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FREE CHICO’S NEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT SOURCE VOLUME 44, ISSUE 8 THURSDAY, FEB. 11, 2021 CHICO.NEWSREVIEW.COM

STREET

LIFE

DEATH

AND

Living unsheltered takes ultimate toll in Chico BY KEN SMITH PAGE 14

COVID CONSPIRACY DOC VIRTUAL ART GALLERY

TEEN SINGER/SONGWRITER FILM: “REVISIONIST” WESTERN


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FEBRUARY 11, 2021


INSIDE

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Vol. 44, Issue 8 • February 11, 2021

OPINION

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Second & Flume . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Guest Comment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 This Modern World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Streetalk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

NEWSLINES

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Downstroke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 COVID conspiracy doctor . . . . . . . 8 Vaccine information battle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

FEATURE

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Death by homelessness

ARTS & CULTURE

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February Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Music . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Scene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Reel World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Arts DEVO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Brezsny’s Astrology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

ON THE COVER: DESIGN BY TINA FLYNN

353 E. Second St., Chico, CA 95928 Phone (530) 894-2300 Website chico.newsreview.com Our Mission: To publish great newspapers that are successful and enduring. To create a quality work environment that encourages employees to grow professionally while respecting personal welfare. To have a positive impact on our communities and make them better places to live. Editor at large Melissa Daugherty Interim Editor Jason Cassidy Contributing Editor Evan Tuchinsky Staff Writers Ashiah Scharaga, Ken Smith Calendar Editor/Editorial Assistant Trevor Whitney

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OPINION

Send guest comments, 340 words maximum, to gc@newsreview.com or to 353 E. Second St., Chico, CA 95928. Please include photo & short bio.

SECOND & FLUME

EDITORIAL

Life and death consequences Oon public five homeless people have died either rights of way or outdoors on ver the past eight months in Chico,

private property. At least a dozen other unhoused individuals have perished elsewhere, at Enloe Medical Center or in temporary shelter accommodations established because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the death toll and the fact that the coronavirus poses an imminent threat to the lives of people on the streets, city leaders have chosen to make life harder on this population. As Ken Smith reports in this issue (see “Death by homelessness,” page 14), twice in the past month, they’ve instructed the Chico Police Department to clear public spaces of encampments—first at Lower Bidwell Park and then at the sliver of greenway between Cypress and Pine streets known as The Triangle. That the City Council majority would set this course at the same time that human beings are dying in full view of the world says a lot, not only about them but also the community at large. To hell with the suffering of these people. To hell with the fact that razing the encampments has destroyed the belongings, ever so meager, these people need to survive on the streets. To hell with the life and death consequences of playing this game of whack-a-mole. Our question: Where the hell do they think these people are going to go? We get that having campsites within the park isn’t ideal—that there are environmental concerns and the average Chicoan isn’t comfortable seeing the spaces used that way. But once again, and we cannot stress this enough, the fact remains that there isn’t anywhere else. Many of those who were rousted from Lower Bidwell Park made their way to The Triangle. Those later booted from that location then headed to the southern edge of town, to the Comanche Creek Greenway. Soon enough, that spot will be the next location targeted for cleansing. Where will people go then? Downtown? The bike paths? Further into the parks? Private property? Realistically, without

Write a letter 4

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the city providing a sanctioned campsite, those are the places they will end up. It’s true that the city can’t solve homelessness. That would take a massive response from the federal government, something akin to the New Deal programs Franklin D. Roosevelt launched during the Great Depression to immediately address the economic crisis of that time. But since that hasn’t happened—and who knows if or when this ever will—it’s increasingly incumbent on local governments to help the communities they serve. As of now, we are less than impressed with the conservative council’s progress on providing an alternative. We could say the same thing about the formerly liberal council, but at least most of the members of that panel had compassion for those living on the streets. Indeed, the current council majority says things like people on the streets choose to be there. They refer to homeless people as transients, a dehumanizing term that doesn’t accurately describe the individuals who in most cases have long lived in the area. And they see the encampments as a measure that’s made the homeless population too comfortable, as though living in a tent in the dead of winter is a lifestyle choice. Their actions tell us everything we need to know—that they don’t care that human beings are literally dying on our streets. We’ve realized over the years that we can’t appeal to the conscience of people who have none. Therefore, we’ll try to speak the language this council understands by pointing out the city is facing a very real threat of litigation based on civil rights violations related to the park evictions. Such an outcome, and the financial cost as a result, will fall squarely on the members who choose this heartless and ultimately fruitless path to addressing homelessness. We think that money would be better spent on shelter accommodations. Until such a facility is up and running, however, the council must halt its advances on clearing public spaces. It’s both the moral and legally prudent thing to do. Ω

Tell us what you think in a letter to the editor. Send submissions of 200 or fewer words to cnrletters@newsreview.com.

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

by Melissa Daugherty m e l i s s a d @ n e w s r e v i e w. c o m

Unforgiven This Gen-Xer’s lefty views on the government and social issues diverge greatly from a lot of folks in the North State, and that includes most of those with whom I share DNA. I’d call myself the black sheep of the family, but thankfully there are a few others in my flock. To be honest, I don’t know where many of my relatives stand on the matter of the 45th president. Most have kept tight-lipped over the last four years, a courtesy I’ve mostly reciprocated in their company, though they know my mind through these op-ed pages. Aside from one second cousin— whose Facebook page looks like some sort of QAnon multi-level marketing scheme—I can’t tell who fully supported the former fascist-in-chief from those who were so married to the Republican Party that they quietly tolerated him. What has that tolerance begotten? On a larger scale, one only has to go back to Jan. 6 at the nation’s Capitol to bear witness to the defining moment of the modern GOP—a riot perpetrated by revelers whose antics would be laughed away as an absurd spectacle had they not, you know, planted bombs and killed people, including a police officer attempting to stop the siege. I watched that day unfold live on C-Span while standing in the middle of my living room with my hand over my mouth agape. Then I listened to people from middle America call into the nonprofit network, many echoing Trump’s bogus claim that he won the election or screaming “fake news” at cable TV’s most neutral journalists. My husband warned me Trump’s loss would trigger a violent insurrection. But Americans have the attention span of a gnat, I thought. “People will get over it,” I told him. “Plus, nobody’s that dumb.” I was wrong. Of course, we got to this point because of that aforementioned tolerance—Republicans not pushing back on Trump throughout his lie-filled presidency. Now they expect the rest of us to forget what happened and move on. Not so freaking fast, especially while they continue to fuel Trumpism. One of the biggest stories coming out of Washington these days is the ascension of QAnon adherent Marjorie Taylor Greene, a newly elected Georgia congresswoman who sports a “Trump won” face covering and has a history of advocating violence against Democratic Party leaders. Greene has quite a track record of espousing conspiracy theories, including on such topics as school shootings (Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas were staged) and the Sept. 11 attacks (a plane didn’t hit the Pentagon). She also perpetuated the antisemitic claim that the Camp Fire—yes, our Camp Fire— was started by space lasers owned by a Jewish banking firm. Absolutely nutso. Last week, only 11 of 211 House Republicans broke ranks to join Democrats in voting to remove Greene from the committees, including the education panel, on which Republican leaders in that chamber saw fit to seat her. Young Kim, a freshman Republican from Orange County, was one of them. Good on her. Unsurprisingly, five-term Rep. Doug LaMalfa of the 1st Congressional District voted with the other 199 Trump sycophants. Speaking of toadies, if there’s one thing Trump deserves credit for, it’s having pulled back the veil to show us exactly who represents us. Here in far-Northern California, we already knew LaMalfa as a greedy rich guy who votes against the interests of his poor constituents (cutting food stamps) while enriching wealthy folks like himself (increasing farm subsidies). His tenure is chockablock with backwardness: voting against gay rights, environmental protection, accessible health care, you name it. We also already knew that he plays dirty politics while campaigning (see every congressional race, but especially the one in which his team defamed the late Republican Sam Aanestad). However, going all-in on Trump’s “stop the steal” gambit now defines LaMalfa. He echoed the rhetoric leading to last month’s violent attempted coup—he’s complicit. The next day he voted against the certification of the election, showing us he’s utterly unrepentant. What’s more, despite the revelations about Greene, LaMalfa, speaking on a local conservative talk radio program, evidently called her the future of the Republican Party. God help us. We must not forget his transgressions. As for those in our everyday lives, well, that’s a bit more complicated. Speaking for myself, I’ll never see certain people the same way again. Some of my relationships and friendships are very different today than during the pre-Trump era, and a few have ceased altogether. While it hurts, perhaps it’s ultimately for the best. Sometimes the people we know change in intolerable ways. Then again, maybe they were never who we thought they were.


GUEST COMMENT

WE ARE HERE FOR YOU! ADVOCATE, SUPPORT & INFORM

On pain, courage and moving forward Tpeople on and not look back. “It’s a new day,” some say about Washington, D.C., or about the

he new year has brought out a lot of sentiment to move

vaccine. “Looking forward” is a reassuring phrase and truly a helpful thing; when you’re feeling sick on a boat at sea, one remedy is to get your face in the wind and gaze in the direction the boat is headed. Looking backward is not viewed so highly. The root of the word nostalgia means sickness from wanting to return home. In Genesis, Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at the devastation of Sodom, the by city her family had left behind. Joe Wills So it is confusing and unsetThe author is a tling when, after a terrible event, psychotherapist and writer in Chico. your mind goes back to it again and again. Like many Camp Fire survivors, for instance, I go back to Nov. 8, 2018. It is almost as if

your mind is being cruel, bringing you to the same moment in time over and over. I have found, however, receiving and providing therapy, that painful recurring memories also come with an invitation. They can be a story to tell. If that sounds easy or simple, then you are not thinking of an incident you wish had never happened. Something you have longed to forget. So it is with courage you tell someone what happened. And then you tell someone again. With repetition, the story loses some of its sting. You may also find that it, naturally, seems different. You can’t step into the same river twice, the old saying goes. The details may be the same, but your sense of the story, the meaning of it, isn’t. You may like the changes, or not, but the feeling of being stuck with an awful, unchangeable memory is gone. By going back to what is painful, you get to move forward. It sounds counterintuitive, but that’s how I’ve found life is sometimes. To let the arrow fly, you have to pull back the bowstring first. Ω

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LETTERS

Send email to cnrletters@newsreview.com

Constituents call out LaMalfa Re “Profiles in cowardice” (editorial, Jan. 14): Doug LaMalfa is not only not “one of us,” he has shamed all of us. His failure to support the democratic republic we live in, and his arrogant exposure of others in lockdown by refusing to wear a mask, demands his removal from the House, his resignation, or focused voter insistence on turning him out in 18 months. He isn’t one of us; he threatens all of us. Helen Harberts Chico

Doug LaMalfa should resign from Congress. He doesn’t represent the people with honesty and integrity, nor has he fulfilled his oath to the Constitution to defend the country against enemies domestic or foreign. He has shown by his actions that his loyalty to Donald Trump supersedes his duty to our nation. This makes LaMalfa unpatriotic. By voting to reject the Electoral College results, LaMalfa supported the conspiracy theory lies promoted by Trump and contributed to the attempted coup. His words fed the flames of insurrection. I support the House resolution [drafted by freshman Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-Mo.)] to expel the members of the House who rejected state votes. LaMalfa, too, was elected with the help of mail-in ballots, but he accepted these results because he won. It was a mistake for LaMalfa to align himself with the worst president in the history of the United States. Doug LaMalfa should resign or be removed from office. David Hill Oroville

It was upsetting enough to watch the Capitol being overrun on Jan. 6, but so was seeing our local Congressman LaMalfa choosing to not wear a mask in a lockdown where people were hiding with fear for their lives. Thousands of people died that day due to COVID. I wonder what statement he was projecting and to whom?

Steve Kasprzyk Chico

We Democrats appreciate the help of many thoughtful Republicans to defeat Donald Trump in the recent election, but their party will be forever stained by his presidency. On Jan. 20, we bid goodbye to his Trumpesty, The Donald, a man who ruled by fiat and favor in his brief but tempestuous term of office. We say farewell to The Donald, but not to our local Congressman LaMalfa, who supported him to the end. Robert Woods Forest Ranch 6 

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FEBRUARY 11, 2021

“We have to think more long-term about the bottom line of the housing problem; we need to recondition our standards of permissible housing. There are plenty of varieties of low-cost shelters that can be experimented with.” —Addison Winslow

Other views on shooting Re “Police shooting ‘justified’” (by Ken Smith, Jan. 26, chico.newsreview.com): The killing of Stephen Vest, in my opinion, was a criminal act. I disagree with the DA’s decision that officers Bauer, two shots, and Johnson, nine shots, were reasonable and justified for the following reasons: The use of deadly force used on Vest was unnecessary and violated the civil rights of a young man who was in a mental crisis; less-than-lethal options were not utilized; one ineffective Taser shot to Stephen was woefully insufficient to justify the immediate use of firearms; there was no deescalation strategy employed by the officers who had superior numbers, training and experience to subdue Stephen safely. DA Michael Ramsey’s investigation is flawed and not impartial because Officer Bauer, on several occasions, has been a member of the Butte County Officer-Involved Shooting/Critical Incident Protocol Team. The Protocol Team is always led by the DA to determine if a killing was a criminal act. Officer Bauer fired two rounds, and both struck Stephen. Officer Bauer left his beanbag round shotgun, known as the “less than lethal” weapon, in another vehicle. Officer Bauer also failed to turn on his body-worn camera. I believe that Stephen’s civil rights were violated, a criminal act, and that Officer Bauer violated department policy, a fact omitted by DA Ramsey and Chief Madden in the facts they shared with the press and public at the press conference. Scott Rushing Ventura

Stephen Vest met with misfortune after misfortune. He grew up in Paradise, losing his father at a young age, his grandfather died before the Camp Fire which sent Stephen down to Chico where he ended up homeless and without family support. In October 2020, Stephen was killed by local officers during an erratic mental/emotional episode involving drug use. It’s evident that Chico police officers did

not use deescalation techniques (according to body cam footage). After officers gave commands, their weapons were fired 11 times within 8 seconds upon arriving on the scene. No alternatives to bullets were employed aside from the Taser. Why so many bullets? Would Stephen still be alive if mental-health professionals had been at the scene? We need 24/7 mental health responders for our town. For more than 30 years, Eugene, Ore., has been home to Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, or CAHOOTS, designed to help their city’s most vulnerable citizens in ways that the police couldn’t. The staff of unarmed workers and medics are trained in crisis intervention and deescalation. Many U.S. cities are following this model. Butte County’s Crisis Care Advocacy and Triage program is an available resource that parallels the CAHOOTS program. See https://ccat.life Diane Suzuki Chico

Chico’s crisis Re “Sweeps begin” (by Ken Smith, Newslines Jan. 14): I’ve been spending a good amount of time recently out and about, talking to people I see and seeing people I know. So many people ask me—with all their variety of personal contexts—what they can do to safely shelter somewhere. It’s easy to say, “Call 211,” but try looking someone in the eye and explaining to them what 211 has to offer. Police are saying, “Public right of way leaving 4 feet for access.” You can’t put up a tarp or a tent, and even then you’re still breaking the law—but with a wink, like it’ll be tolerated. I feel strongly that we have to think more long-term about the bottom line of the housing problem; and to the extent that we must continue to be constrained economically from addressing it in a way that doesn’t leave out swaths of society, we need to recondition our standards of permissible housing. There are plenty of varieties of low-cost shelters that can be experimented with. It can’t really get much worse than a tent with no trash can. We can do better. Addison Winslow  Chico

Fear surrounds the introduction of housing and treatment centers for mentally ill homeless into neighborhoods—such as stereotyping someone who lost their job and home as a drug user and criminal. So rather than discuss solutions for our community crisis, the PAC-bought City Council has turned the problem over to the police to deal with. It is estimated that 20 [percent] to 25 percent of homeless people, compared with 6 percent of the non-homeless, have severe mental illness. About 11 percent of the national adult homeless population are veterans—51 percent have a severe disability, 50

percent have severe mental illness; 70 percent have substance-abuse problems. This council will target increasing the police budget; hopefully some of it will go towards training officers in mental health intervention. The songwriter Robbie Robertson and singer Richard Manuel of The Band expressed this local and national tragedy so succinctly in the song “The Shape I’m In”: I just spent sixty days in the jailhouse For the crime of having no dough Now here I am back out on the street For the crime of having nowhere to go Save your neck or save your brother Looks like it’s one or the other Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in Roger S. Beadle Chico

No butts  We were disappointed to see the ad for Big Tobacco on page 19 of the CN&R’s most recent print edition (Jan. 14). We seriously doubt anyone at the CN&R would be advocating that the citizens of Chico take up cigarette smoking; however, by running a full page tobacco ad, that is what you are doing. We realize in our current COVID world, times are tough and we are all making sacrifices. We do believe, however, that accepting money from the tobacco industry by running their ads sends the wrong message. We hope in the future the decision makers at the CN&R will choose not to support Big Tobacco even though Big Tobacco is helping to support the CN&R. Bill Unger & LeeAnn Schlaf Chico

A modest proposal There is a compromise solution short of completely banning needle exchange in Chico that would accomplish the goal of no additional needles in our parks and still provide some help in reducing the spread of communicable diseases for intravenous drug addicts. That is a simple one-for-one needle exchange. Addicts would be required to bring in dirty needles to exchange for clean ones, on a one-for-one basis. This limited type of needle exchange, although certainly not as effective in reducing the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, would at least help and would be guaranteed not to add any needles to our community. Stephen Kennedy Chico

Write a letter  Tell us what you think in a letter to the editor. Send submissions of 200 or fewer words to cnrletters@newsreview.com. Deadline for March print publication is March 3.


STREETALK

How do you feel about President Biden’s plans for the country?

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I’m definitely much more optimistic. I feel that we’re at least in a situation where things can progress and I’m hopeful. Obviously things won’t be perfect overnight, but overall I think it’s going to be a much better four years for a lot of people than the last four have been.

Killian Grayson freelance artist

I don’t know. I’m not political at all. I didn’t even know we were getting a new president.

We need your support Help us continue reporting on important issues The Chico News & Review’s wants to ensure that our team of dedicated journalists can continue working through one of the worst economic and health crises of the past century. With your recurring or one-time contribution, the CN&R can continue our award-winning coverage on the topics that impact the residents of Butte County, including COVID-19, the arts, homelessness, the fight for equality, and wildfire recovery and prevention.

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I feel good about it. Probably not an answer you’re gonna hear from a lot of people in town, but I feel good.

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I think it’s always been a puppet show, and Biden represents a better side of the coin than Trump did.

Independent local journalism, since 1977. Now more than ever. FEBRUARY 11, 2021

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NEWSLINES DOWNSTROKE SHELTERS AND THE CITY

During its Feb. 2 meeting, the Chico City Council boosted the continued efforts of the Chico Housing Action Team (CHAT) to provide shelter for unhoused individuals. The council approved $282,933 of Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus funding for CHAT, which hopes to develop the Town House Motel on the Esplanade into a noncongregate shelter with up to 30 units. The council also decided to continue exploring turning city-owned property near the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds (currently home to Silver Dollar BMX) into a sanctioned camping area. The panel rejected (5-2, along party lines) a “safe car park” proposal (by a group called the North State Shelter Team) that would allow those living in automobiles to spend the night in designated lots.

COUNTY SEEKS HEALTH, ECO ASSISTS Butte County Public Health is recruiting

volunteers to help vaccinate the community against COVID-19. Licensed health-care professionals and people without medical training can register through the Disaster Healthcare Volunteer program at healthcarevolunteers.ca.gov (select Butte County). Public Health will deploy volunteers at its vaccination clinics over the next several months. Meanwhile, the county’s Planning Division will host the first public workshop for updating the Butte County Climate Action Plan next Thursday (Feb. 18) at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom. The plan, adopted in 2014, identifies ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet targets established by state law. Visit buttecounty.net/dds/bccapup date2020 to register for the workshop and learn more about the CAP.

HOMETOWN MVP

Aaron Rodgers, one-time Pleasant Valley High School and Butte College football star and current NFL quarterback (and justannounced league MVP) for the Green Bay Packers has donated $500,000 to the newly formed Aaron Rodgers Small-Business COVID-19 Fund. A partnership with the North Valley Community Foundation (which contributed another $100,000 to the pot), the fund will be used for grants to local businesses that have fewer than 20 full-time employees and are suffering financially due to impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. “This is to get people through,” said Rodgers in an announcement via Instagram video on Feb. 3. “People are in need right now and who knows how long we have to save these businesses.” Visit nvcf.org for more information on requirements and how to apply. 8

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FEBRUARY 11, 2021

Misinformation in our midst Woman alleges Enloe physician promoted propaganda downplaying COVID-19 as a ‘hoax’

ICOVID-19 to Enloe Medical Center seeking a test. Her husband had just

n mid-December, Rebecca Lacque turned

been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and she and her daughter had been experiencby Ashiah Scharaga ing symptoms, such as sore throat, fatigue as h i a h s @ and headaches. They n ew sr ev i ew. c o m couldn’t find a place to get tested, so they went to the emergency room, seeking answers. That’s where they met Dr. Lamont Leavitt, an ER physician. Everything seemed normal at first—he checked their

lungs and ears. But soon the visit took a bizarre turn. Just before exiting the room to check on another patient, Lacque said, Leavitt cued up his cellphone with a video and left it for her and her daughter to watch, telling them, “This guy really knows what he is talking about.” What she heard next was a doctor named Roger Hodkinson speaking at a government meeting in Canada, Lacque said. He claimed that the pandemic was the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public” and should be considered “nothing more than a bad flu season.” Hodkinson said that masks and social distancing are “useless.” He then

advocated for business reopenings and gatherings. Lacque and her daughter were stunned. They were still grieving the coronaviruscaused death of a family friend. When Leavitt returned, according to Lacque, he told her that he didn’t play the video to “totally understate the pandemic.” Lacque says she interrupted Leavitt, telling him the pandemic cannot be understated and mentioning the loss of her friend. She was further shocked by his response. Leavitt continued to diminish the seriousness of the disease and lecture her, she said, noting that people die of seasonal influenza each year. Lacque then


Rebecca Lacque stands outside Enloe Medical Center’s emergency room, where she says a physician showed her a video claiming that mask-wearing and social distancing are useless. PHOTO BY ASHIAH SCHARAGA

asked if she and her daughter would be tested, and when he said no, they left. Lacque’s teenage daughter, Annalise, told the CN&R that it was “scary and maddening” to hear such claims coming from a doctor. When Lacque got home, she filed a complaint with the hospital, which contacted her via phone and later replied with a letter assuring her that Enloe’s chief of staff had been notified and would investigate the incident. She went elsewhere for testing a week later and found out both she and her daughter were negative. The situation continued to make her feel uneasy, however. How many people have sought care and been shown this video, she wondered? “It was surreal that I had a licensed medical clinician in front of me who is trying to tell me that masks, testing and distancing are useless,” she said. “People listen to doctors.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and numerous studies— report that mask-wearing and social distancing are vital to combating the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed approximately 465,000 people in the United States, including roughly 44,000 Californians. In Butte County, as of this story’s deadline, 10,343 people had tested positive for COVID and 148 had died. That’s a local case fatality Dr. Lamont Leavitt

rate of 1.4 percent. Enloe responded to the CN&R’s request to interview Leavitt by providing a statement from Enloe CEO Mike Wiltermood saying that the hospital supports local, state and federal mandates to reduce spread of the virus. He was not aware of the complaint prior to being contacted by the CN&R. During a phone interview, Wiltermood said that “regardless of people’s personal opinions on debatable items,” such as business and school shutdowns, COVID-19 needs to be taken seriously—people need to get vaccinated, wear masks and social distance. Wiltermood told the CN&R that Enloe does not discuss individual disciplinary issues, but he noted that Leavitt is still a member of the Chico Emergency Physicians Medical Group, which Enloe contracts with for emergency services, and remains “in good standing.” He would neither confirm nor deny what allegedly occurred, but added that he personally reached out to the head of the medical group and “made it clear … this isn’t appropriate material to be showing our patients. “They’ve assured me that they’ve dealt with the matter and it won’t happen again,” Wiltermood said. “Despite maybe a one-off video that was shared, our employees have been very courageous through this whole thing,” he continued. “They take it very seriously, and we’re doing the best job we can under difficult circumstances.” Wiltermood pointed to the hospital’s vaccination rate as one example. Approximately 2,800 out of Enloe’s 3,500 employees—80 percent of its staff—have received their first vaccine dose, he said.

PHOTO VIA ENLOE MEDICAL CENTER’S WEBSITE (ENLOE.ORG)

Disinformation nation In addition to expressing concern about the spread of propaganda locally, Lacque said the incident at Enloe is indicative of a larger societal issue—a deadly pandemic made deadlier because Americans turn to questionable sources. Eleven months into the public health crisis, misinformation remains rampant, in some cases infiltrating health care establishments the public is taught to trust. There have been numerous high-profile instances of medical personnel spreading falsehoods since COVID-19 appeared in the United States. Millions of people have watched a press conference put on by physicians from NEWSLINES C O N T I N U E D

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One of the earliest examples of viralscale pandemic misinformation is attributed to two Bakersfield doctors who said that COVID-19 had a death rate no worse than influenza, a statement that gets repeated today despite having been debunked by the nation’s preeminent epidemiologists and leading health organizations. an organization calling itself “America’s Frontline Doctors,” for example. The group claims there is a cure for the virus and that masks are therefore unnecessary. It was legitimized by Tea Party Patriots and former President Donald Trump, who personally promoted one of the doctors, Stella Immanuel, whose other notable theories include linking certain medical issues to people dreaming about having sex with witches and demons. One of the earliest examples of viral-scale pandemic misinformation is attributed to two Bakersfield doctors who said that COVID19 had a death rate no worse than influenza, a statement that gets repeated today despite having been debunked by the nation’s preeminent epidemiologists and leading health organizations. (According to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, the United State’s coronavirus case fatality rate is 1.7 percent, whereas the fatality rate of the seasonal flu was 0.06 percent in 2020.) Similarly, Hodkinson, the Canada-based doctor Enloe’s Leavitt allegedly boosted, has been criticized for his inaccurate statements. “This is the age of misinformation, and it’s scary because it shows that even intelligent people can be pulled off track,” Lacque said. “And it’s dangerous because lives are at stake.” Locally, Butte County Public Health is tasked with educating the community on COVID-19. This includes underscoring the importance of personal safety measures. In December, Public Health issued a press release in response to a planned demonstration outside its Chico office by people demanding that the county relax restrictions mandating closures. The department stated that while it supports people’s right to protest, attendees should wear masks and social distance. Months earlier, a swarm of unmasked protesters clamoring for Chico businesses to reopen gathered outside Chico City Hall. Despite Public Health’s efforts, Butte

County has been in the state’s highest (“purple”) tier throughout most of the pandemic. This means that the virus is considered widespread, with a high risk of COVID infection (the threshold for the tier is more than seven new cases daily per 100,000 people and more than 8 percent positive tests countywide). Butte County reached its highest number of new daily cases (240) on Dec. 11. However, over the past two weeks, the average number of daily confirmed new cases has dropped approximately 30 percent, from 69 per day to 49 per day. Newly appointed county Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Bernstein said that poor national leadership under the Trump administration has exacerbated the public’s misguided perception of and response to the pandemic. Without clear guidance from the federal government, the public has relied on questionable sources, including social media, he said, rather than health professionals. Bernstein stressed that vaccinations are the most effective way to combat the virus, and that people must continue to practice preventative measures—including wearing masks, washing their hands and avoiding gatherings—in order to protect one another. “Unfortunately, there’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy in our world today. It’s part of a problem that’s been going on the last four years under national leadership, using a lot of disinformation to cause fear and mislead people about what is true and not true,” Bernstein said. “I think we all should be hopeful that this change is going to work well for everybody,” Bernstein added, referring to President Joseph Biden’s election. “I would hope that people depend on credible, reliable, authoritative sources of information—that is the CDC, the NIH [National Institutes of Health], WHO [World Health Organization] and FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration], and not depend on Twitter and social media for health-seeking behavior.” Ω


NEWSLINES Chicoan Glenn Tucker takes a selfie as health care workers administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Butte County Public Health’s clinic.

Spreading innoculation

you have any concerns or questions, talk to people that actually are knowledgeable and have educations in this area, are not just repeating what someone told them a week ago or they read somewhere else. “There’s some people that just probably shouldn’t have the vaccine; those are legitimate cases. But I don’t want someone who’s been persuaded into not getting it when it possibly could have saved their life, too.”

Case by case

Health officials tout safety of COVID-19 vaccines for most people while debunking myths

by

Evan Tuchinsky evan t@ newsrev iew.c om

Ademic, contain the coronavirus panthey often feel like they’re s public health officials work to

waging two fights. The most direct is against the disease itself, which has sickened around 3.3 million Californians and killed more than 44,000—with 10,343 infections and 148 deaths in Butte County, as of Feb. 8. But they’re also up against knowledge gaps that have bred resistance to prevention efforts. “Unfortunately, and particularly over the past four years, there’s been a plethora of social media sites that have mis- and disinformation, myths and falsifications,

about a whole variety of things,” Dr. Robert Bernstein, Butte County’s public health officer, told the CN&R. Nowhere has this been more evident than with vaccination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two COVID-19 vaccines, by PfizerBioNTech and Moderna, and is in the final approval step for a third, by Johnson & Johnson. Each has undergone clinical trials, compressed by circumstances, with the worldwide outbreak allowing researchers to find sufficient numbers of patients to verify safety and efficacy. Yet, conspiracy theories pervade the internet. Some people— or bots—propagate the belief that vaccines contain tiny microchips for Big Brother tracking; others, that vaccines spread the disease.

These falsehoods dog medical professionals attempting to build immunity levels in communities such as ours to levels that protect those who cannot get vaccinated for legitimate health reasons. “There are authoritative sites of information for curious, educated people and for curious, not-soeducated people,” Bernstein said. “Those are websites for organizations like [the] CDC and the World Health Organization, and not like QAnon.” Chris Marking agrees. The pharmacy director at Enloe Medical Center, who’s overseen 10,000 COVID vaccinations of health-care and education workers since December, Marking has heard his share of wild notions, including a report—quickly Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

debunked—that one of the vaccines sterilized women. Local health officials stress the importance of getting informed, by their doctors and other reliable sources, before signing up for a vaccination. “It needs to be a thought-out decision,” said Marking, a pharmacist since 1995. “I think you need to get your news from a reputable source is the biggest thing, but if

Bernstein said there’s no substantial difference between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in terms of delivery, safety or efficacy (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detailed information for each at cdc.gov). Both require two doses and both need to be stored at freezing temperatures (-4 Fahrenheit for Moderna and -94 for Pfizer). Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, through its Janssen Pharmaceuticals division, would be a single-dose regimen and refrigerated versus frozen. The FDA will consider its approval Feb. 26. Supply constraints have impacted counties’ ability to vaccinate widely. A third vaccine would help alleviate that issue. In the meantime, Marking pointed to a recent manufacturing deal by Pfizer with drug manufacturer Novartis as a boost. Butte County has been allotted 55,625 doses so far. In addition to Enloe’s 10,000 vaccinations, the hospital and Butte County Public Health have operated a community clinic at Meriam Park where another 7,500 in the county have gotten the shot. Those are residents who top the priority system established by the state, which emphasizes age and high-exposure occupations as the prime risk factors. Seniors 65 and older can schedule an appointment now via the Public Health vaccination webpage (buttecounty.net/ph/ COVID19/vaccine). The site is NEWSLINES C O N T I N U E D FEBRUARY 11, 2021

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also where anyone in an essential-worker field can find their priority order and details about the process. There’s no set timetable for when the general public will be able to get vaccinated, but estimates range from late-spring to summer. For most people, there are some potential short-term side effects with the vaccines— soreness at the injection site and a general feeling of unwellness for a day or two (particularly after the second dose). Those with pre-existing health issues may need to dig deeper. Both vaccines carry a contraindication for people who have experienced anaphylaxis after a vaccine or injected medicine. “That’s probably the biggest pause I would put on it,” Marking said—noting that if, for instance, someone says they have an EpiPen for bee stings because of a past reaction that required a visit to the emergency room, he’ll advise them to “really make sure Enloe Pharmacy Director Chris Marking. PHOTO BY EVAN TUCHINSKY

Dr. Robert Bernstein, Butte County’s public health officer. PHOTO BY EVAN TUCHINSKY

you’re thinking it through. “Not that you can’t get the vaccine, but you obviously want to bounce it off some health-care professionals specializing in allergic reactions.” Certain conditions, such as Bell’s Palsy and Guillain-Barré syndrome—for which people have hesitance for vaccines in general—also merit caution and consultation. Physicians have debated whether pregnant women should get vaccinated. The WHO initially recommended against it then recently reconsidered, Marking said, while the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology supports vaccination due to evidence that pregnancy elevates COVID19 risk. As such, expectant women should speak with their health providers to gauge their individual conditions. Something else to note: The vaccines might not provide blanket immunity. “The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, once an individual has had both doses, should be effective in preventing that individual from getting COVID disease—and especially from getting severe COVID disease,” Bernstein said. “But as far as we know at the moment, [vaccination] doesn’t prevent the person from transmitting a SARSCOVID-2 [aka COVID-19] infection to another person. “So it’s extremely important to continue to use the non-pharmaceutical interventions that we know are very effective: wearing a mask over the mouth and nose, staying 6 feet apart, avoiding large crowds and poorly ventilated places, washing hands. We don’t know yet what the level of coverage is we need in the community for ‘herd immunity’ and whether a person who’s been vaccinated is capable of shedding virus in a way that Ω will infect another person.”

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DEATH BY HOMELESSNESS ‘Constant, toxic stress’ of living unsheltered takes ultimate toll

by

Ken Smith kens@ newsr ev iew.c o m

I

n recent weeks, a wedge-shaped traffic median between Pine and Cypress Streets—known as The Triangle—became the latest battleground in the community-dividing conflict over how Chico should address homelessness issues. On Feb. 4, city workers and police officers razed the homeless encampment that stood there since last spring. They did so at the behest of the City Council, evicting campers despite ongoing protests and threatened legal actions over encampment sweeps that critics say are immoral and illegal, and the fact that no shelter space is available. At the end of the day, an empty plot of land surrounded by police tape was all that remained of the camp where several dozen unhoused people had found some respite and stability during the COVID-19 crisis. Just three blocks away from The Triangle, outside the Chico Friends Meeting’s Fellowship Hall on 16th Street, stands a somber reminder of the real consequences at stake in this war on homelessness: a memorial to those who ultimately lost their battle for survival on the streets of Chico. The temporary The Ericksons—clockwise from left: Emilia, Chad, Ronin, monument features a picture of Eric surLogan, Scarlett, ColinOyler and Stump the dog—stand before their partially built home in Concow. rounded by ribbons left PHOTO by visitors. Oyler’s lifeless BY ASHIAH SCHARAGA body was found on Dec. 13 on the front landing of the church where the Chico Friends—also known as Quakers—meet. He was 54 years old.

Robin Engel holds a sign honoring Felipe Ramirez Jr. while protesting the eviction of homeless campers at The Triangle. PHOTO COURTESY BY KEN SMITH

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“A man died outside my home yesterday,” a neighbor named Heather Bonea wrote in an emotionfilled post to Facebook the following day. “Less than 50 feet from my door, he lay down in the night under the eaves of a church with nothing more than some heavy boots and a blanket. He never woke up. He died in the early hours of the morning and lay there until the afternoon before anyone noticed. ‘We think his name was Eric,’ a church member told us. “It is so sad,” the post continues. “It is 1,000 kinds of wrong. But, dammit, I could have brought him an effing sleeping bag. There is nothing right about letting someone die alone on the cold concrete. At some point, we have to come to terms with the atrocities we commit, whether they be through ignorance, negligence, avoidance, or violence.” Oyler’s death is not an anomaly. The CN&R reported on three people who died on the streets over the course of eight days during a brutal cold snap six years ago (see “The Final Kindness,” Feature story, Dec. 17, 2015), and many more of our unhoused neighbors have died each year since. According to Chico Police Department press releases and information provided by homeless advocate Siana Sonoquie and the Butte County Coroner, at least 18 members of Chico’s homeless population have died in the past eight months. As no local agency keeps an official count of deaths among the homeless population, it is impossible to do a full accounting or compare statistics to housed individuals. The actual numbers of Chico homeless deaths is likely higher, and recent Point in Time homeless census counts conducted by the Butte County Homeless Continuum of Care do not reflect accurate numbers. The last complete census, in 2019, counted 2,304 homeless individuals in all of Butte County and was likely inflated by the thenrecent Camp Fire; the 2020 PIT only included individuals in shelters, and counted 152. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “People who experience homelessness have an average life expectancy of around 50 years of age, almost 20 years lower than housed populations. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that people experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of

Local homeless advocate Siana Sonoquie with her friend James Wedge. PHOTO COURTESY OF SIANA SONOQUIE

bers of the homeless community and those who work with them believe he may have been murdered. Regardless of what’s written on death certificates, homeless advocates believe that the challenges of living unhoused were a major factor in each case. “When people don’t have a place to live that’s safe, it’s just constant, toxic stress,” Sonoquie said. “Many things are exacerbated [by living on the streets] and happen because of that. People like you and I can smooth over things because we can go home, refuel, grieve, use the bathroom. … It all just compounds when you’re homeless. “With all the people that have died, it’s so alarming how much it happens and how sick people truly are … like how physically ill someone can be and still be on the streets. It alarms me what people can go through and persist on the streets alive.” infectious and chronic illness, poor mental health, and substance abuse.” Numerous news reports from areas where better statistics are kept have indicated significant increases in homeless deaths in recent years, particularly in 2020. Not all 18 deaths occurred on the streets. At least seven perished in public spaces, while others died in the hospital or in temporary/ transitional housing. Sonoquie, who helps run Project Roomkey through her affiliation with Safe Space Winter Shelter, said at least seven guests of that program have passed away since it began sheltering elderly unhoused people with serious medical conditions in Chico motel rooms. The official causes of death of those 18 souls include many who died from illnesses undoubtedly complicated from time spent on the streets; a handful of fatal overdoses; and a police shooting (Steven Vest, 30, who was homeless since the Camp Fire). One death—of James Wedge, 46—was ruled a suicide by authorities, but some memA memorial to Eric Oyler stands at the Chico Friends Meeting’s property, where he died on the church’s front porch. PHOTO BY KEN SMITH

DROPPING THEIR DEFENSES Curtis Aguirre, or “Bear” as he was known to friends, was a Native American man who hailed from Glenn County’s Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians. According to Sonoquie, he spent a significant amount of time in prison before landing on the streets of Chico several years ago. She described him as a soft-spoken music lover whom younger natives on the street—such as Oyler, who was Aguirre’s good friend—looked up to. Aguirre was also well known to staff and volunteers at the Safe Space Winter Shelter. The seasonal, low-barrier shelter usually operates at rotating churches during the winter months, but was unable to open earlier this season as the city insisted hosting facilities be equipped with sprinklers (a requirement it later backed away from in the ongoing struggle to establish shelter). Safe Space staff instead focused their efforts on Project Roomkey, a statewide program aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 by placing unhoused individuals in motel rooms, for which the organization oversees shelter operations. In order to qualify for Project Roomkey, people must be over the age of 65 and have serious medical issues. The program has provided shelter for hundreds in the past several months, many of whom have successfully transitioned into more permanent housing. Just this week (Feb. 7), Safe Space opened a temporary nightly shelter called Casey’s Place (in honor of longtime Safe Space staffer and board member Casey Doran, who died of cancer in December). It is limited compared to previous years, open only to referrals who meet Project Roomkey criteria and with space for 20 to 30 guests—as opposed to up to 60 in past years— due to social distancing precautions. Sonoquie explained Aguirre suffered from Stage 4 colon cancer and was approved for hospice before Project Roomkey began, but couldn’t receive those services because he was homeless. She said his condition worsened after he entered the program, and he still could not receive hospice care at the motel. For that reason, Safe Space staff helped secure him a studio apartment and maintained a regular DEATH C O N T I N U E D FEBRUARY 11, 2021

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vigil with the dying man. On May 4, Safe Space Project Manager Marin Hambley, who coleads the local Roomkey program with Sonoquie, was on “Bear duty.” Sonoquie stopped by to deliver Hambley provisions. “Bear hadn’t been lucid for days, and he died that night as Marin and I sat with him,” Sonoquie said. “We felt him go from warm to cold. “His biggest request was that he have a radio in the apartment,” she continued. “I remember the song ‘Our House’ was playing when he passed. We’d already called his daughter and she was on her way, so we cracked a beer, said goodbye to Bear and waited for her to arrive.” Though Sonoquie has known many unhoused people who’ve died in her years of working with them, she said it was the first death she’d witnessed firsthand. It was also the first of the seven Roomkey deaths, all of which resulted from illness and infection. Of that significant number of deaths, Sonoquie noted that all of the guests are elderly and ill. However, she and other Roomkey workers have observed that once people who’ve spent years on the streets have some degree of comfort, their medical afflictions then seem to worsen. “It feels like a phenomenon to me,” she said. “It’s like their bodies have stayed alive so long on pure adrenaline, and when they’re calm and inside and don’t have to fight so hard to survive anymore, the

sicknesses are taking over.” This circumstance has been noted in other cities where Project Roomkey operates. In August, The Mercury News ran a story focused on Terry Hammer, a 65-year-old man who died Aug. 16 while taking part in Santa Clara’s Project Roomkey after surviving several years on the streets. The article notes 20 of the more than 4,400 people housed in hotels, shelters and other emergency pandemic programs in San Francisco had died at the time the article was published.

“The truth is that we do see this a lot,” Dr. Margot Kushel, director of UC San Francico’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, told The Mercury News. Kushel said part of the reason is efforts like Project Roomkey come too late for people who’ve long battled horrific living conditions. “In some ways, thank goodness they’re not dying on the street,” she said. “But in other ways, it always makes me imagine how would this have looked different if this housing could have come five or 10 years ago?”

COLD, COLD GROUND The most recent death in the public right of way—and the first known local homeless death of 2021—was that of Felipe Ramirez Jr., 58, whose body was discovered along the banks of Sycamore Pool at One Mile Recreation Area in Bidwell Park on Jan. 2. Larry Halstead is a photojournalist and activist who has been documenting homelessness in Chico, including the recent encampment sweeps. He was riding his bike through Lower Bidwell Park that The body of 58-year-old Felipe Ramirez Jr. was found on the side of Sycamore Pool on Jan. 2. The cause of Ramirez’ death is still pending autopsy results. PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY D. HALSTEAD, REAL WORLD MEDIA

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afternoon and noticed police congregating near the northeast corner of the pool, near where a man laid on the shore. Halstead decided to take a bench on the opposite side of the creek and watch what unfolded. As more officers showed up, it became apparent that the man, later identified as Ramirez, was deceased. Halstead watched as they covered his body—first in a yellow tarp, then in a body bag—packed most of Ramirez’s belongings into a backpack, loaded him into a van and left. Halstead then moved to get a closer look at the creekside spot where Ramirez took his last breath. “There was some things [the police] left behind … a pair of police gloves, a water bottle, a bag with an unopened loaf of bread in it that had been partially squished,” Halstead said. “Standing in that spot … it just hit me, hardcore. It’s haunted me wondering, ‘Who is this guy? What is his story, and how did it end so tragically here at Sycamore [Pool]?’ I don’t even know what he looked like … maybe I even ran into him.” Halstead said these lingering questions have led him to redouble his efforts to help the homeless by telling their stories. “We’re in this war on homelessness here and everybody on the hate side, the ‘Safe Chico’ people, they want to paint all the homeless as being drug addicts and criminals

Sonoquie holds the makeshift garrote that killed Wedge. Chico police ruled the death a suicide, but Sonoquie and others have doubts. PHOTO BY KEN SMITH

and lowlifes and all that stuff. But every single person out here has mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, sometimes spouses. A lot have children, and they had jobs and houses and cars they drove. ... When you start talking to homeless people, you find out people have real stories and serious skills.” Other deaths in public over the past eight months, in addition to Oyler and Ramirez, include Michael “Gator” Gehrke, 36, who died of a drug overdose on Oct. 17 on Oroville Avenue; Carlos Ibarra, 70, who drowned in Sycamore Pool on Oct. 21; Scott Walker, 55, who died of an overdose in his tent at The Triangle on Nov. 16 (nearby campers said he had been sick for several days); and Jared “Truly” Gray, 27, whose autopsy is still pending. Police reported the deaths of two other people in the public right of way: Richard Felix, 42, an overdose victim found along Lindo Channel at Arbutus Avenue on June 21 and Michael McConnell, 51, also of overdose, found in a dumpster enclosure on Cohasset Road on July 4. The CN&R was unable to verify their housing status and they are not included in the count of 18 deaths.


A mural by Sonoquie and Paul Alvarez painted on the side of the 1078 Gallery memorializes many members of Chico’s homeless population who have died in recent years. PHOTO BY JASON CASSIDY

SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES The man found on Cohasset wasn’t the only Fourth of July death among the unhoused. James Wedge was found dead in the camp at Teichert Ponds he’d occupied for several months, with a bundle of fishing line fashioned into a makeshift noose around his neck. The Butte County Coroner’s office determined Wedge died by his own hand, as did Chico police, but many who knew him well have doubts. “The death of James Wedge was ruled a suicide. We have not received any credible information which would lead us to believe otherwise,” CPD Capt. Billy Aldridge said via email Feb. 2. “We will always invite new witnesses or evidence in these types of cases and will analyze that for the potential of reopening a case. We have heard about the rumors and have invited those spreading the rumors to come forth, but we have yet to hear from anyone.” Among the doubters is Sonoquie, who spent the days following Wedge’s death scouring his camp for clues and talking to members of the local homeless population who believe he was murdered. She still has the implement of his death—which police discarded on the ground at his camp—and

continues tracking whispers of foulplay. Sonoquie believes the main reason his death was considered suicide was a note found at the scene. However, she believes it was just one of many notes the man—who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had bouts of paranoia—regularly scribbled. When the CN&R visited Wedge’s camp a few days after his death with Sonoquie and another of his friends, Missy Migdal, similar notes were scattered among Wedge’s belongings. Migdal met Wedge, who she called “kind and sweet,” several years ago while volunteering at the Jesus Center. Wedge’s “junking” skills were legendary, and she collected several of the items he’d gathered and gifted her into a display she called “James Wedge’s Tiny Museum,” which once stood at the Jesus Center. “He used to say he was going to start a website called ‘Chico shit dot com,’ then get rich selling people’s junk back to them,” Sonoquie said. “He was one of the most hilarious people I’ve ever met. He was a very intelligent person, so his humor was very smart. He was bright; his IQ must have been through the roof. “He was also known for freaking out,” she said. “He could just lose it sometimes. He had a really hard life and faced a lot of disappointment. He suffered from a lot of PTSD.

He didn’t want to be homeless, so badly. He wanted to be inside, but his monthly income was $432.” She recalled taking him prospecting—his favorite hobby—in Upper Park for his birthday one year. On her birthday, he insisted on returning the favor. “We met at the DownLo,” she said. “He had $7 to his name, and he used it to buy two beers and pay for us to play pool.” To this day, Sonoquie has little doubt Wedge was murdered and has been frustrated by the lack of a more thorough investigation. “I’m close to a lot of people [on the streets], but James … it was such an unjust situation,” she said. “There was so little acknowledgment, from police, from anyone. It was just another end to a story of a human life that no one seemed to care about. I was so frustrated and saddened by that.”

the plight of people who have no place to live … and no place to die.” Senoglu said Oyler’s body was found between the time church members met online that Sunday morning and a scheduled business meeting at 12:30. Among the items to be discussed that afternoon was allowing the Chico Housing Action Team to use its fellowship hall—which has sat empty due to the pandemic—to house very ill members of the homeless population. The Friends, who make all decisions as a group, unanimously agreed to the partnership. Additionally, Senoglu and Bob Runyan, who served as co-clerks for the Chico Friends Meeting when Oyler died, recently penned a letter to the Chico EnterpriseRecord urging the city to do more to help the unhoused. The Friends also put up the temporary memorial to Oyler. “Every year Chico acts like it’s a surprise that people are dying on the streets,” Senoglu said. “We’re not surprised. We know this is happening because we have not really taken enough action to fix it, and it’s not just going to go away.”

At the end of last summer, Sonoquie was moved to focus her sadness and frustration into a memorial honoring Wedge and others whose lives were complicated by homelessness—and whose deaths went largely unnoticed by the larger population. In early August, she and her partner, Paul Alvarez, painted a mural on the side of the 1078 Gallery featuring names of many who’ve died in recent years. Several people, homeless and otherwise, showed up to observe the painting of the mural. Among those who hung out and watched was Oyler. “Eric was always joking around; the first time I ever saw him act serious was while we were painting the mural,” Sonoquie said. “He just sat there, hanging out and listening to music. He kept telling us names we had to put up, then he’d daze off and get quiet and say, ‘There’s just so many.’” In late December, Sonoquie returned to add 10 more names, all of recently deceased people, to the mural. The painting originally featured a tent in one corner with the word “HOME” on it. Some of Oyler’s friends stopped by and had a special request for where to put his name. It now reads, “ERIC WENT HOME.” Ω

PAYING TRIBUTE According to Rebecca Senoglu of the Chico Friends, Oyler’s death has had a profound effect on the congregation: “I feel like it struck us to the heart,” she said. “It compelled us to take even more personally Safe Space staff operating Project Roomkey assembled an ofrenda for Dia de los Muertos to honor unhoused people who have died. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAFE SPACE

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Arts &Culture NORTH STATE SYMPHONY – CONVERSATIONS February 18

Virtual concert

(Saturdays, 7:30am-1pm & Thursdays, 6-9pm); North Valley Plaza (Wednesdays, 8am-1pm); Chico State University Farm (Fridays, noon-4 p.m.). Paradise: Alliance Church (Tuesdays, 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.).

STORYTELLER’S WORKSHOP: A virtual youth theater class for kids ages 9-17. The workshop is a four-week class in which young playwrights will create an original work based on Jack and the Beanstalk. Workshop spots are limited. Mon & Wed, 4pm. $60. Chico Theater Company, 166 Eaton Road, Ste. F., 894-3CTC. chicotheatercompany. com

VIRTUAL SCREENING ROOM: While the Pageant is temporarily closed, it’s offering virtual screenings of the documentaries, cult classics and foreign and independent films that would normally populate its calendar. Visit the theater website for current offerings. $5-$12. Pageant Theatre, 351 E. Sixth St. pageantchico.com

THU11 LOVE PAINT AND SIP: Live, laugh, paint, love and unwind with beer and wine and friends. Hosted by Sienna Joy. Thu, 2/11, 6pm. $40. The Lab Bar and Grill, 250 Cohasset, Ste. 10. sienna-joy.square.site MERIAM PARK DRIVE-IN – THE BIG SICK: The 2017 romantic comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan. Thu, 2/11, 6:30pm. $25 - $35. Meriam Park Drive-In, 1930 Market Place. meriampark.com

SOUL FOOD FOR MY SOULMATE: In celebration of National Donor Day, join Donor Network West for a virtual cooking demonstration featuring celebrity chef Nikki Shaw. Learn about the power of soul food cooking and how to make fabulous food that is also heart-healthy. Thu, 2/11, 6pm. Free. Virtual event. eventbrite.com/e/ soul-food-for-my-soulmate-tickets-134716955039

FEBRUARY ALL MONTH Art BEATNIKS COFFEE HOUSE & BREAKFAST JOINT: Chico State Painting Exhibition, a show featuring Chico Art Studio painters Jaelyn Foster, Delaney Cox, Ani Ushikishvili, Chang and Tu, Sabrina Chavez, Gracie Gomes and Jessica Kojabashian. Through 2/28. 1387 E. Eighth St.

CHICO ART CENTER: Unbound The Altered Book, a juried exhibition of works by artists who have taken a book and transformed its original state or meaning. Zoom reception Su, 2/21, 4pm. Also still online: Member Showcase & Birds of a Feather. Visit site for info. 450 Orange St., 895-8726. chicoartcenter.com

GATEWAY SCIENCE MUSEUM: The museum is physically closed, but it’s still offering its Gateway at Home series of virtual activities like folding paper airplanes, learning in the garden, wildlife art and reading and lectures from previous seasons that cover a variety of environmental topics. csuchico.edu/gateway

JANET TURNER PRINT MUSEUM: Social Commentary: Prints and Politics, a virtual exhibition that explores the intersection of printmaking and politics and features a 360-degree video of the entire exhibit. Gallery talk Feb. 16, 5:30pm. Through 3/31. Chico State, 400 W. First St. csuchico.edu/turner

MUSEUM OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ART: Dream State, a group exhibit on dreams as a source of inspiration. 900 Esplanade. monca.org

NAKED LOUNGE: Call for art. The newly remodeled coffee shop is taking art submissions on its website for 2021.

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FRI12 DJ COOTDOG AND DJ LOIS: DJ Cootdog and DJ Lois spin records until close. Fri, 2/12, 8pm. The Commons Social Empourium, 2412 Park Ave.

Fill out the submission form on the website. 118 W. Second St. nakedloungechico.com

PARADISE ART CENTER: Virtual Gallery Members’ Show, work by gallery members is online Wheeler Gallery is temporarily closed. Visit the members page on the gallery website to get your work into the show. Through 2/16. $20-$55. 5564 Almond St., Paradise. paradise-art-center. com

MERIAM PARK DRIVE-IN – DESPICABLE ME: The 2010 animated film starring Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews and Will Arnett. Fri, 2/12, 6:30pm. $25 $35. Meriam Park Drive-In, 1930 Market Place. meriampark.com

Misc. events BLUE ROOM DARK SEASON: Visit the theater’s website for

opened a full slate of classes and activities for kids over the next few months—everything from virtual cooking and computing classes to hiking and sports camps. Call or visit the site for more info. CARD, 545 Vallombrosa Ave., 895-4711. chicorec.com

CN&R ON KZFR: Local news and arts updates from Butte County’s community newspaper…on the radio. Tune in at 90.1 FM or stream online. Every Thu, 5:30-6pm. KZFR. kzfr.org

FARMERS MARKETS: Butte County’s markets are open and selling fresh produce and more. Chico: Downtown

Paint Art Studio with your gal pals. All supplies included. Half of all proceeds will be donated to Butte Humane Society. Sat, 2/13, 3pm. $30. Chico Marketplace, 1950 E 20th St. eventbrite.com/e/celebrate-galentines-day-atchico-marketplace-tickets-136717097519

MERIAM PARK DRIVE-IN – THE HUNGER GAMES: The 2012 film based on the dystopian young-adult book series of the same name starring Jennifer Lawrence. Sat, 2/13, 6:30pm. $25 - $35. Meriam Park Drive-In, 1930 Market Place. meriampark.com

SUN14 MERIAM PARK DRIVE-IN – SAY ANYTHING: The 1989 romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Ione Skye at the drivein on Valentine’s Day. Sun, 2/14, 6:30pm. $25 - $35. Meriam Park Drive-In, 1930 Market Place. meriampark.com

VALENTINE’S DAY WITH THE BIDWELLS: The local duo of singer/ songwriters performs for the Valentine’s Day crowd. NOTE: Reservations currently at capacity. Sun, 2/14, 3pm. Secret Trail Brewing Company, 132 Meyers St., Ste. 120. secrettrailbrewing.simpletix.com

TUE16 TUESDAY CRAFTERNOON: Stop by the Durham Library to pick up a grab ’n’ go craft kit to make at home. The designed-

for-adults kits are available while supplies last. Tue, 2/16, 12pm. Butte County Library, Durham Branch, 2545 Durham-Dayton Hwy, Durham, 552-5652.

THU18 DIVERSITY OF ORCHIDS IN NORTH AMERICA: Retired Forest Service botanist Linnea Hanson introduces around 40 native orchid species and discusses their pollination and fungal associations. Join the Zoom meeting on the Friends of Chico State Herbarium website. Thu, 2/18, 7pm. Free. Online Event, Chico State. friendsofthechicostate herbarium.com

MERIAM PARK DRIVE-IN – THE CONJURING: The 2013 horror film by James Wan starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. Thu, 2/18, 6:30pm. $25 - $35. Meriam Park Drive-In, 1930 Market Place. meriampark.com format for Conversations, duos of North State Symphony

turing pieces created by artists from Amber Palmer’s Mind Vacation Watercolor Workshop during the pandemic. amberpalmerwatercolorworkshops.com

CARD FOR KIDS: Chico Area Recreation and Park District has

GALENTINE’S DAY: Paint a floral vase courtesy of The Beauty of

NORTH STATE SYMPHONY: Performing in a more intimate

STAYING CREATIVE THROUGHOUT COVID-19: A virtual exhibit fea-

links to recent virtual productions of Blue Moon & Poe and The Jungle Book, and become a Patreon subscriber (patreon.com/BlueRoomChico) to watch already filmed productions of Treasure Island and Blue Stories, plus an ever-growing list of vintage performances from 1990s on. Blue Room Theatre, blueroomtheatre.com

SAT13

SOCIAL COMMENTARY: PRINTS & POLITICS February-March Janet Turner Print Museum


IS YOUR EVENT ONLINE?

So is the CN&R calendar! Submit virtual and real-world events for the online calendar as well as the monthly print edition, at chico.newsreview.com/calendar

players will converse with each other and with you through music. Now, more than ever, it is important for us to listen to and understand one another. At 6:30pm, before the show, director Scott Seaton will discuss the evening’s program. Thu, 2/18, 7pm (6:30pm pre-concert talk). North State Symphony. northstatesymphony.org

FRI19 DJ COOTDOG AND DJ LOIS: See Fri, 2/12. Fri, 2/19, 8pm. The Commons Social Empourium, 2412 Park Ave.

ROAST BATTLE COMEDY: Roast battles and stand-up comedy hosted by Dillon Collins. T.J. Hudson headlines, battlers include Kiki Barretta vs David Thorne and Jake McCown vs Matt McCalip. The main event battle features Jerm Leather vs The Adonis BRO. Only 20 tickets available. Fri, 2/19, 8pm. $20 - $25. The Lab Bar and Grill, 250 Cohasset, Ste. 10.

TYLER DEVOLL: The local singer/songwriter serenades the brunch crowd. Fri, 2/19, 5pm. Free. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

SAT20 MERIAM PARK DRIVE-IN – E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL: Outer space tourist E.T. explains to Elliot that even though (emotionally) they’re entwined, travelers eventually tire, especially those exhibiting telekinetic expertise. Sat, 2/20, 6:30pm. $25 - $35. Meriam Park Drive-In, 1930 Market Place. meriampark.com

SUN21 SCOUT THE WISE: Live set from the local artist and musician. Sun, 2/21, 3pm. Secret Trail Brewing Company, 132 Meyers St., Ste. 120. secrettrailbrewing.simpletix.com

FRI26 DJ COOTDOG AND DJ LOIS: See Fri, 2/12. Fri, 2/26, 8pm. The Commons Social Empourium, 2412 Park Ave.

LORNA SUCH: The local singer/songwriter serenades the dinner crowd on the patio. Fri, 2/26. Red Tavern, 1250 Esplanade. redtavern.com

INTO THE WARDROBE February 28

Meriam Park Drive-In

SUN28 3 PINTS DOWN: Local cover band encourages singing and drinking along. Sun, 2/28, 3pm. Secret Trail Brewing Company, 132 Meyers St., Ste. 120. secrettrailbrewing. simpletix.com

INTO THE WARDROBE: Watch a filmed ballet performance exploring C.S. Lewis’ Narnia with North State Ballet, starring Mira Almaguer as Aslan, Kira Hickman as Jadis, Natalie Chapli as Cardinal, Shelby Baird as Tumnus and Autumn Marinella as Lucy. This is a fundraiser event for the ballet. Sun, 2/28, 6pm. $40. Meriam Park Drive-In, 1930 Market Place. meriampark.com

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“Maybe the world is full of food and sex and spectacle and we’re all just hurtling towards an apocalypse?” There’s nothing wrong Say Anything with spending your Valentine’s Day down at the Gas ’n’ Sip, sitting out front and drinking with your friends … by choice, of course. But even with most romantic venues closed during the pandemic, there are still a few ways to have a date. Meriam Park Drive-In offers prime oldfashioned make-out opportunities in the privacy of one’s own car, and the Valentine’s Day film (Sunday, Feb. 14) is the late-’80s classic, Say

Anything. Secret Trail Brewing Co. is hosting a socially distant romantic concert on its patio on the 14th with local musical couple The Bidwells. And there are also a couple of opportunities to get creative that weekend, with a love-themed paint-and-sip hosted by Sienna Joy at The Lab on Feb. 11, and a Galentine’s Day vase-painting event/Humane Society fundraiser at Chico Marketplace on Feb. 13.

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CN&R

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MUSIC Young Chico artist produces album and EP during pandemic

Recording in place Seven Mills PHOTO COURTESY OF SEVEN MILLS

by

Jason Cassidy

portive. A couple other local musicians have been wanting to collaborate—there’s nothing set in stone yet.

jason c @ newsrev i ew. com

W started her first band. Snowing in May was a collaboration with her older

hen Seven Mills was 7 years old, she

brother Ender, and the duo performed here and there around Chico throughout their youth—often at events put on by the Chikoko fashion/design collective (which their mother, Muir Hughes, cofounded) or during events at the The Bookstore Seven Mills downtown that their mom music: and dad (Josh Mills) own. Search So, it comes as little “Seven Mills” at spotify.com and surprise that at the age of youtube.com. 17—after a decade spent pursuing music and many other arts (drawing, painting, photography, writing, film, acting)— the Inspire School of Arts & Sciences graduate would write, record and release her first solo album this past October. The 11-song Evergreen was created at home during the COVID-19 pandemic as Mills sheltered-in-place with her family and attended Butte College remotely. Three months later, she released a follow-up EP, Feels Wrong. Between those two recordings Mills (who is studying film at Butte) also produced videos for three of the songs, including a fun split-identity telephone call for the catchy downbeat “Girls With Pearls.” The songs are mostly mellow, piano/ synth-driven experimental pop, with often smarter-than-her-age poetic lyrics and well-placed samples and sound-effects that reflect a songwriter with enough time on her hands to have fun exploring the

Are you looking forward to being able to perform this music in front of a live audience for the first time? No. I honestly think the reason I wasn’t making music as a solo thing, I was scared people would want me to perform it. And so being in lockdown, I was like, “OK, now no one can make me perform.” I mean, I’m sure that some day I will perform some of the music, but that makes me so nervous. How about a livestream show? It would be something that I would feel more comfortable doing if I had somebody else—if I was working with somebody else—but I’m not a huge fan of doing things by myself performance-wise.

technology. The CN&R spoke with Mills (now 18) via Zoom about life as a teenage artist in corona times. Did this solo project come up because of the shelter-in-place orders, or had you been working on this music before then? I definitely was writing songs before. I had wanted to make an album probably starting in 2018, but I never really got around to it because I was always busy. My brother built me a computer, which is kind of awesome. I use Pro Tools, and we have a little guest room right next to my bedroom and I have everything in there. I play the keyboard, that’s the only instrument I really have technical knowledge about, but I’ve been working with virtual instruments and trying to figure out how to make noises. Any of the songs written in response to the pandemic? I don’t know Mills recording in if any of them her home studio are directly about PHOTO COURTESY OF SEVEN MILLS

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How do you like creating music versus other art forms? I think with music it’s a lot more freeing to do because I work with a lot of different creative outlets [and] there’s different ways to be stressed about everything. But with music—I listen to a lot of really experimental music—I feel like there’s not rules really. I like it because even if it’s wrong technically, it’s not wrong. So, it’s more fun for me. Evergreen

it, but they’re about things that are caused by it, or caused by being in my house for a long time. Has the process of making music during this time helped you cope with sheltering in place? Yeah. Definitely. I always need to have something to do, and I didn’t have anything once we were in lockdown. So, I was like, “I have to make my own deadlines and my own way to feel that rush of doing something and accomplishing something.” So, yeah it has helped. My friends are obviously really sup-

You’ve created videos for some of the songs; is that part of your music-making process? I think it’s really connected. I did a lot of film stuff in high school, and just when I was little, messing around with an old camera. [When I was] growing up I would make music videos for my favorite songs. I would have music videos in my head when I listened to songs. You’ve put out two releases in four months; anything else in the works? There’s a lot of songs that I didn’t release. I pretty much only have been working on music. It’s more for myself than for other people. I think it’s fun to just put things together. Ω


SCENE

Hanging in the matrix

Clockwise from left: “Lidded Vessel” by Bill Flake; “A View with a Room, 20-20” by Christine Evans; “Venus” by Corla Bertrand.

Chico Art Center exhibits bring the art to virtual galleries

Fmonths sight of what decorates our homes after of COVID-induced isolation, the

or those of us who’ve grown tired of the

Chico Art Center is providing an opportunity to enjoy fresh local art on virtual walls. For January, the gallery produced two by group exhibits—Birds of Carey Wilson a Feather and the 2021 Member Showcase—and both remain online via its Review: website (chicoartcenter. Birds of a Feather com). and The center has incor2021 Member Showcase porated software (from Both January virtual shows are still available Kunst Matrix) that allows online. the online browser to take a guided tour through a Next up: For February: 3-D virtual gallery that UNBOUND: The Altered Book is easily navigated with a few clicks of a mouse. Chico Art Center There is also the option to 450 Orange St. skip the tour and click on chicoartcenter.com individual thumbnails of the works arranged in columns. The same labels and notes are attached to each piece for both options.

As its introduction explains: “ Birds of a

Feather celebrates birds as a symbol of freedom and community, as well as the artists’ power to delight. This was an open call for artwork of all media by Northern California artists.” There is also an accompanying recording of a nearly 90-minute-long video from a Zoom reception for the exhibit during which participating artists discuss their techniques and motivations. The quality of the virtual gallery images is high, but there is the slight drawback that the images can’t be enlarged to full-screen, so some finer detail is potentially lost. However, this can be sidestepped by scrolling below to the static images posted under the virtual tour window. Clicking on these individual works and opening in a new tab allows for a much more magnified version of the art. It’s worthwhile, especially when viewing something as striking and full of detail as photographer Richard Baldy’s “Turkey Vulture,” a black-and-white photograph that is offered “free with $200 donation to Chico Housing Action Team or Friends of Bidwell Park.” The vulture is shown in mid-preening session, feathers ruffled to exhibit the many

layers, varying textures and subtle tonal qualities of its plumage. Set against a clouded sky while perched on a gnarly broken branch, one of the vulture’s eyes gazes back at the viewer as the bird tucks its beak into breast feathers. As a sort of memento mori, the piece delivers a beautiful, if somewhat chilling reminder of the beauty of nature’s recycling system. There are 50-plus images in the exhibit. In addition to being moved by Baldy’s striking vulture, I also enjoyed the whimsical

fantasy collages of Corla Bertrand, especially “Venus,” in which a golden-crowned snowy egret flies above a blue, oceanic landscape accompanied by other wrought gold figures, including the titular character, who is riding a golden chimera. This year’s Members Showcase celebrates

Chico Art Center’s 65th year by presenting works by artists who support the organization through active memberships. The variety of

pieces in the show demonstrates the multiplicity of talents, techniques and formats practiced and produced by the members. Exhibit-sponsoring artist Cris Guenter’s digital oil piece “Levee” was done, according to the artist’s online description, “in fall 2020 in Wildwood Park in Chico, looking east across the levee into Upper Bidwell Park. With a nod to [Wayne] Thiebaud, I played with the creaminess of the paint and textures that could be created with bold strokes.” The composition exudes a calm reverence for simplicity—with a plain-yet-evocative presentation of blue sky, peaceful looking clouds, ochre fields and the darkly distant hills of our local landscape. Representing the more abstract side of the collection is Christine Evans’ large-scaled “A View with a Room, 20-20” (a nearly 4-by-6-foot oil, oil pastel and wax piece). In the accompanying note, she suggests that her “paintings work like jazz, stirring feelings without narration.” Seen onscreen, it is a lovely composition of multicolored geometric shapes, intersecting, overlapping and inviting participation in much the way that a musical performance might. With landscapes, figure drawings and various abstract works, the members transport the homebound viewer as Chico Art Center brings these varied aesthetic expressions and a little of the world’s color into our private chambers. Ω FEBRUARY 11, 2021

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REEL WORLD

Deep in the heart An uneven yet pleasing journey through postCivil War Texas

News of the World Iofthere’s plenty of ferocious action and a good deal impressive speechifying, but much of what’s n

, the new Tom Hanks picture,

best in it occurs in quiet moments in which the actors are silent and what we can read in their faces seems by more eloquent than anything Juan-Carlos that gets said out loud. Selznick This isn’t to say that it’s badly written—quite the conNews of the trary, it’s a smoothly effective World adaptation of the esteemed Starring Tom Hanks, novel by Paulette Jiles. But Helena Zengel, Paul Greengrass’ film version Fred Hechinger and is a somewhat uneven mix of Michael Angelo Covino. Directed by Paul thematic seriousness and cinGreengrass. ematic tropes. As a post-Civil Streaming on demand War western set in the Texas of via Amazon Prime, 1870, the film is chock full of Apple TV, Xfinity and most other major historical and social issues, with providers. Rated much that resonates for our PG-13. own times. Part of it plays like a big-budget western from the 1950s and part of it is a rough

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textured “revisionist” western of more recent vintage. Perhaps that contrast is meant to serve as a way of highlighting the evolution of the central characters and their relationship. And it works well enough, as such. But the onscreen results seem a bit unbalanced. As a large-scale social/historical drama, it tilts toward a bland but pleasing kind of well-intentioned seriousness. In its rougher and more intimate moments, this movie hints tentatively at thoughts and emotions that are harsher and more complex than its abiding (PG-13?) feelgood tendencies can handle. The story is a rousingly episodic adventure, and its central personages are a widowed ex-Confederate

officer (Hanks) and a twiceorphaned child named Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel) who has spent most of her young life in captivity among Kiowas. Hanks’ Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels from town to town giving public readings of stories from contemporary newspapers, and he first encounters Johanna in the wilderness near the place where the black man charged with retrieving her from the Kiowas has just been lynched by racist Texans. Kidd, somewhat reluctantly, takes charge of Johanna, and she in turn is strongly and understandably suspicious of any attempt to “rescue” her from the only society she’s ever really known. Nevertheless, and not too

surprisingly, a bond begins to form between them as they face multiple adversities on their respective journeys to some kind of home and family life. Those adversities include fearsome encounters with a redneck tyrant who means to impose complete white supremacy on the Texas town he rules over, and a trio of renegade Confederate vets who mean to take possession of Johanna as a sex slave. Furious gunfights ensue in both cases. And it complicates things in another way when neither the U.S. Cavalry nor Johanna’s blood relatives know what to do with her once Kidd has tried to deliver her to them. Zengel is fiercely convincing in the role of Johanna.

Hanks of course manages the gravity of Kidd with characteristic ease, but very rarely does much with what would seem to be the rough edges of Kidd’s grizzled vet. Elizabeth Marvel has a good moment or two as the widow Gannett, the first of Kidd’s acquaintances to make genuinely sympathetic contact with Johanna. Maybe the best acting in the film comes from Michael Angelo Covino. He plays LaMay, the leader of those shabby renegades. LaMay is obviously a figure of evil in allegorical terms, but Covino plays him with a kind of desperate hilarity. To my lights, his Almay succeeds both as a symbol and as a character portrait with touches of complex mystery. Ω


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ARTS DEVO by JASON CASSIDY • jasonc@newsreview.com

FREE WILL ASTROLOGY For the week oF FeB. 11, 2021 ARIES (March 21-April 19): Author Anton

THE MEANING OF LIFE? WE’RE ALIVE. Arts DEVO is not a religious man nor a philosopher, but he is devoted to the songs. It’s in the lyrics of my favorites where I often get confirmation of the few truths that guide me, and the good songwriters usually express them better than I can. Some say once you’re gone you’re gone forever, and some say you’re gonna come back / Some say you rest in the arms of the savior if in sinful ways you lack / Some say that they’re comin’ back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas / I think I’ll just let the mystery be —Iris DeMent, “Let the Mystery Be” One of my projects for 2021 is to learn how to play a couple of covers every month. Since Christmas, I’ve been compiling a list of songs with my all-time favorite lyrics, and as I’ve whittled it down, an inadvertent common theme has emerged. It’s time to fly into life’s mystery / It’s time to go somewhere we’ve never seen / It’s time to fly into life’s mystery / Fly into the mystery —Jonathan Richman, “Fly into the Mystery” We’re here after all. We should explore all the stuff, live the life of our choice and be as free as we can. Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free —Leonard Cohen, “Bird on the Wire” Cohen wrote that song while living on the Greek island of Hydra in the 1960s with other artists and expats whose attempts at a simple idyllic life were thwarted when telephone poles went up, bringing in electricity and the modern world and killing their 11th-century vibe. The beauty of “Bird on the Wire” is in its honest assessment of the pursuit of living freely. Even the cosmopolitan poet/songwriter devoted to the notion can’t escape humanity, nor the personal mess of being human (I have torn everyone who reached out for me). We all try, and we all mess up at least as much as we get right. Every one of us. But the beauty, the pain; PHOTO BY JIM THE PHOTOGRAPHER (VIA FLICKR) that’s everything. I was talkin’ to my girlfriend; I told her I was stressed / I said I’m going off the deep end, she said, “God, for once, give it a rest” / We’re all waiting in the dugout thinking we should pitch / How you gonna throw a shutout if all you do is bitch? / I got nothing to lose, ’cause I got nothing to gain / It’s like a one-way ticket to cruising this passing lane / I can’t complain —Todd Snider, “I Can’t Complain” I hate that a large swath of America has co-opted the word “freedom,” deeming only those with whom they agree as worthy of liberty. As a result, for many others, being free equals escape from small minds and small towns. Oh-oh come take my hand; We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land / … Mary climb in / It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win —Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road” It’s been a pleasant surprise to have an added sense of purpose threading through my song project, something to hold onto during the coronavirus pandemic as I stare out my window, strum my guitar and sing/dream of being free to be in the world again. Speeding motorcycle, the road is ours / Speeding motorcycle, let’s speed some more / ’Cause we don’t need reason and we don’t need logic / We’ve got feeling and we’re dang proud of it / Speeding motorcycle, there’s nothing you can’t do / Speeding motorcycle, I love you / Speeding motorcycle, let’s just go —Daniel Johnston, “Speeding Motorcycle”

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FeBrUAry 11, 2021

Chekhov made a radical proposal: ”Perhaps the feelings we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows people who they should be.” In accordance with astrological potentials, my beloved Aries darling, I invite you to act as if Chekhov’s proposal were absolutely true for at least the next two weeks. Be animated by a generous lust for life. Assume that your intelligence will reach a peak as you express excited kindness and affectionate compassion. Be a fount of fond feelings and cheerful empathy and nourishing ardor.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Poet and

filmmaker Jean Cocteau told the following story about Taurus composer Erik Satie (1866–1925). When Satie died, his old friends, many of whom were highly accomplished people, came to visit his apartment. There they discovered that all the letters they had sent him over the years were unopened. Satie had never read them! How sad that he missed out on all that lively exchange. I beg you not to do anything that even remotely resembles such a lack of receptivity during the coming weeks, Taurus. In fact, please do just the opposite: Make yourself as open as possible to engagement and influence. I understand that the pandemic somewhat limits your social interactions. Just do the best you can.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): On behalf

of the cosmic omens, I demand that the important people in your life be reliable and generous toward you in the coming weeks. You can tell them I said so. Tell them that you are doing pretty well, but that in order to transform pretty well into very well, you need them to boost their support and encouragement. Read them the following words from author Alan Cohen: “Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.”

CANCER (June 21-July 22): For a while,

poet Alfred de Musset (1810–1857) was the sexual partner of Cancerian novelist George Sand (1804–1876), also known as Aurore Dupin. He said that after intense love-making sessions, he would fall asleep and wake up to find her sitting at her desk, engrossed in working on her next book. Maybe the erotic exchange inspired her creativity? In accordance with current astrological potentials, I recommend Sand’s approach to you. Vigorous pleasure will coordinate well with hard work. As will deep release with strong focus. As will tender intimacy with clear thinking. (PS: I know your options for pleasure and intimacy may be somewhat limited because of the pandemic. Call on your ingenuity and resourcefulness to work the best magic possible.)

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Leo poet Warsan

Shire suggests, “Document the moments you feel most in love with yourself—what you’re wearing, who you’re around, what you’re doing. Recreate and repeat.” This would be an excellent exercise for you to carry out during this Valentine season. You’re in a phase when you’re likely to enhance your lovability and attract extra support simply by intensifying and refining the affectionate compassion you feel and express toward yourself.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I wish the

pandemic would give us a short break so we could celebrate the Valentine season with maximum sensual revelry and extravagant displays of joyful tenderness. I wish we could rip off our masks and forget about socialdistancing and hug and kiss everyone who wants to be hugged and kissed. But that’s not going to happen. If we hope to be free to indulge in a Lush Love and Lust Festival by Valentine Season in 2022, we’ve got to be cautious and controlled now. And we are all counting on you Virgos to show us how to be as wildly, lyrically romantic as possible while

By roB Brezsny still observing the necessary limitations. That’s your special task.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Author Ray-

mond Carver wrote, “It ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.” That seems like a harsh oversimplification to me. Personally, I think it’s fun and interesting to pretend we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love. And I think that will be especially true for you in the coming weeks. In my astrological opinion, you should be discussing love extensively and boldly and imaginatively. You should redefine what love means to you. You should re-evaluate how you express it and reconfigure the way it works in your life.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): I’m turning

over this horoscope to psychologist John Welwood. His words are the medicine you need at this juncture in the evolution of intimacy. Study the following quote and interpret it in ways that help illuminate your relationship with togetherness: “A soul connection is a resonance between two people who respond to the essential beauty of each other’s individual natures, behind their facades, and who connect on this deeper level. This kind of mutual recognition provides the catalyst for a potent alchemy. It is a sacred alliance whose purpose is to help both partners discover and realize their deepest potentials.”

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21):

Transform yourself with the sweetest challenge you can dream up. Give yourself a blessing that will compel you to get smarter and wilder. Dazzle yourself as you dare to graduate from your history. Rile yourself up with a push to become your better self, your best self, your amazingly fulfilled and masterful self. Ask yourself to leap over the threshold of ordinary magic and into the realm of spooky good magic. And if all that works out well, Sagittarius, direct similar energy toward someone you care about. In other words, transform them with the sweetest challenge you can dream up. Dare them to graduate from their history. And so on.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): I invite

you to compose a message to a person you’d like to be closer to and whom you’re sure would like to be closer to you. Be inspired by what poet Clementine von Radics wrote to the man she was dating, telling him why she thought they could start living together. Here’s her note: “Because you texted me a haiku about the moon when you were drunk. Because you cried at the end of the movie Die Hard on Christmas eve. Because when I’m sick you bring me fruit, kiss me on the mouth, and hold me even though I’m gross. Because you bring me flowers for no reason but on Valentine’s Day you gave me a bouquet of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Because every time I show you a poem I love you’ve read it already.”

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): I’ve

adopted some lines from poet Walt Whitman for you to use in composing a love note. Send it to a person you know and love, or to a person you want to know and love, or a person you will know and love in the future. Here it is: “We are oaks growing in the openings side by side. We are two fishes swimming together. We are two predatory hawks, soaring above and looking down. We are two clouds driving overhead. We are seas mingling, two cheerful waves rolling over each other. We are snow, rain, cold, darkness. We circle and circle till arriving home again, voiding all but freedom and our own joy.”

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): “To heal is to

touch with love that which was previously touched by fear,” wrote author Stephen Levine. I propose you make this theme a keynote for your best relationships in the coming days. What can you do to alleviate the anxiety and agitation of the people you care for? How might they do the same for you? If you play along with the cosmic rhythms, you will have extraordinary power to chase away fear with love.

www.RealAstrology.com for Rob Brezsny’s EXPANDED WEEKLY AUDIO HOROSCOPES and DAILY TEXT MESSAGE HOROSCOPES. The audio horoscopes are also available by phone at 1-877-873-4888.

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

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