• What Riding Trains Taught Me About Americans

    Rail Travel Induces a Reverie and Intimacy Among Its Diverse Passengers

    By James McCommons

    Amos, a one-legged Amish man, was having trouble with his new prosthesis. He left the leg in his sleeping compartment and came to the diner on crutches—a hazardous ambulation on a moving train.
        Because Amish do not buy health ...

  • Roberto Suro is Director of USC’s Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. Before taking part in a panel discussion entitled “What Does Trump Mean for Immigrant L.A.?” for a Zócalo/The California Wellness Foundation event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo in downtown ...

  • By Sarah Cohen

    The traveler came to a meeting of roads.
    Each was marked with prophesy,
    marked with loss.
    The traveler chose the middle road. ...

New at Zócalo


Confessions of an Eclipse Chaser

For Four Decades I've Traveled the World, Tracking the 'Eye of God'

By Bill Kramer

On August 21st this year, I will log my 26th solar eclipse and my 17th total solar eclipse. August 21st is when parts of the contiguous United States will fall in the path of a total eclipse for the first time since 1979. An eclipse happens on those rare occasions when the paths of moon and sun are in alignment, and the new moon covers the view of the sun from certain parts of earth.
    I’m what we call an “eclipse chaser.” It’s a self-appointed title. On the website I run,, I host a log where people from all over the world can record how many they’ve seen. The highest right now is 33 total eclipses. It’s a place online for people like me, people who spend all their vacation time and travel money to observe these indescribable phenomena. ...

Connecting California

In San Juan Bautista, It's Apocalypse—Now

The Site of a Famous Mission, and a Hitchcock Masterpiece, Is a Good Place to Ponder Human Fall-ibility

By Joe Mathews

If the apocalypse comes to California, I’ll be ready. After all, I’ve been to San Juan Bautista, which has centuries of experience with the ending of worlds.
    I visited the San Benito County town again this summer, when Armageddon seems closer than ever. North Korean missiles may now be able to reach California. The president of the United States has the nuclear codes and no impulse control. Icebergs the size of states are breaking off Antarctica. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock 30 seconds forward; it’s now just two-and-a-half minutes to midnight for humanity. “Global danger looms,” the Bulletin said.
    California is famous for its proximity to disasters ...

Connecting California/Joe Mathews

  • To Make California a True Democracy, Give Non-Citizens the Right to Vote

    If You Root for the Dodgers, Pay Taxes, and Battle Traffic, Are You Any Less Californian Than Me?

    President Trump claims that California allowed millions of non-citizens to cast ballots in the 2016 elections. This allegation, while totally bogus, has put California and its political leaders on the defensive. ...

  • Is California a Great Ideas Incubator, or an Insular Bubble?

    To Be a Leader on National Issues, We Must Leave Our Smug, Protective Cocoon

    California, do you want to be an incubator for great ideas—or a bubble that shuts out the world?
        That’s the question Californians need to ask, as we simultaneously confront three big challenges: building a more sustainable economy and future; reckoning ...

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