Summer reading: The Hacking of the American Mind

The Hacking of the American Mind book cover

The Hacking of the American Mind
Robert Lustig

Five years ago, UCSF pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert H. Lustig came out swinging with Fat Chance, a well-argued if polemical exposé of how the processed sugar industry has come to dominate food production (and consumption) with disastrous effects. Now he’s back with the even more compelling The Hacking of the American Mind.

Lustig’s thesis is that not one but several industries consciously develop products designed to foment addictive behavior, showing convincingly that the brain-signaling pathways implicated in substance addictions (drugs, alcohol) are the same as those implicated in behavioral addictions (addiction to social media, for example). He lays out in plain language how the dopamine stimulus mechanism works, how it can be abused to the point of permanent damage, how the serotonin production system mediates these reactions, and how some of the very same addictive behaviors actually thwart the behaviors that would promote serotonin production and a healthy balance between the two.

His wide-ranging assault touches on processed food, substance abuse, and most significantly for modern audiences, the profound new role of “attention addiction” — being unable to tear your attention away from social media.

As in Fat Chance, Lustig writes in an informal, direct, highly-readable, no-BS voice that makes it sound like he is in a classroom addressing a small group of students.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Election news from the Social Sciences Division

Congratulations to Brian Light, Chief Operations Manager for the Social Science Division, who was recently elected to the Governing Council of the Berkeley Staff Assembly. The BSA is an organization of UC Berkeley staff members who work together to create community and professional development opportunities. Says Brian, “I joined to be more involved with the greater Staff community at Berkeley. It is easy for us to get absorbed in our corner of campus (in my case the Library) and not always see how we interact with the rest of campus …  this is a great opportunity to make some broader campus connections, learn more about how the campuses operate, and hopefully bring back some good ideas and best practices, as well as connections, to my team here in the Library.”

Brian has worked in the Berkeley Library since 1999, starting as a Library Assistant 2 in the Education/Psychology Library and has been the Chief Operations Manager in the Social Science Division since 2015. His most recent achievement was planning and executing the closure of the Education/Psychology Library, a project that included many people, multiple departments, and a great deal of coordination. He managed this complicated process with a minimum of disruption to access. And always with good humor and an agreeable attitude. The BSA is lucky to have snagged Brian!


New Databases: Photography: The World through the Lens; Classic Mexican Cinema Online; and askART

The Library has subscribed to three new databases of visual content available to all UC Berkeley patrons:

Photography: The World through the Lens

gale

The invention of photography represented a turning point in nineteenth-century culture and visual experience. For the first time, there was a means to capture an accurate and true portrayal of the people, places, and events that would shape history. As a complement to studies of history, culture, media, and many other disciplines, Photography: The World Through the Lens provides the visual evidence to support and supplement written sources.

Photography: The World Through the Lens assembles collections of photographs, photograph albums, photographically illustrated books, and texts on the early history of photography found in libraries and archives across the globe. The nineteenth century was about changes in family and society, invention and scientific discovery, exploration and colonization, urban versus rural life, work, leisure and travel — all this is captured in photographs. Photography: The World Through the Lens delivers around 2 million photographs from Britain, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

 

Classic Mexican Cinema Online

brill
The Golden Age of Mexican cinema is illuminated in this collection of popular movie periodicals. It includes magazines such as Cinema Reporter (1943-1965), Cine Mundial (1951-1955), and El Cine Gráfico. From the Archives of the Filmoteca of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Mexican cinema, from its beginnings in the late 1890s to its Golden Age (1930s to 1960), was consistently the largest and most important of all the Spanish-speaking countries. Over 40,000 images from Mexican Cinema are included.

askART

askart

askART provides access to artists’ profiles, images, literature references, biographies, auction records, art for sale and art wanted, essays on important art movements, and statistics on the markets. Millions of auction records and results (from 1987+). 300,000+ worldwide artists.

 

 

Follow us on social media
Twitter: @ah_library_ucb
Instagram: berkeley_art_history_library

“Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen” at BAMPFA Co-Curated by Professor Julia Bryan-Wilson

History of Art Department Professor Julia Bryan-Wilson is co-curator of the exhibit, Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen, currently on at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive until October 14, 2018.

Join exhibition co-curators Andrea Andersson, chief curator of the visual arts at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, and Professor Julia Bryan-Wilson, for a discussion of Cecilia Vicuña’s work on July 11 at 6:00 at BAMPFA.

About to Happen / Cecilia Vicuña

ISBN: 9781938221156

Vicuña

From the publisher website, Siglio Press:

“Beginning and ending at the edge of the ocean at the sacred mouth of the Aconcagua River, About to Happen serves as a lament as well as love letter to the sea. In this artist’s book, Chilean-born artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña weaves personal and ancestral memory while summoning the collective power to confront the economic disparities and environmental crises of the 21st century.

Collecting the detritus that washes up on shore, Vicuña assembles out of the refuse tiny precarios and basuritas—little sculptures held together with nothing more than string and wire, which she sometimes makes as offerings to be reclaimed by the sea. These acts of creation and erasure mirror the ways in which her work inhabits and enlivens the liminal spaces between the remembered and forgotten, the revered and the discarded, the material and the dematerialized.

About to Happen, which accompanies an exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, and the Berkeley Art Museum, traces a decades-long practice that has refused categorical distinctions and thrived within the confluences of conceptual art, land art, feminist art, performance and poetry. Vicuña’s nuanced visual poetics—operating fluidly between concept and craft, text and textile—transforms the discarded into the elemental, paying acute attention to the displaced, the marginalized and the forgotten.

Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948, Santiago, Chile) is a poet, visual and performance artist, and filmmaker whose multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional works bridge art and life, the ancestral and the avant-garde. Vicuña’s work emphasizes transformative acts and “metaphors in space”: an image becomes a poem, a film, a song, a sculpture or a collective performance. Beginning often with a delicate line (drawn or written) or a piece of string, she weaves complex works that are rich with political and social awareness as well as aesthetic beauty.”

 

 

Follow us on social media
Twitter: @ah_library_ucb
Instagram: berkeley_art_history_library

New Books Added to The Graduate Services Collection in July

Angel catbird

Angel Catbird Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood and illustrated by Johnnie Christmas with an introduction by Margaret Atwood

Angel Catbird, vol. 2 : to Castle Catula

Angel Catbird Volume 2: To Castle Catula by Margaret Atwood and illustrated by Johnnie Christmas with a foreword by G. Willow Wilson

Angel Catbird. Vol. 3, The Catbird roars

Angel Catbird Volume 3: The Catbird Roars by Margaret Atwood and illustrated by Johnnie Christmas with a foreword by Kelly Sue DeConnick

The letters of T.S. Eliot / Volume 7, 1934-1935 / edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.

The letters of T.S. Eliot Volume 7: 1934-1935 edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden

Norman Mailer : four books of the 1960s

Four Books Of The 1960s: An American Dream, Why Are We Still In Vietnam?, The Armies Of The Night, Miami And The Siege Of Chicago by Norman Mailer edited by J. Michael Lennon

Second childhood

Second Childhood by John Montague

Please, Louise

Please, Louise by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison illustrated by Shadra Strickland

Orwell on truth

Orwell On Truth by George Orwell with an introduction by Adam Hochschild

Visiting Edna by David Rabe

Visiting Edna by David Rabe


Summer reading: Barkskins

Barkskins book cover

Barkskins
Annie Proulx

Though it’s very long, I count it as inspirational in many ways. She inspires the reader to think about the research (the love of historical archival work and stories of the past, the enjoyment of discovery, a fascination with the lives of other people) involved in writing this kind of historical novel. She also leaves us with something like an obsession with trees, branches and leaves, and massive tree trunks and a longing for woods and forests. Though it’s partly a story of the ecological devastation of the forests of North America, it’s also a story of hope that we today will do some healing. It is also an honest and delicate exploration of relations between European settlers and Native American groups.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: Climate Changed

Climate Changed book cover

Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science
Philippe Squarzoni

Squarzoni’s graphic memoir recounts his experience in coming to understand the immensity of our changing climate. While he was finishing a previous book about politics, he realized he didn’t know much about climate change, and thus he started to investigate. That investigation led him to a whole new book, one he felt he had to write. Not only does the book inform readers of these enormous changes, it also illustrates how it is we come to understand new and life-altering ideas. One of my students said after reading Squarzoni’s memoir that she felt “changed.” Squarzoni provides no easy answers, but he does open our eyes to some of the most pressing concerns of our day.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


What We’re Listening To

What I’m Listening To: Presidential Podcast

By Amanda Tewes

Chances are that if you remember anything about William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States, it’s that he did not wear a coat to his inauguration on a bitterly cold day in 1841, caught pneumonia, and died a month into office, making his presidency the shortest in American history.  Unfortunately, this memorable story about Harrison’s brief presidency is not true. His March 1841 inauguration day was not that cold, and modern physicians think that typhoid fever–thanks to a contaminated White House water supply–was the real culprit in laying Harrison low. So why have Americans perpetuated this myth about Harrison?  This is just one of the many questions posed by Lillian Cunningham on the Presidential podcast, which she hosts.

Cunningham began Presidential, a forty-four episode (one for each president) podcast series, during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, which critics felt was historically divisive, even during primary races. Drawing from her experiences writing about leadership for the Washington Post, Cunningham took a different approach to the election.  She uses Presidential to explore each American president as a way to understand which character traits and historical circumstances made for effective leadership.  In short, how do we define a successful presidency and why?

The series is a fresh take on not only American history, but also on modern American politics.  Cunningham creates memorable narratives about each leader, humanizing even the “forgotten presidents.”  In examining each president’s personality, she also asks guest historians what listeners would have been able to expect on a blind date with these men (pro tip: don’t let your friends set you up with James K. Polk!).  This informative and witty approach makes Presidential a not-so-guilty pleasure.

Listening to this podcast two years after it aired is an odd experience.  In many ways, Presidential captured the spirit of the 2016 election, but it is also a good reminder that no political outcome is inevitable.  William Henry Harrison certainly did not foresee the untimely end to his month-long presidency.

As an oral historian, Presidential has me wondering: when do contemporary politics become history?  This podcast has made me more aware than ever how, as an interviewer, I help shape narratives about the past. I will be thinking about my impact on oral history, from which questions I ask to how I ask them, as I conduct my interviews in the future.


Summer Institute Alumni Spotlight

Summer Institute Alum Spotlight: Julia Thomas

Julia Thomas attended our Advanced Oral History Summer Institute in 2016. When she joined us, she was studying history and environmental analysis at Scripps College. She’s now working as a freelance journalist, traveling the world to document grassroots media, as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. We caught up with her recently to find out what she’s been up to since, and how oral history informs her work as a freelance journalist.

 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your work, and how you use oral history.

Thomas: I’m a freelance journalist, just beginning my work after studying history and environmental analysis at Scripps College. My current research is supported by a year-long Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, during which I’ve been learning about and documenting grassroots media from the ground up in Nepal, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Spain, and Ecuador. I’ve been spending time in the field, working alongside, and interviewing journalists as they report on current stories in progress and the methods they use to present people’s voices on a mix of platforms.

Oral history has played a major role in this project and I’m continually adjusting the ways I use it. Sometimes, and especially in my most recent work in South Africa, I’ve used oral history in more formalized interviews about the organizing and establishment of a community newspaper under Apartheid, the housing crisis in Durban and Cape Town, and community radio practices. At other times, I’ve engaged with oral history as it’s being produced in the moment, in the form of podcasts and radio, by journalists in-country.

Throughout this project, one of my hopes is to incorporate oral history sensibilities into any conversation I have, regardless of whether the recorder is on, or the topic is related to journalism. Oral history requires slower and more deliberate attention to questions to allow people to open up and share. I’ve sought to use oral history as a means of understanding new places and explore its possibilities. How far can the discipline of oral history stretch? What recitations of sound fall under its umbrella? I’ve developed a habit of recording the atmosphere of places, such as buses or streets, and protests or songs performed at community gatherings. I do this both as a means to viscerally return later and capture the sounds around every day movement and life. I believe that this is oral history in a way, too, and that preservation of how an environment sounds unprompted – who is allowed to be heard or what kind of voices dominate – is just as important as difficult questions posed in conversation.

Playing with oral history in conjunction with understanding journalists’ work and how best to preserve it, is a lot of fun and a consistent challenge. The questions stay the same for a while, perhaps shaped by current happenings in place, and then they change drastically depending especially, of course, on lingual context and whether or not I can understand or communicate. Much of the time, I haven’t been able to do interviews in the first language of vernacular language journalists, so the practice of oral history becomes dependent on recorded sound and my own observations of context.

This then raises the question: how much can one truly translate or take away from such a listening experience? I am still figuring out how to present and connect the many stories this exploration has led to, but my hope is to create a collection of transcribed interviews, a podcast that brings community journalists focused on similar issues in different contexts into conversation, and a longer form written project that connects the media landscapes and current stories in the countries I’ve visited.

 

Q: What is the state of the project that you workshopped at the Summer Institute?

Thomas: The project I workshopped eventually grew into my undergraduate thesis, which traced the use of buses as a space in social movements throughout the twentieth century in Mexico and the United States. It also became a condensed long form piece, published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, that examined contemporary examples of buses as a site of protest and state control – such as phenomena of “busing” protestors in the wake of the 2016 election and attendance at the 2017 presidential inauguration as measured by number of bus permits secured.  Both of these projects are more literature heavy than I anticipated when I went to the Summer Institute, largely because my workshop group helped me to think about this research on buses as a larger and longer term focus than what I could have accomplished in an single undergraduate academic year. My workshop group very much influenced my thinking about positionally,  potential angles, and people to interview. Funnily enough, I am actually answering these Q&A questions while riding on a bus in Spain!

 

Q: What kinds of oral history techniques do you use in your work as a journalist?

Thomas: Whenever possible, I try to think about interviews as opportunities for oral histories and ask questions that bring out a longer history beyond the topic at hand. My hope is to make interviewees comfortable enough to open up in sharing their own stories. When I’m doing an interview in a journalistic capacity, I try ask more open-ended questions and step back rather than steering the interview according to a particular angle for a story. Staying focused on the individual narrative, rather than thinking of them as a certain voice that will speak a particular perspective, is a technique I always try to use. In journalism, it can be easy to ask questions oriented around a certain topic and shut off the opportunity to go deeper into someone’s story, but oral history makes you step back, take more time, and see each conversation as an opportunity.

Something I’ve started to ask people is, what kind of story would you like to tell or feel should be told about your situation, this particular movement, etc.? Oral history gives agency and power back to the person sharing stories from memory, in their own words and lived experiences. It also inherently requires more of an emphasis on context and an individual’s position within the issue being discussed, which journalism can always use more of. I try to think about my interviews as oral histories a chance to gain a deeper understanding about situational context as much as possible.

 

Q: How did the Summer Institute shape your work?

Thomas: Attending the Summer Institute was a very inspiring experience for me, particularly as an undergraduate student with a strong interest in oral history but no formal training in its methodologies. I developed a lot of new ideas and gained eye opening insights from fellow attendees. The people in our 2016 cohort came from such a wide variety of places and this in and of itself was exciting to see how academics, journalists, architects, activists, policy makers, teachers, were curious about using oral history in their unique applications. I learned a great deal about the logistics of carrying out an oral history projects as a freelancer though the mock interviews and techniques that were presented. At the time of the Institute, I was actually preparing my application for the Watson Fellowship and had a general idea of my project but couldn’t quite articulate what it was that I wanted to explore. On one of the last days of the Institute, it became clear to me that the practice of asking questions and capturing people’s voices is what really fascinated me. I remember it suddenly clicking in my head after a few days of being immersed in discussions of oral history that I knew this was what I wanted to learn more about in other parts of the world.

 

Q: How do you hope to grow your work in the future?

Thomas: I’m planning to spend the next couple of years working as a freelancer, and hope that the year following this fellowship will be spent writing long-form feature pieces about what I encountered in each place, and continue to report (hopefully abroad!). I’d love to return to the topic of buses and do some oral histories with transport unions and workers, activists, organizers of solidarity caravans, etc., particularly in Mexico. This year has also piqued my interest in radio programming and podcasting, so I’d love to break into that. Some broad topics of interest as of right now are individual experiences and social movements related to elections, land and housing rights, and music composition and performance. Graduate school of some sort is definitely in the future at some point, but until then, my hope is to keep learning, interviewing, experimenting, collaborating. We’ll see what happens from there!

 

For more from Julia, follow her on Twitter: @juliathomas317 and Instagram: @jthom317


From the Archives: Sauntering in the Sierra

Sauntering in the Sierra

by Roger Eardley-Pryor, PhD

@Roger_E_P

Deep into Sequoia National Park, a thin, wiry rider climbed a mountain trail atop a dusty white horse. He wore a dark business suit, per his backcountry custom, and from under his black felt hat, a bushy white beard spilled forth. Up the Kern River Canyon, a group of young Sierra Club members trekked through the high country.  As the rider approached them, his piercing blue eyes surveyed the group from under his shadowy hat.

“Where are you going?” the rider inquired.

“We’re just hiking in to camp,” the hikers replied.

“Hiking is a vile word,” the rider returned. “You are going right past one the finest views in the Sierra. Now stop and look at it.”

It was the summer of 1908, and the young Sierra Club members heeded his command. For they knew the thin, dark rider was John Muir, famed mountaineer and co-founder of the Sierra Club.  

“You know,” Muir said, “when the pilgrims were going from England to the Holy Land, the French would ask them ‘Where are you going?’ They did not speak French very well, but they would say ‘Santa Terre’ (Holy Land). That is where we get our word ‘saunter.’ And you should saunter through the Sierra, because this is a holy land, if ever there was one.”

When John Muir preached this parable of wilderness-appreciation in 1908, he left an indelible mark in the mind of C. Nelson Hackett, who recalled the encounter in a 1972 oral history interview. Hackett was born in the City of Napa in 1888. He joined the Sierra Club during high school and later earned degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Law School. After a stint in the U.S. Army, Hackett worked at the Bank of California (now MUFG Union Bank) where he became vice president and headed its trust department. When interviewed at eighty-three years old, Hackett recalled, “I don’t know of anything in my life that has been more delightful than those Sierra Club outings.” In 1908, during Hackett’s outing, Sierra Club membership had just reached 1000. Today, with three million members and supporters, Sierra Club is the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States.

Hackett’s memory of Muir comes from Sierra Club Reminiscences II, 1900s-1960s, part of the Oral History Center’s extensive collection of interviews with Sierra Club leaders and longtime members. The roots of the Oral History Center’s relationship with the Sierra Club stems, in part, from a chance encounter on a long bus trip from San Francisco north to the dedication of the newly established Redwood National Park in August 1969. On that bus trip, Phillip Berry, then recently elected as the Sierra Club’s youngest president, sat next to Amelia Fry, an oral historian from the Bancroft Library. Fry had interviewed former National Park Service directors Horrace M. Albright and Newton Drury, and many others associated with natural resources and politics. While riding to Redwood National Park, Fry convinced Berry about the value of preserving the Sierra Club’s unwritten stories through oral history interviews. In May 1970, the club’s board of directors authorized the Sierra Club History Committee, which partnered with the Oral History Center to begin recording reminiscences of longtime club members in 1971. This interview series continued until the mid-2000s, during which the Oral History Center collected nearly one hundred Sierra Club interviews with former presidents and directors, including Ansel Adams, Edgar Wayburn (two interviews), David Brower (two interviews), Michael McCloskey (two interviews), and Carl Pope. Funding challenges brought a halt to the project, but the Sierra Club oral histories remain available online and preserved at The Bancroft Library. Today, the Oral History Center is planning to revive the series in conjunction with the club’s William E. Colby Memorial Library.

If you want to donate to this important project , please contact oral history interviewer Roger Eardley-Pryor at rogerep@berkeley.edu.