Reading Roundup: Baby Falcons, Godless Liberals, and More

By Pat Joseph

Hatching Elements

The Campanile has a trio of new peregrine falcon chicks nesting on it, and their names are Californium, Lawrencium, and Berkelium, after three of the 16—count ‘em, 16!—elements discovered at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

California’s Krissy Eliot wrote about last year’s chicks, Fiat and Lux. As she explained then, the hatchlings face a perilous journey ahead. There are the murders of murderous crows to worry about, not to mention the risk of falling before they’re fully fledged, predators on the ground, and windows. That’s what did in poor Lux last year. Better luck to this year’s brood.

That Old Time Religion

Reverend Franklin Graham came to the city of Berkeley last Friday and there was much anticipatory gnashing of teeth, since the preacher had called progressives “godless.” But in the end, Graham’s revival in Cesar Chavez Park failed to attract significant numbers of general congregants or protesters. Largely unremarked in press accounts was that Franklin’s father, the famous Rev. Billy Graham, had come to UC Berkeley 51 years earlier, when the campus was roiled by Vietnam protests. Godlessness was afoot then too, apparently.

Noble Nobelist

Cal alum and Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling died in 2016 at age 95. The game theorist asked that his Nobel medal be auctioned after his death and the proceeds donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The auction, conducted last week, fetched $187,000 for the organization, which fights bigotry and hate crimes.

Resistance and Change

A new documentary film, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, directed by Berkeley J-School alumna Arwen Curry, has its world premiere at the Sheffield Doc Fest later this week. Le Guin, who died in January, grew up in Berkeley, daughter of Alfred and Theodora Kroeber, and went on to write such classics as The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness.

Le Guin merits two mentions in our most recent issue, which should be in mailboxes next week. The title is “Our Town,” a nod to another Berkeley High grad and award-winning author, Thornton Wilder.

Le Guin’s Lifetime Achievement speech at the 2014 National Book Awards was, like most of what she produced, moving, thoughtful, and defiant. It is worth quoting. She told her fellow authors:

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.

Make America Read Again

While we’re on the topic of books, the campus has published its annual Summer Reading List for incoming freshmen and transfer students and, well, people who like to read—people like Cal running back Patrick Laird. The walk-on senior has made reading a part of his brand, if you will, celebrating touchdowns by pretending to flip pages. Now, Laird has launched a Summer Reading Challenge to help combat summer learning loss. Young students who meet the challenge earn tickets to Cal’s first game against North Carolina on September 1.

Can we get a Go Bears?

Can we get a Hallelujah?

Have a good weekend, folks. Here’s to keepin’ the devil down in his hole.

Filed under: Cal Culture
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