California magazine

Go Play! You Can Read This Later.

was during the Great Malaise of the Jimmy Carter years that Zippy the Pinhead, clown prince of non sequiturs, first wondered, “Are we having fun yet?” The questioner was a simpleton, but time has endowed his question with the ring of profundity.

Or is that an alarm bell? A warning from our inner child to slow down, ease off, throw our hands in the air like we just don’t care?

Listen up, America. We are failing at play.

From the Winter 2018 Play issue of California.

Locker Room Talk with the Boys of the Berkeley Gazette

Once upon a time, Berkeley had its own daily newspaper, the Berkeley Gazette, and for a brief, semi-glorious moment, it had two sports-reporting brothers. The paper was small enough that the brothers weren’t exclusively sports-reporters, but being born and bred in Berkeley, with Bear-blood in their veins, they wasted as much ink and newsprint on Cal’s sports program as they could possibly get away with.

Anchor’s Aweigh: Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto Sets Sail, for Good

Say goodbye to another bit of old Berkeley: Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, the oldest restaurant in town, shut its doors on October 24, joining two other landmarks: Brennan’s, which closed in September, and H’s Lordships, which shuttered in June.

Burning Questions: A Quick Guide to Key Wildfire Terms

A week after the eruption of the Camp Fire near the town of Paradise, California, 142,000 acres have burned, setting state records for wildfire destruction.

Despite the hundreds still missing and worsening air quality in much of the state, there has been significant progress in battling the flames. As of this writing, according to Cal Fire officials, the Butte County blaze is now 45 percent contained, with full containment expected by November 30.

How Did the Axe Cross the Bay? A Ferry Tale

For those who know, the Stanford Axe is more than just a trophy. Awarded to the annual winner of the Stanford­–Cal “Big Game” (full disclosure: I’m a Stanford grad), the Axe represents one of the oldest college rivalries in the country, dating back to 1892. The origins of the Stanford Axe have been told again and again, including the infamous heist of the Axe by Cal students in 1899, and subsequent repossession by Stanford 30 years later.

Yet, some mysteries remain.

Five Questions for Cal Band’s New Director, Matthew Sadowski

1. You spent much of your professional life in Oregon and Washington, what inspired you to move to California and UC Berkeley?

I was certainly drawn by the name and the reputation, but also the health of the program, and the fact that the last four directors were here for many years, really their entire careers. Within this kind of profession, that speaks loudly. There’s a lot of support and a lot of opportunity here, and at a certain point it became clear to me that this was the way to go.

As California Burns, Experts Anticipate a “New Normal”

Tens of thousands of Californians have evacuated as massive fires, driven by intense winds, rage in both Northern and Southern California. The Camp Fire in Butte County, which destroyed the town of Paradise, grew to 70,000 acres overnight. It sent up a pall of smoke that has triggered air quality advisories across a large swath of the northern part of the state, including the Bay Area. In the South, two fires—the Hill and Woolsey fires—are being fanned by Santa Ana Winds and have forced some 75,000 homes to be evacuated in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

What’s The Deal with Daylight Saving Time?

Older than Red State versus Blue State, older than the Montagues versus the Capulets, humankind’s primal combat is the age-old conflict between the Night Owls and the Early Birds.

Night Owls, of whom (full disclosure here) this writer is one, are sophisticated folks who believe the pleasure of staying up late is exceeded only by the pleasure of sleeping in the next morning—or the next afternoon, if it comes to that. Their hero is Elvis Presley, who famously said, “The sun’s down and the moon’s pretty; it’s time to ramble.”

Polling in PJs: A Day in the Life of an Election Worker

Tonight, I’m cleaning out my garage. Not because it’s dirty or cluttered, but because I’m expecting a lot of guests tomorrow. I need to move some boxes, sweep the floor, finally put those pots and pans on the shelf. I also need to set up the tables, lay out the reading material, and hang some signs. Cleaning is deceptively relaxing; tomorrow has the potential to be hectic, and there’s a lot at stake. I don’t know exactly who’s going to show up—certainly some people I’ve never met before—but I’m hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Slender Man: A Perfect Monster for Our Time

In 2014, Slender Man, the shadowy Internet meme in formalwear who inspired two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin to lead their friend into the woods and stab her 19 times, caused a widespread panic. Adults everywhere saw Slender Man’s influence—albeit fictional and web-based—as a potential threat to the wellbeing of their children and themselves.

The Cost of Cobalt

Cobalt has been valued for centuries for the deep blue color it imparts to ceramic glazes and glass. Its current value has little to do with such stuff, however. Cobalt is sought today because it’s a critical element in lithium ion batteries, the devices that power our cell phones, computers, and electric vehicles.

Why Are Animals Becoming More Nocturnal?

Research out of UC Berkeley shows that animals around the world are becoming more nocturnal in response to human populations.

The study, published in the journal Science in June, found that mammals have, on average, become 1.36 times more active at night. In other words, a creature that normally would have split its activities equally between day and night, now carries out 68 percent of its activities at night, presumably in avoidance of humans.

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

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