California magazine

Incunabula, VHS Tapes, and Silverfish: Unpacking the Bancroft

Sometimes the rough draft of history isn’t a newspaper, but a pile of them. Along with moldering manuscripts, reams of correspondence, posters and handbills, memoranda fastened together with rusty paper clips, all of it stuffed into decaying cardboard boxes. Rodents may or may not be involved.

Meet the Women of Berkeley’s Pop-Up Food Scene

For the five women running the food stalls in UC Berkeley’s Student Union, to cook is to connect, and a quick bite of lunch can hold as much history as it does flavor. As graduates of La Cocina, an SF-based incubator for restaurant entrepreneurs, they’re promised a spot at the Student Union for one academic year. The pop-ups offer a sampling of the Bay Area’s diverse food scene: a Vietnamese joint, a soul food spot, an empanada lady, a Syrian mom-and-pop, and a boutique cake shop.

And the Rest Is (Oral) History

Among those appalled by the 2014 publication of Forcing the Spring was Martin Meeker, a historian with UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center. Subtitled Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, the book, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jo Becker, spotlighted high-profile attorneys and what proved a limited, statewide victory.

First Response to Ebola? Inoculate Against Rumor

On March 29, 2019, fifteen cases of Ebola were reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was the biggest one-day spike in an outbreak that started last summer and was deeply worrisome for a few reasons: Ebola has a mortality rate of at least 50 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and spreads quickly through contact with bodily fluids. Also, the sudden uptick in cases could presage a rapid expansion of the virus throughout the entire Congo Basin and beyond.

Strokes of Genius: Hans Hofmann’s Gift to Berkeley

Hans Hofmann, the great abstract expressionist painter and teacher, might never have made his indelible imprint on 20th-century American art, first on the West Coast and ultimately across the U.S., had it not been for two summers teaching at UC Berkeley. The invitation came from Worth Ryder, an art department faculty member and former Hofmann student, and without it, it’s possible there wouldn’t even be much of a Berkeley Art Museum.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

The Strange Case of Ex-Radical David Horowitz

It was the summer of 1970, and the war in Vietnam was never going to end. B-52s were carpet-bombing Cambodia, gouging craters into its eastern hills; across the border, angry G.I.s were fragging their officers. Back home, radicals were bombing police stations and burning down banks. In May, the National Guard shot four students dead at Kent State. To paraphrase Yeats, things were falling apart; the center couldn’t hold.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

September 17, 1923: The Day That Berkeley Burned

The first signs of trouble were subtle. For some, it was the strange amber hue of the midday light. Others caught the distinctive scent of burning eucalyptus. By two in the afternoon of September 17, 1923, just about everyone in Berkeley had taken note of the uncommonly warm, dry wind blowing in from the northeast. What they didn’t know was that a small grass fire over the hill in Wildcat Canyon was growing fast, leaping from grass to brush to tree—and it was about to crest the hills of North Berkeley.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

Q&A: Roe v. Wade Is on the Stand. Could a Grassroots Movement Save It?

Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that recognized abortion access as a fundamental right, has been contested by conservative activists and legislators since it was passed. And while the decision remains popular 45 years later, with 71% of voters opposed to overturning Roe, Trump’s recent appointments to the Supreme Court indicate there may be an opening to do just that. The size of that opening, and the stakes involved, are being hotly debated.

Losing Paradise: The “New Normal” of California Wildfires

On the morning of November 8, 2018, Don Peck awoke to the sound of bombs going off.

“It was boom, boom, boom,” recalls the retired jeweler, who had slept in late after a bout of insomnia the night before. Now, as the 70-year-old struggled to gain full consciousness, he realized it was propane tanks, not bombs, he heard. His town, Paradise, was on fire.

Peck knew that he had probably lost everything—his home, his belongings, his cat.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

Meet Frances Arnold, Teenage Rebel Turned Nobel Laureate

At 15, she was a class-skipping, catch-me-if-you-can maverick hitchhiking to D.C. to protest the Vietnam War. Looking back on those years now, Frances Arnold says, “Fifteen is one of those terrifying ages, where you’re frustrated because you know something’s wrong, but you have no idea how to fix it. So I did what I could, which is protest.

“But as I’ve gone through my life,” she continues, “I know that it’s my responsibility to fix it. I’m much better at fixing things than protesting.”

She pauses.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

“It Was a Revolution”: The History of a Berkeley Crane Engineer

In the 1970s, a crane we designed collapsed in New Jersey. It had not been built with the right material. The operator cab fell, but landed on a container full of soft cheese and the operator survived.

That failure was a result of a brittle fracture. Picture a small windshield crack that appears but doesn’t grow much until—bang—it spiderwebs across the glass without warning. That happens to cranes. A crack appears, and the maintenance people just weld over it. That’s like painting over a crack in your windshield. It doesn’t resolve the problem.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

Editor’s Note: Up in Smoke

One day, California will fall into the sea. That’s what we used to say, anyway.

It’s an idea that goes back to huckster-clairvoyant Edgar Cayce. It had nothing to it, of course, but has kept circulating. I suppose that’s partly because so many people are jealous of California—from the beginning an imagined paradise, the domain of Queen Calafia—but also because the state really is a dangerous place, given to flooding and drought, eruptions and landslides, earthquakes and fire.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

Chancellor’s Letter: Diversity Initiatives

One of my most important goals for Berkeley is to advance and expand diversity on our campus, in its broadest sense and every form. We are now launching the first wave of new, accelerated efforts to support and expand diversity among our student, faculty, and staff populations.

As these important and exciting initiatives begin, I want to share my perspectives on the values, commitments, and objectives that will guide us on the road ahead.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

The Twin Tunnels Are Out—Berkeley Experts Say That’s a Good Thing

The extravagantly wet winter notwithstanding, California’s water woes are far from over. But recent moves suggest Governor Gavin Newsom is leading the state into a new era of water policy. Last month, he decided to scale back his predecessor’s decades-long effort, the Twin Tunnels, to deliver water from Northern to Southern California.

“Really, the idea that two massive tunnels would be built in the Delta was always—well, a pipe dream,” says Peter Gleick.

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