California, Here I Come: Divorce in the Golden State Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

The author with his kids 1983(San Diego Reader February 24, 2000)

I was trembling, tearing open the envelope, with its official return address, University of California, San Diego, Department of Music, Graduate Division. “I am happy to inform you,” it began — but didn’t I know the rest, hadn’t I known it in my gut for months, ever since I kissed and mailed the application, that my westering dream would, in fact, come true? “The Department of Music is recommending that you be admitted,” and then I couldn’t see the words, for I was crying and running to tell my wife and four-year-old twin sons: We’d be moving to Southern California.

"In Spite of Everything": The Definitive Indefinite Anne Frank Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

anne_frank(Antioch Review Winter 2000, Volume 58, Number 1)

The definitive edition of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, published in English in 1995, restored her original entries which her father, the diary’s compiler in 1947, had deleted from the first edition. Many of the new edition’s reviewers (Or is it readers? Can one "review" Anne Frank’s diary?) have expressed the standard adoring praise. In fact, one writer noted that even the reborn diary’s 30-percent more material "does not alter our basic sense of Anne Frank." I didn’t know we shared the same "basic sense" about her. What is meant, I suspect, is that despite the additions Anne remains a victim par excellence, whose afterlife must forever gather together—and give thanks to—the penitent rememberers of the Holocaust. But studied carefully, away from Anne’s iconolatry, the new edition disrupts this putative notion of her goodness. This version, in Susan Massotty’s brilliant translation, is an even more incisive and tangled human document in its final form than the text which preceded it. It is true that Anne’s anger with her parents and confusion with her own feelings were in the original diary. But now the definitive edition accumulates and intensifies so much more about her inner life that Anne’s self-scrutiny dissuades us from enshrining her "goodness" and challenges us to love her honesty. (Which is what all teenagers seem to want.) This complete text discloses an author whose artistic subtlety and autobiographical truth-telling alone can command reverence.

City of Artless Politics: Rejecting Nancy Rubins Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

nancy_rubin(San Diego Reader December 2, 1999)

On Friday, November 19, the San Diego Convention Center board of director's vote was tied, three for Nancy Rubins's proposed Harbor Drive sculpture—the 102-foot-high, 100-ton arch of 60 cabled-together fiberglass boats—and three against. The deciding vote would come from the board's seventh member, chairman William A. Roper.

"We have a split decision," Roper said. "It's not wrong that we have a difference of opinion, [and] that doesn't make me a bad person. I'd rather not be the tie-breaking vote here."

Before casting his vote, Roper said it was necessary to categorize the responses to Rubins's piece that the board had received: first, the phone calls were "overwhelmingly negative"; second, e-mails, faxes, and letters were "two-thirds positive, one-third negative"; third, the two public-art meetings the previous day, totaling 75 people, were "roughly mixed." He said they could "tally it" either way, as many yeas as nays.

Housing Is a Verb: In Twelve Cobbled-Together Parts Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

recycled_house(San Diego Reader November 18, 1999)


If you cross into Mexico at Otay Mesa, continue south on Calle Mazatlan and cut over to Boulevard Insurgentes, you'll eventually dip down to the Tijuana River which winds through the vast and growing working-class colonias of east Tijuana. Here lives, in congested communities, tens of thousands of residents, most recent arrivals usually from the northern part of the country. Not long ago, some of these people lived in quick-built dwellings alongside the river. But because a hard rain falls every six or seven years, the river floods and people have to move, on top of the mesas or partway up the gently sloping ravines. The newly risen colonias have colorful names—El Florido, El Pipila, Ejido Mariano Matamoros. People have moved in because of the flooding, but they've also come because of the new economic opportunities in northern Baja. Before 1993 these neighborhoods were not here. Then came Nafta and the promise of factory work at the maquiladoras. A visit today reveals that those soccer-stadium-sized American-owned plants continue to thrive.

Last Light: San Diego Representational Painters Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

19990826(San Diego Reader August 26, 1999)

Part One

When I point at and say, I like that painting, the one suffused with sulphury light, the golden warm of San Diego’s presunset hour, the painter, William Glen Crooks, replies, “Oh, yes, that one. Now that was a California moment.”

That is Portico. It’s a four- by six-foot painting that depicts the semi-shabby, four-door entrance to an apartment house, built in the Craftsman style. Its four doors, side-by-side, are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 in italics. Each door has latticed windows at the top and each has its own character: 1 is opened, 2 has a wreath and a bamboo curtain behind the windows, 3’s green window curtain is drawn, and 4 picks up the glare of a near-setting sun. Doors 2 and 4 sport floor mats of different sizes; several rectangular mailboxes are off to the left and a potted plant on a curved leg stand is on the right. Across the entire golden-to-yellow surface—or is it that the surface is being goldened by the sun?—cour­ses a modulating, glaring light.

Review: The Art of Donal Hord Print E-mail

donal_hord(Written June 1999)

Romancing the Stone and the Wood

It is one of the more curious inclinations of artists: Why is it that some choose media to work in which is antithetical to their natures? Take Donal Hord. San Diego’s most famous sculptor was stricken with rheumatic fever as a boy and brought by his mother to semi-arid Southern California to recuperate. Here he survived, studying sculpture with Anna Valentien, but lived a subdued life, unable to go to school, his heart forever weakened. With the aid of Homer Dana, Hord’s lifelong assistant, the sculptor chose to contend with nature’s hardest materials—rosewood, diorite, the hardest form of granite and obsidian, or volcanic glass. Hord won, and easily it seems, creating human figures, at times, delicate and fanciful, at other times, massive and obdurate. How curious indeed that his frailty as a man lives on unechoed in his vigor as an artist.

Review: Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace by James J. O'Donnell Print E-mail

foreedge(Georgia Review Spring 1999 Volume 53, Number 1)

It is tempting to think as scholar James O’Donnell has that the glacial shift from hand-copying manuscripts to the printing press must prefigure the present era’s change from book to computer. In this view St. Jerome, the Latin monk who translated, copied and preserved Christian texts, is a man for all seasons. Almost single-handedly, he disseminated Christianity to the Mediterranean world by mastering the technology of the word. In our age online scholars and libraries may be doing likewise by bringing the whole of our culture to every Internet browser on earth.

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