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Strange Renderings: The Secret Geographies of UC Berkeley’s Trevor Paglen

The light is fading on a bitter-cold December afternoon in Berkeley, and Trevor Paglen is talking about spy satellites. Specifically, he’s explaining how hard it is to photograph them—not just because our government doesn’t want us to know they’re there but also because they’re a long way away. “You’re basically trying to shoot something the size of a car on the other side of the Earth, but actually it’s even farther,” he says, his words dissolving into a machine-gun laugh.

From the Spring 2010 Searchlight on Gray Areas issue of California.

Toward a Common Wealth

If you’ve been paying attention to the economic news you’ve probably noticed pundits using an ecological metaphor: Green shoots are sprouting. It’s a nice image. First the blackened earth of economic collapse, then tender leaves of recovery pushing up from below. If they said instead that we were seeing the early signs of infection, that wouldn’t work so well. Economic growth is never portrayed as the vine that strangles, the multiplication of locusts—it’s always the heroic sprout. The metaphor must jibe with an assumption so fundamental that few stop to consider it: Growth is good.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

Not Rushing Anymore

Russell White ’93, the all-time leading rusher in Cal football history, sat alone on a Friday afternoon late last fall, watching from the bleachers as Castlemont High kicked off against East Oakland rival Skyline. At the time, White was nominally a Castlemont coach, but as an “assistant offensive coordinator” he was about eighth on the depth chart. Instead of standing on the sidelines during the game, he’d climbed into the stands and was talking to the head coach via headset.

From the Fall 2009 Constant Change issue of California.

What it Was Really Like to Be the First Black Lawyer in Justice Dept’s Civil Rights Division

Thelton Eugene Henderson didn’t study the civil rights movement; he lived it. After earning his law degree from UC Berkeley in 1962, he joined the Justice Department as the first African-American lawyer in its civil rights division. Working with his mentor and fellow Cal grad, John Doar, Henderson traveled often to the South to monitor law enforcement on civil rights cases. He investigated the famous case of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four young girls.

From the January February 2008 25 Ideas on the Verge issue of California.

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