It’s a quarter past three on a sunny spring Thursday in Berkeley. After weeks of rain, People’s Park is bursting with life: a sea of yellow, purple, and red flowers pours from the gardens on the west side of the 2.8-acre park, while the occasional gust of wind carries the scent of jasmine. People occupy nearly every available picnic table and bench, shedding jackets with gusto; a dozen more bodies sprawl out on the park’s main lawn. A couple of men play conga drums at the curb between the basketball court and the mural-covered bathroom.
This rumination begins with a phone call from my brother, but it’s really about domestic animals, dogs and cats mostly, and our changing mores about them: How they are now viewed as peers and family members rather than pets, how we’ve come to define ourselves as their guardians rather than their owners, whether our growing obsession with them is somehow a simulacrum for the complicated and messy human relationships that formerly dominated our lives, and whether apotheosizing them somehow minimizes our sensitivity to human suffering.
Posted on April 29, 2019 - 9:33am
It was the summer of 1970, and the war in Vietnam was never going to end. B-52s were carpet-bombing Cambodia, gouging craters into its eastern hills; across the border, angry G.I.s were fragging their officers. Back home, radicals were bombing police stations and burning down banks. In May, the National Guard shot four students dead at Kent State. To paraphrase Yeats, things were falling apart; the center couldn’t hold.
Stu Smith and his brother, Charlie, put down a $500 option on about 200 acres of land on the slopes of Spring Mountain in 1971, eventually purchasing the property for $70,000. The views of the adjacent Napa Valley were stunning, and Smith, who had developed a passion for wine while completing his undergraduate degree in economics at Berkeley, was determined to get into the nascent California premium wine business.
Posted on February 20, 2019 - 10:57am
Some would argue that romantic relationships have never been free. Whether courting a woman with a bouquet or sweetening the dowry with an extra goat, humans have been trading goods in service of love for centuries. What’s different in 2019, however, is that shopping for love no longer applies to just flowers and farm animals: Digital technology allows us to shop for people, say UC Berkeley experts, and the price for doing so may be higher than we can afford.
Posted on February 14, 2019 - 2:36pm
That’s right, it’s that time of year again! The time to make grand promises to ourselves that we have every intention of keeping even when we know, deep down, that we probably won’t.
Posted on December 31, 2018 - 10:52am
That day started out as any other for Ambrosia Krinsky. She woke up in her Chico home, dropped her four-year-old off at day-care, then drove up The Skyway, the road that connects Chico to the smaller city of Paradise. Even before she got into town, she knew something was amiss: The sky was turning red. Paradise was burning. She sped to the town’s high school, where she teaches biology and English.
Posted on December 21, 2018 - 10:31am
I blame Hemingway. Looking for something to read last year, The Sun Also Rises fell into my unwilling hands. I’d never understood why so many people lived and died by his writing, so I decided to offer him a second chance. There it was: the book that brought Pamplona to the world and then the world to Pamplona. Hemingway be damned; I found myself booking a flight to Spain.
I was going to run with the bulls.
You’ve been working on ethnography and space. What are some examples of other cultures’ uses of space that we could learn from?
So you’re in Vegas at the penny slots, and you promise yourself you’ll only play a dollar. That’s it! No more. Just enough to have the Vegas experience. If you win, you may regret not wagering a ten-spot to get a bigger jackpot. If you lose, you’ll probably regret sitting at the machine at all. But no matter what, you’re gonna be thinking: “Shoulda coulda woulda.” Or at least, that’s what recent findings out of Berkeley indicate.
was during the Great Malaise of the Jimmy Carter years that Zippy the Pinhead, clown prince of non sequiturs, first wondered, “Are we having fun yet?” The questioner was a simpleton, but time has endowed his question with the ring of profundity.
Or is that an alarm bell? A warning from our inner child to slow down, ease off, throw our hands in the air like we just don’t care?
Listen up, America. We are failing at play.
Older than Red State versus Blue State, older than the Montagues versus the Capulets, humankind’s primal combat is the age-old conflict between the Night Owls and the Early Birds.
Night Owls, of whom (full disclosure here) this writer is one, are sophisticated folks who believe the pleasure of staying up late is exceeded only by the pleasure of sleeping in the next morning—or the next afternoon, if it comes to that. Their hero is Elvis Presley, who famously said, “The sun’s down and the moon’s pretty; it’s time to ramble.”
Posted on November 8, 2018 - 9:58am
In 2014, Slender Man, the shadowy Internet meme in formalwear who inspired two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin to lead their friend into the woods and stab her 19 times, caused a widespread panic. Adults everywhere saw Slender Man’s influence—albeit fictional and web-based—as a potential threat to the wellbeing of their children and themselves.
Posted on November 1, 2018 - 3:42pm
In February, Cynthia Marshall took over as CEO of the Dallas Mavericks—becoming the first African-American female CEO in the NBA. She also inherited an organization in crisis, after a Sports Illustrated story revealed rampant sexual harassment, incidents of domestic abuse, and a toxic culture.
Posted on September 28, 2018 - 2:00pm
It was many years ago, when I worked in a large city and I often had to walk several blocks from one large office complex to another during the course of the average work day. One afternoon I was trudging between buildings, head bent, lost in thought; I passed the entrance to a small, dark alleyway just as a new Porsche roared up from the gloom. The car fishtailed to a stop a few inches from my kneecaps, and I froze, immobile with fear. The driver was a budding Master of the Universe—thirtyish, well dressed, obviously used to money, privilege, and a certain quantum of power.