Arts + Letters

Berkeley’s Bravest: The Cal Scholar Who Inspired Hemingway’s Spanish Civil War Hero

Six feet, two-and-a-half inches tall, rangy and handsome, Robert H. Merriman was 23 years old when in the fall of 1932 he began studying at UC Berkeley for a Ph.D. in economics. A fellow student in his department, John Kenneth Galbraith, called him “the most popular of my generation of graduate students at Berkeley. … Later he was to show himself the bravest.” Read more about Berkeley’s Bravest: The Cal Scholar Who Inspired Hemingway's Spanish Civil War Hero »

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

Opium Dreamland: Reporter Sam Quinones on Heroin, Pills and his Punk-Rock Roots

Punk rock, which was big during the years writer Sam Quinones spent at UC Berkeley, turned out to be more than just the background noise of an undergraduate life.

For Quinones, who double-majored in economics and American history, it provided an opportunity. He produced several punk shows while he was a student living at the now-shuttered Barrington Hall co-op, bringing in well-known bands such as The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. “They were probably the biggest shows ever at Barrington Hall,” he said. Read more about Opium Dreamland: Reporter Sam Quinones on Heroin, Pills and his Punk-Rock Roots »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Shooting on the Edge: War Photographer at Cal to Sharpen His Storytelling Skills

When Shawn Baldwin talks about the “discomforts and mishaps” of life, he doesn’t mean the little pebble-in-your-shoe inconveniences that annoy the typical American. He’s referring to the time he was kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq, blindfolded, and had a gun pushed against the side of his head, on and off, for about 12 hours. (A saga also relayed by his fellow captive, renowned New York Times journalist John F. Read more about Shooting on the Edge: War Photographer at Cal to Sharpen His Storytelling Skills »

From Cal Athlete to Ford Model to R&B Crooner: Being ‘Better Than Yesterday’

Until she was 18, Chloe Jean Jarvis lived with the secret that she had two moms: her biological mother, Deborah, and a woman she called “Aunt Jan,” who was staying for a really long time. The closeted relationship of her same-sex parents simply wasn’t discussed back then. Nor was it the only thing that distinguished young Chloe, a mixed-race child, from her classmates at Catholic all-girls St. Francis High School in largely white, suburban Elk Grove. “My existence as a young person revolved around trying to hide my true colors. I was filled with shame,” she recalls. Read more about From Cal Athlete to Ford Model to R&B Crooner: Being 'Better Than Yesterday' »

Creation, Preservation, Destruction: Chitresh Das Dance Presents “Shiva”

In the weeks after the sudden death of legendary kathak dancer, choreographer and guru Pandit Chitresh Das last January, the Bay Area company that bears his name seemed determined to forge ahead. Das was in the midst of completing a major new work, “Shiva,” which was scheduled to premiere for Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall last March. But as his disciples started to come to terms with his loss, moving forward so soon after his passing at 70 seemed unthinkable. Read more about Creation, Preservation, Destruction: Chitresh Das Dance Presents "Shiva" »

A Rabbi, an Ex-Soldier, a Palestinian and Some Lesbians Walk into a Band…

The American filmmakers knew they were taking risks. They couldn’t expect to smuggle Israelis-passing-as-Americans in and out of the West Bank—not to mention pointing a camera at everything while they were there—without facing any consequences. So when they pulled their car full of women off the road in Nablus to film a b-roll shot, and looked up to see a man walking toward them with a machine gun, they kind of panicked.

As director Jen Heck recalls, “I thought to myself: Tonight is the night I’m going to jail in a Palestinian prison.” Read more about A Rabbi, an Ex-Soldier, a Palestinian and Some Lesbians Walk into a Band... »

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? Read more about The Poll Slayer: New Book Argues that Surveys are Simplistic But Humans are Complicated »

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.” Read more about Art with a Twist: Berkeley Art Museum's Gala Features Work by Literal Iconoclast »

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. Read more about Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Gets Set to Open in New Digs »

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. Read more about For the Young and the Restless: Why Cal Linguist Declares "Gig" Word of the Year »

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