“Thomas Starr King deserves better” – op-ed in L.A. Times

ack Cheever has written an op-ed in the L.A. Times about Thomas Starr King, the pivotal figure in the early history of California whose statue in the U.S. Capitol is being replaced by one of Ronald Reagan.

From the op-ed:

During the presidential election of 1860, all four members of California’s congressional delegation – including U.S. Sen. William Gwin, who owned several Mississippi plantations – campaigned for the pro-slavery Democrat, John C. Breckinridge. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln won California by a hair, beating another Democrat, Stephen A. Douglas, by fewer than 750 votes out of about 120,000 cast.

King was deeply agitated by talk of California being bisected or seceding. He embarked on a statewide speaking tour, preaching against disunion with a voice that, in the words of one observer, “held within it all the sweetness of the harp when struck by a master hand, all the power and solemn grandeur of a great cathedral organ.”

To read the entire piece, click here.

–Frank Gruber

Call for Papers: Sabato Rodia’s Watts Towers in Los Angeles: Art, Migrations, Community Development

Submission Due date:  July 20, 2009

As a follow-up to an international conference that took place April 2-5, 2009, at the University of Genova in Italy on the theme of art and migration as they relate to Sabato (Simon) Rodia and the Watts Towers, an independent group of scholars (partly in formation) has announced that it is ready to consider submissions for a volume of selected papers related to the themes of the Genova conference.  From the announcement:

The tentative title of the collected essays will be: Sabato Rodia’s Watts Towers in Los Angeles:  Art, Migrations, Community Development.  The volume will seek to treat the monument and its maker from a diverse spectrum of disciplinary perspectives and cover these areas: 1) The Community of Watts and its Monument:  Physical, Socio-Economic and Political Realities; 2)  Art Environments, Vernacular Traditions, and their Imaginaries; 3)  Italian Migrations:  Literary, Artistic, and Visual Legacies; 4)  Reproducing Nola (the Watts Towers vis-a-vis the Gigli of Nola).  Consult subjects 1 – 4 below for further details.  Please reply immediately with your intention to contribute (include your name, essay title, one-sentence description).  Submit your essay contribution for consideration by July 20.  All submissions will be peer-reviewed by an editorial advisory committee with expertise in the publication’s subject areas:

1.  Migration
– The life of Simon Rodia in the context of 19th to 20th-century Italian immigration
– Italian immigration as bridge between two worlds
– From Nola to Watts:  material culture traditions
– Oral history, oral culture and the Watts Towers
– Watts Towers and migration studies

2.  Art & Architecture
– Varieties of artistic definition:  e.g., Outsider Art, Folk Art, Visionary, etc.
– The Watts Towers and the Architecture of personal fantasy and genius
– Engineering, Construction, Conservation of the Towers

3.  Literary and Visual Legacies
– Los Angeles, the Towers, literature, film, music, etc.
– Visual documentation

4.  Socio-Economic and Political Realities
– Economic underdevelopment and renaissance:  yesterday and today
– In their shadow:  cultural politics and the Watts Towers
– Watts Towers Art Center:  arts education and community activism
– Italy as the New America:  immigrant art and literature in Italy

Submit:  Digital copy of your 20 – 25 page, double-spaced, essay (as an email attachment, Microsoft Word .doc file please).  Please follow the Chicago Manual of Style (http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html).
Appropriate critical apparatus (notes and bibliography), as well as illustrations, encouraged.

Send materials to volume editor:

Luisa Del Giudice, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 241553
Los Angeles, CA 90024-1553

Tel.:  (310) 474-1698
E-mail:  luisadg@humnet.ucla.edu

“Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman”; Special Screening at LACMA June 7, 2 pm

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will present a special screening June 7, 2009 at 2 p.m. of a new documentary, narrated by Dustin Hoffman, that explores the monumental career of Julius Shulman, the 98-year-old Los Angeles-based architectural photographer. From the announcement:

Julius Shulman combines the organic with the synthetic, melding nature with revolutionary urban design in images that helped shape the careers of some of the key architects of the twentieth century, including Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, Pierre Koenig, and John Lautner.

The documentary was directed by Eric Bricker and written by Mr. Bricker, Phil Ethington and Jessica Hundley.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036

California Ungovernable? Post-Election Woes, NY Times

Arnie Wednesday

The rejection of five propositions on Tuesday suggests, according to this New York Times article, that momentum to convene a state Constitutional convention has reached a “tipping point.” With the governors race still at a simmer, the issue may gain traction as the election grows nearer. CSAers are encouraged to weigh in here and in our respective forums, especially H-California.

California, Out of Money, Reels as Voters Rebuff Leaders – NYTimes.com.

Tom Killion at Kepler’s in Menlo Park May 28

Tom Killion will be appearing at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park to discuss his and Gary Snyder’s new book, Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History, and Prints, on May 28 at 7:30 p.m.  From the Kepler’s announcement:

In a new collaboration by the authors of the bestselling The High Sierra of California, Tom Killion and Gary Snyder, readers are introduced to the unique mountain overlooking San Francisco Bay. A source of story and myth since time began, Mt. Tamalpais has inspired conservationists, trail builders, botanists, artists, and poets for more than a century. With freshness and sustained delight, Tamalpais Walking explores Mt. Tamalpais s natural, cultural, historic, and spiritual dimensions. It is a book shaped by two master craftsmen collaborating on an enterprise nurtured by long and passionate involvement.

Woodcut and letterpress artist Tom Killion grew up in Marin County, on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais, where the rugged scenery inspired him from an early age to create landscape prints strongly influenced by traditional Japanese woodblock prints. Along with publishing fine art letterpress books, Killion holds a Ph.D. in African history from Stanford University and has taught history at several Bay Area universities.

Kepler’s Books
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park CA, 94025
(650) 324-4321 Store Hours

Community Campfire: Unmatched Courage Japanese American Experience in the Presidio during WW II Saturday, May 16, 2009 5pm – 7pm

The National Park Service, Crissy Field Center, and the National Japanese American Historical Society will hold a “community campfire” at the Presidio on May 16, from five to seven p.m., to commemorate the courage of Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II.  From the Golden Gate Park calendar:

Join the National Park Service, Crissy Field Center, and the National Japanese American Historical Society as they share the “untold” story of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service language school based in the Presidio. As linguists, these Japanese American (Nisei) soldiers were attached to every combat unit in the Pacific and ultimately helped Allied forces win the war. They translated documents, gathered key intelligence, and served as “goodwill” ambassadors once the war was over, helping Japan transition from occupation to democracy. Meanwhile, the families of these MIS soldiers—together with 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, 62% of whom were American citizens—were sent to detention camps.

Hear stories about the many contributions and sacrifices made by both the Nisei soldiers and those interned during WW II as you gather around the outdoor campfire. Listen to traditional Japanese folk music of Ensohza whose lively vocals, bamboo flutes, and taiko drums evoke the spirit of rural Japan. Watch the sunset while munching on “hurricane pop” and rice cracker ‘smores in your beautiful national park next door. Don’t forget your picnic dinner, we’ll supply the marshmallows!

This event is the first in a series of four Community Campfires hosted by the National Park Service and Crissy Field Center, designed to introduce the Golden Gate National Parks to groups that have not historically visited. Additionally, the Community Campfire series is part of the “Untold Stories” project which filmmaker Ken Burns features in his latest PBS documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”.

For more information about the proposed establishment of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Historic Learning Center at Building 640 visit http://njahs.org/640/index.html

The event will be located at Building 640 Mason Street (site of the former MIS Language School) in the Presidio, across Crissy Field.

For more information contact cfcregistrationinfo@parksconservancy.org

Louise Dyble on the Golden Gate Bridge

Don’t take this title literally. Louise isn’t on the Golden Gate Bridge, but she was on Jon Rowe’s KWMR show last night talking about Paying the Toll, her history of the bridge. And, more specifically, the special district created to manage it.

I was in Point Reyes Station last night and happened to hear a bit of the show. I also saw Jon, who mentioned some of the big stories Louise is sitting on. One is that the bridge district killed the extension of BART into Marin County. I’d always thought that anti-growth forces were responsible for that.

What’s ironic, of course, is that the bridge was constructed precisely to foster growth and development. That’s why Ansel Adams and other Sierra Clubbers opposed its construction.

New articles at the California Journal of Politics and Policy

The Berkeley Electronic Press has published a new issue of the California Journal of Politics and Policy; from the press’s announcement:

The Berkeley Electronic Press is pleased to announce the following new articles recently published in California Journal of Politics and Policy, with a special focus on California’s Proposition 13. To view any of the new articles, simply click on the links below.


Proposition 13 and the Transformation of California Government

Jack Citrin

Proposition 13 Fever: How California’s Tax Limitation Spread

Isaac William Martin

The Triple Standard In Healthcare

J. Deane Waldman


Proposition 13 Thirty Years after the Revolution: What Would Howard Jarvis Say?

Joel D. Fox

Proposition 13: A Watershed Moment Bridging FDR and Reagan

John Fund

Book Reviews

What the Original Property Tax Revolutionaries Wanted (It Is Not What You Think): Review of The Permanent Tax Revolt: How the Property Tax Transformed American Politics

Darien Shanske

Calbuzz: New Blog from Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstein on California Politics

Just in time for the special election circus and governor’s race side show, two longtime political journalists and commentators have teamed up to form Calbuzz, a new blog about the Golden State’s pu . . . pu . . . pu . . . political scene. Trounstein was recently on the CSA’s radar for our most recent conference on the Silicon Valley because he co-authored, with San Jose State professor Terry Christensen, one of the seminal books on politics in  San Jose, Movers and Shakers: The Study of Community Power (1983).

“About Us

Jerry Roberts is a California journalist who writes, blogs and hosts a TV talk show about politics, policy and media. Former political editor, editorial page editor and managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, he serves as student adviser for the Daily Nexus newspaper at UC Santa Barbara. He is the author of “Never Let Them See You Cry,” a biography of Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Phil Trounstine is a communications consultant, pollster and political writer. He is the former political editor of the San Jose Mercury News, former communications director for California Gov. Gray Davis and was the founder and director of the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University. He is co-author of “Movers and Shakers: The Study of Community Power.”

via Calbuzz.

Rick Prelinger is the Coolest Archivist in the World: Lost Landscapes of San Francisco May 16 the Exploratorium

Prelinger Event playland_72dpi

After years of close interaction with the many  wonderful, quirky, and dedicated archivists in this great country of ours, I am unilaterally nominating Rick Prelinger as the coolest archivist on the planet. He will showcase his wares again on May 16 from 2 to 4 pm at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The event is called Lost Landscapes of San Francisco and is not to be missed.

Prelinger invites people to respond out loud to an array of short clips he digs up from God knows where. Historians, residents, and hipsters alike delight in this material and Prelinger’s witty, upbeat narration of the clips.

What other archivist introduces his materials with references to Borges and citing the enclosure on the archival commons?

See the event page here.

Preview the last version of Lost Landscapes, a perennial event, here.
SF Chron article on a past version is here.

The Green New Deal for the North Bay

A unique grassroots commission began its work last night in San Rafael.  Media activist and author Norman Solomon and North Bay Labor Council director Lisa Maldonado co-chaired a public hearing on how to fashion a Green New Deal for the North Bay.

Norman has described the initiative in a series of related articles, including this recent one on truthout.  The short version is that the commission (I’m on it) is trying to integrate the labor and environmental agendas in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Harvey Smith kicked off last night’s hearing by discussing the connection between California’s Living New Deal Project and the commission’s mission.  Then we heard a great deal from local residents, small business people, and activists about a range of issues, especially the need to review Marin County’s approach to  waste, recycling, and water treatment.

We’ll hold seven more public hearings over the next month. In the fall, we’ll take testimony from experts on water, housing, transportation, agriculture, and other areas. Then we’ll write a report and launch a public dialogue on the findings.

“California Regionalism: Oils on Canvas” at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica Apr. 29 – Aug. 23

The California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica opened an exhibition April 29, 2009 of paintings under the title, “California Regionalism: Oils on Canvas.”  The show closes August 23, 2009, and there will be an opening reception Sat. evening, May 9, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

For more information:

The California Heritage Museum
2612 Main Street
Santa Monica, California 90405

Phone:  (310) 392-8537
Fax:  (310) 396-0547

Email:  calmuseum@earthlink.net

Hours: 11am to 4pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

Admission: $5.00; seniors and students, $3.00; members and children under 12, free.

Hector Tobar in the L.A. Times on L.A. Memories

Columnist Hector Tobar devotes his column today (May 7, 2009) in the Los Angeles Timeson preserving memories in L.A., focusing on the lost Victorian world of Bunker Hill, as it became the setting for the novels of John Fante, and as a little of it is preserved at Heritage Square, as well as Chavez Ravine (known to those who lived there as La Loma) and Chinatown.  The immediate contexts are the centennial of Fante’s birth and the rising controversy over whether to save the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.

As Tobar writes:

Last month was the centennial of John Fante’s birth. He died in 1983, and much of the L.A. of his famous Bunker Hill novels is gone now.

It was swept away with wrecking balls and bulldozers in the years after the freeways came through.

This is what L.A. does to its history. Much of Chavez Ravine was swept away too, along with the old Chinatown and so much more.

That’s because one of L.A.’s great traditions is smashing and stomping upon our own history.

We are addicted to newness. So we topple landmarks and neighborhoods as if they were unsightly weeds.

It might be happening again, in Century City, where a jewel from another era of Los Angeles history is facing the threat of demolition: the Century Plaza Hotel, a 19-story modernist curve designed by the same architect who gave New York City the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Query whether the Century Plaza has made the same contribution to L.A. as Bunker Hill did, but perhaps my skepticism is the same attitude that allowed the destruction of all those streets and houses.

—Frank Gruber

“West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders, and Killers in the Golden State” Mark Arax at Book Passage in Marin, May 8

Mark Arax will talk about his new book, West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders, and Killers in the Golden State, at the Book Passage bookstore in Marin on May 8.  From the Book Passage announcement:

In the tradition of Joan Didion, Arax combines journalism, essay, and memoir to capture social upheaval as well as the sense of being rooted in a community. Piece by piece, the stories become a whole, a panorama of California and America in a new century

Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925
Phone: (415) 927-0960

May 8, 2009, 7:00 pm

Mark Arax at Kepler’s in Menlo Park May 13

Mark Arax will be appearing at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park to discuss his new book, West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders, and Killers in the Golden State, on May 13 at 7:30 p.m.  From the Kepler’s announcement:

Teddy Roosevelt once exclaimed, “When I am in California, I am not in the West. I am west of the West,” and in this book, Mark Arax spends four years travelling up and down the Golden State to explore its singular place in the world. This is California beyond the clichés. This is California as only a native son, deep in the dust, could draw it.

Compelling, lyrical, and ominous, his new collection finds a different drama rising out of each confounding landscape. And, in the end, he provides a moving epilogue to the murder of his own father, a crime in the California heartland finally solved after thirty years.

Award-winning author and journalist Mark Arax is a co-author of The King of California and author of In My Father’s Name. He is a contributing writer at Los Angeles magazine and a former senior writer at the Los Angeles Times. He teaches nonfiction writing at Claremont McKenna College.

Kepler’s Books
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park CA, 94025
(650) 324-4321 Store Hours

Monday through Thursday – 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday – 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.