Arts + Letters

Quarantine Culture: Essential Jazz for Desperate Times

Music uplifts the spirit, so we asked soul singer Kim Nalley what to listen to (and watch) while sheltering in place. A die-hard multi-tasker, the Berkeley Ph.D. candidate took a break from cooking, writing, and keeping up with her two kids’ education (she says “Disney+ streaming has been a life saver”) to tell us what she’s into.

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.

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