Recent Free Public Talks
September 2014-May 2015
A place to meet and talk unmediated by corporations, official spokespeople, religion, political parties, or dogma.
All events are free.
At 518 Valencia Street, near 16th, in San Francisco (close to 16th Street BART)
To subscribe to our Talks as a podcast, paste the link into your favorite podcast software (iTunes, Podcast Addict, etc.)
Governor Jerry Brown is determined to build the Delta Tunnels through the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta. The once-and-future Peripheral Canal is the latest plumbing scheme to follow the damming and diking of rivers and swamps which began with intensive Chinese manual labor in the 19th century. California has already radically altered its plumbing, but we’ll also look to future efforts at riparian restoration, dam deconstruction, and maintaining or altering our massive hydrological infrastructure. Tim Stroshane, Jason Rainey, and Scott Kildall (w/ 3-D maps of SF’s water infrastructure).
In a world where every inch has been impacted—directly or indirectly—by industrial society, what does it mean to “preserve nature”? How does the idea of adaptation shape our responses to extinction, climate chaos, and nature? How does our sense of “history” shape our ideas about nature, evolution, and conservation? How should we understand and value natural processes, wildness, and human technologies? With Peter S. Alagona, Annalee Newitz, and Noah Greenwald. Co-hosted by Wild Equity Institute.
Bureaucratic labor unions, long besieged, seem incapable of defending, let alone advancing, workers’ interests. In Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, workers are rejecting leaders and forming authentic class-struggle unions rooted in sabotage, direct action, and striking to achieve concrete gains. Manny Ness, editor of New Forms Of Worker Organization, and Steve Early, contributor to Continental Crucible: Big Business, Workers and Unions in the Transformation of North America and author of Save Our Unions, co-hosted by PM Press.
Bricks give literal structure to a history of place. Bricks were a fire proof building material in early years of a city often engulfed by fire. Archeology work at the Presidio reveals plant time capsules embedded in recovered bricks that help us understand pre-settler ecology. And brick throwing increasingly confronts our current landscape of evictions and displacement. Featuring Ruth Askevold, Lew Stringer, and LisaRuth Elliott. Co-hosted by Wild Equity Institute.
Money! Crime! Vice! Politics! Moral Panic! Gender bending! The history of the Tenderloin, one of the least heralded and worst understood neighborhoods in town, has it all. Peter Field, who gives astounding walking tours there, covers the early days to WWI while Chris Carlsson takes it from the 1910s to the beginning of the 21st century.
A half-century after the Vietnam War officially began, we’ll look back at military mutinies, the rise of the volunteer army in response to the “Vietnam Syndrome,” and situate the Vietnam War in the long history of U.S. military aggression, even pre-dating the founding of the United States. Paul Cox, Deni Leonard, Michael Blecker.
Sirron Norris has been splashing his satirical cartoon characters around the Mission and San Francisco for years. From biting social commentary to whimsical commercial art, his work spans a range that challenges the boundaries of art and politics.
On the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), Gray Brechin and Chris Carlsson discuss the relationship of world’s fairs to the idea of progress over time. How did the presentations at PPIE in their early 20th century context boost now long-held assumptions about progress and development through technological innovation and economic growth?
Rene Yañez has been at the epicenter of the Mission’s multiple art movements going back to the 1970s. Our Art & Politics series puts him in the spotlight for a retrospective of his life’s work, a free-ranging discussion of the politics that informed his work, and how his work has shaped the neighborhood and the City to which he has contributed so much.
In 1849 San Francisco was surrounded by wild animals and a flourishing sea and bay, from which most early food was taken. But what is our “wild menu” now? How do foraging, fishing, hunting, and gathering fit into modern life? What role does conservation and ecology play in a contemporary and future wild menu? With Mark Heath, Kirk Lombard, and Chris Carlsson. Co-hosted by Wild Equity Institute and Nature in the City.
What actually happened to Darling Clementine? Historian Joel Pomerantz explores the California floods of 1862. Learn how this historic storm, which killed thousands and caused a number of San Francisco houses to collapse, can be an example for what a really extreme weather event could be like in our future.
“Grange Future” celebrates the history and contemporary expression of ‘the grange idea.’ From the 19th century populist movement that backed the early campaign for an “information commons” in the form of Rural Free Mail delivery, to public banking and Farmers co-op banks, this vital movement is re-emerging to confront information and agricultural monopolists of our own era. Severine von Tscharner Fleming leads a panel discussion with the Internet Archive's Brewster Kahle and Matt Senate from the Omni Commons and Sudo Room Hackerspace.
Clif Ross and Marcy Rein, editors of Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements present a broad overview of the social movements that have pressured one regime after another in Latin America, changing the political calculations for everyone from right to left, from Venezuela to Argentina, Mexico to Chile and more.
Co-hosted by PM Press
A discussion of the west side tunnels and MUNI expansion in the 1910s, simultaneous to the building of the Hetch Hetchy water and power system by Elizabeth Creely and Catherine Powell, with Tim Redmond to compare today’s infrastructure build-out (Central Subway, sewers, and rebuilding Hetch Hetchy aqueduct).
Janet Delaney has been documenting the changing South of Market since its days as a recently deindustrialized district in the early 1970s to its present boom in luxury residential towers.
Our Art & Politics series invites solo artists to talk about their work and share a bit about their process and the relationship of art to politics and vice versa in their work.
Jared Farmer presents his book Trees in Paradise, reading California history through Redwoods/Sequoias, Palms, Citrus, and Eucalyptus. He is joined by Craig Dawson of the Sutro Stewards, a group dedicated to untangling San Francisco’s most fraught forest atop Mt. Sutro.
Decades of displacement and eviction have reached another crescendo during 2013-14. Key activists from the 1990s to the present will share tactics and strategies as the war enters its latest stages.
Nicole Gluckstern and Burrito Justice trace the lines of their literary history mapping project (Bikes to Books) and map-making, and are joined by historical geographer Dick Walker co-author of the fantastic project The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New Era.
Download a pdf of the Atlas of California presentation (20MB).
Where you Least Expect Them
At the outset of the LGBTQ History Month of October, a group of distinguished historians come together to orient us to queer historic sites and events in the city. They reflect on those that have been torn down and what it means that these centers of community are missing, and present a sampling of the many still extant social, cultural, and sexual spaces, and why these places are critical components of LGBTQ history. The presentation also showcases the work going into the Citywide Historic Context Statement for LGBTQ History, a planning document that will serve as a guide in the documentation and commemoration of LGBTQ places in San Francisco.
With Glenne McElhinney, Gerard Koskovich, Shayne Watson, Donna Graves, and Felicia Elizondo
Photo of Ocean Beach courtesy of Shayne Watson.
Please note that the presenters retain their rights to their presentations contained in this recording.
A discussion among adjunct faculty (aka temp teachers), City College of San Francisco advocates and defenders, and Student Debt activists—how to understand the current neoliberal-imposed crisis in higher education, and what is a future worth fighting for?
With Joe Berry of COCAL, Christian Nagler from the recent unionizing success at the San Francisco Art Institute, Wendy Kaufmyn and Lalo Gonzalez from CCSF.
Shaping San Francisco's Chris Carlsson provides an historic tour of the eastern shoreline from its days as tidal mudflats and open sewers crisscrossed by piers and wharves to its new incarnation as a site of ecological restoration and recreation. Anthony Khalil of Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ) offers a special look at creating a revitalized Candlestick shoreline including habitat restoration and community engagement, while interpreting the wonders of the Franciscan bioregion’s ecology and biodiversity.