We craftsmen of the English language are forever in a state of childlike awe at the power of the pictures we paint. We dream our little dreams and release them like butterflies, and watch adoringly as they flutter off to reshape the universe in their image. The Writer accepts and embraces these gifts, and when he matriculates into this university of the soul he learns to Think Like A Writer. (I'm paraphrasing that last bit.)
We are rarely surprised, then, by our own near-omnipotence. Still, this week we stand before you humbled, for we have seen what happens when this column takes even a brief sabbatical. The tension occasioned by our silence builds and builds and builds, and finally erupts in a tectonic cry of "encore!" "Encore," it shouts! Consider us chastened.
So, hey, let's get right down to it. In the hours and days following Saturday's earthquake, there were plenty of dire warnings about the likelihood of havoc-wreaking quakes to follow. Would there be aftershocks of near-equal power? Or was the Saturday quake actually a foreshock of even more monstrous seismicity? Everyone was pretty addled -- Writers included -- and both sides had their champions. Thankfully, though, as of Tuesday evening neither had outcome come to pass. We had a couple of window-rattlers after the fact, but that was it.
What we can say for sure is that the quake was a banging prologue to what will be one of the most momentous political calendars in a couple of decades. Everything's shaping up crazily for 2010. There are going to be races -- real races -- in everything from the Board of Supes on down to the Assessor Office, passing through the Eureka City Council, the District Attorney and the Sheriff. There's showdowns looming on a couple of big fights, including the Marina Center development and the county General Plan. It's going to get crazy fast.
In the background, unfortunately, will be the great Humboldt County Culture War, which lives on in undead form long after its moorings have been knocked away one by one. The timber industry is basically gone and so is patchouli with it, but it seems that hippies need rednecks and vice versa, and neither side is willing to let the other naturally fade from the discussion. We hate to be cynical, but it looks as if our politics will, for the most part, stay frozen in 1978.
Beneath it all you've got the marijuana legalization initiative, which California voters will act on in November. With the budget in the toilet, legalization's chances are looking better and better every day. If you're looking to handicap the single biggest hit to the county's economy in 2010, natural disasters are going to have to come in at very long odds.
Local government agencies have received massive shout-outs for their quick response to the quake, and so far as we can tell they are all well deserved. Everyone jumped straight to their stations. There was miraculously little human injury, and no immediate large-scale physical destruction, so in some ways you can take the Saturday quake as a successful real-life test drill for the big Big One -- the one that will happen when the Cascadia Subduction Zone goes off, reducing Seattle and Portland to rubble along with li'l old us. We have new cause to hope for the best possible outcome, within reason.
But here's a minor sour note anyway. Can the county please do something to upgrade its goddamn Internet broadcasting apparatus? We've grown used to the insane, proprietary, Microsoft-developed video format the county employs to stream meetings of the Board of Supervisors to the Web, and long ago we developed illegal workarounds to defeat it. But when a not insignificant percentage of the universe tunes in Tuesday morning to get a quake damage update, and when a cold, heartless black box appears where the Rockwellesque visage of Board Chair Clif Clendenen should be, and when we call the county Information Tech department to ask what's up, you're really going to tell us that you only have the capacity to stream to 18 different people, maximum? Eighteen?
You sell yourselves short, folks. We'll admit that we've never had any problems getting a connection in the past, but who knows -- you may just do something newsworthy once in a while.
Think on it!