Human Behavior

A Line in the Darkness: In Solitary, a Letter from the Outside Can Be Everything

I have been incarcerated most of my life, in and out of juvenile facilities as a minor, and as an adult I’ve been in and out of the prison system therefore spending many years in solitary confinement. My first experience of solitary confinement was in 2001. Being behind bars in a cell is bad enough, but getting placed in “The hole” is a dark, lonely, and eerie place. There is a misconception that society has.

What Sparked This Pulitzer-Winning Novelist? Dual Life, ‘Mind-Blowing’ Berkeley & a Movie

For over 20 years—before 9/11 and Black Lives Matter and Trump’s wall-building scheme, before “white privilege” and “male privilege” were common phrases—Viet Thanh Nguyen was wrestling with questions of social justice and power. For years he dreamed of writing a novel that would explore these important concepts in a well-crafted, entertaining, even funny way. And that, in turn, would coax people to keep reading, even the parts that many Americans would like to ignore, and ultimately it would inspire them to look at themselves and the world with fresh eyes.

Poor Journalism: Is Media Coverage of the Poor Getting Better or Worse?

In 2000, Tina Rosenberg, a journalist for The New York Times, pitched a story for its Sunday magazine about the AIDS epidemic ravaging the world’s poorest nations. She wanted to show how pharmaceutical companies had pressured governments in sub-Saharan Africa, where 1 in 12 adults were living with HIV or AIDS, to deny access to generic drugs, making treatment unaffordable.

Her editor’s response: “I cannot subject our readers to another 7,000-word story on how everybody is going to die in Malawi.”

Stretch Your Appeal: In Fast-Paced Dating World, Take Up Space to Stand Out

In online dating, a picture is worth much more than a thousand words. When Christian Rudder, a founder of OKCupid, analyzed the dating website’s data, he found that profile photos drove 90% of users’ choices. With so much riding on a split-second impression, what’s the best way to impress potential mates?

Angels, Protesters and Patriots: What a Long-Ago Skirmish Says About Love of Country

Lately, I’ve been thinking about an incident that happened in 1965, seven years before I was born. It centered on an antiwar protest in Berkeley, one of the first of countless such protests to come. Though just a blip in the grand scheme of Vietnam era turmoil, it seems to point to something important about America and the nature of patriotism.

It starts with a guy named “Tiny.” Tiny was 6’7” and 300 pounds. And he really liked to fight.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

All Quiet on the DMZ: The History of the Cold War Didn’t Always Make History

We all have a certain subset of memories burned deep in our forebrains: images so vivid, so invested with emotion that the decades serve to sharpen rather than diminish their resolution. It could be a few mental frames from childhood: a tableau of mother and puppy on a vast expanse of lawn. Or a traumatic event: the onrush of ruby brake lights just before a collision. Such memories seem fixed in amber, impervious to time; richly detailed images that can be examined again and again from all aspects.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

‘Once a Doper, Always a Doper’—Olympic Runner Denounces 2nd-Chance Racers

The way Alysia Montaño sees it, she should have one Olympic and two world championships medals, instead of none. The former UC Berkeley runner finished fourth in the 800 meters at the 2011 world championships, fifth in the 2012 London Olympics, and fourth again at the 2013 world championships. In each of those races, she finished behind athletes who now face bans after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Opium Dreamland: Reporter Sam Quinones on Heroin, Pills and his Punk-Rock Roots

Punk rock, which was big during the years writer Sam Quinones spent at UC Berkeley, turned out to be more than just the background noise of an undergraduate life.

For Quinones, who double-majored in economics and American history, it provided an opportunity. He produced several punk shows while he was a student living at the now-shuttered Barrington Hall co-op, bringing in well-known bands such as The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. “They were probably the biggest shows ever at Barrington Hall,” he said.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Division Street Debacle: Nothing Else Works—Why Not Legalize Homeless Encampment?

For superstitious reasons, 13th Street in San Francisco is called Duboce, and Duboce eventually becomes Division Street, running beneath a freeway that splits right to Oakland and left toward the Golden Gate Bridge. It was here, where the sidewalks had little foot traffic and there was some shelter from the rains, that a settlement of homeless people grew up in the past year. It was much like a smaller version of the favelas of Rio do Janeiro or the colonias of Tijuana, yet big enough to upset the San Franciscans driving by.

From Solo to Social: Research Project Banishes Isolation at SRO—For a While

When Chris Chambers, 55, moved into Oakland’s Lakehurst Hotel, he went from sleeping by the Walgreens on Telegraph Avenue to sleeping in a tiny hotel room in a place where he wouldn’t allow himself to get close with any of his neighbors. But he was used to being alone.

Dawn of Reckonings: In Podcast, People Fess Up to Being Completely Wrong

Daniel Gallant was an arrant racist—a violent and unstable man who took great pleasure in hurting his fellow human beings. At one point, he made a promise to himself that he would assault at least one person from an “inferior” race daily. It was a vow that he was assiduous in keeping.

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