daily californian logo


Apply to The Daily Californian by September 8th!

Photo Essay: Telephone

article image



We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

NOVEMBER 18, 2021

The following project mimics the popular children’s game, Telephone. The game begins as the first player comes up with a message and whispers it to the next player. This player whispers what they’ve heard to the next player. So on and so forth until the last player is reached and the ultimate, often discombobulated, message is announced to the entire group.

This iteration of Telephone, a joint project between staff from The Daily Californian’s photo department and Weekender magazine, began with a photographer and the word “shift” and went on to traded itself between photograph and written form 12 times. The end result is the same here as it is on playgrounds and in classrooms: a collaborative message imbued with marks of its origin and the fingerprints of everyone involved.

– Lisi Ludwig, photo editor

Photo of hand reaching for a shift gear

Photo by David McAllister, Written by Lucas Yen

The weekend before I finally left for college, my brother invited me to hang out at his house for what would be the last time for at least a few months. Usually, we’d go play basketball or eat at his favorite bagel spots, but we spent that day just listening to music. For hours upon hours, I followed little pamphlets that contained all the lyrics and artwork for his favorite albums. I listened to him wax poetic about the incomparable sound quality of the vinyl records he played and reveled in the little static that filled the living room before the start of each song. As time flew by, I found myself feeling nostalgic for a time when this was the only way that people listened to music, truly hearing it. 

Of course, this makes no logical sense since I, at the ripe age of 19, barely have a recollection of using CDs, much less vinyl, and my brother, a youthful 31-year-old, grew up when records had long gone out of fashion. Yet, we don’t seem to be the only ones that get this feeling from listening to music the old-fashioned way. Last year, vinyls outsold CDs and any other physical music format in the United States for the first time since 1986. If the rise of vinyl comes purely from the nostalgia it provides, surely CDs would still outsell them. After all, CDs provide that same retro vibe, can be played in most cars, and don’t require expensive record players.

Where, then, does this nostalgia come from? And why does it only apply to certain old things?

Vinyl forces us to change the way that we consume an art form that has slowly but surely become relegated to the background. As music has become increasingly accessible, it has shifted from an art form that demands attention to a specific kind of white noise. (I’m sure that the artists that produced each instrumental on my “studying” playlist intended to convey something deeper than simply meeting my desire to drown out the noise around me.) But vinyl brings listeners back to a time when music wasn’t consumed this way. We spend our money on a physical product that comes with very carefully chosen artwork and clearly lays out each song’s lyrics. The love put into it was for a fully engaged listener; it wasn’t white noise.

I think vinyls make us feel nostalgic because we are forced to appreciate the music again. We can’t use them as a time killer when we’re stuck in traffic or as background sounds for a run. We are incentivized to actually go on the journey that the artist has already created for us. Music becomes art instead of sound.

Perhaps I’m thinking too deeply about this issue. Maybe humans just have a tendency to think old things are neat. Maybe music nerds love the sound quality of records as opposed to digital audio files. Maybe hipsters just like the old-school aesthetic. Maybe vinyls have had a resurgence because of some combination of all three. 

But, maybe, just maybe, vinyls are one more way that humans are reminding themselves to slow down and appreciate the beauty that other humans are capable of creating. Personally, I’d like to think the latter is true. In our fast-paced, constantly moving world, we could all use more ways to stop and smell the roses, or listen to the music, as it were.

Photo of a record player playing an LP
Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm, Written by Eriko Yamakuma

Scrolling down my Instagram feed, a picture of vivid-colored plastic records, yellow and blue with a red label in the center, caught my eye. It’s the singer Kacey Musgraves’ account, promoting her new album Star-Crossed that just came out. Of the many songs I love on the album, one of my favorites is “Simple Times.” It reminds me of the time when everything seemed clear-cut and just simpler.

I didn’t know back then, but high school was one of my simple times. 

Instead of engaging in real relationships, I had numerous crushes in high school — mostly online — that filled my endless imagination, and to avoid real, cumbersome relationships, I could always use my studies as an excuse. Talking hours with my best friends about their past experiences, ideal dates and dream relationships while nibbling fried chicken at McDonald’s was my respite. A simple obsession with romanticizing romance, instead of knowing more about myself through becoming vulnerable and getting hurt, was enough for me at the time, and movies only made it worse.

Infatuated by the film “La La Land,” I knew I was going to attend college in California no matter what; that was my one and only goal. I believed that everything would be better once I got in — I could get out of the constraint of the small, secluded country of Japan where hypercompetitiveness and strong peer pressure pervade, and I could finally be free to pursue my passion, whatever that is. Just that simple obsession over the alternative was enough to get me through the stressful time. With that promise of the American dream, I could bear 14 hours of studying, or numerous discouragements saying that I was reaching too high.

Living my dream college life at Berkeley now, however, things are a little bit more complicated — not as simple as I pictured back then. Garbage lying around on the streets and widespread homelessness around campus reveal the empty promise of the American dream. The freedom I aspired to so much, instead of liberating me, now pressures me. With too many options and no clear guidelines, I am still soul searching for what kind of person I want to be, and the passion I want to pursue.

I often struggle with making real connections when useful qualities such as accomplishments on resumes or number of cars somehow determine people’s worth. Numerous polite yet superficial small talks, which every time end up with phoney compliments and empty promises, can grow old. Even if you manage to get into a relationship, it could be with the wrong person, where you only get mistreated and left with a shattered heart. I sometimes wish I could put this game on pause and step away, before I go insane. 

In those times, however, I intentionally make an effort to go back to the simple times. 

One weekday, my friend and I randomly decided to go catch a movie, “Star-Crossed: The Film,” in San Francisco. Leaving loads of work behind, that weekday getaway gave me an old feeling, somewhat nostalgic of high school days. It was like those times when, pretending that I caught a cold, I snuck out of class early to hang out with friends at the mall; or when we exchanged silly caricatures of teachers during class, trying so hard to hold back a giggle; or when I munched on my favorite chocolate snacks while hiding in the corner of the classroom. Thinking back, I realize that these occasional, intentional mischiefs set me free. 

Though college may no longer be like those simple times, we can revive them with effort, much like bringing back old records and refurbishing them with new designs, or putting trendy lyrics on old beats.

Being a grown-up kind of sucks, but in 10 years or so, I may be missing it now — thinking that it was the simple times.

Photo of two people sitting

Photo of students browsing jewelry down Telegraph Avenue
Photos by Antonio Martin, Written by Kat Shok

Carey stands at the door, staring it down. Mask in one hand, wallet and keys in the other, Carey stands and stares at it. The muffled sounds of a resuscitated bustling city worm their way into their apartment decorated with hand sanitizer bottles and abandoned crochet projects. The walls really aren’t that thick.

Carey keeps on staring at it as if their eyes could turn the handle and carry their anxiously antisocial body outside. I wish I could change gracefully, they think. It was all just very sudden, no transition at all between the pandemic-stricken ghost town to the sidewalks, streets and halls choked with people, backpacks taking up extra space, elbows and knees bumping into Hydroflasks and athletes towing enormous electric scooters.

After being told to take space, wander grocery stores layered in protective gear and turn cameras on for meetings, Casey found that their introverted tendencies gained agoraphobic, hypochondriac hues. The advent of self-checkout at Safeway was a real moment for them — they’re not ready to go back to casual forced conversations at the counter, in lecture halls or god forbid on the street. 

Damn, I guess we’re back? We’re back, alright.

So take some baby steps, Carey says to themself. Push through it. They fix their eyes back on the door. Strike a power stance. Wallet and keys in pockets. AirPods in ears, ready to ward off social interaction. Hand toward the door handle, on the handle, turning it.

They slap their mask on their face and forget how far downtown actually is. Sweating when they get there, Carey marches around circles of friends and couples holding hands, taking up the sidewalks. Their eyes awkwardly lock with passersby — how much eye contact is too much eye contact? Tripping over a crack on the sidewalk, their knee rams into the corner of a street vendor’s table, sending handmade wire earrings sailing through the air. 

Cursing in their head, Carey makes definitely too much eye contact with the vendor. The vendor is angrily squinting and starts shaking their hands at them in time with “Plastic Hearts” by Miley Cyrus blasting through their AirPods. Carey’s head begins pounding, blood starts rushing and face continues sweating.

He’s asking Carey a question; a group of kids stares at them. Carey stutters ad nauseam. Picking up a few pretty pairs off of the asphalt, they spit a swallowed ‘sorry’ into their mask before forcing themself through the crowd.

Carey’s face is sweaty; their mask is doing that thing where it puffs up a little bit when they let out rushed gasps, lungs grasping for any air to carry their feet faster through this populated, vaccinated, freed city to literally any bit of open, lonely space.

A hand kind of grabs their shoulder and asks, “Hey, is this your wallet?”

A wheezy gasp escapes Carey at the casual touch. 

A mask-covered face with concerned eyes repeats their question. Carey nods, too vigorously. An AirPod decides this moment is too awkward for them and drops out of their ear.  

“Sorry about the jewelry guy. He didn’t need to yell like that.”

Their words comfort Carey in that uniquely validating way only the words of a stranger off of the street can. Yeah, that guy didn’t need to yell like that. 

The stranger asks Carey for directions — they’re a freshman, new in town — and I point them in the right way. We’re headed in the same direction, so we walk a couple of blocks together. Yeah, there are so many different restaurants downtown. Yeah, I have been to the botanical garden — it’s worth the trek. Yeah, I’ve liked it here. Yeah, I’m so behind too.

Photo of an individual, holding a phone, looking to cross the street
Photo by Sunny Shen, Written by Saya Abney

I love the feeling of being alone in a crowd.

My freshman year at UC Berkeley was a big culture shock for me. I grew up going to small suburban schools in the south, so moving to the Bay Area to go to a large public university was about as different a scene as I could get. That was the idea, though; I always intended to go back home after undergrad, so I wanted to get out and experience something different after high school.

I didn’t have much free time in high school — I spent every spare moment on my extracurriculars and schoolwork. Even if I had the time, I’ve never been a very extroverted nor social person and wasn’t the type to get out much.

Freshman year didn’t turn me into an extrovert, but I started keeping an eye out for something to do outside my apartment. In fall 2018, my first semester, that something to do ended up being a string of concerts by my favorite up-and-coming musicians.

I’d never really gone out on my own before, so for my first concert, I found another Berkeley freshman to go with. The concert was in San Francisco, so we shared an Uber there and back. I had a great time, but the process of finding someone and keeping up with them throughout the concert was awkward. I figured the next time I would just try going on my own.

From then on, once a month or so I would go alone to see a concert in Berkeley, Oakland or San Francisco. To get to San Francisco, I would take BART, before walking or taking a bus to get to the venue. While venturing out alone was intimidating at first, it was well worth it for me; those were some of the most exhilarating nights of my life.

There’s a certain freedom to going out on your own. Although, of course, there is more risk to being out alone at night, spending focus on being aware of my surroundings (and my Google Maps directions) isn’t as tiring for me as keeping up a conversation with a near-stranger concert buddy.

And there’s nothing like being able to lose yourself in the crush of bodies, melted from the solitude of traveling alone into the mass consciousness of a concert crowd. Sharing a moment that intimate with a roomful of strangers, knowing you will likely never see or recognize them again, is liberating and thrilling.

Coming down from that high to the quiet of the streets after dark offers a different kind of solitude. No longer tense and alert, there is little to listen to but your breath as the leftover euphoria of shared energy and humanity warms you against the chilled night air.

Photo of an individual walking down a street at night

Photo by Vanessa Lim, Written by Anusha Subramanian

I’m the hand at every traffic light, holding up a red palm, attempting to stop Time as it jaywalks towards me. More please, I demand silently. I haven’t finished everything I wanted to accomplish — sometimes, it feels like I haven’t even started. You’re early, I beseech it. I was robbed of a year, you see. A year’s worth of strolls down Telegraph Avenue; of popping into shops that now lie shuttered; of eating inside old haunts instead of building personal takeout box towers. For a year we lived while Time vacationed. Paused and absent. And now that Time has resumed, now that it meanders through campus again, vicious and unrelenting, dragging everything caught in its gelatinous flow to inevitable goodbyes — why should it be allowed to gloss over the lost year? Time forgets its creators, even though it cannot survive without its architects. I would rewrite the calendar to start over. Is that not the very definition of taking control of destiny? Wait for me to give you the green light, I want to say. Wait for the flood of confused traffic at the intersections to ebb away. Wait for us to grip the fabric of reality again before you coat the last 365 days like varnish and seal them off. The world watches Time as it walks unheeded, and there’s not a sign in the universe that could break its step. You compel me to romanticize the mundane — the everyday occurrences that strip our daily routines of their banality. That iced coffee when I’m trying to elude your will to make me productive. The Sundays that I spend in bed, ignoring the stinging alarm, heralding your insistence. The nights I take a longer route home to finish that extra song — the bags under my eyes marking your displeasure with me. The illusion of your stagnation as I disappear into a novel. But you’re always there. Lurking on the edges, bookkeeping, Venmo-charging me for every minute I’ve borrowed to indulge myself. How extraordinary would it be if only the rest of life could run on Berkeley Time — we’d have all we need.

Photo of a bicycle on the highest balcony of a building

Photo by Kat Shok, Written by Xuan Lee

to be a bicycle seeking the sky — a creature of the land dreaming of the clouds. to look up into the bright blue and wonder what it must be like to glide through the air, wheels spinning, or perhaps not, since there is little friction to be felt. to be parked on the highest balcony of a building, close but so far away, yearning for the expanse in sight but barely out of reach.

to be a bicycle far from the ground — a creature of the land forgotten on the fourth floor. 

to look down onto the sidewalk and remember what it was like to hurtle down the pavement, wheels spinning, the friction between tarmac and rubber a fulfilling burn. and then, suddenly, to be parked on the highest balcony of a building, craving for familiarity, so close but far away, in sight but barely out of reach.

to be in the in-between — never in one box or another, a solitary existence between states, living in a permanent twilight.

to worry about and aspire to the future, to be weary of and pine for the past. to never know where you really belong.

Contact Daily Cal Staff at 


JANUARY 02, 2023