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

recycled_house(San Diego Reader November 18, 1999)

1.

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.

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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.

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Review: The Art of Donal Hord Print E-mail
Criticism

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.

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

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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Everlasting Uncertainty: How I Became a UC San Diego Marxist Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

28266u 0(San Diego Reader January 7, 1999)

As an undergraduate, I studied the literature of England and America and fell in love with the charge of rhythmic language, the Anglo-Saxon drum of verse, the symphonic progress of prose. Entering graduate school many years and a few professions later, I hoped to rekindle that love. But I succumbed, like every other student I knew, to the doctrinaire theories of feminism, historicism, and Marxism, the great critical isms of the time, which tested the novels and poems I had so admired. These isms and the professors who intoned the jargon of literary theory so befuddled my mind, I was certain I’d never get out of academia.

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Review: Richard Diebenkorn and the Art of Crossing Borders Print E-mail
Criticism

rdiebenkorn(Art Revue Magazine December, 1998)

Richard Diebenkorn has in the five years since his death at 70 risen like a phoenix to become arguably one of America’s and certainly the West Coast’s premiere 20th century painter, both abstract and figurative. That one painter has mastered these seeming oppositions and done so unselfconsciously is remarkable and rare. (The other great border-crossing artist who comes to mind is Kandinsky.) Diebenkorn’s full-career retrospective, first shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997 and now at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, confirms what this Californian said he himself wanted to achieve—to paint with "a feeling of strength in reserve—tension beneath calm" no matter what subject matter he embraced.

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A Walk Through the Long Schoolroom Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Law_School_Rooms_-_Old_1(Written August 1998)

How could it be that during the semester I became a full professor of English at the community college where I’ve taught adult learners for eight years, I also realized that I was disillusioned with my teaching, our school and some of our students? How did it happen? While I was garnering a stellar evaluation—fourteen of fifteen check marks landed under exceeds standards, indicating my job performance could rise no higher, to wit, the Dean joked that my next career step was retirement—I had also returned to therapy to explore why teaching was no longer satisfying, why I wanted to work half-time, why my labor had morphed from creative exploration and student-centered joy to a job with both a stultifying sameness and a neurotic unpredictability about it which I couldn’t shake.

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