Upcoming Events

Wed 3/15

Image - detail from The Prose Edda book cover

Humanities West Book Discussion: The Prose Edda, by Jesse Byock

Date: Wed, March 15, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Gods and giants and dwarves and elves — what's not to like?

Join us to discuss The Prose Edda, the most renowned work of Scandinavian literature and our most extensive source for Norse mythology. The Edda was written in Iceland a century after the close of the Viking Age, and tells in clear prose, interspersed with powerful verse, the ancient Norse creation epic and stories of the battles that follow as gods, giants, dwarves and elves struggle for survival. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

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Designing Your Life with Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Date: Wed, March 15, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
Try out "life design"

Bill Burnett, Executive Director, Design Program, Stanford University; Co-author, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
Dave Evans, Adjunct Lecturer, Product Design Program, Stanford University; Management Consultant; Co-founder, Electronic Arts; Co-author, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
Suzanne Gibbs Howard, Partner, IDEO; Founder and Dean, IDEO U—Moderator

Are you ready to design the life you’ve always envisioned in your head? Let Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show you the way! The Stanford professors and New York Times #1 best-selling authors of Designing Your Life have spent years teaching life design to Stanford students, and are excited to share their experience with INFORUM. Design-thinking principles aren’t just for products and space! Bill and Dave will discuss the "many versions of 'you' that exist," teach us all how to think like designers, and help us prototype our way to a more joyful life. Their approach is applicable and fun, much like great design. Be ready to reframe and revamp your creative thinking.

VIP Opportunity! Prior to the conversation, from 5:45-6:45 pm, Bill and Dave will lead an intimate VIP experience: the Life Design Energy Workshop. The workshop will include an energy exercise and mini-Designing Your Life workshop focused on energy, for those who want the opportunity to try out some of Bill and Dave’s techniques for life design firsthand. Tickets are first-come, first-served, very limited and are non-refundable.

Thu 3/16

Image - Green Film Festival logo

San Francisco Green Film Festival: Film Stories From Your Dinner Plate

Date: Thu, March 16, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Celebration of food, film and the arts

Rachel Caplan, CEO, San Francisco Green Film Festival
Mischa Hedges, Director, Of the Sea
Additional Speakers TBA

Filmmakers are delving into our complex food system with farmers, chefs, food-lovers and campaigners who are challenging the status-quo. Join the San Francisco Green Film Festival and Bay Area filmmakers for a visual feast of films and conversation about the stories that are shaping our eating and healthy sustainable food choices. And a plus! Enjoy a sneak preview of the San Francisco Green Film Festival, Spring 2017, with a celebration of the interaction of food, film and the arts!

Mon 3/20

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Rhodessa Jones and Cultural Odyssey's Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women and HIV Circle

Date: Mon, March 20, 2017
Time: 12:00 PM
What art and performance can teach about women and HIV

Rhodessa Jones, Co-Artistic Director, Cultural Odyssey; Actress; Teacher; Writer; Director, Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women and HIV Circle; Former Visiting Artist in Residence, University of California, Berkeley Black Theater Workshop; Visiting Professor at St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California; Spring 2014 Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence, College of Letters and Science and the School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

In 1989, on the basis of material developed while conducting classes at the San Francisco County Jail, Rhodessa Jones created “Big Butt Girls, Hard Headed Women,” a performance piece based on the lives of the incarcerated women she encountered. Based on this observation, Jones founded The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women to explore whether an arts-based approach could help reduce the numbers of women returning to jail.

In 2008, The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women joined forces with UCSF’s Women’s HIV Clinic to create theater that explores what it means to be living with the virus in the 21st century. For the past seven years, The Medea Project: HIV Circle has performed shows all around the United States, sharing the truth and the stories of what it means to be female and infected or affected.

Life After Hate

Date: Mon, March 20, 2017
Time: 5:15 PM
Lessons from a former extremist

Antony McAleer, Executive Director, Life After Hate

A former organizer for the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), Tony McAleer served as a skinhead recruiter, proprietor of Canadian Liberty Net (a computer-operated voice messaging center used to disseminate messages of hatred), and manager of the racist rock band, Odin’s Law. It was love for his children that finally led Tony on a spiritual journey of personal transformation. Today he is the executive director of Life After Hate and shares his practice of compassion as an inspirational speaker.

Image - Howard French, George Koo and George Lewinski

The U.S. and China in 2017

Date: Mon, March 20, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
China chooses its path forward

Howard French, Former New York Times Asia Correspondent; Author, Everything Under the Heavens: Empire, Tribute and the Future of Chinese Power
George Koo, Ph.D., Special Advisor, Deloitte China Services Group; Member, Committee of 100
George Lewinski, Former Foreign Editor, "Marketplace"—Moderator

For many years after its reform and opening in 1978, China maintained an attitude of false modesty about its ambitions. That role has been set aside, asserts panelist Howard French, who says China has revealed plans for pan-Asian dominance by building its navy, increasing territorial claims to areas like the South China Sea, and diplomatically bullying smaller players. Hear from French and China analyst George Koo, who says that whatever China’s plans, following a western template to become a global hegemon is not a likely outcome, nor will “false modesty” necessarily find any validity. Come for a fascinating discussion about the historical context of China’s actions and what the future holds for the U.S. relationship with China under the Trump administration.

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, March 20, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion group

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.

Tue 3/21

Beethoven in China

Date: Tue, March 21, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
How Beethoven became a cultural icon in China

Jindong Cai, Associate Professor of Music (performance), Stanford University; Orchestra Conductor; and Co-Author, Beethoven in China: How the Great Composer Became an Icon in the People's Republic

Sheila Melvin, Co-Author, Beethoven in China: How the Great Composer Became an Icon in the People's Republic

Beethoven in China demonstrates that there is no parallel to the depth and breadth of Beethoven's integration into the culture, politics and private passions of China. Schoolchildren routinely read Beethoven, My Great Model and busts of Beethoven are a common sight. Cai's and Melvin's research reveals that the process by which Beethoven became a Chinese icon was tumultuous, starting with a 1906 article by Li Shutong, who referred to him as The Sage of Music, and held him up as a moral exemplar for a struggling nation trying to prevent a slide into chaos. His stoicism in the face of paternal mistreatment and increasing deafness resonated with a culture focused on working hard, on "eating bitterness," in order to achieve greatness. That stoicism proved crucial when Mao had musicians arrested and executed during the Cultural Revolution. But at Tiananmen Square students accompanied their protests with his "Ode to Joy" anyway.

Image - Carrie Nugent

Carrie Nugent: Asteroid Hunters

Date: Tue, March 21, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
Protecting Earth

Carrie Nugent, Staff Scientist, IPAC/Caltech; Host, Spacepod; Author, Asteroid Hunters

What are asteroids, and where do they come from? And more important, what would happen if one hit Earth? Dr. Nugent is an asteroid hunter working to help map our cosmic neighborhood. She is part of NASA’s NEOWISE mission team, using a space-based infrared telescope to discover, track and characterize asteroids.

With detection being the key to preventing an asteroid impact, learn more about the scientists who are working to prevent the unthinkable from happening.

Thu 3/23

Image - San Francisco Ferry Building

Waterfront Walking Tour

Date: Thu, March 23, 2017
Time: 1:45 PM
Walking tour

Join Rick Evans for his new walking tour exploring the historic sites of the waterfront neighborhood that surrounds the location of the future Commonwealth Club headquarters. Hear the dynamic stories of the entrepreneurs, controversial artists and labor organizers who created this recently revitalized neighborhood. This tour will give you a lively overview of the historic significance of this neighborhood and a close look at the ongoing development.

Mon 3/27

Middle East Forum Discussion

Date: Mon, March 27, 2017
Time: 5:30 PM
Discussion group

The Middle East Forum discussion group, which primarily covers the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan, has been meeting monthly for about nine years. We are not a debate group.

Fire, Beetles, Water Resources and Dying Trees: Spring 2017 Report on the Sierra Nevada's Rain, Snowpack and Climate Changes

Date: Mon, March 27, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Environmental check-in

Jeanne Higgins, Acting Associate Deputy Chief, Forest Service, National Forest System
Patrick Koepele, Executive Director, Tuolumne River Trust
Michael Carlin, Deputy General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
Bob Kingman, Assistant Executive Officer, Sierra Nevada Conservancy

Join our distinguished panel for an up-to-date report on the Sierra Nevada mountains, habitats, water, rivers, trees, ground cover and the harsh economic impacts caused by fire, degradation and the cycle of climate changes. After the 2016-17 winter of rain and snowfall, where are we now in the climate cycle and the cycle of destruction, renewal and regrowth for our mountains, valleys, rivers and economies?

Image - P.J. O'Rourke

P.J. O'Rourke: Has America Gone Crazy?

Date: Mon, March 27, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Making sense of the 2016 election

P.J. O’Rourke, H.L. Mencken Research Fellow, Cato Institute; Author, How the Hell Did This Happen?: The Election of 2016; Twitter

P.J. O'Rourke says no comedian could have written the joke that the recent election cycle has been. As celebrated political satirist, journalist, and diehard Republican O’Rourke put it in his endorsement of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, “America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692.” Come hear O'Rourke's uniquely humorous take on the election, on Donald Trump (whom he calls "Landlord of the Flies") and on America in 2017.

Tue 3/28

Image - Marty Brounstein

The Courage and Compassion to Do the Right Thing

Date: Tue, March 28, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM

Marty Brounstein, Author, Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Come hear a true interfaith story of courage, compassion and rescue during the Holocaust. A Catholic couple in the Netherlands, despite great risk and danger, helped save the lives of at least two dozen Jews from certain death during World War II. Brounstein will also explain the meaningful personal connection that inspires him to tell and retell the story of their heroic actions.

Image - Chris Hayes

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: The Two Americas

Date: Tue, March 28, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
The colony and the nation

Chris Hayes, MSNBC Host, "All in with Chris Hayes"; Editor at Large, The Nation; Author, A Colony in a Nation; Twitter:

Emmy Award–winning news anchor and New York Times best-selling author Chris Hayes argues that there are really two Americas: a colony and a nation. He says America likes to tell itself that it inhabits a post-racial world, but nearly every empirical measure—wealth, unemployment, incarceration, school segregation—reveals that racial inequality hasn’t improved since 1968. Hayes contends that our country has fractured in two: the colony and the nation. In the nation, we venerate the law. In the colony, we obsess over order, fear trumps civil rights, and aggressive policing resembles occupation. He asks how and why did Americans build a system where conditions in Ferguson and West Baltimore mirror those that sparked the American Revolution? Come hear Hayes’ insights on the threats to American democracy and how to preserve justice.

Thu 3/30

Image - R. Paul Herman and Chinwe Onyeagoro

What Do Millennials Want in Their Portfolios, 401(k)s and Workplaces?

Date: Thu, March 30, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Millennials and investing

R. Paul Herman, CEO, HIP Investor Ratings + Portfolios; Author, The HIP Investor, Make Bigger Profits by Building a Better World
In conversation with Chinwe Onyeagoro, President, Great Place to Work Institute

With 70 million Millennials now the largest segment of the U.S. workforce, how do they stay satisfied in the workplace, while the company builds its bottom line? With a trust-based workplace, Millennials thrive in their jobs, while companies can also outperform financially, according to Chinwe Onyeagoro, Great Places to Work.

With a sustainable, fossil-free 401(k), Millennials are more engaged, innovative and can build a better world while saving for their future. Going beyond traditional investing, Millennials can use their forthcoming $40 trillion of inherited wealth to improve the health, wealth, earth, equality and trust of the world via their investing, according to Paul Herman, HIP Investor. Learn how to unleash the excitement of Millennials in the workplace.

R. Paul Herman is a globally recognized leader in impact investing, impact ratings and impact-themed portfolios. Herman founded HIP Investor 10 years ago to show that investments in companies that solve human, social and environmental problems can be more profitable and less risky than those that are extractive of people, natural resources and trust. HIP Investor rates more than 30,000 global issuers of stocks and bonds, and it also enables ratings of thousands of mutual funds and 401(k) plan fund choices. Herman is an alumni of Wharton, McKinsey, CSC Index, Ashoka and Omidyar Network. Herman is an advisor to SASB, Net Impact and Sustainable Brands. Herman authored The HIP Investor book, which is part of the curricula for 26 global MBA, MPA and university programs in finance, capital markets and innovation.

Chinwe Onyeagoro serves as president of Great Place to Work. She works with executives in successfully executing business strategy through developing high-trust, high performance cultures. Her executive advisory work with Great Place to Work includes multi-billion dollar technology, telecom, financial services, and bio-pharma companies. She has worked for two top management consultancies (McKinsey & Company and The Monitor Group). She serves on the boards of private equity firms and lending institutions that have invested over $1 billion in small and medium enterprises. She holds an A.B. in economics and East Asian studies from Harvard University and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Tue 4/4

Image - Grace Cathedral

Nob Hill Walking Tour

Date: Tue, April 04, 2017
Time: 1:45 PM
Walking tour

Explore one of San Francisco’s 44 hills, and one of its original “Seven Hills”. Because of great views and its central position, Nob Hill became an exclusive enclave of the rich and famous on the west coast who built large mansions in the neighborhood. This included prominent tycoons such as Leland Stanford, and other members of the Big Four. Highlights include the history of four landmark hotels: The Fairmont, Mark Hopkins, Stanford Court, and Huntington Hotel. Visit the city’s largest house of worship, Grace Cathedral, and discover architectural tidbits and anecdotes about the railroad barons and silver kings. A true San Francisco experience of elegance, urbanity, scandals and fabulous views.

Tue 4/18

Image - Krista Tippett

Krista Tippett: Heart, Mind and Spirit

Date: Tue, April 18, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Insights about living

Krista Tippett, Host, On Being; Author, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living; Twitter  
Rev. Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus, Grace Cathedral San Francisco—Moderator

Note: Each ticket comes with a copy of Krista Tippett's book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

The heart of Krista Tippett’s work on her NPR program and podcast, On Being, has been to shine a light on people whose insights kindle in us a sense of wonder and courage. She interviews a variety of people, including scientists, poets, activists and theologians from an array of faiths who have all opened themselves up to Tippett's compassionate yet searching conversations. In her latest book, Becoming Wise, Tippett distills the insights she has gleaned from these luminous conversations into a master class about living.

Join us for an enlightening discussion about her work and insights into her fiercely hopeful vision of humanity for this century.

Wed 4/19

Image - detail of book cover of Cleopatra

Humanities West Book Discussion: Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff

Date: Wed, April 19, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
The story of one of the most intriguing women in history

Join us to discuss Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer who brings to life one of the most intriguing women in human history. Though the palace of the last queen of Egypt actually did shimmer with onyx, garnets and gold, it was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Cleopatra died young, at 39, but first married two brothers, dispatching one in a brutal civil war while they were still teenagers, and poisoning the other, before eliminating a sister as well. She had a son with Julius Caesar and three children with Marc Antony, complicating but probably prolonging wealthy Egypt's fatal embrace by the relatively uncivilized Romans. In a masterly return to classical sources, Schiff boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose dramatic death ushered in a new world order. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Thu 4/20

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San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour

Date: Thu, April 20, 2017
Time: 1:45 PM
Walking tour

Explore San Francisco’s Financial District with historian Rick Evans and learn the history and stories behind some of our city’s remarkable structures, streets and public squares. Hear about the famous architects who influenced the building of San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake. Discover hard-to-find rooftop gardens, Art Deco lobbies, unique open spaces and historic landmarks. This is a tour for locals, with hidden gems you can only find on foot!