Jon sez, "When conjuring up the future, why do writers and filmmakers so often imagine Northern California as an edenic utopia, while Southern California gets turned into a dystopian hellscape? While Hollywood, counterculture, and Mike Davis have each helped to shape and propagate this idea, Kristin Miller traces its roots back to the 1949 George R. Stewart novel Earth Abides. Her essay follows the north/south divide in science fiction films and literature through the decades, and explores how it's continued to evolve. In the accompanying slideshow, Miller photographs stills from sci fi movies filmed in California, held up against their filming locations, from 1970's Forbin Project to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It shows not just the geographic divide in SF, but also how our futures have evolved, and how movies have the ability to change how we see our surroundings in the present."
Read the rest
UC Berkeley has just appointed its first Wikipedian in Residence: Kevin Gorman, who has been a Wikipedia editor since he was a Berkeley undergraduate. Though some 50 cultural institutions -- libraries, museums and archives -- have Wikipedians in Residence, Gorman is the first to serve at an academic institution. His own work focuses on improving gender diversity and cultural diversity in Wikipedia editing, and he's assisting professors in crafting assignments that have students using and improving Wikipedia as part of their class-work.
When I was teaching at USC, I assigned my students to help improve Wikipedia articles by sourcing and footnoting facts in articles related to our lectures, and reviewed their contributions and the ensuing discussion in the articles' Talk pages as part of our weekly classes. It was a very satisfying exercise, especially as it ensured that the work of my students served some wider scholarly and social purpose, as opposed to term papers and exercises that no one -- not me, not the students -- would ever want to read after they were graded.
Read the rest
A number of friendly, charity-minded social clubs have sprung up in Disney fandom. They dress in disnefied versions of biker wear, gather together in Disneyland, help people out, and keep each other company. I encountered the Neverlanders several times last year when I had a residency at Disney Imagineering, and I loved the way they blended counterculture and fandom. A long, smart piece about the clubs in OC Weekly traces their history and growth -- fuelled by Instagram -- and the way they encountered mainstream Disney fandom through message-boards and in the parks.
As the article notes, there's a long history of counterculture at Disney parks, from the Yippie invasion to the goth takeover of Tomorrowland prior to the New Tomorrowland renovation. This sort of thing was my direct inspiration for proposing a fan takeover of Disney in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and the goth redesign of Fantasyland in Makers.
The presence of counterculture/bohemians in Disneyland shows how appropriation runs in two directions, and also points to a new direction in fraternal organizations. The activities of Disneyland's social clubs -- Neverlanders, Pix Pak, Black Death Crew, Main Street Elite -- would be recognizable to my grandparents, who were active in groups like Kiwanis and B'nai Brith, and who unwound with their friends through bowling and card-games and multi-family picnics.
Read the rest
In this interview with Boom Magazine, Kim Stanley Robinson discusses the relationship of California to the future. Robinson is a profound ecological thinker, and two of his books in particular, Pacific Edge (the best utopian/optimistic novel I've ever read) and 2312 (a dazzling work of environmentally conscious, wildly imaginative eco-futurism) are both important works for thinking about a way out of our current dire situation.
In this interview, Robinson's analysis is particularly cogent, making a microcosm out of California for the whole world, and making important points about the way that good technology is key to any answer to questions about humanity's future on and off Earth. Especially worth reading are his views on the relationship of science to capitalism:
"Capitalism’s effect on humanity is not at all what science’s effect is on humanity. If you say science is nothing but instrumentality and capitalism’s technical wing, then you’re saying we’re doomed. Those are the two most powerful social forces on the planet, and now it’s come to a situation of science versus capitalism. It’s a titanic battle. One is positive and the other negative. We need to do everything we can to create democratic, environmental, utopian science, because meanwhile there is this economic power structure that benefits the few, not very different from feudalism, while wrecking the biosphere. This is just a folk tale, of course, like a play with sock puppets, like Punch and Judy. But I think it describes the situation fairly well."
Read the rest
California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of a man said to have owned and operated a so-called revenge porn website. According to the arrest warrant (PDF), the site operated by Kevin Christopher Bollaert published over 10,000 sexually explicit photos. The young women who appeared in these images, some of whom were minors at the time they were taken, were charged up to $350 each to be removed from the site.
California Department of Justice agents arrested Bollaert, 27, in San Diego where he lived. He is in San Diego County jail on $50,000 bail, and has been charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. If he is convicted, penalties may include jail time and fines.
The arrest warrant is well worth a read. It includes the stories of a number of young women who ended up physically exposed and personally identified on the internet against their will. In some cases, private photos made their way online after their accounts were hacked or phones snatched. The women speak about how that violation damaged their lives and destroyed their sense of privacy.
During an in-person interview with two special agents, Bollaert bemoaned the burden of all those emails he was receiving from young women and teens, asking for images to be removed -- a service he charged hundreds of bucks for.
"At the beginning this was like fun and entertaining," he said to the agents, "But now it's ruining my life." At the end of the meeting, the agents served him with search warrants.
Read the rest
Mark wrote in July that Lt John Pike, the UC Davis cop who attained notoriety after he sadistically hosed down seated, peaceful protesters with pepper spray, jetting it directly down their throats and into their eyes, had applied for worker's comp for the psychiatric injuries resulting from everyone in the world thinking he was a horrible, horrible person.
Now he has been awarded $38K by California's Division of Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. He left his job (which paid nearly $120K), and has had to change addresses and phone numbers several times to dodge harassment from his detractors. Davis settled a lawsuit by the protesters he sprayed for $1M.
Read the rest
Last weekend, my family had a wonderful meal at Casa de Fruta, an RV resort, motel, candy shop, wine store, gas station, and restaurant in the Pacheco Valley of Northern California. There is also an operational scale model train for the kiddos to ride. The terrific painting at right hangs in the restaurant. I posted it to my Instagram feed and included the full caption of the plaque above it: "Eugene A. Zanger, co-owner of Casa de Fruita, flipped over 3 million cups 1969-1999. Appeared on David Letterman Show 12/23/87. Enjoying retirement." Above is video of Mr. Zanger's appearance on Letterman.
On a train from Portland to Oakland last week, my husband and I were startled to pass the rotting carcasses of dozens of battleships, moored together in clusters in a still, reedy bay north of San Francisco.
Turns out, our Navy stockpiles warships the same way we stockpile nuclear weapons. These boats were, originally, meant to be waiting in reserve, ready to go fight when needed. At the peak, there were 400 of them in Suisun Bay. But that was a long time ago. Today, the ships rusted hulks that leech heavy metals and other contaminants into the surrounding water. Their numbers have been shrinking in the last few years as ships were moved and dismantled for recycling. Fewer than 55 remain today. By 2017, they should all be gone.
In 2011, photographer Scott Haefner published a series of photos taken over the course of two years as he and two other photographers managed to slip past the ships' security detail and document the ruins, inside and out. At his site, you can see the photos (obviously much better than mine, above) and read the story of how the shots were taken (it involves reconnaissance missions and the purchase of an inflatable raft — not to mention whole weekends spent living aboard the ghost ships). The results are fantastic.
Thanks to Graham Coop for the link to Scott Haefner's photos!
Kern County deputies are accused of savagely beating a man to death while he begged for his life and then intimidating witnesses into giving up their cameras and phones in a coverup. The victim, David Sal Silva, was a 33-year-old father of four, and is alleged to have been publicly intoxicated in Bakersfield, CA, when Kern County deputies and California Highway Patrol officers began to beat him. After he was dead, the officers are said to have then systematically intimidated all witnesses into giving up their cameras and phones:
John Tello, a criminal law attorney, is representing two witnesses who took video footage and five other witnesses to the incident. He said his clients are still shaken by what they saw.
"When I arrived to the home of one of the witnesses that had video footage, she was with her family sitting down on the couch, surrounded by three deputies," Tello said.
Tello said the witness was not allowed to go anywhere with her phone and was being quarantined inside her home.
When Tello tried to talk to the witness in private and with the phone, one of the deputies stopped him and told him he couldn't take the phone anywhere because it was evidence to the investigation, the attorney said.
"This was not a crime scene where the evidence was going to be destroyed," Tello said. "These were concerned citizens who were basically doing a civic duty of preserving the evidence, not destroying it as they (sheriff deputies) tried to make it seem."
A search warrant wasn't presented to either of the witnesses until after Tello arrived, he said, adding that one phone was seized before the warrant was produced.
Tello said the phone of the first witness was taken after the deputies told him he was either going to give up the phone the easy way or the hard way.
"They basically told him they were either going to keep him at this house all night until they could find a judge to sign a search warrant or he could just turn over his phone," he said.
Dad who died during arrest 'begged for his life'; witness videos seized
Atmospheric rivers are meteorological phenomenon that we humans only discovered in 1998 and which supply about 30-to-50 percent of California's annual precipitation. In the NOAA satellite image above, the atmospheric river is visible as a thin yellow arm, reaching out from the Pacific to touch California. Or, more evocatively, reaching out to slap California silly with a gushing downpour.
An atmospheric river is a narrow conveyor belt of vapor about a mile high that extends thousands of miles from out at sea and can carry as much water as 15 Mississippi Rivers. It strikes as a series of storms that arrive for days or weeks on end. Each storm can dump inches of rain or feet of snow.
The real scare, however, is that truly massive atmospheric rivers that cause catastrophic flooding seem to hit the state about once every 200 years, according to evidence recently pieced together (and described in the article noted above). The last megaflood was in 1861; rains arrived for 43 days, obliterating Sacramento and bankrupting the state.
As you might guess, climate change is also involved. Evidence suggests that warming global temperatures could increase the frequency of atmospheric rivers. That, combined with the 200-year event expected soon and the fact we're learning so much much more about these storms, means that you should expect to hear the phrase "atmospheric river" more often.
Scientific American has two interesting stories on the phenomenon right now. The first, which I quote from above, is a blog post by Mark Fischetti. The second is a much longer feature story that gets into the forces that cause these storms and the climate change connection.
"OnCentral," a KPCC/Southern California Public Radio reporting project focused on the communities of South LA, has published a terrific series of very detailed posts by José Martinez on graffitti and gang tagging. Here's part one, here's part two, and here's part three, just published today. The latter digs in to the nuances of gang tags that indicate hostile conversations between gangs, or specific gang members; and tags that reveal the presence of Mexican Mafia or various gangs acting in collaboration with local businesses. The snapshot above shows a handpainted sign on a liquor shop in the area, bearing the name of that shop—but it contains a hidden symbol for one of these organized crime groups, suggesting that the liquor store is in cahoots. (via Tony Pierce)
Marty Halpern sez, "Help me find a home for my father's (he passed away in 1998, my mother passed away this past October) hand-designed Wild West whiskey bottle collection. By 'hand-designed' I mean my father designed the bottles himself. The home would hopefully be in Southern California to avoid packing and shipping these 30-odd full-size (and breakable) whiskey bottles."
Wild West Show Closing Down....
So, as I said, there are about thirty of the individual, full-size bottles, and I need to find a home for them. If I can find the right home, I would be more than happy to "donate" the entire set. I have already contacted Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, but their representative informed me that they already have so many items in storage that they are being forced to dispose of them. I have also contacted the Anaheim Historical Society and the Orange County Archives -- all to no avail. I am hoping to find a home for these in Southern California to avoid packing and shipping them outside the area, which would be very expensive (a minimum of eleven boxes at least), with no guarantee that every bottle would survive the journey.
If you can think of a resource, an organization, an individual, etc. in the Southern Cal area who might be interested, please do have them contact me, and/or post a comment below. There are already offers on my parents' house so I may only have a few weeks at most to relocate these decanters. They are all up for adoption, but I'd like to keep all the children together (at least those that are still left2) if at all possible.
Now that California's video-game censorship law has been struck down by the courts, the state finds itself $2 million poorer, having had to pay the legal expenses of all the vendors they sued under it.
A bit over half a decade ago when California legislators felt entitled to protect children across their state by restricting sales of violent video games struck me as deeply amusing from the onset. Not because it would end up costing the state roughly $2 Million in legal fees after a failed appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court nor out of the sheer disregard for the First Amendment. But because the sheer bureaucratic arrogance on the parts of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, the Governor of California and State Attorney during this time in believing it was their responsibility to discern what content children should or shouldn’t have exposure...
Created by California lawmaker Former San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Leland Yee, now a senator, in the hopes of curbing children’s access to games that allow for assassination, violent crimes, rape, etc. – the law would have fined retailers $1000 for each instance of selling a game to a child that depicted any sort of terrifyingly horrible act that could teach children the crimes in games versus reality are exactly on par. Yee also made a provision in the law that violence in a game would be visibly denoted by some sort of label on the packaging, a measure already taken by the game industry’s ESRB.
California's struck down video game law saddles state with $2 Million bill
From Jay Rosen, "Excerpt from UC Davis 2010-2012 General Catalog":
176. Introduction to Pepper Spray. (3) Lecture— 3 hours. Prerequisite: Crowd Control Through Chemicals 122B. Basic uses of pepper spray in threatening, semi-threatening and completely non-threatening and utterly peaceful situations. Common spraying techniques. Overview of rationalization methods. Color choices. Jackboot styles.
177. Advanced Pepper Spraying. (3) Lecture— 3 hours. Prerequisite: Introduction to Pepper Spray 176. Calculating optimum angles in spraying situations. Spraying seated vs. standing persons. History and development of chemical warfare against inconvenient demonstrations. Elements of CYA: basics and best practices.
178: Pepper Spray Practicum. (3). Laboratory— 3 hours. Prerequisite: Advanced Pepper Spraying 177. Working in teams, students locate sites where individuals are exercising so-called First Amendment rights and develop a strategy for spraying them. Emphasis on intimidation and staying calm under awesome hippie threat. Teams are held responsible for escaping responsibility and insulating higher-ups.
Excerpt from UC Davis 2010-2012 General Catalog
A new material developed by scientists at UC Irvine is described as the "world's lightest material," so light it can perch atop a dandelion clock without disturbing the seeds. The material is documented in the Nov 18 Science.
The new material redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture. The researchers were able to make a material that consists of 99.99 percent air by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales. “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,” said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL.
The material’s architecture allows unprecedented mechanical behavior for a metal, including complete recovery from compression exceeding 50 percent strain and extraordinarily high energy absorption.
Multidisciplinary team of researchers develop world’s lightest material
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
(Image: Dan Little, HRL Laboratories LLC)