Spitting Hot Fire: Malibu Wildfires and the Santa Anas

1698895964_e802c7ddf7_z-thumb-630x427-55277

"To live with the Santa Ana, is to accept consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior," reflected Joan Didion in 1968. Quoting Raymond Chandler, she noted the environment's deterministic control over Californians. On nights when the Santa Ana gust through the homes of Angelenos, Chandler asserted, "every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."1 Though the winds alone might have inspired unpredictable behavior in people, every year from October through January, the Santa Ana's love affair with fire existentially pokes Los Angeles like a carving knife to a husband's … [Read more...]

“Taking Compton National”: Schools, Race, and Modern Suburbia in 20th and 21st Century California

1974 - Defender cites 6 of the new black mayors of '73

 “Our nation is moving toward two societies, One Black, One White – separate and unequal,” announced the 1968 Kerner Commission. In 1967, following riots that had erupted across urban America, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the commission, appointing former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner Jr as its chairman, to delineate the causes of American unrest; unsurprisingly, the report concluded that poverty, segregation, and lack of economic opportunities corroded urban minority neighborhoods while whites fled to middle and upper class suburban environs, taking income and businesses with them.Undoubtedly, the Kerner Commission correctly identified many of the systematic problems afflicting … [Read more...]

The American Military: Nineteen Histories about War, Society, and the U.S. Military’s Influence on the Nation

120229031219-pentagon-building-exterior-story-top

Even today, the category of military history still elicits a bit of head scratching. Our own John Southard noted as much in a 2012 essay for ToM: “Crayons, Fraternities, and Military History.” Southard pointed out that in the last throes of the twentieth century and the first decade of the new millennium, there existed among historians a great deal of doubt regarding the efficacy of military history. At the 1997 meeting for the Society of Military History, John Lynn publicly confided that one of his University of Illinois colleagues inquired, in the best voice of academic condescension one can imagine, if military historians “write in crayon.” At the 2008 meeting of the American Historical … [Read more...]

“Capital within a Capital”: Covert Action, the Vietnam War, and Creating a “Little Saigon” in the Heart of Northern Virginia

EdenCenterFlags

“That flag is the symbol of the spirit of the refu­gee,” Springfield resident and Vietnamese American talk show host Liem D Bui told journalists in 2012. The flag to which Bui referred is that of the fallen South Vietnam government and it along with an American flag fly over Eden Center shopping plaza in Falls Church, VA, a symbolic embodiment of Vietnamese American culture that some call “a capital within a capital,” for D.C.’s 80,000 residents of Vietnamese descent. Unfortunately, in recent years, the shopping center has garnered attention for more than its restaurants and markets. A murder-suicide left two men dead in July of 2012 and gambling raids in 2011 linked Eden Center and its flag … [Read more...]

A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of the Swimming Pool in Southern California

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks canoeing in the swimming pool at Pickfair. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

[Let Summer begin! This week we focus on the role of pools and beaches in American, specifically, SoCal life. On Wed. we'll look at how L.A.'s African American population demonstrated agency and carved out spaces of leisure for their communities through beaches in early 20th century Southern California. For more on pools check out our review of Jeff Wiltse's social history on the subject, Contested Waters and our own take on the narrative surrounding New York's McCarren Park Pool and its connection to NYC's 20th century history of aquatic leisure. Dive in kids!] Perhaps you've heard the story before. There was once a poor mountaineer, who could barely keep his family fed. One day, "while … [Read more...]

White Racial Innocence Goes to War: Forrest Gump at 20

forrest gump ice cream

1994—it wasn’t that long ago.  Or was it?  It was a time before iPhones, YouTube, Monica Lewinsky, WMDs, and Honey Boo-Boo.  The tech bubble was still a glimmer in Alan Greenspan’s eye.  It was in the Spring of that year that I remember seeing a trailer for a forthcoming Tom Hanks film with the unlikely title Forrest Gump.  I figured it was some weirdo prestige project that a big-name actor was doing for some indie cred, and would never, ever be a commercial success.  But a few months later, I witnessed a crowd of teary-eyed viewers streaming out of a screening of Forrest Gump, clutching Kleenexes.  Something was clearly going on. As it turns out, Tom Hanks’s portrayal of a Candidean … [Read more...]

Shifting Lanes: The Demise of the Southern California Autotopia

play it2-thumb-600x361-53060

To understand the City of Angels, Joan Didion once wrote, one needed to immerse oneself in the freeway experience or, as she put it, "the only secular communion Los Angeles has."1 Between 1968 and 1979 Didion published three books -- two collections of non-fiction essays: "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" in 1968 and "The White Album" in 1979; and one work of fiction: "Play It as It Lays" in 1970 -- that depicted a modern Southern California, buffeted by "the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse," but grounded by its highways and relaxed by its pools. Southern California combined the elemental extremes of nature with the rigidity of the decade's car-centric urban planning. For 1960s and early … [Read more...]

Memorial Day Reveille

Washington_Race_Course_graves

We here at ToM hope that your Memorial Day weekend has gone swimmingly.   Over the years, our writers have explored various aspects of foreign policy and military history, from the American Civil War and the idea of "total war" to the impact of the all-volunteer military and the efficacy of intervention in Iran and Syria. In honor of the holiday, we've gathered our most relevant pieces below. Was the American Civil War the First Total War? Alex Sayf Cummings (ASC) asks the question and surfs through the historiography to find the answer. Crayons, Fraternities, and Military Historians: The Perception and State of American Military History Georgia State University's John Southard traverses … [Read more...]

What’s Old is New: How Orange County’s Conservative Past Created its Demographics Today

4534149696_8825041af3_z-thumb-630x468-43760

[Editor's Note: Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! ToM will be bringing forth several articles on Asian American history and culture over the next three weeks. Be sure to check out our earlier pieces on Asian American sports. The first, on masculinity, femininity, and Asian American basketball in 20th century California here. The second on the transnational role of basketball in Filipino and Fil-Am identity here.] Looking at the many recent popular constructions of Orange County -- television shows like Laguna Beach, Newport Harbor, The O.C. -- one might be excused for seeing it as a homogenous collection of picturesque suburban beach towns. Politically, Orange County remains a … [Read more...]

Filing the Lane, Here and Abroad: Filipino American Identity and Basketball

PBA_1975-thumb-630x465-68678

[Editor's Note: Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! ToM will be bringing forth several articles on Asian American history and culture over the next three weeks. Be sure to check out our previous post on masculinity, femininity, and Asian American basketball in 20th century California here.] "We played in the barrios too and the whole town would come to watch us," fifteen year old Los Angeles native and Filipino American basketball player Gabe Abe Pagtama told journalists in 1992. "The one bad thing over there is the mosquitoes. We had to make small fires in the hotel rooms to drive them out." Pagtama and his Los Angeles-area teammates traveled to the Philippines to take part in a … [Read more...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,159 other followers