Upcoming Events: Humanities

Wed 2/4

Image - Humanities West Book Discussion: Two Lives of Charlemagne

Humanities West Book Discussion: Two Lives of Charlemagne, by Einhard and the Monk of St. Gall

Date: Wed, February 04, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM
The Holy Roman emperor and “father of Europe.” 

Join us to discuss the life of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman emperor and “father of Europe.” One biography we’ll look at is by Einhard, who joined the royal court in 791 to serve as an epic poet, mathematician and architect. His work is believed to be the most accurate portrayal of Charlemagne and the finest biography of its time. This edition also contains the highly anecdotal "life" of Charlemagne, penned by the Monk of Saint Gall, whose accuracy is scorned but whose witty tales keep popping up in modern biographies. Lynn Harris will lead the discussion.

Image - Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money, and the Future of Life on Earth

Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money and the Future of Life on Earth

Date: Wed, February 04, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
A practical, hopeful plan for avoiding yet another mass extinction. 

Anthony D. Barnosky, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley; Cox Visiting Professor, Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University

Paleobiologist Barnosky weaves together evidence from the deep past and the present to offer a practical, hopeful plan for avoiding yet another mass extinction. His compelling evidence suggests that unless we rethink how we generate power, where we get our food, and how we make our money, we will trigger the sixth great extinction on Earth. Optimistic that we can change this ominous forecast, Barnosky provides clear-cut strategies to guide the planet away from global catastrophe using existing technology and know-how.

Thu 2/5

Image - Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death

Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death

Date: Thu, February 05, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

Katy Butler, Author, Knocking on Heaven's Door

When does death cease to be a curse and start to become a blessing? Where is the line between saving a life and prolonging a dying? When is the right time to say to a doctor, “Let my loved one go”? Science writer and essayist Katy Butler explores these questions through a blend of investigative reporting and memoir. When doctors refused to disable her aged, very ill father’s pacemaker, sentencing him to a protracted and agonizing death, Butler set out to understand why. Her quest had barely begun when her mother faced her own illness, refused open-heart surgery, and instead met death head-on. This story is the fruit of her family’s journey.

Mon 2/9

Image - A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanis

A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions

Date: Mon, February 09, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With author Elias Castillo 

Elias Castillo, Author, A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions

Monday Night Philosophy refutes the myth that the 21 Franciscan missions in California were idyllic sites where Franciscan padres and Native Americans lovingly commingled. In reality, the missions were death camps in which the Catholic missionaries, guided by mission founder Junípero Serra’s direction that the “savage” Indians be controlled through "blows,” practiced unremitting violence against their charges. Drawing on exhaustive archival research, Castillo details the dark secrets that the missions have tried to keep under wraps for over 100 years. 

Wed 2/18

Go to Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Wed, February 18, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues

The Humanities Forum brings Socrates Café to The Commonwealth Club. It will be held every third Wednesday evening for the discussion of philosophical issues. At each monthly meeting the group's facilitator, Bob Enteen, will invite participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic will briefly explain why she or he considers the subject interesting and important. An open discussion will follow, ending with a summary. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Thu 2/26

Image -  Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered

Date: Thu, February 26, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Author Dianne Hales 

Dianne Hales, Author, Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered

Why does Mona Lisa's smile still enchant us? Little is known about the world's most recognized face, most revered artist and most praised and parodied painting. Join Hales as she reveals Da Vinci’s muse, Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, and explores Giocondo’s colorful family history and the neighborhoods where she lived as a girl, a wife and a mother.

Wed 3/4

Go to Humanities West Book Discussion: The Song of Roland

Humanities West Book Discussion: The Song of Roland

Date: Wed, March 04, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM
A classical epic that glorifies the heroism of Charlemagne.

Join us to discuss The Song of Roland, the anonymous classical epic that glorifies the heroism of Charlemagne in the 778 battle between the Franks and the Moors. Lynn Harris will lead the discussion.

Fri 3/6

Go to Reality Check: Russia, Ukraine, and the West in Crisis and Conflict

Reality Check: Russia, Ukraine, and the West in Crisis and Conflict

Date: Fri, March 06, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
Is confrontation the new normal for Europe and Eurasia?

Matthew Rojansky, Director, Kennan Institute, Wilson Center

The death toll from the war in Ukraine's southeast is in the thousands, the government in Kiev is on the edge of bankruptcy, and mutual hostility between Russia and the West is more intense than it has been for more than a quarter century. This ongoing crisis threatens not only to upend the precarious security balance of the post-Soviet era, but also to fragment the foundation of the very political and economic system that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians embraced by supporting the so-called Euromaidan last fall and winter. With poor prospects for a comprehensive diplomatic settlement, and political pressure for escalation from all sides, can anything be done to contain the conflict? Is crisis and confrontation the new normal for Europe and Eurasia? If so, will these problems come home to roost in the West? 

Mon 3/9

Image - Minimizing Fear

Minimizing Fear

Date: Mon, March 09, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

George Hammond, Author, Rational Idealism and Conversations With Socrates

Monday Night Philosophy understands that we have explained life to ourselves in ways that have scared us silly for so long that it has become an engrained habit. Ironically, it's a habit we rather enjoy because fear often keeps us more alert than we'd otherwise be. But there are other ways to remain intellectually alert to the nuances of life that are not so debilitating. So tonight we'll sort through those fears with the goal of understanding how unlikely it is that these fears are justified, eliminating those that are highly irrational, and minimizing those that are merely ridiculous.

Mon 3/16

Image - The Amazons

The Amazons

Date: Mon, March 16, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Were these ancient warrior women fact or fiction?

Adrienne Mayor, Research Scholar, Classics and History and Philosophy of Science, Stanford University

Amazons – fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world – were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles dueled Amazon queens, and Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great and Pompey each tangled with them. But who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback? Were Amazons real? Mayor's is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, including new archaeological discoveries of battle-scarred female skeletons buried with their weapons. Mayor argues that a timeless search for a balance between the sexes explains the allure of the Amazons and reminds us that there were as many Amazon love stories as there were war stories.

Tue 3/17

Image - The Allure of Irish Dancing

The Allure of Irish Dancing

Date: Tue, March 17, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Michael Dillon of the Dillon Magh Adhair Academy of Irish Dance

Michael Dillon, ADCRG, Dillon Magh Adhair Academy of Irish Dance

Come celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a demonstration of Irish dancing by championship-level dancers from a renowned Bay Area dance school. Dillon, an Ard Diploma Coimisiuin le Rinci Gaelacha (a teacher certified by the worldwide governing body of Irish dance), will also explain the history that permeates this detailed and disciplined dance culture. This will be the perfect pre-pub experience, as you are sure to leave with your feet tapping out a jig — or maybe even a reel.

Wed 3/18

Go to Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Wed, March 18, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.

The Humanities Forum brings Socrates Café to The Commonwealth Club. It will be held every third Wednesday evening for the discussion of philosophical issues. At each monthly meeting the group's facilitator, Bob Enteen, will invite participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic will briefly explain why she or he considers the subject interesting and important. An open discussion will follow, ending with a summary. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Thu 3/19

Image - The Streets of San Francisco: Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolita

The Streets of San Francisco: Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950-1972

Date: Thu, March 19, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Christopher Agee, Assistant Professor

Christopher Agee, Assistant Professor, History Department, University of Colorado, Denver

During the Sixties, the nation turned its eyes to San Francisco as the city's police force clashed with the free speech, civil rights and sexual liberation movements. More than just one-time flare-ups, these street-level conflicts forced Americans (and San Franciscans) to reconsider the role of the police officer in democratic society. Historian Christopher Agee explores the influential ways in which San Francisco liberals provided a solution that championed both broad diversity and strong policing by turning to the police as partners and granting them a powerful tool: the use of discretion.

Tue 7/14

Go to San Francisco's Jewel City

San Francisco's Jewel City

Date: Tue, July 14, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

Laura Ackley, Architectural Historian; Author, San Francisco's Jewel City

San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened its doors to much acclaim a century ago. The fantastic goings-on in each of the 11 neoclassical palaces that transformed the Presidio found their way into many of the pages of the Commonwealth Club’s reports during that summer of 1915. The exposition, which attracted such renowned American figures as Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Edison, served as a poignant symbol for both San Francisco’s resurgence from the catastrophic 1906 earthquake and its irrepressible spirit of innovation that continues through today. Come celebrate this remarkable centennial with Laura Ackley, the author of San Francisco's Jewel City, which details the history of one of the most elaborate fairs ever held in our city.