Levene, Bruce — James Dean in Mendocino

John Steinbeck’s novel, “East of Eden” was published September 1952 and the movie-made soon thereafter-is the subject of this edition of Radio Curious. Our guest is Bruce Levene, author of “James Dean in Mendocino: The Filming of East of Eden.” The Mendocino Film Festival will screen “East of Eden” on Friday, November 21 and Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Soon after “East of Eden” was published, plans began immediately for a motion picture. Warner Brothers bought the rights and director Elia Kazan hired playwright screenwriter, Paul Osborn to write the film script. After several attempts to encompass the sprawling 560-page novel, they decided to use only the last 90 pages—the story of Adam Trask, his sons Aron and Cal, their mother Kate, and the girl Abra.

It’s a story about the search for love, the desperate search for his father’s love, by the son Cal, the fanciful search for his mother’s love by Aron, and the futile quest by Adam for the love of all humanity. John Steinbeck wrote of his book, “The subject is the only one that man has used of his theme. The existence, the balance, the battle and the victory and permanent war between wisdom and ignorance, light and darkness, good and evil.”

By 1954, when Kazan began searching for locale to use for the filming of “East of Eden,” neither Monterey nor Salinas, where the stories took place, looked much like California in 1917. Warner Brothers had made “Johnny Belinda” in Mendocino in 1947, which might have influenced the director.

Or perhaps as one wire service reported:  “Like many other voyagers, he just wandered up the Mendocino Coast and found what he was looking for.”

In late April, preparations for filming began and the fist day of shooting took place on May 27. In that amazingly brief time the Mendocino scenes were completed and by June 3, the Warner Brothers production team was gone, leaving local residents with fond remembrances.

Bruce Levene writes, “I first saw “East of Eden” on the fan tail of a US Navy destroyer in the Caribbean in 1956. I’d read the book but never traveled west of Des Moines. California was unseen, Mendocino was unheard of. I thought “East Eden” had been filmed in Monterey and Salinas, wherever they were.”

“East of Eden” became Levene’s favorite motion picture. Not particularly because of James Dean, although he was certainly unforgettable.

“Whatever the man was in real life, saint or sinner,” Bruce Levene writes, “we will never really know.  It’s undeniable however, that in front of an audience or camera he was remarkable. And that, for an actor, is the best thing that can be said. Dean was just something else.”

For Bruce Levene, it was how he felt about the whole movie—the shoreline, the town, it’s people, the actors: Julie Harris, Joe Van Fleet, Raymond Massey and Burl Ives (Massey and Ives didn’t go to Mendocino), and Leonard Rosenman’s wonderful music. A totality in feeling, rare in motion pictures, was only enhanced to Bruce Levene when he moved to Mendocino in 1969.

When Bruce Levene and I visited from his home in Mendocino, California, on November 11, 2014, I asked him what prompted him to write his book “James Dean in Mendocino.”

The book Bruce Levene recommends is “The Immense Journey” by Loren Eiseley.

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Brandt, Roger — The Oregon Caves

The Oregon Caves, located about 70 miles northeast of Crescent City, California in the Oregon Caves National Monument, are a place full of interest, mystery, and history. 

The caves were located in 1874 when Elijah Davidson chased his dog into the caves.

The Oregon Caves are very unique—possibly due to the fact that it is one of the few cave systems located on tectonically active ground, known as a subduction zone.   Their uniqueness may also be due to the fact an old growth Douglas fir forest grows directly above the caves, or the fact that they were created from what used to be a tropical reef that was pushed about 12 miles below the surface of the earth and then brought back up to its current location, and is still rising. I visited the Oregon Caves in 2006 and knew at once it would be a first-time, unique experience.

I spoke with Roger Brandt, the manager of visitor services and education of the Oregon Caves in June, 2006.  We began when I asked him about the Oregon Caves and what they represent.  

The book Roger Brandt recommends is “Golden Days and Pioneer Ways” by Ruth Phefferle.

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Owen, Doug & Ted Stout — A Visit to the Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is located in southern Idaho in the middle of the Snake River Plane halfway between Yellowstone National Park and Boise, Idaho.  It encompasses about 11,000 sq. miles, an area about the size of the State of Rhode Island.  In this special and unique part of the earth, lava has flowed regularly from 50 mile long deep, open, rift cracks approximately every 2000 years beginning 15,000 years ago.  With the last flow occurring about 2,100 years ago, another eruption is considered by many knowledgeable people to be due.

The area is so much like the surface of the moon that the astronauts who prepared for the second lunar landing in 1970 went to Craters of the Moon to train. 

I visited the Craters of the Moon on September 18 and 19, 2014, meeting first with Ted Stout, Chief of Interpretation and Education and then with Doug Owen, a geologist and National Park Ranger.

When Ted Stout and I met at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve headquarters I asked him to begin with a description of the land within the Preserve.

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Hong Fincher, Leta Ph.D. — Gender Inequality in China: Part Two Workplace Disparity

Welcome to part two of our conversations about the erosion of gender equality in China with our guest Leta Hong Fincher, the author of “Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China”. Her book is based in part on her research for the Ph.D. in sociology she received in 2014 from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

In this 2nd conversation we discuss the extent of what if anything is done about domestic violence in China, the difference in the retirement ages for women and men and the requirement that women submit to a gynecological examination before obtaining a civil service job.

When Leta Hong Fincher and I visited by phone on August 9, 2014 we began with a discussion of domestic violence in China.

The book Leta Hong Fincher recommends is “The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory,” by Lydia H. Liu, Rebecca E. Karl and Dorothy Ko.

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Brown, Don — Make Dreams a Reality

Imagine being about 36 years old having completed only the 6th grade, worked for years as a laborer, and one day waking up in a hospital from knee surgery to a dream induced by morphine for your severe pain.   In the unrelentingly dream you to college, Harvard Law School and then walk across the United States from Boston, Massachusetts, to Big Sur, California.

Those sixty-three words summarize the story of Donald L. Brown, now 67 years old who had that dream and lived it.  He’s the author of “The Morphine Dream:  Delusions of Grandeur or Relentless Ambition?  Sometimes it’s Hard to Tell the Difference.” He has 6 other forthcoming books some of which will be published in 2014.

Donald L. Brown visited the studio of Radio Curious on November 9, 2013 to share his story.   We began our visit with his description of this morphine dream an actual event in his life and how he lived it.

The book Donald L. Brown recommends is “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls.

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Jergensen, Richard — Railroads as a Life Line: Then, Now and the Future…

Local railroad systems were once the primary, if not the exclusive means of shipping and travel between nearby communities as well as links to those far away.  The California Western Railroad and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad met in Willits in rural Mendocino County in northern California, about 135 miles north of San Francisco.  Virgin old growth redwood trees were logged in the forests along the 40 miles of track to the coastal town Ft. Bragg.  Rail Villages, those isolated communities accessible only by train track prospered and grew.  Then came the automobile and trucks.

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Richard Jergensen, president of the Mendocino Country Railroad Society, about the history of the California Western and the Northwestern Pacific Railroads, and what their presence did and can do in the future.  He is also the co-author of “How to Build with Grid Bean: A Fast, Easy and Affordable System for Constructing Almost Anything.”  Among a small part of his vast collection of maps, books, histories, posters and other memorabilia laid out throughout his home in Willits for our visit, Richard Jergensen shared a small part of this long story on January 20, 2013.

The book he recommends is “A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole.

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Totten, Professor Sam — Genocide in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan– 2013

The people of the Nuba Mountains, located in northeast Africa, just north of the new nation of South Sudan, are in a crisis that may well threaten their very survival.  In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with retired Professor Sam Totten, author of “Genocide by Attrition:  Nuba Mountains, Sudan,” and “An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide.”  Sam Totten returned from a two week visit to the Nuba Mountains on January 11, 2013.
When he and I visited by phone from his home near Fayetteville, Arkansas, on January 13, 2013, we began with his description of the civil war there.

The book Professor Sam Totten recommends is “The World of Darfur: International Response to Crimes Against Humanity in Western Sudan,” by Amanda Grzuyb and Romeo Dallaire.

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Click here to listen to our June 2011 interview with Professor Sam Totten.

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Forrington, Capt. Cass — A Beach Made of Glass and Hands in Acid: One Man and Many Stories

A former dump site at the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Ft. Bragg, California, is part of the story in this edition of Radio Curious.

Captain Cass Forrington, creator and owner of the Glass Beach Museum, and the author of “Beaches Of Glass, a History & Tour of the Glass Beaches of Fort Bragg, California,” is our guest.   He is also a Master Mariner, holder of an unlimited Master’s Certificate, allowing him to be the captain of any size sea going vessel.  He has many stories to tell.

Captain Cass and I sat on Glass Beach No. Two in Ft. Bragg, on a windy afternoon, June 2, 2012, with the waves lapping ten feet away.  We began when I asked him to describe Glass Beach.  But keep listening to hear his story about putting his hands in acid 40 years ago.

Captain Cass Forrington’s website is: captcass.com

Capt. Cass Forrington recommends a movie and a book. The book is “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” by Ray Kurzweil.  And the movie is “What the Bleep Do We Know?”

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Nawa, Fariba — Child Brides & Drug Lords

Imagine Darya, a twelve year old girl in a remote village of Afghanistan.  Her father forces her to marry a drug lord as part payment for an opium drug trade.  Her father is not home and she is about to be taken from her family.  Desperately, her hands trembling, she implores you, a complete stranger:  “Please don’t let him take me.”

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit Fariba Nawa, author of “Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords and One Woman’s Journey Through Afghanistan.”  Fariba Nawa was ten years old when her family fled Afghanistan shortly before the Soviet invasion in 1979.  Eighteen years later Fariba Nawa met twelve year old Darya when she returned to her native Afghanistan as an Afghan-American investigative journalist.  Her book tells Darya’s story, and reveals what the Afghan opium drug trade is doing to her native land in the midst of war.

Fariba Nawa and I visited by phone from her home near San Francisco, California on January 23, 2012. We began with her description of coming to the United States and flight from Afghanistan.

Fariba Nawa’s website is www.faribanawa.com. The book she recommends is “Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War,” by Annia Ciezaldo.

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Aanestad, Christina — Gold, Oil and a Journalist’s Adventure in Ecuador

One of the things I learned in law school about bankruptcy was that if you have to borrow money to take a trip and then go bankrupt, the judge can’t take the trip away from you. In this edition we have a travel report from Christina Aanestad the Associate Producer for Radio Curious. Christina recently returned from a 6 week exploratory, journalist visit from Ecuador, a favorite country of mine.

We visited at the Radio Curious studios on August 29, 2011, to discuss her adventures and what she learned about oil drilling, gold mining and dam construction, as well as what motivated her to take this trip.

The books that Christina Aanestad recommend are, “Now is the Time to Open Your Heart,” by Alice Walker and “Pronoia is the Antidote to Paranoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings,” by Rob Brezney.

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