California magazine

Blue is an Elusive Color. One Artist Just Invented a New Shade.

Blue is an elusive color. Crush the feathers of a blue jay or the wings of a Morpho butterfly and you’ll see gray dust; our perception of their electric blue hue depends on microscopic structural features that bend the light just so. The blue sky is merely a mirage of refracting light, as are blue eyes. Truly blue pigments are exceedingly rare in the natural world, which is perhaps part of their allure—blue is our favorite color, according to an international, cross-cultural survey.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Blood Work: The Citizen Sleuth Using Genealogy to ID the Dead

ON APRIL 24, 1981, THE BODY OF A YOUNG WOMAN with auburn braids and a fringed jacket was discovered off the side of a road in Troy, Ohio.

She had been strangled to death only hours before. Authorities took DNA samples but couldn’t find a match for the woman. For decades, she was described only by the clothes on her back: “Buckskin Girl.”

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

D.A. by Day, Drag Queen by Night

I was doing drag on the weekends when I was working as a prosecutor at Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. It was a very schizophrenic lifestyle. I was considered one of the best trial lawyers in the D.A.’s office. And then I would shift gears on Friday night and go up to San Francisco and do drag shows.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Chancellor’s Letter

It was just over ten years ago that the State of California cut funding for higher education as part of a financial retrenchment in response to the Great Recession. Ensuing tuition increases helped to partially close the resulting budgetary gap, but the financial foundations of the campus were weakened and there were legitimate fears regarding our ability to sustain Berkeley’s excellence. In that context, I am delighted to announce to the Cal community that, as of June 30, 2019, our operating budget is balanced.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Editor’s Note: The Genetics Issue

Brave New World author Aldous Huxley came to Berkeley (his son’s alma mater) in 1962 and delivered a speech on campus entitled “The Ultimate Revolution.” It ended as follows: “Our business is to be aware of what is happening, and then to use our imagination to see what might happen, how this might be abused, and then, if possible, to see that the enormous powers which we now possess thanks to these scientific and technological advances be used for the benefit of human beings and not for their degradation.”

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Robert Meltzer Died Fighting Fascism. Then He Was Blacklisted.

Here’s a scene worth picturing on Veterans Day: It’s 1951. McCarthyism has reached a fever pitch, and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), already keeping watch on Orson Welles, has trained its sights on one of Welles’ close friends.

His name is Robert Meltzer—a UC Berkeley graduate-turned-Hollywood-screenwriter who, through biting send-ups of the status quo, has made his leftist leanings clear.

At Berkeley’s California Typewriter, the Selectrics Keep Humming

I didn’t need a typewriter. I’ve never had an editor request hard copy. These days a typewriter is just a decorative toy and using one an affectation, like Civil War reenactment or home-curing bacon. But when I found a 1940s era manual Remington Rand on Oxford Street in one of those free piles that spring up curbside at the end of the academic year, I couldn’t just leave it there.

There’s an App for That! Earthquake Early Warning Is Here.

On the 30-year anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, Governor Gavin Newsom stood near the Oakland entrance of the Bay Bridge, a portion of which collapsed during the quake, and announced the launch of MyShake, the United States’ first earthquake early warning system.

“The price of admission for living here is preparation,” Newsom said. “Today we are making a big leap forward.”

The Chalk Market: Where Mathematicians Go to Get the Good Stuff

Filmmaker Kyung Lee never dreamed she’d become a dealer. But bringing her first feature-length documentary to fruition required money she simply didn’t have. What she did have, however, was an idea for getting high-quality product and access to exclusive clientele.

Hagoromo chalk is a bit thicker than standard American chalk. It has been called the Rolls Royce of chalk—even the Michael Jordan of chalk.

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.

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