Upcoming Events

Mon 10/24

Humanities West Book Discussion: The World of Yesterday, by Stefan Zweig

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM
Portrait of an era

Join us to discuss Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday. Written as both a recollection of the past and a warning for future generations, it recalls the golden age of literary Vienna—its seeming permanence, its promise and its devastating fall. Surrounded by the leading literary lights of the epoch, Zweig draws a vivid and intimate account of his life and travels through Vienna, Paris, Berlin and London, touching on the very heart of European culture. His passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the edge of extinction. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Image - David Bodanis

Einstein's Greatest Mistake

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Just how great could Einstein have been?

David Bodanis, Author, Einstein's Greatest Mistake

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

David Bodanis, best-selling author of E=mc2, has written a brisk, accessible biography of Albert Einstein that reveals his genius and his hubris. Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity. Yet in the final decades of his life he was also ignored by most scientists. Bodanis explains how Einstein’s imagination and self-confidence led to his early successes, but when it came to newer revelations in quantum mechanics, those same traits undermined his quest for the ultimate truth. Einstein’s conviction in his own intuition proved to be his ultimate undoing.

An intimate and enlightening biography of the celebrated physicist, Einstein’s Greatest Mistake reveals how much we owe Einstein today—and how much more he might have achieved.

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Socrates Café

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

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. 

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How to Make a Spaceship! (without NASA)

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
The private space race is on!

Julian Guthrie, Journalist; Author, How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight
Mike Melvill, World's First Commercial Astronaut
Matt Stinemetze, Engineer and Project Manager, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne
Erik Lindbergh, Grandson of Aviators Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Supporter of Private Race to Space
Brian Hackney, Electrical Engineer and Meteorologist, KPIX-TV CBS San Francisco—Moderator

Virgin founder Richard Branson said of Guthrie’s book, “This tells of a turning point in history, when entrepreneurs were offered the chance to do something only governments had done before. Whether you are 9 years old or 99, this inspiring tale will capture your imagination.”

Come meet the band of renegades who launched the private race to space, and the scrappy engineers and pilots who set out to win the $10 million prize offered to the first team that could build and fly a rocket to the start of space without the government's help. This is the entrepreneurial adventure story of Peter Diamandis, the XPRIZE, SpaceShipOne, and the other teams in the hunt. The winning of the XPRIZE wasn’t just a victory for one team; it was the foundation for a new industry and a new age—SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic. It is about dreamers and doers, and making the impossible possible.

Tue 10/25

Image - Candice Shy Hooper

Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War, for Better and for Worse

Date: Tue, October 25, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Influencing history

Candice Shy Hooper, Author, Lincoln's Generals' Wives

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

The story of the American Civil War isn’t complete without examining the extraordinary lives of Jessie Fremont, Nelly McClellan, Ellen Sherman, and Julia Grant, who were their husbands’ closest confidantes and had a profound impact on their ambitions and actions. Once shots were fired on Fort Sumter, the women were launched into a new world, where their relationships with their husbands and their personal opinions of the president of the United States had national and historical consequences. Using letters, memoirs, and photographs—and for the first time, maps of the women’s wartime travels—Hooper reveals how these four generals’ wives powerfully influenced our history.

Wed 10/26

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Senator Barbara Boxer: The Art of Tough

Date: Wed, October 26, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Senator Boxer's secret to success

Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator (D-California); Author, The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life; Twitter
Holly Kernan, Executive Editor, News, KQED—Moderator

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

"One goal of this memoir is to inspire people to fight for change. It takes what I call the Art of Tough and I've had to do it all my life." —Senator Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer has made her mark, combining compassionate advocacy with scrappiness in a political career spanning more than three decades. Now, retiring from the Senate, she continues the work to which she's dedicated 30 years in Congress. Her memoir, The Art of Tough, shares her provocative and touching recollections of service, and cements her commitment to the fight for women, families, quality, and environmental protection—all in a peaceful world.

Sometimes lauded, sometimes vilified, but always standing tough, Boxer has fought for her values even when her personal convictions conflicted with her party or the majority rule.

Image - Tom Stienstra

Tom Stienstra: The Mighty T, from Glacier to Golden Gate

Date: Wed, October 26, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Meet the nation's most-award winning outdoors writer

Tom Stienstra, Outdoors Writer, San Francisco Chronicle

America's best-known outdoors man and the SF Chronicle outdoors editor (lucky us), Stienstra will share dramatic photos, videos and stories from his expedition to climb the Lyell Glacier in Yosemite National Park, where he traces the melting drops of water to the Tuolumne River en route to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. His expedition is the storyline for national PBS showing that will air in the late fall.

Stienstra is the nation's only four-time winner of the OWAA President's Award, National Outdoor Writer of the Year, and only the fourth living member inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame

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Robert Lang: Origami — Between the Folds of Art and Technology

Date: Wed, October 26, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Science meets art

Roberg Lang, Origami Artist; Physicist

Origami is the centuries-old Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures. Lang, a world-renowned origami artist, has taken this traditional art form one step further.

Lang is one of the pioneers of cross-disciplinary origami that combines mathematics, science, technology, engineering and design with origami. His applications have been used on medical devices, air bag designs and expandable space telescopes.

With 50 patents awarded and pending on semiconductor lasers, optics and integrated optoelectronics, Lang has more than 500 designs catalogued and diagrammed and his artwork has been shown around the world in exhibits at the MoMA in New York, Carrousel du Louvre in Paris and the Nippon Museum of Origami in Japan.

Hear more about the blending of art and technology what drives him to create such inspirational masterpieces.

Thu 10/27

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San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour

Date: Thu, October 27, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM
Explore San Francisco's Financial District

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 that 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!

Image - Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard: Founding Patagonia and Living Simply

Date: Thu, October 27, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Tales of an eco-friendly businessman

Yvon Chouinard, Founder, Patagonia, Inc.; Author, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

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

Chouinard is a legendary climber, surfer and environmentalist. He is also the reluctant entrepreneur who founded Patagonia, Inc., one of the most respected eco- and socially conscious companies in the world.

To celebrate the re-release of his best selling memoir, Chouinard recounts his early days of selling climbing equipment out of his car and explains how that led to accidentally creating a multi-million dollar sporting goods company committed to environmentally responsible design and production.

Through Patagonia he has led the way with innovations in organic cotton, sustainable wool and traceable down. However, Chouinard has not been limited by textiles. He has also created a venture fund called 20 million & Change and spun out Patagonia Provisions, reflecting his belief that food and agriculture will help solve our biggest environmental challenges.

As companies and consumers seek a more sustainable economy, Chouinard will discuss how entrepreneurs can create greatness and achieve net positive social impact at a point where doing less-bad is no longer good enough.

Fri 10/28

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Joel McHale Live

Date: Fri, October 28, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
"The Soup" and "Community" star

Joel McHale, Actor; Author, Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be

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

Joel McHale is one of America’s favorite funny men, from "Community" and "The Soup" to sold-out stand-up comedy shows, and he’s ready to let INFORUM behind the scenes of the comedic life. His brand-new memoir Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be, is part memoir, part “self-help” book, and all hilarious.

Thanks for the Money covers Joel’s ascent to fame, insider celeb secrets, tongue-in-cheek tips for becoming Joel, and more, plus graphics and charts to give you a truly illustrated perspective on it all.

Whether you want to know if there’s an upcoming "Community" movie starring Joel as Jeff Winger, or are dying to know what pop culture gossip never made it on to "The Soup," get your tickets now!

Mon 10/31

Image - Map of the Middle East

Middle East Forum Discussion

Date: Mon, October 31, 2016
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 more than eight years. We are not a debate group; we are a discussion group.

Tue 11/1

Image - A Place to Call Home

A Place to Call Home

Date: Tue, November 01, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Part of the People, Power, Place series, which addresses access and equity in the Bay Area

Gloria Bruce, Executive Director, East Bay Housing Organizations
Xavier de Souza Briggs, Vice President for Economic Opportunity and Markets, Ford Foundation
Tomiquia Moss, Chief of Staff, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
Tony Salazar, President, West Coast Operations, McCormack Baron Salazar
Joshua Johnson, Creator/Host, "Truth Be Told," KQED Radio; Lecturer, U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism—Moderator

Sponsored by the San Francisco Foundation as part of the People, Power, Place Series, which addresses access and equity in the Bay Area.

The Bay Area is in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis. The way that we deal with this crisis will have repercussions for generations to come. Across the Bay Area, everyone is feeling the effects, but none more than the 1 million working families—predominantly people of color—living below the poverty line. Without significant coordinated intervention, the housing crisis threatens to displace more than 1.5 million people in the Bay Area and erode the diversity, cultural vitality and spirit that make the Bay Area a successful, prosperous and resilient region.

Despite the obvious challenges, there is growing awareness among elected officials, policymakers, business leaders and the general public of the magnitude of the region’s housing crisis, and we have seen significant willingness among all of these groups to take action.

In this forum, we will hear from experts in government, the housing industry, and the nonprofit community about how to ensure that all residents in the Bay Area have a safe, affordable place to call home.

The San Francisco Foundation

Image - Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel: Greed, Murder, and Arson in California's Vineyards

Date: Tue, November 01, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Time for wine crime

Frances Dinkelspiel, Author, Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California

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

In 2005 a massive warehouse fire broke out in Vallejo, destroying 4.5 million bottles of California’s finest wine. The damage came out to be $250 million, making it the largest destruction of wine in history, and it included priceless bottles of Port and Angelica made by Dinkelspiel’s great-great grandfather. An investigation revealed that the fire was deliberately set by Mark Anderson, a skilled con man and thief. What’s even harder to believe is this wasn’t the first time wine was at the center of crime and destruction.

Dinkelspiel traces the history of California wine and unravels this story of greed, violence and obsession.

Wed 11/2

What's Next for Diridon Station?

Date: Wed, November 02, 2016
Time: 12:30 PM
Building a transportation hub

Melissa DuMond, Director of Planning and Integration, California High-Speed Rail Authority
Leyla Hedayat, Project Manager, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
Jessica Zenk, Associate Transportation Specialist, City of San Jose

More than $8 billion in transportation investments will turn Diridon Station into one of the most-connected places in the country, but in order to start running BART trains by 2025 and high-speed rail by 2029, plans will have to move quickly. Decisions made in the next several months will shape the South Bay for the next century.

Learn more about what is in the works for this crucial hub.

Image - David Knitter

How to Protect Against Financial Elder Abuse

Date: Wed, November 02, 2016
Time: 5:15 PM
Identifying and avoiding threats

David G. Knitter, Attorney; Member, Executive Committee for the Trusts and Estates Section, State Bar of California; Past President, Solano County Bar Association

David Knitter, the chair of the Educating Seniors Project of the State Bar of California, has deep experience with elders and their adult children, and he has trained attorneys to identify elder financial abuse and pursue remedies when abuse occurs. Learn from him how to protect yourself or elder family members from becoming the victim of financial elder abuse.

The presentation will also provide tips on how to identify who the abusers are and determine whether elder financial abuse may be occurring.

Image - Chef Jeremiah Tower

Chef Jeremiah Tower: How to Behave in the Modern World and Why Bother?

Date: Wed, November 02, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
An Elements of Style for the table

Jeremiah Tower, Chef; Author, Table Manners: How to Behave in the Modern World and Why Bother; Twitter
In conversation with Amanda Haas, Culinary Director, Williams-Sonoma

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

Jeremiah Tower was a founding chef in the 1970s at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant and is widely credited as one of the creators of both New American Cuisine and California Cuisine. In 1984, Tower opened his own restaurant, Stars, in San Francisco. It was an overnight sensation and fostered the careers of numerous American chefs, including Mark Franz, Mario Batali, Tim Grable, Emily Luchetti and Jerry Traunfeld. The restaurant was among the top-grossing restaurants in the United States for close to a decade. Tower went on to win a James Beard Award as the best chef in America, hosted a PBS Series and opened restaurants in Singapore and Hong Kong. He holds a degree in architecture from Harvard.

Come hear his both witty and serious thoughts on manners in 2016—at the dinner party, the bar or in your own home. Tower has advice on everything: food allergies, RSVPs, iPhones, running late, thank-yous, restaurant etiquette, even what to do when you are served something disgusting.

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Ben Franklin Circles

Date: Wed, November 02, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Bringing people together to discuss pressing philosophical & ethical issues

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").

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

Image - John A. Gunn

The Secret Sauce of Dodge & Cox's Investment Strategy

Date: Wed, November 02, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Gunn's secrets of investment success

John A. Gunn, Chairman Emeritus, Dodge & Cox

John Gunn has been described as the Warren Buffet of the Bay Area. The extraordinarily successful firm of Dodge & Cox has had terrific investment performance, typically shuns publicity, and holds more than $270 billion in assets.

What lessons did Gunn learn managing this remarkable growth? What do we need to keep in mind? It is a rare treat that John has agreed to be in conversation with Bruce Raabe, a member of the Club’s Board of Governors and the president of Relevant Wealth Advisors.

This program includes complimentary light hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar from 7-7:40.

Thu 11/3

Image - Adam Gazzaley

The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World

Date: Thu, November 03, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D., Professor in Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry, University of California San Francisco; Founding Director, Neuroscience Imaging Center, Neuroscape Lab and the Gazzaley Lab; Co-founder and Chief Science Advisor, Akili Interactive; Co-founder and Chief Scientist, JAZZ Venture Partners; Co-author, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World

We are living in extraordinary times. Rapid advances in information technology continuously transform our lives in countless ways. But we are now aware that our increasingly information-saturated world, coupled with growing expectations of constant availability and immediate responsiveness, can place excessive demands on our brains. The consequences can include detrimental effects on our safety, education, workplace and relationships with family and friends. Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist and trailblazer in the study of how our brains process information, will take us on a journey into how and why we struggle with interruptions and distractions that emerge from both our inner and outer worlds.

He will present a unique evolutionary perspective that the very essence of what has evolved in our brains to make us most human—our ability to set high-level goals —collides head-first with our brain’s fundamental limitations in cognitive control. He will conclude by offering practical strategies for modifying our behavior, as well as sharing his lab's latest innovations in enhancing our brain's function, so that we can better survive and thrive in the information age.