Perspectives

The Mannequin In the Room

Years ago, I worked for a San Francisco woman who had a mannequin named Lady Lillian. I found that odd, but I was there to cook, not judge.

I took the job because it meant I could cook in a quiet space and would have access to health care.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Columnist

“Let’s go for a walk.”

Five seemingly innocuous little words, but they were enough to scare the hell out of me. I had read enough John le Carré spy novels to know what comes next: “…where we can talk without being overheard.”

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Q&A: Former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel on Dark Money

When most people think of Watergate, they likely think of the hotel break-in, the Saturday Night Massacre, or the Nixon tapes. But few know that, at its heart, Watergate was a campaign finance scandal. The Watergate Hotel burglars were paid with campaign funds, and the subsequent investigation uncovered millions in illegal payments to the Nixon White House by corporations—some of which arrived in bags of cash.

Will Secession Ever Succeed? Revisiting a Centuries-Old Conflict

A lot has changed since the 1992 Summer Olympics brought worldwide attention to the northeast Spanish region of Catalonia and its capital, Barcelona. Today, Catalonia—the birthplace of architect Antoni Gaudí and painter Salvador Dalí, and one of Spain’s wealthiest regions—is in a bitter political struggle with the central government in Madrid over the issue of Catalan independence.

Silicon Valley Wants to Hack Your Kid’s School

For some years now, Republicans have endeavored to “fix” American education by promoting charter schools, vouchers and merit-based raises. Progressives typically have decried these efforts, maintaining they come at the expense of public schools, particularly public schools that serve disadvantaged students. Variation in educational achievement, they claim, has more to do with student demographics, district funding and English proficiency than, say, the educational chops of individual teachers.

Press-Democrat Staff on Surviving the Fires and Winning Pulitzer

The North Bay fires were national news mere hours after they ignited early in the morning of October 9. The dawn sun, glimmering wanly through the pall of smoke cloaking Sonoma and Napa Counties, illuminated the smoldering ruins of hundreds of homes. No relief was imminent: the hot, dry winds that had sent the flames howling from Calistoga to Santa Rosa continued unabated, and the forecast was for more of the same.  This was a natural catastrophe on the scale of Hurricane Katrina—possibly worse.

A Tour of the Gourmet Ghetto with “the Balzac of Berkeley”

L. John Harris, food writer, filmmaker, Gourmet Ghetto fixture, has been called the “Balzac of Berkeley.” But on a recent drizzly morning, he could have passed for Proust as he stood outside the original Peet’s, describing the caffeinated madeleine moment he had at the shop nearly 50 years before.

“It was a house blend, mostly likely a French roast, and it reminded me of coffee that I’d had in Europe,” he said. “We’ve all had food epiphanies that flood us with memories. This was one of those for me.”

A Personal Perspective on Guns—and a Modest Proposal

The kids seem to have made a difference this time, likely because they weren’t toddlers and pre-teens. They were adolescents—articulate and impassioned, even fierce. They took their rage to both the halls of power and the streets within a day of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and they made an impact.  Even President Donald Trump—while citing National Rifle Association leaders as “Great American patriots”—has indicated some support, however tepid, for banning bump stocks and boosting the legal purchase age for assault-style weapons.

Mar-a-Lago on the Line

I miss the days when I had Donald Trump on speed dial. Not that I enjoyed our conversations—if converse is the right term. Even then, years before he hit the campaign trail, the Donald was a monologist.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

For Love of Roaches: Confessions from an Entomophile

I live with my boyfriend, Chris, in a rent controlled, one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. It’s cozy, old, and definitely not big enough to fit both my extensive rock/bone/shell collection and his growing assemblage of street art—but overall, it feels clean. Or at least it did. Until about a year ago, when we found our first visitor crawling out of the kitchen sink, like a scene in some Japanese horror film.

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Q&A: Robert Reich on Saving Capitalism

Robert Reich is one of the country’s most influential and prolific political analysts. While Reich has held a variety of high-profile media and advocacy positions and serves as the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, he remains best known for serving as President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor.

War Footing: A Cal Expert’s Take on the North Korea Situation

Of all the potential flash points around the world these days, none are more worrisome than North Korea. The Hermit Kingdom is a black box, and it’s exceedingly difficult to know what’s going on within its borders. A couple of things, however, are clear: its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities are improving, and the mutual bellicosity between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are making a bad situation worse.

Q&A: CNN’s Brianna Keilar On Covering Trump and Going Viral

As she was covering the 2016 presidential election, CNN correspondent Brianna Keilar didn’t expect to become part of the story. But that August, her exchange with Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen made headlines.

“You guys are down,” Keilar tells him in the segment, referring to Trump campaign. Before she can finish her sentence, Cohen interrupts: “Says who?”

“Polls,” she responds.

“Says who?”

I Thought I Knew What It Was Like to Be Displaced. I Was Wrong.

As the late, great Tom Petty put it, you don’t have to live like a refugee. Except, of course, when you do, as I recently found out.

Or at least, like an evacuee, which can feel distinctly refugee-esque to a citizen of a developed country who has never been forced to leave home and possessions due to conflict or natural catastrophe.

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