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Guest Blogger Jonathan Dentler Introduces “Pius Aeneas”

Introducing the series, Pius Aeneas
By Jonathan Dentler 

Jonathan Dentler is a first year student in the History Department Ph.D program. He is interested in the history of visual cultures, philosophies and theories of history, and modern American and European history.

Los Angeles begins with the grunts and bellows of elephant seals on the beach, bloated creatures that live most of their lives a mile deep gorging on squid and crustaceans. It starts there, on the beach near the golden bluffs of Hearst’s mansion, Disneyland’s alter ego. 

It continues with the drive down, through San Luis Obispo, down through Santa Barbara, the first dull and lazy pastels of Spanish memories. Down over the mountains, more cars, automobiles in communion on the highway, through the valleys, then you see it. Hollywood – the number of churches surprised me. “The Asiatic city of the innumerable churches, holy Moscow!” I felt like Napoleon – same hubris. There’s a church near my casita; its bells ring out the hour as I look out my window at the palm tree hills, gradients of social capital. The light here never changes – that’s what almost everyone who ever wrote about Los Angeles says. The pleasurable go-with-the-flow monotony lulls one to reverie: washed out light blue, brown, dusty green, until the cars seduce the evening sky to mimic their color palate. That’s when the acrylic ecstasy hits.

What is USC? It’s the University of Southern California. What is Southern California? It’s the last true American frontier. Southern California is the Wild West, it’s cowboys and Indians and Mexicans and it’s the expanse of the Pacific with the dull beat of the surf, the dull beat of dreams, it’s Space. Follow me; follow me like the acolytes of a bizarre, fatalistic Sun Cult worshipping spirits from outer space. Follow me as I blog about being a grad student in the history department at USC.

I came here to study the history of images in a city built on images. It’s not just the moving pictures; it’s the whole panorama city of postcards, orange groves, wax museums, car wash billboards and the miasmic Americana dreamscape.