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On the One Hand Stark Reality, On the Other Hand Fantasy

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Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez greets fans and reporters outside his home in Mexico City on March 6. Photo: Mario Guzman/EPA/Landov

Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday at the age of 87. His work, including the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude earned him a Nobel Prize and sparked an entire genre of literature.

NPR’s Mandalit Del Barco reports his magical realistic style of narrative had its roots in two grandparents with two different perspectives.

Garcia Marquez was born in 1927 in the Colombian coast town of Aracataca, which experienced a boom after a U.S. fruit company arrived. In a 1984 interview with NPR, he said his writing was forever shaped by the grandparents who raised him as a young child:

“There was a real dichotomy in me because, on one hand … there was the world of my grandfather; a world of stark reality, of civil wars he told me about, since he had been a colonel in the last civil war. And then, on the other hand, there was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality.”

According to the BBC obituary, in 1965 he was politically active and a journalist but little known. He was driving to Acapulco with his family when he had a idea for a story. He turned the car around, went home and shut himself in a room for 18 months with six packets of cigarettes a day.

He emerged eighteen months later to find his family $12,000 in debt. Fortunately, he had thirteen hundred pages of phenomenal best-selling text in his hands.

The novel’s first printing in Spanish sold out within a week, and during the next thirty years One Hundred Years of Solitude sold more than twenty million copies and was translated into more than thirty languages.

The New York Times called it the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.

Democracy Now! opens its full-episode remembrance with Marquez’s own words accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982:

[translated] The country that could be formed of all the exiles and forced emigrants of Latin America would have a population larger than that of Norway. I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.

Isabel Allende was Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez’s guest for the show. She offered a different perspective on the magical realism Marquez made popular:

I would say that magic realism begins with the conquistadors that came to Latin America, and they were writing these letters to the king or to Spain in which they talk about a continent that had fountains of youth, that you could pick up the gold and the diamonds from the floor, that people had unicorns or had one foot so big that at siesta time they would raise it like a parasol to have shade. I mean, this is—I’m not making this up. This is in the conquistadors’ letters.

Marquez had recently been hospitalized. He died at home in Mexico, where he had lived for the past 30 years.

To Restore Elkhorn Slough, Ecologists Look to 19th Century

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Elkhorn Dairy Farm, now site of the reserve, in the the 1930s or 40s.Source: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

Water rationing starts in the city of Santa Cruz on May 1, just in time for spring planting. Landscaping with native plants is one way to reduce the water use in your garden. Ecologists at Elkhorn Slough use history to help them decide which native plants to use during habitat restoration, and their tips can help homeowners choose plants as well.

The trail from the visitor’s center at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve  leads to an overlook with views of salt marsh, grasslands and woodlands. An old barn with a rusty roof is a one clue that the wild land was dairy and pasture for many decades.

Andrea Woolfolk started working as stewardship coordinator at the reserve about 15 years ago. “I was told that my job was to restore things,” she says. “You stand out in a field of weeds and wonder ‘What do I restore it to?’”

She started gathering historical maps, photos, journals and newspaper articles to get an idea of what the land looked like in the past. That gave her clues as to what plants or habitats might do well in the future. “It could have been a small project,” Woolfolk says. “But it’s become a bit of an obsession, you might say.”

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A land survey of upper Elkhorn Slough, created by A.T. Herrmann in 1898. Blue shows tidal channel; brown shows salt marsh; green represents freshwater areas dominated by tules. Source: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

And she says it’s become a hobby as well. At first, Woolfolk was captivated by the beautiful maps and arresting accounts. Then she started noticing themes emerging as she gathered more information. “The more that you pull it together, the more these narratives emerge and you kinda can’t stop,” Woolfolk says.

Creating a narrative

Woolfolk pulls out a map from 1869 that surveys the area for Elkhorn Road. Today, that road leads to the main entrance to the reserve, and it provides a way to locate our position in a field behind the overlook. The map shows that the land where we are standing used to belong to a man named Wescott.

Wescott held a big 4th of July party in 1869 that merited an article in some local newspapers. Woolfolk reads from the article in the Castroville Argus: “The choice of location was very good, a gentle roll of land studded with the grand old oaks. They give California hills the appearance of noble parks.”

The story in the Pajaronian gives a little more information about the land. “The ground is clean and shaded by wide, spreading oaks and nearby is a spring of pure water,” Woolfolk reads. The reporter estimates there’s room enough for over 100,000 people.

The articles also mention dancing on a green sward, which is an old-fashioned way to say meadow. Based on those descriptions, Woolfolk learns that the land used to be covered in a mix of grasses and oaks.

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A painting of Moss Landing, looking south to Castroville, painted by Leon Trousset in the 1870s. The original hangs in Our Lady of Refuge Church in Castroville.

Decisions, decisions

Ecologists at the reserve aim to restore grassland using locally collected seed. Bree Candiloro, stewardship specialist at the reserve, tends a small plot of native grasses that includes blue wild rye, California brome, and California oak grass.

The seed from these grasses will be used to restore habitat across the estuary from the overlook. Historical information tells the ecologists that the targeted area used to be grassland, but Woolfolk says they don’t know exactly what species grew there before. “We’re starting to test which grasses take the best,” she says. “The ones that take the best are the ones that we’ll use the most.”

Planting guided by history can be done with smaller parcels of land as well. Woolfolk and Candiloro have collected resources on a website  so that individual land or home owners around the Monterey Bay area can learn about the past ecology of their property. “Knowing where you are, knowing the land, [and] knowing what was there will assist in choosing the right plants,” Candiloro says.

Benefits from landscaping with native plants include reduced water use as well as increased native insect and plant diversity. That kind of landscaping, even if just on a little postage stamp of property, is still making a difference if you’re doing it within the context of the best thing for the land, she says.

Local Acclaimed Author Karen Joy Fowler Wins PEN / Faulker Award

Author Karen Joy Fowler.

Author Karen Joy Fowler.

Karen Joy Fowler, our local author was just awarded the PEN / Faulker award for her last novel, ‘We Are All completely Beside Ourselves’.

Over the past year, she had been the guest on two different KUSP programs. Here are the interviews and links to the shows.

From The Agony Column - Broadcast on June 6, 2013:

Host Rick Kleffel wrote: “It was quite a treat to sit down and talk with Fowler about the book, and not quite as challenging as I thought it would be. On one hand, I was loath to discuss too directly much of what happened in the book. As with any book, reading this book and experiencing the events as the author intends — with some surprise — is preferable. This is to say; I thought it would be harder to talk about the book without just spilling directly into the exciting bits…”

From The 7th Avenue Project - Broadcast on January 26, 2014
Host Robert Pollie wrote: “So we’re kin to our fellow creatures – cousins, we like to say, to chimpanzees and bonobos. But what sort of family obligations should follow from that, it seems we’re nowhere near to working out. Some people have taken the notion of primate kinship to literal lengths, attempting to raise chimps as children in psychological studies of the animal-human cognitive divide. With their often-sloppy science and often-sorry outcomes (see, for example, Project Nim), most such experiments have done less to limn the inter-species boundary than to highlight our dire confusions about it…”

For Teens On Probation: One-On-One Instruction, Counseling

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More than 5,000 youths remain locked up in California at an estimated cost of $380,000 per day. Community-based programs have proven an effective strategy at keeping kids out of jail. Laura Flynn has this report from Rancho Cielo a community school in Monterey County.

By Laura Flynn | KUSP News -

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Christian Lamonea in the classroom.

By Laura Flynn | KUSP Education -

Teacher Christian Lamonea and 13 students balance short bent wires on popsicle sticks. 18-year-old Anastasia Gonzales explains they’re watching how involuntary muscle activity works.

“We’re learning about like bones, ligaments, and bruises and all that stuff.,” she says. “It’s cool to see how, like the body works and stuff.”

Individual Attention for Students on Probation

Down the hall in Chris Dever’s class about 13 students work independently as he helps one student. 17-year-old Sheridan Sampognaro is almost done with a project concerned with instances of mathematical ratios in nature.

“The golden ratio and the Fibonacci all come together,” she says. “See in the pine cone the spirals. Three, five, three plus five is eight. Five plus eight is thirteen and so on, right?”

This is Rancho Cielo’s Silver Star Program in Salinas.  It’s one of  about 75 community schools across California serving mostly students who have been expelled from regular high school or who are on probation. The goal is to give students more individual attention. Anastasia Gonzales notices the difference.

“They take care of  you more. Their focus is on you, like they make sure you get your stuff done  an d get it.”

Kids in Court May Be Facing Difficult Choices

Retired Judge John Phillips established the program about ten years ago. He sat on the bench for 21 years, often sending young people to prison for life he says. One day while covering juvenile court for a colleague out sick, he was coming down hard on a young man in violation of probation for missing school.

“And his mother stood up and said, “well judge, he can’t. My car is broken down.” And I said, “well he can walk to school like I did,” you know. “Well I don’t want him to get shot again walking to school.” I said, “shot again?” And they said, “yeah he got shot walking to school, because he had to walk through enemy territory.””

Realizing the kids who often end up in court face difficult everyday life choices, the judge created Rancho Cielo to help them get their high school diploma or GED. But it’s easier said than done. Though Silver Star serves 15 ½ to 18 year olds, teachers like Chris Devers have to incorporate multiple strategies with students whose proficiency levels range from third to twelfth grade.

“You’re integrating everything all at once. And it takes a long time to know how to select assignments that are going to work for every kid.”

A Setting to Take Kids Out of Hectic Lives. 

Teacher Christian Lamonea likes to employ experiential learning often taking advantage of the ponds and hills on the 100 acre property they’re on – something he thinks helps the student s over all.

” But I think part of it is really is just getting out of the urban setting for students. And as a science teacher, nature, hills and its tranquility will prevail. It’s hard to be wound up in nature, you know.”

It’s also about making sure students are present and develop healthy habits.

” I think one of the great things that Silver Star, Rancho Cielo does is we pick the kids up, so truancy is really not an issue. We feed them a breakfast. We give them time to eat it. So now they have the energy regardless of what kind of home they come from.”

To deal with underlying issues that may lead to truancy or criminal behavior the school  provides counseling for mental health and substance abuse. For Anastasia Gonzales the school has changed her point of view.

“Like I feel like I didn’t really have as much respect for people and here I feel like I have more respect. …usually I would feel dumb and stupid but here like I feel like I can be smart and I can be a better person.”

Comparable to studies about community-based interventions, about 33% of youth commit a new crime after one year of participating in Silver Star versus a 50-70% recidivism rate for incarceration.  Ultimately, that’s the bottom line– creating more opportunities and keeping kids out of jail.

Showing Otters Love Through Your Taxes

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Photo: Michael L. Baird/Flickr

Photo: Michael L. Baird/Flickr

By Melissae Fellet | KUSP News

More than two million dollars have been contributed to the California Sea Otter Fund through donations on the state income tax form. The fund has become an important source of support for sea otter research and conservation programs in the state. But the program will only continue if donations reach a mandated minimum target this year, which is the largest in its seven-year history.

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Paul Contos on the Next Generation 2014

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Paul Contos is a musician, jazz educator and the Education Director of the Monterey Jazz Festival. He stopped by KUSP this week to speak with KUSP’s Jeff Dayton-Johnson about the workings of the Next Generation Jazz Festival. The weekend festival is a complex collection of performances &  workshops with some of the most talented jazz students in the country.

Listen to the full interview, above.

Go to KUSP Jazz Festival blog.

Paul Cantos stopped by KUSP studios for an interview with Jeff Dayton-Johnson

Paul Contos during an interview with Jeff Dayton-Johnson at KUSP. Photo: Stephen Laufer / KUSP

Michio Kaku Foresees ‘The Future of the Mind’

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Theoretical physicist and author, Michio Kaku

Theoretical physicist and author, Michio Kaku

By Rick Kleffel | KUSP’s Agony Column

It’s obvious that Michio Kaku is about four steps ahead of the rest of the world. His books, ‘The Future of the Mind’ and ‘Physics of the Future,’ are as outstandingly entertaining as they are informative. In person, he’s just like his books, smart beyond belief and lots of fun.

“But I’m a physicist…”

— Michio Kaku

While I didn’t see a “But I’m a physicist…” button when we spoke at KQED, I’m pretty certain if there was one he would have been hitting it more often as I was hitting the cough button. To be honest, I find the man astonishing. He’s always on, and he has his subject down with a delivery that is authentically enthusiastic. It’s easy to see why he has two TV shows and two radio shows.

I tried, with some success, to get him to talk about crafting the books. He clearly gets to have a blast in the process, particularly with the interviews, and I can see the “kid in a candy shop” scenes when he talks about visiting labs, and seeing dreams and telepathy demonstrated by actual scientists.

Readers will get to hear as well the thrill in Kaku’s voice when he talks about how much he enjoys science fiction, and the importance of science fiction to the process of science. Here’s where the rubber meets the road in the form-following function arena. Listening to Michio Kaku you can get an appreciation of hard science and completely nutso, goofy science fiction.

Coming Soon: Water Rationing

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Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard urges residents to use low-flow shower heads and other implements to save water during the drought. Photo: J.D. Hillard / KUSP

Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard urges residents to use low-flow shower heads and other implements to save water during the drought. Photo: J.D. Hillard / KUSP

By J.D. Hillard | KUSP News

You probably knew it was coming: Since it became clear we haven’t been having a normal winter, water managers around he Monterey Bay have been considering how to reduce demand. Santa Cruz was the first to announce penalties for using more than a certain amount. The measure takes effect in May. The newly appointed water director said that timeline allows the agency to adjust the restrictions if conditions change.

The fines take effect when a household uses more than 10 ccf in a month – that works out to about 60 gallons per person per day for a four person household. Menard says this shouldn’t be too disruptive indoors.

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UCSC Researchers Evaluate Yosemite’s Success of Keeping the Bears Away From Human’s Food

Note as cute as Yogi's pic-a-nic thievery: Food left out at a campsite in Yosemite National Park is likely to attract bears like this one, seen scavenging at Tuolumne Meadows Campground in 2008. Photo: Courtesy of Erica Crawford

Note as cute as Yogi’s pic-a-nic thievery: Food left out at a campsite in Yosemite National Park is likely to attract bears like this one, seen scavenging at Tuolumne Meadows Campground in 2008.
Photo: Courtesy of Erica Crawford

By Eliza Barclay | NPR’s The Salt

One of the great joys of camping out in a national park is chowing down by the fire. But campers aren’t the only ones drawn to burgers and s’mores roasting over an open flame, beneath a mass of twinkling stars.

Those rich aromas can also prove irresistible to the local critters. From bears to foxes to coyotes, biologists have documented wildlife getting irrevocably hooked on our food and food waste. And for good reason: Our food is way more calorie-rich — and thus, better for making babies — than the standard black bear fare of insects and leaves.

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Chickens That Lay Organic Eggs Eat Imported Food, And It’s Pricey

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Empty shelves where eggs should be at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C. The store blames increased demand for organic eggs. Photo: Dan Charles/NPR

Empty shelves where eggs should be at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C. The store blames increased demand for organic eggs. Photo: Dan Charles/NPR

 By Dan Charles/NPR

The other morning, I found myself staring at something strange and unfamiliar: empty grocery shelves with the word “eggs” above them. The store, a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C., blamed, in another sign, the dearth on “increased demand for organic eggs.”

This scene is unfolding in grocery stores across the country. But Whole Foods’ sign wasn’t telling the whole truth. Demand for organic eggs is indeed increasing, but production is also down.

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