Oakland

The People’s Museum: Evelyn Orantes Connects Oaklanders with the OMCA

When Evelyn Orantes studied history at UC Berkeley, she lived just a few blocks from the Oakland Museum. To her and her roommates the museum seemed as inaccessible as a castle, complete with moat. The Class of ’99 had gotten involved with Chicano politics while at Berkeley, so when she finally went to the museum for its Day of the Dead celebration, it wasn’t to enjoy but to see how OMCA was co-opting the Mexican holiday.

Adjunct Life: Struggles on the Ivory Tower’s Lower Floors

More than a decade ago, Noga Wizansky went searching for her place in academia. Her 15 years at UC Berkeley had earned her a Ph.D. in visual arts history, and it was time. She soon landed a job teaching drawing at California College of the Arts in Oakland. There, she imagined herself blending research with practice, art with ideas, passion with job security and, on top of it all, tenure—except there was no tenure.

An Unusual Life Unfolding: Noted Bear Biologist Gains Acclaim in Origami World

Bernie Peyton is profoundly dyslexic, and that made his early years growing up in New York City difficult. School was hellish: He struggled to read, he was bullied, and it was hard to make friends. Then when he was 9, his stepfather gave him a book that changed his life.

Peyton still has the book—a beautifully illustrated instruction manual on origami by Isao Honda that contains examples of various works pasted to the pages. He recently opened the volume in his Berkeley home, and thumbed through it reverently.

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.

Preparing to Launch: Inside SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s Start-Up Accelerator

SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s start-up accelerator program, is housed on the top floor of the tallest building in downtown Berkeley. All four walls of the 10,000 square-foot penthouse have floor-to-ceiling windows, offering up a 360-degree view. This is where Cal’s fledgling entrepreneurs come for free office space and guidance while preparing to launch their product or service. They have six months to a year up here with SkyDeck, and then it’s time to jump out of the nest.

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.

Superman With a Pen: Why This Graphic Novelist is New Ambassador for Youth Lit

The fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was inaugurated yesterday morning at the Library of Congress. Gathered under the ornate ceiling were rows of the literary elite and elementary school children, all awaiting words of wisdom from a guy who writes comic books.

Trivia Pursuit—How I Graduated From Law School and Wound Up Practicing Journalism

May 19, 1972—the day I graduated from Boalt Hall.

I wasn’t going to attend the ceremony, but I found out the day before that the featured speaker was going to be my favorite professor, Jan Vetter. He’d not only defended me successfully two years earlier when the university tried to throw me out for violation of the dreaded “time, place, and manner” regulations during an antiwar demonstration (translation: I was spotted leading a sing-along of “Yellow Submarine” during a sit-in at Sproul Hall), but had also given me the lowest grade I ever got on a final exam.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Confessions of a Sex Columnist: Is Covering This Just a Freaky, Masochistic Act in Itself?

When I first started writing my sex column, I was what one might consider “sex positive.” As a kid growing up in rural Maryland, I had been influenced by the sexually liberated Bay Area—the place that elected the first openly gay mayor, inspired famous sex writers Susie Bright and Carol Queen, and, of course, was home to the Sexual Freedom League of 1966, a UC Berkeley student organization that campaigned for legalized abortion and held massive orgies in protest of sexual stigma.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

‘Bout That Action: How Marshawn Lynch Threw the Sports Media for a Loop

Marshawn Lynch is a jerk. And he’s also a hero. He’s ungrateful, immature, and stupid. And he’s a genius with a heart of gold. Lynch, star running back of the Seattle Seahawks and former UC Berkeley phenom, is all of these things and more—if the various media portrayals are to be believed. Just don’t ask Lynch himself if any of it is true, because he’s not talking.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Black Cop, White Cop: What can two Berkeley police from the century before tell us about race relations in America today?

It was Berkeley in the 1920s. “The Fighting Swede” was driving through town, feeling even more pugnacious than usual. That’s because he was drunk. The Swede had carved out a reputation as a barroom brawler in the waterfront dives on both sides of the Bay, and he was always more than willing to defend his title—especially when he had a snootful of booze.

So he didn’t feel particularly tractable when a cop pulled him over at Ashby and San Pablo.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Little Pink Houses: Berkeley Staff Cartographer Sets Out to Map the Heart of a Neighborhood

For years, Darin Jensen ’99, lecturer and staff cartographer in UC Berkeley’s Geography Department, has taught his students to create neighborhood maps that don’t merely identify the streets and avenues, hills and creeks where they live, but capture the quality of life that is lived there. Students would take to the streets in search of “dominating social and cultural institutions” such as churches, health clinics, art, parks, and ethnic groceries. Each map was to depict one or two of those elements, to look at each element in isolation.

Fun with Fungi: Food Business is Still Mushrooming for Two Berkeley Grads

It was already their final semester at UC Berkeley, but Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez had never met. Both were sitting in a business ethics class when something the professor said caught their interest: It might be possible to grow gourmet mushrooms from used coffee grounds. Just a few weeks later, the two were practically best friends, brought together by an idea.

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