Ukiah Reflections


Back in Ukiah, there’s this pond near by house. In truth, it’s not really a pond; it’s just a reservoir for the nearby vineyard. It’s been dry for most of the last few years, but this spring break when I returned I saw that it was incredibly full – almost overflowing! Such good news.

Mendocino State Hospital and Foucault’s “Panopticon”

Mendocino State Hospital 123 Building

We recently read Foucault in our Historical Methods class; specifically, his chapter on Discipline. At the end of the chapter, Foucault raises the specter of the Panopticon and a society so throughly infused with self-regulated discipline. What makes discipline insidious is not that it can be seen, but rather, it cannot be seen. The supervision can be constant and yet, incorporeal.

Which brings me to Mendocino State Hospital, which is now of course the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and where I spent most of my childhood. One of the largest wards in the former mental hospital is the 123 Building in the back (I’m not sure if it ever had a proper name). After reading Foucault, I suddenly realized that each ward had a small booth for observation and supervision, and all the light switches were in that room. If the observers turned off the booth’s light and kept the ward’s on, they could not be seen. It was a pretty heavy thing to consider the physical manifestation of Discipline in a building I have been in and around since my childhood.

My sister helped me take the picture above to illustrate the view of the supervisor from that booth.

Mendocino State Hospital Patient Board

Items from the old  Hospital at a Grace Hudson Museum exhibit a couple years ago.
Items from the old Hospital at a Grace Hudson Museum exhibit a couple years ago.

Happenings in Ukiah: December 2, 2015

I love chronicling the weird things that show up in Ukiah’s crime log. From today’s Ukiah Daily Journal:

MAN IN MASK DANCING ON MEDIAN: Caller at the corner of Talmage Road and Airport Park Boulevard reported at 4:03 p.m. Friday that a man carrying a sign and wearing a mask was “dancing around on the median” and acting suspicious. An officer responded but the man was gone.