California magazine

Talk of the Town

You might not expect the mayor of Berkeley to show up for a meeting in dad jeans and running shoes. Or to be just 33 years old and living in a rented apartment with two roommates. Or to engage a reporter in a freewheeling discussion on some of the most controversial topics of the day without an aide or PR flack in attendance. But then again, Berkeley wasn’t expecting Jesse Arreguín ’07, who swept into office in 2016 in an upset victory over Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who had been endorsed by former Mayor Tom Bates.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Houses in the Hills: Berkeley’s Early Bohemian Architecture

Whatever you may have heard, countercultural Berkeley did not materialize, Brigadoon-like, out of the marijuana haze of a Vietnam War protest. Long before there was a Berkeley Barb or a How Berkeley Can You Be? parade, there were Berkeley bohemians. And Charles Augustus Keeler, by the standards of proto-hippiedom, was Sgt. Pepper.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Editor’s Note: Goodbye

For most of the last ten years, this spot has been home to my 500-plus-word personal essays—somewhat eccentric attempts to lure readers into the magazine by riffing on the current theme. Themes that have included, among the 43 issues, global warming, electioneering, music, war, food, and power.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

WATCH: The Bones of the Campanile

There’s more to dusty old bones than meets the eye. For more on what fossils can teach us about climate change and evolution, watch Part 2 here.

Up in Arms about Flamethrowers? Take Aim at Handguns Instead.

Elon Musk has taken some heat over the past few months for selling flamethrowers through his firm, The Boring Company. The devices aren’t actual flamethrowers, though, hence their name: Not a Flamethrower. ­They’re more like hypertrophied blowtorches, perfect for caramelizing a crème brulee the size of a garbage can lid, perhaps, but thankfully unsuited for combat. Musk’s devices use propane and spout a three-to-four foot fixed flame. True military flamethrowers spew burning jellied gasoline up to 150 feet.

Q&A: Former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel on Dark Money

When most people think of Watergate, they likely think of the hotel break-in, the Saturday Night Massacre, or the Nixon tapes. But few know that, at its heart, Watergate was a campaign finance scandal. The Watergate Hotel burglars were paid with campaign funds, and the subsequent investigation uncovered millions in illegal payments to the Nixon White House by corporations—some of which arrived in bags of cash.

Reading Roundup: Robots, Hiring Time, CRISPR Wars, More

CRISPR Wars

UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna has chalked up another award for her discovery of the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool. The Kavli Prize in nanoscience is worth $1 million and will be shared among the three recipients, which includes Doudna’s collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute.

7 Things to Know about California’s New Solar Panel Policy

Earlier this month, California became the first state to require all new homes to have solar power. The mandate, which comes from the California Energy Commission (CEC), will take effect in 2020, making solar power even more common in a state that already boasts about half the country’s solar generating capacity. Part of the motivation for the new policy is California’s ambitious goal to be producing 50% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Will Secession Ever Succeed? Revisiting a Centuries-Old Conflict

A lot has changed since the 1992 Summer Olympics brought worldwide attention to the northeast Spanish region of Catalonia and its capital, Barcelona. Today, Catalonia—the birthplace of architect Antoni Gaudí and painter Salvador Dalí, and one of Spain’s wealthiest regions—is in a bitter political struggle with the central government in Madrid over the issue of Catalan independence.

Former Times Reporter Gambles on ‘Golden’ Opportunity

For a journalist it seemed the ultimate dream gig: working for the Great Gray Lady herself, the New York Times—but operating from a lovely California beach town, not the dreary main newsroom in Manhattan. And indeed, Mike McPhate appreciated his position as producer of the Times’ newsletter, California Today. He had, after all, paid his dues.

Hidden Treasures: Take Home a Masterpiece from Doe Library

Compared to the opulent and tranquil UC Berkeley Morrison Library, the modest adjoining art storage room, at first glance, isn’t much to write home about.

But looks can be deceiving; what it lacks in appearance, it makes up with cultural richness. The Graphic Arts Loan Collection (GALC)—peeling white shelves, offset by dusty linoleum floors—houses more than 800 original pieces of art, diverse as the university itself.

Can’t Beat the Devil? Eat the Devil.

It’s as ugly as a box of rocks and a literal scum-sucker to boot. But don’t judge a fish by its exterior: The dietary proclivities of the South American armored catfish excite aquarium hobbyists, who employ the homely bottom feeders to hoover up the algae and slime that accrete to their tanks.

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