Patients Tasered at Sonoma Developmental Center


Respect for the dignity and rights of people with disabilities is a battle that is never won “Once and for All.” It is only eternal vigilance that keeps the monsters at bay. Digby at Hullabaloo links to a story at California Watch about a staff member accused of using a Taser as a cattle prod on patients with disabilities at the Sonoma Developmental Center. In 1953 my parents worked at what was then called the Sonoma State Home for the Feebleminded. My sister and I had our day care with the wife of the head of security there, on the grounds. (The name has changed to Sonoma State Hospital and now to Sonoma Developmental Center, but it is still the same Institution.) Even then the place had a troubled past: the human eugenics experiments there in the 1930’s, a breakout of juvenile psychopaths that left a farmer dead and his wife hospitalized, chronic overcrowding/understaffing, the routine harvesting of deceased patient’s brains for study. Memories of that time have stayed with me for 60 years; I finally had to write a novel (Passage of the Kissing People) about them to gain closure. Staff then fought to change the State Home to a State Hospital to force increased medical treatment and an emphasis on moving patients back into the community. The forces of resistance rested in part on the fact that high-functioning patients were the captive work force to maintain the pig farm/dairy herd/chicken ranch/orchards/truck gardens/cannery/shoe factory and all the other pieces that made the Home its own city. Raising enough food to feed themselves and sell over $200,000 worth of food kept the costs down. To move those people back out into real life would raise costs, and so would additional staff and medications. Such concerns echo today as budget cuts have brought the Center to staff cut-backs and budget stress now. It is in conditions like these that patient safety is placed in the balance. Now with the value of the land so high, any excuse to shut down the facility would provoke intense pressure to sell. The fact that this problem arises every generation is not the reason to close down the facility. Its a reminder that we can’t take our eyes off the ball. Those who would shutter the Center have no plan to serve the patients they would turn out on the streets.

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SIFF and the Septic Tank

The first of the films I saw at the Seattle International Film Festival was The Woman in the Septic Tank, the Philippines representative at this year’s Oscars. It’s a mockumentary, a send up of 2 young film makers trying to create the perfect film to be accepted by festivals around the world. 3 sequences stand for the whole movie they’re making. Each time they imagine a new style, or a new twist, we see the scenes played through that new lens. Eugene Domingo is a famous actress and comedienne in the Philippines. She plays herself, and she gives her all to the film. Kean Cipriano and JM de Guzman are the young film makers, Rainier and Bingbong. The whole thing felt too in-joky to me, like something you and the guys at the lab would throw together for a roast of a director. Not one I would recommend, unless you’re part of that festival in-crowd. The septic tank was telegraphed, like a gun onstage. The only bit of suspense was when you’d hear the splash. Movie Trailer

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All Hail the Greyhounds!

The Eric Lusby show just finished up at the NCAA Div I Lacrosse Championship. Can you say ‘want-to?’ Eric Lusby tore up his knee against Cornell in 2010. Major reconstruction. Too much scar tissue that he had to tear loose to make it back for 2011. Loyola didn’t even make the top 25 in the pre-season rankings for 2012. But Eric Lusby had it all together again. The Loyola team was hungry, angry at being ignored, and laden with talent. Lusby was the last piece they needed. He had a great regular season. And when the tournament began, he burst into flames. The bigger the game, the bigger he played. In the quarter finals Loyal beat Denver 10-9. Lusby had 5. In the semi’s Loyola beat Notre Dame 7-5. Lusby had 5. In the championship game, Loyola beat Maryland 9-3. Lusby had 4. Lusby set a tournament record with 17 goals. Tough loss for Maryland, who were working on their own Dream Season. Fun to watch a kid from Seattle–Mercer Island actually–score 4 in their semi-final win over Duke. I played against Drew Snider’s dad back in the day.

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Friday Night at Third Place Books

25 people came out on a Friday night at 6:30 to hear me read from Passage of the Kissing People. Third Place is a remarkable venue, lots of parking and the staff is super. Kudos to Wendy Manning and Steven, they had everything I needed for my presentation. But it’s a huge barn, with restaurants and a stage and bookstore all in one large former clothing store. Events happen all day and into the evening there, and they schedule tight. Scouting the place on a previous Friday we learned that the author slot is 6:30-7:30. At 7:30, over on the main stage, a rock band starts up. I reworked the show after the launch party, added some more historical shots, and cut the quiz presents from 5 to 3. And blessings upon Phoebe Kitanidis and Khoa Le. I had a dream of a video of my performance, but no camera and no experience. To have them give up part of a Friday night to help me was a major lift. Learned some things about setting up so I stay out of my own light. A good crowd with juicy questions that intrigued me, some who’d already read the book and came for answers. Q&A finished up at 7:20, we had some good blues backup while I signed. The kind of night that makes me feel like I have connected with my audience, I’ve given them something they will value.

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How Can He Do That?

Watched 2 of the 4 NCAA Men’s Quarterfinals yesterday, Maryland vs Hopkins and Loyola vs Denver. Lots of tremendous play from all 4 teams, but one moment stood out. Mark Matthews’ goal in the waning moments of Denver’s loss to Loyola (MD) is a thing of such beauty and body control it’s hard to know where to begin (about 1:08 of this clip). NCAA Highlights His team trailing, the chance to cut the deficit to one, but the pass is wide, the defenseman is right in Matthews’ face. To reach out across his body to the right with a one-handed stab, no more than 3″ of stick still in his grasp, and bring that pass in–like catching a brick in a teaspoon. To bring it in so smoothly, to get both hands on the stick, and then to turn full 180 and fire a left-handed laser is evidence of ballet-class body control. To do it while being physically assaulted by the defense, to put the ball in the upper corner with surgical precision and bring his team within 1, was a blazing portrait of focus. That his team lost adds poignancy to the moment, but nothing came smudge the beauty.

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