Arts + Letters

Germany’s Beating Heart: Berlin’s Turbulent Past Gives Rise to Exuberant Culture

“Berlin ist eine Reise wert”—Berlin is worth a trip. That tepid marketing blurb from the 1950s was meant to lure reluctant tourists to the divided city still recovering from the devastation of World War II. No such encouragement is needed today. Twenty-five years after the destruction of the infamous Berlin Wall, tourism is a leading industry in Germany’s booming capital. Last year alone, more than 11 million people visited.

From the Fall 2014 Radicals issue of California.

The Thing Is—Who Knows? It’s a Periodical Package and a Total Mystery

Here’s the thing about The Thing: It is almost impossible to define. It’s a periodical, but unlike any magazine you’ve seen before. It’s a piece of art, but it’s nothing you’re going to hang on your wall. It’s a functional object, but possibly one you’ll be reluctant to ever use. Subscribe to The Thing Quarterly, and you’ll receive a plain brown-paper package four times a year, the contents of which will be a mystery until you open it.

From the Fall 2014 Radicals issue of California.

Math Rock Fans, Rejoice: A Minor Forest Has Reunited, Will Play in Berkeley

Math rock fans of the 1990s will remember A Minor Forest, the trio of Bay Area musicians renowned for their aggressive, rhythmically technical style of playing and intense live shows. (Not to mention imaginatively crass song titles like “No One Likes an Old Baby” and “Jacking Off George Lucas.”)

Game of Allophones: Word Whiz Creates Languages for Shows Like Game of Thrones

David Peterson has never been interested in fantasy films or literature. The 33-year-old dismisses the genre as “fantastical people who do fantastical things.” So it may be surprising to learn that for the past five years, the 2003 Berkeley graduate has been creating languages for the fantastical worlds of TV shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones and movies such as Thor: The Dark World. 

From the Summer 2014 Apocalypse issue of California.

Project Nile: Africa is Divided by a River, but United by a New Musical Collaboration

Africa has its share of environmental problems, and the Nile River is a prima facie case in point. The longest river in the world, its basin supports about 300 million people. The demands on the Nile and its major tributaries are extreme—for urban water supplies, for agriculture, for hydropower and fisheries—and they are growing. And as the demands grow, the potential for conflict grows with it. Some of the flash points are especially fraught: A dam under construction in Ethiopia on the Blue Nile is the largest hydro project in Africa, and has enraged Egypt.

Cari Borja’s Berkeley Salon: Designer Stages 52 Dinners for Intriguing Friends and Strangers

Racks of gowns, manikins, and sewing machines crowd the edges of Cari Borja’s design studio, but a huge dining table occupies the center. It’s where she holds the dinners that resemble the fieldwork of an anthropologist outside the Ivory Tower. For a series of 52 meals—44 already served—she has transformed her studio into a salon where guests, from the famous to the unknown, discover connections and savor a slow meal.

POSTERity: Hunt for Depression-era National Park Posters Leads to Berkeley

It all started 43 years ago. Doug Leen was working as a seasonal ranger at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and his supervisor told him to clean out a complex of outbuildings south of Jenny Lake. Leen began hauling junk out of a barn when he saw it hanging from a nail: an old cardboard government poster featuring the park’s rugged peaks.

All That Jazz: Conservatory Is Nation’s First Independent Degree-Granting Institute Devoted to Jazz

Some early New Orleans jazz trumpeters performed with a handkerchief draped over their fingers, to prevent anyone from stealing their hottest licks. Other musicians more generously shared their hard-won knowledge, but for most of the music’s history, aspiring jazz players picked up information wherever they could, observing more experienced players at work on the bandstand and memorizing solos by wearing out the grooves on treasured recordings.

Ambitious Plan for a Captive Readership: Berkeley MBA Students Advise Inmate Newspaper

It was an early fall day when the gates of San Quentin State Prison clanged shut behind the unusual team of consultants on its way to meet the equally unusual team of clients.

“I was apprehensive,” admits Laura Tilghman, an MBA student at UC Berkeley who had never stepped into a prison before. “It was such different circumstances and territory.”

The clients, most of them serving life sentences, didn’t know what to expect either. Why would students from one of the top business schools in the state want to visit inmates at the state’s oldest prison?

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