Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kiwi for Dessert

Blogs for digital journalism students, I’ve realized after rummaging through countless blogs trying to find one that is not only helpful to me as a student, but interesting enough for me to keep reading, are like dessert after a good meal. The meal, of course is reading credible sources like Time Magazine or National Geographic and newspapers, actually writing, and perhaps even listening to our professor once in a while. I hear they know some stuff.

The blog I found most interesting is called “My year of getting published” about a writer who is proactively trying to get published. The “Kiwi writer” (she's obviously from New Zealand) wants to become a travel writer, which I myself would love to do one day. She interviews other travel writers, her latest, Rudy Maxa from National Geographic Traveler. "Write, write, write and then write some more," Maxa explained. "Read travel magazines you want to write for so you can learn what kinds of articles they want. Read writers you like. Then look at how they structured their stories. Figure out what they had to do to get the stories and quotes."

This blog also has many resources for people who are trying to learn to write better, as we are in this class, and those who want to get published and quit their day jobs. Her blog offers other blogs for writers as well. There is a weekly five top blog posts for writers. “Writers block, unblocking the blank screen” is bound to offer some potential advice to just about anyone.

Another feature in this blog is information on different journalism conferences. She offers writing tips, travel writing contests so we can get involved if we want, photojournalism tips, and all the different writing blogs she visits daily. I found this interesting because of titles like "the six figure writer," "the write path," "writer in the making," and "mad young thing" (seriously, the greatest title ever).

Now, the reason this blog is deserving of our very exclusive feevy is because this "kiwi writer" talks about something we all go through, especially in a journalism class. She is going through a process. Just as Ira Glass explained in his video, creativity and success happens over time. We have to make mistakes, try, get out there, try, and most of all, write. I like that "The Kiwi" is learning and trying and we can do this with her. She is also interviewing some pretty interesting people with valid advice to give, and we can all learn from them.

Now, get your dessert forks ready, because this blog is bound to be an irresistible icing on the cake.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Root of the Problem

When local residents set up a garden in an open space on Fulton and Stanyan opposite famed Golden Gate Park, they set off a firestorm of controversy that reverberated throughout the urban gardening community. This gardening group did not have the one thing that scores of other community gardens have, and it's not potatoes. The crucial ingredient lacking in this latest attempt at city farming was the legal right to use the land.

The small patch of land adjacent to the apartments on the corner of Fulton and Stanyan is owned by the same out-of-state landlord who also owns the apartment complex. The landlord is not interested in having a community garden on the site, never gave permission to place a garden there, and is actively attempting to have it removed. In the city of San Francisco, the landowner is well within the law to kick the gardeners off the property. Indeed, this is the only regulation on starting a community garden in San Francisco, said Jude Koski of SFGro, a major community gardening organization in the City.

"It would be one thing if it were public land and it weren't being used for anything," said Koski. "But if the owner decides they don't want them [the community gardeners] on that land, that's it."

Koski said his group has offered to broker a deal between the gardeners and the landowner, but such an agreement looks unlikely given the owner's present disposition. Koski said that SFGro is ready and willing to step in if both sides are ready to negotiate, but won't force the issue.

"The site has a lot of question marks," said Koski.

It seems those questions may be answered with a resounding, "No." If the landowner refuses to participate in negotiations, residents at the garden may have to get their vegetables at the local grocery store instead.

The Invisible Hand

Strawberries, lettuce, mustard greens, strap peas, fava beans, potatoes, green onions, and one ‘unidentified’ lonely little tree! This array of fruit and vegetables can be found at the bustling corner of Fulton and Stanyan, on the fringe of world renowned Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Ca. The garden is a mere 90 x 20 ft, smashed between apartment buildings and polluted city streets, as a result it is no surprise that after four months this ‘community garden’ does not exactly jump out at you.

San Francisco, which is located in the Pacific Northwest, challenges any kind of growth with its marine air. Marine air that once ate away the $39,000 tin roof of USF’s St. Ignatius church in less than one year. However, our ‘community gardeners’ clearly did their research on the “What Do I Plant, Where Do I Plant It” question, and as a result choose a pack of resilient seeds to plant.

The question of the ‘unidentified’ little tree remains unanswered right along with basic questions about the plant selection process. Questions that could have easily been answered by the gardeners themselves. However, after nearly 48 hours, an unanswered note, and about 15 ‘drive-bys’, I began to really wonder! Either A. These alleged gardeners were nocturnal, invisible, or possibly nonexistent, or B. The volunteer gardeners and I had polar opposite schedules. As a rational being I will assume the latter; however, unfortunately because of this I was unable to speak with the green thumbs themselves.

After doing a bit of online research I found a few basic gardening tips for the unknowing:
1. Garden Essentials- water, nutrients, good soil, good drainage, and Sun!
2. Vegetables need to be planted where they can recieve at least 6 hours of sunlight each day!
3. Lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, ect. are best grown from February-March! ( Each of the aforementioned vegetables can be found in our very own Fulton & Stanyan garden)

Although, the gardeners were a bit M.I.A. a ‘community garden’ is a fabulous idea, and something that every person that walks, drives, or rides by can enjoy!

Community Garden

Along the busy intersection of Fulton and Stanyan Street, a block from USF, lies a 4-month old garden teeming with rows of fruits and vegetables. Green onions, strawberries, mustard greens, lettuce, snap peas, and potatoes are just some of the produce one can find planted there. Amidst the bustling cars, tall buildings, and fast paced life of the city, the garden, although only taking up a small space, has become a place where city dwellers with a green thumb can use their talent, as well as eat healthier. With the carefully laid out rows and walkways, one can assume that the residents who contribute to this small “garden of eden,” treasure it. This can be seen when a male resident of the building adjacent to the garden yells out of his window to a dog walker, whose dog is lurking among the crop, “That’s there to eat!”

Gardens are minimal in a place where space is limited. Two major gardens that can be found in San Francisco are located at Yerba Buena and the Golden Gate Park, which boasts a botanical garden and a Japanese tea garden.

Paint the City in Green

From renowned gardens like the Japanese Tea Garden and The San Francisco Botanical Garden to humble backyard plantings, gardens have a long and influential history in San Francisco. One of the most inspiring aspects of the city’s botanical history is the legacy of Victory gardens in San Francisco.

Jesse Drew writes about the significance of these gardens in his article Call Any Vegetable: The Politics of Food in San Francisco in the Reclaiming San Francisco anthology by City Lights Books. According to Drew, “World War II caused a momentary lapse in corporate food production for the consumer market, leading to the popularization of Victory gardens, small home vegetable plots intended to aid the war effort. In San Francisco alone, there were as many a 70,000 such home gardens.” Drew illustrates in his article that the Victory gardens were just one integral piece of a long-term sustainable food production movement in the Bay Area that continues to this day.

After the war, the popularity of these gardens diminished. But, the appetite for organic and locally grown produce has sustained. Drew writes, “San Francisco takes its food seriously. After all, this is the city that has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States. In the quest for nutritious food and equitable distribution, thousands of San Franciscans have mobilized to develop creative and alternative ways of procuring this most basic human need.”

One San Francisco Artist/Activist believes that Victory gardens are an alternative we she seriously reconsider. Amy Franceschini, is the winner of the (SFMOMA) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s 2006 (SECA) Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art, for her garden renewal project, which is on view at the SFMOMA until April 22.

In a recent article on, Franceshini talked about her idea of reinstating the thousands of private and public Victory gardens that were once found in the city. Franceshini added, “that 8 billion tons of food were produced in Victory gardens around the country.” In San Francisco, Victory Gardens were such a success they were even found in places like the front lawn of City Hall and the Strybing Arboretum.
Franceshini is not alone in her quest. Recently, in an unused plot next to the apartment complex on the corner of Stanyan and Fulton Street, residents and citizens have reclaimed the dirt and planted a Victory garden. The 20 by 90ft. plot, has potatoes, fava beans, snap peas, garlic, mustard greens, strawberries, and more. According to the article, “All the open space in San Francisco, including backyards, amounts to a sizable 1,823 acres.” This is one less backyard Franceshini has to worry about.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mural Mashup a Picasso Reiteration?

“Rise to The Top on the Backs of Others”
It may seem inconceivable to draw parallels between Pablo Picassos renowned “Guernica” and the mural mash up created by USF’s drawing and painting students. However, the relationship exists in a desire to unsettle the emotions and thoughts of a community while spurning on the growth of reflection and a desire for awareness.

In 1937, Picasso’s masterpiece was one of the first blatant antiwar statements rolled out upon a large surface and displayed with the intent to spark controversy. Now, almost exactly seventy years later, students at the University of San Francisco have begun to paint a work of their own, representing the concerns that America faces in a culture twisted many directions.

“Rise to The Top on the Backs of Others”, read a statement blaring out of an electric radio on one of the walls. And that is what we do as a country, incredibly motivated towards money and instant gratification. Little is achieved in America alone and unfortunately many are downtrodden under the powerful in the process.

A fairly young nation driven by success lies painted on our hallway walls, naked in its truth and harsh in its judgment but nonetheless entirely American. Cheney stares at his spectators with his head flayed open and a striking phrase beside his portrait. Up and down the hallway political statements are laid bare. Halliburton is called out on their corruption, and the separation between church and state is punctuated with a question mark? Because… if theretruly is a separation then why is our motto “In God We Trust”?

The incorrigible truth lies in the lack of knowledge our Culture boasts. In a sense, USF students are attempting to do what Picasso did years ago, to implore the public to open their eyes and see what is occurring in the world today.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Art for Change

It's no longer a hurried, tunnel vision walk through the lower level of the UC building. Now, vibrant colors and images pop out at passersby to capture their attention and slow their pace. On the walls, big white sheets of paper serve as the canvas for the second level painting and drawing classes taught by Visual Arts Assistant Professors Eric Hongisto and Sharon Siskin. The major attraction seems to be the two biggest canvases that deal with politics and consumerism/greed, but the others, which have no theme, are also worth looking at. Sarina Dean, a senior fine arts minor who is painting flowers on one of the smaller pieces, said she started with one flower on the canvas and others followed suit, contributing another flower with petals falling off and writing, "I love to watch you fall apart".

It's a collaborative endeavor for these art students who are using their creativity to fashion images that evoke our spirits, whether it's the army tank running over babies or the words, "These colors don't run. But they bleed." Long has art been used as a means to garner attention to social and political issues. This can be seen in ArtPolitic, where artists have banded together to "promote thought, interest, and passion" for a variety of issues. According to their manifesto, they "seek to inform others and incite change." Another group that uses art for social and political issues is the non profit organization Wise Fools Community Arts, which uses a combination of giant puppetry, wild costumes, music, and theatre “as vehicles for community building, self-determination, social and political change.”

Senior Meiko Kikuta, a psychology and fine arts double major, said that, at first, she didn't like the concept of the project, but after seeing everything put together she has grown to like it. She has painted a gun with a gold chain surrounding it which she says symbolizes the misuse of people in power. She points out that the chain that is controlling the gun is gold which signifies money. With their red plastic cups serving as makeshift palettes and their paint brushes armed at the ready, these students are creating activated art and following in the footsteps of those that used art for change.

USF Mash Up

"I Love to Watch you Fall Apart"

This quote can be seen outside of Crossroads Cafe at the University of San Francisco on a mural painted by students for a class assignment. On Wednesday, March 21,2007 Painting 2 and Drawing 2 students joined together for a class project called "Mash Up." Professor Hongisto and Professor Siskins gave their art students a chance to express themselves in a project a little outside of the norm.

Five blank white murals were hung in a highly-populated campus hallway, and students were given the chance to draw, paint, and write about any issues felt were important. Consumerism, the Iraq War, President Bush, Dick Cheney, guns, bombs, SUV's, "crack", and "aids": were just a few of the issues the students chose to address with their 'freestyle' and 'freehand' assignment.

Serina Dean, a USF senior, double majoring in Communications and Business Administration with a minor in Fine Arts, shed some light on why the "Mash Up" is very different from their day to day assignments. "This project is great because it is not so focused on artistic detail, and it is more focused on students getting the point across through art," said Dean. As Dean worked diligently on painting flowers she explained that her piece did not have a specific theme and was more freestyle, as opposed to for example the political piece's. However, Dean said that because it was an ongoing project and many different students would end up working together that, "it was important to correlate each part as we go, so that the artwork flowed together in the end."

Provocative Painting Puts Pressure on Politicians

On Wednesday, March 21st, students from first-year Professor Eric Hongisto's second semester painting class took on the task of painting a mural in the space reserved for such artistic projects outside Crossroads Café. The artwork began with classroom brainstorming on the heady topic of political and social unrest in the United States, and what could be represented symbolically on a canvas to convey the students' sense of the current political climate. The mural now displayed on the first floor of the University Center is a first for many of the students involved, and the first time Hongisto, 33, has worked on a mural at USF.

The mural is a collaborative effort to visually arrest onlookers with striking words and images, like the bloodied head of Vice President Dick Cheney under the words, "These Colors Don't Run. But They Bleed." Other students chose to highlight the connection between war and the relentless drive of consumer capitalism represented by hamburgers and Hummers. Students on one side of the hallway painted a young child in a tank running over other children, possibly symbolizing the way young people are taught to glorify the same violence that can ultimately kill them.

One member of the artistic troupe, Fiamma Giger, found the group effort both interesting and challenging. Giger, a 21 year-old Visual Arts major, said she was looking forward to seeing what other students will do with the mural. Professor Sharon Siskin's second semester drawing class will take over the mural and do work in response to the initial painting her class has done. Giger spent her mural time painting an assembly line of t-shirts reminiscent of a sweatshop.

These forms of artistic expression provide students with a chance to exercise their first amendment rights to free speech, however provocative. It will be interesting to see in the current climate of fear and repression whether the students will come under criticism, or even legal pressure, for depicting the Vice President with a gaping, mortal head wound. With the opportunity to speak one's mind fast diminishing, protest murals like this might soon become a thing of the past, unless the idealism of student activism can be met with the full support of those in a position to end the march toward tyranny. That spark of idealistic fervor is at the heart of American culture, ingrained from the founding of a rebellious and free nation, through the abolitionist movement and the horrific war it ignited, on up to the present day, when concerned citizens throughout this nation are banding together against the installation of a police state on our own shores.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Art of War

How can I describe American Culture to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

The other day, I was in a friend’s living room, as their neighbor’s six year-old son sat in a trance in front of a 50-inch widescreen TV. His parents were nowhere to be seen. The child was completely oblivious to everything around him. His entire focus was dedicated to navigating his digital self through the mean-streets of the latest Grand Theft Auto videogame. The object of this game is to steal lots of cars and to commit as many acts of violence as possible. His character ran the streets beating people to the brink of death, robbing them of their possessions, and running over innocent pedestrians in stolen vehicles. He played for an hour or so until he became bored. He got up from his seat on the couch, he didn’t say any goodbyes, and he wondered out the door. Nobody seemed to notice him leave.

I thought of this boy, as I came across USF Art students working on a mural outside of Crossroads café last Wednesday. The piece was in its early stages, but its strong political themes were already becoming clear. What particularly brought the boy to my mind was a section of the mural where the artist painted a military tank in a harmless shade of pink. Using cut out photos from magazines, the artist has an ecstatic young boy driving the tank over the heads of babies, all of them smiling. The tank becomes a toy and its victims are happy. War is now a game.

The U.S. has fought a lot of wars in the mass media age, but none of them have been on U.S. soil. Instead they have been fought on our TV and computer screens and in the pages of newspapers and magazines. The average American comes into contact with war through images and words. We fight communists, Nazis, terrorists, enemy combatants, insurgents, or simply put “bad guys.” Thousands of Americans have died fighting these “bad guys” and they are recognized as heroes who died for their country. Many, many more “bad guys”, “bad guys” family members, and innocent bystanders who happened to be in the area of perceived “bad guys” have died as well. They remain nameless, and become statistics that are tallied during the nightly news in between commercials.

As technology improves, and our appetite for reality-based entertainment continues to grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. I think of that little boy playing his videogame, and I wonder if he can still tell the difference between the digital people dying in his game and the real people dying on TV.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Two earthquakes, 93 years, and more than a million dollars later....USF's 5th St. Ignatius Church stands strong!

The University of San Francisco is home to one of the most beautiful churches in the country, and I venture to say one of the most beautiful churches in the world. The St. Ignatius church, which stands on the corner of Fulton and Parker in San Francisco, California is the universities 5th church. After spending nearly two hours in the universitie's archive room speaking with USF's archivist, Father Michael Kotlanger, S.J., the incredible history and importance of the church was crystal clear. The 1st and 2nd St. Ignatius (SI) churches were built on Market Street in the late 1800’s, and were basically 12x20 wooden shacks. The 3rd SI, known as ‘Old St. Ignatius’ was built on Hayes and Van Ness, but was ruined by the 1906 earthquake. The ‘shirt factory’ was the nickname of the 4th SI, was merely a relief church put up in a matter of weeks to get the university back in operation after the devastating earthquake.

In 1911, the priests at the University of San Francisco began building the ‘mother church’ St. Ignatius that still stands after 93 years. From 1911 to 1914 architect, Charles Devlin, was the mastermind behind the steel frame and Italian renaissance design of the church that put USF on the map. The University spent $850,000 building the 5th SI, which will end up being chump change compared to the expenses of the church over the next 93 years.

The $38,000 tin roof, brought in from an east coast company, rotted after only one year because of San Francisco’s marine air, and was soon replaced with a Terra Cotta roof (pressed brick) from a local company in Alameda, California. In the late 1980’s, SI’s dome, which was modeled after the Duomo in Florence, Italy, began to rust away and the ceiling quickly began to leak. It is rumored by USF’s archivist (which you can easily compare to the Rain Man, because he knows just about everything about USF) that replacing the SI dome cost more than the entire church cost when it was built in 1911. Thankfully, when USF replaced the frame of the dome they used led coated zinc, which is expected to last for 80-85 years. Do not think for one second that the damages stopped with the roof or the dome, the bell towers also needed replacing. And the 1989 earthquake cost USF $85,000 to replace the churches little cupola, because the iron rod inside snapped. In short, although St. Ignatius is a beautiful church, the money spent on upkeep is astronomical. (Hm…ever wonder where your tuition is actually going?)

The beautiful stained-glass that is seen inside SI today started to replace the churches original yellow glass in the 1940’s. In fact, each different window was privately donated by parishioners to USF. This sounds like a good thing right? Free stained-glass! Not so quick, there is undoubtedly a Catch 22. The brand new windows resulted in nothing short of a lighting nightmare. To perfectly light up the stunning new windows as well as the intricate new paint job inside the church, SI quickly installed a cutting-edge lighting system. A lighting system that costs USF $10,000 a month! That just scratches the surface on the incredible history of USF’s St. Ignatius church.

And here are a few quick, interesting facts….

1. The 2 bell towers used to be on all navigation maps for ships, because they helped to lead boats directly into the bay.
2. The bell that rings today is the same bell that has rung since 1862, and followed SI and USF through all five churches. Even after falling 5 stories during the 1906 earthquake, the bell was uncracked and undamaged.
3. Prior to 1994, only 2 weddings were held in SI, because the church was a ‘university chapel’ as opposed to a ‘parish church,’ and was forbidden to hold weddings or baptisms.
4. In the 1930’s San Francisco used to add 5 street cars during St. Ignatius services, because of enormous amount of people attending church!
5. The bell towers stand 180 ft tall, and to walk down the isle is an exhausting 190 ft. (Which you can imagine would seem endless on your wedding day in 4 inch stilettos!)

Benedetti Diamond

It fills the air every spring at USF, the distinct ping of aluminum during afternoon batting practice. It comes from a forgotten corner of campus, behind the dorms, before Masonic, on Benedetti Diamond at Ulrich Field, the home of the USF Dons Baseball team. The field was built in 1953 and named after Max Ulrich, a transplant to San Francisco neither affiliated with Jesuits nor the University of San Francisco in any capacity, but who named USF as a significant beneficiary in his will. This was due entirely to the USF Credo, a statement written by then-USF president, and noted anti-Communist Fr. Raymond Feely, SJ. The credo espoused belief in God, personal dignity, natural rights, sanctity of the home, stated an opposition to all forms of racism, and was inspirational enough to secure $358,000 from the estate of Mr. Ulrich.

The fortunes of the team in the years following the building of the field were largely in the hands of a San Francisco restauranteur named Dante Benedetti, native to the city, who coached USF baseball for 29 years for the princely sum of one dollar per year. While 29 dollars (before taxes) isn't much of a windfall, when Benedetti called it a career in 1980 he saw his name given to the baseball diamond at Ulrich Field as part of retirement ceremonies which were attended by Joe DiMaggio.

The team itself began with the 1907 season. A photograph here shows the original nine on a lot which is the current location of St. Ignatius Church. In the background, you can see the blue house which still stands at the northwest corner of Golden Gate and Parker. The program was loosely organized at the time, produced about a dozen major league players who had careers of little distinction and was interuppted by military drafts. In 1946, however, the University of San Francisco was named the best college team on the West Coast before resuming its status as a respectable team, but certainly no powerhouse.

With only a handful of highlights in the 100 years of Dons baseball, it is no surprise the team has taken a backseat to other more successful sports like basketball, soccer, and the famed 1951 football team. That said, it's no rifle team. The program is very healthy and is enjoying what is probably the best run in the school's history. Manager Nino Giarrantano is in his ninth season with the team and the 2005 and 2006 seasons saw the team set a school record for wins and secure a berth in the college world series, respectively. In addition, players from USF are being drafted by pro teams every year and recent USF alumni are on the fringes of the major leagues. Tagg Bozied, now part of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, is best known for his unusual name (Tagg Bozied) and an unusual injury (blowing out his knee celebrating a game-winning home run). Other former players worthy of mention include Jesse Foppert, recently a pitching prospect with the San Francisco Giants, Gil McDougal, the American League Rookie of the Year in 1951, and Joseph Giannini, a member of the 1911 team and son of Bank of America co-founder Amedeo Giannini.

In spite of its placement on a quiet corner of The Hilltop, Benedetti Diamond and the Dons baseball team has secured a more prominent position in the annals of USF's athletic tradition which only figures to grow.

“Some of these nuns look real cute hefting those big steins of beer…”*

Tucked away in a corner of the bottom floor of the UC Building, the bare, plain room of the Fog 'n Grog, with its yellowish walls and red variations of checkered flooring, does not give a hint of its glory days as "The Place" on campus that students, faculty, staff, Jesuits, and neighbors went to kick back, enjoy a cold beer, and mingle with one another. Opened on July 6, 1973, led by USF and then-food services ARA-Slater (now ARAMARK), it was the first on-sale beer hall on a college campus in California. The campus beer license was approved in May, ending a five year negotiation with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. The campus bar opened its doors as a trial run during summer with the name "Fog 'n Grog”, a winner in a campus contest. It fast became popular among the students attending summer school, faculty members and conference guests- 550 Sisters and Jesuits attending a Symposium on Ignatian Spirituality.

In a San Mateo Times article dated August 7, 1973, John F. Marshall, then USF's vice president for student development said that the campus bar was a great way for students and faculty to get together and converse. "I think the Fog 'n Grog will be an incentive for them to stick around and enjoy some of the extras that go with a good education- meeting more people, getting to know them better, a chance to get in on campus activities," he said. With its dark wood panels, low lighting, and L-shaped bar, not to mention seating for at least 120 people, open hours from 7 to 11 each night, and .30 cent beers, people from the USF community, as well as those outside, greatly took advantage of the space. The university and food services struck gold; according to Fr. Michael Kotlanger, S.J., archivist at Gleeson Library, in its first week the bar had a profit of approximately $2,000. Aside from ample lounging areas, the bar also provided entertainment. It had a dart board, a television, music streaming from KUSF, and musical and dramatic productions. Kotlanger recalls, "We had a great time."

It wasn’t all fun and games; the campus bar’s beer license had strict rules to follow. Only beer could be served, no wine or hard liquor were permitted. No beverages were allowed to leave the premises. Only persons 21 years of age and older could enter the bar. An adult was to remain at the entrance each night and require two IDs from patrons, one with a photo.

Unfortunately, the bar was closed down in the 80s. There was no information in archives about the closing of the bar and the people I spoke with don't recall the exact date or why it closed. Kotlanger mentioned that it was shut down because of the school’s concern about binge drinking among students and the liability issues involved if there were any mishaps. Fr. Vernon Ruland, S.J., said it had something to do with the drug culture of the time overlapping with the drinking culture. Whatever the reason, the next time you find yourself in the Fog ‘n Grog, whether it's for some club meeting or if you just happen to wander in, don’t let the drab fool you. Take a moment to reflect that at our very campus, over 30 years ago, the first campus pub in California was opened and in the very walls you are standing in, people came together to share good beer, good laughs, and good times.
*James W. Kelly Jr., Director at Office of Public Information at USF (1973) – quoted many times in numerous articles on USF’s bar

A Run Through of Koret

We rush in with our ipod and Us weekly, battle through leg cramps and exhaustion for an hour or so, and then, we are off on our way. But next time you make the routine visit to the Koret Health and Recreation Center take note of the “sprinter,” an eight foot bronze statue situated outside in the front of Koret that was originally created on a smaller scale in celebration of the 1984 Olympic games. Take note of the futuristic design of Koret, who’s initially production cost was estimated at 10 million and later grew to 22 million. And lastly, take note of the Olympic pool that holds the distinction as the largest pool in northern California. For the University of San Francisco, the Koret Health and Recreation Center is a jewel of the campus that is constantly used yet rarely appreciated.

The need for a university sports center was established in the early 1970s, when a detailed survey revealed the lack of facilities available for community recreation. The Memorial and Loyola gymnasium and the limited outdoor fields were simply inadequate in meeting all the needs of the University community. Father Michael Kotlanger, S.J., who oversees the USF archives, adds that amongst these reasons, the university’s basketball team woes in the early 1980s also drove the need for a new health center as the board of trustees said to the university, ‘build us a new facility’ in exchange for supporting the team that was receiving such bad publicity. And so, the university and Pflueger Architects began designing.

Ground broke for the Koret center when Loyola Hall, formerly St. Ignatius High School, was demolished in 1987. “Construction was massive,” said Father Kotlanger. The construction was put on hold for 83 days when OSEA came in for inspection, which was one of the reasons for the price spike. Koret was able to go into production with many large contributions from San Francisco community members and corporate businesses. Joseph and Susan Koret, who the center is named after, were a part of the Koret of California, a successful sportswear line, that late evolved into the Koret Foundation that supports numerous projects around the city.

The Koret Health and Recreation Center was completed in September of 1989. “I feel pride and awe when I walk through Koret center. We have given USF the finest recreational center anywhere,” said Ricky J. Curotto, a board of trustees member, who commented in the Koret Campaign Chronicle's final issue, in September of 1989. Today, thousands of USF students and an estimated 15,000 non-student members enjoy all aspects of Koret. And if the pool, state of the art equipment, student lounge, numerous courts, etc… aren’t enough for you, at the very least you might have a celebrity sighting...Danny Glover has a current membership.

"Rock, Rock, Rock and Roll Jesuit School"

It’s funny to think of all the students at USF diligently studying the day away, while in a non-descript bottom floor room in McLaren Hall, some of the most radical noise around is being broadcasted to the world. The culprit of this rebellious activity as you may have already guessed is our very own KUSF.

KUSF is widely known for its radical and diverse programming but it came from very humble beginnings. KUSF originally started as an AM station with a very narrow broadcast spectrum. In 1977, under the guidance of current station manager Steve Runyon, KUSF moved over to 90.3 FM to expand their reach in the Bay Area. Initially KUSF focused solely on community programming and fine arts and it was broadcasted for only five hours a day in the evenings.

The station continued to grow eventually incorporating pop and rock music into its programming and extending its airtime to 24 hours a day. KUSF quickly became one of the best sources for new music. Heavily supportive of the local scene, KUSF broke San Francisco icons like Metallica and Primus before they were signed to major record deals. The station has been rewarded with numerous gold and platinum records from appreciative bands like R.E.M., The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The B-52’s. Amid all this popular success KUSF has never lost its sights on providing, “unique and distinctive programming as a service to San Francisco and the Bay Area.”

Today, along with the vast selection of independent and experimental music you can find longstanding cultural and fine arts programs from Chinese Star Radio and the Turkish Cultural Program to the Metropolitan Opera. KUSF has garnered a wide array of awards recognizing their quality programming including the 2005 SF Weekly Readers Poll, Gavin’s College Station of the Year (1988,1989,1990,1994), and in 1998, April 25th was named "KUSF 90.3 FM Stereo Day In San Francisco" by Mayor Willie Brown.

USF's Ghostly Past

One might never have guessed that the grounds upon which we devoutly study and pursue our developing futures were once catacombs of tombstones and a myriad of skeletons. During the visit with USF’S archivist Father Kotlanger, the haunted past of the University slowly began to unravel, revealing the somewhat startling truth that our University is built on top of very old and large burial grounds dating back to the 1800's.

In the 1800’s four massive cemeteries spanned over the entire distance of what is now the campus of USF. They were called Calvary, Masonic, Lauryl Hill, and Odd Fellows cemeteries. Nearing the 1900’s all four fell into tremendous disrepair, creeping ivy and shrubbery slowly consumed grave plots and homeless inhabitants haunted the tombs, looking for a warm place to sleep. The Jesuits bought these cemeteries in the mid 1800’s and in 1855 St. Ignatius Academy became the first building to be established for the University. However, the cemeteries continued to lie near by and the founding fathers of USF began to evaluate the grounds during a time where the University and city itself needed expansion.

In 1900 the Board of Supervisors prohibited further burials in any of the four cemeteries and just twelve years later, the board ordered a mandate to have them vacated.

But according to Father Kotlinger, “these bodies stayed on and on and finally the fathers ordered that they be removed by the state.”

The final resting grounds of the adventurous souls and skeletons of Lauryl, Masonic, Calvary, and Odd Fellows cemeteries came to be Colma (a small city located just miles out of San Francisco). Colma, also referred to as “The City of The Dead” does the ancient bodies justice with its beautiful white marble and 18th century setting. The tombstones were broken up and reused as founding stones for some of San Francisco’s sea walls. Today one can still go down to Sloat on Ocean Beach and when the tide is sucked out, grave stone debris become visible, allowing a brief glimpse of our past.

Roughly forty years later, the growth of USF became imminent and in 1940, excavations for further buildings began to occur. In that time, just a young ROTC student, Kotlanger can recall the day a memorabilia was dug up from the past by construction workers who were forging Gillson Hall. “They suddenly threw down their shovels and picks,” reminisced Kotlanger, “they walked straight up to the foreman and said, “we’ll work for you anywhere and anytime but we don’t do cemeteries.”
You see, the workers had stumbled across an old corpse, one that had perhaps rotted through its wooden casket, swallowed by the earth until recently.
Supposedly, all the bodies from the four cemeteries were successfully extracted from USF’s land years ago. But there is still a chance that to this day, we walk on the final resting grounds of many dead who were left behind. Who knows, perhaps in the digging for Kalmanovitz hall there remains a corpse or two to be turned over and maybe, just maybe we will be lucky enough to find yet another departed.

Gleeson Library - A Storied Journey

The University of San Francisco has a long history of scholarship dating back to the 1800s, but its library, traditionally thought of as the heart of the school, was only built in 1950. The first site occupied by the school that would come to be known as USF was at Market and 5th Street, now occupied by the Westfield Shopping Center. During this early period, the school had no formal library, as the entire institute centered on one school room. The school stayed for five years, after which it moved because of the tax burden imposed on schools and churches.

The new school at Hayes St and Van Ness grew from humble beginnings to become one of the premier centers of learning on the West Coast, said library archivist Father Michael Kotlanger. Kotlanger explained that the old library consisted in large part of donated books, most of which were either science related or spiritual in nature. The books were not located in one central library, but rather in many individual collections organized by subject matter and scattered around the university. At that time, the books were strictly for use at the school, and could not be checked out by students.

As with the rest of the city, 1906 marked a turning point for USF. The massive quake and fire on April 18th, 1906 gutted the school and obliterated nearly everything in it, including all the books collected over the previous half century. The few records that survive from before 1906 were housed in separate locations downtown and in Los Gatos, said Kotlanger. After the tragic events of that day, the school moved to a location near the present day southern entrance to St. Mary's hospital at Hayes and Shrader, a few blocks from its present day location. School officials tried to build up the library's collection after the devastating loss of all its books, but at that time they had to rely on the generosity of donors. The law school opened in 1912, necessitating further book acquisitions, all of which were donated by jurists and legal scholars who had an interest in helping future legal minds.

In 1927, the school moved to its current address at Fulton and Parker. The burgeoning library collection was housed on the fourth floor of Campion Hall, the original university building that served as the entire university for many years. Finally, in 1950, the collection became large enough that university officials agreed a separate library would be both necessary and good for the school. The library is named after Father Richard Gleeson, who spent 46 years in service to the university. Kotlanger said Gleeson died the day it was announced that the library would bare his name.

Under the direction of Father William Monihan, the new library initially housed the relatively small collection from Campion Hall, and had administrative offices and classrooms on the upper floors. This condition was not to last, as Monihan aggressively sought out books for the new library, including many rare books now housed in the Donihue Rare Book Room. These include a fragment of the Gutenberg Bible dating from the 1450s, medieval illuminated manuscripts, the works of Sir Thomas Moore and a collection of letters from the English Catholic novelist and film-writer, Graham Greene. Kotlanger stumbled upon these letters when looking through files in the university's possession. The letters were appraised for $250,000.

As Monihan and his successors continued to build the library's collection, classroom and office space had to move to other locations on campus. In addition to its own collection, Kotlanger said the library once held the extensive personal collection of Adolph Sutro, who was mayor of San Francisco from 1895 until 1897. Space was leased in the library's basement by the Sutro estate until Gleeson library's own collection could no longer be housed solely in the upper floors. The lease was allowed to expire for a nominal rate, and Sutro's collection moved to its current location at San Francisco State University.

In 1997, the library opened the Geschke Learning Resource Center, named after Charles and Nancy Geschke, two university patrons and parents of a former student. The Geschke Center houses the circulation desk, reference stacks, and dozens of computers, both Apple and PC. The center also includes Thacher Gallery, an art exhibition room with rotating exhibits throughout the year. On the east wing of Geschke Center is the Monihan Atrium, a large study area named after the aforementioned Jesuit priest and library director.

The library's collection continues to grow at the rate of 13,000 volumes per year, according to its website, in an effort to maintain its status as a world class center for learning and scholarship. Located at the geographic heart of the university, Gleeson Library truly is at the heart of the school's dedication to learning and service.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Campus Space

One of the greatest aspects of USF is its beauty. Set on a hill in San Francisco, the campus is uniquely beautiful on a day to day basis. The mixture of foggy to sunny weather patterns, hills that seem to climb for miles, and the skyscrapers of downtown are all parts of a remarkable campus setting. Unfortunately, studying a lot is a major part of college life, but we are lucky enough to have many study areas in which to choose. The Lone Mountain Library is one of my favorite places to get my work done.

USF bought Lone Mountain in the 1970’s for 5 million dollars when the San Francisco College for Women closed down. That was quite a bargain considering the use we get out of that campus, not mention its incredible views of the city. The library located on the second floor in the east wing, has become a place for studying and is so quiet even pulling out a chair seems to create a racket.

The Joseph A. Gleason (of no relation to Gleeson whom the library on main campus was named) library was originally part of the women’s college. This was a place the wealthy families from around Northern California would send their daughters to get only the best education. According to Father Kotlanger in charge of the USF archives, everything was top of the line. All the woodwork that is in the room now is original and was hand painted and artists were brought from all over the world to contribute. Even the light fixtures had special sheep skin covers, the chairs were hand carved in Europe, and the flooring was brought in from all over the world.

There is a storage room in the far right of the library, under the floor. It goes down three stories. In the late 1980’s, someone was cleaning it out when they came upon some Salvador Dahli prints. They were original lithographs.

When the school closed down, all the books, 100,000 of them brought in from all over Europe, were sold and sent to other libraries. The books in there now are old encyclopedias, simply there to fill in the space.

Gleason Library boasts a regal and classy setting unlike anywhere else on campus. It has hosted many students and their books over the years and I have enjoyed being part of its history.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Friday, March 9, 2007

ira glass on storytelling

ira glass on having good taste, overcoming the gap between your own good taste and your own not so good output, and doing lots and lots of work. five minutes and nineteen seconds of smart advice. [crossposted from usf journalism blog]

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

In Memoriam Paula Gmelch

On March 1st, 2007, Paula Gmelch’s life was tragically cut short in an accident on Turk and Chabot at the University of San Francisco. We at USFblogtastic, have reported on and shared our stories and thoughts about this accident that has shocked and saddened our entire community.

USFblogtastic would like to provide the entire USF community, family and friends of Paula Gmelch, and anyone else who knew her with a place to reflect. Although, none of the students in our class personally knew Paula, this tragedy has opened our eyes to just how delicate life can be.

A memorial service for Paula Gmelch is being held on Friday, March 9, at 2:00 p.m. in Saint Ignatius Church, at the University of San Francisco. There will also be a reception following the service in Fromm Hall.

In light of this tragedy, donations can be made to the Paula Gmelch Scholarship Fund. So far there has been tremendous support for the fund. Checks can be made payable to the University of San Francisco, noting the Gmelch scholarship and can be mailed to the School of education. For more information please contact Jim Brennan, the School of Education director of budget and planning.

Please use this space to add your thoughts, tell your stories, and share your memories of Paula.