Tag Archives: California


28 Mar

Few phrases are as evocative of a mythical, imagined urban past as “Brooklyn Dodgers.”

Those two words, particularly in the borough that is now a punch line for hipster jokes, bring to mind a different America, one where the U.S. saw itself as more of a political innocent just discovering its global superpowers, where hardworking immigrant families advanced rapidly into the middle class, and where young people survived on a diet of knishes, homemade pasta, kielbasa, and other foods from the old country (but rarely drank anything stronger than a milkshake). The nostalgia evoked by the phrase “Brooklyn Dodgers” was broad enough to include African-Americans making steady advances into the promise of full citizenship, symbolized by the integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson and the excellence of his teammates, from Roy Campanella to Don Newcombe.

Those fantasies—of the Dodgers, of baseball, of America—came crashing down in 1957. It was announced that winter that the Dodgers and their uptown rivals the Giants, who made their home in Harlem, would leave New York the following year for Los Angeles and San Francisco.

This move West, still decried in Brooklyn and among older New Yorkers, changed how Americans thought about baseball and the country.

So begins Columbia University professor Lincoln Mitchell’s summary of his book on the westward move of baseball in the 1950s. You may read the entire Zocalo Public Square post here.


18 Mar

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Is this heaven, or Redding?

These days, the city of 91,000 at the north end of the Sacramento Valley, seems to sit halfway between the godly and the earthly—and not just because of the divine spectacles of nearby Mounts Shasta and Lassen. At the heart of Redding stands a quintessentially California church with a focus on community impact so intense you could almost call it supernatural.

Bethel Church may not be a household name in California, but it should be. Because there is no other institution in our state better at engaging with its hometown than Bethel and its 11,000-plus members.

So begins Joe Mathews’ report on Bethel Church and Redding, California. You may read the entire Zocalo Public Square story here.

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How California Turned Into a ‘State of Resistance’

27 Apr

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

What California’s Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Mean for America’s Future
By Manuel Pastor
277 pp. The New Press. $26.99.

For a few decades after World War II, California seemed a showcase of what America could and would become. From Hollywood, Disneyland and the Beach Boys’ surf cities, its pop culture radiated eastward across the continent, and beyond. Its freeways and sprawling suburbs seemed to represent the new American residential model. Its ambitions for public parks and education were stupendous. Within a five-year early-1960s span during the sun-king administration of Gov. Pat Brown, father of the current Gov. Jerry Brown, the University of California system opened three new campuses: at San Diego, Irvine and Santa Cruz, all now major research centers.

So begins James Fallows’ review of a new book on California. You may read the rest of his review at the New York Times here

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Meet Buster, the rooster who can skate

20 Oct

A rooster named Buster roller skates and ice skates. See the 1952 photos and hear the story by the then-photographer of the LA Times: From the Archives: Meet Buster, the rooster who can skate – LA Times

How Old West Theme Parks Misrepresent Our Collective Cultural History

13 Sep

At the Pacific Standard, Amanda Tewes astutely examines the Ghost Town, California version of the “Old West.” As the nation debates monuments and public memory, it’s important to understand how other cultural sites help people learn (false) history. Read her piece here: How Old West Theme Parks Misrepresent Our Collective Cultural History – Pacific Standard

The Illustrious History of the Avocado

24 May

Avocados had an important place in Mesoamerican peoples’ diet, mythology, and culture. It’s possible that they were eaten in Mexico 10,000 years ago. Digest this concise history of the avocado by Erin Blakemore at JSTOR Daily: The Illustrious History of the Avocado | JSTOR Daily

130,000-year-old mastodon bones could rewrite story of how humans first appeared in the Americas 

27 Apr

Shattered mastodon bones from a Southern California site bear the scars of human activity from 130,700 years ago, a team of scientists says — pushing back the generally accepted date that humans are thought to have settled North America by a whopping 115,000 or so years.

If verified and corroborated by other scientists, the discovery described in the journal Nature could radically rewrite the timeline of when humans first arrived in the Americas.

Read the rest of the story by Amina Khan of the Los Angeles Times here: 130,000-year-old mastodon bones could rewrite story of how humans first appeared in the Americas – LA Times

Exploring the Past

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"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

The Way of Improvement Leads Home

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

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The website and blog of historian Chris Gehrz

Reformed Journal: The Twelve

Reformed. Done Daily.


by Alex Scarfe


Thoughtful Conversation about the American West

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"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

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