John Steinbeck on San FranciscoPosted: August 23, 2022 Filed under: San Francisco, Steinbeck, the California Condition Leave a comment
Thomas Wolf took that one for Wikipedia.
Can you remember anywhere in John Steinbeck’s fiction where he discusses San Francisco? Whole books about Monterey, but does he even mention the place? I couldn’t remember. A friend’s been working on Steinbeck’s letters, he couldn’t think of any mention either.
Turns out Steinbeck does talk about San Francisco in Travels with Charley in Search of America. The chapter begins:
I find it difficult to write about my native place, northern California. It should be easiest, because I knew that strip angled against the Pacific better than any place in the world. But I find it not one thing but many – one printed over another until the whole thing blurs.
He mentions growth:
I remember Salinas, the town of my birth, when it proudly announced four thousand citizens. Now it is eighty thousand and leaping pell mell on in mathematical progression – a hundred thousand in three years and perhaps two hundred thousand in ten, with no end in sight.
(The population of Salinas is, in 2022, 156,77.)
Then he writes some about mobile home parks, and property taxes, concluding:
We have in the past been forced into reluctant change by weather, calamity, and plague. Now the pressure comes from our biologic success as a species.
Then he gets going on San Francisco:
Once I knew the City very well, spent my attic days there, while others were being a lost generation in Paris. I fledged in San Francisco, climbed its hills, splet in its parks, worked on its docks, marched and shouted in its revolts. In a way I felt I owned the City as much as it owned me.
A city on hills has it over flat-land places. New York makes its own hills with craning buildings, but this gold and white acropolis rising wave on wave against the blue of the Pacific sky was a stunning thing, a painted thing like a picture of a medieval Italian city which can never have existed.
Steinbeck can’t stay though. He has to hurry on to Monterey to cast his absentee ballot (it’s 1960; he’s voting for John F. Kennedy).
Alice MarblePosted: August 17, 2022 Filed under: California, San Francisco, the California Condition Leave a comment
(Paul T. submitted this photo to FourSquare)
Several times in walks around San Francisco I’ve stopped at the Alice Marble Tennis Courts, at the top of Russian Hill, for the view from Alcatraz to the bridge.
Alice Marble was a tennis champ of the 1930s and ’40s. Wikipedia informs us:
For a brief time after retirement, she worked on the editorial advisory board of DC Comics and was credited as an associate editor on Wonder Woman. She created the “Wonder Women of History” feature for the comics, which told the stories of prominent women of history in comic form.
In her second autobiography Courting Danger (released after her death in 1990), Marble mentions that, back in the 1940s, she had married Joe Crowley around World War II, a pilot, who was killed in action over Germany. Only days before his death, she miscarried their child following a car accident. After an attempt to kill herself, she recuperated, and in early 1945, agreed to spy for U.S. intelligence. Her mission involved renewing contact with a former lover, a Swiss banker, and obtaining Nazi financial data. The operation ended when a Nazi agent shot her in the back after chasing her while she was trying to escape in a car, but she recovered. Few details of this operation have been corroborated by journalists and authors who tried to investigate this part of her life in the years from the time of her death to the present. No Swiss banker has been discovered, leading to suspicions that this man of mystery might have been a Nazi, someone who Marble may have been trying to avoid having had an association.
Marble greatly contributed to the desegregation of American tennis by writing an editorial in support of Althea Gibson for the July 1, 1950 issue of American Lawn Tennis Magazine. The article read “Miss Gibson is over a very cunningly wrought barrel, and I can only hope to loosen a few of its staves with one lone opinion. If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it’s also time we acted a little more like gentle-people and less like sanctimonious hypocrites…If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it’s only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts.”
Female tennis champs of that era are honored all over San Francisco. Alice Marble’s career followed that of Helen Willis Moody, painted by Diego Rivera in his mural inside the former Pacific Stock Exchange. It’s cool that California is still producing world class tennis champs.
The Alice Marble courts are surrounded by George Sterling Park:
Kevin Starr (1973) wrote:
The uncrowned King of Bohemia (so his friends called him), Sterling had been at the center of every artistic circle in the San Francisco Bay Area. Celebrated as the embodiment of the local artistic scene, though forgotten today, Sterling had in his lifetime been linked with the immortals, his name carved on the walls of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition next to the great poets of the past.
Lots of people around George Sterling’s life died of poison, including finally the man himself, who poisoned himself inside the San Francisco clubhouse of the Bohemian Club. Next time I’m up there, I’ll have to stop by the Bohemian Club and see the bronze relief by Jo Mora.
The style of poetry Sterling practiced is no longer really in fashion:
The winds of the Future wait
At the iron walls of her Gate,
And the western ocean breaks in thunder,
And the western stars go slowly under,
And her gaze is ever West
In the dream of her young unrest.
Her sea is a voice that calls,
And her star a voice above,
And her wind a voice on her walls—
My cool, grey city of love.
How did the Bohemian Club go from being a scene of outré artists to having like Richard Nixon as a member? Probably the same way Carmel went from being an out there semi-commune to being a rich person retirement place. And the same way San Francisco was a cool place to drop out in 1965, and is now unaffordable unless you’re making mid six figures programming algorithms.
A lesson from California history: wherever the outcast artists are setting up camp, you’d be wise to buy real estate, and hang onto it for a hundred years. Although maybe that kind of thinking is contrary to the Bohemian Club motto:
Weaving spiders come not here.
Catholic gentlemen in necktiesPosted: August 9, 2022 Filed under: California, the California Condition Leave a comment
The passing of Vin Scully, beloved Los Angeles icon, has occasioned an outpouring of expressions of both loss that we should no longer have this man and gratitude that we ever did. Scully’s skills as a baseball announcer have been the focus of course. We offered some appreciation for the man’s gifts in that field a few years ago. His was a voice we loved and that we’ll miss.
We’d like to note today though another aspect of Scully, and consider him as an example of something that’s passing away. Scully was a Catholic gentleman in a necktie.
For Scully’s gentlemanliness, see any tribute to him. For his Catholicism, note that he narrates a 2 CD recording of the Rosary (you can listen on YouTube). As for the necktie, he didn’t always wear one, but it was part of the presentation, and this was a presenter.
We know this type. They were everywhere in greater Boston circa 1990. The Catholic gentleman in a necktie has national expression in President Joe Biden, though maybe Biden’s roguish side distracts us from his essential typology.
The Catholic gentleman in a necktie was an important part of Los Angeles life as well. Former LA mayor Richard Riordan was one (whether he was a true gentleman couldn’t say, he was before our time, but you’ll accept the point). Rick Caruso, current mayoral candidate, could be another case. Kevin Starr was one. The late John Bowman is one we knew personally, though he didn’t always wear a tie.
Is this type dying away? Current LA mayor Eric Garcetti is a second-generation, copy of a copy version, but he often skips the necktie, and he’s in trouble at the moment for basically not being a gentleman.
Josh Brolin’s character Eddie Mannix in Hail, Caesar (based on the real Eddie Mannix) is shown several times going to confession. This isn’t the outre decadent Catholicism described in The New York Times, it was the real deal, with all the contradictions.
Consider this merely some notes towards a sociological type.
Rest in Heaven Vin. The way he calls this brawl is delightful. (And Greinke demonstrates a pretty good example of a smaller man handling a much bigger opponent).
TahoePosted: July 26, 2022 Filed under: California Leave a comment
Finally had a chance to explore Lake Tahoe. The place has power, for sure. The whole lake’s contained in a high altitude basin. You’re 6000 feet above sea level on the beach. Aside from the southeastern corner where Nevada and California meet, and again on the northwestern corner, same thing, there’s not much development. Can’t be, the walls are too steep. The lake is deep, spooky deep: 1,644 feet or half a kilometer, at deepest. And cold.
Scuba diving in a lake at high altitude is a particular challenge. In July, 2011, two divers were exploring the lake using a “mixed gas” method:
Mixed gas divers can safely descend to about 350 feet without suffering nitrogen narcosis, or “rapture of the depths,” among other problems. Conventional scuba divers have to stop at about 100 feet.
While exploring, the mixed-gasers found a well-preserved body just kinda sitting there, underwater. It was a diver who’d died while diving in the lake seventeen years before in 1994.
Byers said those in the diving group were startled to see [the deceased’s] motionless form. “It was pretty scary for them. They were wondering, ‘What’s this person doing down here?’” he said. He did not identify members of the group.
The surprising condition of the body is attributable to the 35-degree water and the increased pressure at the 265-foot depth, Byers said.
All that from a 2011 LA Times article by Bob Pool, who notes some other myths of the lake:
Some Tahoe locals insist that bodies of boaters and swimmers who drowned in Lake Tahoe have turned up Pyramid Lake and vice versa. They insist the tunnels are the result of volcanic activity.
“Lava tube connections between Lake Tahoe and other lakes are an urban myth,” Byers said.
Other stories about oddities beneath Lake Tahoe have been debunked by experts. Some in the region insist that famed diver and naturalist Jacques Cousteau explored the lake in a mini-submarine in the mid-1970s and emerged pale and shaken.
Asked what he’d seen and filmed on the lake bottom, Cousteau reportedly replied, “The world isn’t ready for what’s down there.”
Depending on who is telling the story, Cousteau either encountered a Loch Ness-type monster that locals have dubbed “Tahoe Tessie” or came upon a bunch of dead people.
Tales persist that a “longtime Tahoe fire chief” responded to a drowning call and found the body of a well-preserved Native American girl, fully clothed in a 19th century ceremonial dress, floating in the lake.
Cousteau never explored the lake. Some say his grandson, Philippe Cousteau Jr., visited there, but only for a 2002 speaking engagement. And authorities say they have used sonar and mini-subs to map the lake’s bottom and never found such a graveyard. Nobody knows the name or affiliation of the supposed “longtime Tahoe fire chief.”
On Emerald Bay is the grand and tragic house of Vikingsholm, built with local materials in a single summer by 200 craftsmen.
Here is Mark Twain, in Roughing It, on Tahoe:
Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, of course, but the fresher ones. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?—it is the same the angels breathe. I think that hardly any amount of fatigue can be gathered together that a man cannot sleep off in one night on the sand by its side. Not under a roof, but under the sky; it seldom or never rains there in the summer time. I know a man who went there to die. But he made a failure of it. He was a skeleton when he came, and could barely stand. He had no appetite, and did nothing but read tracts and reflect on the future. Three months later he was sleeping out of doors regularly, eating all he could hold, three times a day, and chasing game over mountains three thousand feet high for recreation. And he was a skeleton no longer, but weighed part of a ton. This is no fancy sketch, but the truth. His disease was consumption. I confidently commend his experience to other skeletons.
Others report difficulty sleeping, perhaps due to the altitude. But they were sleeping indoors.
Seen from the lake, the casinos at Stateline, Nevada look like Chernobyl or something from The World Without Us, like they got abandoned and a forest grew around them.
Shouldn’t there be a dock there? Maybe the focus is gambling only on that part of the shore. Still, the Encore in Chelsea, Mass has a nice casino boat that’ll take you to/from Boston’s Long Wharf. Could be an idea for Stateline.
You get the sense the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the Forest Service keeps it tight on development.
Larry Ellison has, I’m told, purchased the old Cal Neva in Crystal Bay, once part owned by Frank Sinatra. He’s also buying the currently running casino-hotel Hyatt Regency in Incline Village, a town famous as a tax haven.
TexiforniaPosted: February 22, 2022 Filed under: California, Texas Leave a comment
Inspired by the shirt the crew wears at Bludso’s BBQ decided to compare. How big is California compared to Texas?
And just for a laugh:
True Size Of... is the tool used for that.
The jackrabbitPosted: December 20, 2020 Filed under: animals, art history, California, the American West, the California Condition Leave a comment
Word went out on the community message board that people were finding dead jackrabbits. Healthy looking jackrabbits that appeared to have just dropped dead. There was a plague going around. A jackrabbit plague. RHD2. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease two. The two distinguishes it from original RHD. Bad news, a plague of any kind. Sure enough, a few days later, I saw on the remote camera on the back porch of my cabin out in the Mojave a bird picking at what looked like the muscles and bones of what used to be a jackrabbit.
I drove out there, and found that yes indeed, this had been a jackrabbit. Whether it had died of plague, I don’t know, it seemed possible. I bagged it for disposal, and poured some disinfectant on the ground, as recommended by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The next day, I found another dead jackrabbit. This jackrabbit did not appear to have been hurt in any way. Her eye was open to me. This jackrabbit appeared to have gone into the shade and died. There was no visible trauma and no blood. I didn’t want to get too close, but this was the best chance to examine a jackrabbit, up close and at rest, that I’d ever had. Usually the jackrabbits are fast and on the move. Once they sense you seeing them, they take off.
I won’t put a picture of it here, in case a picture of a dead jackrabbit would upset you. In a way the lack of damage and the animal’s beauty made it much more sad and eerie. It reminded me of Dürer’s drawing of a young hare. I read the Wikipedia page about Dürer’s drawing, which departs from the usual impartial tone to quote praise for the drawing’s mastery:
it is acknowledged as a masterpiece of observational art alongside his Great Piece of Turf from the following year. The subject is rendered with almost photographic accuracy, and although the piece is normally given the title Young Hare, the portrait is sufficiently detailed for the hare to be identified as a mature specimen — the German title translates as “Field Hare” and the work is often referred to in English as the Hare or Wild Hare.
Dürer’s drawing of a walrus is less acclaimed:
The drawing is generally considered as not successful; and is viewed as curious attempted depiction that is neither aesthetically pleasing nor anatomically true to life. Art historians assume the artist drew it from memory having viewed a dead example during a 1520 visit to Zeeland to see a stranded whale which had decomposed before his arrival. Referring to the depiction departure for nature, Durer’s animal has been described as “amusing…it looks more like a hairless puppy with tusks. When Dürer drew from life his accuracy was unquestionable, but he had only briefly seen a walrus, and had only fleeting memory and an elaborate verbal description from which to reconstruct the image”.
The jackrabbit is very similar to the European hare. The suggestion of the magical power of hares is a common theme in Celtic literature and the literature and folklore of the British Isles. We all remember the March Hare.
Most Americans are confused as to just what hares are, chiefly because we are accustomed to calling some of them jackrabbits. Biologically, the chief differences between hares and rabbits are that hares are born with hair and open eyes and can hop about immediately, while rabbits are naked, blind and helpless as birth.
I learned from this book:
which contains recipes for hares, including jugged hare, hasenpfeffer, and hare civit.
Of all the game animals you can hunt in California: elk, wild big, bear, turkey, bighorn sheep, deer, duck, chukar, dove, quail, the jackrabbit alone can be hunted all year round*. There is no season, and there’s no limit. On one of my first trips to California, I was taken out to the desert with the Gamez boys on a jackrabbit hunt. We only saw a few jackrabbits. Nobody got off a good shot at one. I doubt we really wanted to kill one, we just wanted to drive around the desert, shoot guns, and have fun, which we did very successfully.
During the pandemic I got my California hunting license, you could do it entirely online due to Covid restrictions. But I don’t intend to hunt jackrabbits, I don’t want to be like Elmer Fudd.
The meat is said to be quite dry, tough, and gamey. Most recipes call for long simmerings.
If you ever find out in the desert where you must hunt a jackrabbit for food, here’s the Arizona Game and Fish Department telling you how to butcher one.
* non-game animals, like weasels, you can go nuts
San Bernardino by Edward Leo LymanPosted: November 30, 2020 Filed under: California Leave a comment
San Bernardino is a city (pop, 215, 941) and a county (pop. just over two million) east of Los Angeles (the city and the county).
The county is close to the size of West Virginia.
In the southwestern section the county is urban, then there’s a band of wooded, alpine mountains and national forest, and Joshua Tree National Park, and on the western edge are some of the emptiest parts of the Mojave Desert, including the Mojave National Preserve.
I’ve become reasonably well informed about the history of the central and western part of this county, but I know very little about the city of San Bernardino. Inspired by this Julia Wick thread on Twitter, I bought Edward Lyman’s book about the city.
Fascinating! Already I know more than I did!
After the Mormon exodus the city got itself on the expanded Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad subsidiary line, the California Southern, and thus connected to the rest of the country and to Los Angeles.
Route 66 ran through San Bernardino. Richard and Maurice McDonald established their first hamburger restaurant there.
If I finish the book I’ll let you know.
San Francisco (and Los Angeles)Posted: July 15, 2020 Filed under: America Since 1945, California, San Francisco, the California Condition Leave a comment
Earlier this year, you moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco. How is the transition going?
It felt like the opening minute of Randy Newman’s song “I Love L.A.” Looking back on the twentieth century, I recall it was Los Angeles that was always the city of the future, and the city of craft and guilds. Every movie was essentially a six-month startup that brought together know-how and expertise from so many different areas: art, set design, costume, carpentry—and all the weirdly named professions like grips, gaffers, and boom operators. That ethos still lives on in the spirit of the place. With SpaceX and other aerospace companies making headway, I wouldn’t discount Southern California in the race to become the next big creative cluster. Of course, Sacramento may ruin the entire state before that happens. But that’s another story.
Michael Gibson (had never heard of) in City Journal. Gibson wrote a piece for City Journal where he called San Francisco “America’s Havana.” He pointed out inarguable problems with San Francisco, which is a shocking mess.
But, like Havana, San Francisco is also magical. There’s just something about it. Maybe it’s the drastic geography, set on hillsides over a bay that’s both perfect and hidden. The sea air is part of it, for sure, and the lushness of the flora. In both Havana and San Francisco, the very air is magical.
When you read the history of San Francisco, a certain tolerance of criminality always seems to have been part of the mix. Stepping over a druggie passed out on the street wouldn’t’ve been unfamiliar to a resident of Gold Rush-era San Francisco or Barbary Coast San Francisco, or the 1940s San Francisco that inspired all the noir movies.
I’ve had in my files this bit by Lillian Symes from a 1932 Harper’s, reprinted from the archive:
The city of cheap yet superb living:
When I got to LA in 2004, I found the living superb. It was cheaper than New York City, but I’m not sure it could really be called cheap. And it’s gotten less cheap. Readers, where would you say, these days, the living is cheap yet superb?
San Francisco scenes:
Happy VotersPosted: November 6, 2018 Filed under: California Leave a comment
send in their pics after consulting the Helytimes Voter Guide.
Gods of the Modern World and the Cartoon History Of The UniversePosted: September 24, 2018 Filed under: America Since 1945, art history, California, comedy, comics Leave a comment
José Clemente Orozco painted these crazy frescos at Dartmouth around 1933. My pal Larry Gonick sends a vivid closeup:
Gotta check these out. If you haven’t read Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History Of The Universe:
Strongest recommend! Epic achievements in bringing history to life by both artists.
Becoming over time becomes beingPosted: July 16, 2018 Filed under: business, California, war Leave a comment
“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, once famously said.
(source is this Vanity Fair article). The ancient sages and strategists would’ve enjoyed that one. The intersection of becoming and fighting.
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting
Sun Tzu said. Maybe. Can’t vouch for the translation. Elsewhere rendered as:
To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
to defeat the enemy without battle is the whole of my art
What do these buildings have in common?Posted: October 10, 2016 Filed under: California, money, New York, San Francisco Leave a comment
One Beacon Street, Boston
425 Market Street, San Francisco:
11 Times Square, New York:
Along with a lot of other buildings in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Paris, London and elsewhere, they’re all 47% or so owned by the Norwegian people, in the form of their nation’s sovereign wealth fund.
They own a lot of other stuff, too. $21 mill worth of Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance.
And 1.5% of Whole Foods:
In a tiny way, every Norwegian helps Marc Maron, because they own about a million bucks worth of Stamps.com.
San FranciscoPosted: January 7, 2016 Filed under: America Since 1945, assorted, California, San Francisco, the American West, the California Condition, the ocean Leave a comment
Right before Christmas had a chance to visit San Francisco — always great!
In San Francisco you can really feel like you’re halfway in the ocean.
Finding myself with an idle hour I went to go check out Diego Rivera’s mural Allegory of California over at the City Club in the former Pacific Stock Exchange building. The City Club was all done up for a Christmas party.
Pictures of the mural often leave out the amazing ceiling part:
Rivera painted this one in 1931, He modeled the lady on tennis champ Helen Wills Moody, who was at that time one of California’s most famous daughters:
She was a painter herself:
Wills was an artist by avocation. She received a degree in fine arts along with a Phi Beta Kappa key from the University of California, and painted throughout her life. She was delighted to be chosen as the model for Diego Rivera’s two-story mural “The Riches of California,” commissioned for $2,500 in 1930. Wills and the first of her two husbands, the financier Frederick Moody, invited Rivera and his wife, the painter Frieda Kahlo, to a celebratory tea after the mural’s unveiling at the former San Francisco Stock Exchange.
For Wills, who confessed to suffering the intangible pangs of “a restless heart,” tennis and painting were the best antidotes for melancholy. She maintained an artist’s studio at her residences in San Francisco and later in Carmel, once sold 40 paintings for $100 each and illustrated her own articles for The Saturday Evening Post.
Here’s one of her own drawings:
Lifting that one from San Francisco’s Lost Art Salon. Reader Schoboats calls our attention to a good detail from Wills Moody’s NY Times obit:
Perhaps Wills’s most infamous match, and certainly the one she extolled as the focal point of her playing career, was her only meeting with Lenglen, the queen of the continent, in a much ballyhooed showdown at Cannes in 1926. Lenglen was 26 and tactically superior; Wills was 20 and physically stronger. Lenglen won the raucous encounter, 6-3, 8-6.
There was a prizefight atmosphere, with tickets scalped at a then-shocking rate of $50 each, and an international gallery of spectators that included King Gustaf, a group of stowaway French schoolboys in a eucalyptus tree at one end of the court and Wills’s future husband, Frederick Moody, who introduced himself to her after the match. Wills was fond of noting that although she lost the match, she not only gained perspective on necessary changes to her game, which tended to be without nuance and relied on battering her opponents into submission with repetitious forehand ground strokes, but also gained a husband.
Maybe next time I’m up there I will get to see Making Of A Fresco:
SummerPosted: June 29, 2015 Filed under: America Since 1945, California, the California Condition 1 Comment
Wait! You can’t be shut down for summer! I need my Helytimes!
writes reader Melanie in Nashville. Aw, thanks! Don’t worry, there’s tons to read… in the archive!
There have been over 560 posts on Helytimes. Here are the ten most popular:
1) Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot
Off the charts most popular post, because of people googling supposed inspiration/John Belushi partyfriend Cathy Smith
Those’ll keep coming over the summer!
3) Cinderella and Interrogation Technique
Disney + Nazis will bring ’em in.
A personal passion
5) What was up with European witch trials?
Feel like this is my wheelhouse, summarizing dense history of the general reader, but it’s a lot of work to write posts like this.
6) Ships’ Cats
I mean, for Convoy alone.
The “it man” of Norwegian literature!
Just a real great story.
9) Losing The War by Lee Sandlin
This blew my mind, some of the best writing I’ve ever read on WWII.
10) Coaches, parts 1 and 2.
About Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, and Bill Belichick
Now, here are just some personal favorites:
– Record Group 80: Series: General Photographic File Of the Department of the Navy, 1943-1958
Here’s stuff related to a current project:
– The Conquest Of New Spain by Bernal Diaz
Here is some backstory on Donald Trump, lately in the news:
You can also browse yourself by category. Probably the deepest holes are
See you later!
Almonds and waterPosted: April 6, 2015 Filed under: California, the California Condition Leave a comment
Written about California water before. If I had ten hours to spare for the round trip I’d drive up to Bishop and retake this photo:
Taken about this time three years ago, I bet there’d be no snow in it now.
This article by Helaine Olsen on The Baffler seemed insightful to me:
Barely mentioned was the fact that the clueless wealthy might just as well go ahead and turn on the taps—let ten thousand golf course bougainvillea bloom. They aren’t the problem, or not much of the problem.
Listen up: California’s agricultural sector uses about 80 percent of the state’s water. As Mother Jonesreported, it takes one gallon of water to grow a single almond, and nearly five gallons to make a walnut edible.
But, hey, Governor Brown says those almonds and other produce grown in California aren’t living large. That’s why agriculture was all but excused from his edict. “They’re not watering their lawn or taking long showers,” Brown told ABC’s This Week, of the farmers. “They’re providing much of the fruits and vegetables of America.”
Nuts: Too tasty to fail?
The ritual shaming of the public, in which politicians blame us for their failures, seems like democratic politics in reverse. And the bigger the crisis, the greater the gall. For example, as we all know but few care to remember, the United States recently went through a financial crisis. Banks made massively leveraged bets that didn’t pay off. Complicated, risky financial innovations were presented as safe by people and institutions all of who should have known better. Subprime mortgages were pushed and promoted, often under false pretenses. Credit was offered up to Americans, many of whom took it because they were told it is was a good idea, and cheap, and, anyway, their incomes weren’t keeping up with the cost of housing, healthcare, and education and they needed to get money from somewhere, dammit.
Alex Tabarrok saying similar things on Marginal Revolution:
The NYTimes has an article on California’s extreme water drought with the usual apocalyptic imagery (see the video especially):
California is facing a punishing fourth year of drought. Temperatures in Southern California soared to record-high levels over the weekend, approaching 100 degrees in some places. Reservoirs are low. Landscapes are parched and blighted with fields of dead or dormant orange trees.
The apocalyptic scenario needs to be leavened with some basic facts.
California has plenty of water…just not enough to satisfy every possible use of water that people can imagine when the price is close to zero. As David Zetland points out in an excellent interview with Russ Roberts, people in San Diego county use around 150 gallons of water a day. Meanwhile in Sydney Australia, with a roughly comparable climate and standard of living, people use about half that amount. Trust me, no one in Sydney is going thirsty.
So how much are people in San Diego paying for their daily use of 150 gallons of water? About 78 cents. As Matt Kahn puts it:
Where in the Constitution does it say that the people of California have the right to pay .5 cents per gallon of water?
Water is such a small share of most people’s budgets that it could double in price and the effect on income would still be low. Moreover, we don’t even have to increase the price of water for residential or industrial uses. As The Economist points out:
Agriculture accounts for 80% of water consumption in California, for example, but only 2% of economic activity.
What that means is that if agriculture used 12.5% less water we could increase the amount available for every residential and industrial use by 50%–grow those lawns, fill those swimming pools, manufacture those chips!–and the cost would be minimal even if we simply shut down 12.5% of all farms.
Moreover, we don’t have to shut down that many farms, we just have to shut down the least valuable farms and use water more efficiently. If you think water is cheap for San Diego residents it’s much cheaper for farmers. Again from The Economist:
Farmers flood the land to grow rice, alfalfa and other thirsty crops….If water were priced properly, it is a safe bet that they would waste far less of it, and the effects of California’s drought—its worst in recorded history—would not be so severe.
Even today a lot of CA agriculture uses the least efficient flood irrigation system.
According to data from the state Department of Water Resources, 43 percent of California farmland in 2010 used some form of gravity irrigation, an imprecise method that uses relatively large amounts of fresh water and represents a big opportunity for water conservation.
The NYTimes article is worried about farm loss:
“I’m going to fallow two acres of my land immediately,” said Geoffrey C. Galloway, who has a citrus grove on his ranch near Porterville, in the Central Valley. “Depending on how the season goes, we may let another four go.”
…Last year, at least 400,000 acres went unplanted, and farmers reported losses of $2.2 billion, said Mr. Wenger, the head of the farm bureau, who owns a farm in Modesto. “This year we could see easily 50 percent more,” he said. “We are probably going to be looking at well over a million acres.”
California has approximately 25 million acres of farmland. And while our bodily fluids might be precious not every acre of farmland is. A few less acres of farmland producing low value crops in return for a lot more water is a very acceptable tradeoff.
Addendum: Low prices are not always wasteful. David Zetland’s short primer on water policy is available for free as pdf. Matt Kahn’s Fundamentals of Environmental and Urban Economics is on Amazon for Kindle for just $1. Both are very good.
I have a personal, untested theory of a major factor in the California water problem:
The boom in almond milk consumption. Almond milk is made of 1) water and 2) water intensive almonds.
Charles Rennie MackintoshPosted: October 10, 2012 Filed under: California, painting, pictures Leave a comment
Get a load of this dandy:
Born in Glasgow the year Seward bought Alaska from the Russians, one of twelve children, he became an architect. He designed this house which wasn’t built until 1996:
He had this idea for Liverpool Cathedral:
But they built this instead:
(Giles Gilbert Scott, the winning architect, was 22)
Frustrated with architecture, Rennie became a painter:
The fort in Port-Vendres, France? Or a mad vision of the PCH between Big Sur and San Francisco?
The Lighthouse, Glasgow:
(Cathedral plan from here, everything else from Wikipedia per usual)
The Field of BlackbirdsPosted: September 27, 2012 Filed under: California Leave a comment
Larry McMurtry in Hollywood: A Third Memoir describes Peter Bogdanovich at the 1972 Oscars:
he sat in his tux looking like a Serbian martyr – the only survivor of the Field of Blackbirds, perhaps.
The Field of Blackbirds refers to the Battle of Kosovo of 1389, which was indeed a bad time for everyone involved. The Prince of Serbia at the time was Lazar Hrebeljanović. Here he is with wife Milicia:
The Ottoman Empire, meanwhile, was led by Mulad I:
The Ottomans decided to invade Serbia, and the two armies met on the Field of Blackbirds:
Wikipedia describes the grim scene:
The bulk of both armies were wiped out in the battle.
Both Mulad and Lazar were killed.
The Ottomans conquered Serbia, and Milicia had to send her youngest daughter Olivera to the harem of the new Ottoman Sultan, Mulad’s son, Bayezid I.
Before the battle Prince Lazar issued the “Kosovo Curse”:
Whoever is a Serb and of Serb birth,
And of Serb blood and heritage,
And comes not to the Battle of Kosovo,
May he never have the progeny his heart desires,
Neither son nor daughter!
May nothing grow that his hand sows,
Neither red wine nor white wheat!
And let him be cursed from all ages to all ages!
Today it’s inscribed on a pillar at the battlefield:
Someday My Prince Will ComePosted: September 10, 2012 Filed under: California, music Leave a comment
Recently we were invited by a correspondent to test-listen to some new speakers. It had been a long time since “listening to music” was the whole activity we were doing. Among other things we tried out this Miles Davis album, recorded March 7, 20, 21st of 1961.
During the next session, while Miles was about to wrap up “Someday My Prince Will Come,” John Coltrane suddenly appeared in the studio between two sets at the Apollo Theater where he was performing.
So says milesdavis.com, which continues (demonstrating why reading about jazz is associated with being a huge douche-out):
In two choruses,Coltrane conveyed the quintessence of his art. The next day he returned bringing, forthe last time, the intensity of his flame to the music of Miles, who in “Teo,” took advantage of his presence to extend the modal explorations of “Flamenco Sketches” even further.
Anyway. The following anecdote was once reported in The Guardian:
In 1987, [Davis] was invited to a White House dinner by Ronald Reagan. Few of the guests appeared to know who he was. During dinner, Nancy Reagan turned to him and asked what he’d done with his life to merit an invitation. Straight-faced, Davis replied: “Well, I’ve changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except fuck the president?”
Snopes however tells us it wasn’t so, and quotes Davis’ own autobiography, where he wrote:
Reagan was nice to us, respectful and everything. But Nancy is the one who has the charm between those two. She seemed like a warm person. She greeted me warmly and I kissed her hand. She liked that.
What a great album cover. That’s Miles’ then-wife Frances. According to a message board we came across, she was working as a hostess at Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset Blvd. as of 2004.
She’s still beautiful and has the body of a dancer. Totally charming woman… She seemed totally open about who she is and her past with Miles and would probably be happy to chat with anyone about it should they stop by the restaurant.
Hamburger Hamlet is now closed.
Lionel PriesPosted: September 9, 2012 Filed under: architecture, California, pictures Leave a comment
Reading up on some Disney animators and writers.
Ken Anderson, one of the credited screenwriters for The Rescuers, Aristocats, The Jungle Book, and Cinderella, was (wikipedia tells me) “particularly influenced” by his University of Washington architecture professor, Lionel Pries.
Lionel Pries designed the Andalucia building in Santa Barbara:
Here’s a house he designed for himself:
“He used affordable modern materials — concrete, concrete block and cement-asbestos board.”
Here’s another house Pries designed, in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle:
Pries was gay, but deeply closeted in the University of Washington community. He anticipated teaching at least until he reached retirement age, but was forced to resign his university position in 1958 after he was picked up in a vice sting in Los Angeles. The reason for Pries’s abrupt departure from the university was concealed at the time.
Pries worked as a drafter until he was able to retire in 1964, then lived quietly until his death in 1968.
(Pries photo is credited to Dorothy Conway and the Pries Collection, Special Collection, UW Libraries, Pries house photo to Charles R. Pierson from the same collection, Laurelhurst house photo “courtesy Max and Helen Gurvitch, and I got them all from this Seattle Times article by Laurence Kriesman.)
John CagePosted: September 3, 2012 Filed under: California, music Leave a comment
Tyler Cowen talks about John Cage today, as what would be his 100th is coming up. His quotes link doesn’t include my favorite. Possibly apocryphal, I believe I got it from the Paris Review interview of Sam Shepard which I am WAY too busy to reread right now:
Theater exists all around us and it is the purpose of formal theater to remind us.
I told that quote to the actor friend I thought would most appreciate it and even he kinda scoffed.
Couple curios from Cage’s wikipedia page:
On his education at Pomona:
I was shocked at college to see one hundred of my classmates in the library all reading copies of the same book. Instead of doing as they did, I went into the stacks and read the first book written by an author whose name began with Z. I received the highest grade in the class. That convinced me that the institution was not being run correctly. I left.
After several months in Paris, Cage’s enthusiasm for America was revived after he read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – he wanted to return immediately, but his parents, with whom he regularly exchanged letters during the entire trip, persuaded him to stay in Europe for a little longer and explore the continent.
Whose parents ever did that?
He went to Santa Monica, California, where he made a living partly by giving small, private lectures on contemporary art.
What? Who paid for that? How much? Sounds like something PON might get away with:
Cage was working at his mother’s arts and crafts shop, where he met artist Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff. She was an Alaskan-born daughter of a Russian priest; her work encompassed fine bookbinding, sculpture and collage. Although Cage was involved in relationships with Don Sample and with architect Rudolph Schindler’s wife Pauline when he met Xenia, he fell in love immediately.
Well, yeah. An Alaskan-born daughter of a Russian priest walks in, introduces herself as Xenia, and starts talking bookbinding, it’s Robyn time.
Cage met [Allen] Kaprow while on a mushroom hunt with George Segal and invited him to join his class.
That’s from the chapter of the wiki called ’60s: FAME