Letters + Opinion » The Town Dandy

Beaten and Bloodied

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It came in with a bang, but it's ending with a whimper. That's the story of the maximally important Pacific Lumber bankruptcy case, which has offered the county one of the greatest moments of crisis and opportunity in its recent history. The danger, back in January 2007, was that Houston sneak Charles Hurwitz and his Maxxam Corp. would somehow be able to hold on to the company's assets, despite having driven the once-proud company into the ground, and thereby preserving the county in Timber War stasis for another God-knows-how-many years.

But though Hurwitz performed a few audacious pirouettes for the first 12 months of the case, eventually he took his bow, and retired from the stage with low marks from the judges. A few months earlier, the Mendocino Redwood Company, owned by the Fisher family of San Francisco, entered the fray, and quickly consolidated the county's near-universal opinion in favor of its promised low-impact, sustainable logging plan. Now Mendo Redwoods is poised on the cusp of victory, with the keys to the company all but in its hands. (Strangely, this at a time when the Fishers' original company, The Gap, is packing up shop in the Bayshore Mall.)

The deal isn't done yet. Still clinging to the company's skirts are the Pacific Lumber "bondholders," that owns the mortgage on Pacific Lumber's timber lands. The bondholders, now led by Hurwitz's fellow Texas financier, poker champ Andy Beal, are insisting that Corpus Christi bankruptcy judge Richard S. Schmidt erred when he confirmed Mendo Redwood's recovery plan rather than their own. They're still arguing for a sale-at-auction of Pacific Lumber's land assets as the only way to garner the return on investment that they insist is their due, and they had formed an alliance with Redding timber mogul Red Emmerson, who expressed an interest in Pacific Lumber's Scotia mill.

The clock is tick-tick-ticking down for the bondholders, though. They've filed an appeal of Schmidt's decision, but the temporary stay-of-judgment on Mendo Redwoods' takeover of Pacific Lumber is now set to expire on Friday. They've scrambled to get the stay extended, but to no effect. Schmidt declined to extend it. On Monday, a Schmidt colleague on the federal bench in Houston said that he would not extend it either. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is the bondholders' last hope, and they have just hours to secure a ruling.

Because though the Fifth Circuit may accept the bondholders' appeal, it'll take a long, long time for the case to be heard. Without a stay, Mendo Redwoods takes over very, very soon. And everyone pretty much agrees that even if the bondholders eventually meet with sympathetic ears at the appellate court, there's probably not a court in the world that would order Mendo Redwoods to surrender Pacific Lumber once it has taken possession. That would be a logistical and legal nightmare, and there's not a prudent jurist in the world who would want to touch it.

So it appears that we will know the final answer by Saturday. And then the $700 million question. Mendo Redwoods has built up a lot of political capital in the county in a very short time. It will be interesting to see how they go about spending it.

Over the last couple of months, the Journal has been just so incredibly excited and thrilled with its new and improved website, which debuted in May. But however cool things have been in the last little while, they're going to get much cooler -- quickly. We've been hampered to some extent by the summer vacation exodus and also by staff shortages (see below), but things are going to get chugging along really quickly here.

First up, as you may have noticed, has been the addition of live web broadcasts, done in conjunction with The Venue Project (www.thevenueproject.com). We kicked things off last month with streaming video of actor Tim Robbins' appearance and speech in Blue Lake, at the kickoff of the Mad River Festival. We followed it up with a live show from some supercool bands playing at Arcata's supercool music venue -- Muddy's Hot Cup.

But the thing has really blown up this week, as we've offered live performances from the Humboldt Folklife Festival. Depending on which day you get this paper, you still have time to catch two or three more shows online, assuming you won't be there in person. We'll be streaming Wednesday and Thursday night and all day Saturday. Plug the machine into your stereo and listen while you do the housework. This is hot, hot folk.

And now for the big announcement: Saturday night at 8 p.m., we'll be streaming the latest smash-up bout from those fearsome babes of Humboldt Roller Derby. Yes! It's "The Tree Sluggers" v. "The Bad Axes," and though tickets were still available for the show at Redwood Acres at the time of this writing, they'll be sold out soon. If you're one of the unlucky ones, grab a case of Schaefer and huddle ’round the computer. It'll be just like those Saturday afternoon broadcasts from Kezar Stadium, way back in the Golden Age of the derby.

And now a plug: If you're a club owner or band or what-have-you that might like to get your event streaming online, you might be shocked to discover how stupidly simple it is. You want to contact my man John-Henry Dale at The Venue Project -- jefe@thevenueproject.com. He'll set you up.

The Venue Project is going to blow up big. Humboldt County is its test market. What we're up to is something we're going to call "hoodcasting." Picture it: A whole full-menu television network -- news, entertainment, roller derby -- broadcast from your ’hood and to your ’hood. It is awesome, and very soon it's going to be awesomer yet.

With this issue we say goodbye to Japhet and Yulia Weeks, who have graced our pages for the last year or so. We were a bit amazed when Japhet and Yulia moved from Shanghai to Humboldt County, sight unseen, so that Japhet could work for us. We were even more amazed when we discovered how competent they both were, and how young -- still in their early- to mid-20s, they each speak five languages near-perfectly and already had enough experience to fill several lifetimes.

Like all miracles, it was doomed to end. They're off to the Bay Area now -- Japhet to take a dual masters' degree in journalism and Asian studies from U.C. Berkeley, Yulia to continue to develop her stunningly beautiful photography. After Japhet's graduation, they plan to establish themselves as a one-family journalistic enterprise, covering Russia, China and that general area of the world. You'll hear more from them in the future.

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