Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nitro shakes

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2008 at 5:00 PM

Auto Racing Daily found Fortuna native Hillary Will, fastest drag-racing woman ever, pining for vrooom and the sweet scent of dragster gas after she'd spent a rare weekend off over Memorial Day watching other people drive at NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 in North Carolina.

"Being there made me miss the smell of nitro and the sound of an 8,000-horsepower race car," she told ARD.

She'll be back in the seat of her KB Racing, LLC Top Fuel dragster this weekend for the O’Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals in Topeka.

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Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2008 at 3:22 PM

The North Coast Journal reaches a milestone today. After months -- years -- of heartbreak, we are pleased to launch a new version of our website. The old site served us faithfully for just about 10 years, I believe, and it was long past time to let the old trooper enjoy its dotage.

Beneath its attractive chassis, the new packs some serious horsepower under the hood. There's the full text of just about everything in the paper (everything coming soon). There's a customizable and searchable version of our calendar of events, which you can use to find out what's going on now or far into the future. There's a database of clubs, restaurants and local bands to keep you hip. There's an online classifieds systemCraigslist killer!, he said, derangedly -- that also makes it easy to put your ad into the paper. Nigerian puppy scammers not welcome.

Readers can comment on all articles or blog posts with an account. There's a quick and painless registration feature that should provide some level of comfort for the tinfoil hat anonymite crowd. When we first got this going, registration seemed to be the only way to avoid the ugly, frenetic, insane -- and, above all, boring and life-sapping -- troll-infested swamp that had overtaken every online forum in Humbolt County to that date. Nowadays we see that there's other ways to control this. Maybe we'll free things up in the future.

There's a few kinks in the system. For one, the North Coast Journal Blogthing is going to hang at Wordpress for hopefully just a week or so more whilst we swap in a more robust blogging engine. Expect to see some cross-posting at the new site. For another, the calendar of events -- what we hope will be one key cornerstone of the whole deal -- is still lagging a bit behind the newspaper. That will change. Also, we're going to be developing some new applications that will make planning your days and nights even more quick and fun. Also, the fact that our new platform is fairly easy to extend means that we're going to be bringing you some cool new news tools as well. Stay tuned.

Any bugs? File them here and they will be rapidly triaged according to their level of complexity and/or importance.

Many thanks and congratulations to the Journal's Holly Harvey, who ran point on this project from our side. Thanks also to the talented young Manxers at Tangerine Smash, who brought it all home with aplomb. Eureka's Carson Park Design provided key input early on and lent a hand throughout.

Colophon: runs on Django, the hot framework for cool web developers (especially those in the newspaper world). Accept no substitutes. The site uses JQuery, Tablesorter, Lightbox and Google Maps. It is hosted at Morse Media (+3) on a Red Hat server (-1).

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wars Remembered

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2008 at 6:26 PM

In 1991, Eric Hollenbeck, founder of the Blue Ox Millworks in Eureka, wrote a long poem about his experiences in the armed services during the Vietnam War titled Uncle Sam's Tour Guide to Southeast Asia . In this week's Short Stories section of the Journal , we visited Blue Ox Radio during their 11-hour Memorial Day radio program (organized by Brian Thomas, pictured above), which included Hollenbeck, local war veterans and service-aged young men reading excerpts from the poem. The following are the first and last section of Uncle Sam's Tour Guide to Southeast Asia read by the author:

Basic Training

audio player

War Poem 15

audio player

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Direct Action

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2008 at 2:13 PM

Here's a photo from Arcata that's making the e-mail rounds.

I'd credit the photographer, only I'm not sure he wants to be credited.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

A Conversation with Ethan Miller of Howlin Rain

Posted By on Fri, May 23, 2008 at 12:16 AM

The intern for a NYC publicist e-mailed wondering if I was going to cover the Howlin' Rain show (at the Jambalaya Wednesday, May 28). When I replied asking if an interview was possible, the intern's boss stepped in and arranged a conversation, set it up for a late morning call. She'd patch me through at the appropriate time. The trouble was, when the time came, bandleader Ethan Miller was not picking up his phone. Turned out he was wearing headphones and didn't hear the ring. When we finally connected, I asked what he'd been listening to so intently.

I was checking back over some of the live stuff. I just got this new recorder thing.

So it was a live Howlin' Rain show? Do you post the shows or sell them to fans?

I just got this recorder, so on the UK Island tour we recorded every show. I'll just send a "hey, we're home" thing out to the gang at the label and some inner circle people and attach a song to it like, "hey, here's a song from over there," just a little friendly thing.

Do the recordings sound good?

They do. By the end of the tour we we're all jammed out and sounded a little more powerful. You get confident playing the songs every single night and jamming the jams every single night. It's kind of an artistic adventure.

You make it some like you're a jamband.

(laughs) Yeah, well, that's the generic term for songs.

You know I'm calling from Humboldt.

Yeah, speaking of jambands, right?

It's true. They pop up like mushrooms here. I know you lived here. Were you born here?

Yeah, born and raised. I left when I was 18, came back and stayed a year about '98 or so.

And you were in a band here right?

In high school Ian and I -- he's the bass player in Howlin' Rain -- he and I and his brother started a band together. We played with that fellow Ryan McGonagle who still plays in bands around town.

What was this band called?

I was called Hookah. Then I played in bands with guys like Chris Colland from Couch. The Heroin Glow Bugs was an incarnation, some of his later stuff: Audio Lobotomy. I was just foolin' around on the scene.

Fooling around as opposed to being serious.

No, let me put it a different way. I was still a teen when I had my first band, and shit, even when I was in the band with the guys like Jesse Pearson and Chris, I was still only 20 or so. In a sense, you're just creating your musical character at that point. Those guys were older, so they were teaching me stuff. They had their music character together, had their vision for what they wanted. Most of the musicians I was playing with were older than me.

Did you play with Ben Chasny when he lived here?

We played gigs together in different bands, but I never played with him until he moved down to Santa Cruz.

Did you go down there for college or just to get away from Humboldt?

Both really.

You went to UC Santa Cruz?

Yes. I graduated from there. I was kind of on the slow track. Went to junior college, came back and went to CR a little bit. I was around 26 or 27 when I graduated.

What was your degree?

Literature. Modern lit.

Has that served you well?


You do write literate lyrics.

Thank you.

Are you working on the novel?

No, it's hard to split your time. I'm already...

At this point to relayed connection via NYC cut off. After another call to the publicist we were reconnected...

Modern technology...

Where are you actually?

I'm in Oakland.

I was born there.

Really? Where did your folks live?

[We talk a bit about Oakland, about where I grew up, and where he lives now.]

And you're done with Santa Cruz?

Yeah, since I finished school. I've been in Oakland for like five years, maybe a bit more. At the time my wife and I got done with school, Comets on Fire was going full blast and everyone was living up here in the By Area. When I was finishing up with school I got really serious about it, and we were touring too. Comets on Fire was taking of. I was commuting an hour and a half for practice.

And driving over that mountain too...

The other thing, you know once you get out of school, there's not that much in Santa Cruz. And it's expensive. And fucking around with the music industry and stuff, it's nice to be in the city, jut to be plugged in, to be able to get to shows, to go out and see somebody or do something or whatever. In Santa Cruz, you're behind a curtain.

How is the "fucking round with the music industry" working out? It seems like a tough time to be in the business of selling records. How do people make a living as a musician today? I doesn't seem like touring makes much money. Are you at a level where you actually get enough royalties from the record company to pay your bills?

Money comes and goes in this thing, whatever your trying to do. All of a sudden you get a good break and some publishing money comes in, some licensing money comes in because you have a song on a TV program, and you get some other thing, maybe they license the record in Australia and you get a little bonus. Then for four months you don't get anything. Or you go out on tour and earn a bunch, then the next one you make shit. It's not the same as earning a clock-in living.

The rapidly shifting paradigm of selling music in the digital age seems crazy. I have to admit, I found your album on a blog before it came out, so I did not buy the plastic version. I assume that happens a lot, which has to make it hard to make money from recording.

You know we still sell records. We still put them out there for sale, and people steal them. I'm not unrealistic. I've downloaded records when I didn't have any money, then it becomes habitual and you think, why would I ever pay for a record? I think it'll come back around. We're kind of in a Wild West moment with all this stuff. But, nobody's gonna want to have records be free like that forever. At some point they'll figure out a way to angle it back in, whether through subscription, like the majors want to do, or some other more intriguing form of baiting the public to actually buy the record instead of just getting the cheapest way possible.

Is this Three Lobe project you're involved in an example of that?

Partly. There's something about the way people trust record labels, you know, if they love a record label. I don't imagine a lot of people are going to download Three Lobes stuff. It's a small label run by this collector head dude who's also a lawyer out of North Carolina. It's really limited edition stuff, very creative what the bands do. He pushes them to improvise something or do something they don't dare to do on their record or whatever. In that case, people want the package. It's a collector's item -- not many people in the world have it, or will ever have it. You want to be a part of it. That's one angle. I'm sure the larger labels like Sub Pop or Columbia are looking for ways to present quality as well, in a way that makes people trust the label, and partake in it.

It seems ironic that you lump together those two labels. I never thought of Sub Pop as a big label, but maybe that's part of the allure. It seems like the epitome of young and indie as opposed to Columbia, which has been around forever.

They've very different in their history...

But they're the same animal on some level.

Well, I've worked with both of them so they're the animal I know. But the actual social contact I've had with both, and the love of music you find is similar. True, Columbia has had to come back from being this all-huge, mighty powerful entity. And they're looking for ways to redevelop it, to have some of the aspects of a boutique label, so it's like I would buy a Columbia record because they put out such good records. That's what people do with Sub Pop. You see a record and think, 'This is a Sub Pop band. No, I haven't heard what they sound like, but Sub Pop records are usually fucking awesome, so I'll get it.'

My experience with record buying was always that Columbia was top quality. Musicians have to reach a high level to get signed to that label. With Sub Pop, it's more a certain type of sound you grow to expect.

They have a pretty eclectic roster. Around the time Comets on Fire got involved with Sub Pop, they started to get success with this level of underground experimental bands like ours and with re-issues like Michael Yonkers and Radio Birdman. At the same time they were having literally mainstream success with Iron and Wine and Postal Service, things that were actually fucking with the Billboard charts and stuff. It was an extraordinary time to work with those people. They were doing extraordinary things that made the whole industry turn heir heads thinking 'Holy shit, these independent labels suddenly have a bugger vision than selling records out of the back of their cars or the basement.'

How did Howlin Rain come together? You were going strong with Comets. Was the idea to explore some different avenues?

I think so. I'd worked really hard for my part with Comets on Fire, and really dedicated my life to that, both my musical life and my personal life. We’d made four albums. When you think of yourself as an artist, you never want to become too comfortable with what you're doing. You don't want to think, 'Hell, I can dial this in. Another Comets record? No problem. Or whatever, like this is what I'm known for, I'll do that again. People liked it.

So you wanted to push yourself, to make yourself explore new territory?


Did you know where you were going?

A little bit. I had songs I'd written, a catalogue of songs accumulated.

Things that didn't fit the Comets template?

Songs that were more personal to me, that were not something I was writing for this entity that was already formed. They were something for me, where I could control the overall vision. I wanted to let them take on a life of their own.

As opposed to Comets, which I assume was more collaborative...

It became that way. For the first two albums I did most of the songwriting and most of the bandleader stuff. And I maintained the public face with the press through the last couple of records, but Utrillo [Kushner] and [Ben] Chasny and myself collaborated on songwriting more. The whole band would do group improvisation to finish off the songs. We worked as a democracy as best as we could with decision making, setting a vision about where the band was going.

When it came time to hit the studio, how did that democracy work? Would everyone bring songs in and you'd work together fleshing them out, with the writer taking the lead?

You know Utrillo wrote his songs on piano, so his sounded like Utrillo songs. Chasny and I would more often bring a riff each, them someone would add a bridge to the other person's thing and maybe I'd have some jam-out for a coda and we'd put it there. Then in the end, no matter who wrote the music, I would be the one to place the lyrical narrative on it. It was more or less collaborative. Where as with Howlin' Rain, I write the songs, the band breathes life and body into them, and again it' my personal narrative in the lyrics. And up till now, it's been my production vision. It's my vision for better or worse.

Does the name connect back to Humboldt? We have some howling rain up here.

Maybe a little bit subconsciously. Certainly the physical and metaphysical characteristics of the area, especially the Southern Humboldt are, and will forever be part of my artistic landscape.

Did you live in Southern Humboldt too?

My family owns a summer cabin in Southern Humboldt so I spend a lot of time up there. I go there to write and to relax after tours. And my folks are still up in Eureka, so I'm up there a lot too.

And you're coming to play here twice...

When I booked the show [at the Jambalaya] I didn't know we'd be playing with the Black Crowes or that they'd play up there. That was a fun surprise. I think that one will be a bit more expensive and harder to get into.

I don't imagine that the Jambalaya show will be easy to get into either.

Well, Howlin Rain hasn't come and played up there before...

But people know who you are.

I hope it fills up. That's the ideal situation for a band.

This tour with the Crowes seems like it should be a good thin exposure wise. Although I have to say, I'm not sure where the band is at career-wise.

I'd say they're at an extraordinary place. They're a 20-plus year old band and they've sold 20 million records or something. And they just put out a new record on their own label that debuted on the charts. Instead of becoming a reunion band caricature of themselves they're making music that's fresh and classic and quintessential for them. It's hard to do it that long and not just be totally destroyed.

The band Night Ranger is coming to play in a local casino this week. Who knows what that might be like and how it related to what they did in the past.

That's what I'm saying. If Night Ranger, after all these years, still had the core artists together and they put out their own record and it was like an artistic achievement, all of a sudden you'd be like, 'Night Ranger is pretty bad ass.'

Then you have guys like Blue Cheer who were just in town working the club circuit in a beat up van.

It's tough. But it's the easiest way to make an extremely hard living. You have to understand, people ask how much money can you make? Well, you can make a hundred million dollars, but maybe one out of a hundred million can do it. More likely, you'll struggle and fucking sacrifice the rest of your life spending a lot of time cooped up in a van or whatever, doing dirty business. But you do it if you love being a musician. Or you become a weekend musician until you tire of it and put your guitar in the attic and say fuck it, I want to play golf on the weekend. I don't want to sit around working on my chops. People who love making music do it because they can't stand not to.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Loaded for bear

Posted By on Thu, May 22, 2008 at 11:09 AM

We like to kill bears in Humboldt County. The Daily Triplicate tells us that Humboldt ranks fifth among California counties for bear kills (117 were 86'd by hunters last year), while noting that its own county -- Del Norte -- has felt a diminishing appetite for bear over the years (just 29 killed last year, down from an average of 50 a year in the 1990s). The writer suggests steep terrain may have something to do with Del Norte's gun (and arrow) shyness toward bears -- but have the mountains there really been growing, getting more rugged, so fast? And have we not the same jaggedy challenges here in Humboldt?

At any rate, we think Humboldt's penchant for bear has more to do with the nascent locavore trend that's gained such tenacious purchase here. You know, our own home-grown bear meat. Recall the joys .

Then read the Triplicate 's story .

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dirty birds

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 7:23 PM

Dear old Clam Beach has made the list that no self-respecting body of sand and surf would want to be on: The Top Ten Beach Bummers. Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental group, puts this list together each year as part of an annual water quality report card issued for more than 500 California beaches (you can weekly updates, however, as well). The 18th annual, 91-page report card -- for 2007-2008 -- was released today.

The report cards are based on stats gathered year round by local health departments, who test their beaches for three types of pollution-indicator bacteria regularly during three periods: April to October; dry weather year-round; and wet weather year-round. Beaches are graded on an A-F scale for water quality.

Clam Beach, near Strawberry Creek, scored an F between April and October, as well as for dry weather -- its lowest grades yet. Moonstone Beach, near the Little River, scored a C during those same periods. The other three beaches tested -- Trinidad, Luffenholtz, and the Mad River Mouth (north) -- scored much better, As and Bs, and all did well in wet weather year-round.

According to the report, one in 25 people get sick swimming or surfing in polluted water near flowing storm drains (yick, anyway). No surprise, most of the bummer beaches were in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

But Clam Beach’s filth apparently came from elsewhere, anyway, says the report:

In June 2005, Humboldt DEH began systematic collection of bird population data at both Moonstone Beach and Clam Beach. Both of these locations have substantial and growing resident bird populations. Also, Humboldt County experienced some unusual rain events during the AB411 time period last year. Over an inch of rain fell in July 2007 and three inches of rain fell in early October. The large bird populations coupled with the summer rains are believed to have contributed to many of the bacterial exceedances at Moonstone and Clam Beach last summer.

Damned flyway.

See the report .

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A Reader Writes

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 1:40 PM

Last week we received the following letter from a reader -- or Googler, more likely -- in Waipawa, New Zealand.

I have about 20 redwoods about 70 yr old and have just felled one to use the timber, but I am a bit ignorant of its qualities and how it should be milled, stored or dried. I see that some consider that it needs to be 90 years before it develops its decay resistant properties. I would like to use the timber for garage door and garden furniture (outside exposure) and possibly for a renovated kitchen! Would appreciate any hints by e-mail.

New Zealand, if you didn't know, is positively bristling with imported redwoods. What the eucalyptus is to California, the redwood is to New Zealand.

Waipawa, we see, is about a four-hour drive from the famous Rotorua Redwoods , which were planted in 1901. Back in 2005, our Jim Hight wrote about a plan to grow the tree commercially in the country . The firm involved is now called The New Zealand Redwood Company , a subsidiary of California's Soper-Wheeler Co., and they've now got over 1,700 hectares of redwoods planted and awaiting harvest. Which could be pretty impressive, depending on how big a hectare is. I have no idea.

But while those trees are growing, do you have any advice for our Kiwi friend? They gave us Flight of the Conchords, so we owe them something. Something more than our trees, I mean. Like, what the hell to do with them once they've been felled.

Picture: Redwood Forest, Rotorua by David Wall .

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mall Shame?

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2008 at 1:51 PM

Local conservative radio blogger Tom Fredriksen of Old Glory Radio gave the Journal a ring today to inform us of the filth being hocked in the hallways of the Bayshore Mall in Eureka. In particular, he noticed a shirt in front of Spencer's facing out towards passersby that read -- close your eyes if you're squeamish -- "Overworked and Underfucked."

Fredrkisen says that the shirt, which is a size small and which he subsequently purchased as evidence (see his picture of the offending garment here) is designed for a ten year old girl. He believes that it's proof positive of "the sexualization of our children by businesses…..for profit," according to his website.

You can listen to his program on the subject here. And a here's a video of Fredriksen venting on YouTube via Old Glory Radio.

Spencer's, if you didn't already know, isn't a Hallmark store. Other shirts in their inventory include this one (a perfect gift according to the store for someone suffering through her third trimester) as well as this set of goblets for him and her.

On the store's plastic bags there's a warning for the faint-of-heart: "Always Irreverent," it says. A little too much so, I guess, for Fredriksen. Then again, he bought the shirt.

Update: Check out this timely article at about marketing grown-up sexuality to kids.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Van Eck Forest

Posted By on Mon, May 19, 2008 at 12:23 PM

NPR's Weekend Edition has a story about the carbon credit industry in California that focuses on the Van Eck Forest in Humboldt County. Tamara Keith of the California Report reports. Listen here . Also, read this December, 2007 Journal story about the forest if you haven't already.

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