Arts + Letters

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.

Strokes of Genius: Hans Hofmann’s Gift to Berkeley

Hans Hofmann, the great abstract expressionist painter and teacher, might never have made his indelible imprint on 20th-century American art, first on the West Coast and ultimately across the U.S., had it not been for two summers teaching at UC Berkeley. The invitation came from Worth Ryder, an art department faculty member and former Hofmann student, and without it, it’s possible there wouldn’t even be much of a Berkeley Art Museum.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

Photojournalist Wesaam Al-Badry on the Dignity in Suffering

Bright, sherbet colors form the palate of Wesaam Al-Badry’s newest exhibit, a series of portraits that features Muslim women in traditional garb—with a twist. Instead of the usual neutral-toned veil, the women don designer scarves, made by brands like Gucci and Chanel, that have been repurposed as high-fashion niqabs.

Not Just Refugees: Photo Exhibit Documents a People in Crisis

Chris Beale doesn’t call himself a photographer. Or a journalist. Or an activist. When asked his profession, the 42-year-old is quiet for a moment before replying, “Gardener. I’m a landscape gardener.”

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