Arts + Letters

Robert Meltzer Died Fighting Fascism. Then He Was Blacklisted.

Here’s a scene worth picturing on Veterans Day: It’s 1951. McCarthyism has reached a fever pitch, and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), already keeping watch on Orson Welles, has trained its sights on one of Welles’ close friends.

His name is Robert Meltzer—a UC Berkeley graduate-turned-Hollywood-screenwriter who, through biting send-ups of the status quo, has made his leftist leanings clear.

At Berkeley’s California Typewriter, the Selectrics Keep Humming

I didn’t need a typewriter. I’ve never had an editor request hard copy. These days a typewriter is just a decorative toy and using one an affectation, like Civil War reenactment or home-curing bacon. But when I found a 1940s era manual Remington Rand on Oxford Street in one of those free piles that spring up curbside at the end of the academic year, I couldn’t just leave it there.

Silent Star: Marshawn Lynch a No-Show in New Film About His Life

David Shields was having a good night. His new film, a biographical documentary about retired running back and former Cal phenomenon Marshawn Lynch, had just screened to a packed and enthusiastic house at The New Parkway Theater in downtown Oakland. Now he was joined at the front of the theatre for a Q&A by former UC Berkeley sociologist Harry Edwards and moderator Michael Smith, formerly of ESPN. Edwards was heaping praise on the film, entitled Lynch: A History.

The Book All Freshmen Are Reading

In the early 1930s, Gertrude Stein, Oakland-raised oracle of the Lost Generation, revisited her hometown. It was the trip that inspired her infamous and oft-contested line: “There is no there there.” Stein reportedly gazed upon the site where her house had once been, razed to make way for new developments. “That is what makes your identity,” Stein writes in her autobiography, “not a thing that exists but something you do or do not remember.”

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

A Cube with No View

“Chauncey hardly ever cracked a smile,” said the Bancroft Library’s pictorial curator, Jack von Euw, of photographer Chauncey Hare. And yet, there is humor in his work—albeit dark humor. His photographs of dreary office scenes recall the old joke about a man who goes to Hell and discovers a room full of people drinking coffee, waist-deep in excrement. “This isn’t so bad,” the sinner thinks. Then an announcement comes over the loudspeaker: “Coffee break is over! Back on your heads!”

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

A Balancing Act at the Border

For 45 minutes, on July 28, if you happened to be at the border between Sunland Park, New Mexico and Ciudad Juarez, you’d come across something surprising: a hot pink seesaw.

5 Things Philip Dick Got Right: A Total Recall of Electric Sheep

It was a half a century ago this year that Berkeley High grad and Cal drop-out Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? hit the shelves. Set in 2021, the story follows the systematic annihilation of renegade androids in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear-ravaged San Francisco. (In short: man made robot, robot outsmarted man, man crushed robot.) Though a work of fiction, the novel is revered to this day for its astute insights on the future of man and machine—perhaps because so much of the story has, in some form or another, become reality.

Get Your Head in the Game: A Thinking Fan’s Guide to Baseball

I arrive at Evans Diamond on a chilly Friday night, find a bleacher seat among the 400-plus fans in attendance, put my phone on airplane mode, and pull out my scorebook. This is not my usual ballpark routine, but tonight I’m determined to watch this game through new eyes—or at least, through the eyes of UC Berkeley philosophy professor Alva Noë. I’ve just read his new book, Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark, and have familiarized myself with his particular, even peculiar, way of understanding the game.

From the Summer 2019 issue of California.

“Our Democracy Is on the Line”: Q&A with Cartoonist Darrin Bell

Darrin Bell was about 5 years old when he discovered political cartoons. He was living in Southern California, and he came across the work of Paul Conrad while leafing through issues of the Los Angeles Times.

“I was just a little kid, but I learned about the Iran hostage crisis through Conrad,” Bell recalls. “I loved his images, and I asked my parents what they meant. They explained them to me, and I followed them avidly. I knew I wanted to do that kind of work someday.”

From the Summer 2019 issue of California.

Burning Passion: Photographer Noah Berger on Shooting Fire

Noah Berger admits he wasn’t the most diligent student when he attended UC Berkeley back in the early 1990s. He simply didn’t feel cut out for academe. In fact, there was only one thing that really engaged his interest during his freshman year in 1992: taking photographs for the Daily Californian.

And the Rest Is (Oral) History

Among those appalled by the 2014 publication of Forcing the Spring was Martin Meeker, a historian with UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center. Subtitled Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, the book, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jo Becker, spotlighted high-profile attorneys and what proved a limited, statewide victory.

Incunabula, VHS Tapes, and Silverfish: Unpacking the Bancroft

Sometimes the rough draft of history isn’t a newspaper, but a pile of them. Along with moldering manuscripts, reams of correspondence, posters and handbills, memoranda fastened together with rusty paper clips, all of it stuffed into decaying cardboard boxes. Rodents may or may not be involved.

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