Join us for June’s Nerd Nite East Bay, where Jennifer Schiffner will entice you with tales of Bettie Page, Mark Lescroart may make you trade the corset for a tinfoil hat as you hide your thoughts from functional magnetic resonance imaging machines, and Laith Ullaby will play us out with the pop music of the Arab Spring.

DJ Ion the Prize, Rick, and Rebecca are your East Bay dissonant dissidents for the evening. Be there and be square!

Monday 6/24
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
The New Parkway, 474 24th St, Oakland
(less than half-a-mile from the 19th St BART)
All Ages
FB event
g+ event


Let’s talk about SEX, baby. No, really, let’s talk about S.E.X. The Situational context of the 1950s; the Erotic art of bondage and fetish photography; the eXhilarating and eXotic Bettie Page. We’re going to explore a bit of her-story by examining a modicum of culture from the decade of Leave It To Beaver. By analyzing the context and cultural dynamics of an era typified by gender-normative Americana, we can understand how the concept of gender roles and gender stereotyping evolved during the mid-20th century and, consequently, how this evolution created an underground movement of erotic and fetish art. But how, pray tell, do you really understand the 1950s as a bridge connecting the first and second wave feminist movements? Like any scientist, we have a model. The indelible Bettie Page serves as a metaphor for the abeyance structures in the feminist movements. We’ll examine her life, her career, and of course, her boobies. So tighten up your corset, Mr. Draper, it’s going to be a titillating ride.

When Jennifer Schiffner isn’t mourning her lost career as a trapeze artist or film critic, she practices law in San Jose (but don’t hold that against her). Before becoming an attorney (yawn), Jen took an interest in Bettie Page and gender-bending art during the 1950s. She finally convinced her conservative Catholic college to let her write a book on the topic called, “The Transcendent Bettie Page: The Art of Retro Erotica and Metaphorical Abeyance Structures in the Feminist Movement of the 1950s.” She still peruses her old Playboys for sport and has a lovely collection of fishnets, which she wears under most of her work suits.


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Search the popular press and you can find stories about lie detection and dream reading via brain scans, or about the “neural correlates” of addiction or romantic love. These stories have gotten so much attention that a cottage industry of de-bunkers has emerged to counter the more grandiose claims of the neuro-imagers. Nay-sayers point to bad statistics, unreliable effects and over-blown conclusions in the fMRI literature. So what should we believe? What do the appealing flickers of color over the brain pictures next to pop neuroscience articles mean, anyway? Why involve magnets at all, and what is “resonating”? I’ll run through how an fMRI scan is different from a picture or X-ray, and explain what functional magnetic resonance imaging can and cannot measure with as little hand-waving as possible. By the time I’m through, you’ll know whether you need to worry about the government eavesdropping on your thoughts, whether you can trust an fMRI scan to tell a lie from the truth in a court of law, and generally what to look out for when interpreting claims based on fMRI evidence.

Mark Lescroart is a postdoctoral researcher in the Gallant laboratory at UC Berkeley. He got his PhD in 2011, working with Irving Biederman at the University of Southern California. Mark also went to USC for undergrad, and graduated in 2002 with a B.S. in Psychobiology and a minor in Japanese. Mark studies the way our brains transform patterns of light on our retinas into useful information about the shape and structure of objects in the world. That can be spooky. He has also written popular science articles for Scientific American Mind, and received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Fellowship in 2012.


From Tunisian hip-hop to 8-bit Egyptian party music, Lebanese indie-rock, a coup d’état scheduled around concerts in Libya, and assassinated Syrian folk singers—music can give us a unique insight into the lives and experiences of the people in the Arab world. This has proved especially true as the events of the 2011 January 25th protest unfolded in Egypt and thousands of people filled Tahrir Square to voice political dissent. Amid the turmoil many of the country’s biggest celebrities came out in support of the regime and denounced the revolution. The backlash against Egyptian pop stars resulted not only in a few high-profile TMZ worthy meltdowns, but the upending of the region’s music industry. The new terrain of the post-revolution landscape has also created opportunities for exciting new voices to emerge. This talk will look at the ways in which music has been intertwined with the events that have swept the region, before, during, and after the Arab Spring.

Laith Ulaby has a PhD in ethnomusicology and has conducted over 3 years of fieldwork in the Middle East. He enjoys explaining what he does and where he has been to the Department of Homeland Security when he returns home. Ulaby has also worked as a musician in Los Angeles contributing music to TV shows and documentary films. He currently lives in Oakland and works as an ethnographer.