Fast Times with Valley Girls: 30 Years Later, What Do Two SoCal Classics Tell Us About America?

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[Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared on the KCET Departures website under its Intersections column on February 15, 2013.  It is a pop culture supplemental addition to our Retail California series. Part one can be read here. Part two can be read here, and part three here.] "I hate working the theater," Mark "Rat" Ratner (Brian Backer) laments to friend Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) in the classic comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. "All the action's on the other side of the mall." Indeed, Rat's wide-eyed stare focuses on the food court, populated by establishments like Bronco Burger, Mexican Dan, and, where his new crush Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) works, Perry's Pizza. … [Read more...]

Retail California: Shopping Centers, Malls, and Creating a New Consumerism

Broadway-Crenshaw Center in 1947. Photo by Loomis Dean.

[Editor's note: This article first appeared on April 4, 2013 for the Intersections column at KCET Departures. Part of a 3 part series on Southern California's retail history, Part III (below) explores SoCal's role in popularizing shopping malls  Part II on the convergence of the Big Lebowski and Ralph's as a symbol of SoCal's early embrace of the grocery store and new "advances" in consumerism can be read here. Part I examines Los Angeles' role in creating the drive in market, a precursor to the dreaded strip mall. It can be read here.] "It was a peculiar and visionary time, those years after World War II to which all the Malls and Towns and dales stand as climate controlled monuments," … [Read more...]

Retail California: Cars, Drive-In Markets, and Consumers

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[Editor's note: This article first appeared on March 7, 2013 for the Intersections column at KCET Departures. Part of a 3 part series on Southern California's retail history, Part II on the convergence of the Big Lebowski and Ralph's as a symbol of SoCal's early embrace of the grocery store and new "advances" in consumerism can be read here. Part III on SoCal's role in popularizing shopping malls can be read here. Part I, below, examines Los Angeles' role in creating the drive in market, a precursor to the dreaded strip mall.] When C.L. Peckham opened Ye Market Place on Los Feliz Road in Glendale in 1924, few realized the influence the drive-in market would have on urban planning and … [Read more...]

Home on the California Range: Ranch Housing in Postwar America

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[Editor's note: This is the second of ToM's two part series on vernacular housing. The first, on the Pre-WWII rise of the bungalow can be found here. This article originally ran on December 3, 2013 under the Intersections column for KCET Departures.] "Machines for living," declared modern architecture's most devout practitioners. 1 Indeed, by the 1950s, modernist impulses -- favoring functionality -- and increasingly popular prefabrication techniques, had transformed the home into a commoditized living space. The accoutrements of mid-century suburbia -- new appliances and technologies -- came to define the home as much as the structure itself. The bohemian "Arts and Craft" aesthetic that … [Read more...]

Bungling Across America: The Bungalow in Southern California and Beyond

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[Editor's note: This is part I of ToM's two part series on pre and post WWII  vernacular architecture. For part II, the post WWII rise of the ranch house, see here.  This article originally ran on November 14, 2013 under the Intersections column for KCET Departures.] "This is the thing that strikes the attention of the traveler; not the orchards and the gardens, which are not appreciably different in kind from those of the Riviera and some favored parts of Italy, but the homes, the number of them, their extraordinary adaptability to the purposes of gracious living," gushed Mary Austin in her 1914 work "California: The Land of the Sun." "The Angelenos call them bungalows, in respect to … [Read more...]

Los Angeles F.C.: Soccer, Globalization, and Ethnicity

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One year ago this month, Major League Soccer (MLS) opened its 18th season with a cacophonous and exciting opening match between the New Jersey Redbulls and the Portland Timbers. Though the game took place in Portland and the match ended in an exciting 3-3 draw, Southern California drew the attention of broadcasters during the game’s halftime intermission. Former MLS stars and U.S. national players Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas engaged in a bit of banter regarding the L.A. based Chivas U.S.A. and its increasingly notorious team policy. Both players took offense to Chivas’  pro-Mexican/Latino recruiting model.  While admitting the policy came just short of racism, Lalas asserted that Chivas’ … [Read more...]

The Process of Belief?: Evolution, Creationism, and “Truth”

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I didn’t watch the debate about evolution and creationism between science educator Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham this past Monday, but I have had a few general thoughts about this topic lately as this seems to have stirred up a necessary conversation about the nature of science. Science is not a belief system.  People mistakenly say that they believe in evolution but that is not an appropriate way to phrase it.  We think that evolution provides the best explanation for the data we currently have on the diversity of life. It is an intellectual process that should be based entirely on what we can observe or measure.  Of course, scientists are people too so they make mistakes in … [Read more...]

East of East: Using Vacant Space to Create Place in South El Monte

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[Editor's note: This article originally appeared under the Intersections column for the KCET Departures website, January 31, 2013] When the housing bubble burst in 2008, the fallout scattered widely. California and the metropolitan region of Los Angeles took it in the teeth. In Cleveland and Detroit, where unoccupied housing had long proven to be a drag on local economies and communities, vacant homes and lots accumulated rapidly. Rustbelt inner cities struggled mightily and their sprawling Sunbelt cousins endured crippling retrenchment. Phoenix, Fresno and Orlando witnessed declining economies and rising crime rates as vacant homes and lots proliferated. In "Sunburnt Cities," Tufts … [Read more...]

The Pirates of Los Angeles: Music, Technology, and Counterculture in Southern California

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[Editor's note: this article originally appeared in the Intersections column on the KCET Departures website, June 27, 2013.] In 1978, with a new album on the way and a growing popularity that had started among the Hell's Angels in Southern California, the Doobie Brothers made an unlikely guest appearance on the television show "What's Happening!!" Set in Watts, the popular series focused on the comic tragedies that befell its three main characters (apologies to Dee) Raj, Dwayne, and Rerun. In a February episode, the Doobie Brothers planned to hold a fundraiser for the Watts High School music program, a show all three boys hoped to attend. However, as these things go, tickets proved … [Read more...]

Incubating Scholarship and Smart Students: Teaching and Publishing at Community Colleges amidst the New Realities of Academia: Best of AHA 2014, Part 4

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For Part 1 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification - click here For Part 2 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves - click here For Part 3 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform - click here For coverage of other conferences like UHA 2010/2012, AHA 2012, and others -  click here. “It’s like explaining something to a bright ten year old,” Emily Tai, an Associate Professor of History at Queensborough Community College told the audience. Tai, speaking to fellow historians, and … [Read more...]

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