Jared Farmer to speak Jan. 17 on Street Palms and the Fashioning of Los Angeles

The Autry Western History Workshop and the Los Angeles History Group will hold a joint seminar on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  The presenter will be Jared Farmer of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, who will speak on his paper, “Metropolitan Fronds: Street Palms and the Fashioning of Los Angeles.”

The seminar will meet in the classroom at the Autry National Center’s Griffith Park campus.  Dinner will be available at 6:30 for those who reserve a place by Thursday, January 12.  To make a reservation, and to obtain a copy of Prof. Farmer’s paper, please email Belinda Nakasato-Suarez at bnakasato@theautry.org.

LA Times reports on the Study of California Literature Outside of California

In its Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, edition, the Los Angeles Times reports on the increasing study of California literature both in and outside of the state:

Students sample the large shelf of California literature

From the article:

Boosted by a new generation of students eager to explore the state’s confluence of luxury and despair, of exploration and reinvention, courses in California Lit have popped up in schools such as Bowling Green University in Ohio and Carleton College in Minnesota as well as UC, Cal State and private campuses in California.

The courses often focus on the tension between California as a fantasized place of new beginnings and the harsh disappointments that follow. They explore how fictional works unfold against a natural backdrop that combines beguiling beauty and the ever-present threat of earthquakes and fires.

Festival of California Poets — at the Hammer Museum, Oct. 14, 7:00 p.m.

The Hammer Museum, along with PEN Center USA and the Poetry Society of America, will present on Oct. 14, the 5th Annual Festival of California Poets.

The event will celebrate the poetic tradition of the Golden State. Three distinguished, contemporary California poets will introduce and read poems by canonical California poets, as well as their own poems. Featured readers include: Maxine Hong Kingston on Lucille Clifton; Suzanne Lummis on Nora May French; and James Ragan on Denise Levertov.

A Q&A will follow the readings.

FRI OCT 14, 7:00PM

HAMMER MUSEUM, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

For more information, click here.

Thu., Sept. 15: Lower Left Blue: L.A. Cartography at Libros Schmibros at the Hammer

Libros Schmibros at the Hammer will host a conversation about L.A. maps with author/LA Public Library librarian Glen Creason (Maps of Los Angeles) and artist J. Michael Walker (All the Saints in the City of Angels), whose painted map of the city graces the western wall of Libros Schmibros at the Hammer. The event starts at 5:30 PM.

The Hammer Museum is located at 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, at Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles 90024.

For more information click here.

This event is one of six weeks of events at both the Hammer Museum and at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights that are part of the Hammer’s hosting of Libros Schmibros as part of the Hammer’s Public Engagement program.  For more information about the entire program, click here.  For the Libros Schmibros website, click here.

Two Op-Eds about Calif. Politics in the LAT, on changing demographics and chances for a constitutional convention

I don’t how unusual it is in these days when national headlines seem to dominate once the state’s crisis is momentarily resolved, but today’s L.A. Times (Mar. 5, 2009) had two interesting op-eds about California politics.  One of them, by Harold Meyerson, “As the GOP stands firm, California is changing direction,” was, as the title suggests, about the near to longterm prospects for the Republican Party in California in an era of changing demographics and politics.  Meyerson analyzes the overwhelming vote for Barack Obama by congressional districts, and finds that many Republican representatives are now representing districts that voted Democratic in 2008.  Meyerson writes:

The eight GOP congressional districts that swung Democratic are largely in exurban areas that Republicans have long claimed as their own. Seven are in Southern California, including David Dreier’s district along the foothills of northeast Los Angeles County and western San Bernardino County; Howard P. “Buck” McKeon’s sprawling district that includes Palmdale, Lancaster and much of the eastern Sierra Nevada; and Elton Gallegly’s district, which stretches from Simi Valley to Solvang. Two other unexpectedly pro-Obama districts included Riverside and Palm Springs, while another is in northern San Diego County. The one sure to induce a double-take is John Campbell’s (formerly Christopher Cox’s) coastal Orange County district centered on Newport Beach — John Wayne country, a bastion of American conservatism. Yet Obama carried it by 2,500 votes.

Meyerson expects that the trend—which has been in process for 20 years—will continue in part because the party is so dominated by extreme right-wing elements:

In the mid- and late ’90s, the once solidly Republican inner suburbs of Los Angeles — Burbank, Glendale, northern Orange County among them — began sending Democrats to Washington and Sacramento as their demographics changed. They are now solidly Democratic. What the 2008 election results signify is that L.A.’s far-flung exurbs will soon be poised for a similar makeover. It may take several elections, some incumbent retirements and the carefully targeted intervention of Obama’s volunteer legions to realize such a transformation. But Democrats have a potent if inadvertent ally in speeding this change: California’s right-wing Republican establishment.

The second op-ed was by Patt Morrison, and it focussed on the recent calls for a California Constitutional Convention (although she didn’t mention the recent meeting in Sacramento).  Morrison declares her position in the title of the piece: “California Needs a Constitutional Convention,” and goes on to say:

Arnold Schwarzenegger wants a constitutional convention. Public policy wonks and worried budgeteers want one. The Legislature may not want one — another reason to convene it.

At this point, we’ve been running on the same basic chassis we’ve had since Edison invented the phonograph.

We made it so easy to overload the vehicle of state with amendments that we have nearly 500 of them. The U.S. Constitution has 27, and it had about a 60-year head start on us.

California’s Constitution is apparently the second longest in the country, after Louisiana’s, and we all know what a model of governance Louisiana is.

One wonders, though, given that Californians are so divided about what they expect from government, is it likely that we could ever reach agreement over a new charter?

–Frank Gruber (frank@frankjgruber.net)

Stephanie Pincetl writes on plans for the L.A. River

In a blog post Jan. 21, 2009, Stephanie Pincetl, Director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment, Urban Center for People and the Environment, discusses current efforts to “restore” the Los Angeles River. Dr. Pincetl asks whether plan for the river constitute a restoration or a reinvention. From the post:

“In the early 1980s, Louis McAdams, a performance artist, had a vision that the Los Angeles River could be restored and returned to life, extricated from its concrete confines, and allowed to flow naturally. This vision, at first ridiculed and trivialized, has become the city’s own. Plans are a-foot to create parks along its long trajectory from the San Fernando Valley to the sea, to build new river-oriented housing and commercial developments along the river, and to remove the concrete lining where feasible, balancing public safety from flooding, cost and ecological considerations.

“But is this restoration or the(re) invention of the Los Angeles River? The river’s flow today is tertiary treated sewage from the Tillman Sewage Treatment Plant and dry weather run-off from urban irrigation. Most of the River’s own indigenous flow is captured by the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the city’s drinking water supply and kept in underground aquifers. Only when it rains does the river have true flow, and since the river is channelized to prevent flooding, most of the rainflow is directed to the sea.”

Going Green in L.A. and Saving Money – A Note from Julia Stein

Going Green in 2008 and Saving Money

In spring of 2008 I stopped using plastic bags because I learned that millions of our plastic bags are in the Pacific Ocean killing birds and fish. In the spring at Santa Monica College I heard Marcus Eriksen read from his book “My River Home: A Journey from the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico” about taking a raft he made of soda pop bottles down the whole length of the Mississippi. Eriksen worked for Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, California, which does research on plastic bags in the Pacific Ocean. In late spring he and his colleague took Junk, a raft they made out of plastic, and sailed it from California to Hawaii doing research all the while on plastics in the ocean.

I decided if Erikesen could sail the raft across the Pacific I’d quit using plastic bags. Whenever I went grocery shopping, I trained myself in a new habit of bringing my cloth bags to haul my groceries home. A lot of community groups gave out free cloth bags so I have quite a collection. I also bought organic cloth bags for $30 to bag fruits and vegetables rather than using the small plastic grocery store bags. I don’t have all these plastic or paper bags cluttering up my drawers or needing to be recylcled, so cloth bags are definitely more convenient.

Also, I started composting in my mother’s backyard. I took a class in composting that the L.A. Parks and Recreating holds at its Griffith Park composting facility:


After the class I bought one of the low-cost big green composting bins they had for sale. Learning how to compost was very easy, and I got two households to compost: mine and my mother’s. Actually it was amazing to watch how the compost reduced itself. Keeping up the compost doesn’t take much time–just add more fruits, vegetables, leaves, lawn clippings and water. One needn’t take a class. In a half hour Internet research one can find out how to compost. By composting, getting rid of the plastic bags, and recycling all paper, metal, and plastic in the blue bins, I’ve reduced my trash for landfill quite a lot.

Also in 2008 I helped plant three trees. I donated money to Treepeople to plant a tree as a memorial for two friends who had died: my mother’s old friend Delores Smith and our family friend Dr. Saul Niedorf. I find it comforting that out there in Southern California there is the Delores Smith tree and also the Dr. Saul Niedorf tree growing.Treepeople, who have planted one million trees in the Los Angeles area, can be found online at


I also got a free tree from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps which was planted in the parkway in front of my mother’s house and I’ve ordered another tree from them for the parkway. In Los Angeles people can get free trees from either Los Angeles Conservation Corps or LA DWP as part of Mayor Villaraigosa’s initiative to plant a million trees My mother’s garden already has a fig tree, an orange tree, a tangerine tree, and a lemon tree, and we’ve ordered a fuji apple tree. I’ve also had bougainvillea planted around my mother’s back window to shield the house from the sun.

In the spring my brother and I planted our first vegetable garden in my mother’s backyard. I figured if I want to green the earth I’d start by learning about our backyard soil, so did a test to see how quickly the soil absorbs water and also put store-bought compst to improve it before we planted We used Pat Welsh’s excellent book “Southern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide” as our bible. We planted corn, beans, tomatoes, carrots, watermelon, strawberries, radishes, and herbs–basil, sage, parsley, rosemary. I used the basil to make pesto, the carrots to make carrot cake, and we enjoyed eating the corn. We didn’t plant in the fall but I want to resume planting as soon as possible. Though a few things didn’t work out–the watermelon, for instance or the zuchinni–but we learned a lot and are proud of our first vegetable and herb garden. I had to learn how to dry and store our rosemary and sage.

I’ve also enjoyed the whole process of going green this year, especially the gardening. I love to cook, and love to go to the garden, clip off rosemary or sage or tomatoes or lemons from the lemon tree–nothing could be finer. I’m sorry we let the garden go fallow in the fall but hope we’ll have a bigger, better garden using our own compost. In the end I think I saved money through all these measures. Now my brother I am are planning our garden so we’ll soon do a winter planting but we live in L.A. and crops grow year round!

“A Mulholland Christmas Carol” – 5th run of L.A. Christmas Tradition

From Julia Stein:

Los Angeles now has its own holiday play tradition with this 5th run of Bill Robens’ musical A Mulholland Christmas Carol. The play is at A Sacred Fool theater, 660 No. Heliotrope, for a pre-Christmas run and is presented by two fine small theaters–Sacred Fools and Theater of Note. The play, the best written about Los Angeles since Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit, shows the choice between greed or generosity and is particularly appropriate for the 2008 holiday season in the new recession.

Robens rewrites Dickens class tale “A Christmas Carol” about greed, poverty, and justice making Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean spirited wealthy man, into William Mulholland, the man who built Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at the beginning of the 20th century. A small band with violin, keyboards, guitar, bass, and drummer played the score while the excellent cast sings the wonderful musical numbers. The show also has fine choreography including the Owens Valley farmers dancing traditional country dances while they sing “Our Owens Valley Song,” a song of praise to rural California.

The story begins the day before Christmas when Mulholland at his DWP office won’t give the drought-struck Owens Valley farmers any water and threatens to lay off his clerk Van Norman. That night Mulholland is visited by four ghosts. The first is Fred Eaton, ex-mayor of Los Angeles who helped Mulholland steal Owens Valley water, now a ghost in chains. The next ghost is explorer John Wesley Powell as Ghost of Christmas past who shows Mulholland scenes of his youth when he first came to Los Angeles as a poor idealistic young man who sings “Los Angeles River,” a lovely song to L.A.’s very own river.

The play delightfully satirizes water politics and corruption in the song “Land Grab” with Harrison Gray Otis, builder of the Los Angeles Times newspaper; Moses Sherman, developer of the city’s first electric car system; and rest of the cast singing and dancing out how a few Los Angeles wealthy men led a land grab to get all of Owen’s Valley Water leading to a twenty years water war.

The next Ghost of Christmas present is Teddy Roosevelt who along with Mulholland sing Roosevelt’s mantra “Bully” about forging ahead to get what you want before the Ghost shows Mulholland the suffering of Owens Valley farmers in the drought-stricken region as well as the poor Christmas of his clerk Van Norman and his family.

The Ghost of Christmas Future, a black robbed figure, points out to old Mulholland two alternative futures. He can continue to build the Saint Francis Dam which will then burst–it really did spectacularly burst onstage–to drown hundreds or he can stop building the dam and share his water with the Owens Valley farmers and his wealth with his clerk Van Norman and his family helping them have a better Christmas. The alternative futures in December, 2008, are California alternative futures.

So rush to this show if you want to have a real Los Angeles holiday play. Also, hopefully the play will be videotaped as well as a recording made of the score and songs. The play is the most wonderful way to teach history, so a videotape as well as CD should be in Los Angeles’ libraries as well as its schools.

For more information:
Sacred Fools Theater Company
660 No. Heliotrope, Los Angeles Ca 90004

L.A. Public Library Exhibits Historic Maps of California

The downtown main Los Angeles Public Library opened an exhibit October 15, “L.A. Unfolded: Maps from the Los Angeles Public Library” that focuses on Los Angeles and California and features topographic surveys, tourist guides, real estate maps, pictorials, illustrations and more.

Highlights include a 1791 Spanish explorers’ California coast map; a 1975 Goetz Guide to the Murals of East Los Angeles; and Artist-Historian Jo Mora’s masterly illustrated 1942 city map. The exhibition draws exclusively from the Los Angeles Public Library’s own map collection, one of the largest collections owned by a public library in the U.S.

The exhibition closes Jan. 22, 2009.  The library’s website has more information.

Quintard Taylor on African Americans in California and the West, Los Angeles (Thur. Sept. 11)

Conversations@CAAM presents:

Dr. Quintard Taylor
Scholar & Writer

Dr. Quintard Taylor is the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington.  He writes and lectures on African Americans in the West, and is the author of The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era and In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the America West, 1528-1990.

His articles have appeared in various scholastic journals including the Journal of Negro History, Arizona and the West, and Western Journal of Black Studies.  His online resource center called BlackPast.org (www.blackpast.org), is one of the largest reference sites of its type for African American history on the Internet.

Please join us for a stimulating evening as Dr. Taylor speaks about his life’s journey and the history of African Americans in the West.

Thursday, September 11
6:30 to 8:00 pm
California African American Museum

Admission is free.  Please call 213-744-7432, or visit http://www.caamuseum.org for more information.

LA vs. Seattle: Whose Pacific Rim is It? Los Angeles (Sept. 3)

From Huntington-USC Center on California and the West

Zócalo at The Skirball

Wednesday, September 3, 7:30 pm at The Skirball Cultural Center

Zócalo and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West Present

L.A. vs. Seattle: Whose Pacific Rim is it?

Los Angeles and Seattle have very different histories, economies, leaders, ambitions, and demographic profiles. But both rely upon huge harbor, shipping, and transportation infrastructures as vital to metropolitan and regional growth; both claim intimate and expanding trade and other relationships with the Pacific Rim. Zócalo has gathered together a distinguished panel that includes, among others, UCLA political scientist Steve Erie, David Olson of the University of Washington, and Thomas O’Brien from the Center for International Trade and Transportation at Cal State Long Beach to discuss these two urban giants’ approach toward Asia. They’ll ask which city is better poised to take advantage of globalization in the Asian century.
To Reserve a Free Seat at The Skirball Click Here

Hynda Rudd, “Hidden Treasures of LA: The City Archives” (Sun. July 13)

From Denise Spooner, H-California.

Summer Northrop Lecture on City Archives on Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hynda Rudd, former city archivist and current LA City Historical Society boardmember will speak on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at the central library downtown at 2:00 p.m.

A woman of extraordinary energy and passion for the preservation of our city’s documentary heritage will present “Hidden Treasures of L.A.: The City Archives.” Our lectures are held in the Taper Auditorium on the main floor of the Richard Riordan Library, located downtown at 5th and Flower Streets. Subterranean parking is only $1 with a valid LAPL library card, obtainable the day of the event. Join us for refreshments and conviviality after the presentation.

This facility is handicap-accessible. Validated parking is available for

$1.00 between 1pm and 5pm at the 524 South Flower Street garage; check
www.lapl.org for more information, or call (213) 228-7000. The Metro
Blue Line and Metro Red Line both have stops near Central Library, and most
Buses coming downtown stop near the Central Library; check www.metro.net for
rates, routes and schedules.Los Angeles City Historical Society PO Box 41046, Los Angeles CA 90041
(323) 936-2912 www.lacityhistory.org