MOLOCH RULES!

MOLOCH RULES!

Moloch rules!
Consume, conform, obey.
Don’t think.
Hurry!
Do what everybody does,
Don’t get passed,
Be happy, don’t ask questions.
Hurry!
Fatten your sleep-deprived children
for the fires of Moloch!
Hurry!
Moloch! deny the prayers of all others,
choose me to shower with your vomit of gold,
Hurry!

Dawning Minds, Fading Love, and Opera

The diffuse light falling through the calm air over the hills east of San Francisco Bay on this early August afternoon beguile the mind to contemplate larger themes with wider perspective. Recently, I saw and heard Jake Heggie’s opera, The End Of The Affair, (based on the novel by Graham Greene) in a production by West Edge Opera, in Berkeley. I find this story similar to that of Frank Waters’ novel The Woman At Otowi Crossing, and also somewhat similar to W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge.

The themes I see here are: the fading of romantic and selfish love in the presence of expanding consciousness; the fading of ambition, and the evolution of equanimity as awareness expands beyond the narrow confines of social convention and economic utility. In each of The End Of The Affair and The Woman At Otowi Crossing the spiritual growth or awakening of cosmic consciousness is experienced by a women, and the counter-pressures to that by the mechanistic and commercial facets of industrialized civilization are represented by male characters. The sexes are reversed for these roles in The Razor’s Edge, with Larry Darrell (a traumatized World War I pilot) experiencing the awakening, and Isabel Bradley, Larry’s clever and scheming ex-fiancé, as that novel’s major agent of conventionality.

Graham Greene portrayed the spiritual awakening of his fictional Sarah Miles as Catholic mysticism. Frank Waters’ portrayed the awakening of cosmic consciousness by his fictional Helen Chalmers as an intuitive arrival at Buddhistic nirvikalpa samadhi, as influenced by her immersion in the American Southwest with ancient Pueblo Indian mysticism permeating New Mexico. Graham Greene’s image of conventionality is of stodgy pre-war British society now evidently outmoded in the aftermath of World War II, while Frank Waters’ image of frantic and inhumanly reductionist American utilitarianism is given by the story of the development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos.

W. Somerset Maugham has his fictional Larry Darrell achieve his samadhi in the mountains of Nepal, Siddhartha Gautama’s own country, and Maugham has Isabel personify all the pressures of conforming to the economic rat race in expectations of achieving the American Dream of social status with a lucrative job, and a popular family expansively housed in a tony neighborhood.

Jake Heggie’s opera The End Of The Affair appeared in 2004, and Stephen Paulus’ opera The Woman At Otowi Crossing appeared in 1995. I am not aware of any opera based on The Razor’s Edge. I like and recommend the 1946 movie of The Razor’s Edge, with Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Herbert Marshall and Anne Baxter. I have neither seen nor heard the Paulus opera mentioned, so I cannot comment on it. However, I think the Frank Waters’ novel is so good that it could easily support several operatic interpretations. After all, Puccini’s La bohème was the second opera version of Henri Murger’s fragmentary novel of 1851, Leoncavallo had already composed a La bohème opera before 1896.

I should think that The Razor’s Edge could easily support an extensive operatic interpretation. Perhaps the right combination of creative impulses and copyright-holder approvals will eventually occur for such an opera to appear.

I think that the theme of the melting of conventional attachments during the emergence of cosmic consciousness could inspire the composition of very deep and enrapturing music, and affecting theatrical presentation. Put together, this would be great opera.

Nuestro Juramento — Español-English

Nuestro Juramento is a song by the Puerto Rican songwriter Benito de Jesús (1912-2010), which was popularized throughout Latin America by the Ecuadorian singer Julio Jaramillo (1935–1978), who gained international recognition in 1957 with this bolero. The following translation is an attempt to retain some of the poetic feeling of the Spanish language original, while conveying the meaning in English. Of necessity, both the English poetry and the literalness of translation here are imperfect. Enjoy.

Nuestro Juramento
Benito de Jesús (1912-2010)

No puedo verte triste porque me mata
Tu carita de pena, mi dulce amor
Me duele tanto el llanto que tu derramas
Que se llena de angustia mi corazón

Yo sufro lo indecible si tu entristeces
No quiero que la duda te haga llorar
Hemos jurado amarnos hasta la muerte
Y si los muertos aman
Despues de muertos amarnos mas

Si yo muero primero, es tu promesa
Sobre de mi cadaver dejar caer
Todo el llanto que brote de tu tristeza
Y que todos se enteren de tu querer

Si tu mueres primero, yo te prometo
Escribiré la historia de nuestro amor
Con toda el alma llena de sentimiento
La escribire con sangre
Con tinta sangre del corazón

<><><><><><><><><>

Our Bonding Vows
(a translation of Benito de Jesús’ lyrics for Nuestro Juramento)

I can’t bear to find you sad because it kills me
to see your little face grieving, my dear sweet love;
the tears that gush out your sadness so deeply hurt me,
drowning my heart in anguish, my little dove.

I suffer beyond description when you are saddened,
I don’t want a single doubt to make you cry.
We should swear to love each other till our lives end,
and if the dead can still love,
then after death to love even more.

If I die before you, give me this promise
that over my cadaver you will let go
of all of that sadness cascading out as teardrops,
and of your love for me let them all know.

If you die before me, I make this promise
to write out the history of our shared love,
and with all my heart infused with your remembrance
to write our tale with heart’s blood,
penned with blood-ink drawn from my heart.

<><><><><><><>

Julio Jaramillo sings “Nuestro Juramento”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20cH30WXtFE

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Peak Apes in a Self-Entangling Universe

When you realize that it is impossible to alter the course of human events in a world indifferent to you and your concerns and your interests, then the challenge becomes to fashion a life that unfolds with reasonable delight given reasonable exertion, and is experienced as fulfilling despite the knowledge that all is impermanent.

We are a species of pyramid-building apes living in a self-entangling universe. Our fantasies of self-worth and our obsessions of personal gain are homogenized into mass neuroses (and for some, psychotic cults) that we distinguish as strains of politics, and varieties of religion. We like to keep our minds focused on our wants in the here-and-now, and more narrowly so as our selfishness becomes more consuming. This blinds us to the panorama of interconnectedness we are immersed in, and that robs our brains of accurately interpreting sensory input, our minds of realizations based on fact, and our consciences of forming resolve that recognizes personal responsibility.

The left wing politics of complaint is useless, the global consensus for selfishness — whether massed in chaotic jumbles of grasping individuals or as organized units of capitalism — has a cumulative inertia that is unstoppable by the force of logic or the appeal to morality. Right-wing politics is entirely the machinations of organized greed, and all its rhetoric is merely a blustery show to distract attention from its purpose. Fundamentalist religion is the male cult of sexism and misogyny, the ultimate in self-righteousness for excusing willfully ignorant authoritarianism.

We have not evolved to the point where altruistic attitudes about social inclusion and species solidarity can outweigh our immediate selfish desires when choosing how to act, which is usually reflexively or impulsively. The rush to satisfy our constant streams of immediate wants overwhelms any concern for the exercise of social responsibility for the long term benefit of all life. As a result, we can anticipate that human extinction will be nature’s response to capitalism.

A fulfilling life is to be had by acting in ways that maintain your self-respect while also transmitting a positive — or at a minimum neutral — experience to the people you have direct contact with. Given human reality, none of us will always achieve this ideal. However, successful practitioners of such mindful living will only lapse into unkindness and hostility infrequently. The basis of “self-respect” as used here is: your truthful estimation of your moral character. This has nothing to do with affectations and acquisitions used as measures of social status.

It should be freeing for you to know that the achievement of personal fulfillment through mindful living is very rarely noticed, let alone acknowledged and celebrated. It is its own reward.

Technical Fixes For Climate Change?

The idea of technological fixes for climate change (undoing global warming and its undesirable consequences) is as perennially popular as the hunger for diet pills and fat reduction skin creams without side effects, instead of the strictures of a change of diet and an increase of exercise. Like all weight-loss-without-effort pills and creams, proposed technological fixes for climate change, without any change in civilization’s energy diet and exertions for conservation, are (and will be) just as effective. It may well be that the consensus in favor of human stupidity is Nature’s way of saving the planet — from us.

Despite my present belief that commenting on the human comedy is pointless (at least for me), I could not resist saying a bit about some proposed technological fixes to climate change described in a recent article posted on a popular web site for social and political commentary. While I don’t “do physics” anymore, I still find it interesting, especially when it is about natural phenomena. Following is my recent note, which is a gloss on the cited article, by Robert Hunziker.

Hope in technology springs eternal. I enjoy Robert Hunziker’s articles on climate change, which appear in Counter Punch. His current article “Climate Change Meets High Tech,” http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/18/climate-change-meets-high-tech/, is really about energy technology research ideas proposed as solutions to the global warming problem, and I want to offer some words of caution about them.

My comments follow on three technologies: a new fuel cell that extracts CO2 from seawater, space-based solar energy beamed to Earth via microwaves, and controlled thermonuclear fusion energy on Earth.

The Naval Research Lab’s proof-of-concept experiment to extract CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2 (hydrogen) from seawater, and combine these two gases into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is aimed at a purely military objective and is not a “game changer” to solve our CO2-emissions global warming problem. The NRL research project (and advertisement for more funding) is described at http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2014/scale-model-wwii-craft-takes-flight-with-fuel-from-the-sea-concept

The NRL apparatus is a new and innovative fuel cell. In general, fuel cells are vaguely like the heating of an old-fashioned liquid-cell battery by an electric hot plate or a natural gas burner. Fuel cells run “forward” to convert input energy/heat into chemical reactions that produce/extract new species from an existing fluid/media; or they run “backwards” beginning with chemical reactions between fed-in species of fluids, to extract energy that is then output in the form of electricity.

One example of a forward mode fuel cell (as I described it above) is a reverse osmosis desalination unit: electrical energy is supplied to extract salt from seawater, and to produce fresh water. Examples of fuel cells operating in the chemistry-to-electricity mode are units that use heat from oxidizing natural gas (oxidized within the specialized membranes of the fuel cells, not burned as open flames) to produce electric power (e.g., for propulsion motors in city buses) with exhaust gases of CO2 and H2O. When hydrogen gas (from a pressurized tank) is oxidized instead of natural gas then the exhaust is pure H2O (steam).

As always, the result (whether output electricity or a chemical change) is of less stored/delivered energy as compared with the energy supplied (whether as electricity, heat or chemical potential energy).

Thus, the NRL apparatus uses energy to extract CO2 and H2 from seawater, and then further combines them into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, specifically aviation fuel. By the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the chemical potential energy of the aviation fuel produced will be less than the electrical energy supplied to produce the av-gas. Why do this? Because the Navy intends to use this technology on aircraft carriers for the production of aviation fuel directly from seawater, powering the process with the ships’ on-board nuclear reactors. The military objective is to eliminate the cumbersome fuel resupply chains from ports (Navy bases) to aircraft carriers at sea (on long and distant deployments).

There is less reason to use this technology on land. Perhaps, if one wished to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels from seawater (at coastal installations) with electricity supplied entirely from solar technology, then this would be a less ‘global-warming harmful’ way of producing hydrocarbon fuels than via conventional fossil fuel technology, or the even dirtier synfuels processing of coal. In all cases the energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI) will be less than 100%.

Now, for a few words about space-based power generation. Yes, capturing solar energy in space is much more effective: no clouds, and no night with properly sited solar collectors (once lofted into position by rockets and perhaps assembled by astronauts). But, how to get the power back down to Earth? The usual proposal is to send it down as beamed microwave power. Power transmission as laser light is much less efficient (the conversion efficiency of electrical energy to laser light is quite low), and the atmosphere will scatter some of the laser energy. The frequency of microwave transmission can be selected for minimal (but never zero) atmospheric scattering (little interaction between atmospheric molecules and these electromagnetic waves).

To convey reasonable power, the microwave beams would have to be intense since they would be of modest diameter (perhaps meters to 1 km). Otherwise, a wide beam would have to be captured with a large ground antenna; and probably many beams would be needed to power our industrialized civilization. The difficulty with sustained and intense microwave beams from outer space would be that they could cook holes in the atmosphere, and prove harmful to any creatures and organisms, or ships and airplanes, that might inadvertently cross their paths. These problems with microwave-beamed space-based power have been known since the 1970s, when the space-based (microwave-transmitted) power schemes were first proposed. Basically, this scheme is like the operation of unshielded (i.e., open) megawatt to gigawatt microwave ovens aimed down on us. It’s almost like H. G. Wells’ heat ray from “The War Of The Worlds.”

Now, about fusion. I fell in love with controlled terrestrial fusion energy in my boyhood, and went into science and energy research to be a part of the fusion energy future. That future is still in the future, and I suspect it will always be. Actually, we already have civilization-powering fusion energy, it’s called the Sun. It is just that we have yet to fully accommodate ourselves to the efficient uses of it.

Any controlled terrestrial fusion reactor (likely based on hydrogen and/or deuterium, and producing helium) will necessarily generate fusion neutrons and gamma rays in its core. That is the fusion energy that must be captured and converted into usable electricity (and heat). The materials that interact with this hard radiation, both to absorb the energy (like molten/fluid lithium blankets coating the inner walls of the reactor) and to contain the radioactivity (like the layered walls of the reactor vessel and its surrounding containment vessels and shields) will unavoidably become activated, that is to say radioactive. The “first wall” in particular will degrade and need periodic replacement. Hence, there will be a steady production of radioactive waste at any fusion energy electrical generation facility.

The only fusion reactor we know of today that does not produce a radioactive waste disposal problem on Earth is the Sun. Not only does it produce copious amounts of energy by fusion, while keeping the radioactive wastes 93 million miles from us, but it beams its energy to all points on Earth with admirable reliability, magnanimous equity and benign transmission.

Solar power at 1% conversion efficiency on 2% of the land area of the United States of America would produce the total electrical energy use of the nation, 4 trillion kilowatt-hours per year (4T kWh/y).

We have what we need and only lack the vision to realize it.

Excellent 20th Century Books

Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor at http://www.counterpunch.org/, has published a list of his 100 favorite non-fiction books (originally in English) from the twentieth century:

100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the 20th Century (and Beyond) in English
(chosen by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair)
5 April 2014
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/04/100-best-non-fiction-books-of-the-20th-century-and-beyond-in-english/

I have read several of these books as well as a few others, not listed, by some of the authors cited.

Given Cockburn’s and St. Clair’s literary and political interests, they did not consider books on science like the physics book

Taking The Quantum Leap, by Fred Alan Wolf (1981, revised 1989, a National Book Award Winner),

nor scholarly works on folklore and Eastern thought like:

The Hero With A Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell (1949), and

The Philosophies Of India, by Heinrich Zimmer (1951).

Let me suggest a few more titles for your consideration, along this theme of “20th century books in English”:

Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner (1986, revised 1992).
For me, this book ranks with Thucydides.
I described Cadillac Desert, along with some other works, at
http://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/03/07/living-in-cadillac-desert/

At War With Asia, by Noam Chomsky (1970).
I described my reaction to reading this book, here:
http://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/06/20/on-reading-at-war-with-asia-by-noam-chomsky/

The Making Of A Continent, by Ron Redfern (1983).
Redfern tells, in words and with many photographs, how the Cadillac Desert that captivated Edward Abbey and Marc Reisner came to be (along with the rest of North America).

Vietnam, Inc., by Philip Jones Griffiths (1971).
A book of searing photojournalism that undoubtedly helped to end that war, by working on the public mind.

The Shock Of The New, by Robert Hughes (1981).
A fascinating presentation and explanation of modern art.

The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins (1976).
A 30th anniversary edition of this seminal work on modern (DNA-based) Darwinism is in print.

A book written in the 19th century that was only published in its unexpurgated form during the 20th century is:

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, edited by Nora Barlow (1958).
“The autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, with original omissions [usually about religion] restored, edited and with appendices and notes by his granddaughter Nora Barlow.”
See the following blog entry for details about print and free online editions of this book
http://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/03/07/the-life-and-ideas-of-charles-darwin/

Three books (in English) that are 21st century publications (technically outside our 20th century time frame) but are entirely focused on the 20th century (and largely written during it) are the following.

Written by Tony Judt (1948-2010):

Postwar: A History Of Europe Since 1945,
(2005; writing began in Eastern Europe in 1989, during the year of revolutions).

Reappraisals: Reflections On The Forgotten Twentieth Century,
(2008, republication of essays that first appeared in journals between 1994 and 2006).

Thinking The Twentieth Century,
(with Timothy Snyder, completed 2010, published 2012).

Other 20th century books that were originally non-English, but are essential cultural artifacts are:

Relativity, by Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
(1916, expanded and revised up to 1952); written for the general public.

Most of the works by Primo Levi, like:

Survival In Auschwitz,

The Reawakening,

The Periodic Table
(a memoir with chemistry),

The Drowned And The Saved,

all written and published between 1945 and 1987.

These are the books that first came to my mind after reading Jeffrey St. Clair’s “top 100 books in English” article.

Some of these books may be more political while others are more scientific or ecological or artistic or philosophical or psychological, yet I think they all help illuminate facets of the collective consciousness of alert and concerned late 20th and early 21st century minds.

Enjoy!

Living in Cadillac Desert

The American West is a land transformed by an immense network of water projects that cannot be indefinitely maintained. When will this land accumulate too many people (and salt) and lose too much water (along with the accompanying salmon and trout) to continue maintaining the present industrialized paradise? Marc Reisner explored this question in depth in his superb book Cadillac Desert. This book reminds me of Thucydides’ History Of The Peloponnesian War because even though Cadillac Desert focuses on the history of water development projects in the American West it reveals the essential (and fatal?) political flaw of the American republic, which is based on the all-too-common human failing of short-sightedness in self-interest.

The following books and videos can help one appreciate the natural history of our Cadillac Desert, and both its allure and potential danger to so many.

Desert Solitaire, A Season In The Wilderness
Edward Abbey
1968

Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire is a wry, witty and poetic evocation of life in the high desert, immersed in unbounded nature and remote from civilization. It is as if Abbey had tried to conjure up for himself the sense of John Wesley Powell’s experiences on the Colorado River a century earlier. Beautiful, but I suspect today only an unrepeatable echo of the past.

Cadillac Desert, The American West And Its Disappearing Water
Marc Reisner
1986, revised 1993, Penguin Books
ISBN 978-0-14-017824-1 [paperback]

A masterpiece of Thucydidian timelessness, a tomogram of the American republic taken from the West. Read it [the videos are not enough].

Cadillac Desert
“jkoomjian” states:
Cadillac Desert, Water and the Transformation of Nature (1997), an American four-part documentary series about water, money, politics, and the transformation of nature. The film chronicles the growth of a large community in the western American desert. It brought abundance and the legacy of risk it has created in the United States and abroad. The first three episodes are based on Marc Reisner’s book, Cadillac Desert (1986), that delves into the history of water use and misuse in the American West. It explores the triumph and disaster, heroism and intrigue, and the rivalries and bedfellows that dominate this little-known chapter of American history. The final episode, is drawn from Sandra Postel’s book, Last Oasis, (1992) which examines the global impact of the technologies and policies that came out of America’s manipulation of water, demonstrating how they have created the need for conservation methods that will protect Earth’s water for the next century. This recording [of the series] comes from old VHS tapes, and the quality is messed up in places. But, it is nearly impossible to find copies of the original series anymore. Just a single copy of the first episode is for sale on Amazon, and the guy selling it wants $1000!! Or you can watch it here for free :) [thanks jkoomjian]
Episode 1, Mulholland’s Dream (part 1)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkbebOhnCjA
All subsequent segments of video for the entire series can be linked from here. Also, all the video sequences are listed at jkoomjian’s video grid at:
http://www.youtube.com/user/jkoomjian/videos?view=0&flow=grid
Episode 1 is divided into 9 segments of 8 to 10 minutes (90 minutes).
Episode 2, An American Nile (in 6 segments, 1 hour)
Episode 3, The Mercy Of Nature (in 6 segments, 1 hour)
Episode 4, Last Oasis (in 6 segments, 1 hour).

Introduction To Water In California
(California Natural History Guides, 76)
David Carle
2004, University Of California Press
ISBN 0-520-24086-3 [paperback]

All the details about the water systems of California, from the mountains (Nature) to the taps and irrigation pipes (Man).

The Making Of A Continent
text and photographs by Ron Redfern
1983, Times Books
ISBN 0-8129-1617-4 [big beautiful paperback]

Ron Redfern used photography to tell the story of the geologic history of the North American continent. His book accompanies a six-part series of one-hour television programs broadcast in 1986 [I think expanded from a 3-part series with episodes 4, 5 and 6 from 1983]. I was fortunate to make VHS copies from TV broadcasts received with an aerial in 1987 and 1988, which I would aim just so for best reception, that requiring I climb onto the roof of my house repeatedly to aim the antenna before each broadcast. This is my favorite TV series, of which episode 4, “Corridors of Time” is my favorite hour of television. The photography, graphics and narration of the video series are all fascinating. Ron Redfern’s text in his book is very good also, informative and engaging. Episode 2, “The Rich High Desert,” describes the Ice Ages and shows some of the geologic and climate history related to Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, and Episode 4, “Corridors of Time” is about the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, whose shameless exploitation for irrigation Reisner recounts in detail. One source for the video series, on DVD, is shown next.

The Making Of A Continent
The complete 1983 BBC/WTTV Chicago co-production chronicling the birth and development of the North American continent. All six hour-long episodes are packed into 2 dual layer All Regions DVDs.
VOLUME 1
Epi. 1: Collision Course | Epi. 2: Rich High Desert | Epi. 3: The Great River
VOLUME 2
Epi. 4: Corridors of Time | Epi. 5: Land of the Sleeping Mountains | Epi. 6: Price of Gold
http://www.mediaoutlet.com/the-making-of-a-continent-dvd-set-complete-tv-series-2-discs-p-1043.html

Episode 6 of The Making Of A Continent is about California, and the following items all describe features of the state (also note Introduction To Water In California, above).

Faulting California
“Jere Lipps of the UC Museum of Paleontology & Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley explores California’s enormous diversity of geology, landforms, and biology which has been shaped by more than 200 million years of seismic activity. Series: “Uniqueness of California” [9/2005] [Science] [Show ID: 9522]” A one hour lecture (narration accompanying still and video visuals) from 2005, mainly about the San Andreas and Hayward and Calavaras fault systems, both their formation and present dangers.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzdBx9zL0ZY

A Dangerous Place: California’s Unsettling Fate
Marc Reisner
2003, Penguin Books
ISBN-13: 978-0142003831

Peggy Vincent writes (on December 14, 2003, link below): “Marc Reisner’s last book, dammit. What a great guy Marc Reisner was. He wrote A Dangerous Place: California’s Unsettling Fate as he was dying of cancer, and it’s not just a benchmark of California’s environmental history but also a profound and emotional valedictory effort. Living as I do within ¼ mile of the grumbling and growling Hayward Fault, I found Reisner’s projections of the cataclysmic effects of the Big One to be more than unsettling. Those of us who are priviledged or doomed to live in this glorious state cannot fail to take heed of the picture he paints of the likely events surrounding our upcoming tectonic hiccups, belches, and sneezes. The book is divided into 3 sections. The first retells California’s environmental history from the era of Junipero Serra’s mission system right up to our own freeway system. The middle section deals with the fundamentals of plate tectonics. But it’s that 3rd section that looks forward to (shudder) a hypothetical eruption of the Hayward Fault in 2005 that is most gripping. Yikes. Sayonara to a great environmentalist and author.”
http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Place-Californias-Unsettling-Fate/dp/0142003832

“A Dangerous Place” by Marc Reisner [Salon book review]
Katharine Mieszkowski
5 March 2003
“Plunged into the Bay? Smothered in the superstore? Californians may have forgotten about their looming apocalypse, but eco-journalist Marc Reisner’s final work is here to remind them.”
http://www.salon.com/2003/03/05/reisner/

Geologic History Of Middle California
(California Natural History Guides: 43)
Arthur D. Howard
1979, University Of California Press
ISBN 0-520-03874-6

Arthur D. Howard’s little book on the geologic history of California from King City to Point Arena from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra Nevada Mountains is now out of print, replaced by Doris Sloan’s 2006 book (following). However, though more recent work has made some of Howard’s dating and sequencing of events a bit less accurate, his effort to give one fluid pocket-book sized narrative of 230 million years of California’s geologic history, for a popular readership, a noble and very engaging work. His numerous pen-and-ink (and watercolor) illustrations and perspective cutaway diagrams, especially his incredibly detailed, scaled high-altitude view of the entire territory under consideration (Figure 1, Physiographic diagram of Middle California) are just endlessly fascinating. The sixteen photographs of geologic features are all interesting and beautiful. I wish this book had been revised for greater technical accuracy given present knowledge, but with as few other changes as possible. It was a gem.

Geology Of The San Francisco Bay Region
(California Natural History Guides, 79)
Doris Sloan
2006, University Of California Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-520-24126-8

Doris Sloan’s book is a fat pocket-book, encyclopedic, profusely illustrated, describing the San Francisco Bay Area from Gilroy to Gualala from the Pacific Ocean up to the Central Valley, taken as seven regions (Marin County; San Francisco; The Bay and The Islands; The Penninsula: Coast, Redwoods and Bay; The South Bay; The North Bay; The East Bay). Detailed descriptions (and illustrations) are given for numerous locations within each of the seven regions. This book is a vast collection of detail logically organized and tightly packed. It is ideal as a guide book for visits to many points of geological and naturalist interest in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Roadside Geology Of Northern California
David D. Alt and Donald W. Hyndman
1975, Mountain Press Publishing Company (Missoula, Montana)

Alt and Hyndman’s book is a guide to the geology that you can see while traveling along California’s highways. The book divides the territory under consideration (north of San Francisco) into four regions: the Coast Ranges, the Sierra Nevada and Klamath mountains, the Great Valley, and the Cascades and Modoc Plateau (volcanic). The geology along highways running through these regions is then described in some detail with text, diagrams and photographs. This is a nice book to have as a passenger on a roadtrip in Northern California.

California is a modern paradise of uncertain water supply and shaky ground. Our best collective survival here must depend on a wider sense of appreciation of the land and each other.