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Brief BIO

by TonyR

BIO [2015]: James A. Clapp (Sebastian Gerard)

James A. Clapp is Emeritus Professor of City Planning and Urban Affairs at San Diego State University, where he formerly directed the Master of City Planning Program and was Chairman of the School of Public Administration and Urban Studies.   He received his Ph.D. in Metropolitan Studies from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University in 1968 and practiced for several years as a public urban planner and planning consultant.

He is author of over 100 articles, book chapters, reviews, and technical reports on cities and city planning, and his book, New Towns and Urban Policy (Dunellen, 1971) was the main selection of the Library of Urban Affairs Book Club in 1971. His book, The City: A Dictionary of Quotable Thoughts On Cities And Urban Life (Rutgers, 1984) in print for over a decade, has been expanded and translated into Chinese for publication by the Chinese Architectural and Engineering Press in 2010 and was re-issued in a revised and expanded edition in 2014 by Transaction Publishers.  His book (with M. Stofflet), California Cityscapes (Universe Books, 1991) deals with the portrayal of the city in art. A book of his aphorisms, Lifelines, writing as Sebastian Gerard, was published in May 2004, and This Urban Life: Writing About Cities for Multiple Media was published in 2005. The Stranger is Me:  Travels and Self-Discoveries, a travel memoir, was published in Spring 2007. The American City in the Cinema was published by Transaction Publishers in 2013.

His first full-length work of fiction, For Goodness Sake, A Novel of the Afterlife of Suzie Wong, written as Sebastian Gerard, was published in Hong Kong in 2008 and he has scripted the story for production as a feature motion picture. In 2014 it was published in French by GOPE in France under the title A la Poursuite de Suzie Wong. In Spring 2015 his memoir Mon Cahier de Paris: Café Writings 1989 and 1999 was published as well as his second novel, as Sebastian Gerard, Stumbling Blocks & Stepping Stones. His collection writings on Italy and his travels there over the years, Vademecum Italica,was published at the end of 2015.  Forthcoming at the end of 2016 are The World Traveler’s Book of Quizzes  and The Babo Gospels: Essays and Parables on Faith and Reason.

He is currently writing The River Dragon’s Daughters, a novel of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. His completed non-fiction book, The Art of Urbanism: Cities and Urban Life in the History of Painting, is under publisher review. For a complete list and samples of his writing projects consult the publications link in his website.

Dr. Clapp has taught on the faculty of the University of California, and was appointed by the French Ministry of Education as a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris VII in 1989 and 1999, where he lectured on both film and American urbanism. He also taught for the Syracuse University Division of International Programs in Hong Kong in 1997 and was a guest lecturer at TongJi University, Shanghai. He has also delivered lectures at Peking and Tsinghua Universities and the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.  In 2008 he was made an “Honorary Professor” of Beijing City University. Articles based on his lectures there have been published in Chinese.

In the year 2000 he was the Fulbright Scholar at Lingnan University and the School of Creative Media at City University, in Hong Kong.

From 1977 to 2003 he conducted annual summer travel-study courses in European, Asian, North African, and Middle Eastern cities.

Dr. Clapp’s work in media and journalism began in 1980 when as Chairman of the School of Public Administration and Urban studies he was instrumental in creating the Film-Maker-In-Residence position at SDSU and in the acquisition of its first occupant, two-time Academy Award recipient, Denis Sanders. He worked extensively with Sanders, with whom he was co-founder of the Program for Media and Urban Affairs and also Sanders and Clapp Productions, until the death of Sanders in 1987.

He was also Director of the Program for Media and Urban Affairs. As Producer/Writer/Commentator for San Diego Public Radio KPBS-FM from 1987 to 1992, he wrote and/or produced over 100 essays, interviews and documentaries, and created, wrote and hosted its public affairs program, Metropolitan Journal. He has been co-producer and scriptwriter for the Production Center of the Department of Telecommunications and Film for television documentaries in San Diego and Egypt and Israel. In 1990 one of his programs for KPBS-FM received a “Best Investigative Reporting” award from the San Diego Press Club.   He is also a freelance magazine and newspaper writer on travel and urban affairs topics, and was the 1991 recipient of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association Journalism Award for his series of articles for the San Diego Union. In 2003 he launched his website,  Dragon City Journal, on which he has published over 700 essays and graphics on urbanism, media, travel and other subjects. He founded UrbisMedia Ltd. (chartered in Hong Kong in 2010) upon his retirement from SDSU in 2005 to work collaboratively on projects in media from print and broadcast journalism, publishing, documentary, graphics and film.

He has two daughters, Laura and Lisa, both graduates of the University of California, by his late wife, artist and professor of art and design, Patricia Lynch Clapp.