Cal Culture

Lord of Lores: Papers of Famed Folklorist Alan Dundes Open to the Public

What do a light bulb joke, your great aunt’s cold remedy, and a poem scribbled on the door of a bathroom stall have in common? If you know the answer, you may have taken a class from the late UC Berkeley professor Alan Dundes. Each of these, Dundes would have said, is an example of folklore—a category of knowledge that many people associate with the legends, old-wives tales and superstitions passed along by preliterate societies in the times of yore.

The Book of Proverb: In a New Autobiography, the ‘Last of the Biblical Tackles’ Tells All

To say Proverb Jacobs has written his memoirs is a little like saying that Herman Melville wrote a story about a whale.

That’s not to exaggerate the literary accomplishment, only to say that when it comes to sheer bulk, Jacobs’s humbly titled, self-published Autobiography of an Unknown Football Player makes even Moby-Dick look like small-fry. The former Oakland Raider’s opus runs to nearly 1,600 pages in two volumes, including notes and index. Stacked one atop the other, they’re nearly as thick as a pint glass is tall.

From the Winter 2014 Gender Assumptions issue of California.

On Anniversary of his Viral Email, Cal Lecturer Reflects on What He’d Change (Not Much)

One year ago, Alexander Coward attained, by sheer accident, what so many others have sought without success—a little slice of Internet fame. The UC Berkeley lecturer did so simply by sending an email to his math students. The email’s journey to stardom began when a student posted it to Facebook; then another posted it to Reddit. At some point it got tweeted, and soon the share-frenzy began. Within 48 hours it had crossed that illusive, magical threshold—it had gone viral.

Singing It Right Out Loud: How Protest Songs Have Propelled Progressive Politics

Name a progressive cause from the 20th century, and odds are it reverberated to the soundtrack of protest music.

Singing together “helps unify people and bring people together with a common message,” says Terry Garthwaite, who sang at protests on the UC Berkeley campus during the Free Speech Movement and went on to found the pioneering Berkeley rock band Joy of Cooking in 1967. “I think the Free Speech Movement benefited greatly from the musical legacy of the civil rights movement, which of course was still going strong.”

Starry, Starry Fight: University of California Says it Will Keep Funding Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory has received a reprieve after all. The University of California has reversed its plan to pull funding from the world’s first mountain-summit observatory.

Instead the UC system will provide continued funding (next year, that amounts to $1.5 million), an amount that astronomers characterized as sufficient but frugal. To achieve its full potential, the university’s only fully-owned observatory will still need outside donations.

Taking Control: Facing Terminal Diagnosis, Brittany Maynard Plans to End Her Life

Note: Just days after this article appeared, Brittany Maynard carried out her plan to end her life in her Oregon home, surrounded by those she loved. In a final message, she said that the happiest people are those who “pause to appreciate life and give thanks.” She left behind a foundation advocating legal changes so that California and other states give terminally ill patients the right to “assisted death.” In October of 2015, Gov.

This Campus Tour Guide Isn’t Just a Character—He’s Several Characters

Once a year, UC Berkeley alumnus Peter Van Houten continues his now-decade-long tradition of leading a campus tour while portraying some of his favorite campus figures. An avid Cal history buff who received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the university, Van Houten has always enjoyed performing and doing skits. So after recalling that Berkeley Emeritus Professor of Zoology Richard Eakin donned assorted costumes to play the roles of scientists during his classes, Van Houten was inspired to create his own revival of the past.

5 Questions for Novelist Rachel Kushner

 

1. Both your debut novel, Telex from Cuba, and the follow-up, The Flamethrowers, were finalists for the National Book Award. Writers often talk of success as both blessing and curse. What has been your experience?

From the Fall 2014 Radicals issue of California.

For Pete’s Sake: The Men Who Won Cal’s Sole NCAA Basketball Top Title Remain United

Their hairlines weren’t much thinner; their waistlines weren’t much thicker; and, with few exceptions, it was hard to tell from their appearance that 55 years had passed since these men won Cal’s only NCAA basketball championship in 1959.

They returned last May for a joyous two-day reunion in Berkeley: a banquet at the Lafayette Park Hotel, followed by lunch at Haas Pavilion the next day. Not coincidentally, the menu was high on veggies and low on sugar.

From the Fall 2014 Radicals issue of California.

Economic Leverage: UC Students Fought Tooth and Nail to Divest from South Africa

When Nelson Mandela died last December, it seemed that the whole world mourned his passing. Twitter overflowed with love for the former South African president. South Africans of all colors and ages sat vigil outside his Johannesburg home. Leaders from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe traveled to FNB Stadium to memorialize Africa’s secular saint, and Barack Obama told the assembled dignitaries, “Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done.”

From the Fall 2014 Radicals issue of California.

Old-School Networking: Blues in Business Come Together to Give Each Other a Hand

At Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco, four recent Cal grads—Angus Hsu ’07, who works in portable housing finance; Fred Fannon ’08, an analytics consultant; Richard Zhu ’09 in the Securities division; and Dana Zhang ’13 from the Global Financial Institutions group—are hard at work creating an alumni network of Golden Bears at the bank.

“We know of at least 700 Cal grads working here, and that’s only the people we found on LinkedIn,” says Zhu. “There have to be a lot more.”

From the Fall 2014 Radicals issue of California.

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