Arts + Letters

Face Off: Edith Head gets a Google Doodle

Before Edith Head became Edith Head—the legendary costume designer who was the subject of a recent Google Doodle on what would have been her 116th Birthday—she was just another Berkeley graduate with a French degree.

Recipe for Success: Cal alum dishes on the Food Network

Allen Salkin has spent the majority of his career writing about the sometimes bizarre but always fascinating ins-and-outs of American culture. During his tenure at The New York Times, Salkin explored nearly every crevice of popular culture, from the Hollywood “Bling Ring” to Bernie Madoff’s beach house to the real-life adoption of Festivus—a fictional holiday featured in a 1997 episode of “Seinfeld.”

Lights, Camera, Economics

If charisma were measured in inches, Berkeley political economist Robert Reich would be a very tall man—but he’s short. Famously so, barely 4’11”. It’s not something he hides. To the contrary, he works his height the way a fat comic works his weight, beginning speeches with deadpan openers like, “As you can see, this economy has really worn me down,” and, “I’ll be short.”

From the Fall 2013 Film Issue issue of California.

Movie Romance

On a warm summer night in Berkeley, a diverse group of movie­goers congregates on the south side of campus, just off Bancroft, near the entrance to the Pacific Film Archive (PFA) Theater. The building is sort of a hip take on a Quonset hut—intended as a temporary alternative to the theater in the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM), which has been closed for retrofitting since 1999. Yet, like the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, it still serves dutifully, screening films nearly every night of the year.

From the Fall 2013 Film Issue issue of California.

The Man Behind the Movies

James Schamus is a rare specimen in the film business. Not only is he a high-powered movie executive—CEO of Focus Features, the art house division of NBC Universal—he is also a writer and producer of the first order, with a long list of credits that include The Ice StormBrokeback Mountain, and Lust, Caution. He received an Academy Award nomination for Brokeback Mountain (Best Picture) and two more for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, including Best Original Song (he wrote the lyrics). And, as if all that weren’t enough, Schamus is also a professor of film theory at Columbia University in New York City. As you might expect from that last item on the CV, he has a Ph.D., but he only finished his dissertation in 2003, after Berkeley asked him to deliver that year’s commencement address to the English Department. Tim Gray, editor-in-chief of Variety, told a reporter, “He’s the only person in the business I’ve ever seen who said, ‘I can’t go to Cannes because I’ve got to work on my doctorate.’”

From the Fall 2013 Film Issue issue of California.

Uncertain Prospects

(Note: In this gritty diary, director Jesse Moss captures his challenges filming “The Overnighters,” which just received the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for “intuitive filmmaking” at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Moss, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 1993, thanked the festival for “believing in this film when we really needed someone to believe in it.”)

DAY 425

“Get off my property or I’ll shoot you.”

From the Fall 2013 Film Issue issue of California.

Finding Her Tribe

One glance at the promo for her TV show was enough to send her heart plummeting like an elevator with snapped cables. The ad depicted a female flight attendant—or stewardess, as they were once universally called—lying in bed, partially draped in a sheet, wearing only a jaunty Pan Am flight cap. To the show’s originator/executive producer, Nancy Hult Ganis ’78, M.J. ’81, it was the utter anti­thesis of her vision.

From the Fall 2013 Film Issue issue of California.

The SS vs. Shirley Temple

The collaboration of American movie studios with Nazi Germany was complex and multifaceted, and as the decade progressed, it evolved in a clearly discernible way. More and more, the Nazis dictated the terms of every encounter, and the studios, instead of leaving the German market, did everything they could to remain. As the years passed, fewer American movies were shown in Germany, but as long as the studios pandered to the whims of the Nazi regime, the collaboration remained as strong as ever.

From the Fall 2013 Film Issue issue of California.

The Heart of Everything

C.K. Ladzekpo never intended to stay in Berkeley. Now in his 40th year on faculty at Cal, the pioneering drummer, choreographer, and teacher didn’t foresee leaving West Africa at all. But a temporary teaching position abroad started to look more attractive after military officers came to his classroom at University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, roughed him up in front of his students, and held him under arrest for four days.

From the Summer 2013 A New Deal issue of California.

The Empty Quarter

Some years ago, a major metro newspaper ran a series of articles on the “many Californias”—the socially and economically diverse states-within-the-state that conjoin, however uneasily, to create one of the most dynamic societies on the planet. The conceit was not inaccurate, even if it broke along predictable lines: the Lotus-Eating Southland, the Tech Empire of Silicon Valley, the Conservative Citadel of the Central Valley, and the Retiree Haven of the Sierra Foothills.

But there was one California the article didn’t address: the Empty Quarter.

From the Spring 2013 Growing Up issue of California.

Song of Herself

Ursula K. Le Guin has said that her father, Alfred Kroeber, studied real cultures, while she made them up. Indeed, many of the writer’s most celebrated novels are set in intricately imagined realms, from the sci-fi universe of Ekumen to the fantasy archipelago of Earthsea.

From the Spring 2013 Growing Up issue of California.

In a Bind

Berkeley alumni are a prolific bunch. They all have something to say, and many are moved to put it in writing. What is unusual is to not only publish your own book but to print it yourself, bind it by hand, and cart it to the bookstores on your own. Add in that the author/publisher has a day job at Google, and we think you’ll agree that Matt Werner ’07 is unusual even for a Berkeley grad. We caught up with Matt via email to ask him a few questions about why, and how, he released his book—Oakland in Popular Memory, a collection of interviews with Oakland artists—the hard way.

From the Spring 2013 Growing Up issue of California.

Out of the Gate

My son, Danny, returned from an exchange semester at Berkeley and treated me to a recitation of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s Hadda Be Playing on the Jukebox. Robert Haas’s American Poetry class had introduced Danny to the Beats, and he wanted to know whether I had read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I hadn’t.

From the Winter 2012 Culture Shock issue of California.


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