Cal Culture

Not So Fast: At UC Berkeley, Biofuel Research Takes Hit as BP Oil Company Backs Away

Eight years ago, UC Berkeley struck a historic but controversial deal with the British oil company BP: Berkeley would benefit from the oil giant spending $350 million to create a new Energy Biosciences Institute on its campus, and BP would reap the benefits of that institute’s research into biofuels.

Now, with almost $100 million still unspent, the road to cleaner biofuels has just hit a big speed bump.

Who Knew? Before Becoming a Media Mute, Super Bowl Star was a Publicist’s Dream

In the countdown to Sunday’s Super Bowl, suspense is building over the question on the mind of every devoted football fan: What will Marshawn Lynch say—or, more accurately, not say—to the media after the game?

However popular the Seattle Seahawks’ running back is with Seattle fans, he has a lot fewer friends at NFL headquarters, which regularly fines him big bucks for refusing to speak to reporters after games. Nor is he beloved among some segments of the press, who have called him unprofessional and immature.

SkyDeck Success: Berkeley Project Helps Six Soar onto Forbes “30 Under 30” Lists

Whatever wariness has accompanied the collaboration between public universities and private sector profit-seeking, that horse appears well out of the barn, foaming at the mouth and galloping madly for the horizon. At UC Berkeley, academic/corporate “incubators” and “accelerators” are all the rage. Supporters focus on the upside: Creative researchers are able to launch start-ups that produce spookily cool products and generate gigabucks in the process—and may even embody the maxim to do well by doing good.

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.

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