The Hammer Channel at UCLA

On May 5, 2021, The Hammer Museum at UCLA launched a new website, Hammer Channel, offering more than a thousand conversations with artists, writers, filmmakers, scholars, scientists, activists and more. New programs will be added weekly as part of the Hammer’s decades-long commitment to presenting programs on topics ranging from politics and current events to literary readings to film screenings and artist talks.

Hammer Channel offers innovative tools to search, clip, and share not only the programs themselves but precise moments within. Support for Hammer Channel is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Organized much like a streaming service, Hammer Channel offers a wide variety of video content organized by categories including art, social justice, film, books, politics, the environment and more. Hammer Channel’s powerful search allows users not only to search by topic or title, but within transcripts of the videos themselves. A search for a person or topic will include results in which that term is discussed during a program — and will bring users to the very moment within that video when the term was used. Full transcripts are included with every video, allowing for greater accessibility and searchability. Additionally, Hammer Channel’s unique clipping tool allows users to create and share clips of their favorite moments within a program. Hammer Channel was developed in collaboration with digital agency Cogapp.

As part of the Mellon-funded project, the underlying source code and technical documentation is available on the open-source platform GitHub. The complexity and cost of developing digital tools and systems can be a major barrier for museums and other nonprofit organizations; by providing documentation of the Hammer Channel to open-source communities, other institutions worldwide may adopt, adapt, and advance their own initiatives.

The Hammer Museum has been broadcasting its programs online since 2014. As the global COVID-19 pandemic forced museums to close in 2020, the Hammer quickly shifted its programs fully online, presenting tours, conversations, screenings and more every week. Since April 2020, the Hammer has presented more than 140 programs online, viewed live by more than 45,000 people worldwide, plus tens of thousands more views after the fact. Hammer Channel offers a convenient and comprehensive site for viewers to experience the Hammer Museum’s variety of offerings, whether catching up with the most recent program or taking a deep dive into a particular subject.

Artists featured on Hammer Channel include Laurie Anderson, John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, rafa esparza, Charles Gaines, Theaster Gates, Lauren Halsey, Sarah Lucas, Catherine Opie, Charles Ray, Pedro Reyes, Ed Ruscha and Kara Walker. Past programs on topics such as the environment, immigration, anti-racism, and other current events include panelists such as Vice President Al Gore, Congressman Ted Lieu, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, Anita Hill, Ibram X. Kendi, Naomi Klein and others. Hammer Channel also includes conversations and readings by writers such as Joan Didion, Roxane Gay, Joy Harjo, Sadiya Hartman, Stan Lee, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Tara Westover. Conversations with Academy Award-winning actors and filmmakers include Bong Joon-Ho, Werner Herzog, Steve McQueen, Lupita Nyong’o, Jordan Peele, Quentin Tarantino, Olivia Wilde and more.

Remembering Michael Williams

Sunrise: March 22, 1946 – Sunset: December 13, 2020

We are saddened to share that our dear friend Michael Williams passed away in December of 2020.

The story of Mike Williams’ long career and service at UCLA is one of friendship, inspiration, work ethic, support of athletics, and enrichment of the UCLA Extension work experience. Everybody knew Mike. His presence was large at UCLA just like his heart. Mike always offered kindness, friendship, camaraderie, and passion.

Sometimes you would see him at Stan’s Donuts before work. You might bump into him in the hallway of the Extension building. He became an iconic member of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a daily presence in the lounge, in the hallways of the UCLA Extension building, and in OLLI courses.

From participating in class discussions to spontaneously providing expert IT/AV support services if needed, he found joy both as a student and instructor in the program. It was not unusual to see him share a meal with Osher colleagues or former UCLA Extension workmates who continued to seek out his company. Mike touched us all at UCLA.

His time at UCLA Extension spanned decades – from the sixties to the present. He not only touched UCLA Extension, but he also reached thousands at athletic events when, as a volunteer, he provided countless years of support for John Wooden at Bruin basketball games. From employee to retiree, Mike continued to touch colleagues and friends.

He was admired for his dedication and care for his family and community. His honesty and frankness were exemplary and an inspiration. He was always giving back and his heart guided him to help others.

It is not often we get to experience such a dedicated and inspirational colleague and we are humbled that he was part of our UCLA family.

The OLLI at UCLA scholarship program, which was launched in summer 2019, has been renamed The Michael Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund. Help us reach new audiences and increase our program’s diversity. We encourage you to share this scholarship opportunity with those who are not familiar with OLLI or with those who have been unable to participate due to financial limitations. To contribute to the Michael Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund, click here.



Two years ago, Mike asked me to create and develop a Black cinema course with him. I hesitated because I had little knowledge about that particular area of film, but he persuaded me, and thus began a partnership. For two years – and two courses – we crafted a cinema series for Black History month that sought to educate Osher members about important African-American films and their impact on and relevance to U.S. society. Mike enthusiastically recruited students for the courses and provided the class with unique insights to each of the movies viewed. He brought richness and depth to the courses, and I will miss working with him. – Maria Siciliano, OLLI Instructor


Mike Williams was a gentle-man. A kind, caring individual who possessed extraordinary “people-skills” that made him a treasure to know. After he completed military service, he found his way to UCLA. He became a full-time employee of the Audio-Visual department. He had not had the opportunity or the resources to go to college but he found much of what he was looking for at UCLA. He consumed class after class either as a student or later as a volunteer providing support and guidance to (often challenged) Extension instructors – like myself – operating A-V equipment and later dealing with The Land of Zoom. It was in this Godfather role that I first met Mike. He had the patience of Job quietly and always calmly moving me slowly along the path of basic technical competence. My courses in Extension cover Jazz Appreciation and History…a subject that Mike loved and led to a number of concert events and dinners shared with his wife Armerilyn and daughter, Jamie. Being able to call Mike a friend was special… very special. Call it Mike’s good karma or just my extremely good fortune. He deserves to be remembered. – Pat Collins, OLLI Instructor


There were so many times in my classes–many of which he audited–he’d save the day either through by fixing technical malfunctions of tired equipment, or my technical ineptitude, not to mention his sweet, kind congeniality, his enthusiastic, up-beat enthusiasm about OLLI and UCLA generally, and his readiness to help. – Carlo Coppola, OLLI Instructor


OLLI Instructor Beverly Olevin Writes Play for Zoom

OLLI Instructor Beverly Olevin Writes Play for Zoom

Live theater has gone quiet since the beginning of the pandemic. For now, audiences cannot sit together and enjoy the unique intimate experience that theater offers. Beverly Olevin, a playwright and theatrical director, who has been teaching The Play’s The Thing for OLLI @ UCLA for 15 years, has been challenged to bring the world of theater to Osher members via Zoom. Prior to the pandemic, she brought professional actors into the classroom to perform scenes. To see what could be done to engage an audience virtually, Beverly wrote a ten-minute play designed for Zoom. Take a look!

Marc and Beverly Olevin on Zoom

Beverly and Marc Olevin are honored to be be instructors for the OLLI program. Beverly’s area of expertise is theater and the arts, while Marc’s expertise is the history of science. Though their fields are different, they have a shared desire to present stimulating ideas that inspire reflection and interesting conversation. This coming winter 2021, Beverly will teach The Plays the Thing, featuring local actors doing live performances on Zoom as well as filmed versions of stage productions. Marc will teach Evolution of Science, Part 3.

OLLI Instructor Roy Meals Publishes Book on Bones

Orthopedic surgeon, Roy A. Meals, is an OLLI instructor who teaches the annual course, All About Bone. Early in his career, he developed a deep respect for human bone, especially for “its amazing constitution and the way it grows and heals.” So when he proposed his OLLI course in June 2017, he said teaching about bone would be a way to help him write a book about bone, a project he said he had been drafting in his head for more than 40 years.

We are happy to announce that his long-awaited book, Bones: Inside and Out, will be published this October. The book, like his course, details bone maladies and treatments as well as the second life of bones and how paleontologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists use bone to interpret Earth’s history.

In the book’s first section, Bone Concealed, Dr. Meals demystifies how bones grow, break, and heal and compares the particulars of human bone to variations throughout the animal kingdom. He illustrates common bone diseases, like osteoporosis and arthritis, and their treatments. Along the way, he highlights the medical innovations—from the first X-rays to advanced operative techniques—that enhance our lives and introduces the giants of orthopedic surgery who developed them.

In the book’s second section, Bone Revealed, he describes how bone influences paleontology, anthropology, religion, art, and popular culture. Examples range from Adam’s rib to Hamlet’s skull, and he uncovers their enduring presence as fossils, technological tools, and musical instruments ranging from the Tibetan thighbone kangling trumpet to everyday drumsticks.

Dr. Meals confirmed that writing his book while preparing his course helped him look at the organization and content of both from different perspectives:

For instance, the two forms differ in length and supplemental images. I found that working on one improved the logic and clarity of the other. The OLLI members’ questions and insights were particularly helpful in those regards. Most importantly, finishing the book became much easier after teaching the OLLI course because I had that audience in mind as I mentally continued our conversation.

I asked Dr. Meals what inspired him to research and write about the second life of bones. He said his inspiration began at an early age while growing up in Shawnee Mission, Kansas:

While on grade school and Cub Scout trips to the nearby Methodist Indian mission, I learned about the culture of the Plains Indians and saw how they repurposed bone for hunting, plant propagation, food preparation, adornment, and entertainment. In recent years, I have thoroughly enjoyed renewing and intensifying my interest in indigenous cultures and understanding their novel and myriad ways of crafting bone.

Remarkable discoveries have turned up not only at anthropology and natural history museums but also in public and private collections including those devoted to musical instruments, medicine, fine art, and the whaling industry. For example, the Channel Islands Maritime Museum has a collection of exquisitely crafted, highly detailed ship models that French prisoners made from soup bones during the Napoleonic Wars. As a result of so many serendipitous finds, I have become a museum fanatic. I try to visit as many as I can wherever I go, and it is rare that I cannot not find something of interest related to bones. I guess that should not surprise me since bone is so durable and ubiquitous. Nonetheless, I’m always excited to add facts to my collection.

Bones: Inside and Out launches October 20, 2020 and is available at these stores:


Mary Ann Wilson, Program Coordinator

Osher Members Try their Hand at Writing a Libretto

For those who are not opera aficionados, an opera’s words are called its libretto. Osher instructor Gordon Williams is not only a writer and speaker on music, but an opera librettist. He wrote the libretto for Journey to Horseshoe Bend, a dramatic-cantata composed by Andrew Schultz and presented at Sydney Opera House by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2003. He also devised new dialogue for the Sydney Symphony’s first performance in 160 years of Don John of Austria, and produced Darwin Theatre Group’s ensemble-piece Dust-Off Vietnam, for which he was also a playwright and actor.

Gordon wanted to facilitate a discussion group that would reveal how librettos help a composer composes. So in the spring of 2020, he taught the course, The Libretto: The Unsung Hero of Opera. His students examined Salvadore Cammarano’s libretto for Lucia di Lammermoor, Piave’s libretto for Rigoletto, as well as Illica and Giacosa’s libretti for La Boheme and Tosca. They also looked at operas derived from preexisting plays, such as Oscar Wilde’s Salomé and Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande, as well as the instructor’s libretto for Journey to Horseshoe Bend, which was derived from a novel.

But the real treat for his students was the opportunity to create their own libretto from current events. One student, Audrey Kopp, wrote text expressing frustration that comes with social distancing and the strange times we’re living in currently. When listening to the piece, you’ll notice that it has a Bach-like sound. According to Mr. Williams, this decision was inspired by a suggestion that a fellow student made that the coronavirus opera use some of Bach’s music.

Gordon’s hope was that “class members would gain an understanding of the libretto of an opera as being much more important than people realize; that they’d see the extent to which it’s an engine. So, I figured that rather than just examining how Piave or Boito worked with Verdi or Hofmannsthal with Strauss, the class could write a libretto.”

We’ve included “No more living in fear” for you to enjoy.


2020 Election Preview Podcast

Bob Stern with guest speaker, Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program, The 2020 Election Preview: From Presidential Candidates to California’s Ballot Measure Elections, led by Robert Stern, JD, former President of the Center for Governmental Studies, explores the impact of the upcoming 2020 election cycle.

With the California primary date moved from June to March—on Super Tuesday, March 3, California now gets a slice of early-state action. The course delves into the fast-approaching 2020 California March primary as well as the November 2020 election choices.

Listen to the six podcasts featuring guests speakers from politics, media, public interest, as they share their insights on the upcoming 2020 election –

Week One: Kathay Feng, Common Cause National Redistricting Director

Week Two: Alex Padilla, CA Secretary of State

Week Three: Rober Naylor, former CA Republican Legislative Leader

Week Four: Conan Nolan, political reporter for over 30 years with NBC4 News

Week Five: Barry Fadem is President of National Popular Vote and a member of the Board of Directors.

Shakari Byerly is a Partner and Principal Researcher at EVITARUS a public opinion research organization

Free Event: Author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life

Dr. Suzuki, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at NYU, will talk about her international bestselling book, Healthy Brain, Happy Life that tells her story of her own transformation through exercise and offers practical and fascinating ways to improve memory, engage the brain more deeply, and create a way of living that is good for the body and the brain.

Dr. Suzuki will also discuss the groundbreaking work of her mentor, Professor Marian Diamond, who was the first to demonstrate that the adult brain can grow and change, now referred to as brain plasticity. Dr. Suzuki will use excerpts from the multiple award-winning and 2018 Emmy award-nominated documentary film My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond (that will also be shown in its entirety after her talk) to illustrate some of her points. She will then describe how she leveraged that foundational work from Professor Diamond to study other forms of brain plasticity including memory formation, and most recently how physical activity can change and improve a range of cognitive functions in the brain, the core topic in Healthy Brain, Happy Life..

Catherine Ryan, Director and Producer of My Love Affair With The Brain, and Dr. Peter Whybrow, Director of the Semel Institute will join Dr. Suzuki in a post-screening discussion.

Friday, November 1, 2019
6:30 PM Check-in | 7:00 PM Program
James Bridges Theater, Melnitz Hall, UCLA
Parking is available for $8 in Structure 3
235 Charles E Young Drive West Los Angeles, CA 90095
From Eastbound Sunset Blvd: Turn right on Hilgard Avenue and make an immediate right on Charing Cross Road. Go straight at the stop sign to enter the Pay-by-Plate area using the North entrance of the structure. Park on level 1, 2, or 3 in any designated pay-by-plate space and use the pay-station (located on each level) to purchase parking. After paying for parking, proceed to Level 1 and walk through the tunnel. Melnitz Hall is the first building on your left.

Admission is free but registration is required. Register HERE.


Do you want to have a healthy brain and a happy life? If yes, then join UCLA’s Friends of the Semel institute for an Open Mind presentation by world-renowned neuroscientist and author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life, Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaks to OLLI class

Secretary Alex Padilla and Instructor Bob Stern

Students of Bob Stern’s course, 2020 Election Preview: From Presidential Candidates to California’s Ballot Measure Elections, were treated to a special guest on Thursday, October 3. Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State, spoke about about the new voting system in Los Angeles, election security, registering voters, as well as preparations for the upcoming census. You can hear the talk on our podcast here.

The event was covered by the Daily Bruin. Here’s their article:

Alex Padilla speaks at event about increasing voter participation in 2020 election

By Genesis Qu

The California secretary of state said his office is working on increasing voter participation and enforcing voter security at a university event Thursday.

Alex Padilla spoke at an event for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on Thursday about the upcoming 2020 elections. As secretary of state, Padilla is responsible for organizing and coordinating California elections. He said election security has been put under a particular spotlight after the 2016 election.

“When I was first running for secretary, there were many questions about ‘what are you going to do to get more people to register to vote or to encourage people to vote,’ (and) very few questions were about the election cybersecurity, no questions about potential foreign interference in our elections,” Padilla said. “But then 2016 happened, and now our way of looking at things has fundamentally changed.”

Major concerns were raised in regards to the potential of voter fraud and voter suppression, said Robert Stern, the host of the event and the former president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies.

A poll from the Public Policy Institute of California divides critics of the electoral process into two main camps, one concerned with voter suppression and one concerned with voter fraud, Stern said.

“Fifty-four percent are very or somewhat concerned that it is too easy for ineligible voters to vote in California elections,” Stern said. “Forty-five percent are very and somewhat concerned that it is too hard for eligible voters to vote.”

However, Padilla said voter fraud has proven to be rare by documentations and research.

“There’s been reports, there’s been studies, there’s been commissions, there’s data out there,” Padilla said. “(Voter fraud) is exceedingly, exceedingly rare.”

Unlike voter fraud, voter suppression has been quantified and demonstrated in various states, Padilla said. Through the false pretext of preventing voter fraud, lawmakers are disenfranchising eligible voters, particularly voters from low-income communities and communities of color.

Carl Singerman, a student at OLLI, said he came to the event because he wanted to understand more about issues surrounding the 2020 election and solutions to some of these challenges.

Singerman said he was most concerned about voter suppression because of its enormous consequences.

“It’s very scary to see how voter suppression is being implemented throughout the nation, and I wanted to hear what things are being done to counter that,” he said.

Padilla also addressed the issues of misinformation on social media and the undermining of election infrastructures.

He said state leaders are working on combating misinformation on social media and have established the “Vote Sure” program where people can report clearly wrong information on social media.

The California legislature also funded a Proactive Public Service Announcement campaign that promotes trusted, reliable sources of political information for voters, Padilla added.

To address the possibility of compromised election infrastructures, California has conducted agency-wide audits and has updated its servers and firewalls on its voting system. California has also led cybersecurity training in every county, Padilla said.

Beverly Sheldon, another student of OLLI, said she is most interested in voter participation in the coming election.

“I’m impressed with some of the changes that they are making to voter accessibility,” Sheldon said. “They are making voting more accessible to the population.”

As secretary of state, Padilla sponsored the California Voters’ Choice Act, which aims to make elections more secure and convenient for voters.

Under the Voters’ Choice Act, voters will automatically receive their ballot in the mail one month prior to election day, Padilla said. Voters will have options to either mail the ballot back or to drop it off at ballot boxes across the county at any given time in the weeks prior to the election.

New polling stations will have the entire county’s voter information instead of just the neighborhood, which means that voters will have access to every polling station in the county and are able to vote in the weeks leading up to the election, Padilla said.

“I think what Los Angeles county is trying to do is not just to ensure that we have as secure a voting system as possible but as user-friendly a voting system as possible,” Padilla said



A Zap to the Brain to Help you Remember

Jesse Rissman, co-author of study
(Stuart Wolpert/UCLA Newsroom)

A small electrical zap to the brain could help you retrieve a forgotten memory 
By Stuart Wolpert
Posted on the UCLA Newsroom on May 30, 2019

A study by UCLA psychologists provides strong evidence that a certain region of the brain plays a critical role in memory recall. The research, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, also shows for the first time that using an electrical current to stimulate that region, the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex, improves people’s ability to retrieve memories.

“We found dramatically improved memory performance when we increased the excitability of this region,” said Jesse Rissman, a UCLA assistant professor of psychology, and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, the study’s senior author.

The left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex is important for high-level thought, including monitoring and integrating information processed in other areas of the brain, Rissman said. This area is located behind the left side of the forehead, between the eyebrow and the hairline.

“We think this brain area is particularly important in accessing knowledge that you formed in the past and in making decisions about it,” said Rissman, who also is a member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute.

The psychologists conducted experiments with three groups of people whose average age was 20. Each group contained 13 women and 11 men.

Participants were shown a series of 80 words on a computer screen. For each word, participants were instructed to either imagine either themselves or another person interacting with the word, depending on whether the words “self” or “other” also appeared on the screen. (For example, the combination of “gold” and “other” might prompt them to imagine a friend with a gold necklace.)

The following day, the participants returned to the laboratory for three tests — one of their memory, one of their reasoning ability and one of their visual perception. Each participant wore a device that sent a weak electrical current through an electrode on the scalp to decrease or increase the excitability of neurons in the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex. Increasing their excitability makes neurons more likely to fire, which enhances the connections between neurons, Rissman said.

(The technique, called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS, gives most people a warm, mild tingling sensation for the first few minutes, said the study’s lead author, Andrew Westphal, who conducted the study as a UCLA doctoral student and is now a postdoctoral scholar in neurology at UC San Francisco.)

For the first half of the hour-long study, all participants received “sham” stimulation — meaning that the device was turned on just briefly, to give the sensation that something was happening, but then turned off so that no electrical stimulation was applied. This allowed the researchers to measure how well each participant performed the tasks under normal conditions. For the next 30 minutes, one group of participants received an electrical current that increased their neurons’ excitability, the second group received current that suppressed neuron activity and the third group received only the sham stimulation. The researchers analyzed which group had the best recall of the words they saw the previous day.

First, the scientists noted that there were no differences among the three groups during the first half of the study — when no brain stimulation was used — so any differences in the second half of the experiment could be attributed to the stimulation, Westphal said.

Memory scores for the group whose neurons received excitatory stimulation during the second half of the study were 15.4 percentage points higher than their scores when they received the sham stimulation.

Scores for those who received fake stimulation during both sessions increased by only 2.6 percentage points from the first to the second session — a statistically insignificant change that was likely was due to their increased familiarity with the task, according to the paper. And scores for the group whose neuron activity was temporarily suppressed increased by just five percentage points, which the authors also wrote was not statistically significant.

“Our previous neuroimaging studies showed the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex is highly engaged during memory retrieval,” Rissman said. “Now the fact that people do better on this memory task when we excite this region with electrical stimulation provides causal evidence that it contributes to the act of memory retrieval.

“We didn’t expect the application of weak electrical brain stimulation would magically make their memories perfect, but the fact that their performance increased as much as it did is surprising and it’s an encouraging sign that this method could potentially be used to boost people’s memories.”

The study’s reasoning task asked participants to decide in seven seconds whether certain pairs of words were analogies. Half of the trials featured word pairs that were true analogies, such as “‘moat’ is to ‘castle’ as ‘firewall’ is to ‘computer.’” (In both pairs, the first word protects the second from invasion.) The other half had word pairs that were related but not actually analogous.

Researchers found no significant differences in performance among the three groups.

For the final task, focusing on perception, subjects were asked to select which of four words has the most straight lines in its printed form. (One example: Among the words “symbol,” “museum,” “painter” and “energy,” the word “museum” has the most straight lines.) Again, the researchers found no significant differences among the three groups — which Rissman said was expected.

“We expected to find improvement in memory, and we did,” Rissman said. “We also predicted the reasoning task might improve with the increased excitability, and it did not. We didn’t think this brain region would be important for the perception task.”

Why do people forget names and other words? Sometimes it’s because they don’t pay attention when they first hear or see it, so no memory is even formed. In those cases, the electrical stimulation wouldn’t help. But in cases where a memory does form but is difficult to retrieve, the stimulation could help access it.

“The stimulation is helping people to access memories that they might otherwise have reported as forgotten,” Westphal said.

Although tDCS devices are commercially available, Rissman advises against anyone trying it outside of supervised research.

“The science is still in an early stage,” he said. “If you do this at home, you could stimulate your brain in a way that is unsafe, with too much current or for too long.”

Rissman said other areas of the brain also play important roles in retrieving memories. Their future research will aim to better understand the contributions of each region, as well as the effects of brain stimulation on other kinds of memory tasks.