Category Archives: Uncategorized

Final Project Notes

Congratulations: Our conferences this week have been productive and rewarding as your projects take shape. Most of the projects using Word Press, Tumblr, Wix, or another platform, are enabling you to gather your primary materials. Most of you have then worked to describe the materials as a body of work–describing the objects and artifacts, making connections and telling a story that expands and deepen our understanding of the natural and /or cultural history of California.

Your research into the natural and cultural history of California—and your answers to the question, “What is California?”—is significant. During the second half of your semester together we have shared the responsibility for directing our learning as we continue to study natural and cultural history of the Golden State. Your work is compelling evidence of the generative intellectual work that is possible in a first-year college course.

Below I offer a few reminders and the criteria I handed out in class a couple of weeks ago. In addition to your conference with me, please be in touch by email with updates and with questions. I am also able to meet with anyone next Tuesday or Wednesday.


Moving Towards Completion: After we wrapped our symposium sessions on Tuesday I encouraged you to attend to the following elements of your project during the week you have before the final version of the project is due:

  • Title and Subtitle: when a user navigates to your site the title and subtitle should offer an orientation to the subjext and the orientation of your project
  • Project Statement: the project statement will elaborate, albiet briefly, what is implied in the title
  • Design: the design of the site should provide access to the content. In conferences we have discussed the use of hashtags on Tumblr and pages and categories on Word Press. We have also explored the relationship between images and text and the use of themes
  • Analysis and Interpretation: It is imperative that your project have a narrative of some kind. There is no length requirement here. But without the analysis and the interpretation the project will have less significance and impact.

Checklist: I include the assessment criteria that I handed out a few weeks ago. This is the list that I will use to help determine your final grade.

  1. Symposium Contributions
  • Preparation and teamwork: Is the group work during the symposium workshops efficient and effective?
  • Progress and Meeting deadline: Is a revised title and project abstract sent to Mark by Thursday April 14 at noon?
  • Session contribution: Does the session provide the class with relevant and engaging materials that help explain California? Does the group effectively present the materials to the class (e.g. a series of written points or questions to help with discussion, visual materials using tools such as a powerpoint, prezi, or blog?) Do group members take responsibility for maintaining the flow and quality of the discussion whenever needed?
  1. First Version of Project
  • Meeting deadline: Is the first version of the project submitted by Thursday April 21?
  • Project development: the challenge of creatively and critically assessing a collection of primary materials takes place over time. It is also a challenge to use secondary materials to first describe and then to interpret the materials gathered. Does the first version of the project demonstrate progress commensurate with one month of work?
  1. Individual Conferences
  • Preparation and Reflection: Is there evidence of sufficient work prior to the conferences so that the conversation is driven by questions and problems and challenges?
  • Engagement and Purpose: Is the conference used to answer specific questions about the project, to explore complications, to address problems?
  1. Final Project
  • Offers a clear and distinct organization of the primary materials
  • Uses secondary materials to introduce or tell the story the materials suggest
  • Presents the materials in an organized manner, whether in a print essay or using a digital platform such as Word Press or Tumblr
  • Offers a thoughtful and evidence-based description of the materials
  • Makes clear what the project is doing to expand and deepen our understanding of the natural and /or cultural history of California

Paul Kanter (1941-2016)

This past week the founder of the San Francisco psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane, Paul Kanter, passed away. Kantner was co-founder of Jefferson Airplane the iconic San Francisco countercultural rock band. The band released the album “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off” in 1966 and a year later “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” reached a national audience. You can read Kanter’s Obituary at the New York Times


Ed Perlstein/Redferns, via Getty Images

A Ninety-Eight Song Jefferson Airplane Playlist is available on Youtube that includes:

Somebody to Love” (Surrealistic Pillow 1967)
White Rabbit” (Surrealistic Pillow 1967)
High Flying Bird (Live at Monterey Pop 1967)
Wooden Ships (Volunteers 1969)
Volunteers” (Live at Woodstock 1969)

There is also footage of the Jefferson Airplane performing “The Other Side of this Life” at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival, a rock concert held in December, 1969, in northern California, between Tracy and Livermore. Additional footage of the concert and the violence and strife that emerged is available on the web.

Interested in learning more? A Resources and Links page pulls together Jefferson Airplane materials from around the Web. The Times page includes articles and reviews, the Jefferson Airplane page at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Jefferson Airplane Home Page. You can also browse the You Tube Music Vault.

On the first class session of the Spring 2016 semester I asked each of you to write down the associations you have with California. Below is a representation of the terms you wrote down. The frequency of the terms is captured in the corresponding size of the fonts.


This is a small sample for sure, and in no way definitive. But it is an interesting way to represent what thirty students are thinking about the subject of this course as we begin our work exploring the California dream.



What explains California?

This course explores this question through place and bioregion, individual histories and collective narratives of identity and culture, ideals and representation–all of which feed into the “California dream.”


Panama California Exposition, 2015

Students will explore the historical myth and material reality of the Golden State through indigenous cultures and narratives of exploration; waves of immigration and demographic change; the presence of racism and multicultural history and identity; water, orange groves, and agribusiness; cities and suburbia; political corruption and capital crimes; money and Hollywood moguls; technological booms and busts; film, fiction, and fashion; popular music and poetry; sex, drugs, rock and roll; narratives of self-actualization and alienation; the emergence of surfing and skateboarding; skiing, mountaineering, and rock climbing; television, sports, and celebrity culture.

What explains California?


Safeway – United Farm Worker’s Grape Boycott, National City. Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego


Marie Ueda. 1978 San Francisco Gay Day Parade. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society. San Francisco


Page of First Edition of Mary Austin’s The Land of Little Rain


W.D. Carter. Overland Mail Route to California Broadside. 1866. Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley


Herman Baca, San Diego-based Chicano activist, 1979. Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego


California Grown