Upcoming Events: Humanities

Wed 5/31

Image - Ting

The Universal Stage: A Critique of Empathy

Date: Wed, May 31, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Theater and the expression of self

Eric Ting, Artistic Director, California Shakespeare Theater

In the theater, we concern ourselves with questions of authenticity and artifice in our search for human truth. They are questions that grow more pertinent as we consider classical theater's place in our contemporary world: whose stories are represented, whose stories are appropriated, how do we see ourselves in these stories and can we ever truly understand another person? Go in depth with Eric Ting, the artistic director of CalShakes—a San Francisco cultural treasure.

Thu 6/1

Image - Beatles

They Say It's Your Birthday

Date: Thu, June 01, 2017
Time: 12:00 PM
The 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's

Dulais Rhys, Faculty, Amabile School of Music; Professional Musician

Celebrate the 50th birthday of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by learning about the background, creation and songs of the Beatles' revolutionary album. The album was released on June 1, 1967, right as the Summer of Love was beginning. Six months earlier, just three months after their August 29 farewell concert in San Francisco, Paul McCartney suggested he and his bandmates create a new album based on their various childhood experiences; Sgt. Pepper's was the result. Want to know why “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” didn't make the cut? Want to learn other details you may not have known before, even if you’re a major fan? Come find out what Dulais Rhys' research has revealed. Singing along is encouraged. 

Tue 6/6

Image - Alex Filippenko

Frontier Research at UC’s Lick Observatory

Date: Tue, June 06, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
A guide to researching celestial objects

Alex Filippenko, Professor of Astronomy and Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences, UC Berkeley

Lick Observatory is a vibrant research facility and the primary base for the University of California’s astronomy education and public outreach efforts. Lick is also used to develop new technologies, such as laser guide star adaptive optics, that produce very clear images of celestial objects. This is your chance to learn about the exciting research and other activities being completed at Lick. This program is presented by Alex Filippenko, one of the world's most frequently cited astronomers.

Wed 6/7

Image - Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin Circles

Date: Wed, June 07, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Ongoing Ben Franklin forum

Join us monthly, every first Wednesday, for a 21st-century version of Ben Franklin’s mutual improvement club. One evening a week, for more than 40 years, the founding father discussed and debated with his friends the 13 virtues that he felt formed the basis for personal and civic improvement, a list he created when he was 20 years old. The virtues to which he aspired included justice, resolution and humility. (But don't misunderstand Ben on that one—his explanation of humility was "imitate Jesus and Socrates.")

The Ben Franklin Circles program brings people together to discuss the most pressing philosophical and ethical issues of our time with the goal of improving ourselves and our world. 

Mon 6/12

Image - Clair Brown

Buddhist Economics

Date: Mon, June 12, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Applying Buddhism to economics

Clair Brown, Professor of Economics; Director, Center for Work, Technology and Society at the University of California, Berkeley; Author, Buddhist Economics

Monday Night Philosophy travels a different path to economic wisdom. Traditional economics measures the ways we earn and spend our income, but it doesn't always consider what gives our lives meaning. In response, Clair Brown has developed a holistic model that approaches the organizational structure of an economy by using Buddhist values, emphasizing sustainability, interconnectedness, capability and happiness to promote a more compassionate society. By replacing the endless cycle of desire with collective priorities, Brown argues we will benefit both personally and globally for generations to come.

Wed 6/14

Image - Cranna

Opera for Our Time: Bringing New Works to Life

Date: Wed, June 14, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Exploring opera with longtime dramaturg

Kip Cranna, Dramaturg, San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera’s longtime dramaturg Clifford “Kip” Cranna has managed the commissioning of more than 20 new operas, including “Harvey Milk,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Dead Man Walking,” “Doctor Atomic,” “Appomattox,” “The Bonesetter’s Daughter,” “Moby Dick,” “Dream of the Red Chamber” and the upcoming “Girls of the Golden West.” Join Cranna for an insider’s viewpoint—with video examples—as he explores the thriving world of contemporary American opera and offers behind-the-scenes tales of how new operas are born.

Mon 6/19

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, June 19, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Ongoing Socrates forum
On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Thu 6/22

Image - Unger

The Gay Bar in American History

Date: Thu, June 22, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The history of the gay bar

Nancy Unger, Professor of History, Santa Clara University

For more than 100 years, gay clubs and bars have served as havens and sanctuaries as well as party spots and hookup sites. They've been the centers of solidarity, community and education. They've also been the sites of violence and persecution that ultimately led to great advancements in pride, rights and freedoms. Unger's richly illustrated talk highlights the history of a long and colorful American tradition central to the LGBTQ community: the gay bar—from jook joints to the Stonewall Inn to Orlando's Pulse and beyond.

Wed 7/5

Image - Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin Circles

Date: Wed, July 05, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Ongoing Ben Franklin forum

Join us monthly, every first Wednesday, for a 21st-century version of Ben Franklin’s mutual improvement club. One evening a week, for more than 40 years, the founding father discussed and debated with his friends the 13 virtues that he felt formed the basis for personal and civic improvement, a list he created when he was 20 years old. The virtues to which he aspired included justice, resolution and humility. (But don't misunderstand Ben on that one—his explanation of humility was "imitate Jesus and Socrates.")

The Ben Franklin Circles program brings people together to discuss the most pressing philosophical and ethical issues of our time with the goal of improving ourselves and our world. 

Mon 7/10

Image - Lefty O'Doul

Lefty O'Doul: Baseball's Forgotten Ambassador

Date: Mon, July 10, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Baseball and Japanese–U.S. relations

Dennis Snelling, Author, Lefty O'Doul: Baseball's Forgotten Ambassador

Monday Night Philosophy goes beyond ping-pong diplomacy and delves deep into the foreign policy role baseball played in US–Japan relations before and after World War II. Dennis Snelling reviews the roles played by Horace Wilson, Mike Fisher and Lefty O'Doul in making baseball popular in Japan. Horace Wilson, a Civil War veteran who had settled in San Francisco, taught English (and baseball) in Japan in the 1870s. Mike Fisher, a San Francisco entrepreneur, organized the first tour of Japan by professional ballplayers in 1908. Lefty O'Doul, a San Francisco native, played in Japan in 1931 and then brought Babe Ruth and others with him in 1934, where he helped found the Tokyo Giants. After the war, General MacArthur arranged for O'Doul to bring a baseball team over to help repair relations, which he successfully did in many ways on and off the field.

Tue 7/11

Image - Schwartz

The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M.B. Curtis

Date: Tue, July 11, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The Jewish Jackie Robinson of the stage

Richard Schwartz, Historian; Author, The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M.B. Curtis

Richard Schwartz captures the life of M.B. Curtis, an incredibly influential immigrant actor of the late 19th century. It is a story of immigration, assimilation, the theater and the invisible wings of comedy. It is about how one play became the way a nation examined its feelings and attitudes towards immigrants and gave audiences a chance to walk in shoes they would never have worn. Curtis was the Jewish Jackie Robinson of the stage—the first Jewish male actor who was allowed to portray a Jewish male on stage in America. His talent, creativity, fame, suffering, perseverance, dreaming and overnight rise to stardom linked him intimately with the Statue of Liberty, Mark Twain, New York, San Francisco, murder and the greatest African-American entertainment troupe of its time. 

Mon 7/17

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, July 17, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Ongoing Socrates forum
One Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Tue 8/8

Image - Forman

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

Date: Tue, August 08, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
How harsher laws led to injustice

James Forman Jr., Professor of Law, Yale Law School; Former Public Defender; Author, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

The outrage over the senseless killings of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement has led to a renewed conversation about race in America, where black people are more likely than whites to be arrested for minor crimes, to be dealt harsher sentences and to be more unfairly impacted by their criminal records. Yet the criminal justice system is staffed by thousands of black police officers, judges, corrections officers and prosecutors. Forman examines the tragic roots of the war on crime, showing how tougher laws and harsher responses were proposed by the nation’s first black mayors, police chiefs and city council members. When poverty, crime, drug addiction and violence were on the rise, their stringent law-and-order tactics were seen as necessary to protect and heal these communities. In heartbreaking detail, Forman reveals how incremental steps taken in the name of the civil rights movement gradually eroded the rights and opportunities of the very people they were meant to help.

Thu 8/10

Image - Devlin

Finding Fibonacci

Date: Thu, August 10, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The lost legacy of Fibonacci

Keith Devlin, Executive Director, Stanford University's H-STAR Institute; President, BrainQuake; Senior Researcher, the Center for the Study of Language and Information; the "Math Guy," NPR; Author, Finding Fibonacci

Finding Fibonacci is Devlin's compelling quest to tell the story of the medieval mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, more popularly known as Fibonacci. Although he is most famous for the Fibonacci numbers (which he did not invent), Fibonacci's greatest contribution was as an expositor of mathematical ideas at a level ordinary people could understand. In 1202, Liber Abbaci ("The Book of Calculation") introduced the western world to modern arithmetic. Yet Fibonacci was long forgotten after his death, and it was not until the 1960s that his achievements were finally recognized. Devlin describes his quest's highs and lows, false starts and disappointments, tragedies and unexpected turns, hilarious episodes, and occasional lucky breaks, bringing together the threads of Fibonacci's astonishing (and previously vanishing) part in the revival of science, technology and commerce.