SCHOLAR'S NOTEBOOK - November/December 2011

 Your Holiday Party Invitation is in this Notebook.

 

WRITING ABOUT  AMERICAN INDIANS: 

FEAR AND STAMINA

 

CATHERINE C. ROBBINS

Saturday, November 19, 2011

1:30 p.m.

Room 111-A Chancellor’s Complex, UCSD Campus

 

In her 2011 book, All Indians Do Not Live in Teepees (or Casinos), Cathy Robbins traces the restorative effect of repatriation in areas such as economic development, urbanization, the arts, science, and health care. The book's introduction is set at Point Loma in San Diego and features a Jamul elder.

Although Robbins drew on already published stories, she also conducted extensive research, and she needed about seven years to complete the book. "For a reporter used to spending a few days or even just hours on a story, I had to develop stamina--and a new level of attention span!"

Robbins's "fear" began almost as soon as she started considering Teepees/Casinos. She asked herself, "Who am I, a white lady, to be writing about American Indians?" What she learned while doing the book also surprised her continually. "I monitored my reactions and perspective; romanticism about Indians went out the window." Finally, the magnitude of the project rattled her. "I had never written anything larger than about 3000 words. The book's text is about 300 pages of text. The task of managing that many words was daunting.” 

Through dozens of interviews, Robbins draws out the voices of Indian people.  The result is a rich account of Native American life in contemporary America: not a monolithic “Indian” experience of teepees or casinos, but rather a mosaic of diverse peoples on a continuum that marks both their distinctions and their shared realities. According to Publishers Weekly, “…as a first book it is a marvel.”

Cathy, a former SDIS member and Scholar’s Notebook editor, has spent twenty-five years as an independent journalist and writer, and her stories about American Indians have appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times. After nearly 40 years of living in New Mexico, Robbins and her husband now reside in San Francisco. She wrote much of Teepees/Casinos while living in San Diego from 2005-2009.

 

From the President   

About fifty years have passed since Citizens Coordinate, a San Diego citizens group, began promoted the then controversial concept of city planning. The work of that group, also known by the rather mysterious name “C3,” was the subject of our October SDIS General Meeting.

Our speaker recounted many of C3’s specific accomplishments and discussed the book on this subject written by the late Clare Crane, a long-time active member of SDIS. Her book, Citizens Coordinate, is subtitled, The Battle for City Planning in San Diego.

Consider the situation when Citizens Coordinate started in 1961. In many ways the underlying problems half a century ago resemble those which face us today though every particular is different. Crane cites Wally Homitz of San Diego Magazine who stated in 1961, “In San Diego, aircraft employment skidded, housing starts sagged and business bankruptcies mounted.”

The proper role of government was also controversial at that time, as it is now. Today some of the debate about the role of government centers on health care issues. During 1961 in San Diego, the debate centered on the proper role of government in land use planning; as Crane tells us, a San Diego referendum actually was successful in overturning the City Council’s adoption of the General Plan for San Diego. This occurred during the Cold War at a time when, according to Crane, “the very concept of government planning of any kind was suspect.”

The introduction to Crane’s book starts with a Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”  

Is changing the world a part of the SDIS mission? No, certainly not directly. The new SDIS Brochure in part states, “The mission of SDIS is twofold: First, we provide a welcoming and congenial environment for the intellectual community… which we hope enriches our lives and promotes independent scholarship. Second, we encourage the individual interested in producing scholarly work in the arts, humanities, and the sciences.” (See also the “About Us” tab at the SDIS website, www.sdscholars.org.)

If SDIS’s mode of fostering and encouraging independent scholarship is to trigger change it will occur indirectly in one of two ways: first, through the power of an individual member’s scholarly analysis which reveals a compelling reason for change, and second, through SDIS events which reveal to visitors the deep pleasures of a life of the mind and the value of community with others similarly inclined. Neither of these consequences will occur without suitable outreach — publication of the scholarly analysis in the first instance, and public outreach by SDIS in the second.

Of course, scholarly goals are routinely embedded in academic institutions. The distinctive aspect of SDIS is that it serves people outside the academic establishment. SDIS is a small group, not widely known in the San Diego community at large. The SDIS Board is working to expand outreach and has encouraged all members to spread the word to others who may find personal value in what SDIS has to offer.

Rather than the Margaret Mead quote, for me the following thought captures the sense of potential change implicit in scholarly study: Never underestimate the power of the inquiring mind.                                                                                                           Sam Gusman

 

mission not impossible   

A downtown San Diego museum has antecedents in California’s gold rush, in the nation’s railroad boom, and, sadly, in bigotry.  The San Diego Chinese Historical Museum emerged from this dramatic background to open in 1996 and now occupies two buildings, at 404 Third Avenue and across the street at 328 J Street.

The present Third Avenue building was originally constructed at 643 First Avenue. Erected in 1927 as a place of worship and a social center for Chinese immigrants, its main structure included a meeting hall which could be divided into classrooms for instruction in English, and it featured an 18-room dormitory behind it.  The 1927 construction replaced earlier deteriorating buildings that functioned as the Chinese Mission School, on the fringes of what had become Chinatown.  Originally settling in the heart of the Stingaree or red-light district, Chinese immigrants to San Diego, not eligible for citizenship, clustered together there, taking advantage of low rents and avoiding the hostility of more “respectable” white sections of the city.

From the 1850s through the 1870s Chinese laborers came to California in large numbers to work in the gold fields; in 1860 one of every ten individuals in California was Chinese. Anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco caused many to move south; by 1881 approximately 150 Chinese lived in San Diego, making a living by fishing, farming, and operating laundries and small shops.

Chinatown expanded during the 1880s when the California Southern Railroad was being built through San Diego as a branch line of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, bringing as many as 800 temporary workers to the area. The nation’s Exclusion Acts took effect in 1883, further limiting the aliens; e.g. fishermen could not fish outside of US waters because they risked being denied re-entry. In 1885 a local Anti-Chinese Club was formed, protesting the hiring of Chinese as long as a white man was out of work, and persuading the San Diego Water Company to fire its Chinese employees. But in 1887 numerous Chinese came to San Diego to work for the Coronado Beach Company, building a large hotel. In 1894 the Geary law required registration of Chinese aliens; 561 complied in San Diego County. Chinese began to be smuggled illegally into California from Mexico, and in 1885 the American Home Missionary Association opened a Mission School to teach English and help the laborers deal with the problems they faced in a new and hostile land.  The Mission became a social gathering place, a Christian church and an employment agency as well, both for those who intended to remain and those who returned home.

By the time the new building was constructed in 1927, the Police and Health Departments had cleaned up the Stingaree district. Chinatown became more livable; new construction enabled new and legitimate businesses to open. Increasing numbers of male immigrants brought wives to San Diego, and family life prospered. By 1933 San Diego’s Chinese population was said to be 400.

The present museum is testimony to the growth and strength of our city’s Chinese community.  In 1986 the San Diego Chinese Historical Society came into being to rescue the 1927 building from the path of redevelopment. Located outside the proposed Asian Pacific Historic District, it was saved from demolition by fundraising and by the City’s approval of a plan to relocate and renovate the building within the proposed district.  Hence the opening of the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum in 1996 at its Third Avenue location.

The mission of SDCHM is to collect, preserve and share the Chinese American experience and Chinese history, culture and art in order to educate the local diverse community. Through exhibits, lectures, Chinese holiday celebrations and educational programs onsite and in schools, and with the support of over 800 members, the former Mission is carrying out its new mission with enthusiasm and success. Expansion became necessary in order to house the donated collections; in 2004 a Capital Funds Campaign raised $900,000, enabling purchase of the J Street space and its transformation into a modern gallery.

  Named the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Extension, it houses cloisonné, jade, ceramics, works by Chinese master artists, changing displays of significant artifacts loaned to the museum, and a library.  The Chinese and English language books there are available for research on site, by appointment. Notable and on permanent display are dollhouse-size models of actual businesses and homes from San Diego’s old Chinatown, accurately researched and detailed down to a miniscule mousetrap, by Lois Wittner, a professor at Mesa College. Notable also is the large statue in front of the building, of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, unifier of that country.  Sculpted in China, it was purchased with funds from San Diego County.

The current exhibit, “Interwoven Traditions” is of intricately embroidered garments and elaborate jewelry from seven minority ethnic peoples of modern China and from the Han majority.  The extravagantly detailed items are the collection of Dr. James Kemp.

In the Third Avenue renovated buildings are artifacts and photographs from our city’s old Chinatown, and such wonders as a bridal carriage from Shanxi Province and a famous warlord’s alcove bed from Sichuan Province.  The oldest object in the museum’s permanent collection is a Buddha head from the “Heavenly Dragon Mountain Grottoes” in Shanxi Province , dating from the Qi Dynasty, 550-577 CE. Behind the Mission building is a serene Asian garden designed by the museum’s executive director, Dr. Alexander Chuang, and landscape architect Joseph Yamada.

Part of the museum’s outreach is “From China to Gold Mountain’s Finest City” (Gold Mountain was the first Chinese immigrants’ name for California.), an exhibit in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport. A new property to house additional classroom and research space, as well as growing collections, has been purchased and is being remodeled.

The museum—both buildings—is open Tuesday-Saturday 10:30a.m.-4p.m., and Sunday 12 noon-4p.m. For a more detailed history of the Mission, see the Spring 1977 issue of the Journal of San Diego History, San Diego Historical Society Quarterly.

Gerry Horwitz

             

STUDY GROUPS

Colloquy Café

The Colloquy Café study group will discuss "Passion" on Wednesday, November 16, at 1:30 p.m. If you are interested in attending contact Mary Ellen Stratthaus at her email address listed in the SDIS directory.

 

Culture

The Culture study group will continue its focus on the issues described in Chapter 8 (Who Deserves What: Aristotle) of Justice: What's The Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel on Thursday, November 17, at 2:00 p.m. If you are interested in attending, contact Sam Gusman at sagus@sbcglobal.net.

 

Film

TheFilm Groupwill meet Wednesday, November 2, at the home of Barbara Heckler.  At 12:00 p.m. we will view the 2010 Canadian film (in French and Arabic) Incendies.  If you have already viewed the film, discussion will begin at 2:30 p.m.  On Wednesday, December 7, at 12:30 p.m., we will view a 2004 documentary The Singing Revolution, the story of Estonia’s use of public singing in its peaceful and successful revolution against Soviet occupation.  Contact Barbara at bheckler@san.rr.com for information.

Literature

The Literature Group will begin its fall season with a discussion of Ben Jonson's "magnificent if rather dreadful comedy" titled Volpone, or the Fox. Cathy Blecki will chair the meeting, which will be held Monday, November 14, at 10:30 a.m. in the home of Marcus Klein. Bring a brown bag lunch.  Contact Harry Boyle at hhboyle28@cox.net for more information.

Science (aka Brain)

The next meeting of the Science Group is scheduled for Monday, November 21, at 2 p.m. in Bea Rose's apartment to discuss Chapter 5, "Networking: Genes, Brains, and Behavior," of Patricia Churchland's book, Braintrust. Although visitors are welcome, if you wish to attend, please call Bea Rose at 858- 458-9263 or email rose2737@roadrunner.com because space is limited.

Works in Progress

Saturday, Oct. 22, Judith Green discussed her interpretation of hieroglyphs and iconography on an ancient Mayan ceramic bowl.  She is working with other scholars to understand how these precious painted vessels commemorated first blood-letting rite of a young heir to a kingdom.  She will present her work at Calgary conference in November.  For November, no work is on the WIP docket, and we may have some short fiction for review in January.  Stay tuned.

 

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH MARY ELLEN STRATTHAUS

Mary Ellen is another member who thinks her interview wouldn’t be very interesting.  But just you wait and see!

Barbara Heckler

Q.  In the early days of your career, you worked for a TV production company.  The atmosphere in the entertainment industry is sometimes depicted as crazy and frenetic.   Was it like that for you?

A.  Unlike many SDIS members, I never had a career.  While working and going to school part-time, my interest shifted from advertising to sociology and then to TV/film.  When I realized I could work in the entertainment industry without a degree, I quit school to work full-time for Van Bernard Productions, the company owned by Red Skelton that had produced Lost in Space and The Ernie Kovacks Show.  I was hired for the final two years of the Skelton show, going from receptionist to assistant to the producer in the final season of the show on NBC.  (Famous person I knew: Stephen Spielberg, a classmate until he quit to go big-time.)

Much of the on-set time in TV is “hurry up and wait,” with the busiest moments being the limited breaks between recording in front of an audience when the writers’ secretary and I would dash across the street to our Burbank offices to type in all the script changes and run back to the NBC studies with photocopies for everyone before taping resumed.

Skelton only came to work on Saturdays, driving back to Cathedral City each Saturday night, so we only had one day to go through rehearsals to get two shows on tape in front of two audiences, hoping we had enough usable material to edit into a 24-minute show.  Skelton’s presence generated contagious tension, since the production people all knew how mercurial he could be and that if he “walked” (left rehearsals to drive back to the desert), about 75 people would be out of luck.  He walked just once the year I worked on the set, stopping briefly to thank one of the extras hired for the day before striding out of the studio, the producer running after him.  About the time NBC opted not to renew the show, I had fallen in love and decided to move to San Diego. (Famous people I saw or talked to:  Mama Cass Elliot who had a “no fat jokes” clause in her contract; the chain-smoking actor who played Kojack; Jerry Lewis; and the three stars of Husbands: John Cassavetes, Peter Falk, and Ben Gazzara who’d stumbled into our viewing room.)

 

Q.  What’s the worst job you ever had?  …the best?

AThe worst job I had was my first in California:  a clerical worker for an all-female collection agency.  I wasn’t a skip tracer, but had to call people who were late on their payments.  It was sad work, but the other women befriended me, a 19-year-old who knew no one in California.

My favorite job was as one of the secretaries in Reproductive Medicine at UCSD’s Medical Center, with an office suite just outside the back door to the main OR where doctors in their bloodied scrubs paused to compare notes, and my Wednesday morning rounds in Pathology where I recorded findings as Kurt Benirschke examined all the placentas from recent deliveries, describing potential or actual problems to medical staff.

 

Q.  In 1996 your research paper, Flaw in the Jewel: Housing Discrimination Against Jews in La Jolla, California was published in American Jewish History.  It was widely read and well received and even cited in a lawsuit relating to the Mount Soledad cross.  Did you have any negative feedback?

A.  Although I knew of people in La Jolla who were positive no anti-Semitism ever existed here, I never heard a negative word about the article, even after the Union-Tribune did a story about it.  I wrote it my first (and last) year in graduate school where we were assigned to produce original research from primary sources.  It was an easy topic to choose since I had heard stories of anti-Semitism in the 50’s; but I lived in a different La Jolla where I was the only available driver in my daughter’s middle school carpool on Jewish holy days; galleries in town featured menorahs; and supermarkets had kosher food sections.  La Jolla had gone from a neighborhood known for trying to keep Jews out to one when a joke used the stereotype of the town being “mainly Jewish” in its punch line.  In short, I wrote how active anti-Semitism existed in La Jolla from the 20s through the mid to late 50s when Roger Revelle warned that the University of California would never build a campus here if anti-Semitism continued.

 

Q.   You’ve written several unpublished novels.  Could you tell me a little about them?

A.  My novels and short stories are mostly based on my own experiences, with a few exceptions.  My childhood, while exciting, wasn’t always safe or secure, and throughout my life I’ve known a variety of colorful people, all good fodder for fiction. 

 

Q.  What are some of your interests outside of SDIS?

A.  Besides a longstanding love of photography and movies, I am particularly interested in brain research, although my understanding is on the layman’s level.  As an outcome of that interest, for four years I’ve been a subject in a UCSD research study of normal aging where I undergo cognitive and fMRI tests annually.  I read a lot, travel frequently, and enjoy the family I have nearby.

 

Q.  Has being a UCSD faculty wife enriched or changed your life in any way?

A.  Yes.   Indeed!  Immeasurably.  Being the spouse of Daniel Steinberg, a retired UCSD Professor of Medicine specializing in cholesterol research, has many benefits, among them accompanying him to world-wide scientific meetings and becoming friends with people I would never have otherwise known.  As far as changing my life, suffice it to say I grew up very poor so, yes, marrying a man of Dan’s background, training, knowledge, enthusiasm and optimism brought much change, all of it positive, into my life and my then 10-year-old daughter’s.  It also gave me an entry into SDIS.

 

Q.  What attracted you to SDIS?

A.  Jean Mayer, an old friend of my husband’s, called to ask if I’d be interested in joining SDIS while I was working on a book about the collisions and coalitions between Blacks and Jews in America, and I thought it would be stimulating to meet people doing similar work, with similar problems.  Although I quit writing that book after finding too many authors’ work with the same focus on bookstores’ remainder tables, I stayed with SDIS and quickly became the Program Chair and Archivist.

 

SPECIAL REQUEST:  If any members, especially past or present Board members, have files that belong in the archives, please send them to me so they can be classified and preserved.

 

NEW MEMBERS

SDIS extends a warm welcome to its newest members:  Zella Brown, whose interests are American history, modern Chinese history, and current events; Beverly Fremont, politics, history, and philosophy; Edith Kamm, nutrition and classics; and Barbara Zimonja, business, finance, marketing and literature.

 

 

 

MISCELLANY

Applications for the Helen Hawkins Grant will be available from President Sam Gusman in January.  Completed applications should be returned by February 28.  See January 2012 Scholar’s Notebook for more information.

A founding member, the late Alice Goldfarb Marquis, bequeathed $1.1 million to UCSD libraries. Her bequest is the second largest in the libraries’ history.

 

IN MEMORIAM

PATRICA TERRY, dear friend, poet, and one of our brilliant scholar-teachers, died on September 17, 2011.  A professor of French literature at Barnard College, Pat came to UCSD with her husband, Robert, in 1984.    Pat recalled a lecture that Robert gave to a SDIS general meeting.  She so enjoyed the people that she joined SDIS and became an active member – secretary for many years.  A faithful participant in the Literature Group, she started its two-year-long study of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.  In Works-in-Progress she shared her translations, and some of her original poetry later published in her book Words of Silence.

A true medievalist, she published translations ranging from The Poems of the Elder Edda to A Collection of Catalan, Spanish, French and Provencal Medieval Folk Poetry.  Her great achievement is her retelling of the Grail story in The Finding of the Grail with Nancy Vine Durling, and in Lancelot and the Lord of the Distant Isles with Samuel N. Rosenburg.  Her French translations varied from the early medieval Song of Roland to her recent work on late nineteenth century poet Jules LaForgue. 

Pat loved all animals, especially horses and dogs.  While living on the East Coast and in France, she rode horses regularly.  She owned, trained, and occasionally showed dogs from varying breeds. During their 59-year marriage, Pat and Robert traveled from the Arctic to Antarctica and many places in between, but their years in Paris were the best.  Besides Robert, Pat leaves a son, Nicolas. 

Catherine Blecki

About SDIS

San Diego Independent Scholars (SDIS) supports unaffiliated writers and researchers and welcomes everyone who appreciates creative and intellectual activities in the humanities, science, and the arts.  SDIS is a non-profit organization and an affiliate of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars. Sam Gusman, President, sagus@sbcglobal.net.

 

Scholar’s Notebook is the newsletter of SDIS. Please send your news for the Notebook to Barbara Heckler, Notebook editor: bheckler@san.rr.com or by mail to 3489 Wellesly Ave, San Diego, CA 92122. The deadline for submissions is the 22nd of the month prior to publication date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOLIDAY PARTY

 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

11:30 am to 2:30 pm

 

Carlsbad-by-the-Sea Retirement Community

2855 Carlsbad Boulevard

 760-720-4580

 

Luncheon Buffet

Salmon or Turkey

Including wine and non-alcoholic beverages

$20.00 per person, members and guests

 

 

Deadline for Reservations: November 20

Make checks payable to SDIS

Also indicate your choice of salmon or turkey

Mail to Marla Jensen

 1615 Bittern Court           Carlsbad, CA 92011

Any questions call Marla Jensen

760-431-6822

 

Directions

Interstate 5 North to Carlsbad Village Drive Exit

West to Carlsbad Boulevard

North to 2855 (between Grand and Christiansen)

 Park on the street around the building

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