The 650’s seven most popular (and strangely telling) local stories that captured the Peninsula in 2018

Looking back through our articles from an eventful year in this fascinating place we call home.

Well, 2018 draws to a close, leaving us to look back on the year that was. And searching through our stories from the past 365 it’s hard not to notice a few things about the Peninsula:

  • It’s rapidly changing.
  • It is still a unique and interesting place to live.
  • For a region that is often overshadowed by the cities which bookend it, the Peninsula sees a lot of very high-profile things happen.
  • Also, the food here is pretty amazing.

Of course, those bullet points don’t quite do justice to the stories we wrote and the photos that we captured, so take a look at some of our most popular and telling stories that reflect on this region where we dwell.

“What’s going through my mind? Nostalgia and sadness”: WeirdStuff founder Chuck Schuetz pictured inside his cavernous headquarters in Sunnyvale. (Photo by Charles Russo)

WeirdStuff Warehouse shutters after more than 30 years serving Silicon Valley

When we heard that WeirdStuff Warehouse would be closing after decades of supplying Silicon Valley with spare parts and computer equipment of every conceivable make, shape and size, we hustled over to the Sunnyvale oddball outlet for one last set of photos for posterity.

And standing there in those cavernous aisles surrounded by old breadboards and Atari joysticks, we found it to be…well….kinda devastating. Their closure seemed to reflect—at least momentarily—on the big picture implications of what is happening in the region right now with skyrocketing rents, the resulting housing crisis and the not-so-subtle contrast between old-school Silicon Valley and modern Big Tech.

So take one last look, but be warned, it’s a bittersweet tour that might make you realize that the region is just that much less interesting. It might even make you want to head to the Oasis for a beer. Oh….shit.

The October 15th issue of TIME, with John Mavroudis’s illustration of Christine Blasey Ford. (Image used with permission by TIME Magazine)

Meet the Bay Area artist who illustrated the epic TIME Magazine cover of Christine Blasey Ford

In what was likely the biggest media circus of a year spent trapped beneath the big top, local resident Christine Blasey Ford was called to testify amid the controversy surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Shortly after, TIME Magazine ran this instantly iconic illustration by Bay Area artist John Mavroudis which so succinctly captured the essence of Ford’s poignant testimony.

So we quickly tracked down John for a phone interview to inquire about the story behind the artwork and his approach to tackling it. We found him to be candid, insightful and keenly respectful to those on each side of the issue. Better yet, his work stood out as a case study for where a modern-day artist can make their mark amid the media mayhem.

Martin Luther King Jr., Brown’s chapel, Selma, Alabama 1965. (Bob Fitch Photography Archive, Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries)

Watch Martin Luther King Jr.‘s speech at Stanford University about “The Other America”

On the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, we were surprised to find two very interesting local connections to the Civil Rights icon. First, we were thrilled to inquire after the story behind the Bob Fitch Photo archive at Stanford’s Special Collections, which contains scores of rarely seen imagery. Fitch was King’s personal photographer during some of the most tumultuous years of his career, and the resulting imagery is a refreshing contrast to the typical photos we are accustomed to seeing.

In addition, we were also fascinated to learn that King had given three speeches here on the Peninsula during his life, including a very notable one at Stanford University in April of 1967, just one year before his death. So we spoke with Stanford professor and King archivist Clayborne Carson about the speech and the popular myths surrounding MLK’s legacy.

Oddly enough, this article—which features the full video of King’s speech, titled “The Other America”—drew little traffic when it was published earlier in the year, but has since drawn a surprisingly large amount of weekly views; a reflection of how relevant King’s sentiments remain a half century after he delivered them.

1012 High Street was occupied by the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh during the band’s formative days, circa 1965. (Image courtesy of DeLeon Realty)

The Palo Alto home where the Grateful Dead chose their iconic name is up for sale. Take a look inside.

Late this summer we stumbled across an interesting local real estate listing for a home in Palo Alto which was tied to the legacy of the Grateful Dead. Apparently the California bungalow at 1012 High Street was an early crash pad for the band, rented out for a time during the mid-sixties by their bass player Phil Lesh.

So we made some calls to the real estate agent, the band’s biographer and their archivist (hey, UC Santa Cruz!), which clued us in to the brief but formative roll that the house played in the band’s formation. (Hint: it involves a dictionary and Jerry Garcia high on DMT.)

Of course, it was also hard to not notice the hefty tag of $2.4 million for a thousand square foot home; making this article not only insightful to the Peninsula’s quirky past, but its pricey present, as well.

Conducted during the summer of 1971, the Stanford Prison Experiment was often criticized for its methods, but ultimately lauded for its conclusions about human nature. (Courtesy of the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection)

Was the Stanford Prison Experiment a sham? Our Q&A with the writer who exposed the celebrated study

Back in June we began catching wind of a looming controversy surrounding the Stanford Prison Experiment. In 1971, the now-legendary study had taken a very unorthodox approach to looking at the psychology surrounding prisons, and has been celebrated ever since for its insight into how positions of power shape behavior (and questionable actions) within a penal setting.

Journalist Ben Blum recently took aim at the merits of the study by tracking down many of the original participants, who revealed in new interviews that many of them were merely acting out roles for pre-ordained results. We then spoke with Blum to elaborate on the implications, even as the study’s creator—Philip Zimbardo—pushed back hard on the criticism.

All conclusions aside, the debate proved timely in that it correlated with the implementation of the current U.S. policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. As Blum told us in our interview: “…the most seductive feature of the Stanford Prison Experiment is its ability to diffuse away all moral accountability.”

Everything is swell: El Granada teenager (and official Mavericks alternate) Luca Padua surfing the famous Northern California break, this past autumn. (Photo by Tony Canadas)

Meet the youngest person to ever surf the Mavericks big wave break

When 16-year-old El Granada resident Luca Padua learned that he made it into the Mavericks big wave surf contest, he was sitting in his high school English class and just trying to keep it cool. We caught up with Padua to learn about his approach to taking on such a monstrous wave at such a young age.

Our interview made us quickly realize that the Peninsula has a rising surf star on its hands, while also reminding us of just how eclectic the culture can be in the 6–5–0.

Of course, if you’re fascinated by the scene out at Mavericks make sure to also check out our big feature article on the guys behind Powerlines Productions, who have been documenting the action from the water for years now.

Siblings Anne, Norma and Gene Takahashi, the third generation of family owners of Takahashi Market, take a quick break from preparing plate lunches, kalua pork, musubi and other Hawaiian staples for the store’s busy lunchtime crowds. (Photo by Veronica Weber)

Exploring the aisles of Takahashi Market, the Peninsula’s emporium for Hawaiian & Japanese goods

We’ve covered a lot of new restaurants on the Peninsula this year, such as the ice cream wizards of Salt + Straw, the (epically-named) Hawaiian brunch spot Morning Wood and the $8 million taco joint that is Puesto.

Of course, we profiled some of the local legends, as well, such as It’s It Ice Cream, the Peninsula’s best dive bars and the old-school joints that are still around in the wake of the Oasis’s closing.

But no food feature, old or new, got readers as excited as this profile on Takahashi Market, the 112-year-old Japanese-Hawaiian market in San Mateo. We talked with the family about the history behind the location and the secret to making their marvelous musubi. And for a year in which a lot of our mainstays have closed, Takahashi reminded us that some of the longterm local legacies are still going strong.

Wait! There’s more. Take a look at some other 650 articles from 2018 that captured local life and cultural around the Peninsula.

The road less traveled: how one Bay Area chef left the kitchen and embraced #vanlife

Is Silicon Valley destroying the American worker? Tech writer Dan Lyons makes the case.

These classic Peninsula eateries will cure your post-Oasis blues

Behind the curtain of Palo Alto’s 90-year-old cinematic treasure — The Stanford Theatre

In the ring with local MMA fighter (and mother) Keri Melendez

Meet the future farmers of…Silicon Valley? These 4-H kids are raising livestock in their backyards

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Charles Russo

Award-winning writer and photographer with extensive experience across mediums, including videography, investigative reporting, editing, advanced research, and a wide range of photography.

Author of Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America; represented by Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency.

Freelance clients include Google, VICE and Stanford University.

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