Arts + Letters

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.

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.

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