Arts + Letters

He’d Lost Faith in Journalism. Then He Started Teaching in Prison.

In 2012, William Drummond had begun to lose faith in journalism. A changing media landscape in the age of the Internet had led to what he saw as an abandonment of the fundamentals. So when the Berkeley journalism professor was invited to teach a class at the San Quentin State Prison and become an advisor at the San Quentin News, the renowned paper published by inmates, he saw an opportunity to do something meaningful and decided to put his students to work at the paper as well.

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

Central Works Theater May Be the Bay Area’s “Best Kept Secret”

Strolling down the magnificently-tiled corridor of the Berkeley City Club you may spot a sign posted in front of a pair of heavy, wooden doors admonishing you to not disturb the theater rehearsal on the other side. Perhaps you’ll spot an actor on their way in, or hear their muffled lines as you pass.

Flash Fiction: “A Mercy, A Sport”

It was about time! We’d finally figured it out! What would this grand experiment emit? Every newborn had been subjected to the question: What happens if we cut out this sequence or that one? We’d been doing these CRISPR tests for years, so as to evolve using those Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Know thyself! Now, modify. Was it a mercy? Or a sport?

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Blue is an Elusive Color. One Artist Just Invented a New Shade.

Blue is an elusive color. Crush the feathers of a blue jay or the wings of a Morpho butterfly and you’ll see gray dust; our perception of their electric blue hue depends on microscopic structural features that bend the light just so. The blue sky is merely a mirage of refracting light, as are blue eyes. Truly blue pigments are exceedingly rare in the natural world, which is perhaps part of their allure—blue is our favorite color, according to an international, cross-cultural survey.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

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.

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