The fires this time, in Paradise and SoCal

A WSJ video look at the fire that destroyed Paradise a couple of days ago — destroying even big box stores, McDonalds, etc — and another fire that is is now moving through Thousand Oaks towards Malibu, destroying (reportedly) even fire stations. Scary stuff.

Puttering about in a Small Land (Philip K. Dick book review)

Ojai through the eyes of a great American writer Philip K. Dick, now widely considered the most brilliant of all science fiction writers, wrote hundreds of extraordinarily imaginative stories and forty-four novels, and — like an innovative artist who only becomes famous after his death — in recent years has had his work splashed acrossContinue reading “Puttering about in a Small Land (Philip K. Dick book review)”

A true (but legal) horror — family separation

This blog mostly focuses on questions of climate, wilderness, drama and literature. Inevitably politics sneaks into the discussion, but for the most part against my wishes — my attitude as a reporter is that my opinion is no better than yours, especially on topics with which I have no personal experience. So why talk aboutContinue reading “A true (but legal) horror — family separation”

speeding wildfires and their dark beauty

Forty-six years ago  a young fire ecologist published a paper that for the first time found a math to usefully describe the behavior of wildfires in the west, as modified by slope and wind. It’s a remarkable achievement and was, according to Wildfire Today, a team effort led by a man named Dick Rothermel. Rothermel, Anderson,Continue reading “speeding wildfires and their dark beauty”

“The fire had me fully terrified” — T.C. Boyle on the Thomas Fire (and more)

For the Ojai Quarterly [pdf], yours truly had the opportunity to talk to T.C. Boyle about the Thomas fire, debris flows, climate change, and other scary realities of the 21st Century. The interview also motivated me to catch up on some past works of Boyle’s, and boy was that worth the reading. Check it out:Continue reading ““The fire had me fully terrified” — T.C. Boyle on the Thomas Fire (and more)”

Visiting winter in the Topa Topas after the fire

Though it’s been three months since the Thomas Fire, those of us in the burn zone can still see the blackness on the burned hillsides all around Ojai, all the way up to the ridge of our local mountains, the Topa Topas. Every winter for twenty-five years I have gone up to our mountains afterContinue reading “Visiting winter in the Topa Topas after the fire”

The deep resilience of the redwood

A friend sent along an amazing and heartening story from the Washington Post, called Decoding the Redwoods. In short, to better understand the long-lived coast redwood, scientists in two different labs have been working to decode the species’ genome, which — astonishingly — is vastly larger than ours. The redwood genome project began in AprilContinue reading “The deep resilience of the redwood”

Home versus the Mountain

One of the acknowledged great non-fiction pieces of our time is John McPhee’s Los Angeles Against the Mountains, from l988, an uncanny and alarming foreshadowing of the disaster in Montecito this month. It’s one of those astonishingly thorough and appalling pieces of writing, almost beyond journalismn, and to my mind can hardly be overpraised (butContinue reading “Home versus the Mountain”

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Not an optimist. Not on Twitter

The writer, journalist, and thinker Ta-Nehisi Coates has been embroiled in controversy for years now. Seemingly his every move attracts controversy, (for reasons mysterious to small-town hick yours truly). Near as I can tell Coates has not been doing anything another prominent and successful writer wouldn’t like to do, such as moving to Paris forContinue reading “Ta-Nehisi Coates: Not an optimist. Not on Twitter”

“There will be no food in Puerto Rico”

…for a year or more, says an orchard owner who saw every one of his thousands of his trees killed in a matter of hours. From the New York Times, well down the front page, far below the latest Twitter tweetstorm: “Sometimes when there are shortages, the price of plantain goes up from $1 toContinue reading ““There will be no food in Puerto Rico””