Joy of Singing

Prepare your body, brain, and voice to sing with ease, expressiveness, and projection. Learn four traditional rounds and five part-songs by ear, plus choral skills such as legato, staccato, fermata, ritard, timbre, and head and chest voice. More experienced participants may sing in trios or anchor their sections. We will perform for invited guests during the last class. Open to all levels.


Iranian Cinema

Gain an overview of post-revolutionary Iranian national cinema, which has garnered international popularity and critical acclaim since the late 1980s for being innovative, ethical, and compassionate. Look at the work of contemporary filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Bahram Beyzaii, and Asghar Farhadi. Discuss the role of censorship and the strong feminist tendencies of many contemporary Iranian films.


Shoguns, Samurai, and Survivors: Feudal Japan

Explore the cultural history of feudal Japan (1100–1800 CE), when “the Japanese became Japanese” by way of political, socioeconomic, and cultural changes that redirected the course of their civilization.


Global Warming: More Than an Inconvenient Truth

Cover the most salient issues in global warming, including: the history of its research; why the subject exploded in the 1980s; the relationship between the global carbon cycle and the burning of fossil fuels; the campaign against climate science; technological methods for stopping global warming; and changes to greenhouse gases over time. We will finish with speculations about the future of climate and of life on Earth. 


1968 and Its Contested Legacy

Reexamine common perspectives about an unruly year that remains politically and socially radioactive. We will aim to understand what Greil Marcus once called the “moods of rage, excitement, loneliness, fatalism, desire” that buffeted Berkeley and the world in 1968. A half-century later, we still don’t understand its legacy and need a more subtle comprehension of what a historical moment contains, as well as its unacknowledged victories and hidden defeats. 


Zen Buddhism and Temple Arts

Devotion in Buddhist spiritual life is expressed in an array of physical and artistic ways. Through lectures, visual materials, and hands-on practice, we will examine the beauty and creativity of practices such as the enso, zengo work, Japanese landscape gardening, altar care, and the way of tea. What are the aesthetic concerns around these rituals, and how do they impact social interactions? 


Exploring Your Identity Through Writing

Your unique family, heritage, culture, and traditions offer a rich source of material. Learn how to draw on your own background to generate stories that are deeply meaningful to you, the people you love, and even to complete strangers. Writing assignments will include nonfiction and fiction. Sharing work will be encouraged but not required. Leave class with a roadmap for expanding your material. 


Is Liberalism Ending?

What is the liberal order, and what are its alternatives? Discuss the history of liberalism, its weaknesses, and the arguments made about its end. We will examine the role of economic inequality, globalization, the retreat of Western liberalism, and the post-truth environment in weakening it further. We will also explore the remedies to save it. 


Chekhov’s Stories

While famous worldwide as a playwright, Anton Chekhov is better known and more loved in Russia for his short stories, many of which are considered masterpieces of the genre. Gain insight into some of his best stories and novellas. Discussing a wide spectrum of themes, plots, and characters, we will pay close attention to Chekhovian style and the language resources he employed to render his ideas and attitudes. 


Bay Area Documentary Filmmakers

Nonfiction films are more essential than ever, but the subject matter typically overshadows the process for making them. In fact, the filmmaker’s narrative, thematic, and aesthetic choices are as important as the material itself. Each session will feature a recent or in-progress film followed by a candid discussion with the director. We’ll focus on the practical and ethical challenges of making documentaries, from conception through production and post-production to distribution.



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