute at Michael Jackson’s star.
In front of Graumann’s Chinese Theater, the gathered crowd pointed the way to his star. There were cheap t-shirts, bootleg CDs, impersonators, tourists, and security guards amongst the crowd. Our wristbands made us the center of attention. It was a happy, curious, sad, somber moment.
By three in the afternoon Tomire and I were delirious. We found a hotel on Hollywood Blvd. and prepared for Tuesday’s Memorial. Up early with lattes in hand, we hopped on the Metrolink and visited with other ‘golden ticket’ winners. A young Mexican woman told me in broken English that her husband had worked all night but she made him come. She knew I understood. We giggled, then got teary eyed. Everyone felt a special honor and luck at being given this opportunity to attend.
Tomire and I stood in line to sign the Memorial Wall.
By the time we were seated in the arena (up very high to the right of the stage), we could feel the emotional energy building around us. Every demographic was there. Well, maybe not too many 80-year-old rednecks, but all the rest of us were represented.
A choir sang while Michael’s casket was brought in by his brothers — there was not a dry eye in the house. As one, we applauded his achievements and grieved with his family. Almost 20,000 of us gave standing ovations to powerful speeches by Rev. Sharpton and Martin Luther King’s grown children. We applauded videos of Michael’s signature moves. We understood when Mariah Carrey wasn’t pitch perfect, and when Usher broke down crying, it grabbed our hearts. We felt a brother’s pain and love when Jermaine sang Michael’s favorite song. We laughed at Magic Johnson’s KFC chicken story. We sang along to "We Are the World," remembering for a moment the power of the gentle voiced man who had given so much to charity, and to the world. And in a little girl’s voice, we felt the loss of a father.
As I looked around the stadium, I wondered at our culture and the little boy who became a king. I was glad I had made this journey. For me, it was the end of an era. It was a fitting send-off for a troubled soul who was my childhood friend, a friend I never met, but dance with still. I hope somehow he knew.
NCJ Alum on Japan Election: Former Journal reporter Japhet Weeks, now a student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, produces a video report on the Tokyo elections for the New York Times. (As usual, Japhet's wife Yulia contributed to the report.)
You might recognize the Weeks multimedia style from their NCJ report on Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods.
This ultra-awesome YouTube video was shot at the Paul McCartney show in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Saturday:
The girl jumping up and down, barely able to contain herself, is 19-year-old Audrey McCombs of Fortuna. McCombs is a guitarist, tuba player, HSU music student, salesperson at Fortuna Music Mart, and -- as evidenced by the video -- possibly amont the top .001 percent of Paul McCartney fans worldwide. Reached at her place of employment a few moments ago, she told the Journal the story behind this clip.
McCombs went to the McCartney concert -- her fourth -- with a plan. During the performance, she held up a sign that read: "Sign my arm so I can get a tattoo!" (She chose the Halifax show, she said, because it was the only stop on Macca's tour with general admission seating, meaning that she'd have a chance to get close enough for him to see it.) Hence the sequence of events seen in this video.
Mission accomplished! McCombs said the people at Skinsignia Tattoo in Eureka have since made the autograph permanent. YouTube stardom hasn't changed her -- she's back at work and will be unpacking her tuba tonight for Fortuna Rodeo Band practice.
bicycling! That's what Jason at the Ice Harbor Brewery in Kennewick, Wash. says he thinks of when he thinks "Humboldt County."
"Oh, and the ocean."
"Well, that's kind of a given," he says.
OK, back to the roadtrip/vacation.
Humboldt music fans have some hard choices to make when the end of August comes along. The already crowded weekend just got more so with the Dimmick Ranch folks announcing a country music fest called
Live on the County Line
. That show on Saturday, August 29, features
John Doe and the Sadies
I See Hawks in LA
providing support. I don't know who assembled this package, but the bands fit together well, offering an overview of alt. country, mostly out of L.A.
Elsewhere that weekend: On Friday, Aug. 28, African reggae star Alpha Blondy plays as the Mateel while gutbucket blues duo Hillstomp is at HSU in the Depot.
There's more on Saturday: a sold out Passion Presents show with Ween at the Eureka Theatre, Built to Spill is at HSU, St. Croix reggae singer Midnite is at Nocturnum and it's day one of the Humboldt Music and Arts Summit in Willow Creek, a festival that shaping up as an East Humboldt version of Reggae on the River with a couple of dozen acts mixing reggae, world music and rock with an all night rave.
Sunday, Aug. 30, the Organic Planet Festival in Halverson Park has bluegrass legend Del McCoury and his band and reggae singer Tanya Stephens (who's also at Reggae on the River next weekend). Chris Isaak is at the Van Duzer Theatre for a CenterArts show, country rebel David Allen Coe plays that night at the Mateel, and Humboldt Music and Arts Summit goes into it second day.
After a break on Monday you can head back to the Mateel Tuesday, Sept. 1, for a show by the legendary '60s Brazilian psychedelic tropicalia band Os Mutantes , who reunited a few years back. Or you could go back to HSU where The Avett Brothers play neo-old time music at the Van Duzer, while indie rock duo Matt and Kim are at the Depot.
That's a helluva lot of music in just five days, and it doesn't even factor in shows in various nightclubs and coffee houses. Unless you're stuck on must-see TV, there's no excuse to stay home, but save some energy -- Blues by the Bay is the following weekend.
The latest numbers on county-wide housing affordability reveal something of an upward trend -- in prices, that is, not affordability. According to the Humboldt Association of Realtors, which compiles these figures, the median price of Humboldt County homes sold in May (these things take a while to compile, apparently) rose for the third straight month.
The increase corresponds with a decrease in mortgage rates -- likely not a coincidence. In fact, the low, low countywide average mortgage rate of 4.95 percent is the lowest on the HAR charts, which go back to January of '99. The median price of homes sold in May was $285,000 -- up from $274,900 in April and $264,950 in March.
What to make of this trend? Hard to say. It could be that the H.C. housing market has bottomed out. If so, aspiring first-time buyers, now's the time to jump in (as any realtor will no doubt tell you). On the other hand, there are still signs that prices haven't fallen as far as they probably should.
Here's what I mean: Economists, financial planners and wise parents will advise you that your home payment probably shouldn't exceed a third of your income. That's the de facto rule of thumb. Currently, the average-salaried Humboldter purchasing the averaged-priced home would have to pony up 44 percent of each paycheck to cover her mortgage. Compare that to just 29 percent a decade ago. This is how foreclosures happen, or would be if this hypothetical applicant could secure a loan. Chances are, she couldn't.
Another way to look at market health is through the affordability index, which measures whether a median-income family can qualify for a mortgage on a typical home. Currently, the index figure is at 21 percent here in Humboldt County, meaning that your typical H.C. family makes only 21 percent of the income necessary to qualify for a conventional loan -- assuming a 20 percent down payment -- on a median-priced existing single-family home . Which is to say, forget it, typical family. It's way beyond your reach.
During the housing bubble, that figure bottomed out at 10 percent. Ten years ago it was almost 50. If you're of the opinion that more people should be able to afford to buy a home, prices have a ways to fall yet. Here's another indicator that they might: The total number of homes sold in Humboldt County through the first two quarters of this year -- 373 -- is the lowest of the decade by far. (Almost 700 sold in the first half of 2004, for example.)
A couple quick notes on individual markets: Arcata, as you would predict, remains the toughest place to afford a house, with a median price of $447,250 and a butt-ugly affordability index of just eight percent.
Which city has the cheapest homes? Eureka, with a median price of $266,000 and an affordability index of 22 percent. On behalf of those subsisting below the median wage, allow me to observe, that ain't chicken scratch.
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