Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Strange de Jim and the Thrill of the Obituary Hunt

Herb Caen is the namesake of the Magazines and Newspapers Center here on the 5th floor of the Main Library. But where would Herb Caen be without the quipster-tipster Strange de Jim? According to de Jim, "I Made Herb Caen & I Can Break Him." At least that was the title of his 1978 34 page pamphlet that amassed about 100 contributions he made to Caen's column up till that point. For Caen's part, he said of de Jim: 

“I hope we never meet. Ours is the perfect relationship,” Caen wrote [in the introduction to de Jim's book of Strangeisms]. “Strange favors me with his wit, and I favor him with my print. Come to think of it, he could even be a girl, for all I know. The whole thing is strange, isn’t it.”

Our unique San Francisco personality and legend Strange de Jim died on May 1, 2024. On May 17, Sam Whiting's obituary for him was published on the SF Chronicle website. Later, on May 19, the obituary ran in the print Sunday Chronicle, in the obituaries section. 


Screen capture of the obituary that ran on the SF Chronicle website on May 17. Click to access.


Screen capture of the obituary that ran in the SF Chronicle Sunday paper on May 19, 2024. Click to access (SFPL card required)


Not to take the spotlight from de Jim, but this is an important lesson in the thrill of the obituary hunt. 

  • Obituaries often appear in print much later than the date of the deceased's passing 
  • Obituaries and other content will often be published first on the Chronicle's website, and subsequently appear in print (sometimes a week or more later)
  • An obituary is usually submitted by friends or family and runs in the Life Tributes section of the Chronicle. Due to the fact that survivors are mourning, these obituaries can appear much, much later than the death of the individual, especially if they are not announcing a funeral
  • However, obituaries for famous people, like Strange de Jim, are news pieces written by the newspapers journalists, and this is no exception 
  • News piece obituaries appear in a variety of ways in print, but often appear in the Sunday edition of a paper--this is true for the SF Chronicle and the New York Times, to name a couple 

All this to say, obituaries can be tricky to locate if you are doing genealogy research but the librarians at the Magazines and Newspapers Center remain at your service. 

Feeling nostalgic or curious about Strange de Jim? Keep his memory alive by reading one of his books held at SFPL, or do a search in the SF Chronicle historic backfile to see all the mentions of Strange de Jim in Herb Caen's column.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Close of National Poetry Month at the Magazines and Newspapers Center



National Poetry Month 2024 

To celebrate National Poetry Month this April, and give a nod to SWANA and Earth Day, also themes of the month, the Magazines and Newspapers Center has curated a selection of Bay Area poetry magazines and newsletters. Ask for more information about these publications at the 5th floor Magazines and Newspapers Center 


  1. GAS: High Octane Poetry, number 1, Winter 1990. GAS was the New College of California Review and reflects the aesthetics of the poetics program at the now-defunct school. (New College operated in San Francisco from 1971-2008.) This issue was edited by Kevin Opstedal and Charlie Ross with help from Tom Clark. The work displayed here is a lecture in verse form called “Green Economics” by Ed Sanders  


  1. KOSMOS: A Journal of Poetry, number 4, Autumn-Winter 1978 (special translation issue). Edited by Kosrof Chantikian and published in San Francisco, “KOSMOS is reborn twice yearly and welcomes your Inventive Work.” Works displayed here are two poems by Algerian author Mohammed Dib, translated from the French by Anne Reiner: “The Powers #12,” and “The Powers #29.” 


  1. Berkeley Poets Co-Operative, number 2, 1971. Cover design by Anne Hawkins. This magazine “represents the best work to come out of an informal workshop in which all contributors participated.” According to the publication information inside the front cover, “The Berkeley Poets Co-Operative has no editor, or, if you like, each of us is the editor.”  


  1. Berkeley Poets Co-Operative, number 3, Fall 1971. Works displayed are an untitled poem by Susan K. Levin that begins, “the crowds crowded closer,” and a playscript by Ted Fleischman entitled “Party for Alex.” The do-it-yourself materiality of the magazine is apparent in this spread. By the 1980s, the magazine had adopted glossy covers, a full-blown editorial staff, and professionally type-set printing.  


  1. Poetry USA, back page of vol. 4, number 16, Fall 1989 and front page of vol. 4, number 17, Winter Solstice 1989. This quarterly poetry tabloid was published by the National Poetry Association, Inc., a nonprofit corporation dedicated to reaching a wider audience for poets and poetry, which was located in Fort Mason, San Francisco. Issues regularly ran poetry written by children, incarcerated people, and people experiencing homelessness in addition to the bigger names you may recognize.  

Monday, April 29, 2024

What We're Reading: April 2024

Food, obits, and longform journalism comprise the articles we've been reading at the Magazines and Newspapers Center this April. So, just a normal month round these parts. Leave a comment to let us know what you think, especially if you ever listened to the Huberman Lab podcast. 

We Need to Talk About Trader Joe’s

Taste, April 1, 2024 

We found this article really disturbing but fascinating. We love TJ's but this is shady business! 

Taste is an online magazine devoted to cooking and you shouldn't encounter a paywall when clicking through to this free article. 


Kate Coleman, Who Documented the Bay Area Counterculture, Dies at 81 [web version]

New York Times, April 6, 2024

Published before Cal students started an encampment at Sproul Plaza to protest UC's investment in Israel this month, this obituary of Kate Coleman does well in laying the historical groundwork that sets up today's student activists for success. As the obituary points out, Ms. Coleman was among hundreds of students arrested in 1964 for occupying Sproul Hall. Later, after she graduated and spent three years in New York working for Newsweek, she returned to the Bay Area and wrote for local publications the Berkeley Barb and Ramparts. If you want to revisit Ms. Coleman's work in these publications, the Magazines and Newspapers Center has you covered. We have the Berkeley Barb available on microfilm from 1965-1980 in the Underground Newspaper Microfilm Collection and we have Ramparts in print and on microfilm from 1962-1975. 


Consumer Reports Asks USDA to Remove Lunchables From School's Lunch Menus 

KQED, April 10, 2024 

If you heard we've got some Consumer Reports buffs around the Magazines and Newspapers Center, it'll be no surprise we closely follow the nonprofit watchdog's moves. On April 9, CR published a press release outlining the lead and cadmium contamination they found after testing the Kraft Heinz product Lunchables. KQED, reporting on the story the following day, included statements from other parties involved, like the USDA and Kraft Heinz. Knowing all this, would you dare eat a Lunchable nowadays?


Andrew Huberman’s Mechanisms of Control

New York, Mar 25-Apr 7, 2024  

New York magazine's cover story from the beginning of the month is a blockbuster of investigative and longform journalism. Building suspense by cultivating a healthy amount of skepticism about Dr. Huberman, a podcast celebrity and Stanford professor, the piece ends in a grand explosion of former lovers and girlfriends speaking out against Huberman. All of the women had become friends after uncovering Huberman's cheating ways and agreed to go on record due to the presumable trust author Kerry Howley instilled in them. In the comments to the article published in the April 8-21, 2024 issue of New York, some readers point out that his personal choices in regard to his sexual partners have no bearing on his acumen as a scientist. However, it is hard to trust a "dopamine regulatory specialist" that clearly has trouble regulating his own dopamine addiction in regard to sex. What do you think?

Saturday, April 27, 2024

The Sunday Call, October 16, 1892

Have you heard of the newspaper that predated the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner? It's known as the San Francisco Call, although it had a handful of name variations over its fifty-plus year lifespan. 

Today we're talking about the Morning Call, the iteration of the paper from 1878-1895. The Sunday special edition of the paper during this time was called the Sunday Call. 

Read More about the Morning Call

Most of the issues are not lost to the sands of time: at SFPL, the Magazines and Newspapers Center has this newspaper available in our microfilm collection; in fact, the newspaper is almost fully digitized on the Library of Congress' Chronicling America database and the California Newspaper Digital Collection (CNDC). That's a big win for historians and researchers looking into 19th century and early 20th century California.

However, one stubborn issue was elusive: the October 16, 1892 Sunday Call is nowhere to be found in these digital repositories or in our microfilm. 

Calendar view of digitized issues of the Morning Call from the CNDC with a red circle around the missing October 19, 1892 issue.

Box housing the microfilm roll of the September and October issues of the 1892 Morning Call. The box has been annotated to indicate the October 16 issue is missing.

Last week the Magazines and Newspapers Center got an incredible opportunity to address this elision when a representative from the Los Angeles Public Library delivered a bound volume of the Morning Call containing issues from the last four months of 1892, September, October, November, and December. A patron had donated it to them, and it being in bad condition and outside of their geographic interest, they reached out to SFPL to see if we wanted it. After some quick research, our team of amazing library assistants and library technicians was able to identify that this missing issue could be part of the bound volume on offer. We agreed to accept the very large tome measuring 20" x 25" even though this breaks with our typical practice of not accepting donations. (We leave that up to the SF History Center, and even they didn't want it!) Upon carefully unwrapping the tome and opening up, one Magazines and Newspapers Center librarian said, "Seeing the issue was so exciting! I felt like Indiana Jones, like we were the only people on earth to see it after all these years! Like a lost monument hidden in the desert."

LAPL had warned us: it's in bad condition, and they were right. That's to be expected on almost anything printed on paper in the second half of the 19th century, when paper was manufactured from wood pulp high in lignin content and was therefore acidic, quickly becoming brittle. That's why we don't have print copies of historic newspapers at the Magazines and Newspapers Center, instead offering the newspapers on the more stable format of microfilm. Due to the extremely brittle nature of the Morning Call in the bound volume, this object will not be available to the public. 

But, we carefully digitized the elusive October 16, 1892 issue of the Sunday Call for posterity. While we are still working out a permanent way to make this digitized issue more accessible, we present to you now a sneak peak. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Panel: SF Asian American Journalists Go Live


Panel: SF Asian American Journalists Go Live

Wed., May 8, 2024

6-7:30 p.m. 

Koret Auditorium 

Main Library

Immerse yourself into the world of local journalism and see how reporters cover the Asian American news beat in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Four members of the Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA) who cover the Asian American and Pacific Islander news beat will discuss how authentic local reporting happens, important stories they’ve reported recently and how having reporters dedicated to the beat impacts the AAPI community. Moderated by the interim president of the AAJA-S.F. Bay Area Chapter, Harry Mok, the panel will feature Ko Lyn Cheang from the San Francisco Chronicle, Han Li from the San Francisco Standard and Ravi Kapur, CEO of Diya TV. 

aaja logoThe Asian American Journalist Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational and professional organization with more than 1,500 members across the United States and Asia. Since its founding in 1981, AAJA has been at the forefront of change in the journalism industry.

photo of Harry MokHarry Mok is an assistant editor in the opinion section of The San Francisco Chronicle. Previously, he was a copy editor at The Chronicle. Harry has also worked as an online producer for the Bay Area News Group, as an editor at Newsday in New York and is a former editor in chief of Hyphen magazine. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Jose State University and a master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Ko Lyn Cheang photoKo Lyn Cheang joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 2024 to cover Asian American and Pacific Islander communities from the Indianapolis Star, where she had covered city government and housing since 2021. She got her start at The New Haven Independent covering criminal justice and the pandemic and has reported for the Jakarta Post and VICE News. Her work on the Indiana jail deaths crisis, evictions, substandard housing conditions and other reporting has been recognized by the IRE Awards, Goldsmith Prize, and the Connecticut and Indiana Societies for Professional Journalists. She graduated from Yale College as a Yale Journalism Initiative scholar with a philosophy major.

Han Li photoHan Li is a reporter for The Standard covering the city’s diverse Asian American communities. Born and raised in China, Han is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. He graduated from Sun Yat-sen University with a degree in journalism and holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California. Previously, Han wrote for the World Journal, a national Chinese-language newspaper. He brings his bilingual reporting skills to The Standard. When not reporting, you can find Han checking out the Bay Area’s regional Chinese cuisine and immersing himself in Chinese American history and politics.

ravi kapur photoRavi Kapur, who you probably recognize from his time at KGO-7, is an award-winning journalist and the founder and CEO of Diya TV, which provides programming geared toward South Asian Americans. Diya TV is now the largest South Asian broadcast television network in the nation, providing relevant news, information and entertainment to the diaspora’s next generation. It can be watched for free with an antenna on San Francisco channel 30.1. 



The Asian American Journalists Association – Website | Asian American Journalists Association – Instagram | Asian American Journalists Association – Twitter | Asian American Journalists Association – Facebook | Asian American Journalists Association – LinkedIn 

Harry Mok – San Francisco Chronicle | Harry Mok – Twitter | Harry Mok – Instagram

Ko Lyn Cheang – San Francisco Chronicle | Ko Lyn Cheang – LinkedIn | Ko Lyn Cheang – Twitter 

Han Li – San Francisco Standard | Han Li – Twitter | Han Li – LinkedIn 

Ravi Kapur – Diya TV | Ravi Kapur – Twitter   


See event listing on the SFPL master calendar.

View other Magazines and Newspapers Center programs on the SFPL event calendar under the What's News heading


Saturday, April 13, 2024

Baseball Season at the Magazines and Newspapers Center

Believe it or not, many librarians on the 5th floor of the Main Library are avid baseball fans. Our allegiances range from the Giants to the A's to the Angels (sorry Dodgers fans). We're sort of like Marianne Moore in that way (influential modernist poet, librarian at NYPL, and avid baseball fan)--you wouldn't expect librarians to be baseball fans, would you? (Leave a comment to correct us if we're wrong!) Nonetheless we were jazzed about opening day a few weeks ago and look forward to the new season.

Here are our recommendations for keeping up with the baseball season with sports journalists: 

The Athletic 

This is a proprietary website that requires a subscription to access a lot of their features, but it is the leading standard in sports reporting. Word from our librarians is that the Athletic poached the top sports reporting talent from the legacy print media a couple years ago. From their website: "The Athletic’s 400+ person, full-time newsroom delivers premium coverage of hundreds of pro and college teams across 47+ North American markets and all 20 European football clubs in the English Premier League." The New York Times acquired The Athletic in 2022 but they have specific rules about what types of NYT subscriptions include access to content on The Athletic. Unfortunately the NYT website subscriptions we offer through SFPL do not include this access, but if you have your own subscription, you may qualify

The Athletic is a good bet if you have some disposable income to throw at another subscription and if you are into sports in general, beyond baseball. If you're primarily concerned with baseball, look no further than our very own San Francisco Chronicle... 

The San Francisco Chronicle 

Sports section, baseball beat: The SF Chronicle online has a dedicated tag for the Giants, where you can find all their reporting on the team. If you don't have your own subscription to the SF Chron's website, then this isn't much help. 

Not to fear, at SFPL we do provide a database that gives you access to the content of the SF Chronicle. 

San Francisco Chronicle - Most Recent Issues

From that page, you can read the daily paper exactly as it appears in print by clicking on the date that you'd like to read. 

You can also do a search to bring back Giants-centric content. 

The journalists who cover the baseball beat are John Shea, Shayna Rubin, and Susan Slusser primarily. You can copy and paste this search string into the search box to bring back their reporting:  

 ("John Shea" or "Shayna Rubin" or "Susan Slusser") and Giants

(search is not case sensitive)

The database will sort your results by date, so you'll see articles about the most recent games at the top of the list. 

You can try this same search swapping out Giants for Athletics or A's, etc. 

The Players' Tribune, Querida San Francisco by Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo threw one last pitch for the Giants about one year ago after helping lead the team to three world series titles for the nine years he wore SF orange. Although he had departed the Giants in 2016 and had retried from baseball in 2022, he returned in March 2023 for the last pitch at Oracle Park. The letter, published the day of Romo's last pitch, appears in Spanish and in English and offers a sentimental reflection on the power of the game within families and within communities--our misfit community of San Francisco in specific. Anyone else remember that 2010 world series win? I remember watching part of it from the emergency room at Saint Mary's on Stanyan. We so very much appreciate this stroll down memory lane with Romo, even one year on.

Los Angeles Times

What do we know about that other city down south that has a pretty famous baseball team? We know enough to know they think Dodgers fans are crawling out of the cracks even in San Francisco.

"The hat came about because I'm a Dodger fan," said shop owner Anthony Madrid, who said he opened the shop in 2013. "You live anywhere in L.A., anywhere in California, you are going to be a Dodger fan."

Anywhere in California?

"Even in San Francisco," he said. "You'd be surprised."

From "Dodgers should embrace locals who love them," LA Times April 13, 2024 

Regardless of some people's opinions they print in the newspaper, the Los Angeles Times remains a great source for California baseball reporting and SFPL provides access to a database with that content as well. 

Los Angeles Times - Most Recent Issues

A simple search from here with your favorite team's name (ahem, cough, Dodgers) may be sufficient to get you the good stuff, but if your fave is the Angels, you may need to pair your keyword angels with the keyword baseball because angels is used to describe much more than a baseball team in everyday nomenclature. Just remember to sort your results by date so you get the most recent news at the top. Look for the sorting menu at the top left corner of your results screen. 

Dave Zirin, The Nation 

Zirin is a sports journalist reporting for The Nation, and his writings follow a political bend germane to the publication. SFPL subscribes to the print magazine and the digital version on Flipster, but you'll find most of Zirin's pieces on the Nation's website.

He often has interesting things to say about baseball in addition to the other sports he covers. Most recently he dipped his toes into the drama with the A's (formerly known as the Oakland A's) in an April 5, 2024 piece calling the GAP heir and A's owner John Fisher a "petty authoritarian" and shining a light on his retaliation against outspoken team members Ruiz and Rooker. 

Speaking of the A's holdover in Sacramento before making their final move to Las Vegas in 2028, Zirin says, "To see Fisher humiliate this franchise and the city of Oakland on his way out the door demands a rebuke" and goes on to pointedly say, "This isn’t about baseball. It’s about capital flight from our cities. It’s about the subjugation of our history. It’s about the 1 percent picking the meat off the bones of our cities."

Do you agree, and if so, what would your rebuke be?

Other Newspapers 

If you're like our bud Marianne Moore, you're probably itching for that Yankees content!

Marianne Moore throws the first pitch at Yankees stadium 1968. Library of America: Poetry in Motion by Larry Merchant

San Francisco Public Library provides access to newspapers from other geographic areas as well, namely the New York Times in many formats. Explore more newspapers under eNews on our webpage. 

Magazines and Newspapers - Access eNews Collections

What's your favorite team and how do you keep up with their record? Leave a comment to let us know.