Human Behavior

Vietnam Stories: Writing the “Disremembered” Histories of War

When telling a story, and it doesn’t matter if that story is long or short, fiction or nonfiction, the marginalized writer must be defiant.

So says writer Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Defiant is not the first descriptor that comes to mind for this particular writer, a Vietnamese refugee and UC Berkeley alumnus, who in fall 2016 wore a royal blue suit, purple tie, and orange socks at the Pulitzer awards banquet in Manhattan to accept the Fiction award for his debut novel, The Sympathizer (Grove Press, 2015). Flamboyant, maybe. Defiant, no.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Black Hole: The Injustice of Wrongful Incarceration Doesn’t End When the Prison Doors Open

Danny Brown was in prison for almost two decades for a rape and murder he didn’t commit, and he has evidence to prove it: a host of eyewitness accounts validating his alibi, a polygraph test he took, and passed, at the prosecution’s request, and DNA from the crime scene matching that of another man who is currently serving time for a factually similar rape and murder.

He was released from prison in 2001 at the age of 45.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Mind Tricks: Bishop Berkeley and the Idea of Everything

Lately, I’ve been spending time at Founders’ Rock trying and mostly failing to get a grasp on reality.

Founders’ Rock is an outcropping at the northeast corner of the UC Berkeley campus, where Gayley Road and Hearst Avenue meet, a lonely spot shaded by toyon, oak, and eucalyptus. The rock itself—lichen-encrusted and moss-fringed—is an unassuming jumble.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged

As a 10-year-old growing up in Shanghai, Jun-Yan Zhu often avoided homework with furtive doodling. He’d sketch comics or movie characters in pencil, then erase the evidence before his mother saw it. Much as he loved drawing, however, he wasn’t very good at it. He dreamed of a world where everyone, even those who lacked the talent, could easily communicate in pictures.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Bye-Bye Balance: Skewed and False News Is on the Rise

Democrats are still stumbling around in the smoldering rubble of the 2016 presidential election, struggling to identify just what went wrong for them. Several theories are vying for primacy: voting fraud (or at least, inaccurate ballot counting), the Democratic Party’s disconnect with white working class voters, Trump’s bonding with the same, Trump’s uncanny tapping of surging nativist and xenophobic sentiment, the American susceptibility to celebrity, and Clinton’s bedrock weakness as a candidate.

Good Job, Brain! How to Create a Pub Trivia Podcast

What radio podcast has three words, one exclamation point, mines the game Trivial Pursuit for questions, and has been produced by three UC Berkeley alums and their pal for the past four years? It’s Good Job, Brain! But if you’re a trivia buff you probably already knew that.

All Aboard: Cal Grad Petitions For More Corporate Diversity

Olga Mack was 13 when she accompanied her political refugee parents as they touched down on American soil in San Francisco. She was in an alien world and didn’t speak the language. On the day she registered to attend Washington High School, she was overwhelmed by feelings of being out of place and without a voice. Years later, she stood on stage as a Valedictorian at her UC Berkeley commencement and delivered a speech. “There’s nothing like an audience of over 10,000 people to make you feel you have a voice!” she said.

Black Panthers at 50: New Exhibit from the Party’s Go-to Photog

Stephen Shames arrived at our interview with a faded California Golden Bears cap in hand and a black power pin on his lapel. Apt accessories for the 1969 UC Berkeley grad who spent the years between 1967 and 1969 as the Black Panther Party’s most trusted photographer.

Storming Sather Gate: Two Student Groups Demand Visibility

Recent demonstrations at Sather Gate by LGBTQIA+ students and students of color were covered with gleeful alacrity by the national press—largely because white students were seemingly prevented by the demonstrators from entering the campus. Right-leaning (and alt right) outlets denounced the actions with particular fervor, claiming they were neo-segregationist in intent and distressingly uncivil in tone. Some commentators lamented that the acronym for people who are other than heterosexual is becoming absurdly long, leading to confusion and muddled communication.

Alumni Study: Africans Abroad Still Committed to the Homeland

Even those of us who don’t reflexively shriek “Go Bears” every four or five minutes know that UC Berkeley is one of the finest universities on the planet. The proof is in the sheepskin; if a Cal degree isn’t always a fast track to an executive suite or academic renown, it at least constitutes a reliable on-ramp.

But is that the case just for American students? What about the developing world? Berkeley bona fides can be of inestimable value in Silicon Valley, but is the same true for Mombasa?

UC Berkeley Votes: On-Campus Interviews about the 2016 Election

The national reputation of the University of California, Berkeley is, shall we say, a bit liberal. And there’s been a lot of talk this election season about the Millennial vote, as though Millenials were a monolithic group sharing a single Bernie-inspired thought, or maybe just an Instagram image that would carry them to the polls, if they bothered to vote at all. Not content to believe rumor, California talked to people around campus about the election, the candidates, and whether or not they’ll vote.

A Little Dotty: Berkeley Startup Has a New Way to Make Your House Smart

When giant tech companies like Intel or Samsung need to make a circuit board, they simply pop one out of their multi-billion dollar fabs or pony up a few million for a new machine. But when you’re just a tiny, underfunded startup putting together a prototype that you need to bake, you’ve got to look for something simpler and cheaper—a lot cheaper.

Shifting Gears: Law Prof Breaks Cycling Records

Berkeley law professor Molly Shaffer Van Houweling started competitive cycling in her 30s, and has since become a bit of a cycle-path. Last September, at 43, she broke the women’s Union Cycliste Internationale World Hour record, having already established herself as five-time amateur world champion in the UCI time trial and road race events.

Message in a Bottle: Nearly Four Decades After Launch the Voyager Record Still Inspires

This Friday night the Greek Theatre will host a one-night-only performance of music and storytelling exploring the “sounds, ideas, and culture of California and the West today.” Called “The Golden State Record,” the evening’s program—a joint presentation by the folks at Pop-Up Magazine, California Sunday Magazine (not to be confused with this magazine), and festival producer NoisePop—is a nod to the NASA Voyager Golden Records, which are carried by the twin space probes, Voyagers 1 and 2.

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