Author offers insight on SD

    Radical urban theorist and MacArthur Fellow Mike Davis discussed his latest works on Nov. 6 at the Cross Cultural Center.

    Tyler Huff
    Guardian

    Davis, a professor of history at University of California at Irvine, is the author of several books that critique the urban development of Southern California. Davis is originally from the San Diego area, but has not lived here for more than 30 years.

    Davis began by reading a chapter from a book he wrote about the history of San Diego’s urban development. Apparently, when Davis left San Diego in 1968, he vowed never to return. Yet last February, Davis and his wife moved back.

    “”I wrote a little book this summer to reacquaint myself with San Diego,”” Davis said. “”In some ways, San Diego has changed dramatically, and in some ways not at all.””

    The portion Davis read aloud was about the Midwestern mafia’s involvement with the expansion of North County during the 1960s and 1970s. This work is titled “”The Next Little Dollar,”” which Davis said he took from the lyrics of a song by the musical group Alabama.

    “”The lyrics go something like, ‘Show us the way to the next little dollar,'”” Davis said. “”‘We must find the next little dollar or we will die.'””

    According to Davis, the mafia invested heavily in the growth of San Diego. Numerous investigative journalists and prosecutors attempted to prove the connection at that time, but never fully succeeded. Davis pieced together this historical account from those documents, as well as contemporary accounts and the vast number of articles and books on the Chicago mob.

    Davis plans to publish this work as an essay integrated with two other written essays and two photo essays. The other authors are Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew from City College. The photographers are two UCSD visual arts professors, Fred Lonidier and Phel Steinmetz. The book is planned for release next fall, Davis said.

    This impending book is only one of many recent accomplishments for Davis. In large part, this is due to the MacArthur Fellowship award he received in 1998. The fellowship, unofficially nicknamed “”the Genius Award,”” is an honor given to about 20 to 30 people per year, according to the program’s Web site, http://www.macfound.org/programs/fel/fel_overview.htm.

    The Web site states, “”The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.””

    The MacArthur Foundation awards fellowships only to individuals, not corporations, businesses or specific research projects, according to the program Web site. A stipend of $500,000 is given to each recipient over a period of five years. The hope is that the money received will diminish financial burden or provide new opportunities so that these fellows will continue to produce new work.

    All types of people receive this award, including but not limited to writers, teachers, activists and scientists. The only requirement for eligibility is U.S. citizenship.

    Davis put his fellowship to use by traveling the world. It has also enabled him to write a new book in every one of the five years he received money from the fellowship, he said. His latest published work is titled “”Dead Cites and Other Tales.””

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