“This practically writes itself,” is something writers often say but don’t really believe. No story worth telling comes without toil. That could change, however, with an assist from artificial intelligence. Already, AI programs are being used to help craft poetry, stories, and essays.
After we put a Black woman on the cover of this magazine (Alysia Montaño, Fall 2019), a reader wrote to say that he could think of many more inspiring cover subjects and that ours was “more appropriate for Howard U.” Howard is, of course, the historically Black college in Washington, D.C.—Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s alma mater.
History has been written by the victors—and also by the men, it seems. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed firsthand in the annals of this very magazine, which started in 1897 as the University of California Magazine and operated for many decades as the California Monthly before becoming simply California, in 2006.
Let me begin with heartfelt congratulations to the 2020 graduates of Berkeley who, like their peers across the country, were deprived of their commencement ceremonies by the coronavirus and the need for social distancing.
There’s money in college sports. Lots of it.
March Madness, the national basketball tournament, alone brings in more than $900 million annually for the NCAA, the nonprofit that oversees college athletics in America. And big-time college football generates even more revenue than basketball. The athletes who play these sports, however, reap none of that windfall and are, in fact, forbidden by the time-honored rules of amateurism, from profiting off their sport.
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.”
I like to say this magazine is about two things: It’s about the world of UC Berkeley, and it’s about Berkeley in the world. Which is to say, it’s about Cal and its outsize influence on our culture, human knowledge, and global affairs. Our mission, as I see it, is to create a publication anyone would want to read, no matter where they went to school. If you graduated from Cal, we want you to be proud that this is your magazine. If you didn’t and you stumble upon a copy, we want you to wish you had.
I’ve always loved everything about baseball. Everything except playing it.
It was just never my game. My left eye wandered and I couldn’t hit to save my life. I could throw but tended to overthrow. Worse, I lacked baseball smarts. I remember stealing second once. As I dusted myself off, the shortstop casually informed me I was out. Shrugging, I headed for the dugout.
He tagged me. And then I really was Out!
One day, California will fall into the sea. That’s what we used to say, anyway.
It’s an idea that goes back to huckster-clairvoyant Edgar Cayce. It had nothing to it, of course, but has kept circulating. I suppose that’s partly because so many people are jealous of California—from the beginning an imagined paradise, the domain of Queen Calafia—but also because the state really is a dangerous place, given to flooding and drought, eruptions and landslides, earthquakes and fire.
When I was a kid, it seemed like all adults smoked. Cigarette butts littered the sidewalks, the stench of stale tobacco clung to the upholstery, and ashtrays were everywhere. We made ashtrays in art class as gifts for our parents.
Back then, people smoked in their offices, their cars, and on airplanes. On airplanes! In California these days you can’t even light up in a bar.
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.
Every weekday, the dog and I head up a very steep hill for a compulsory early morning walk, an essential daily ritual for wearing out a highly energetic adolescent canine and fending off decrepitude in his older human companion.