Arts + Letters

Revolutionary Thought: Two Cheers for the George on the Wrong Side of Independence

Ever since I was a little boy I’ve been in love with history, especially American history, and my favorite holiday has been the Fourth of July.

It has everything a little boy could want—heroes, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; and villains, like that awful King George III. Read more about Revolutionary Thought: Two Cheers for the George on the Wrong Side of Independence »

Speech Saver: Anticipating Upheavals, Project Aims to Preserve the World’s Languages

You’ve probably experienced that unique combination of loss and rage when your computer’s hard drive suddenly crashes, erasing years of work files, financial records, and precious photos in an instant. What if that happened, asks linguist Laura Welcher, of the nonprofit Long Now Foundation, on a civilizational scale?

“Over the span of millennia, you have to expect there to be upheavals in society, times when knowledge is lost,” she says. (Think the Library of Alexandria.) How do we safeguard human knowledge from these future upheavals? Read more about Speech Saver: Anticipating Upheavals, Project Aims to Preserve the World's Languages »

From the Summer 2015 Confronting the Future issue of California.

When Cancer Strikes Twice: “Being a Dancer Has Saved My Life in So Many Ways”

Brianna Mercado is tired of telling the same old story.

“It’s a cookie-cutter cancer story and I’m so much more than that,” she told a crowd last year at a TEDx talk.

Today, the 24-year-old UC Berkeley graduate and inspirational speaker has been asked to tell the story so many times that it’s become rote. But how can you truly express the fears and pain of knocking on death’s door not once, but twice? How do you verbalize it in a way that can make people understand the trauma and the terror? Read more about When Cancer Strikes Twice: "Being a Dancer Has Saved My Life in So Many Ways" »

Saving Carnaval: The Woman Enticing the Mission’s Tech Newcomers into the Samba Spirit

Raffaella Falchi is the epitome of a Renaissance woman: The quadrilingual dancer, architect, educator, and director is artistic director of the Sambaxé Dance Company, which will be parading through San Francisco’s Mission District during this weekend’s Carnaval. For the past decade, Carnaval has become a place where she can combine all of her artistic interests and professional strengths. Read more about Saving Carnaval: The Woman Enticing the Mission's Tech Newcomers into the Samba Spirit »

Arlo Guthrie Brings His Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour to Berkeley

It’s been 50 years since that memorable Thanksgiving Day in 1965 when Arlo Guthrie was busted for littering in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, an event that seemed trivial at the time but eventually led to his being rejected for military service by his draft board—to his great relief—because of that “criminal record.” Read more about Arlo Guthrie Brings His Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour to Berkeley »

Anarchist’s Archive Gets Temporary Reprieve: Donors Buy Time for Emma Goldman Project

Things are looking up a bit for the Emma Goldman Papers Project, a long-running effort to archive the letters and ephemera documenting the vivid life and heady times of the eponymous radical immigrant, feminist and anarchist. Publicity about the project’s imperiled condition has generated a wave of financial support that will keep it going at least through June. Read more about Anarchist's Archive Gets Temporary Reprieve: Donors Buy Time for Emma Goldman Project »

Many Enroll, Few Finish, Moocs March On: How Online Courses Are Changing Higher Ed

When Damilare Oladapo looks back at his undergraduate years at UC Berkeley, he says that when it comes to his education, he only made one mistake. “I really wanted to focus on graduating,” says the Nigerian-born English major. “I saw school as a short-distance race instead of a marathon.” Read more about Many Enroll, Few Finish, Moocs March On: How Online Courses Are Changing Higher Ed »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

The Ballad of John and Helen: Berkeley-Based Meyer Sound Are Global Audio Pioneers

Drop out. It’s such a leaden term. Yes, yes, Helen Brodsky dropped out of UC Berkeley in 1968, dashing the hopes and dreams of her Cal alumni-laden family. Before even declaring a major (she was leaning toward Russian Lit), she and her new boyfriend, John Meyer, an autodidact with a gift for tinkering and engineering, decided that unsettled times called for adventurous spirits, and lit out for the East, ending up in India. Read more about The Ballad of John and Helen: Berkeley-Based Meyer Sound Are Global Audio Pioneers »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Killing It in Berkeley: Richard Pryor Crushed His ‘Cosby’ to Become Comedy’s Top Badass

Richard Pryor was snoozing, draped across the back seat of a car driven by an erudite, bespectacled white man named Alan Farley. It was February of 1971 and Pryor was fleeing Los Angeles, trailing personal and professional casualties: three children with three different women, a few high-profile onstage breakdowns, two parents recently deceased, a flop debut album, and one angry manager who quit after Pryor pistol-whipped him in a tiff over money. Read more about Killing It in Berkeley: Richard Pryor Crushed His 'Cosby' to Become Comedy's Top Badass »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Resurrecting the Old UC Theatre: Will This Revitalize Berkeley’s Music Scene?

On University Avenue in downtown Berkeley, they’ve erected a shiny new marquee—black, blue and gold, with white lettering that almost seems too clean for the boarded-up building and the street beneath it. Dodge the construction workers and step inside, through a modest lobby and hallway coated in old grime and fresh sawdust, until a door opens up into an enormous old theater. It feels like a huge cave or an underground palace of ancient times. The seats are gone, the floor is gutted, and every construction crash and boom feels like the echo of a long-forgotten memory. Read more about Resurrecting the Old UC Theatre: Will This Revitalize Berkeley's Music Scene? »

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