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2009 March April The Soul of Wit

Infinite Jest

The bibliography of Nat Schmulowitz Every April Fool’s Day, the San Francisco Public Library showcases a rather sizable but little-known archive within its holdings—the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit and Humor, or SCOWAH. It’s said to be one of the largest such assemblages in the world. And though it’s safe to say that few San Franciscans are […]

Pelican Daze

Humor in the time of protest By the time I got to the Pelican, the heyday of campus humor magazines was almost over. They were artifacts of the twenties and thirties, when a certain shared set of cultural assumptions ensured that every student would probably find the same things funny. Jokes about the cluelessness of Stanford […]

TV Eye

Bay Area artists Trevor Paglen and Desirée Holman work in very different spheres, using different methods and media, to get at different contemporary issues. But the two share an attitude, a way of getting audiences to challenge what they know to be true about themselves and the world around them. “I’ve never crossed paths with […]

Hella Hula

Choreographer Patrick Makuakane has a progressive approach to Hawaii’s ancient dance form Ask Patrick Makuakane about his work, and the phrase “only in San Francisco” comes up often. The San Francisco-based choreographer creates hula of a kind you won’t see at tourist luaus. “Only in San Francisco” could just as easily describe Makuakane, who has made […]

Sweet Honey in the Rack

March is the cruelest month for Kristin Colvin Young, stage manager of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Every year around this time the troupe performs at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, and they always join the Cal Performances stage crew for a huge barbecue in the theater’s courtyard. This year’s cookout was held during the Saturday […]

Seriously Funny

Legendary folklorist Alan Dundes took jokes to another level. Alan Dundes died with a joke on his lips. At least, that’s one version of the story. This much is certain: The beloved Cal professor died unexpectedly in 2005, while lecturing. Dundes was a giant in the field of folklore scholarship, an inveterate collector of, and prolific […]

Voices from the Past

Using today’s technology in unexpected ways A linguist and a physicist walking into a room may sound like the start of a joke, but there’s nothing funny about the collaboration between Carl Haber, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Berkeley linguist Andrew Garrett. The two are capturing and restoring sound from wax cylinders at […]

Life in the Trees

Q & A with Berkeley’s Landscape Architect From the sounds of it, Jim Horner ’71, was practically groomed to be campus landscape architect from boyhood. “I grew up in Berkeley, and I enjoyed the campus as a park when I was a child riding his bike around town. And then, as a student at Berkeley, when […]

Salty or Sweet?

Inland ants make a beeline for the salt shaker Experience has shown us where there’s sugar, there’s usually ants. But Berkeley biologist Robert Dudley and his colleagues found that in inland areas, ants swarmed to salt solutions in preference to sugar, their basic food. The study suggests that the availability of sodium could be what limits […]

Foolproof Funny

Better humor through computer science For those with a refined punchline palate, Jester, the Online Joke Recommender, is a dream come true. The website’s premise is simple: Read eight jokes and rate them according to how funny you find them. After that, Jester will begin suggesting new material tailored to your tastes. Whether you’re a fan […]

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earthquake

The Fritz Institute gets Bay Area nonprofits ready to head up relief efforts when disaster strikes. From his tiny upstairs office in San Francisco’s Mission Neighborhood Health Center, where a large portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe watches over the other Catholic saints covering the walls, Chris Sandoval tries to imagine how his clinic will handle […]

Avant Garden

The Center for New Music and Technology’s interdisciplinary work bears fascinating fruit. Alto saxophonist Steve Coleman leaned back in his chair and slid a sheaf of sheet music across the table to give me a glimpse of a recent composition. At least I assumed it was sheet music, though it was covered with markings that looked […]