The Heyday Blog

Q & A with “Cityscapes 2” author John King

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In his follow-up to Cityscapes: San Francisco and Its Buildings, urban design critic John King continues to challenge us to take notice of our surroundings—even as the built environment of San Francisco changes at an astonishing clip. Based on his Cityscape column in the San Francisco Chronicle, the new book Cityscapes 2: Reading the Architecture of San Francisco highlights fifty structures that tell a compelling (and often contradictory) story about The City.

How do you select from, and revise, your Cityscape columns to fit the parameters of a book?

I don’t want a book that says, “Look at these pretty and/or cool buildings and aren’t they pretty and/or cool?” Rather, I want to explore themes about how cities fit together, and how buildings can strike a similar chord even though they might have quite different styles or scales. The themes that emerge determine the buildings I select (which means I left some of my favorites on the cutting-room floor, sorry to say!). As for the editing, I have a bit more space to work with—but also find myself working hard to thin out the transitions and adjectives that I re-use in The Chronicle more than I would care to admit.

Have you always taken your own photographs of structures you critique? Does photographing help you notice something about a building you otherwise might miss?

Second question first: absolutely. When I look through a lens, or walk through the city with the camera around my neck, I look at things more sharply; in fact, some buildings I’ve done in Cityscape I never noticed until on my way to shoot something else, even if I’ve walked down that block a dozen times before. As for taking my own photographs, blame it on luck—when Cityscape began, Kathleen Hennessy was the Chronicle’s photo editor. She said that I knew why I was writing about a building so I should shoot it as well, and we went from there!

When people think of S.F. architecture, I expect most minds go toward the Transamerica Pyramid and the Golden Gate Bridge. What prompted you to include relatively obscure structures along with the iconic?

That’s what a city is about, especially this one. The icons are terrific, but what resonates is how all the pieces fit together. Sometimes something as simple as an off-ramp, as with the new ones on the west end of the Bay Bridge, can convey the underlying rhythms of a place.

Click to enlarge.

 

In the first Cityscapes Q&A, you talked about the challenge of context: “Does the building fit into its surroundings, even if the fit is provocative?” With the city going through such rapid change, how do you take context into account when you look at a particular structure, given what may happen next?

It’s getting more difficult! I found myself re-shooting several buildings in the new book, such as the Embarcadero Substation, because their neighbors were different than when they appeared in the paper’s Cityscape column. In a fascinating way, though, that argues for strong architecture of the present. As the context shifts, you can see the values of certain era emerge, facets you might have taken for granted when things were new.

With Cityscapes, your goal was to show readers that buildings are parts of a whole, and that whole is in a state of constant flux. Awareness of change is a driving theme in Cityscapes 2, so is your goal with this new book the same, or do you have other things in mind as well?

Maybe it’s that I’m a history major who learned architecture on the sly as a journalist, but I love what buildings reveal to us—about history, about the tactile depth of materials, about the balancing act between designing for the eye and designing for everyday life. And I covered San Francisco City Hall, so I know that an era’s politics leave their mark long after the hot-button issues fade. In Cityscapes 2, I want to confront readers with the different layers of change and flux; I also want to show them how much else is waiting to be seen.

A Conversation with G Dan Mitchell

CFALcover_temp_web800pxWith fall now just a month away, Heyday is excited to seize the season with California’s Fall Color in hand, a new release by photographer and long-time photo blogger G Dan Mitchell. This useful guidebook is filled with vibrant photographs of the freshly colored autumn, as well as tips and tricks on how to head home from your next trip to the Sierra with a camera filled to the brink with beautifully composed landscape portraits. Earlier in August, Monica Masiello sat down with Dan to talk about the importance of making new discoveries in familiar places, the very best way to look at an aspen, and stealing a moment out of nature’s constant cycles.

MM: First off, I’m wondering what prompted California’s Fall Color?

GDM: I have this website where I post a photograph everyday, which I’ve been doing for nine years, and I accompany each photograph with a short written piece. Heyday contacted me–someone had seen the blog, and they said, “It seems like there’d be something you could build out of some of the stuff you’ve done there.” That’s really where it started. The book has some material that expends on things that I’ve written on the website–and then there’s some new material as well. Once we were doing a book, there were some holes that we had to fill.

MM: And you do mention in the book that it wouldn’t be possible to include every location, and that a little mystery is a good thing for the readers. I’m wondering then how you chose to include what you did, and whether those strategic choices in curating the content taught you anything about what you value most when you’re going out and exploring things.

GDM: I picked places that I’m familiar with. I mention a place called Conway Summit, which is on Highway 395, because it’s spectacular, it’s accessible, and it’s not going to be at risk from overcrowding because you have to pull over at the side of Highway 395. Most people don’t look at it.

…there’s an aspect of being a photographer that is a way of buttressing yourself against the passage of time in a world in which everything is transitory and impermanent.

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A Conversation with Laura Cunningham

LauraCunningham_web200pxIn 2011, Laura Cunningham published  A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California with Heyday, earning her the California Book Award Gold Medal and much critical acclaim. Four years later, she’s directed her writing and gifts for visual storytelling in The Bay Area through Time to those who will soon take on the upkeep of the planet: children. Earlier this month, Monica Masiello spoke with Laura about condensing 450 million years of Bay Area history into something that kids can devour, what it means to translate urgent messages of conservation and environmental awareness to young people, and her plans to collaborate with other educators to continue doing so.

MM: How did you create the narrative arc for The Bay Area through Time? How did you decide which important moments over the course of natural history merited inclusion in a short work for children?

LC: I remembered when I was a kid I was fascinated with dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, trilobites, and sabertooth cats. So when Heyday and I decided on the size of the book and number of pages, I honed the storyline to my favorite paleontological periods of the past, full of strange prehistoric creatures.

MM: You’ve previously authored the award-winning book for an adult readership, A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California. What are the most important ways that making a children’s book differed from that—or was it surprisingly similar in any ways? 

LC: I found writing a children’s book was very different from writing A State of Change in that I had to simplify the science to make it easy to understand for young people. Complex ecological processes could only be hinted at (such as the food chain), and the text had to be short and clear, with no big words.

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TOM KILLION BANNER AUCTION

We’re incredibly excited to announce a special, online auction of two giant Killion banners of pieces included in California’s Wild Edge!

These rare 6×8-foot prints were enlarged from original woodcuts using digital technology and printed on canvas for display in Levi’s store windows during spring 2013. Only two remain, and they’re both titled, editioned, and signed by Tom, who has generously donated them to Heyday. All proceeds from the auction will go toward supporting Heyday’s publishing and ongoing cultural programs.

Click now to bid on: Kelham Beach, Pt. Reyes

Click now to bid on: Big Sur Coast

Bidding closes July 6 at 12pm PDT.

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Kelham Beach, Pt Reyes by Tom Killion

 

Big Sur Coast

Big Sur Coast by Tom Killion

A conversation with Marni Fylling

Photo by Rowan Ellison

The Heyday offices are abuzz with excitement over Fylling’s Illustrated Guide to Pacific Coast Tide Pools. This delightful guidebook is packed with beautiful illustrations and lively descriptions by Marni Fylling, who has captured the essence of the Pacific Coast’s otherworldly creatures all the way from her home in Hoboken, New Jersey. I recently spoke with Marni about tide pools, writing with both exuberance and accuracy, science illustration as a field in the twenty-first century, and the intensely focused (and intensely rewarding) act of drawing.

How did you become interested in tide pools?

I was an undeclared major at UC Davis for the first three years I was there because I loved everything. I thought about math, I thought about English, and I just couldn’t choose because I really just loved to learn. It was all interesting to me.

I can’t even remember why I took zoology. The first lab that we had was a kelp holdfast. They cut out a chunk of the root-like fingers that hold onto the rocks, so you have all these kind of tangled structures in a little glass dish under a dissecting scope. It just looked like a dead piece of brown whatever.

As I looked through the scope, all of a sudden these tiny little snails started creeping around. A little worm poked out its miniature tentacles, and a brittle star’s tentacle emerged, looking for food. The whole thing just came alive with all these bizarre creatures. I had never seen anything like any of them before. It’s so different from a terrestrial environment. It was a magical world. Then I learned about marine invertebrate life cycles, which include stages that are almost like space creatures. They’re so alien and beautiful and fascinating. I couldn’t get enough.

A beautiful illustration is really different. I think it catches people’s attention, so hopefully that’s coming back around.

After taking zoology at Davis, I took a six-week field class at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. The first time I ever saw a tide pool was in that class. I just thought I would see what a marine lab was like, and it was one of those defining moments of my life.

After I took that class in Bodega Bay, I TA’ed other classes the following two summers. The rest of the time I was at Davis, I helped maintain the marine tanks there and I would go on collecting trips. A couple times a month we went to Bodega to collect creatures for the labs there, so I have a lot of experience with those animals. Even when I lived in Santa Cruz, I TA’ed a botany class and we would take trips out to the shore to look at different marine algae.

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A conversation with Charles Hobson and Mary Daniel Hobson

Here is a simple recipe for making something magical: mix a series of long car rides and three generations of eminently creative people. You get The Wolf Who Ate the Sky, a beautiful picture book that delights children as well as the young at heart. Based on a story that mixed–media artist Mary Daniel (Danny) Hobson made up with her daughter Anna and illustrated by visual artist Charles Hobson, this is the tale of a wolf who makes good on his promise to eat the next thing he sees, and of the menagerie of animals that endeavors to restore that brave overhanging firmament to its rightful place above our heads. I recently spoke with Charles and Danny about the creative process behind The Wolf—from the human need to tell stories to the challenges of illustrating a story that takes place almost entirely in the dark.

The Wolf Who Ate the Sky

MC: Danny, how did Anna and you create the story for The Wolf Who Ate the Sky?

MDH: My daughter Anna has always loved stories. When she was three and a half years old, we would often pass the time driving to and from preschool with storytelling. Anna would ask for a story, and I would say, “Once upon a time there was a…” She would fill in, “A wolf.” Then I would add, “And this wolf was…” And she would say, “Hungry!”

From there I would start to weave a story, pausing throughout the tale to have her add in details, like which animals the boy ran into. We told many stories this way, but there was something about The Wolf Who Ate the Sky that caught Anna’s imagination. She would ask me to tell it with her again and again. Then she told it to her father, and then to her grandparents. Every time it was told, it changed a little.

During the time that we were telling and retelling the story, my father made a video of Anna sharing a version of the story (which you can see in the book trailer video on YouTube). He was so moved by Anna’s presentation of this story that he asked me to write it down so that he could turn it into a book.

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A conversation with Mia Andler and Kevin Feinstein

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Heyday is thrilled to carry The Bay Area Forager: Your Guide to Edible Wild Plants of the San Francisco Bay AreaOriginally a self-published book, Bay Area Forager is the result of a collaboration between two wild foods experts, Mia Andler and Kevin Feinstein, who were frustrated by the lack of Bay Area- and even Western States-focused foraging titles. I recently spoke with Kevin and Mia about the process of writing a book together, sustainability ethics, and mending the mental disconnect of people and nature.

MC: I’m curious to know what it was like to coauthor a book with someone. Which parts of The Bay Area Forager are yours, and which parts are Kevin’s, and which parts are the synthesis of your two minds?

KF: It was great to cowrite the book. The collaboration kept each other in check, on task, and I think the book benefits from the combination of our knowledge and experience.

MA: It was wonderful to coauthor a book. Kevin and I complement each other well, I think, and I can’t say that any part belongs to just him or me. It really is all a collaboration. The way that we did it was over Google Docs.

Wow! No way.

MA: Yeah! We would write plant chapters and then the other would edit. And as far as all the other parts that are not about a particular plant, we completely coauthored them. We’d start writing something and then the other person could move it or edit it in any way they wanted to.

It really worked well. Kevin and I had worked together for several years before we coauthored the book. We knew each other’s working style pretty well. Plus, we were really excited to get to write together.

How did you two decide to write a book together in the first place?

MA: We were working with an organization called Trackers Earth, directing and designing their programs. In our conversations about programs after we were done with whatever we needed to talk about we would start talking about, “Well, what’s growing in your garden right now?” Or, “What are you finding outdoors or have you seen this plant, it’s so weird! Or have you tried this one?” We would always be talking about plants. It was easy to say, “Hey, why don’t we write all of our conversations and all of our plant knowledge down?”

KF: We both were asked often about a good local book for foraging, and we couldn’t really recommend any. So we decided that we’d write one. (more…)

Common and Institutional Saints: a guest post by Ursula K. Le Guin

Photo by Eileen Gunn

Photo by Eileen Gunn

Reading about the imminent canonization of Junipero Serra I want to tear my hair and shout at the Catholic Church and its clever pope, “How can you call this religious conquistador, this cruel bigot, this terrible man, a saint?”

Maybe I can calm down by considering what the word “saint” means.

In daily life, in ordinary speech, a saint is a notably kind, patient, generous person, actively compassionate, of innate spiritual quality. In informal buddhist terms, a person of Buddha nature.

In the eyes of institutionalized religion, a saint may be such a person but often is something so different that we need to clearly distinguish the common or garden saint from the official or institutional saint.

Institutional saints are people officially elevated above common sense and common decency, above reason and respect for others, who act and are praised for acting from a mystico-intellectual conviction of the righteousness of their beliefs and their right to exercise the power invested in them by the institution that taught them those beliefs.

In other words a saint may be a terrorist.

(This is easier to see if a the saint is a member of a religion different from yours.)

Institutional saint-terrorists believe that their religious conviction justifies them in mind-washing, enslaving, torturing, and murdering anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.

So long as religions use such believers to enforce their control over minds and extend their worldly dominion, the saint-terrorist will exist and will be canonized.

Self-sacrificial saints differ from saint-terrorists in choosing to mindwash, enslave, torture, or kill themselves instead of others.

Anyone who doesn’t accept religious dogma as truth should reject the religious definition of saintliness as virtue transcending ordinary morality. We’d do better to see institutional saints for what they are: people whose unquestioning and unquestioned belief in the righteousness of their acts may well make them spiritual bullies, moral tyrants, suicidal or murderous terrorists.

Like Junipero Serra.

Heyday and News from Native California long reads from 2014

In this excerpt from Enough for All: Foods of My Dry Creek Pomo and Bodega Miwuk People, Kathleen Rose Smith whetted our appetites for seafood gathered from the Pacific.

“There’s something wonderful in that spirit of publishers who are really dedicated to and passionate about the work that they’re putting out into the world, no matter the cost.”

Gary Noy told us one Sierra story that didn’t make it into the book.

The New York Times covered Forbidden City, USA.

News from Native California ran its first article written in the Chochenyo language, supplemented online with Soundcloud recording and English translation.

“When you’re in the midst of a love affair, I’m not sure you’re inclined to sit back and ruminate on its themes.”

Heyday designer Ashley Ingram showed us how a manuscript becomes a book.

“There was nothing out there that was contemporary, or matched the stories I heard at home, or matched the reality that I lived in. And that reality is, like I said, being part of something that’s very old, and still being part of the modern world. It’s not that hard to be. A lot of people think you have to choose one thing or the other. No, you can be both.”

“Describing himself in his biography as a psychotic optimist who loves the grand opera of bookmaking and always considers himself 15 minutes from abundance, his philosophy is this: Work is holy; financial problems are to be kept behind a firewall.”

Ruby Tuttle Bommelyn (Yuki Maidu, Karuk, Yurok) described her experience of home-schooling her children in the Tolowa language.

“Bees are interested in three things: pollen, nectar, and sex. That’s it! You’re not on that list!”

The City of Berkeley celebrated Malcolm Margolin/Heyday Day.

This PDF preview of San Francisco’s Jewel City showed us that technology was a crucial part of SF long before the dot-com booms.

What could one underpass in downtown LA mean for California’s history as well as its future?

A conversation with Jeremy Rosenberg

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Thank goodness for Google. If it weren’t for that omnipresent and perhaps all-too-omnipotent search engine, Jeremy Rosenberg would not have found out about the California Historical Society Book Award contest, and we wouldn’t have had the winner that is Under Spring: Voices + Art + Los Angeles.

The book’s title takes its name from a public artwork called Under Spring that repeatedly transformed an underpass below LA’s North Spring Street Bridge between 2006 and 2013. Jeremy worked alongside Under Spring creator Lauren Bon and her Metabolic Studio team, recording people’s interactions with the artwork and exploring the underpass’s past lives including (but in no way limited to) homeless encampment and graffiti hotspot. His interviewees connected the underpass to LA’s ever-changing transportation history, the indigenous presence that has existed since before LA was named in European tongues, and the role that art plays in making a space an intentional place. The result is a dynamic text that demands our engagement with it; that demands that we, too, examine the sites that hide in plain view, even in the heart of our own cities.

I recently called Jeremy at his new digs at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and we talked about the unwieldy task of streamlining sixty-six voices into one volume; radical public art; and why Under Spring: Voices + Art + Los Angeles needs to be read not just in LA, but all throughout California.

How did you get involved with Under Spring?

Lauren Bon invited me to be a member of an interdisciplinary team, and so I was embedded there for a period of time and working on various projects as an employee of the Annenberg Foundation, Under Spring being one of them. As a journalist, I was used to having to go out and find all the stories and find all the people who were doing interesting things, but in this case they all came to this spot. One day there would be somebody with a heroin needle in his arm. The next day, some real talented graffiti artist. The next day, an ex-mayor. The next day, a city council member. The next day, a famous artist. The next day, someone just trying to walk their dog, or take a lunch break.

I spent probably two years getting intimately familiar with that space before I decided, hey, what this needs is an oral history. Let me rephrase that. The space demanded an oral history. And again, I didn’t write this book. I listened to it.

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