Marc Reisner’s book Cadillac Desert covers the history of water in the Western United States. The book looks at the first white explorers to the grand dams, powerplants, and canals of the US Bureau of Reclamation. Reisner took great pains to document the political machinations through 1986. It is a deep dive into the transformation of the American West from…
More from my work-life …
This conversation contains spoilers – how do you talk about this amazing novel without talking about it?
One thing we didn’t get to talk about is the nature of the narration – what is actually known in the novel and what is the narrator making up? What are the stories we tell ourselves? How do they both give us hope and keep us compliant in an unhealthy world filled with inequality?
The “we” of Lee’s novel can only say for sure that Fan left B-Mor (and what a lovely name, be more … what? Dutiful? Compliant?). Once she leaves, there seems to be little evidence that they could actually follow her journey. So they ask themselves, why did she leave duty and home and safety, and what will she face outside these walls?
This novel takes scissors to so many cultural knots … my whole world view unravels in the face of this “we” who both need the hope of escape and the safety of what they know. Is this how history is made?
This is a podcast that I produce at USC, this edition features Raphael Bostic, Sarah Mawhorter, Brettany Shannon, David Sloane, and Tess Thorman
We chose the book A Neighborhood That Never Changes, by Japonica Brown-Saracino. My guests explored how nostalgia and authenticity play a role in how people move into, and out of, neighborhoods.
In the book Brown-Saracino studies residents in four neighborhoods, redefines types of newcomers and how they interact with the standing neighborhood and neighbors. This ethnography, while not the easiest read, has much to say to for anyone interested in the places they live. Place matters – what happens when you move into a place? What happens to the “feel” and “physicality” of the neighborhood? Who else does your decision affect?
The podcast is on iTunes as well, you can listen here or download.
Next Month …
I’m excited about next month’s pick, On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee . This is one of my favorite novels, set in an unsettling near future. This brilliant novel will begin a two month-long look at how envisioning the future is necessary to thinking about the present, and in our line of work, planning for a better future. I planned to be a discussant on this edition – this is a favorite read from last year, but it turns out that I’ll be away for a bit and have to miss it. But you’ll get to meet Jeremy, our amazing student who graduates this year – his last hurrah.
That’s right, and I got such a kick out of it. Let’s just say some faculty weren’t sure we should cover fiction on the podcast, but I’m persevering.
Perhaps The Trial would have been better, but I love the idea of discussing the never-ending bureaucracy of The Castle. That we never really get to an ending, that we aren’t really sure of the main character.
Kafka really knew how to describe the frustration and utter endlessness of dealing with the endless machinations of “the system.” Great, if a bit terrifying read. Maybe every time some customer is on hold, the call center is filled with the sounds of this audio book, in loop forever and ever.
Book 4 in my experimental audio book club with the Bedrosian Center : Beyond the University by Michael S. Roth. One of the fundamental questions – what makes a good citizen in a democracy? Mustn’t a citizen be well-rounded in their education to have the right tools with which to make good decisions voting? Roth gives the reader an overview…
I feel really lucky to be able to do something like this. Book number three in this book club experiment put so many things in perspective. The latest book the faculty discussed is Didier Fassin’s Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing, a study of anti-crime squad in the outskirts of Paris. I’m not even sure anymore how I found…
Another work post.
This time, our faculty discuss California lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom’s book Citizenville.
My opinion? On the whole, this is a pretty dull read. But … he does ask some important questions. What if government could be more agile? What if government were able to take the same risks as business?
I’m not sure he offers real solutions, or even real ideas – but at this point it’s nice to see any politician thinking about the what ifs. The faculty had a good conversation tho.
The Bedrosian Center is experimenting …
An audio book club. We’ll gather 3-4 faculty to discuss a book that has some governance relevance to jaw about it.
This is a huge book, I asked them to keep it to 45 minutes … ha! Our team decided to split it into two segments.
Part 1 addresses Piketty’s grand scholarly undertaking, why a data driven economics book is a sudden “summer” bestseller, as well as some of the economic theory behind Piketty’s now famous equation R > G.
In part 2, our discussion turns to Piketty’s prediction of greater inequality.
if you live in Los Angeles, this might seem vaguely familiar … my dear (awesome) friend is adding some positive street art to the scene.