Arts + Letters

Editors’ Picks: What to Read and Watch This Fall

Our editors have curated a list of entertainment to indulge in this summer. Here are their top picks of books, documentaries, and more, all produced by UC Berkeley faculty and alumni.

The Return of Cal Performances

For the first time since March of last year, Cal Performances has opened its (physical) doors. And the 2021–2022 performance lineup is filled with incredible talent.

From the Fall 2021 issue of California.

She Never Gave Up on Her Dream of Working at Pixar

GREEN AND YELLOW FLAMES engulfed Maleficent as she transformed into a gigantic dragon.

“Fire is supposed to be red!” I thought, staring at my TV. Then, when Prince Phillip threw his sword through the heart of the fire-breathing monster, I was done.

My coach mentioned that Pixar was down the street. I immediately dropped my fork. I had no idea Pixar was near campus!

From the Fall 2021 issue of California.

Post-Pandemic, Teletherapy Is Here to Stay

DR. HANNAH ZEAVIN’S WORK explores the question of how we recover from trauma, and the roles that technology and media play in how we understand each other and ourselves.

From the Fall 2021 issue of California.

Now Showing: Celebrating Half a Century of Film at Berkeley

THIS YEAR, Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive celebrates its 50th anniversary—that is, in its physical form. While the PFA technically opened its doors in 1971, it actually came into being several years earlier, before it had any doors, born from the mind of writer Sheldon Renan.

From the Summer 2021 issue of California.

Joe Di Prisco Bet on Literature—and Won Big

WHEN HE WAS A GRAD STUDENT in Berkeley in the 1970s and ’80s, pursuing his Ph.D. in English, Joe Di Prisco would often duck out of Wheeler Hall to place bets on sports games from campus pay phones. It wasn’t the only angle he was working back then.

From the Summer 2021 issue of California.

Celebrating Children’s Literature Legend, Beverly Cleary

It was a quiet morning at Sather Gate Book Shop in Berkeley during World War II. Beverly Cleary, who was working at the shop, idly picked up a children’s book. “‘Bow-wow. I like the green grass,’ said the puppy,” she read, as she later recalled in a memoir. “How ridiculous,” she thought.

From the Summer 2021 issue of California.

A Formula for Funny: The Surprisingly Smart Humor of The Simpsons

FOR CENTURIES, FERMAT’S LAST THEOREM defied mathematicians to prove that there are, in fact, no natural numbers for x, y and z that can satisfy the equation xn+yn=zn when n is greater than 2. Countless great minds tried and failed, until 1995, when mathematician Andrew Wiles, after years of monk-like devotion, provided the undisputed proof once and for all. 

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

Will AI Write the Next Great American Novel?

IN SEPTEMBER OF LAST YEAR, a startling headline appeared on the Guardian’s website: “A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?” The accompanying piece was written by GPT-3, or Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, a language-generating program from San Francisco–based OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research company whose founders include Tesla billionaire Elon Musk and Berkeley Ph.D. John Schulman. “The mission for this op-ed is perfectly clear,” the robotic author explained to readers.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

You Should Know About Ida Jackson

“Since I’ve gotten old, I have wondered how I did all the things that I did then,” Ida Louise Jackson reflected in 1984 at the age of 82. Jackson participated in some of the major movements of the 20th century: the Great Migration, school desegregation, the battles for equitable education and health, and the Civil Rights Movement. Some of her earliest activism began at Berkeley when she organized the second Black sorority on the campus (shortly after the founding of AKA’s rival Delta Sigma Theta).

From the Fall 2020 issue of California.

“Equal Parts Pain and Joy:” Fred Moten’s Life in Verse

When Fred Moten reflects on his childhood, he thinks of music. His mother once slipped a coat over his pajamas, so he could accompany her to a late-night concert by the jazz singer Joe Williams on the Las Vegas Strip. She also played the piano, collected jazz and blues recordings, and baked pies for legendary bluesman B.B. King.

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.


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