Arts + Letters

Confessions of a Former Fashion Writer: I Knew Nothing About Fashion

Here’s how bad it got. The first morning of my first stay in New York, I was hustled down to a press showing of men’s fur coats. It was 1971, and outrageous flamboyance in dress was the coming thing. I was the principal writer for (and later coeditor of) a counterculture fashion magazine called Rags.

I knew nothing about fashion. Read more about Confessions of a Former Fashion Writer: I Knew Nothing About Fashion »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

He Who Tells the Best Story Wins: Radio and Podcast Host of “Snap Judgment” Talks Shop

On 2007, Glynn Washington was director of a program at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business called YEAH (Young Entrepreneurs at Haas), working to give underprivileged Bay Area youth more opportunities in life, when he seized upon an opportunity of his own. Read more about He Who Tells the Best Story Wins: Radio and Podcast Host of "Snap Judgment" Talks Shop »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

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. Read more about Setting Misery to Music: Collaboration Lets Listeners "Hear" Effects of Climate Change »

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. Read more about Nesting Instincts: In Japan, Cal Architectural Students Reinvent the Community Center »

His Castles Outlive Their Kings: How Cal’s Architect Shaped and Scraped the Skyline

Think of the San Francisco skyline. You’re probably imagining a series of gradual boxes punctuated with a single pointed pyramid. If you’re thinking more expansively, or perhaps you have regular access to a helicopter, you would include the bridges at the bay and the Golden Gate. Read more about His Castles Outlive Their Kings: How Cal's Architect Shaped and Scraped the Skyline »

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

Preludes and Fugues: Choreographer Twyla Tharp Still Laying Down Her Legacy

“I had to become the greatest choreographer of my time,” Twyla Tharp has declared. “That was my mission, and that’s what I set out to do.”

With a reputation as a workaholic and perfectionist, Tharp has indeed become a world-renowned choreographer and is currently marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of her dance company with a 10-week, 17-city tour. But this is no mere retrospective—at age 74, Tharpis determined to keep expanding her oeuvre and laying down her legacy. Read more about Preludes and Fugues: Choreographer Twyla Tharp Still Laying Down Her Legacy »

Totally Radical: A New Initiative from Cal Performances Aims to Gather New Audiences.

Venezuela’s Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of two international orchestras at just 34 years old, is often called the poster child for how early exposure to music and the arts can nourish and lift one toward a better life. Growing up with musician parents likely helped shape his career path, but Dudamel credits much of his success to El Sistema, a Venezuelan program started in 1975 that offers musical access to all. Read more about Totally Radical: A New Initiative from Cal Performances Aims to Gather New Audiences. »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Coming to a Theater Near You! Again: Do We Live Vicariously Through Reboots and Sequels?

The Transporter: Refueled is coming out on Friday, and it’s the fourth reboot in the Transporter franchise (if you don’t count the television series reboot of 2012). It rehashes the same concept of a man transporting something, with a few changes—one of those being Ed Skrein taking the place of Jason Statham, the actor who created the role of Frank Martin and played him in the other three Transporter movies released between 2002 and 2008. Read more about Coming to a Theater Near You! Again: Do We Live Vicariously Through Reboots and Sequels? »

To Hear History: High-Tech Project Will Restore Recorded Native Americans Voices

Decades of wear and tear haven’t been kind to the 2,713 wax cylinders in UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, which linguists and anthropologists have used for over a century to study the languages and cultural practices of Native California. But a new project promises to revitalize these old, fragile recordings — the first of which was recorded by famed anthropologist Alfred Kroeber in 1901 — with cutting-edge optical scanning technology. Read more about To Hear History: High-Tech Project Will Restore Recorded Native Americans Voices »

Trading in Tropes: Video Mashup Shows What TV Writers Think of “Berkeley”

As the 2015 enrollment data shows, the real UC Berkeley is an extremely diverse place. But UC Berkeley as depicted on television? Not so much.

TV Land has been slow to surrender its use of Berkeley as code for Birkenstock-wearing, bean-sprout-loving, radical feminist tree-huggers. Only a few shows are acknowledging the contemporary reality of an institution perennially ranked at or near the top of the public universities worldwide. Read more about Trading in Tropes: Video Mashup Shows What TV Writers Think of "Berkeley" »

On the Money: Which Bill Is Fitting for a Woman? And Which Woman Fits the Bill Best?

Your Facebook feed has probably already told you this, but the public response to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s decision to feature a woman on a redesigned $10 bill has been overwhelming—he says the Treasury has received nearly a million and a half comments and tweets about it. Not everyone is happy, particularly those who campaigned to get a woman on the more popular $20, and are still fighting to change his mind. Read more about On the Money: Which Bill Is Fitting for a Woman? And Which Woman Fits the Bill Best? »

Sex, Drugs, Revolution: 50 Years On, Barbarians Gather to Recall The Berkeley Barb

The inaugural edition of The Berkeley Barb hit streets on Friday, August 13, 1965—incendiary times. It was the first days of the Watts riots, and the conflict in Vietnam was beginning to play out in living rooms on the nightly news. That week TV viewers watched as American GIs casually torched Vietnamese villages with their flamethrowers and Zippo lighters. Meanwhile, all across the United States, disillusioned young men were beginning to take those Zippos to their draft notices. Read more about Sex, Drugs, Revolution: 50 Years On, Barbarians Gather to Recall The Berkeley Barb »

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