Will a stripper win an Oscar tonight?

The Oscars are tonight, and some people think a stripper will win — in this case Marisa Tomei for her role in “The Wrestler.”

Sex sells in Hollywood, as the Wall Street Journal points out.

The paper reminds us that Natalie Portman was nominated four years ago for playing a stripper in “Closer,” while Elisabeth Shue, Mira Sorvino and Julia Roberts all were Oscar nominees for “playing women who sell their bodies but guard their heart.”

I enjoy reading the weekend Journal. It is a good example of retooling a newspaper for a broader audience. You can get a one-year subscription to The Journal for $99 now with a special offer. How sad but a good recession buster.

On weekends, I also like reading The Union’s “Sunday Express.” Check out the cover story on the new nonprofit theater group, “Sierra Stages.” 

(You’ll have to look past the glaring typo at the beginning, however: confusing “its” and “it’s.” It’s  — as opposed to its — why you need an editor, who always spent extra time on the Sunday cover for just this reason.) C’est la vie.

The Oscars start at 5 p.m. on ABC and at http://www.oscar.com. Might be good weather for a fire in the fireplace and lap food such as a bowl of chile verde.



Marisa did not win.

Will the mine rancor trip up other projects?

The groundwork is being laid for a knock-down, drag-out debate whether to reopen the Idaho-Maryland mine.

But here’s a twist: I’m starting to hear buzz whether the fight to reopen the mine — more contentious than the growth measures or NH 2020 — will stall what some leaders see as more desirable projects that are in the pipeline, such as housing at Loma Rica Ranch and Kenny Ranch.

While die-hard no-growthers oppose all housing projects, more middle of the road people see both of these as “smart growth” plans, with lots of walkable space. This group includes influential people in business and government.

The same people are more on the fence about reopening the mine, however, citing concerns about air pollution and traffic. Others point to some tech firms — a real asset here — who fear vibrations from the mine will interrupt their business.

The local paper seems to be gung-ho for the mine to reopen — both in its editorials and on the news pages.

I was surprised to see an article above the fold on Feb. 4 about an alleged vandalism incident back in May 2006. The headline read “Grass Valley Mine Shaft vandalized.” It was not breaking news. It should have been promoted in a less prominent place.

This morning, the lead news item is “Mine touts investments as gold hits a grand.” It suggested that the mine would fetch $5 billion on the open market.

But that’s misleading: Gold price fluctuate wildly, the city would see no sales tax from that, and sales from the ceramic tile plant are highly unpredictable.

I’m glad the article raised some of these issues, but I wondered about the article’s positioning on the front page — as with the earlier one. 

Some smart, middle of the road business people around here also are questioning the experience of Emgold, which is trading at 5 cents per share and has not opened a gold mine before. 

I like the idea of a ceramic plant as a side-light business and think the management is earnest. But it would be a big mistake to assume that just the “no-growthers” are opposed to reopening the mine.

It will require some straight talk and diplomacy for both sides to get their arguments across — not the same old “Yosemite Sam” shootout.

I’ll be watching for that, as well as the impact on the housing projects.

Hastert charged — read the complaint here!

Here’s the press release for the charges filed against Thomas Hastert at “Brown Files Criminal Charges Against Broker who Masterminded Elaborate Real Estate Scheme.”

Hastert, who ran the Grass Valley mortgage firm Loan Sense, has been under investigation for months. A source told me just this week that charges were expected to be filed within the month. Bingo!

To read the complaint online and the declaration from the investigator, just click on the PDF at the bottom of the press release. The complaint is 30 pages long and offers lots of details, as does the 9-page declaration.

You might recognize some of the names in the narrative. I did!

Being able to access these court documents online is a good example of the benefits of Web versus print. 

““This man brazenly deceived investors and borrowers, promising high returns and easy loans, ripping off his customers for his own personal enrichment,” said state Attorney General Edmund Brown. “Ultimately, this criminal scheme collapsed when many of these loans failed, costing hundreds of people more than $20 million.”

GV’s Dorado Chocolates expands in Reno

Here’s a small-town scooplet: Dorado Chocolates of downtown Grass Valley has just opened a store in Reno.

How’s that for an economic bright spot? Expanding your business in a deepening recession.

It’s a credit to the fine chocolates, which are delicious. Billionaire Warren Buffet also is a chocolate fan: He own See’s Candies.

We like their dark chocolates. The Valentine’s ones are on sale for half off. I just snagged a box — same designer chocolates at half price. Just toss the heart-shaped box.

Also, did you know that dark chocolate is a “super food“?

It just goes to show you that in a recession, a world-class product sells. Reminds me of the ongoing success of New Moon in Nevada City.

New business opening in Pine Creek mall

Here’s an economic bright spot: A new spa and salon will open in Pine Creek Shopping Center next to Jamba Juice, according to my sources.

It fills a 3,300 square foot space being leased by Terranomics.

A salon and day spa is a good business for our demographics — and leases are dirt cheap.

For instance, the Bon Bon salon in Grass Valley is doing well despite the downturn. My wife enjoyed her gift certificate at Christmas and was back to finish off the remaining amount.

I ran into a Bon Bon masseuse at the swim club this week, and she confirmed that business was still robust.

Perhaps we can market our area as the “day spa capital” of the Sierra Foothills.

Speaking of Pine Creek, pork spareribs are on sale for $1.99 a pound at Raley’s. The butcher will cut them “St. Louis-style” too — without the fatty tips and flap meat. My son loves them, so we’ll smoke ’em up in the rain this weekend.

Aanesdad and Logue: still “pounding sand”

Golly jeepers: Our local boys, Aanestad and Logue, voted against the state budget and reiterated their “no new taxes” call.

Meanwhile, the rest of us would like to get on with analyzing the impact of the budget on our schools, child-development and mental health care programs.

Schools revised budgets are due March 15. See the impact on social services below. I hope Rick Haffey’s Friday memo will shed some more light on the issue.

Shows how out of touch our elected boys are — and our districts, really, for electing them. The train left the station on taxes long ago. I’m disappointed, too, but that debate is “yesterday’s lettuce.”

Let’s move on and focus on playing the cards we’ve been dealt with a “solution based” mindset. Same goes for Tom McClintock in Congress.

Here’s the original post on “pounding sand.”


Here’s what county executive officer Rick Haffey states in his Friday memo about the budget:

“We are still analyzing all the potential impacts of the budget. That being said, our main concern continues to be deferral of state payments for human services though it appears the deferrals will be 90 days, not 6 to 7 months; we can weather that. On the law enforcement front, Rural Sheriff’s grants and others appear to be funded. We are also awating the specifics of the governor’s blue pencil vetoes.”

Vote May 19 whether to whack social services

Rural counties such as ours will get socked in the new state budget, but voters will decide the fate of some programs on May 19.

The cuts target child-development programs and mental health services, among others — all dollars we depend on.

An example is First 5, a program to ensure health, safety and family security for children 5 and under. It is funded with tobacco tax money from Prop. 10. Counties receive funds to administer the program.

“The (budget) to dissolve the California First Five Commission and cut funds by half to umbrella county commissions will wipe out the First 5 program in Plumas County,” as Plumas Online reports.

“Rural counties rely on that money to provide health insurance for children and to fund multi-year services for at- risk families.”

Our First 5 program will suffer cutbacks as well.

Mental health programs also will get hit, because the budget seeks to redirect dollars from Prop. 63, the Mental Health Services Act.

The budget will “exacerbate the cash crunch counties are already experiencing in the current economic downturn by forcing them to direct sharply declining MHSA dollars into Medi-Cal services,” according to the California Mental Health Directors Association.

Again, we are more vulnerable because of our demographics — flat population growth and a population that keeps growing older.

I wonder whether a measure for a half-cent sales tax for Dorsey Drive will make the May 17 ballot too. I think it stands a better chance of passing in an election without the budget on the ballot, but the timing to jump on the Obama infrastructure bandwagon might be too good to pass up.


Here’s a good rundown of the state ballot measures we’ll be voting on related to budget cuts:


Hear that sucking sound? It’s North Auburn

The Home Depot in North Auburn has a “soft” opening tonight, with a full-fledged opening tomorrow, in the fastest-growing business corridor along SR 49.

The chain store, the latest sign of an economic boomlet in North Auburn, will create 160 jobs. It also will put our area’s local merchants (including Hills Flat and B&C) to the test.

That’s just the beginning of the test, too, because a Trader Joe’s is coming next.

About 40 cents of each dollar goes “down the hill,” so our area will be challenged. 

The car dealers also are there now. The ex-Grass Valley Ford dealership is open in a much bigger lot, though I notice more used cars than new ones. A brand spanking new dealership — Magnussen’s new Dodge, Chrysler Jeep outlet — is down the street, too.

A good barbeque joint, called Oakfire Grill, also is open and booming.

We ate there the other night, coming back from San Francisco. Its owners are a longtime Auburn couple who raised their children here. Oakfire’s owners get the Web too: check out their site, complete with sound.

There’s a new Mexican market, too, with authentic ingredients for gourmet cooking that aren’t found here. Oh, and of course, BevMo and Best Buy. For a lot of locals, North Auburn is becoming a “one stop shop.”

All this adds up to needed tax dollars but for Placer, not us. We’re still standing around scratching our behinds, wondering whether growth is a good idea.

I hope The Union’s ad staff can tap these new North Auburn merchants, doubling down on sales. It makes sense because our residents are shopping there. Still, that could upset some of our local merchants. That’s the downside of running a paper in an economic cul de sac.

Here’s a thought: What if the Auburn Journal and The Union were to merge? Keep separate editorial identities but tap both ad markets.

That’s the long-term solution to me — milk the 49 business corridor of both counties, not one or the other. There’s an upside for both papers and their customers. Businesses are forced to think “out of the box” in a deep recession and should. Cost cutting is “C+” management, as a Chevron CEO once told me.

Re-creating Nevada City, post Dos Banditos et al.

“We will miss you! Thank you for your support. Eric Engstrom and the Dos Banditos staff.”

So there’s your confirmation from the owner that Dos Banditos has closed; not rumor or gossip. All you need to do is go there and see the sign on the door — not a big effort.

Add that to the list of vacant spaces throughout town, including Stonehouse across the street. (Isn’t there a sign ordinance against such huge “for lease” signs?)

So what does Nevada City do: Hold its “same old” annual Mardi Gras celebration this weekend — a good excuse to fill the bars during the lull in the tourist season. Trouble is, without Dos Banditos and Stonehouse, there are a lot fewer bars to drink at.

Now’s the time to recreate Nevada City: Instead of catering to tourists, cater more to year-round locals.

Let’s hope the California Organics deal at the foot of Broad Street gets sealed, a story I first reported at The Union.

Let’s also hope the deal to open a year-round Farmer’s Market and fresh fish market on Spring St. across from Taylor-Drake furniture gets completed, as I blogged earlier.

I like the Beach Hut Deli sandwich shop (despite being a “franchise”) at the foot of Broad. Good soup, too.

As for the other vacant space downtown, a clay and art studio for children would be cool. It would draw families to the downtown and is a hit in quaint towns such as San Anselmo in Marin.

Also we need some more unique retail shops, not the same “trinket” stores people see in all the California tourist towns. I could name a few with “made in China” stuff.

Instead, what about an old-fashioned toy store or an exotic stationary store? Or what about a dance studio, bakery or cooking school?

In addition, “food and wine” would be a better draw to me than intoxicated people going to a Mardi Gras. (I heard a lot of  chamber talk about eliminating this, but I guess it was just that — talk).

Stonehouse would be a great destination restaurant (think Yountville)  if you could get a first-class restaurateur interested. Or turn it into a place you could rent and sell bikes, kayaks, skis and other outdoors equipment, with a cool cafe too (think Tahoe).

The chamber and its leaders should be making a bigger effort to “get out of the box” and re-create the town. It’s time to think big when it comes to town’s future, not just rehash the same old annual shindigs.

Otherwise, to coin a Western phrase, “It’s all hat and no cattle.”