Thursday, September 9, 2010

Geography of The Garden

Echoing the pattern we started for New York Day, Pam wrote about the film The Garden for this blog, and I wrote about it as a geographer -- in an article called "Garden Tales"  -- for Wiley GeoDiscoveries.

I have not been in California for more than 15 years, but I had the good fortune of criss-crossing it a few times, as described briefly on my County Map Project page for California.

California - September 9, 1850

My first memories of California are tied to my first memory of flying on a plane. The year was 1971. Iwas seven years old. My mother, sister, brother and I all flew to San Francisco to visit my grandparents, who had recently moved to Petaluma, California after their retirement. I have since realized that I must have flown on one of the original 747 "Jumbo Jets" during that trip, which started flying commercially in 1970. This was back when flying was a true "event" - people were excited to be going on a plane. Since that time I have lost count of the number of flights I've been on. Somewhere in the triple digits. Flying is no longer an event. There is no excitement - just something to be endured.

As a librarian, I really get a kick out of  reading books about books. In Allegra Goodman's novel, The Cookbook Collector I got insight into the world of the rare book trade, as well an intimate look into the psyche of a collector. In an almost other worldly parallel plot line, I found out all kinds of things I didn't know that I didn't know about Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

The Cookbook Collector is possibly the first novel I've read in which the events of 9/11 play a pivital role. I may have read other books which had the tragedy as a background to some other events, but in Goodman's book, the main characters are directly effected. It was especially jarring to read about the memorial services of two victims, major players in a "dot com" start-up company, and the callous way that the company then uses the government's new emphasis on security to roll out a new product on the same day.

Much of the action in this book takes place in Yorick's used bookstore, which tangentially leads to two mentions of libraries:

"He might of considered donating some of the acquisions to deserving libraries, but he preferred to play the open market...More than once at auctions, he broke librarians hearts, only to flip his purchases to other private dealers."

"...she was becoming a researcher, tracing gorgeous threads, preparing a catalogue raisonne of the McClintock Collection, corresponding with scholars and librarians at the Schlesinger and the Huntington, and at universities around the world." I must admit that this makes it look like librarians are not scholars, so I was a bit miffed about the way it was worded.

The Garden
This documentary relates the story of the South Central Farmers, who cultivated a community garden in the aftermath of the riots following the trial of the police officers who took part in the Rodney King beating in 1992. The land was bought by LA county from the wealthy landowner, but sold back (15 years later?) to the same person for the same $5 million dollars they paid for it. Following the sale, the Farmers received a notice of eviction, unless they raised $16 milliion to purchase the land. However, even after they raised the entire amount, the owner refused to sell. This movie brought up issues of classism, racism, and ultimately, loyalties. It was especially disheartening to me to see some of the people opposed to selling the farm to the farmers questioning the farmers integrities by suggesting that selling the food they grew was not an appropriate use of the land, as if (poor) people who didn't till the land themselves didn't deserve to eat good food. And more disheartening still:  the farmers responded to this by telling those who had more than 3 plots of land that they could no longer cultivate all of their sections. This new "inside rule" tore into the Farmer's community in a way that outside forces never could.

For more on the South Central Farmers see
For more information about the movie see

And for a related story see this from National Public Radio

California - It's all about the wine!
We jumped the gun on our California "meal" a bit, and celebrated on September 6, Labor Day, so that we could enjoy the company of some friends. We did not look into planning a menu so much as we planned the wine list. James couldn't resisit a bottle of Line 39 wine which included a map of California on the label. The name of the wine refers to the line of latitude where the grades are grown. We also enjoyed some Madria Sangria which I served with apple slices in my new Sangria pitcher, purchased from the Hostpial Thrift Store on Nantucket. We drank the wine and nibbled on chips. I thank my friends Brendan and Amelia for providing the homemade guacamole dip, and Lisa and Rob for the homemade salsa. Yum. We also had cedar-smoked salmon, and a gigantic "zuccanoe"stuffed with rice and veggies. The women sat around eating the chips and dip, and drinking the wine while the men, in the true California-Sensitive-New-Age-Guy tradition prepared everything else.

...and one more thing
I found this article from the New York Times regarding the State Rock (serpentine) truly disturbing. Are people really willing to go to the mat for getting rid of the state rock designation because the contains some harmful minerals? Do they understand that the rock won't go away by changing the designation?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New York supplement: More on No Impact Man

Pam wrote about the film No Impact Man as part of the original post on New York Day. James wrote about the film from a geographer's perspective for the Wiley GeoDiscoveries blog.