California magazine

Silent Star: Marshawn Lynch a No-Show in New Film About His Life

David Shields was having a good night. His new film, a biographical documentary about retired running back and former Cal phenomenon Marshawn Lynch, had just screened to a packed and enthusiastic house at The New Parkway Theater in downtown Oakland. Now he was joined at the front of the theatre for a Q&A by former UC Berkeley sociologist Harry Edwards and moderator Michael Smith, formerly of ESPN. Edwards was heaping praise on the film, entitled Lynch: A History.

As More Extremists Radicalize Online, Can Violence be Prevented?

The Christchurch mosque shooting was the clearest turning point: a mass murder that was, as the New York Times put it at the time, “of, and for, the Internet.” The gunman had teased the shooting on Twitter, announced it on the anonymous, fringe forum 8chan, a megaphone for extremist political views and hateful ideology, and it was live streamed on Facebook. On YouTube, Reddit, and elsewhere, the video of the shooting was repeatedly uploaded faster than the sites’ moderators could take it down.

Greetings from Willow Creek, Bigfoot Capital of the World

Last year, Krissy Eliot attended the annual Bigfoot Daze Festival in Willow Creek, California, a town known as the “Bigfoot capital of the world.” As we gear up for the 59th annual Bigfoot Daze Festival this Labor Day weekend, we bring you this collection of letters, the first in a series exploring the untrodden, unappreciated, or just unusual corners of California.

Through the Smoke: Truth & Misconceptions about the Amazon Fires

In late August, the Amazon was aflame, and so was social media. Everyone from regular citizens to celebrities and politicians wanted to express their outrage. But in the rush to retweet and regram, some people forgot to fact-check.

The longstanding and oft-tweeted claim that the Amazon acts as the “lungs of the Earth,” producing 20 percent of our oxygen? It’s simply incorrect, says Jeffrey
Chambers.

“We Are One”: Hundreds Rally to Demand Action on Climate Change

On September 20, 2019, people around the world banded together to demand action against climate change. Protestors in over 180 countries and all seven continents participated in the strike, which may have been the biggest climate demonstration to date. From the small island nation of Tonga all the way to Antarctica, students and community members walked out of their schools and places of work to send a message to world leaders: do more and do it now.

The Book All Freshmen Are Reading

In the early 1930s, Gertrude Stein, Oakland-raised oracle of the Lost Generation, revisited her hometown. It was the trip that inspired her infamous and oft-contested line: “There is no there there.” Stein reportedly gazed upon the site where her house had once been, razed to make way for new developments. “That is what makes your identity,” Stein writes in her autobiography, “not a thing that exists but something you do or do not remember.”

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

A Cube with No View

“Chauncey hardly ever cracked a smile,” said the Bancroft Library’s pictorial curator, Jack von Euw, of photographer Chauncey Hare. And yet, there is humor in his work—albeit dark humor. His photographs of dreary office scenes recall the old joke about a man who goes to Hell and discovers a room full of people drinking coffee, waist-deep in excrement. “This isn’t so bad,” the sinner thinks. Then an announcement comes over the loudspeaker: “Coffee break is over! Back on your heads!”

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

Whose Fault?

When a series of earthquakes rolled through the Mojave Desert over Independence Day weekend, the 500,000 Angelenos who’d downloaded the mobile app ShakeAlertLA thought they’d receive advance warning. Notification never came. Left to their own (silent) devices, many expressed frustration: Had the United States’ new earthquake early warning system, co-piloted by UC Berkeley researchers, failed its first major trial?

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

The Periodic Table Is Turning 150. Please Clap.

In 1669, Hennig Brand, a German merchant and alchemist, tried a novel experiment he hoped would yield the mythical “philosopher’s stone,” a way to spin base metals into gold. His exact formula is lost to history, but we know he heated urine in a retort, or glass chamber, until the vessel glowed and the dripping liquid burst into flames. Urine, it turned out, wasn’t a source of gold. It was a source of phosphorus, a previously unknown element and the first one isolated in the laboratory.

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

The Element Named After Berkeley

Glenn Seaborg was born too late to have spawned Cal’s spirit cry. It’s coincidence, surely, that his name is an anagram for “Go Bears!” And, although he was definitely a Bears fan and was Chancellor when Cal last made it to the Rose Bowl in 1959, he was never in Oski’s league as a campus celebrity. While others led rallies, he had to settle for spearheading decades of trailblazing nuclear science, endowing UC Berkeley with bragging rights to the discovery of a record 16 new elements.

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

Elite Athletes and the Pregnancy Penalty

Alysia Montaño had just finished a workout when she got the call. It had been only four months since the birth of her daughter, Linnea, in 2014, but she was feeling strong and had her sights set on the 400-meter race at the USA Track & Field Championships in Sacramento. She had worked hard throughout her pregnancy, going to photo shoots in Los Angeles with her sponsor Asics, and continuing to train and race. She said of her mind-set at the time: “I was 100 percent an Asics athlete. Wherever you need me, I’ll be there.”

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

Warning! AI Is Heading for a Cliff

Asked if the race to achieve superhuman artificial intelligence (AI) was inevitable, Stuart Russell, UC Berkeley professor of computer science and leading expert on AI, says yes.

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

Living with Delusions: Navigating Mental Illness at Cal

I am susceptible to believing, with complete conviction, things that aren’t true.

All my adult life I have resided on the psychotic spectrum, a set of serious mental disorders that interfere with properly interpreting stimuli, resulting in social, emotional, and cognitive difficulties—what I call my “thought problems.” When I was 21, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, later re-diagnosed to schizoaffective disorder and, eventually and more firmly, to delusional disorder, persecutory type.

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

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