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California and the West | Snapshots of life in the
Golden State. | CALIFORNIA DATELINE

Answering the Question, Eh, What's Up, Doctorate?

October 20, 1998|PATT MORRISON

Political campaigning has gotten to such a personal pitch. What with concerns about the inflation of candidates' accomplishments and the conflation of their sins, real or imagined, Democratic state Controller Kathleen Connell, running for reelection against Republican Ruben Barrales, had first ordered UCLA not to disclose her academic credentials.

But then, she obtained this "did-so" fax from the top guy at UCLA, and sent it along to the inquiring reporter as proof of her bona fides.

"Dear Kathleen: At your request, I am writing to confirm . . . that you were graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1987 with a Doctor of Philosophy degree. . . . Sincerely, Albert Carnesale, Chancellor."

So the doctor is in--in office.

*

Foresight, hindsight: Two Californians of vision--one of the future, one of the 360 degrees around him:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, pictured at left, landed in the 1950s in a San Francisco "as beautiful as any place in all Europa," and intellectually, as promising as the dawn, a "far-out city on the left side of the world, a frontier for the free poetic life."

That, as they say, was then. This is a more lamentable now, a here-and-now that Ferlinghetti, at his inauguration as the city's first poet laureate, adjudges to be "going down the tube at an alarming rate."

The poet who founded City Lights bookshop, published Allen Ginsberg's seminal "Howl" and was haled into federal court on obscenity charges for doing so, finds the city a sadly altered place.

What with chain stores blanding out local color and character, real estate gentrification crowding out all but the most prosperous, and his own North Beach neighborhood looking "like a theme park" where "kitsch is king"--well, it just isn't the city it once was, "a city that always seemed to me more like an island, separate from all the other cities in America, mentally and physically."

And if he were king, or at least Mayor Willie Brown? Close downtown to cars, paint the Golden Gate Bridge golden, and tilt Coit Tower--"just a half an inch, that's all I'm asking. Look what it did for Pisa."

Now--attention Stockholm and Vegas:

Carl Djerassi, the polymath Stanford chemistry professor, co-creator of the birth control pill and a novelist of the "science-in-fiction" genre, is three for three in anticipating Nobel prizes.

When San Diego's Kary B. Mullis won the Nobel for chemistry in 1993, for perfecting the polymerase chain reaction process in DNA testing (remember the Simpson trial?), Djerassi was just wrapping up his novel "The Bourbaki Gambit"--which also dealt with PCR.

When the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs won the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, Djerassi was finishing "Menachem's Seed," with its fictionalized version of the Pugwash get-together.

And last month, copies of his novel "NO," about enhancing male sexual function through chemistry (NO is the chemical formula for nitric oxide) were being shipped--a few weeks before the Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to three scientists whose work on nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system made possible the development of Viagra.

Ten years ago, Djerassi wrote a cautionary novel about two Nobel-lorn scientists' headlong rush to win the Big N. But obviously that could never have possibly happened . . . right?

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Spousal Abuse Arrests

October is national Domestic Violence Awareness month. The problem is showing no sign of abating in California, judging from the statistics below, which show arrests for spousal abuse more than doubling over the past 11 years.

*--*

Total Men Women Year Arrests* Arrested Arrested 1987 26,056 24,646 1,410 1997 63,636 53,778 9,858

*--*

* some years include some juveniles ages 14 to 17.

Source: California Department of Justice, Criminal Justice Statistics Center

Researched by TRACY THOMAS / Los Angeles Times

*

One-offs Nearly two years after finishing in the place spot in the national elections, former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole was keynote speaker at the 35th annual convention of the National Sash and Door Jobbers in San Diego. . . . A man convicted about 10 years ago of trespassing at a Chumash burial site in California has been sentenced to 10 months in prison in Utah for taking prehistoric artifacts from Native American sites there. . . . Oakland's replica of the cabin where writer Jack London spent an Alaska winter 100 years ago is being readied for Christmas, with white-flowering alyssum being planted along the roof line to resemble overhanging snow and icicles, interspersed with electric lights.

EXIT LINE

"What can I say?"

--Brooks Firestone, Republican assemblyman, winery owner and contributor (more than $25,000), to GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren. Firestone was asked about the serving of Italian wines at a recent fund-raising gala for Atty. Gen. Lungren. Maybe he was at least bemused by its presumption.

California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

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