Human Behavior

In Hoboken, Humility Proves Stronger Than Hate

Hoboken, New Jersey: birthplace of Frank Sinatra, modern zippers, the edible ice cream cup and, if some historians are to be believed, baseball (although the good people of Cooperstown, New York might beg to differ).

And on November 7, 2017, Hoboken’s voters scored another first, electing Ravinder “Ravi” Singh Bhalla ‘95—who proudly calls himself “everything Donald Trump hates”—as the city’s 39 th mayor and the first Sikh mayor in the city’s history.

The Mannequin In the Room

Years ago, I worked for a San Francisco woman who had a mannequin named Lady Lillian. I found that odd, but I was there to cook, not judge.

I took the job because it meant I could cook in a quiet space and would have access to health care.

A Diamond In The Rough: Ray Weschler’s Weekly Ballgame

On a cloudy Sunday in mid-May, Raymond Weschler chose Jim McGuire (Cal professor of biology) as his opposing captain, and teams were drawn up. Ray’s booming voice announced the lineup as chatting players finished stretching and headed out to the field. On the diamond at Berkeley’s magnificent Codornices Park, players are surrounded by towering oak trees, redwoods, walnuts and, lining the left-field foul line, Ponderosa pines, which are home to rowdy crows and, when struck by a foul ball, release a cloud of pollen.

So, Why Do People Believe In Bigfoot Anyway?

Relatively few people, in or out of the field of science, believe in Bigfoot. A purported Bigfoot sighting would likely be met with the same level of credulity as a discovery of Casper, Elvis, Tupac, or Santa Claus. With only 16 percent of Americans Bigfoot believers, you might just write them off as crazy. But contrary to popular assumption, folklore experts say, Bigfoot believers may not be as irrational as you’d think.

Does Science Benefit From the Search for Sasquatch?

Last week, we published a two-part profile on UC Berkeley grad and anthropologist Grover Krantz, known to many as the original “Bigfoot scientist.” (You can find the first part of the profile here and the second half here.) Today, we examine the question of whether mythological creatures like Bigfoot are worthy of scientific analysis.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Columnist

“Let’s go for a walk.”

Five seemingly innocuous little words, but they were enough to scare the hell out of me. I had read enough John le Carré spy novels to know what comes next: “…where we can talk without being overheard.”

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Making Broadway History With the Play She Never Wanted to Write

Later this month, Young Jean Lee will make history as the first Asian-American woman to have a play staged on Broadway. Yet, what would presumably be a cause for celebration actually makes for a confusing time: the Korean-American playwright will be achieving this feat with her play, Straight White Men.

The Man, The Myth, and The Legend of Grover Krantz

In the early 1990s in Sequim, Washington, on the heavily forested Olympic Peninsula, anthropologist Grover Krantz was building a helicopter to search for Sasquatch. He ordered the kit from some guy in the Midwest and spent several years trying to assemble it. He hoped the craft would provide the aerial view necessary to locate and retrieve a Bigfoot carcass.

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.

Sports Sociologist Harry Edwards on NFL “Plantation Mentality”

Now that a few days have passed, the decision by National Football League owners to fine teams with players who do not “stand and show respect to the flag and the [national] anthem” hardly seems Solomonic; rather than ameliorating tensions, it almost assures another football season marked by player protests, discord both inside and outside the League, and acrid tweets from President Donald Trump.

Michael Pollan and Me: When Lives, Books and Acid Trips Collide

Two journalists who’ve spent varying amounts of time teaching their craft at Cal give themselves an assignment that, in the end, blows away that well-worn rubric of “who, what, where, when, why.”

They are Michael Pollan, famous for his smart writing about food, and Don Lattin, a.k.a. me, known for my reverently irreverent writing about religion. Pollan and I found a subject that falls within each of our “beats,” a magic mushroom that offers the omnivore a tantalizing glimpse of God.  

The Canna-beat Cub

Everyone’s talking about marijuana—not to mention smoking it, eating it, vaping it, or rubbing it all over their bodies.

Just the other day, the San Francisco Chronicle GreenState website announced the winners of its 2018 Cannabis Awards. The Hepburns took the prize for “Best Pre-Rolls” and Kyle Kushman took the honors for “Best Cultivator.” HerbaBuena and its sensual lubricant won for “Best Intimacy Product.”

Berkeley, of course, won hands down for “Best Cannabis City.”

From the Spring 2018 Edibles and Potables issue of California.

A Tour of the Gourmet Ghetto with “the Balzac of Berkeley”

L. John Harris, food writer, filmmaker, Gourmet Ghetto fixture, has been called the “Balzac of Berkeley.” But on a recent drizzly morning, he could have passed for Proust as he stood outside the original Peet’s, describing the caffeinated madeleine moment he had at the shop nearly 50 years before.

“It was a house blend, mostly likely a French roast, and it reminded me of coffee that I’d had in Europe,” he said. “We’ve all had food epiphanies that flood us with memories. This was one of those for me.”

We’re Not on OxyContin Anymore, Toto

Perry Solomon is used to people extolling the virtues of medical cannabis.

Dr. Solomon is the chief medical officer of HelloMD, a website that bills itself as one of the nation’s largest online medical cannabis communities. Over the past five years, the site has issued more than 70,000 recommendations for patient cannabis use in the state of California alone. And 65 percent of those recommendations, Solomon says, have been for pain.

From the Spring 2018 Edibles and Potables issue of California.

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