Human Behavior

Rock-a-Bye Baby

I knew parenting would be trouble even before it began. Back when my wife, Beth, and I were just starting to think about having a child of our own, I asked my dad about baby sleep arrangements. Dad’s a psychotherapist specializing in the ways that early childhood experience shapes adults, and he has strong feelings about this stuff. Forcing babies to sleep alone, he said, ends the period (starting in the womb) in which children understand themselves to be part of a larger whole.

From the Spring 2013 Growing Up issue of California.

His Truth is Marching On

The nerve center of the Christian Reconstruction movement is located in the tiny Gold Rush town of Vallecito, about three hours east of San Francisco, off Highway 4. The founder of the movement, the late conservative theologian Rousas John Rushdoony ’38, C.Sing. ’39, M.A. ’40, relocated here from Los Angeles in 1975, fearing civil unrest and World War III. He believed that in the event of nuclear attack, the area’s prevailing winds would mitigate the fallout.

From the Fall 2012 Politics Issue issue of California.

What a Way to Go: Woman Who Created the Darwin Awards Wants to be a Winner Someday

Wendy Northcutt has made a host of obscure people famous, and although very few lived to savor their notoriety, she anticipates one day sharing their dubious honor. It almost happened when a recent heat wave gave her the idea to “air-condition” her sweltering home: She pried up an oubliette floor grate in her hallway, intending to install a fan to suck up the basement’s cooler air. But she left to answer the phone, and hours later she strode back down the hall and obliviously stepped into the gaping hole. In the milliseconds as her body swooshed down, she thought “Oh nooooooooooo!

From the Summer 2011 The Soundtrack of Berkeley issue of California.

Get Thee to a Nonery

For those of a certain age, Sproul Plaza today seems like an analog locale on Bizarro World, the cube-shaped planet from the Superman comics where everything is backwards. In the 1960s and 1970s, of course, Sproul was a hotbed of social activism. And to an extent, that remains true: The placards are still abundant, and there are plenty of undergrads handing out flyers and advocating in earnest.

From the Spring 2011 Articles of Faith issue of California.

Chasing the Divine

Huston Smith was at Berkeley working on his Ph.D. in 1945 when he stumbled upon the work of Gerald Heard, a British writer and philosopher—a man who would later be called “the grandfather of the New Age movement.”

From the Spring 2011 Articles of Faith issue of California.

Strange Renderings: The Secret Geographies of UC Berkeley’s Trevor Paglen

The light is fading on a bitter-cold December afternoon in Berkeley, and Trevor Paglen is talking about spy satellites. Specifically, he’s explaining how hard it is to photograph them—not just because our government doesn’t want us to know they’re there but also because they’re a long way away. “You’re basically trying to shoot something the size of a car on the other side of the Earth, but actually it’s even farther,” he says, his words dissolving into a machine-gun laugh.

From the Spring 2010 Searchlight on Gray Areas issue of California.

The Human Potential Movement

“Create your own future,” cried the new age tapes I chanced upon in a California bookstore a few years ago. Not far away, at the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, the Reverend Robert H. Schuller was singing his own gospel of “Possibility Thinking” with the help of books called Your Future Is Your Friend and Success Is Never Ending, Failure Is Never Final. Around him, the latest immigrants, from Vietnam, Mexico, Taiwan, were acting with their feet on those very notions.

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