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New 2023 laws in California

 January 2, 2023 at 12:34 PM PST

S1: A new state law aims to boost transparency with wages.

S2: The idea is that with greater information is going to come a shrinkage of the gap.

S1: I'm Andrea Bone in for Maureen CAVANAUGH and Jayde Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. The state's push for electric vehicles presents new challenges for managing the grid.

S3: We have capacity that's there. It's about how to incentivize customers to use that capacity.

S1: The queen of Vietnamese rock and roll steps back into the spotlight with an album of restored classics. And Rick Steves delves into European art history in a new six part TV series. All that is ahead on Midday Edition. 2023 is here , and with it comes a flurry of new laws taking effect across California. They cover issues as wide ranging as pay equity , transgender rights , even creative expression. Well , now take a closer look at a few of those new laws with Dan Eaton , a constitutional law expert and partner at the San Diego firm of Seltzer , Kaplan , McMahon and Vitalik. Dan , welcome back to the show. Thanks.

S2: Thanks. Happy New Year.

S1: Happy New Year to you as well. So among the many laws that took effect yesterday , many of these revolve around the workplace. One of them calls for greater transparency when it comes to wages.

S2: First , the policy goal is to shrink the the gap that persists , particularly between men and women in the workplace and particularly women of color and men and in the workplace. And the law requires employers of 15 or more employees to include in any job posting the pay range of the position that is being advertised. That's true. Whether the employer itself post the job or whether it has some outside agency such as indeed posting the job announcement. It also , interestingly , allows current employees to ask for the pay rate for the position that the employee currently holds. Again , the idea is that with greater information is going to come a shrinkage of the gap that continues to persist between some people in the workplace and others.

S1: So it requires a range of salaries. One of the criticisms of this law is that some companies may try and get around it by just posting really wide ranges of salaries.

S2: Actually , pay scale is a defined term in the law and it talks about the pay that the company reasonably expects to pay for the particular position that is being posted. So this level of what a company expects to pay is probably going to be based on historically what they have paid for the position based on experience and so forth. So there's really is a question , though , you're right , going in as to what that means. Exactly. And when you have such broad pay scales or an artificially low top end of that pay range that you effectively get around the goal of trying to shrink the pay gap that the law is designed to target.

S1: Now , like it or not , COVID 19 is still with us in 2023. And I know you have been following some new workplace rules dealing with the coronavirus.

S2: And the fact is that the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board just updated new regulations that , among other things , continue to require exclusion from the workplace of those who have had close contact , close contacts being defined now in terms of big square feet in the workplace instead of as it was before. The one thing the new regulations do , though , which is beneficial to employers is it gets rid of the obligation to continue to pay workers who are excluded from the workplace. And the reason for that is because the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board only has jurisdiction over the workplace. And now coronavirus is so widespread that you don't know where people are catching it. But the sad fact is that coronavirus since its inception has been moving faster than the speed of law. The fact that regulators and the legislature are moving to this more durable legal framework is it both welcome and deeply depressing.

S1: Now , another important change at the workplace this year is San Diego's minimum wage. It rose to $16.30 yesterday. Tell us about that.

S2: Well , yes , that's for work that's done in the city of San Diego. In some respects , more significantly , the state minimum wage for employers of all sizes may increase to $15.50 an hour. The importance of that is not only with respect to those who earn the minimum wage , but also exempt workers who are exempt from the minimum wage because , of course , they have to be paid a salary of twice of the state minimum wage , which means that those exempt workers will jump to a minimum of $64,800 a year.

S1: Now , let's move on to abortion rights. California already allowed abortion and it codified that into the state constitution with November's election.

S2: Much abortion rights , except , of course , for the enactment of the constitutional amendment , which went into effect actually last year right after the election. But with respect to enforcement , and there is an important new law that specifically says that if you've got a state that has serious abortion restrictions and they seek some sort of information about whether people are traveling to California to get an abortion. State and local law enforcement officials are not able to cooperate with them in getting that information or arresting these individuals who are traveling from one state to another to gain access to California's very protective protection of the right of a of a woman to terminate her pregnancy.

S1: And again , there's also a new law on the rights of transgender people and their families that just took effect. What can you tell us about that.

S2: That new law , again , like the abortion law we were just talking about , says if you have states that have enacted restrictions on gender affirming health care or gender affirming mental health care and they travel to California , state law enforcement cannot participate in issuing subpoenas for that purpose. There can't be any interference with any of that with respect to child custody matters , with respect to civil discovery. Those kinds of subpoenas are not going to be honored with respect to providing information as to who is seeking gender affirming health care , particularly minors , because that's really where a lot of the action is in these states , although some states are even considering wars with respect to gender affirming health care that deal with adults as old as 25.

S1: So let's say parents of a transgender child in Texas are fleeing that state and come to California so they can continue to give their gender affirming care to their child. California won't allow the state to cooperate with any sort of criminal or civil investigation into those parents and how they're treating their children.

S2: The idea is to provide a sanctuary of sorts in the state of California , which has a very strong public policy and laws protecting gender affirming health care and gender affirming mental health care. What California doesn't want to do in enacting this law is to collaborate with other states that have very different public policies.

S1: There's another new law that aims to protect creative expression from being used as evidence in criminal cases. There's got to be an interesting backstory to this one. Dan , tell us what it is.

S2: There is. And the interesting back story about this is that it turns out that particularly African-American males were having the fact that they created rap lyrics that have some of violent or misogynistic elements used against them in criminal proceedings that seemed to disrupt the free creative expression that we value so much in this country , and particularly in California. So going forward , that kind of evidence will be excluded from criminal proceedings.

S1: Dan Eaton is a constitutional law expert and partner at the San Diego firm of Seltzer , Kaplan , McMahon and VI Tech. Dan , thank you for joining us and a very happy New Year to you.

S2: Happy New Year to you , too. Good to be with you , Ed.

S1: California is poised to add millions of electric cars to local roads in the next decade. But is there enough electricity to fuel them ? KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson looks at whether the grid can handle all that load.

S2: The gentle hum of electric vehicles could soon overtake the rumble of internal combustion engines in California. Clean air regulators say all new cars sold in the state will be electric or zero emissions by 2035. But California's relationship with the power grid is fraught with uncertainty. A fact highlighted by a late summer heat wave Between now and next Wednesday , we're going to be experiencing a prolonged heat moment. We're going to have Governor Gavin Newsom's calls for conservation were answered and the threat of rolling blackouts was averted. But Newsom was roasted on social media after power grid officials asked residents not to charge their EVs during the evening. That came just a week after the state announced a 2035 ban on the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines. Still , California remains committed to shrinking its carbon footprint as a way to avoid more intense wildfires and drought hallmarks of climate change. We need to eliminate emissions from the California economy. David Victor is an energy policy researcher at UC San Diego. Biggest source of emissions right now in California , 41% of emissions come from transportation. So you got to tackle that. And the leading solution , not the only solution. The leading solution is electrifying , especially electrifying cars. Victor says no one wants the electric grid to become less reliable. And he says there's time for the state to absorb the coming demand. He says EVs are arriving in the midst of an energy transition. Solar and wind are rising in prominence. But that also calls for more energy storage capacity. And the grid will have to be built up to account for the extra draw from EVs. Pretty much every study shows it's going to be a significant increase in the demand for electricity in California as a result of this. I think many of the studies suggest that light duty vehicles alone , so cars that they are going to be responsible for maybe a one quarter increase in the demand for electricity between now and 2045. And while millions of new EVs will be feeding off the electric grid in coming years , the change isn't immediate. San Diego Gas and Electric representatives say they can handle the demand for more power as more EVs hit the road.

S3: The short answer to that is is yes.

S2: Jennie Reynolds is San Diego Gas and Electric's director of Clean Transportation.

S3: The long answer is much more complicated. And so when you start getting into the specifics of when that loads going to hit , how it's going to hit , what new technology and what type of battery storage we have to help , you know , that's a much more complex answer.

S2: Reynolds says the utility can build the required power lines and transformers. That's what utilities do. But the company also needs to build understanding among its EV customers. Right now , energy usage peaks between four and 9 p.m.. The utility wants EV charging to happen during the day or overnight.

S4: If we can get a lot of that charging.

S3: In those times , then the buildout isn't going to be as much. So we have capacity that's there. It's about how to incentivize customers to use that capacity. Then it's also the new technology , like vehicle to grid.

S2: Vehicle to grid is an emerging technology being tested in the Cajon Valley School district. Electric buses can feed power in their batteries back to the grid for a premium price when electricity is in short supply. EVs , in essence , could become a huge reservoir of stored energy. But UC San Diego's John Kissel says that tech isn't quite ready yet. The devil really is in the details of the inverter technology not becoming too expensive and the battery manufacturer , meaning in this case the vehicle manufacturer agreeing that that this is something that it will cover and the warranty also says developing ways to manage the power demand from millions of household devices and EVs will keep the grid reliable. Computing systems can help us to manage things better in time , like scheduling. But still you don't make the load go away. You just shifted. Shifting the load , shifting people's habits and shifting the power supply to renewables while adding capacity to the grid are keys to making sure the flood of EVs don't swamp a power grid that's already feeling its limitations.

S1: That was KPBS environment reporter Erik Anderson. He spoke with Midday Edition co-host Maureen CAVANAUGH with more on that story. When we first broadcast it in September , here's that interview.

S4: Can you explain more about the vehicle to grid concept and how that might work to increase electrical capacity ? Sure.

S2: This is a kind of a new technology that's being developed , at least in part by a San Diego company called Nuvia. And what they're doing is they're designing chargers that work both. Ways right now. If you plug your TV into a charger , you can draw electricity from the grid , put it in your battery , and then drive around. But what Nuvia is doing is saying , Hey , if we can draw electricity one way , why not make this a two way street so that you can put electricity that's stored in your vehicle's battery back into the grid when the grid needs extra electricity. The technology itself is not fully formed. It's not fully developed. It's something that's still being tested at the Cajon Valley School District , I think is has got a test station there. But it seems like in relatively short order , if everything lines up well , if the manufacturers of the vehicles and the batteries agree that this is a good idea and then the charging stations get changed over to make this possible , that it may be a real solution to the capacity problem that California's grid keeps bumping up against.

S4: But won't EVs just have to recharge and get all that energy back from the grid when they want to drive around ? Sure.

S2: But think of it like hydropower , right ? If you have a big reservoir that sits at a higher elevation and you can release water and generate electricity during peak electricity usage hours like between four and 9 p.m. , then you can pump that electricity back into the grid , back into the reservoir that's higher up during a period of time when there's plenty of electricity and electricity is cheaper.


S2: For some EVs , the bigger EVs that are coming into the market , they have bigger batteries. So I would say for those EVs , yes. For the smaller EVs , no , not so much. Well , I think what you're seeing right now is a range of battery sizes in vehicles , which range from somewhere around 60 kilowatt hours to , you know , a little bit over 100 kilowatt hours. But I think that those sizes in that range will stay pretty much stable over the next couple of years at least.

S4: It's not only electric vehicles that will be demanding more from the grid. San Diego wants most household heating and appliances to switch from gas to electric by the year 2035.

S2: And it's not just San Diego , it's also the state of California. The California Air Resources Board this week , I think is going to be voting on a measure that encourages people to switch out their gas , water heaters or their gas heating and cooling systems or gas dryers and even gas stoves for electric versions. And will that put load on to the grid ? Yes , it will. But there are some interesting things in the marketplace that might decrease the amount of load there for heat pumps. For example , in the Inflation Reduction Act that was just passed in Congress , they set aside a lot of money for people to install heat pump powered heating and cooling systems and water heating systems and dryers and such devices that use less electricity than their all electric counterparts. So you may see an increase in demand as the gas appliances are removed from the grid usage , but you may also see a reduction in the demand at the same time for more efficient technologies like heat pumps that are going to make using those same devices a little bit less costly for the grid.

S4: Now , the governor pushed for and got an extension on the Diablo Canyon nuclear Power plant to help shore up the state's grid , because right now other renewable sources don't provide enough power.

S2: There's a pretty strong opposition to that happening. There are a lot of safety concerns , although that the energy it does produce is is green energy. It doesn't create emissions that are released into the atmosphere. But there are some safety concerns around nuclear that will probably keep it a couple of runs down on the discussion ladder. In terms of long term solutions. This Diablo Canyon decision is is really sort of a short term bridge solution while the rest of the state starts to gear up its ability to tap into renewable sources and to store the energy that those renewable sources generate. Solar , for example , powers can power close to half of all the state's peak demand during the middle of the day , and that's pretty significant. But the thing about solar is , is that you need to have a way to store that energy during the daytime so that you can release it onto the grid when the sun goes. Down. And I think that there's still a gap there right now. Utilities are still scaling up their battery storage facilities. And and this will give them this extension of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power plant. A lifeline will give them some time to build that capacity so the state can be more ready to deal with just the renewable fuels.

S4: Just a week or so ago , when we had about nine straight days of flex alerts , if Californians hadn't pitched in and scaled back their energy use , we could have been in four days of rolling blackouts.

S2: I think one thing that most people who study energy in California would agree with is that consumers , the people who basically control the demand side , they are going to have a big role to play when they make the demand on the grid is going to be important and utilities are going to try to encourage them to make that demand when other people are not making the demand. So consumers will be a big part of the equation always moving forward.

S4: I've been speaking with KPBS environment reporter Erik Anderson. Erik , thank you.

S2: My pleasure.

S1: This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Andrea Bone , in for Maureen CAVANAUGH and Jade Hindman. In 1960s Saigon , a singer named Fong rode the wave of edgy modern music inspired by the California surf sound. It was nothing like the French jazz or folk opera that Vietnam was used to hearing. The Major Saigon label's recorded theme songs , she headlined the nightclub circuit , and she collaborated with famed composers and musicians. But then she disappeared from the music scene for more than 50 years. Turns out she became a doctor's wife living in suburban San Jose. But at 77 years old , she's now reclaiming her identity as Vietnam's first rock and roll queen. With a new album of her restored classics called Magical Nights. Reporter Christine Wynne brings us her story.

S4: A fortuneteller said she'd be famous one day. But at 14 , when the thumb or thumb was a mediocre student. But she didn't care. She had music.

S3: My house , though. We have only one radio.

S2: Anyway , now we're going back to Richard Dimbleby in London.

S3: And my dad. And every day he listened to news from BBC Time. And I want to listen music.

S4: Since her dad hogged the radio , then wandered the noisy village courtyard. One neighbor's radio played American pop.

UU: Music on your corner , told.

S4: Dumb , didn't understand the lyrics , but she loved fifties hits like Lipstick on Your Collar by Connie Francis. In 1961. At 16 , Dum entered a singing competition for Duane Vania , a Vietnam , the Vietnam Culture and Arts Union. Oh , hi.

S2: But not. Now.

S4: Now. The group performed anti-Communist live entertainment for military personnel.

S3: Gallant job. I thought I didn't know you could do all my money not to die.

S4: It was good money. But eventually them ditch the propaganda music and high school too. She found mentors who shared her love of Western music. One renamed her. For them , it was more lyrical and meant the direction of the heart. And with that name change , her sound morphed.

UU: Gonna hold them long vigil and I. That's.

S4: That's.

UU: On. Your.

S3: Your. In your.

S4: Your thumb. Had an admirer , an officer who followed her as she hopped from then Senate air base to Saigon nightclubs like the Paramount and the Olympia. He loved it when them saying this one Nat King Cole song. He said it reminded him of her enticing lips.

S3: The song was tenderly the last words that you. To my lips. My lips. You took my love. I love. So then then they leave.

S4: One night the officer brought along a young new military doctor. November.

S3: November. November 63. Look Darla now.

S4: She says it was November 1963 , the same month Vietnam's president , noting Kim was assassinated after her set Xu. The young doctor asked for her address. Tenderly then became their song so tenderly. Their marriage , almost three years later between a singer and the son of an elite family , was scandalous. Their parents didn't come to their wedding.

S3: Oh , they. They don't much save me. They don't want to save me. But I am already in love for them.

S4: Says it didn't matter. Her daughter , Hannah , says they were in love , but before she became a wife , then became a star. The Major Saigon labels recorded her songs. Here's Still Loving You Always from 1965.

S3: Now , guys , five , you no longer , you know , just doing your own , you know , job.

S4: She headlined the nightclub circuit and she collaborated with famous composers and musicians. It was rare to see women singing Western style music.

S3: Give someone in my voice. Our voice. Good for you. Windows in the game , going door to door.

S4: And in spite of or because of the subversiveness of her music , full them kept her clothing modest at night.

S3: I always wear I always wear white.

S4: But fooled them. Wasn't your average schoolgirl. In a music revue , famed Vietnamese writer Mai Tor wrote about the simmering power of this modestly dressed teen.

S5: As she steps from the back and moves toward the microphone with quivering eyes , her hands clap into the beat. A new shape emerges. The figure is now drawn with burning flames like a green fruit ripening before your eyes and loving you.

S4: But as quickly as she ascended to fame after 1966 , Punk left her singing career without a goodbye tour or a last interview. The war got worse , and she had three kids. Her oldest , Hannah , remembers hiding from bombs.

S3: The rockets would go the sirens , or whenever we would hear the sirens , we would go into the bunker.

S4: With the fall of Saigon in 1975. The family evacuated on a cargo plane. They eventually arrived in Southern California. There , they found work , mostly random , repetitive piecework for the garment industry.

S3: One week I. I have $60.

S4: Meanwhile , her husband studied to requalify , to practice medicine. Life revolved around the kids and eventually supporting Xu's successful pediatrics practice in San Jose.

S3: It was always cooking , cleaning , going to work , disciplining us , making sure that we were well behaved.

S4: Hannah is a doctor like her dad. In fact , all three of them as children became doctors. Although the kids weren't particularly musical , their parents stayed in love with music. Here at them and Xu at a music lounge in Little Saigon. In Westminster.

S3: To these. Children.

S5: Children. And just about all of.

S4: Them's past life as a singer was like an open secret. She didn't deny it , but she stuck to singing other people's hits , not her own. When her husband Googled her , he found YouTube videos of other women claiming to be filmed up.

S3: He will show her a video almost like I gave my lamb. Yay ! Oh , What ? Look at this. Whoever put this video up and use your name.

S4: Then in 2019 , thumbs has been died after a prolonged illness.

S3: My mom and my dad were always a couple wherever they went over to their friend's house. It was never without the other.

S4: His death was a turning point for Hannah and them. Hannah went searching for more information about her mom's past life. She stumbled across compilations of Vietnamese wartime rock music , including the most successful album to date called Saigon Rock and Soul.

S2: No , religion does not. So.

S4: The album included a full , damn soft , magical night. Only it wasn't really heard. It was a cover by another singer named Connie Kim.

S3: Is this you on the cover ? Smoking. And she said , Oh , they are liar. I never smoke.

S4: Hannah kept finding more fake food YouTube videos.

UU: But , you know.

S3: The minute of being gone , you look good. You win. And that was fun. But someone else's picture , someone else's voice singing her songs. And she got upset and she asked me , Can you change it ? And I said , No. The only way to change it is we have to do it ourselves.

S4: Hannah's idea was to make her own compilation of real film songs , a mix of whatever old version she could find and maybe uploaded to YouTube. But with the help of a producer and his connections around the world , she ended up with something more ambitious. They found their original records on reel to reel tapes , repaired the tracks , and created a studio quality album.

S3: And two years later , we hope we have an album.

UU: On Madame On. Jelly. My body. Flavor.

S3: Flavor.

S4: That's dreamy love. First recorded in 1965 and now restored on the album Magical Nights. The process brought mother and daughter closer together.

S3: I didn't think my mom was cool at all. And now she's like , hot.

S4: And it helped them reclaim her identity , separate from Weiner as a wife and a mother.

UU: But you like them. So when they.

S3: They knew your bad.

UU: Boy was in Germany.

S4: The first time them heard the newly restored songs like Bygone Twisted Days from 1965. Some cried. She hadn't heard some of these songs for over 50 years and had almost forgotten about them. But when Hannah found them.

S3: Thumb remembered by her New Guinea that Alma Rhodesia.

S4: She remembered who played the keyboard ? Who played the guitar. She remembered the camaraderie of early morning meals after a night singing. She wished her husband , Xue , who had been with her at the peak of her career , could have heard them again , too. Hello.

S3: Hello. Hi.

S4: Them still sings. I caught up with her on New Year's Day when she performed at a neighbor's house in San Jose. Now.

UU: Now. My love.

S4: The guests. Eat it up. Awesome. Awesome. One man tells me the music takes him back to his childhood before the worst of the Vietnam War.

S5: You know , my God. And you could tell John Hockenberry how went like look me in the eye and give you my wine.


S3: I'm Jojo Young. Hey , Jane. I know you've been doing so. Gordon's out of boredom. Julie. Go. Gone. There you. Go.

S4: Go. Documentaries and movies of the Vietnam War often feature American rock music. In fact , on my first flight back to Vietnam , after my family fled , I looked out the window to the jungle below the door song The end played in my head. Up to then , Western songs were my cultural reference. But Vietnamese musicians were part of that soundtrack , too. Managing your. And one of the first was them once known as full time. She's not a teenager anymore. She's 77 and confident in a spangly top. And she's ready for her victory tour.

S1: That was reporter Christine when. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Andrew Bone. Now that Europe has reopened its doors to tourism , many eager , soon to be travelers are planning long awaited vacations across the continent. If this describes you , you might want to check out a new six hour series from Rick Steves called Art of Europe. The series starts with the Stone Age in ancient Greece and finishes with the modern age , telling stories about famous works of art , the artists that made them , and the history that inspired them. I spoke with Rick Steves about the new series and began by asking him why he wanted to focus a series on the art of Europe. Here's that conversation.

S2: Well , you know , all my life in my career , I've been teaching European travel , and a huge part of European travel is getting excited about the art. And way back when I was a college student , I was giving a six hour all day talk about European art and how to make it fun and meaningful. And over the last decades , I've written books and made apps and taken tours , all sort of designed to help people understand why we need to understand and appreciate and enjoy art. It's a big part of your travels , and I've really found the more you bring to it , the more you get out of it and it should be fun. So we had the challenge of distilling the whole exciting story of European art from the prehistoric times to the Pantheon in the six one hour programs. And it's been a two year project and we've drawn on 20 years of shooting in the greatest galleries and palaces and museums around Europe. And it's for me , it's just so exciting as a tour guide and a travel teacher and an art enthusiast to finally have it available on public broadcasting.

S1: You mentioned you start with prehistory. Give us a brief outline of what eras of art and culture you'll be taking a look at.

S2: Well , the big challenge , Andrew , was to break it into , you know , six one hour segments. And I wanted to , you know , be concise and kind of have an overview and respect people's attention span. And we broke it into the 6 hours. And for a quick overview , the first hour is prehistoric through Egypt and ancient Greece. The next hour is a thousand years of Rome from 500 B.C. to 500 A.D.. The third hour is a thousand years of medieval history , from about 500 to 1500. Fourth hour is the Renaissance , and that's about 200 years from 1416 hundred in very general terms. The fifth hour would be baroque , followed with neoclassical and then 1600 to the French Revolution or after that , around 1800. And then the final hour is the romantic movement right into the modern age , basically from 1850 or so until today. And the wonderful challenge and the tough challenge of deciding what should make the cut and then going to Europe and getting permission to get into all these amazing places and bring home the footage and lace it into this six hour story. And man , when I get to I've been sweeping through the shows just as we finish things up in the last month. And and I'm it's just so darn beautiful. The stuff we've made over the centuries and in European art is just so much fun to actually appreciate and joy and to understand.

S1: My husband and I just traveled to Europe this past summer and we waited in lines to see the David and Florence. We packed into this tight viewing area to see the Mona Lisa in Paris. And those works , of course , are beautiful. But I'm wondering what are some less famous works of art off the beaten path , so to speak , where the crowds might not be as intense and viewers might still really love them.

S2: Andrew The fact is American tourists all go to the same places. So it's no wonder Mona Lisa is going to be packed and Michelangelo's David is going to be packed and the Sistine Chapel is going to be packed. And those are great sights , but there's plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten path. And what I like to do is find new artists that I didn't know I was so excited about. Angelica He's the greatest of the high middle aged painters. And for him , you know , they say painting was a form of prayer , and he couldn't paint a crucifix without weeping. There's some incredible , sensuous tapestries that came out of the late Middle Ages. One is called The Lady and the Unicorn , and it just celebrates people enjoying life and actually getting sensuous about things. And to see the smirks and the innuendo in the art from five or 600 years ago is amazing to know that art is propaganda and then to see it through the proper lens so you can imagine what was going on back then is just so much fun. And our challenge is not only to not just go to the most famous places , but to bring some understanding with us. People ask me , How can you , you know , well , there's two things. How can you avoid the crowds and how can you save some money about saving money ? It's going to cost us all about the same to go into these palaces and galleries. But those who bring an understanding get triple the joy out of it. And as far as crowds go , the thing about COVID is it has taught Europe that they need to control crowds better. And they've got this situation where everybody wants to go to the same places. So the most crowded places are now by appointment only in general. And if you need to get a reservation , just do it. Do it in advance and then you'll go to these places. And even though there are really famous Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper , for instance , they only allow a couple dozen people in at a time. And it's just available now for people who get that appointment in advance. But to answer your question , there are so many artists that we don't appreciate until we learn about them and tell that until we see them over there in their original situation. I just love finding a new artist that I didn't know I liked so much. You know , there's MOCA for the Art Nouveau. There's David for the French Revolution. Of course , there's Klimt in the modern age in Vienna. And it feels bad to go home knowing a new artist. But it's just a lifelong challenge for us to understand and get turned on by the art. And that's what I'm excited about. This project that we've got Europe distilled into 6 hours so people can see that it's fun and it's meaningful. And the more you understand it , the more you'll enjoy it.

S1: Very useful tip there that I wish I had learned this summer to make reservations in advance. Weeks in advance , perhaps even. In some ways , I think art history is history itself. It's a documentation of what was happening at a given time and how people understood it back then. Tell me about how your series puts European works of art into an historical context.

S2: Well , that is the challenge , is to see it in its context , to be filled with wonder. I mean , you're going to see prehistoric cave paintings. If you can go in there as if you're a prehistoric hunter with a torch under a dome of bison. I mean , you're going to just really find those big paintings flicker with life. If you can imagine what it's like to be a medieval peasant stepping from an existence of hunger and shivering and fear into a church and to be surrounded by the riches and the promise of a happy eternity. To see things in their context. You can imagine a pilgrim who's hiked for four weeks to get to a spot. And there he finally spots the Gothic spire on the horizon. You can imagine the joy , the jubilation when he finally reaches his his destiny to remember that throughout most of history , people were ruled by divine monarchs who really , people believed were ordained by God to rule without question. Well , to go into their palaces and let that propaganda just wow you the hall of mirrors. You know , Louis , the 14th big hall at Versailles , it's just slathered in gold , and it's a bigger collection of it slathered in gold leaf , and it's a bigger collection of mirrors than had ever been assembled. And to go there and to see it in the context of a person who really believed that God said , My king gets to rule me without question , and I'm just going to have to follow him. You just kind of go , Wow , my King really is amazing. He can grow oranges in Paris. Nobody else could. You know , just to understand the context , who paid for it and why. And that goes right across right across art history. Art transports us to other cultures to understand the triumph and the challenges and the purpose of all this art. That's been the joy for us. And to bring it home into this series. It's just for me , the teaching challenge and the rewarding project of a lifetime is to be able to celebrate this new series that we've spent two years making.

S1: Art is very subjective. I , for example , could look at art Nouveau all day , but show me five Madonna and child paintings and I start to zone out pretty quickly.

S2: I mean , like , for instance , you like Art Nouveau. Well , that's a great thing to know ahead of time. Why not focus on Art Nouveau and make it a theme everywhere you go ? Remember ? It's got a different name in different countries. And in Spain , it's called modernism. You'd go to Barcelona and you'd see all the amazing architecture by guys like Gaudi , including the Sagrada Familia. You could go to the Czech Republic and you could enjoy Amazing Art Nouveau by Alphonse Mukha. You could go to Vienna and it's called a you can steal there. You could go to Scotland and you could enjoy Art Nouveau by Mackintosh there. It's important again to do your studying in advance , and I would just tell you it really rewards you. For me , the greatest galleries and the greatest museums are a kind of a reflection of who were the most powerful kings. I think my favorite collection of paintings anywhere in Europe is in Madrid. Why in Madrid ? Well , because four years ago , Madrid had the most powerful empire and the king in Madrid controlled so much of Europe. I mean , that's why the Netherlands were called the Spanish Netherlands. Back then , in much of my favorite Flemish and Dutch art happens to be in the Prado in Madrid. The Spanish king had enough power and money to get all the great art or so much great art. And of course , in Spain you've got great local artists. But I'll tell you , the more. I travel , the more I realize you can never exact here , but what it has to offer. And I love to go to a national gallery of whatever country I'm in just to check out the romantic art that celebrates its nature. Romantic meaning art from the 1800s. So if you're in Oslo or if you're in Dublin , go to the National Gallery. Check out the romantic art celebrating nature before you go into the fjord country or over to the West coast of Ireland or whatever. And you'll probably get more of a dose of that romantic approach to nature , which is kind of a good example of how culture and your sightseeing and society and its art all weave together.

S1: That was my conversation with Rick Steves , author and host of Travel with Rick Steves , about his new series Art of Europe. You can stream episodes of the series on KPBS On Demand through KPBS , Dawg , or the PBS app.

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A new year brings a flurry of new laws taking effect across California. We take a closer look at a few of them. Then, California is poised to add millions of electric cars to local roads in the next decade, but is there enough electricity to fuel them?  In September, KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson looked into whether the grid can handle the load. Next, after a 50 year absence, Vietnam’s first rock ‘n’ roll queen returns with a new album of her restored classics. Finally,  we revisit a segment about a six-hour series from Rick Steves called “Art of Europe.”