Tuesday, December 06, 2022

"Hunting: A Cultural History"

"In California," write Jan E. Dizard and Mary Zeiss Stange, "there were 700,000 hunting licenses sold in 1970. Forty-nine years later, after the population had roughly doubled, only 225,000 licenses were purchased." Though women are now 10% of the country's hunters, overall interest is waning. While critics might welcome the news, the authors argue conservation-minded hunters could be allies even to modern-day environmentalists.

Stange, an authority on women and hunting, is Professor Emerita of Women's Studies and Religion at Skidmore College. Dizard, who now lives in Chico, is Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of American Culture Emeritus at Amherst College, and has written widely on race relations, environmentalism, and hunting ethics. 

Their book, "Hunting: A Cultural History" ($16.95 in paperback from The MIT Press; also for Amazon Kindle), part of the Essential Knowledge series, may well change your mind about the importance of hunting. 

From prehistoric times, Dizard and Stange note, "the killing of animals, especially large, warm-blooded ones, triggered a volatile mix of emotions that yielded normative practices that absolved the hunter of guilt or remorse"; there have always been "rich myth and lore" around hunting, "elements which persist, albeit in more secular garb, down to the present."

The authors acknowledge that "the fact that hunters, then and now, take pleasure in hunting and find satisfaction in a successful kill has been, and continues to be, the basis for a critique of hunters and hunting more generally." 

Sport hunting generates images today of wanton killing; but a century ago, being a "'sportsman/woman' then meant that you hunted by a code of rules that were meant to honor wild game and emphasized the thrill of a fair chase…" which meant "utilizing the kill—including where possible the hide/fur as well as the meat."

Today's environmental efforts have increased the animal population even as wildlands have faced encroachment by humans. "Living with wildlife sounds great," the authors write, "yet it's not a solution to goose-polluted parks and beaches, and it's not a solution to deer densities that exceed the capacity of the environment…."

The danger today? If hunting is increasingly confined to a small group of the affluent, wildlife management will be left to—exterminators.



Tuesday, November 29, 2022

"Cleopatra's Vendetta: A Stryker Thriller"

Grass Valley novelist Avanti Centrae (avanticentrae.com) is back with a world-spanning tale, full of ancient secrets, only now revealed, with deadly consequences. What is unfolded is nothing less than "Cleopatra's Vendetta" ($17.99 in paperback from Thunder Creek Press; also for Amazon Kindle and in audiobook format).

Subtitled "A Stryker Thriller," it's a reference to one Timothy Stryker, an officer in "the field arm of one of the Army's cutting-edge think tanks, the US Futures Command." Looking for brains more than brawn—intel became vital after 9/11—"the military created a special unit of recruits that previously wouldn't have made it through psych testing."

Stryker, extraordinary linguist, expert in disguises, and "brutally honest," lost his sister and mother when he was seven as his father murdered them. Jerónimo Guerrero Reyes—Rey—"held dual degrees in mechanical engineering and information technology" but his "sensitivity to smells and noise" is worsened by his PTSD. 

The team also includes Stryker's sister-in-law Samantha Coin—Sam—a compulsive gambler but empathetic, single with "trouble committing—to men or women…." She is in Bari, Italy on holiday with her sister, Angie, Stryker's wife, while Stryker is in Saudi Arabia investigating a tip that a high Saudi official will be assassinated. 

Angie is CEO of a biofuels company, CIA operative, and heavy drinker, trying to drown her sorrows after losing a child. She's brought their four-year-old daughter, Harper, to Italy, after Tim and Angie argue over her boozing.

Then, to Sam's horror, both Angie and Harper are kidnaped, and the team must race to find them. At the same time world leaders are being killed, and the US President and President-elect are also targeted. Tied up in it all is a shadowy group calling itself the Sons of Adam, still active after thousands of years when, earlier, members of the Sons of Adam helped lead to Cleopatra's demise.

But the Queen will exact her revenge, even if it has to wait until the present day, hiding her own intel on the group's secret, millennia-long propaganda effort that has changed the course of history. 

Through cliff-hangers and twisty turns, readers will be propelled to an explosive ending—both literally and psychologically.



Tuesday, November 22, 2022

"Contracting For Services In State And Local Government Agencies: Best Practices For Public Procurement, Third Edition"

Those rebuilding after wildfires need services, but how to choose providers? Homeowners may hire contractors based on word of mouth, friendship, the first name in a printed phone directory, simple availability, or a bidding process--but a brand new company with a super-low bid may not be the best pick.

The difficulty is compounded if you're a government agency in need of services or equipment and it's taxpayer money that's being spent. Such agencies need to develop a transparent and ethical system of evaluating bids and making fair choices.

Enter William Sims Curry, Principal Consultant of WSC Consulting in Chico, whose award-winning handbooks help agencies avoid acquisition pitfalls. His newest is "Contracting For Services In State And Local Government Agencies: Best Practices For Public Procurement, Third Edition" ($74.95 in hardcover from Routledge; also for Amazon Kindle).

Updated with new terminology and software procurement examples, the book focuses on 48 (18 more than in the previous edition) "best public procurement practices" gleaned from a 2021 survey of agencies and educational institutions around the country and analysis of the forms they require. 

Some practices are simple, like requiring contractors to use four-digit years, and some complex, like monitoring contractor progress. While Federal processes have "centralized codification," "state and local public procurement … has a dearth of national regulation" which has led to the development of "diverse procurement practices that range from enlightened to foolhardy."

Curry is a Certified Professional Contracts Manager and "was on the Board of Directors for the Industry Council for Small Business Development, a not-for-profit corporation established to assist small, small-disadvantaged, and women-owned small businesses." His chapters take the reader through competitive procurement, contract negotiations, "terms and conditions," and final review. Central is Curry's concern for ethical processes.

He offers the account of a novice "public procurement specialist" on his first job where "he was exposed to an outrageous offer from a prospective contractor on his first business trip," little perks that were a "blatant attempt to gain his loyalty." That made a big impact on the author. 

Bottom line: Those who curry favor by favoring Curry had better not.



Tuesday, November 15, 2022

"Sleeping With Strangers: An Airbnb Host's Life In Lake Tahoe And Mexico"

When journalist (and certified massage therapist) Kathryn Reed moved to Chico in 2021, the former publisher of the Lake Tahoe News had a tale to tell. Actually, quite a few tales. 

"Needing to find a way to pay the entire mortgage after ending a twelve-year relationship," she writes, "led me to become an Airbnb host," primarily at her home in South Lake Tahoe and two winters at her sister and brother-in-law's house in Todos Santos, Mexico.

Since Airbnb handles bookings and money, all the host has to do is invite guests in, put up with them for a few days, have scintillating conversations with them during their stay, and fatten up one's bank account. Easy, simple, and more fantasy than reality.

If you want reality, "Sleeping With Strangers: An Airbnb Host's Life In Lake Tahoe And Mexico" ($19.99 in paperback, self-published, also for Amazon Kindle; more information at kathrynreed.com) is a delightfully frank tale of tales (with guest names suitably changed).

These are not stories of sordid escapades but of quotidian life scrunched up in her guest bedroom in Tahoe (with her dog AJ) while guests took the main bedroom and used the common kitchen and hot tub. Reed uses her journalistic skills to report on herself and the struggle to accommodate strangers while staying within her heating and cleaning budgets. Some guests were creepy, some very kind, and some made certain noises in the bedroom just a wall away from the host, some were, uh, a bit frightened when a bear got into the garage. 

Central to Airbnb's operation is the review system. Hosts review guests, and guests review hosts. As a designated "superhost," Reed had a reputation (and house rules) to maintain, though it wasn't always easy adjusting. "Friends and family," she observes, "told me I was unreasonable to expect people to use one towel for a nine-day stay." OK, whatever: "Admittedly, I was a bit obsessed with wanting good reviews."

Reed's account is an eyes-now-wide-open guide to the pluses and minuses of Airbnb (and the money one makes) and why people who don't like dogs would book a place—with a dog.



Tuesday, November 08, 2022

The Camp Fire In Books


Journalists, poets, photographers, artists and ordinary citizens have chronicled the profound and lasting impact of the Camp Fire. Here are the books we've covered in the Biblio File, with excerpts from my reviews.

THE CAMP FIRE 2018: LIVING ON THE RIDGE by Paula Link

  • "Link summarizes some of the harrowing accounts of escape found on YouTube and there are dozens of full-color photographs."

PARADISE: ONE TOWN'S STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE CAN AMERICAN WILDFIRE by Lizzie Johnson

  • "Johnson's story, the fruit of 500 interviews, is unrivaled in its gripping emotional intensity, taking readers deeply into the lives of mostly working-class Ridge residents that fateful Thursday."

AFTER/ASHES: A CAMP FIRE ANTHOLOGY edited by John LaPine

  • "As the editors write in a new anthology of prose, poetry, and images--a creative response to the Camp Fire--it took seventeen days to completely contain it."

THE CAMP FIRE: DREAMS, NIGHTMARES, HOPES by J.R. Henson

  • "His escape on the day of the fire is more harrowing because his truck is low on gas. … He traces his emotional journey through poems and essays…."

I ESCAPED THE CALIFORNIA CAMP FIRE by Scott Peters and S.D. Brown

  • "The story is a fictionalized account of the fire which draws on published reports."

FIRE IN PARADISE: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano

  • "Together, drawing on hundreds of interviews, they tell the story of the Camp Fire with skill and even-handedness."

PEOPLE, PLACES & PIECES OF PARADISE by Douglas Keister

  • "Keister has created stunning images that capture the soul of Paradise…."

PARADISE ISN'T LOST: EMBRACING RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF LOSS by Kari Carter

  • "There are losses, from family members to precious possessions, even her marriage. Yet she finds resilience."

MY NAME IS HALEY AND I LIVE IN PARADISE…" written and illustrated by Steve Ferchaud

  • "Paradise memories in a children's book for all ages."

THE CALIFORNIA CAMP FIRE: REFLECTIONS AND REMNANTS by photographer Ron Schwager

  • "… a masterpiece that will cause readers to pause and reflect with every turn of the page."

CALIFORNIA BURNING: THE FALL OF PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC—AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR AMERICAN'S POWER GRID by Katherine Blunt

  • "… a measured, and yet devastating, history of PG&E."

BURNT OFFERINGS by illustrator Steve Ferchaud

  • "After the fire he decided to compile all 62 sketches into a book, the proceeds of which would go to helping Camp Fire survivors."

BURN SCAR: A CONTEMPORARY DISASTER THRILLER by T.J. Tao (Michael J. Orr)

  • After the surviving the fire, the author offers a fictionalized version set in Idaho.

PARADISE FOUND: A HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM'S RISE FROM THE ASHES by Bill Plaschke

  • "Reporting on the Bobcats' first football season after the Camp Fire."

FIRE ON THE RIDGE: A COLLECTION OF POEMS by Bill Hartley

  • The destruction of Joy Lyn's Candies, and poems to release sorrow.

OUT OF THE ASHES: ONE SURVIVOR'S STORY IN THE AFTERMATH OF TWO HISTORIC WILD FIRES by Antoinette Peppler

  • The Saddle Fire in 2016, then the Camp Fire.

WHERE TO NEXT? By Joan Goodreau

  • From evacuations to a pandemic, the Chico poet asks a profound question.

THE SOUND OF THE SNOW GEESE: A TRUE STORY OF SURVIVING CALIFORNIA'S DEADLIEST WILDFIRE by Dax Meredith

  • "… caught in the Camp Fire as she and one of her young sons fled toward Paradise from Magalia."



Tuesday, November 01, 2022

"A Stone Bled Dry"

"It’s a ten-minute ride into downtown Alturas. Half-an-hour if there’s black ice. And that word, downtown, it’s a bit of a stretch, a joke shared by the natives. Some places, they try to be something special. Alturas, it just is. Doing what it needs to do and not one iota more." 

For "old coot" Jack Jenkins, a man, as they say, with a past, Alturas suits just fine. He's been pretty much anonymous for a decade now. Odd jobs. A few hookups with Liz, one of the older clerks at the local grocery store. Mostly keeping to himself at home, "your standard double-wide, laid up on cinderblocks, with worn cedar steps leading to the front door and an illegal stove in the den."

A ringing cellphone at three in the morning will change everything. Ridge-area novelist Brian T. Marshall (briantmarshallauthor.com) is there and brings the reader deep into the heart of a man who seeks to escape history but who will find his future depends on it.

"A Stone Bled Dry" ($12 in paperback from misspelled press; also for Amazon Kindle) is a deeply moving exploration of the sometimes violent cost of love. Jack had hooked up with Lenora back in their using days and had a child. Lenora is on the phone with news that (once again) she's entering a program to get clean. Oh, and 14-year-old Jewell is on a Greyhound from LA headed his way.

Jewell? "A granddaughter," Jack tells Phil, a widower retired from Chico State. "Her mom, our daughter, died when she was still just a baby. We got stuck raising her." Yet when Jewell arrives, a beauty blossoming into womanhood, Jack realizes she is "a version of himself. Another chance to get things right. Because if Jack and Lenora had both faced a test, it was one they'd clearly failed, and the only way to redeem the loss was to help Jewell triumph. For this is the way that spirit works."

When Jewell gets twisted up in a struggle among generations on the Reservation, what will Jack do to protect her life? Stony hearts bleed, they do, and readers will hold on tight until the very end.



Tuesday, October 25, 2022

"Matthew 25 Christianity: Redeeming Church And Society"

Donald Heinz, Lutheran minister and Chico State emeritus Professor of Religious Studies, offers in his new book what he calls a field guide to a new Christian movement, one based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 25.

"You've heard the story," Heinz writes; "it is the end of the age and all people are lined up, like sheep and goats, before Jesus as the cosmic judge. A series of questions ensues and judgments are made. Did you see me among them, Jesus as King asks, when there were homeless to be sheltered, naked to be clothed, hungry to be fed, thirsty to be given a drink, strangers to be welcomed, the imprisoned to be visited? If you did these things for the least of these, you were serving me. Now you will inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world."

For Heinz, "Matthew 25 Christianity: Redeeming Church And Society" ($29 in paperback from Cascade Books; also for Amazon Kindle) has both an inner and outer expression. Within the Christian tradition "new movers and movements came to take Christianity seriously, and were gripped by it, and made the concern with 'the least of these' the cause of their religious life" (think Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King Jr.).

But today "we have isolated or distanced the poor, or insulated our social imagination" until "it is nearly impossible to see them." He proposes churches identify as "Matthew 25" congregations--but there must be more.

If his book seeks to take the likely original reference in Matthew 25 (to Jesus' itinerant disciples, often poor) and bring it into "new social contexts" and a care for "all the people of the world who are in need," he also advocates for the institutionalization of such a social gospel framework within governmental structures. It's not a theocracy, Heinz writes, but a call for the voice of Matthew 25 to become part of public discourse. 

In the end Heinz invites readers to "sell all and sign on": "The apostle Paul took a world-friending God public, rendering the Jesus movement a light to the world. What are we going to do with this?"