California

The Great White Mope: How White America’s Declining Status Gave Rise to the Latest Surge in Populism

White America seems to be in a funk these days. The economy may be growing, the unemployment rate may be down, the Bureau of Labor Statistics may assure us—no, really, disbelieve your lyin’ eyes—that the recession is long over, but according to the 2015 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, less than half of white Americans believe that the country’s best days lie ahead. Most blacks and Hispanics, noting a marked improvement in the nation’s culture since the 1950s, do not share this pessimism. The despondency is race specific.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Crazy Love: Cal Performances Brings Arabia’s Iconic Love Story to the West

The epic poem Layla and Majnun is arguably the most famous love story in the Middle East, and yet many Westerners have never heard of it. It is the tale of two teenagers who fall deeply in love but are tragically kept apart, even until death. After Layla’s father rejects Qays’s request for her hand in marriage, Qays wanders the desert expressing his undying love through poetry.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Dreamboat: Nonprofit Builds Tall Ship For Kid-Sailors

Back in the day—way back in the day—young people went to sea to seek fame and fortune, or at least escape the boredom and poverty of the crofter’s hut or the squalor of early factories. But while the commercial sailing fleet is long gone, it remains more than a vivid memory in the Bay Area, where a dedicated crew of mariners isn’t just taking young people down to the sea in ships—they’re building a ship that will take them down to the sea in style, a tall ship based on the designs of a legendary 19th century naval architect.

A Day at the Races: Law Prof Jesse Choper Finds Thrills, Cheap Entertainment Playing the Ponies

Berkeley Law professor Jesse Choper first got into horse racing in 1969, when he and his friend’s father, a district attorney outside of New York, took a trip to the track. At first, Choper didn’t really get the appeal: “I never did understand how a person who worked really hard, I mean long hours, would take off a whole afternoon in the middle of a week to go to the races…. But then I did.”

The Real Email Scandal: Clunky Federal IT Systems

The public, the press and many politicians (at least on the right) can’t stop fulminating over Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server to conduct government business when she was Secretary of State. Little attention has been paid, however, to the IT systems that are supposed to guide, support and monitor functionaries with security clearances.

The Bot Versus the Bard: Researchers Teach a Computer to Write Poetry

What’s in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit

King of hell no quarrel have I left thee
No lovely maid who gleaned in fields or skies

One pair of lines above is the work of Shakespeare. The other was written by a computer. Can you tell which is which?

Notes from Understory: A Berkeley Biologist Gauges the Health of the Redwoods from the Ferns on the Forest Floor.

Emily Burns was driving north from the Bay Area one day, idly woolgathering, when it hit her.

“Western sword ferns,” she recalls thinking. “They’re twice as big in the northern end of their range as in the southern end. And it struck me that it had to be due to water availability. The fact that it’s wetter in Redwood National Park in Humboldt County than, say, Lime Kiln Creek on the Big Sur coast translates as larger ferns in the north. It all seems obvious now, but there was nothing in the literature on it.”

What’s Killing the Great Olive Groves of Apulia?

In Apulia, Italy’s boot heel, the olive tree is sovereign.

“Olive trees pretty much cover the entire province,” says Rodrigo Almeida, an associate professor in Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “The olive tree defines Apulia’s identify. The people have a deep emotional connection to their trees. Families plant them to mark the births of their children. They cherish them.”

UC to Create Gun Research Project: California Goes Where the Feds “Can’t or Won’t Go”

The California Legislature’ recent decision to establish a firearms research center in the University of California system has stimulated the expected response: Public health and gun control advocates are heartened and Second Amendment stalwarts are up in arms. But both sides profess to be in accord on one point: The need for reliable data on guns. Where they differ, of course, is on the definition of reliable data.

Feel the Burn: To Avoid Year-Round Wildfires, California Needs to Up Its Forestry Game

If you have the feeling that “wildfire season” is anything but seasonal these days, you’re right. Drought and climate change are combining to make wildfires a year-round phenomenon in the Golden State and much of the West, a trend that already is changing the character of our forests and straining government budgets.

Black Cop, White Cop: What can two Berkeley police from the century before tell us about race relations in America today?

It was Berkeley in the 1920s. “The Fighting Swede” was driving through town, feeling even more pugnacious than usual. That’s because he was drunk. The Swede had carved out a reputation as a barroom brawler in the waterfront dives on both sides of the Bay, and he was always more than willing to defend his title—especially when he had a snootful of booze.

So he didn’t feel particularly tractable when a cop pulled him over at Ashby and San Pablo.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

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