Plus Letters To the Editor
In the last year, we’ve written several pieces about Santa Cruz’s current crop of tech visionaries. Thanks to Santa Cruz Works, we’ve even seen a movement arise aimed at keeping these cutting-edge thinkers working locally, rather than losing them to the never-ending “brain drain” of the Silicon Valley tech titans.
We don’t hear a lot about video-game designers, though. I mean, a talented designer would have to be crazy to stay here, right, now that San Francisco is pretty much the national capital of video-game work?
That’s why I like Sam Working’s cover story this week on Edmund McMillen, a local game designer who fits the Santa Cruz tech aesthetic to a T. McMillen himself is as thoughtful and unassuming as his games are challenging and audacious. The Soquel High grad has a fierce DIY ethic, and even after making it big with best friend Tim Refenes out of their Santa Cruz bedroom studio after the release of Super Meat Boy a few years ago, he continues to put ideas before commercial concerns.
As Working’s story explains, the idea for McMillen’s most recent game was his strangest yet. It flat-out shouldn’t have worked; he almost purposefully seemed to create a game that would be too weird and mind-bending for the mainstream. The result? His biggest hit yet, with almost 5 million games sold. Reading about how The Binding of Isaac came together will remind you that Santa Cruz tech doesn’t play by the rules, it rewrites them.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Thank you for making the city of Watsonville your recent cover story that included the great artwork by Kirby Scudder (GT, 7/15)! We longtime residents feel that most in the county don’t know the “real Watsonville.” It’s great for business (HQ of national companies: West Marine, Nordic Naturals, Superior Foods, Driscoll’s, California Giant Berry and Granite Construction), great for food, Yamashita Market, the only Japanese market in the county (fresh tofu on Thursdays), the Historic Appleton Grill and Ballroom, Ella’s at the Watsonville Airport, the numerous inexpensive taquerias and our Watsonville farmers market every Friday at the city plaza, where the produce is about half the cost of other farmers markets. We also have the amazing Watsonville wetlands for nature walks. I encourage everyone to come visit Watsonville; it’s only 30 minutes from Santa Cruz, and you will have a great experience. By the way, our famous Strawberry Festival is Aug, 1 and 2 in downtown. Hope to see you here soon!
Daryl Wise, Watsonville
Thank you for the extensive reporting on the move to revitalize and rework downtown Watsonville. It is inspiring to hear of so many in the community coming together to recreate their town, especially to Felipe Hernandez for taking on so many projects.
I am concerned that in the interest of “redevelopment,” the heart of Watsonville may be overlooked. There is a long history of ethnic diversity and investment in this community which needs to be preserved and celebrated. Watsonville is also embraced by the very special Watsonville Wetlands and trails which wind through the community and along the rivers and creeks. These need long-term preservation and enhancement for future generations. Think long-term.
Please maintain the beautiful old buildings when necessary. Please bring back the theater which might be the heart of a new center. Give the town an enhanced plaza and, yes, walking and sitting areas. When and if possible, institute plans to re-route Highway 152 around the city center.
Thank you from one who enjoys volunteering at the Wetlands and visiting Watsonville.
Patricia Mc Veigh, Santa Cruz
I just read the terrific front-page article, Overdue South, in your July 15 issue. It is very exciting to read about the energy and money being poured into revitalizing downtown Watsonville. However, there was one big oversight. Nowhere does the article mention the arts as a player in this lovely city. Yet, one block away from downtown is the Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery, which presents six to seven vibrant, high-quality art shows each year, many featuring local artists. The organization also reaches out to the PVUSD in numerous ways, and has representation on a number of community boards and interest groups. Yet there was no mention of PVAC or of the arts, and even Kirby Scudder left this beautiful gallery, Watsonville’s only visual arts venue, out of his “artistic rendering.” It is shortsighted for communities to not recognize the tremendous economic and cultural advantages that a thriving arts organization brings to a downtown area. As a member of the Board of Directors of PVAC, I can say that all of us are looking for opportunities for more partnership with the community and more visibility downtown. This is a sad start! Hello Watsonville, we have been here for over 30 years!
Kim Tyler, PVAC Board of Directors
[The story did quote Watsonville Film Festival Director Consuelo Alba on the subject of arts and culture projects in downtown. There are always space limitations, unfortunately, but we love the PVAC and the Watsonville arts scene. Thanks for adding that important point. — Editor]
The cover story in your July 1 issue offers an intriguing look at the three Hawaiian princes who brought their surfboards to Santa Cruz in 1885. These young men could not have imagined their influence on the subsequent history of this town and of surfing in general, which is the focus of the article. The authors briefly mention the “profound cultural and political transition in Hawaii” in the years following the men’s first visit. In fact, on Jan. 14, 1893, the U.S. “minister” in Hawaii conspired with a small group of non-native armed residents to overthrow the legitimate, popular government of the islands. Five years later, the U.S. officially annexed Hawaii through a joint resolution of Congress. There has not yet been a treaty and the native Hawaiians have not been compensated for the theft of their land, their culture, their dignity, and their human rights.
Robert deFreitas, Santa Cruz
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STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN A shot from Evergreen Cemetery by Harvey West Park. Photograph by Christopher Chavez.
President Barack Obama recognized students from Watsonville this month for efforts in environmental stewardship and education. The winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) included last year’s fifth grade class at Mount Madonna School, for their year-long campaign titled “Don’t be a Nurdle, Help the Sea Turtle: Poaching, Bycatch & Plastic Pollution, Tell the World About Our Solution.”
Those who drive Highway 1 may soon find themselves thinking of a legendary local politician. On Friday, July 24, Assemblymember Luis Alejo will be dedicating a four-mile stretch of the highway to former Watsonville legislator Henry J. Mello, who died in 2004. Mello, who served as senate majority leader, advocated for land preservation, gay rights and senior citizens.