(I contacted the artist and this is unfortunately one of 5 paintings which was made for a public art commission, and thus cant be used for any other projects currently- Sorry about that. I got a list of submissions we can use though)
On March 15, University of California, Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology launched its newest exhibit on the complex history of mind-altering substances and their various uses across the globe and spanning time.
The exhibit, entitled “Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Mind-Altering Substances,” highlights the range of experiences, tools, perspectives, uses and socioeconomic dynamics around 10 mind-altering drugs.
Some of these substances are more widely available, some may not even seem to most people like mind-altering drugs and others are often stigmatized or illegal. The exhibit, now open to the public through Dec. 15, is designed to invite visitors “to question their assumptions about these drugs and the people who use them."
A stroll through the gallery takes you on a historical, geographical and cultural journey through the worlds of tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, cannabis, opium, areca nut, kava, peyote, coca and sugar.
Katie Flemming, the gallery manager, told The BCC Voice that the artifacts on display come from the museum's $3.8 million collection and showcase items such as opium pipes, hookahs and tobacco pouches.
Descriptions accompanying each drug include their scientific names, geographic origins, how they're used and their mind-altering effects.
The information is presented in a balanced, honest and culturally respectful manner, and intends to expand on the notion that experiences with substances can be both profound and destructive.
At its opening night, Flemming explained to visitors that the exhibit is meant to be a living space that welcomes the myriad of experiences people have with the topic.
Scattered throughout the gallery are areas where visitors are asked to post their stories on the walls to help illustrate the complex dynamics and range of beliefs people have with mind-altering substances.
Adam Nilsen, the Hearst Museum’s head of education who oversaw the exhibition’s curation, shared surprises and interesting moments he had in the process of putting together the exhibit. One of Nilsen’s favorite pieces is a collection of wine vessels with big eyes painted on them, which were used by the ancient Greeks.
“If you were an ancient Greek getting tipsy at a banquet, you would want to protect yourself in a moment of drunken misjudgment from anyone casting you the evil eye,” Nilsen said. “You could drink your wine and face those eyes outward to deflect the evil eye.”
Nilsen also talked about similarities and differences around the world in how people think about mind-altering substances.
“In the United States, we have many conversations about vaping and tobacco products being marketed to children. I thought it was fascinating to find that, in India, these very same conversations were being had, but with betel nut being marketed to kids using fruit-flavored additions.”
Because there's so much to say about drugs that can’t be contained in the gallery, Fleming explained that the exhibit is trying to expand the conversation by holding a number of events in the following months. The wealth of programming includes talks and tastings with local vendors such as Highline Coffee Co. and Melo Melo Kava, a lecture series with talks such as “Ritual Uses of Psychoactive Plants and Fungi," "Ayahuasca Shamanism," and "The Cultural Importance and Pharmacology of Datura," and hands-on workshops such as an Ethiopian coffee ceremony that allows participants sensory ways of experiencing the exhibit.
The best way to find out more about the exhibit and its upcoming events is either by visiting the Pheobe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, located at the UC Berkeley campus, in Kroeber Hall, during its operating hours, Wednesday-Sunday or by visiting their website, hearstmuseum.berkeley.edu. Admission is only $3 for BCC students with student ID.
by RHANA HASHEMI
Opium Pipes from San Francisco in the late 1880s Photo by Rhana Hashemi
On the Cover
Cover art courtesy of rawpixel.
A Trip Into the World of Mind-Altering Substances
2 BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019
BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019 3
3 Coffee, Sugar & Peyote
A Trip Into the World of Mind-Altering Substances
4 Community bridges
Berkeley Adult School Paves Path to Success
for ESL Students
Stephanie Nicole Garcia
6 The Race Is On
Resources and Tips for Informed Voting
7 Enemies of the State
The Difficulties of Being a Journalist
in the Age of Fake News
Your Paul Flipse
8 Bias in Higher Education
Seemingly Innocuous Favoritism Raises Concerns
10 The Pickup Artists
Finding Your Tribe at Home and Abroad
Reflections From out of This World
Thomas A. E. Hesketh
12 Farming For Gold in Venezuela
How Venezuelan Citizens Use Video Games
to Survive an Economic Hellscape
In This Issue
BCC Voice - Spring 2019 - Issue 2
STEPHANIE NICOLE GARCIA
THOMAS A. E. HESKETH
THE BCC VOICE is produced
by the English 14/15 students
at Berkeley City College,
with funding from the
Associated Students. A special
thank you to the ASBCC,
the BCC English Department,
and students who make
this school great!
This spring marks the first semester of the Berkeley Adult School English as a Second Language (ESL) Scholarship for ESL students who will attend one or more Peralta Community Colleges.
The Berkeley Adult School (BAS) is a continuation school offering classes for students who didn't complete their high school education or were not enrolled in a K-12 program in the United States, so that they may earn a high school diploma or General Education development degree. In Feb. 2019, nine students were selected to receive awards averaging $250. Many of these students are immigrants, diverse in their cultures, races, ethnicities and languages. All of them have stories of triumph and hardship. The BCC Voice had the opportunity to speak with these students in order to share their stories.
At a college in Chile, Brenda Verme, 27, studied tourism, and shortly after that she began working on Easter Island for over a year. Her passion to help people is exemplified in her current work as a babysitter and dog-walker. Verme recalled a difficult time when she was planning on withdrawing from her classes and returning to her family and native country as a result of a torn ligament injury from soccer, a motorcycle accident a week after and an abusive roommate. Being in pain and not being able to work, she felt “nothing was working” for her. However, Verme didn't let that get in the way of her goals, as she states: “You can’t give up here when you’re by yourself. You don’t have an option. Who’s going to support you? Nobody.” Verme is currently enrolled at the BAS and will be taking classes at Berkeley City College in the summer. She aims to have a career where she can combine the knowledge from her ESL classes and her tourism degree as a tourist guide.
Arleide de Silva Santos, 28, is another recipient of the scholarship. Originally from Brazil, she has an undergraduate degree in education and master’s degrees in both education and child development from her native country. Before arriving to the United States, Santos taught children aged 9-10 years old. Two months after her arrival to the Bay Area, Santos began enriching her education by taking ESL classes at BAS. She completed all her requirements there and is now enrolled in American Sign Language (ASL) at BCC. Currently, she puts her degrees and her ASL classes to practice by working as an educator for deaf children in West Berkeley. Santos says she would like to become a translator for the deaf in public agencies or an ASL teacher. She told The Voice what motivated her to become a teacher, “I believe this is the only way [to] change the world. And for change to fix the mistakes of the government and political things like that. I believe so much in this way.” She is also dedicated to the ESL community. She offered herself as a resource for anyone in the transfer process either from BAS or students needing help in applying for the scholarship (her contact information will be included at the end of the article).
Karima Mamouni, 36, has traveled a long way to seek a better life for herself and her family in the United States. Hailing from Algeria, Mamouni is amazed at how social constructs about age and gender are not impediments to continuing education. “Here in the USA, you have [the] chance to do what you want to do. In my past, I had obstacles and I [could not] do it [attend college]. I think it was a good idea to come [to the United States].” In her country, elderly people are discouraged from returning to school. She said there are no continuation programs there, and most college and university students are young people who have completed their high school education. The freedom of choice in education is something Mamouni is surprised by and admires. She is currently a BCC student, using her newfound freedom to decide her major and career.
“I just want to say, for people that have a dream, even if they are old or have obstacles like me, or bad situations, or they work hard all the time, to keep their dream in their mind. Even if right now they can’t do it, if they keep dreaming and keep working, they will be able to [do it] one day. I think to keep studying is good for their life. Even if they don’t have time, you can take one class—just to learn! Especially for immigrants, who have all these problems and the language obstacles, and they have to work too, and have to pay high rent in the USA, I tell them not to give up.”
Instructors and advisors at BAS play a crucial role in making certain their students are prepared for the next step in their educational paths. In particular, Jann Sweenie and Midhun Joseph are prime examples of Berkeley Adult School staff who are committed to helping ESL students in their transition to higher education. Sweenie, 63, a recently retired instructor of ESL and Spanish, created the scholarship for ESL students at BAS. She started the scholarship as a way to continue helping students in her retirement after 40 years of teaching at UC Berkeley, BCC, BAS and Laney.
“I loved the interaction with the students every day. I knew so much about those students,” she said.
Sweenie is responsible for awarding the students with their scholarships, and in talking about that process, she exudes zeal for supporting ESL students.
“I meet with the students, and present it to them because that’s the only way I get to interact with those students. And that’s when I sit down with them. We have great conversations, like an hour, an hour and a half, for each student. I talk to them about their past and what they’re going to study. So that’s been wonderful for me. That’s the highlight of this whole process, to continue that one-on-one contact with the students.”
Joseph works at BAS as an advisor and at Berkeley City College as Project Manager/Transitions Liaison, and he counsels students at BAS when they express they are ready for college. He determines whether they are prepared or not, making recommendations of staying more time at BAS or providing resources and insight about the college and university process. If he feels an ESL student with financial need is a qualified candidate for the scholarship, he sends them a link to apply for it. All applications get sent to Sweenie, and she awards the eligible students with the scholarship.
According to the main office, since August 2018, 6,236 students have been enrolled at BAS in classes on-site and off-site. The office reports that this year there are 1,649 ESL students at BAS. Sweenie tells The Voice that students have used the scholarship to buy textbooks, pay for transportation and assist in buying a laptop, among other things. New implementations to the program, such as the scholarship and the addition of advisors, have had a significant impact on the students, according to Sweenie.
“So, I think that’s a very fabulous thing. I think it provides, like I said, a bridge to get our students to community college … so the program is improving, and getting more professional all the time.”
For ESL students at BAS who want peer-to-peer help applying for a Berkeley Adult School ESL Scholarship, or help with the transfer process, contact Arleide de Silva Santos at: email@example.com.
For ESL students attending BAS, who have financial need, are planning to attend community college or a university and are interested in applying to the scholarship, contact Midhun Joseph. You can drop by his office at the Berkeley Adult School, every Wednesday, in Room #17, across from the main office.
Joseph also has an office at Berkeley City College, in room 124D and is there Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM. You can call or text him at (510) 990-0255 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate to the scholarship fund for Berkeley Adult School ESL Students, who wish to continue their studies at a community college and need some financial assistance, you have two options:
Send your check made out to "Berkley Public Schools Fund" with "BAS-ESL" on the memo line to:
Berkeley Public Schools Fund P.O. Box 2066, Berkeley, CA 94702
Donate online with a credit card or PayPal. Go to "Berkeley Public Schools Fund" and click "Donate Now" at the top of the home page. On the subsequent page, under "Program" in the "other" box, fill in "BAS-ESL."
BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019 5
Berkeley Adult School Paves Path to Success
for ESL Students
4 BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019
by STEPHANIE NICOLE GARCIA
“F**k the media,” he yelled.
He yelled it twice, the man wearing a red “Make America Great Again,” cap, as he was being restrained after assaulting a BBC cameraman during a Feb. 12 rally for President Donald Trump in El Paso, Texas, according to a BBC News report,
The President paused for a moment, asked, "You all right ... everything okay," in the direction of the fracas, then offered a thumb's up before continuing his speech.
The cameraman was okay. But barely 10 minutes after the attack, Trump himself was taking his turn at attacking the media.
“There’s also collusion between the Democrats and the fake news, right here,” he said, which was met by a volley of chants from the crowd: “CNN sucks, CNN sucks.”
This anti-media chant is a refrain heard more and more these days—from both politicians and the public.
It's also a marked change from the way people used to feel about reporters: people used to trust them.
According to a Gallup poll from 1976, in the era just after the Watergate scandal, public trust in the media was at 74 percent.
When Gallup polled Americans with the same question in 2016, that number had dropped to 32 percent—and a mere 14 percent for republicans.
So, not only does the president hate the media, but apparently so do the majority of the American people. Bottom line: it's a tough time to be a journalist. Yet, not all journalists see it that way. Take Theodore Andersen for one.
A graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, Andersen interned for the Associated Press in Thailand before moving on to a byline for the San Francisco Chronicle. He’s currently a digital editor for the San Francisco Business Times, and he sees the current anti-media climate in America as a positive.
“I think it’s been good for emboldening real journalists to do better work, and motivate them to do a better job,” he said.
Andersen also eschews the notion that being ridiculed by both politicians and the American public is tough to take.
“Your goal as a journalist shouldn’t be to have a big, ego/vanity post with a byline,” he said. “Your job as a journalist is to do public service.”
The idea of working for the greater good is one held by many in the media, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, as he expressed in a 2015 interview with Vice News.
“The role of investigative journalism is to shine a light on the inner workings of darkness, whether in the government or anywhere else, and expose it to the public,” said Hedges. “That’s very important to the health of a democracy.”
Beyond the altruistic nature of the job, the presence of a hostile readership, and journalists' reaction to knowing their work is put under a magnifying glass—if not disbelieved outright—every time one of their articles goes to print.
“The public is definitely more conscientious of what they’re reading, of whether it’s accurate or not, which I think is a really positive outcome,” said Michelle Robertson, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle’s online wing, SF Gate.
Robertson also offered advice for anyone considering a career in journalism.
“Be sure you have the passion for it,” she said. “It’s not an easy place to be if you don’t. Given the current state, it’s really hard to do.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Andersen, who also offered a word of advice regarding a would-be reporter’s state of mind.
“You’re gonna have to get a thick skin,” he warned. “If you don’t have a thick skin, you’re not going to make it in journalism.”
Passion. Toughness. Altruism. These types of attributes aren't easy to come by. Yet, perhaps they're worth the hard work to acquire, now more than ever, in light of the current feelings Americans harbor toward the media, and the continually abrasive comments of America’s 45th president.
With such a drastic shift in our country’s view of the media over the last few decades, it might be worth revisiting something said by America's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln:
“Our government rests in public opinion,” Lincoln said. “Whoever can change public opinion can change the government.”
There’s no denying both public opinion and our government have changed—and not for the better for members of the media. What remains to be seen is how hard our current and future journalists are willing to work to change it back.
Graphic by Paul Flipse
Mock-up of an ad featured on Walmart.com in 2017 (later pulled due to protests). Since 2017. 98 journalists were physically attacked and five were killed in America according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a website that monitors all threats to the press in America.
6 BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019
The Difficulties of Being a Journalist in the Age of Fake News
Resources and Tips for Informed Voting
BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019 7
CONTINUED ON PAGE 9
The Race Is On
Enemies of the State
Nationwide voter turnout in the 2016 general election was about 56 percent, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization that provides information on various issues in the U.S. The percentage was even lower during the 2018 midterm elections, even though that year’s turnout was considered to be unusually high for a midterm.
According to another analysis by the Pew Research Center, 4 percent of registered voters in 2016 cited “registration problems” as their reason for not voting, while 14 percent of voters were “too busy” or had a “conflicting schedule.”
Navigating the ins and outs of elections can be especially intimidating for first-time voters who aren’t yet registered.
“My parents talked to me a lot about politics when I was younger, and I definitely do think that encouraged me to participate by voting. I miss some local elections, but I vote for every midterm, primary and general election,” said Christina Uzzo, a 22-year-old Bay Area native and graduate of the University of Chicago.
Gabriel Wood, a student at UC Berkeley, also noted that his family had a significant impact on his participation in elections. He credits his family for giving him “a strong sense of civic responsibility” to help create “a more equitable, fair society for all.”
While some, like Uzzo and Wood, may have had parental guidance and encouragement in the process of voting, many first-time voters do not have this luxury.
Ballots are surprisingly long, which may come as a surprise to first-time voters. Checking a sample ballot ahead of time and becoming familiar with the contents will be helpful when it comes to election day. Doing research and deciding how to vote before going to the polling station is also good preparation, as referendums and candidates’ stances can be difficult to understand without background information. There are many organizations that do this research for voters and package it for accessibility. Some of these organizations also make recommendations on how to vote.
“I do a combination of my own research, plus I look at Ballot Ready and a few other progressive guides. Social media and some local guides also help me keep up to date about what is going on and what people think about different issues,” said Uzzo.
Ballot Ready, a nonpartisan site, thoroughly researches candidates and referendums on ballots specific to voters’ locations. The site lays out the background of candidates and measures, allowing voters to weigh benefits and costs in a simplified fashion. Voters can fill out a sample ballot ahead of time and either print a copy of it or bring it with them on their phone for election day. Ballot Ready also allows the option of joining an email list that sends out notifications for upcoming elections. While the site gives helpful background information, it doesn’t endorse candidates or give recommendations on how to vote on referendums.
“I use Ballotpedia to condense some policy questions into more readable and impactful formats and to research candidates. I also discuss voting with my friends and family,” said Wood.
Ballotpedia is a nonprofit that provides an online “encyclopedia of American politics and elections,” according to its website. The site has over 27,600 articles written by their staff of professional election analysts, writers and researchers, with content covering topics such as ballot measures, fact checking, public policy and more.
Another nonpartisan resource is Vote Smart, an organization run by volunteers who, according to their website, don’t accept financial assistance from groups supporting or opposing candidates or issues. The site provides the Vote Easy quiz to help match candidates to individuals’ interests.
The League of Women Voters of California, also a nonpartisan organization, makes ballot recommendations based on study and consensus among its members, according to its website. In addition, The League provides explanations and evaluations of the pros and cons of propositions.
Some local news papers, such as the SF Chronicle, also make endorsements and recommendations. The SF Chronicle is a left-leaning newspaper, according to All Sides, an organization that collects bias ratings from readers across the political spectrum. Endorsements by the SF Chronicle are made by the editorial board or the publisher, editors and writers of the opinion staff, according to an explanation by John Diaz, a staff writer for the newspaper.
Choosing how to vote based on recommendations from a selection of these resources is a good start, and for some it may be all that's manageable. For those who have the curiosity and time to delve deeper and do some of their own research, there are many other organizations and resources that provide more detailed information.
The Center for Responsive Politics is a nonprofit research group that tracks money in U.S. politics and investigates its effects on elections, according to their website OpenSecrets, which provides information on individual candidates’ fundraising, including the amount of money they have received and where that money comes from.
FactCheck.org, a site run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, verifies the validity of statements made by politicians and others in the government. Although the site doesn’t provide information on local elections, it's a useful resource during Presidential elections and in general to sort out false statements from true ones.
Fifteen percent of registered voters chose not to vote because they felt that their vote wouldn't make a difference, while 25 percent cited a “dislike of candidates or issues,” according to another report by the Pew Research Center.
“While I was campaigning for Bernie Sanders, I talked to a lot of people who feel that their vote won’t change any of the corruption that goes on in politics, so they just end up not voting,” said Uzzo.
Furthermore, people are less likely to vote if they are immigrants or of a minority group. Only 49 percent of African Americans, 35 percent of Asians and 33 percent of Latinos voted, compared to 54 percent of whites in 2014, according to American National Election Studies. This loss of minority voters tends to hurt Democrats.
“It’s not really my business,” said a math professor at CSU East Bay and Chabot College who immigrated to the Bay Area from Vietnam when he was 14. He asked not to be named to protect his privacy. “My parents used to vote when they lived in Vietnam. But over there, voting doesn’t matter because politics is so corrupt. Here, I feel like the outcomes could be cheated easily too. So there’s not much I can do. My job is to just be a good citizen.”
However, upset victories, such as that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York during the May primary, show that the minority vote does matter. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud exists, but is rare. Voter turnout is, in comparison, a much bigger issue that could significantly alter election outcomes.
The process of voting can be confusing and time-consuming initially, and at times it is easy to lose confidence in the democratic process and its ability to represent fairly. But if there's even a small chance voting could amplify your voice, which might otherwise go unheard, or help to positively change circumstances for other people, then it's a worthwhile investment to make. Just be sure to do your homework before you get to the polls.
by PAUL FLIPSE
by MAYA HARRIS
Various philosophy books next to a bust of communist leader Mao Zedong.
Photo by Mana Shimamura
BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019 9
Bias in Higher Education
VOTING — CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6
8 BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019
Seemingly Innocuous Favoritism Raises Concerns
“It’s really like gang warfare, and the analytical people are winning since the 50s,” says Eric Gerlach.
From his tone, you would think he was talking about some ongoing violence that citizens have conveniently overlooked.
But Gerlach, a professor at Berkeley City College, is referring to academia, and more specifically, American philosophy departments giving preference to analytic philosophy over continental philosophy.
Generally speaking, Western philosophy is separated into two groups, analytic and continental, and they differ in their methodologies and the type of questions they deal with.
Analytic philosophers are reminiscent of the pre-Grimes Elon Musk: rational, pragmatic and focused on finding answers in a clear and concise manner. They treat philosophical questions almost like a math problem and behave like scientists by showing the step-by-step in their logic. The questions they deal with, even if they're relevant to people, tend to be removed from the human experience, and they believe the answers can be found through reasoning alone (e.g. are there correct answers to moral questions?).
Continental philosophers, on the other hand, echo Kafka: emotional, artistic and more concerned with exploring many possibilities, rather than arriving at a concrete answer. They face philosophical questions as a spiritual investigation. For them, philosophy is very much infused in the human experience, so they lean toward questions that deal more with the meaning of life or social issues. (eg., What are the functions of morality within a society?)
In the philosophy department at UC Berkeley, there are only two undergraduate classes out of 17 dedicated to continental philosophy. Furthermore, only three out of 15 faculty members who teach in the undergraduate department this semester have backgrounds that are not strictly analytic philosophy.
Given the progressive nature of the Bay Area and the avant-garde nature of continental thought, Gerlach was surprised there were not more classes that taught French or German continental philosophy when he first studied the subject at Cal during his undergraduate days.
Gerlach, whose interest resides in continental and Asian philosophy, thinks one possibility for this is the anti-Marxist sentiments that permeate the American landscape, stemming from the McCarthy era. Continental thinkers such as Hegel, Sartre or Foucault have been associated with or advocates of communism and socialism.
Given the history the U.S. has with that branch of politics, it’s feasible the antipathy from previous generations is still ingrained in our culture, which then manifests as favoritism at higher institutions.
Each semester, Gerlach has to submit his class syllabus to a committee for review by fellow professors in the state, which is not an uncommon practice. While this is usually a simple process, on more than one occasion, he has been told that certain thinkers he covers for his Greek and Modern European Philosophy classes are “irrelevant.”
Interestingly enough, most, if not all, of those historical figures that they ask him to exclude display characteristics of continental philosophy.
Ari Krupnick, another professor at BCC who is more acquainted with analytic philosophy, speculates the reason why there are more people in his field is because it answers similar questions and approaches matters that follow the philosophical traditions.
While Plato’s works were written in dialogue, his attempt to plainly state his position is similar to analytic methodology whereas continental thinkers have a tendency to use ambiguous language, making their objectives unclear.
However, other academics have noted that continental philosophy actually did not deviate from their predecessors. Although the inexplicable concentration of analytic philosophy for generations in higher institutions, gives the impression that it did. The approaches and questions idiosyncratic to continental philosophy have existed for centuries and can be seen in Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus.
Despite the lack of courses offered for continental philosophy, Krupnick stressed that while it did not align with his interests, it does not mean that continental philosophy is not valuable.
It’s not that these courses are unavailable on campus, they are just placed in other departments such as Anthropology or English. In the Fall 2019 curriculum, there is a course called "Literature and Philosophy" in the English department at Cal. Even though more than half of the readings are going to be philosophers and the class is going to deal with a quintessential philosophical question, "What is the self?" it's not taught in the philosophy department.
This creates a lack of accessibility that might cause potential students to be unaware that a whole separate philosophical framework exists, and it would also suggests that continental thought is somehow not “real” philosophy because it is not given the recognition afforded to analytic thought.
This is not to advocate one approach over the other but that they each impart a different set of skills and open students up to more perspectives.
Continental philosophy can help students understand themselves within the world they live in while analytical philosophy can help them to systematize and articulate those thoughts to others.
Emphasizing one category is like teaching kids only the sun exists and forgetting about the moon.
Not only that, when you dive deeper, each group has different opinions on certain fundamental premises for understanding human thought. They are equally important, and without both, it creates a false narrative.
The friction felt in the philosophical community can be due to “some analytic philosophers being too picky about certain things and not doing a good enough job trying to understand what the other person meant,” says Krupnick. “You should give someone the benefit of the doubt. I think if you’re trained well in analytic philosophy that is what you will be told to do and your job is to provide the most charitable interpretation possible.”
While colleges might not be the best at facilitating the integration of both branches, those who are interested in philosophy should take classes with Krupnick and Gerlach to get a comprehensive view of what the subject has to offer.
by MANA SHIMAMURA
by Thomas A. E. Hesketh
Finding Your Tribe At Home and Abroad
The author with a pickup team in Amsterdam.
BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019 11
It’s 5 p.m. on a Sunday. It doesn’t matter where exactly, as games are played the world over. Several people have already arrived, and more are filtering in. Handshakes and head nods are replaced with high fives and hugs as more tenured players begin to appear. It’s time for pickup.
To be specific, a pickup game is a weekly affair where players meet at a specific time and location to play a casual game. Teams are usually decided then and there, or by what shirt players happen to be rocking that day. Games are played year-round in parks across the globe. For many people they serve as weekly exercise—a chance to kill time in a sports off-season and, perhaps most importantly, as a temporary community center. Pickup games serve as a meeting point for displaced community members, such as immigrants, tourists and marginalized groups.
Kaila Chan recently organized a game of ultimate Frisbee in Alameda, Calif. titled “East Bay Pickup Frisbee For Womxn & Non-Binary Folk.” Chan felt that she was stuck in a support role when she was playing mixed pickup games, and that she was a more “expansive” player when playing with only women-identified players.
Chan is also enjoying the learning experience of being a leader and of educating herself and others about the LGBTQ experience. “When new people came, I’d always start with ‘Hi I’m Kaila, my pronouns are she/her!’ And there’d be this awkward pause, then they’d reply with their name and pronouns.” Chan points out that currently, the conversation about gender equity is focused around including women, where Chan thought it should focus on trans and non-binary inclusion because, “If we are giving support to trans and non-binary people, then we are already giving support to women. We live in a world that doesn’t prioritize women, and I just don’t have the patience for that. In my way, I’m making this space.”
Rand Wrobel also finds value in playing pickup. “I was going downhill in my life about 10 years ago. I didn’t see the point in playing any longer. Along came grandmasters [age 40+] and it really reinvigorated my play. I had more purpose to get in shape and I take motivation from playing with players my age.”
Wrobel is the administrator for a pickup game at Bushrod Park in Oakland. The game has a wide variety of skill-levels and age ranges. Wrobel remembers a time last summer when Bushrod was filled with players. “There were a couple teams practicing, as well as two pickup games playing side by side. The old-guys' game and everyone else.” Bushrod’s numbers have been thinner of late, but Wrobel isn’t worried. “Ride the waves and the droughts,” he recommends. “It’ll all even out.”
Wherever I travel, the first thing I do is hop on Google and Facebook, looking for the pickup scene in places as far flung as Costa Rica and Amsterdam. I plan whole days around a game, because I know where I can find pickup—I can find friends. Through whatever other barriers there are, our bodies speak the same language on the field. The people I play with become friends and guides for the weekend, allowing me to see a side of the city I’d never see as an outsider.
Whatever sport you play, you can find a game on Facebook or Meetup.com by typing a city name and the sport. Pickupultimate.com is a great resource for ultimate Frisbee players. Finally, if you want to play with Rand, Kaila and me, you can come to Bushrod Park in Oakland at 5p.m. on Wednesdays and 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Illustration by ESO/M. Kornmesser
10 BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019
by NOAH BERNHARDT
The Pickup Artists
Our world changed on Oct. 19, 2017, when an object was discovered by astronomers at the University of Hawaii (UH), Hilo’s Manoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA). After initial detection of an unknown object moving against the relatively fixed backdrop of stars and galaxies set in deep space, according to Lee Billing's article in Scientific American's Oct. 26, 2017 issue, Rob Weryck, a postdoctoral researcher at the UH, re-checked the data obtained from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STAARS1) Observatory located near the summit of Haleakala on the island of Maui. He then quickly contacted his advisor.
Weryk’s advisor, Richard Wainscot, made additional observations confirming the discovery and requested others in the world astronomical network to study the phenomena, including researchers at NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the NASA’s Spitzer Space Observatory, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, the Keck Telescope on Mauna Kea, the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and the Gemini South telescopes in Chile and Hawaii, according to Physics World on Feb. 12.
According to the UH System News, IfA astronomers searched for a common name that would reflect Hawaii, the location of the space object’s discovery. After consultation with Hawaiian language experts, the space object was given the name "Oumuamua," (pronounced O-MOO-ah-MOO-ah), meaning “scout or messenger from afar, arriving first” or, “a messenger from the distant past.”
Scientific American also reported that Weryck contacted IfA astrobiologist Karen J. Meech, who had a longstanding hope that an interstellar visitor might be discovered. Meech and her team confirmed the initial data and became leaders among the worldwide community of astronomers in broadcasting the discovery and encouraging attempts to gain as much information as possible before the object became too distant to observe effectively.
"All we can say right now is this is something that was tossed out of another star system,” said Meech. “Now we have a piece of another planetary system flying by Earth, flying through our solar system, that we briefly have a chance to study.” She described the event as, “...a brief visit from a red and extremely elongated interstellar asteroid,” in a 2017 article in the British journal Nature, one of the first scientific publications to discuss the object.
However, the classification of the object as an asteroid would be questioned. As conveyed by Meech in the Nature article, the unnamed space object was first tentatively identified as an asteroid, the most common type of solid object in our solar system, and given the initial designation "A/2017 U1" by the Hawaiian astronomers ("A" for “asteroid”). Yet, the object didn't fit the profile of known asteroids. Popular Mechanics reported that ‘Oumuamua approached the Sun from above “...at a high inclination of about 122 degrees off the ecliptic of the solar system (the approximate plane upon which the planets orbit)” and at a high speed, “15.8 miles (25.5 kilometers per second or 56,880 mph)."
The new object didn’t show the characteristics of comets either. As Professor Avi Loeb stated in the March issue of Scientific American, “[It] does not look like at least 99.999 percent of the solar system’s comets,” suggesting our chances of having detected it in the first place with present-day telescopes were no better than a million to one. Indeed, the sighting was fortuitous, because the primary purpose of Pan-STAARS1, funded mostly by NASA, is to detect near-Earth objects that might pose a threat to Earth—not to detect interstellar visitors.
The classification of the object as "interstellar" was revolutionary. According to Nature, none of the 750,000 known asteroids and comets was thought to have originated outside the solar system. Before the appearance of 'Oumuamua, our nearest known neighbors outside the solar system were the binary star system Alpha Centauri, and its neighbor, the relatively nearby Proxima Centauri—both about 4.22 light years away. No visual image has been captured showing detail other than a fast moving speck of light against the coal black of deep space. Artists’ conceptions of ‘Oumuamua are the best we have.
Collectively, astronomers have been able to estimate with some specificity ‘Oumuamua’s physical characteristics; it is not a total mystery. In Physics World, Andrew Glester summarizes astronomers’ observations, concluding ‘Oumuamua has a “highly irregular shape, unlike anything from our solar system,” and it is elongated, possibly cigar shaped. ‘Oumuamua tumbles or rotates every 7.3 hours, Glester continued, but exhibits a “speed and trajectory that suggests that it has been inside our solar system since around 1837.” It was either too far from us to reflect visible light or moving too fast while in the inner solar system for a photograph to be captured.
Glester reports that the object is “...dark red in colour, rich in metal and/or rock,” consistent with Kuiper belt objects exposed to cosmic radiation for millions of years. “Trajectory calculations also confirm that [‘Oumuamua] had come from interstellar space, with its origin likely to be somewhere in the constellation of Lyra—home of the fictional aliens in Carl Sagan’s novel 'Contact,' the possible alien in Gene Brewer’s novel 'K-PAX' and the Galactic Empire in Isaac Asimov’s 'Foundation' trilogy.”
Although ‘Oumuamua has departed the inner solar system, the legacy of its discovery remains in the popular press. “What’s especially fascinating is that people are still writing papers on it, even though we effectively got a couple of weeks of data with everyone trying, and then the HST and the Spitzer data went a little longer, but that’s it. And people are still writing papers,” notes Meech, in a 2018 Astronomy article. Meech also gave a TED Talk on June 27, 2018, “The Story of ‘Oumuamua, the First Visitor From Another Star System,” which had more than three million views, leading her to conclude, “Clearly, people are interested.”
The most positive response to The Voice’s investigation into public reaction to ‘Oumuamua came in a written interview on April 23 with BCC astronomy instructor Matthew O. Fillingim, who said, “Just a ‘yay for science.’ Even though this object was really small—less than the size of a pixel in our largest telescopes—we (mankind) were able to figure out a lot about what this object is (or isn't). By following its path across the sky, with the knowledge of how gravity works, we were able to figure out where it came from and where it is going, and that it is not from our Solar System. We were able to figure out its size and shape and rotation rate and a general idea of its composition (rock or metal-rich rock—not comet-like) just from looking at light reflected from it. We have not observed any radio signals coming from it. The consensus among astronomers is that it is highly unlikely to be artificial. There is a lot we can know about this object and a lot we don't/can't know. It is the first object of its type observed. But, with any luck, it won't be the last.”
Reflections From Out of This World
Photo by Jerry Javier
Photo by Andrew Silin
Photo courtesy of Juan Carlos
BCC VOICE / SPRING 2019 12
Farming for Gold in Venezuela
How Venezuelan Citizens Use Video Games to Survive an Economic Hellscape
by NEVILLE GRUHLER
Juan Carlos, 22, a Deep Sea Diver from Anzoategui, works on the online role-playing game Runescape full-time.
In Venezuela, impoverished citizens affected by the devaluation of the bolivar, Venezuela's national currency, have turned to online video games as a source of income. The country is facing an economic crisis as its citizens scramble for extra sources of income with which to feed their families. "Gold farming" has been around for a long time, and is the occupation of accumulating virtual wealth within an online game and selling that virtual “gold” for real-life money. Gold farmers generally make very little compared to even a minimum-wage job in the first-world.
In an online voice call, Venezuelan gold farmer Leo Rodriguez, 28, offered insight as to why many Venezuelans have turned to video games for income. Rodriguez plays Runescape for money, a popular game among Venezuelan gold farmers for its accessibility and popularity in wealthier countries such as the U.S. and the U.K.
“For the Venezuelan, to work is something of nature. I am a professional in the area of systems and information. I can say that, about 10 years ago, I could support my needs with my profession. But the economy, based on the devaluation of the national currency, made us look for other income options as gold farmers, freelancers and others, allowing us to earn a little more than the base salary to meet the basic needs, since the monthly minimum wage established nationally does not meet the basic needs for balanced food,” said Rodriguez.
As of April, the minimum wage in Venezuela amounts to less than $7 a month. “A normal person, to eat well, needs $10 to feed two or three people, and playing Runescape—you can barely win $3 to $5 a day. So food is a daily struggle. You cannot get food in the supermarkets normally. Meat, chicken, fish...there is none. There are few places that sell them and everything is worth the dollar.” In a country where earning a living wage is nearly impossible, it's easy to see the benefits of earning a few more dollars a day. Gold farmers have found a way to barely keep their heads above water, while others in the country look for different means of survival. “We are gold farmers by necessity, looking for an economic exit where we can have some monetary stability. It is not common, but there are many currently playing for the same reason,” says Rodriguez.
Most of the gold farmers in Venezuela are young people who are already familiar with video games. However, the economic collapse has drastically affected the lives of all Venezuelan citizens.
“People not interested in video games do Bitcoin mining—trading crypto, webcam shows, selling nudes, prostitution, sell drugs, steal things, kidnap people, extortion, scams. That would happen in any country. If you don't have enough to feed your family, what are you gonna do if you don't find work? Bad things—steal, kidnap, drug trafficking, etc.,” said Juan Carlos, 22. Carlos has been a gold farmer on Runescape full time since 2017. He works on the game for up to 12 hours a day. And on a good day, he can earn up to three times the national monthly salary in one sitting—a whopping $18. Still, this source of income is what keeps him and many others off of the streets. “A young man without much money can start to change his life with a shitty computer and Runescape,” said Carlos.
For Carlos and Rodriguez, working at a normal job in Venezuela to make a living is hardly a practical option. The problems posed by hyperinflation make living a “regular life” incredibly difficult.
“Five years ago you could take a bus at every hour, really fast, five minutes or less. Now, to take a bus, you have to wait like one or two hours. Someone can rob you in that time. For having the cash for pay that bus, you have to make a big queue at the bank. Five years ago, it was normal to use paper money for everything. Now it's weird—everything is with debit cards. The whole country does not have enough paper money,” says Carlos.
While the ultimate cause of Venezuela's economic implosion is a complicated political issue, even citizens who support Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, believe the economic problems stem from mismanagement of their country's resources. They feel the Venezuelan government doesn't value its citizens, who are the lifeblood of the country. This sentiment is likely caused by corruption within the higher levels of government.
“There is no national administration that protects the interests of the Venezuelan people. We are a rich country that impoverishes its people. Just as there are good Venezuelans, there are also Venezuelans who do not cooperate with improving this situation. They only take advantage. In the middle of the crisis there are opportunities. But these opportunities affect others,” said Rodriguez, who believes the turmoil is as much a social issue as it is political.
“All government must be respected. But to respect, you need to be respected, and that is not happening. [Maduro] lost the respect of the people for failing to respect the people.” The lack of respect held by Maduro's administration for the common Venezuelan people is reflected by the president's approval rating, which was around 15 percent in January according to the Los Angeles Times.
Despite the crisis at hand, and being forced into gold farming by a crumbling economic system, Rodriguez is optimistic for the future of his country.
“No Venezuelan wants to flee from this beautiful country. But I have friends who, of necessity, have to go to find a better quality of life for their family. For my Venezuela, it is the best country in the world. It has a united people that reflects love, kindness and charisma everywhere. I would not change it for anything.”