Friday, June 13, 2008

The Debs Factor--Option the Screen Rights Now!

Got another book review assignment from the Los Angeles Times, this one for Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War, and the Right to Dissent. The author is Ernest Freeberg, a historian at the University of Tennessee. Great story, well told. Debs was an extraordinary figure, more than I realized, and the historical parallels with the present are striking. Check it out--or at least read the review and see what you think. The piece runs on Sunday in the book review section.

For those seeking a complete Debs bio, Haymarket Books recently reissued a paperback edition of Ray Ginger's The Bending Cross (1947) with a new introduction by Mike Davis.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Outstanding in the Field

This blog is devoted to California culture, but aside from a few references to farm labor, I've pretty much ignored agri-culture. Mostly I like to eat food, not talk about it, but I recently attended an event that fanatical readers of this blog will want to know about.

The event is called Outstanding in the Field. Jim Denevan, whose cookbook of the same name was recently lauded by the New York Times, convened the event at Route 1 Farms. That's an organic farm run by Jeff Larkey just off Waddell Creek, which is surrounded by state parkland and drains into the Pacific Ocean just south of Pescadero. Jim barnstorms the country in a refurbished 1953 bus to raise awareness about food, sell a few cookbooks, and serve a square meal right there in the fields.

Mission accomplished. We drank some wine and listened to Jeff talk about his land and the challenges of organic farming. One of the things we learned is that wild pigs roam the area. They got into his potatoes one year, so Jeff and his friends decided to stake them out one night. He saw the alpha male first, a 600-pounder that in the darkness he mistook for a pony.

After our little seminar, we settled into a tasty multi-course meal prepared right there: turnip soup, beet salad, sardines, roasted chicken and green beans and squash, and an orange-almond pie with creme fraiche.

It was dark and chilly when we left, the sky was clear, and the stars were out. As Woody Guthrie might say, they hung like grapes on vines that shine, and warmed a lover's glass like a friendly wine.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Book Expo America

Just back from Los Angeles, where I attended Book Expo America. As usual, I assumed it would be an empty experience and then had several serendipitous encounters that redeemed the effort.

One such encounter was with Warren Hinckle, who was there to promote a new book, Who Killed Hunter Thompson? I haven't had much luck cornering him here in the Bay Area to talk about Ramparts, but there he was, big as you please, in the bar of the Los Angeles Convention Center. He's not that keen on rehashing the whole Ramparts experience for posterity, but he was very forthcoming and helpful and good company in every way.

I also met Tom Hayden for the first time. (We've spoken over the telephone about Ramparts). He and Elaine Katzenberger, his editor at City Lights, said hello while I was chatting with Ellen Adler from The New Press.

My only inadvertent celebrity sighting was Alec Baldwin. Unless Vincent Bugliosi counts. And Arianna Huffington. And the guy who plays the Microsoft nerd in the Apple commercials.