If you’re reading this, you were once a child. We won’t all become parents, or get married, or live to a ripe old age, but we’ve all experienced childhood. And yet, for all its universality, it is by no means a fixed idea or immutable reality. Our very notions of childhood—the nature of the experience, what expectations and privileges attend to it, how long it lasts—these things have changed with time and circumstance, and differ across cultures. Read more about The Kids Are Alright »
It was not the most provocative speech in Berkeley’s history, but Kenneth Taylor’s 1980 Charter Day address is remembered for its reception. The former Canadian ambassador to Iran had just left that post, after helping six U.S. diplomats escape the fate of 52 other Americans being held hostage by student revolutionaries. Read more about The Accidental Spy: In 1979, He was Both Canada's Man in Tehran, and Ours »
Note: Jerry Brown was overwhelmingly re-elected to a fourth term as governor in 2014, benefiting from economic recovery and state budget stability following voter-approved tax hikes. “I jump out of bed and I want to go,” he said on election night. “So tomorrow I’ll be there, figuring out, you know, what the hell you do in a fourth term.” The story that follows was written in 2012, during Brown’s third term, when the economic outlook for the Golden State was still very much uncertain.
You are mostly not you.
That is to say that 90 percent of the cells residing in your body are not human cells, they are microbes. Viewed from the perspective of most of its inhabitants, your body is not so much the temple and vessel of the human soul as it is a complex and ambulatory feeding mechanism for a methane reactor in your small intestine.
This is the kind of information microbiologists like to share at dinner parties, and you should too, especially if you can punctuate it with a belch. Read more about The Teeming Metropolis of You »
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! Read more about What a Way to Go: Woman Who Created the Darwin Awards Wants to be a Winner Someday »
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. Read more about Get Thee to a Nonery »
Update: In the fall of 2014, the Berkeley City Council is considering an ordinance that would make it the only city in the nation to require cell phone warning stickers. We explore whether, based on the latest science, the proposal is a proper precaution, or paranoia, here. Read more about Killer App »
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. Read more about Strange Renderings: The Secret Geographies of UC Berkeley's Trevor Paglen »
If you’ve been paying attention to the economic news you’ve probably noticed pundits using an ecological metaphor: Green shoots are sprouting. It’s a nice image. First the blackened earth of economic collapse, then tender leaves of recovery pushing up from below. If they said instead that we were seeing the early signs of infection, that wouldn’t work so well. Economic growth is never portrayed as the vine that strangles, the multiplication of locusts—it’s always the heroic sprout. The metaphor must jibe with an assumption so fundamental that few stop to consider it: Growth is good. Read more about Toward a Common Wealth »
Russell White ’93, the all-time leading rusher in Cal football history, sat alone on a Friday afternoon late last fall, watching from the bleachers as Castlemont High kicked off against East Oakland rival Skyline. At the time, White was nominally a Castlemont coach, but as an “assistant offensive coordinator” he was about eighth on the depth chart. Instead of standing on the sidelines during the game, he’d climbed into the stands and was talking to the head coach via headset. Read more about Not Rushing Anymore »
It seems like hundreds of years and it also seems like not too much time at all,” Jerry Garcia was saying in 1976. He was reminiscing about the Summer of Love, the evanescent phenomenon that swept the Bay Area a decade before. Read more about What a Time It Was, It Was a Time »
Thelton Eugene Henderson didn’t study the civil rights movement; he lived it. After earning his law degree from UC Berkeley in 1962, he joined the Justice Department as the first African-American lawyer in its civil rights division. Working with his mentor and fellow Cal grad, John Doar, Henderson traveled often to the South to monitor law enforcement on civil rights cases. He investigated the famous case of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four young girls. Read more about What it Was Really Like to Be the First Black Lawyer in Justice Dept's Civil Rights Division »
In Kenya, it seems everyone has a favorite Laurence Frank story.
In his book, A Primate’s Memoir, baboon researcher Robert Sapolsky recalls encountering Frank in the Maasai Mara in southwestern Kenya. Sapolsky describes Frank as “Laurence of the Hyenas,” a wild man who stalks through the bush at night, oblivious to danger, using infrared vision goggles to study large carnivores. Read more about Lion King: Berkeley Carnivore Research Works to Halt the Decline of African Predators »