Ben: Media Resources Center

April 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

This week I visited the Media Resources Center.  I was able to locate a film entitled American Chinatown, which is a documentary about the town of Locke, California.  The blurb on oskicat says the following:

Focuses on the last rural Chinatown in the United States, Locke, Calif., and on its farmhand inhabitants from Southern China. Documents the struggle between preservationists and developers to make the community a living historical landmark. Employs interviews, cinema verité, and montage of still photographs.

Sounds like it should be about perfect for my research.  I haven’t had the chance to watch the film yet.  It showed in oskicat as being available, but when I got to the media resources center, it was out for duplication to DVD.  Fortunately they had a copy at the NRLF, so now I just need to wait a couple of days for another copy to be delivered to check it out.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Ben: Visual Resources

April 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

This week was a bit frustrating for me.  The Bancroft has a huge collection of visual resources pertaining to the Chinese-American experience in California, but I still was unable to find anything from the specific geographic area I’m studying.  Despite being the only rural Chinatown in existence since at least the 1970s, there just aren’t any photographs of it.  Modern photographs are pretty easy to come by, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of historical stuff much older than around 1974 or so.  After spending hours trying to wrangle images from the OAC, I decided to turn my attention the Earth Sciences and Map Library instead.  Here I was able to find some maps which at least documented the area from the 1960’s.  One map in particular was a “vacation destination” kind of tourist map with things like fishing holes, or roadside diners and hotels listed throughout the Sacramento delta.   Interestingly, though the town of Locke has become a bit of a tourist attraction today, the town wasn’t really highlighted at all.  It was basically shown as a section of nearby Walnut Grove.  It’s interesting that even as late as the 1960’s it wasn’t really common knowledge how rare and unusual Locke was, or at least it wasn’t a destination worth visiting as a tourist with so many greasy spoons, boat rental shops, or camper parks competing for your attention.  My search for visual resources didn’t exactly end in a treasure trove, but it was an interesting journey.  Hopefully I can just create some maps of my own.  Now I just need to find huge amounts of detailed census data…  Hmmm.

From Ben for Shane

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hi Shane! 

I spent a little time trying to refresh my memory as to what was going on in US public opinion immediately preceding World War II.  It seems like Roosevelt was pretty keenly attuned to the attitudes and opinions of the public, (or at least to a certain elite and articulate portion of the public).  He employed a number of different clipping services to furnish him with newspaper content, and a number of different, less-formal channels to determine where public sentiments lay. (such as having friends eavesdrop on the gossip at their cocktail parties, or randomly sampling the thousands of daily letters to the White House)  The methods he used to collect data, as well as those he used to influence public opinion, could provide fodder for an interesting thesis project alone.  However, getting back to your particular subject, I found these two books interesting.  They deal with both FDR and public opinion surrounding the war, which given Roosevelt’s huge popularity and extreme sensitivity to public sentiment, seems appropriate.  In my opinion, the two are more inextricably linked than with any prior president; he basically set the standard for public interaction and propaganda going forward.  So, the two books are:


Cautious crusade [electronic resource] : Franklin D. Roosevelt, American public opinion, and the war against Nazi Germany / Steven Casey.

In this book the author looks at the connection between public opinion and policy making preceding, during, and after WWII.  He specifically focuses on the propaganda campaign that Roosevelt used to sway public opinion away from isolationism.  Hopefully, if not the book, at least the citations will provide a good jumping off point for further research.


Threshold of war : Franklin D. Roosevelt and American entry into World War II

The focus of this book is a little more broad since it also includes information on what was going on in Europe, but it still provides some interesting information about FDR and his struggles with garnering public support for American entry into WWII, particularly during the nine months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The focus of the book aside, it’s really accessible; it reads like a novel.  I found myself wanting to continue reading despite the looming paper deadlines I have in other classes.  Hopefully I haven’t cursed you with a similarly irresponsible fate.


Good luck with your topic!

– Ben



Fracking in the New Mexico Desert – My Dad’s Experiences

March 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

This week I chose to interview my father about his experiences living in a part of rural New Mexico which has played host to a lot of fracking activity (hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction), and how he came to work for one of the gas companies doing the fracking.  (Though his work is not related to fracking specifically.)  Also, it turns out that he recalled some reactions to fracking in the community that were taking place in Utah where we lived when I was a child.  It was an unusual thing to talk about my dad’s work with him, since it’s not something we would normally get into in detail.  It was also interesting to get a perspective from someone inside the industry, but who would be honest with me.  It turns out that all the kitchen faucets that could be lit on fire and so forth were a little blown out of proportion, but that there were a whole lot of other issues that people in the area were running into.  I hadn’t realized how much water the process  used, and how problematic that could be for such an arid area.  It was also interesting to get an idea of how the structure of these operations work.  There’s a lot of subcontracting and migratory labor that can be pretty hard on the guys working in the field, as well as a lot of politics.  I’m actually looking forward to doing another interview with my dad with a recording.  I couldn’t figure out how to get my cell phone to record on this one, though I took as much notes as I could.  I don’t think I’ll be citing my dad in my paper (that seems kind of conflict of interest-ish for some reason) but I do have a much better idea of some of the things I should be looking into.  Aside from helping point me in the right direction as far as research, it was also a good excuse to spend some time on the phone with my dad and do a little bonding.

Different classes, different sources.

March 10, 2013 § 1 Comment

This week I visited both the Bancroft and the Newspapers and Microfiche area of the Doe Library.  At the Bancroft, I was really pleased with the books I was able to locate.  I found 4 different books which were all on the subject of Chinatowns in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta.  Three of the four were on the town of Locke, which was the last rural Chinatown to exist in the US.  (In fact it’s still there.) The fourth book was on Marysville, which was not a Chinese-American community entirely, but still had its own Chinatown during the heydey of Chinese immigrant farm labor in the delta.  I was only able to get partway through the thickest, and potentially most useful, book.  However, I’ll be going back for more reading as I asked the Bancroft to keep it for me.  I also plan to pay the $10 photography fee, since the maps in the book were so useful for my research and aren’t likely to be found anywhere else.  It was slightly disappointing that I wasn’t able to find anything with more of an air of antiquity about it (the book I was reading was from 1984) but I couldn’t have asked for a more detailed and authoritative reference for my particular paper.  It seems likely that I will  be narrowing the focus of my paper to only the town of Locke and perhaps its nearest neighbors.

My experience at the Newspaper and Microfiche area at Doe was sort of the opposite.  My topic is quite recent, but the references I encountered were not.  For another class I’m writing a paper on Silicon Valley’s private shuttles (Now narrowed to focus on the Google shuttles in particular) and their effect on local traffic and property values.  However, this is a phenomenon which began in 2004 and has only recently caught the public attention.  Consequently, there is likely little on the subject on microfiche.  However, since the paper is for a transportation class, and the instructor asks us to post transportation news items on the class blog, I was able to pull several fantastic articles on transportation from various websites and use them for this weeks posting.  I found one article from the late nineteenth century on a proposed high-speed rail-line serving New York city, and powered by hydroelectric generators at Niagara Falls .  Also, I found references to self-driving cars being developed by Ford in 1967,  (sort of along the same lines as the ones being prototyped by Google at the moment) and another describing the late ’60s origins of Amsterdam’s bike sharing program as the brainchild of Dutch hippies.   It was a pretty cool perspective on transportation planning.  Obviously though the major players may change, the topics of debate do not.



Benjamin Remington: Chinese-American Cultural Landscapes of the Sacramento Delta

February 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ll be researching the ways that Chinese immigrant farmers shaped the agricultural practices and land-use in the Sacramento Delta which have helped make the area what it is today.  This is because I want to determine where evidence of these influences is still present today, as well as which aspects have been removed or obscured over time.  I’ll do this in order to help my reader better understand the historical significance of these landscape elements, so that they can be appreciated and preserved as a testament to the considerable contributions made by these immigrants to the bay area’s prosperity and rich culture.

I’ll be conducting this research for a class on the Bay Area landscape and contributions made by minority groups to shaping it.  I’ve already spent some time studying Chinese cultural landscapes through a semester long project on San Francisco’s Chinatown, but I’m now more interested in looking at more rural populations, and the marks they have left on the landscape.  The history of the Chinese in the Bay Area is a complex, and often tragic one, and I feel that it’s important to recognize the contributions of a group whose role in the state’s development is often minimized.  Many Californians are aware of the massive amounts of Chinese labor supplied in the building of the railroad, but most are not aware of similarly gargantuan efforts in agriculture and land reclamation which took place in the Sacramento Delta.

I found my trip to the Gardner stacks to be pretty satisfying.  As I started searching by keyword, I found a much more interesting collection of resources than I had imagined would be available to me.  It really helps to be located here at Berkeley when researching this particular topic.  There were a ton of books listed which sounded fascinating.  (Many of which were at the Ethnic Studies Library, which I have never used before.) Additionally, there were oral histories available on cassette, a lecture on my topic from a Berkeley professor (both in audio and transcript format) and even a film or two.  Even though my professor hasn’t given the official go-ahead on my topic, I’m feeling pretty enthusiastic about it now given all of the cool information available to me.  (And with that sentence I think I have now fully admitted to being a gigantic nerd.)  I ended up checking out a book titled This Bittersweet Soil: The Chinese in California Agriculture , 1860-1910.  I haven’t had a lot of time to go through it, but even by checking out a few of the maps and tables it contains I’ve gained a better understanding of the way that Chinese immigrant populations have moved through the state.  Not bad for an afternoon’s exploration!


Benjamin Remington: Intro

February 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hello fellow scholars,

I’m a 4th year Urban Studies major with a minor is Sustainable Design.  I’ll be in three different classes with a large research component this semester, so I’m really looking forward to exploring and utilizing the overabundance of resources available here at Cal.

I’m a pet lover, vegetarian, quirky-car enthusiast, audiophile, thrift shopper, former pastry chef, former massage therapist, former marketing manager, current broke Berkeley undergrad.  I’m at my happiest when traveling, whether driving a rickety van across the Australian outback, hostel-hopping across Europe, or taking the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka.  At home, when I’m not frantically trying to get through my massive piles of assigned readings, you’d usually find me drinking wine and listening to old Brian Eno records on one of my ridiculously oversized hi-fi systems, and shopping for my latest strange ebay obsession.  (The last one was pre-LED digital alarm clocks.  WTF, right?)

I’m also a proud new father to a ridiculously adorable baby boy named Miles, (born February 1st) and I’ll be raising him in a made-for-TV modern family with my partner Chris, and our good friend Suzy.  So… when you see the bleary red-rimmed eyes this semester you’ll know why.


Yup. He’s still cute at 4 AM.

My research interests are pretty broad, but I tend to latch onto anything involving cultural landscapes and the myriad ways that identity and culture are made manifest in our daily environments.  I’ve always been more of a watcher and thinker than a doer and talker, (I like to think it lets me learn from other people’s mistakes, but oftentimes it’s not exactly proactive.) so researching and observing the physical details of urban life keeps me endlessly fascinated.

This semester I’ll likely be looking at: the ways that Asian-American immigrants altered the landscape of the Bay Area through agricultural practices and food ways; the private shuttles of Silicon Valley firms and their effect on transit, traffic congestion, and property values; and maaaybe trying to delve into shale oil and natural gas exploration in northeastern Utah and its effects on air quality and health.  The last one may be a bit of stretch, so we’ll have to see how good I get at finding obscure research data from this class.

I’m really excited to see what everyone’s getting into this semester.  I’ve already noticed a few of you guys looking into some pretty interesting stuff that I’d love to chat about.