Hip Santa Cruz

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BOOK REVIEW: HIP SANTA  CRUZ by RALPH H. ABRAHAM

By STEVE CROSS

In his new book, “Hip Santa Cruz, “UC Santa Cruz mathematician Ralph Abraham describes much of the history of the town shortly after the birth of UCSC in 1965.

         The book is part of The Hip Santa Cruz Project, an effort to preserve the history from that period, since much of it was passed on through word of mouth.

   The book was written from interviews with some of the artists, authors, musicians and sculptors Abraham, 80, has known since that period.

   In his own short chapter, he describes his decision to leave Princeton, where he was a researcher and lecturer in chaotic dynamical systems, to work at UCSC. The school itself wasn’t the reason for this decision. but rather the culture of the town in the late ’60s, where Abraham says light shows for instance, were invented at The Barn in Scotts Valley.

   The book describes some of the surviving and extinct stores and institutions. Survivors include The Catalyst, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Logos Bookstore, and of course, Cabrillo College. Non-survivors include the Hip Pocket Bookstore and the Sticky Wicket Cafe.

   The book starts with an overview with Pat Bisconti and Rick Gladstone describing some of the counter-culture figures like Charlie Nothing, the author, musician, sculptor and inventor. Gregory Bateson is also described, the anthropologist known for the book “Steps to an Ecology of Mind,” as well as experiments with dolphins and drugs.

   In chapter 2, jazz musician Max Hartstein describes the group called the 25th Century Ensemble, and describes more of the social life of Santa Cruz in the late ’60s.

   In chapter 3, Peter Dema and Bob Hall describe the Hip Pocket Bookstore, and some of the clashes between mainstream and counter-cultures during the times, including censored sculptures and plays, and reactions to the use of psychedelics and their promoters, including Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary.

   Part IV describes the early years of UCSC by College 8 Provost Ronnie Lipschutz, Fred McPherson, and Paul Lee, now 85, a philosophy and theology professor at UCSC and Harvard who has been much of the history of Santa Cruz, founding the Penny University with history professor Page Smith, also the founding provost of Cowell College.

   The Penny University has been active since it was started by the two as a reaction against the denial of tenure to  Lee. They still meet weekly at Calvary Episcopal Church across the street from the Nickelodeon Theater, with informal but heated discussions.

    Lee has also been an advocate for the homeless, establishing the homeless shelters and founding the Homeless Garden Project with his then-brother-in-law, actor Harrison Ford.

  Lee describes many of his academic experiences;. one of the most interesting was of mathematical logician Kurt Goedel.  Part V of the book gives the early history of the Catalyst from its start in 1966, and Part VI describes the Barn in Scotts Valley as a meeting place for the counter culture, and describes the clash with the religious fundamentalists in the neighborhood.

   Part VII describes Pacific High School, an experiment in education of 1966.

   In Part VIII Abraham tells of his first years at UCSC and describes life in a commune in Santa Cruz.

   I enjoyed the book, but wish more of it was written by Abraham, who put UCSC on the map as a world class researcher in chaos theory. He worked with field prize winners Stephen Smale of dynamical systems and Rene Thom of catastrophe theory.

   After he came to UCSC, it was ranked the best in the world for studying chaos, dynamics and fractal geometry, attracting leading researchers like Heinz Otto Peitgen.

   Abraham was also the first I know of in town to work in bio-remediation, a crucial field now that that we are facing extinction from global warming and politicians.

   The conclusion I reached is that mathematicians at that level are interesting ,whatever culture they belong to. I hope to hear more of his own story in Volume 2.

   An hourlong talk he gave at the book dedication is on the Logos Bookstore website, www.logosbooksrecords.com.

   

   

   

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