UC Berkeley Professor Dr. Gray Brechin gives a history lesson of San Francisco's "Imperial Dreams", drawing on the model of Ancient Rome. He discusses the immense environmental impacts that mining and logging had on the city's contado (Italian for hinterland). He argues that the technological advancements in mining played a key role in warfare and of all things the skyscraper, and that thanks to fracking California's attitude to new energy less resembles leadership and more one-foot-on-the-accelerator-one-foot-on-the-brake.
Dr. Brechin shares the large and uncomfortable role that UC Berkeley (and the wider UC Regents) had and still has in the development and delivery systems of nuclear weapons, lifting Ernest Lawrence to heroic status, while largely ignoring the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
His three wishes include Prop. 13 reform, investing in public education and that the digital generation puts down their devices long enough to see what's really going on.
He closes this first part with the real danger under which Californians place themselves in their built environment, sharing among others, the real risk of fire in the next big earthquake, repeating San Francisco's catastrophic experience of 1906.
Part two, to be aired later this month, will include Mono Lake's near-death experience and how Dr. Brechin and his colleagues used the public interest doctrine in the early 1980s to save it. Other themes include the West's water wars, the dismantling of large projects, Governor Pat and Jerry Brown's legacies, bullet trains and his favourite place.
Gray Brechin is the author of Imperial Dreams: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin and Farewell, Promised Land - Waking from the California Dream, both published by UC Press.
In this second episode with Lewis MacAdams, Founder of the Friends of the LA River, the discussion turns to the River's best spots (including canoeing), FoLAR's advocacy regarding the 6th street bridge and his best and worst experiences. He goes on to discuss his art, his book The Birth of the Cool (to be an HBO series) and LA's East Bank as the next SoHo. Lewis closes up the conversation by sharing the importance of a sense of humour in the face of so much adversity.
Please note that after the brief introduction, the episode begins with Lewis discussing progress of his 40-year artwork, which partially repeats the closing of the first episode (approximately three minutes).
Lewis MacAdams, Founder of the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), has looked the impossible in the face and stared it down. Taking on the Quixotic campaign of transforming the LA River, which Wim Wenders described as violent and dangerous in the 1980s, MacAdams and his Friends have been speaking on behalf of the River for thirty years. They have created a critical mass to transform the former "flood control channel" created in the 1930s back to its natural state.
A major victory took place just a few weeks ago when it was agreed to take out eleven miles of concrete of the 52-mile long river, giving nature its first real opportunity to recover after nearly four generations.
In this first of two episodes, MacAdams provides an extensive introduction to the LA River. He recalls throwing himself in front of bulldozers (minute 7), the role of the adjacent communities (minute 13), his preferred bureaucracy and champions such as LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and Governor Jerry Brown (minute 17) and a progress report after 30 years of his intended 40-year artwork (minute 23).
Throughout our talk, MacAdams shows humour, humility, honesty and an improvised creativity. He and his team have shown resilience and fortitude that has been to the LA River's advantage.
The next episode will air in late September and cover the best spots on the river, its architecturally stunning bridges, Lewis's best and worst experience, whether FoLAR is cool and the concept of LA's East Bank as the next SoHo.
Through her multi-media projects on the Salton Sea, Highway Five, the State’s never-ending saga of water distribution and currently the Mojave desert, artist Kim Stringfellow has doggedly uncovered the complexities and little-known history in California’s hinterland.
In this 35-minute interview, Kim discusses her major projects, her development as an artist and her 100-mile view in Joshua Tree (!), providing interesting insight into some of the characters, players and issues that not only impact California’s periphery, but have implications for the rest of the Golden State.
Bertolt Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger, Fritz Lang, Thomas Mann, Arnold Schoenberg - names which heavily contributed to Germany’s 20th century intellectual history. What unites these cultural giants is their choice of exile during the rise of Adolph Hitler - Los Angeles.
The Soul of California is pleased to have UCLA Professor Dr. Ehrhard Bahr on the programme, author of Weimar on the Pacific - German Exile Culture and the Crisis of Modernism. In this 35+ minute interview, Dr. Bahr covers a range of topics including the circumstances in which these writers, artists and musicians came to the United States, their reception once they arrived and the ups an downs of being in exile while their own country Germany was being led into hell.
Dr. Bahr discusses the role of Los Angeles in German cultural history, from the salons which were an extension of life in Berlin to the strained relationships between some of these pivotal figures and their difficulties in representing Germany in their adopted land.
The Golden Gate and Bay bridges have not only heavily contributed to the iconic San Francisco skyline, they serve as a collective engineering and aesthetic tour de force.
Architect Donald MacDonald, whose work continues on the redesigned Bay Bridge, gives an extensive overview of both bridges and thier places in San Francisco's history. Covering the politics and the financial history of each bridge, MacDonald moves on to discuss seismic measures, environmental impact, the "bridge aesthetic" (design) and how some cities are branding themselves through their iconic bridges.
Just east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs became and has remained the home of the architectural movement known as Desert Modernism.
In this 50-minute podcast, Alan Hess sets the movement in the historical context of post-World War II America and the rise of the recreational economy, describes the design and structural/material aspects which distinguish it from other movements and then covers the region's topographical and climatic conditions, the movement's core architects such as Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, William Cody, E. Stewart Williams and William Krisel, as well as how desert modernism has managed to maintain its allure over the years.
John Steinbeck, one of American's literary giants, is the author of amongst others, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck highlighted the plight of America's workers who migrated west to California in the 1930s, drawing not only critical acclaim, but also intense criticism from landowners and politicians.
Dr. Susan Shillinglaw, Director of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, reflects on his miniscule handwriting, his love for the natural world, his eye for detail and the one item that epitomises Steinbeck's soul for her.
This 50-minute podcast includes Steinbeck's 1962 Nobel Peace Prize speech, discussing the role of the writer and the importance of literature. The speech is generously made available by Swedish Radio.
In this 40-minute interview, "barroom guitarist" (and Grammy Winner) Dave Alvin discusses a range of topics including recording Big Bill Broonzy songs with his brother Phil, his first songwriting lesson (barely a teen) from Big Joe Turner, sneaking into L.A's Ashgrove Club as a kid and his close relationship with musician Chris Gaffney.
Along the way, Alvin gives listeners a glimpse into his songwriting technique and production stye, his love of ghost towns, "shining buckles" in Nashville West, his recording future and what makes California so unique.
A very personal, honest, funny and touching portrait of one of California's, indeed America's, leading musicians.