UC Berkeley News
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Web Feature

 (L-r) Poet and memoirist Mary Karr, science writer Michael Pollan, theorist Hélène Cixous, and choreographer Reggie Wilson are but four of the top speakers at Cal this spring.

Sneak preview of Spring 2006's coming attractions

Top tickets

 John Cleese
John Cleese (Photo by Doane Gregory)

Alas, the Holy Grail of Spring 2005 tickets is likely beyond your reach: "Seven Ways to Skin an Ocelot," comedian John Cleese's two-night stint at Cal Performances, sold out long ago. Seems there are far too many fans of Monty Python, "Fawlty Towers," and "A Fish Called Wanda" around Berkeley. What can you do? Well, you could hire a killer bunny . or you can call the Ticket Office (510) 642-9988 and ask plaintively if any tickets (from $32 to $56) have been returned. Feb. 8 & 9, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall

Some top-notch writers are giving talks this semester, all likely to be standing-room-only. In "The Cornification of America," science writer Michael Pollan will outline his disturbing hypothesis that U.S. corn subsidies have turned this humble plant into a creepily ubiquitous ingredient in every American food, not to mention construction materials. He'll also tell us why we should care. Jan. 25, 4 p.m., 575 McCone Hall On April 17 Pollan, who teaches at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, will give a reading to mark the release of his new book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals." (Watch Critic's Choice for details on the time and venue.)

Writer Mary Karr is perhaps best known for her 1995 memoir "The Liars' Club" and its 2000 follow-up "Cherry," but she is also an award-winning author of four volumes of poetry. It will not surprise readers of her memoirs to learn that the scrappy Karr has a controversial rep in the verse world, having taken to task some established poets. She will read from her work for the ever-popular Lunch Poems series. March 2, 12:10 p.m., Morrison Library in Doe Library

One wonders what Townsend Center Una's Lecturer Hélène Cixous would make of Karr. An influential theorist - as well as novelist, playwright, and educator - Cixous in 1975 published the essay "Le rire de la Méduse" (The Laugh of the Medusa), in which she describes how women might write, breaking from the myth and rhetoric that have kept them from participating fully in the public sphere. One of the best-known of the late-20th-century "French feminists" and the originator of "écriture feminine," Cixous is a professor at the University of Paris-VIII, which she helped to found along with its center for women's studies, the first in Europe. Her talk is titled "The Flying Manuscript" (Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m., Lipman Room, Barrows Hall) and will be followed by a panel discussion. Feb. 8, 4 p.m., 315 Wheeler

Another internationally renowned writer and scholar, Elias Khoury, will visit the Center for Middle Eastern Studies to discuss his novel "Gate of the Sun," an oral history of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from 1948 to the present. In 2004 "Gate" was made into a movie, but the book was only published in English a few months ago. Feb. 23, 5 p.m., 160 Kroeber Hall

  Chick Corea
Chick Corea (Photo by Taylor Crothers)

Elsewhere on the culture buffet, jazz lovers can look forward to legendary pianist Chick Corea playing with Touchstone next month. Feb. 11, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall | Tickets

Choreographer Reggie Wilson, who blends contemporary technique and postmodern structure with the rhythmic folk traditions of Africa and the African diaspora, will be an artist-in-residence this spring. In addition to a master class and panel discussions, during his residency Wilson will create a new work that will receive its world premiere at Berkeley Dance Project. April 21-30, Zellerbach Playhouse

 Mark Morris
Mark Morris

Cal Performances turns 100 this year, and is throwing itself a Centennial Season Celebration & Gala that you won't want to miss: performances by dancer Mark Morris and his ensemble; contemporary musical ensemble Alarm Will Sound playing the work of John Adams, Peter Sellars, and June Jordan; the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and the combined vocal forces of the UC Alumni Chorus, University Chorus, and the Piedmont Children's Choirs; and Michael Tilson Thomas on piano with "Phantom of the Opera" star Lisa Vroman. May 12, 7:30 p.m., Zellerbach Hall | Tickets

The most controversial topic in U.S. research will go under the microscope at Berkeley several times this semester. Robert Klein, chair of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine — the stem-cell research center funded by California's Prop. 71 — will give the annual Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Lecture in Health Policy. Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m., Chevron Auditorium, International House The following month kicks off with a conference titled "California's Stem Cell Initiative: Confronting the Legal and Policy Challenges," in which more than 30 speakers from the fields of government, research, journalism, and ethics will debate unresolved stem-cell-related topics such as intellectual property rights, biomedical ethics, and how (or whether) the state of California should expect to recoup its $3 billion investment. March 2-4, Boalt Hall

 Sir John Gurdon
Sir John Gurdon

A few weeks later, leading biologist Sir John Gurdon (whose research was responsible for "Dolly" the cloned sheep) will give two Hitchcock Lectures for the Graduate Council: "How Does an Egg Make an Organism? Some General Principles" and "Cloning, Stem Cells, and Cell Replacement," Mar. 15 & 16, 4:10 p.m., Chevron Auditorium, International House | More

Two very different figures from the world of technology will lecture in separate events on February 1. Paul Otellini, MBA '74, president and CEO of Intel since May 2005, will speak about the future of the legendary chip company as it moves into new platforms. Feb. 1, 12:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Room, Haas School of Business. Meanwhile, over at the hip geekfest also known as the Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium series, Survival Research Laboratories founder and director Mark Pauline will discuss "Exploiting the Momentum of Self Righteousness." Long before Burning Man popularized high-tech art projects, SRL began gleefully staging the "most dangerous shows on Earth," in which high-tech weapons and robots menace each other amid noise, flames, and much sociopolitical satire. Feb. 1, 7:30-9:30 p.m., 160 Kroeber Hall

As usual, Berkeley has a slate of events asking the hard questions about topics currently in the news. The Institute of International Studies offers a course, Issues in Foreign Policy After 9/11, that brings many such speakers to campus and allows the public to sit in. Among this spring's guests:

  • Daniel Benjamin, former National Security Council staff member and coauthor of "The Next Attack," will examine how the United States should be preparing for the next terrorist attack. Feb. 6, 5 p.m., 145 Dwinelle
  • Princeton Lyman and Stephen Morrison, two foreign-affairs wonks and Africa experts, will discuss "More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa." Feb. 16, 12 p.m., Maude Fife Room, Wheeler Hall
  • Robert Pape will discuss his book "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism." Feb. 16, 5 p.m., Maude Fife Room, Wheeler Hall
  • Frontline producer/reporter Martin Smith will show his documentary "The Battle of New Orleans: Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security." Feb. 27, 5 p.m., 145 Dwinelle
 Coal Hollow
Laura, 45 years old, on laundry day, Crane Creek Hollow, West Virginia, 2002 (from "Coal Hollow," Ken and Melanie Light, 2006)

The Graduate School of Journalism will mark the opening of the photo exhibit Coal Hollow with a reception and panel discussion titled "Should Coal Be King? Confronting the Human & Environmental Costs." The exhibit features black-and-white photographs and powerful oral histories chronicling the legacy of coal mining in southern West Virginia, taken from the new book by Ken and Melanie Light (Feb. 2006, UC Press). Feb. 10, reception and book signing 6-7 p.m., discussion 7-8:30 p.m., North Gate Hall "Coal Hollow" will be on display Feb. 10-April 28 in the Graduate School of Journalism's Photo Gallery at North Gate Hall.

Journalism dean Orville Schell will elicit the "British View of the Media" from Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, a leading U.K. newspaper with a long history of editorial and political independence. March 6, 7-8:30 p.m., Sibley Auditorium, Bechtel Engineering Center Check the J-School's events website for details on a March 13 panel discussion by Iraq reporters and several other events still in the planning stages.

More events to watch:
| Music | Film | Performing Arts | Exhibits | Conferences & Colloquia


Rodrigo Rato, MBA '74, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, on the future of the IMF. Feb. 3, 11:30 a.m., Arthur Andersen Auditorium, Haas School of Business

Carol Whiteside, president of the Great Valley Center, will discuss "Making Room for California's Future: Why the Central Valley Matters" in the 4th Victor Jones Memorial Lecture for the Institute of Governmental Studies. Feb. 3, 3 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House

Linda Williams, rhetoric and film studies professor, who is currently working on an analysis of sex in cinema and new media since the '60s, will discuss "Screening Sex." Feb. 23, 5:30 p.m., 142 Dwinelle Hall

Elizabeth Farnsworth, a special correspondent on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, will discuss her forthcoming documentary, "The Pursuers," which follows the investigative work of Judge Juan Guzmán and others intent on bringing Pinochet to justice in Chile. March 6, 12 p.m., venue TBA

Don Norman, Nielsen Norman Group principal and Northwestern University professor, will give a talk for SIMS about how we must learn to manage increasingly sophisticated — and cranky — household devices. March 1, 4 p.m., 202 South Hall

  Christof Koch
Christof Koch

Christof Koch, CalTech professor of cognitive and behavioral biology, is also a longtime collaborator with Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, on research into the underlying neuronal bases of visual perception, attention, and consciousness. He will discuss "The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach" for the Graduate Council's Foerster Lectures on the Immortality of the Soul. March 22, 4:10 p.m., Lipman Room, 8th Floor Barrows Hall

Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley bureau chief for Forbes magazine, will lead a "Tour of Humanities in 2050" for SIMS. March 22, 4 p.m., 202 South Hall

Steven Greenblatt
Stephen Greenblatt

Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard and author of the 2004 international best-seller "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare," will give the Townsend Center's Avenali Lecture on "Shakespeare and the Ethics of Authority." March 21, 7:30 p.m., Morrison Library, Doe Library | More


Internationally acclaimed musical pioneers on the UC Berkeley faculty - Myra Melford, Mark Dresser, Bob Ostertag & David Wessel - fuse acoustic with live computer-based performance in a program demonstrating the excitement and possibilities of the improvised musical medium. Feb. 11, 8 p.m., Hertz Hall |

Alarm Will Sound, a 22-member band committed to innovative performances and recordings of contemporary music, will perform a "Composer Portrait" of John Adams. March 5, 3 p.m., Hertz Hall | Tickets

Turkish ensemble Yahudice will perform urban Ladino music from Istanbul, Izmir, Thessalonika, and Jerusalem - a rarely heard Sephardic cultural repertoire. March 15, 7 p.m., 125 Morrison Hall

  Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar (Photo by Vincent Limongelli)

Indian musician and sitar master Ravi Shankar returns to Cal Performances with daughter Anoushka, also performing on sitar. May 7, 7 p.m., Zellerbach Hall | Tickets


The Pacific Film Archive's six-part "Weird America" series celebrates eccentric individuals who, for example, prefer "ponyplay" as their mane pleasure; wily Okies who troll for catfish with nothing but their hands for bait; and a 92-year-old collector of nut arcana. Jan. 18-Feb. 22, PFA

Riveting documentary Lost Children follows six former child soldiers and the hardships they face as they try to re-integrate into their communities and families in Northern Uganda. Eric Stover, Human Rights Center director, will introduce the film; Q&A and discussion will follow. Feb. 8, 4-6 p.m., North Gate Hall

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies' film series Istanbul: Melancholy and the City will screen four feature-length and one short film that portray vastly different yet interrelated instances of life in that multifaceted city. Jan. 30-Feb. 27, 5:30 p.m., 340 Stephens Hall

City, Country, Man, Woman: China's Contemporary Documentary Films, March 19, all day, Wheeler Hall auditorium |

The Center for Latin American Studies will screen two films that illuminate the work of photographer Sebastiao Salgado: "The Spectre of Hope" (2001, about Salgado's "Migrations") and "Looking Back at You," by Andrew Snell (1995, about "Workers"). April 5, 7 p.m., location TBA

Performing Arts

Imago Theatre's "Biglittlethings" at Cal Performances defies classification, replete with hitchhiking rabbits, insomniac hippos, guilty raccoons, spies in dresses, and giant caterpillars. Feb. 4, 2 & 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall | Tickets

 Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Photo by Andrew Eccles)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Berkeley with four Bay Area premieres, including "Acceptance in Surrender," a new work by three Ailey dancers, and Ailey's eternal masterwork, "Revelations." Feb. 28 - March 5, times vary, Zellerbach Hall | Tickets

Howard Baker's play Seven Lears chronicles the life of Lear from young prince to king, ending before Shakespeare's play begins and looking into the corners it left dark, such as whatever happened to Queen Lear? March 3, 4, 10, and 11 at 8 p.m. and March 5 and 12 at 2 p.m., Zellerbach Playhouse |

The Berkeley Dance Project 2006 is a much-anticipated choreography showcase of works by visiting choreographers Reggie Wilson, Margaret Jenkins, Ellis Wood, Carol Murota, and Lisa Wymore. April 21, 22, 28, and 29 at 8 p.m., April 23 at 7 p.m., April 30 at 2 p.m., Zellerbach Playhouse


  courtesy of the artist and Stephen Wirtz Gallery
"My Mother Posing for Me," Larry Sultan, 1984 (courtesy of the artist and Stephen Wirtz Gallery)

"Dreaming California" presents new and old works by never-boring California photographers Bill Owens, Larry Sultan, and Ruth-Marion Baruch. Through May 21, Berkeley Art Museum

Photographer Jeanne Dunning focuses on the body and the slight changes than can transform an object, or a person, into something quite different. The Berkeley Art Museum's Dunning exhibit showcases how she explores the boundaries that distinguish male from female, normal from abnormal, and erotic from grotesque. On view Jan. 25-April 2, Berkeley Art Museum
Artist's talk: Jan. 25, 12 p.m., Gallery 2

CSI fans can bug out with Crime Scene Insects at the Lawrence Hall of Science, a forensic entomology exhibit exploring the "biological clock" set in motion when the first flies arrive on the scene. Feb. 4-May 29 | More


Advance registration may be required; check conference websites for details.

Redefining Reparations with the Hip Hop Nation - Bridging the Gap conference. Feb. 11, all day, Pauley Ballroom, MLK Student Union | More

Peace and Justice in Northern Uganda March 2, 4-6 p.m., 220 Stephens Hall | More

As the Flood Waters Recede: The Injustice Exposed by Hurricane Katrina March 10, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Booth Auditorium, Boalt Hall | More

Post-Enron Corporate Regulation: Has the Pendulum Swung Too Far (Or Not Far Enough)? March 17, all day, Boalt Hall School of Law

Translating Climate Change Science into Public Policy Peder Sather Symposium, March 20, 5 p.m., 145 Dwinelle Hall | More

East Asia in Transition: Comprehensive Security in the Pacific Rim April 20-22, Lipman Room, Barrows Hall |

The Elegant Gathering: Art, Politics and Collecting in China May 12-13, Lipman Room, Barrows Hall |