Arts + Letters

Dawn of Reckonings: In Podcast, People Fess Up to Being Completely Wrong

Daniel Gallant was an arrant racist—a violent and unstable man who took great pleasure in hurting his fellow human beings. At one point, he made a promise to himself that he would assault at least one person from an “inferior” race daily. It was a vow that he was assiduous in keeping.

The Poll Slayer: New Book Argues that Surveys are Simplistic But Humans are Complicated

It’s virtually impossible these days to imagine an America without those vaunted interpreters of the national mood: polls. They help determine the fate of political contenders, shape social policies, and interpret the mood of the nation. The aggregator realclearpolitics.com lists no fewer than 22 public polls in the past week focused on the Democratic presidential primary alone.

But are polls as useful as we think?

Art with a Twist: Berkeley Art Museum’s Gala Features Work by Literal Iconoclast

Yes, the new Berkeley Art Museum will be filled with impressive works of art, but how many museums can claim that their fundraiser’s invitations and dishes are becoming collectors’ items? Then again, how many are able to say that their party paraphernalia bears the designs of an American cult figure?

The fold-out invite card and the plates for Thursday’s event feature patterns created by Barry McGee—the man who back in the early 1990s created a name for himself, literally, as a San Francisco graffiti artist who went by the tag “Twist.”

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Gets Set to Open in New Digs

The new UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, now in the final stages of construction, exists in the heart of downtown as the large shell of a structure—its insides not yet filled with the art and art fanciers who will flood its halls when it opens to the public on January 31.

Though the new museum is 20 percent smaller than the old Mario Ciampi–designed concrete one, the building comes out to 83,000 square feet and features 25,000 square feet of gallery space.

For the Young and the Restless: Why Cal Linguist Declares “Gig” Word of the Year

Each year, UC Berkeley linguist Geoffrey Nunberg chooses a Word of the Year: A word, in other words, that was in particularly wide usage and seems to sum up the zeitgeist. Nunberg had a few good contenders for 2015, including “refugee” (due to the crises in the Middle East and Europe and along the Rio Grande) and “microaggression,” the practice of employing subtle snubs to denigrate or intimidate.

Superman With a Pen: Why This Graphic Novelist is New Ambassador for Youth Lit

The fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was inaugurated yesterday morning at the Library of Congress. Gathered under the ornate ceiling were rows of the literary elite and elementary school children, all awaiting words of wisdom from a guy who writes comic books.

Setting Misery to Music: Collaboration Lets Listeners “Hear” Effects of Climate Change

As the 2015 U.N. climate change conference continues in the outskirts of Paris—pursuing a global agreement to slow down the devastating effects of global warming—there will be graphs. There will be charts. There will be slideshows.

But if presenters really want to tug at a world leader’s heartstrings, they might want to bring a violin. Break out a synthesizer, a keyboard, and play a snippet of what climate change sounds like: Earth, out of tune and distorted, an orchestra gone a little haywire.

Nesting Instincts: In Japan, Cal Architectural Students Reinvent the Community Center

Imagine a community center that’s not your typical chunk of cinderblock—instead it’s an architecturally avant garde space where neighbors gather to grow, cook and eat food. That’s the concept behind the breezy structure “Nest We Grow,” an experiment designed to connect a community’s social spaces and growing spaces.

Biographer in the Bancroft: Writer Pursues Clues to Ms. Didion, in the Library, With a Pen

In 1976, Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner tapped Joan Didion to cover the Patty Hearst trial. What a match-up. What a saga. California royalty caught in surreal counterculture chaos, narrated by a star of the New Journalism, herself a daughter of the Golden West.

Didion signed on, and announced that she wouldn’t be spending much time in the courtroom.

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