In the Media

Basinger Reflects on Star Wars Sequel Success

Though movie sequels had been successful in the past, it was a huge surprise when The Empire Strikes Back turned out to be as popular as the original Star Wars film, Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, told the website Boing Boing for a story reflecting on Empire 35 years after it arrived in cinemas.

“When you have set a level that you set with Star Wars in terms of financial success, critical success, audience success, quality of production, greatness of storytelling, you don’t really think even if the second one is going to be good that it can hit that same level twice because Star Wars was a real landmark film,” Basinger said. “It was a real big impact film and so you don’t expect the next one in that sequence to also be a landmark. It just doesn’t seem possible the way storytelling works but Empire was a movie that did not let down the standards set by Star Wars and that was great. Everybody was thrilled.”

She added that Empire opened up in a new way the possibility of sequential storytelling on a giant scale.

Basinger also is curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives.

New York Times Features Wesleyan Admission Essay

Adriane Tharp, who will be coming to Wesleyan in the fall as part of the Class of 2019, set her admission essay in the Forestdale, Ala. Domino’s Pizza where she worked, writing about the “lineup of fellow misfits who were her colleagues.” The New York Times featured Tharp’s essay in its annual story on admission essays about working and money.

The story quotes Wesleyan Associate Dean of Admission Chris Lanser, who was the first reader of Tharp’s essay. He tells the Times how rare it is for applicants to write about money and work, and explains what stood out to him about Tharp’s essay.

“The point of the essay is not to tell us that she needs work or doesn’t,” Lanser said. “What she wants us to learn from this is that she is able to embrace difference and learn quite a bit from those differences.”

The Times asked Lanser about the perception that admissions officers at competitive colleges devalue work experience.

“We think there are valuable life skills and people skills to be gained in the workplace,” he said, adding that he personally believes that everyone should work in the service industry at some point in their lives.

Read Tharp’s essay here (second from the bottom).

Cimino ’15, Baseball Team Featured in Courant

The Hartford Courant profiled two-sport athlete Donnie Cimino ’15, a member of the stellar Wesleyan baseball team that recently reached the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year. Cimino, center fielder and team captain for baseball, is also a defensive back and two-year captain on the football team.

“It’s emotional,” Cimino, one of nine seniors on the team, told the Courant, “because everything comes to an end. It’s been such a journey, four years, and we experienced a lot of success. When I got here, there wasn’t a winning attitude or a winning culture. We [Class of 2015] wanted to change that as freshmen. We looked at each other, saw a talented class and great group. We worked really hard to get where we are.”

The baseball team celebrated 30 victories this season, just one shy of the program record of 31 it posted last year. Both seasons, the team qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The program’s record over the last three seasons is 88-39-1, with its first two NESCAC championships coming this year and last.

“What you’ve seen is a product of great people, the result being incredible individual and team success,” said coach Mark Woodworth ’94, who has completed his 14th year as coach. “But what I’m most happy about is that this is just a springboard for what they’re going to do in the future. You get great people around you everywhere — players, coaches, trainers, parents, athletic director, president — and great stuff starts happening. And now they’ll go on to be great husbands, fathers and sons.”

Roth Reviews Oliver Sacks’ New Memoir

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Reviewing Oliver Sacks’ new memoir, On the Move, in The AtlanticPresident Michael Roth writes that the celebrated neurologist “opens himself to recognition, much as he has opened the lives of others to being recognized in their fullness.”

The memoir begins in Sacks’ early life, when a teacher noted in his report card that “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” Sacks describes going to extremes in areas of his life ranging from recreational swimming to competitive weightlifting to drug use. A native of England, Sacks traveled to the United States after completing his medical training to get space from his parents and two brothers who all worked as doctors. Roth writes:

Going far career-wise was something Sacks fervently desired. “Here I am, look what I can do,” is how he describes his feelings about his first professional intervention into the American neurological community. Sacks would develop a genius for recognition of another sort, for paying attention to people whose illness might have rendered them invisible but for his gift of seeing them as beings with histories, with contexts. This genius he combined with his own craving for recognition—writing as a witness to the lives of others in such a way that he himself would be acknowledged through the quality of his testimony.

Grimmer-Solem Remembers the Sinking of the Lusitania

Erik Grimmer-Solem

Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem

The Hartford Courant turned to Erik Grimmer-Solem, associate professor of history, tutor in the College of Social Studies, for perspective on the sinking of the ocean liner R.M.S. Lusitania, one century later.

“The British were very effective in using the sinking of the Lusitania as a propaganda tool, portraying the Germans as beastly and dastardly,” he told the Courant. “But [Woodrow] Wilson was in a tough spot. The United States had a significant German population, who were certainly not in favor of war.”

Grimmer-Solem said the German government naturally viewed the horror of the Lusitania quite differently. He said the British had imposed a crippling blockade of the North Sea, including food, in violation of international conventions.

Also, maritime prize rules of the day required submarines to surface before carrying out searches of suspected vessels — a risky maneuver as the British were known to use decoy vessels to coax U-Boats into firing rage. The situation pushed the Germans toward a policy of “unrestricted” submarine warfare, he said.

“The Lusitania was seen by the Germans as a legitimate military target,” the professor said. “We know it was chock full of munitions, which the Germans had suspected. They were listed on the manifest. There were many tons aboard the vessel. The English were ruthless about [using passenger vessels for ferrying arms.] They did this in the Boer War.”

President Roth Reviews Frank Bruni’s Book

President Michael Roth reviewed New York Times columnist Frank Bruni’s new book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania for The Washington PostThough Bruni directs his thoughts specifically to the young men and women competing to gain admission to Ivy League and other highly competitive colleges and universities, Roth sees his message as speaking “more broadly to the culture of manufactured meritocracy–a culture of rankings and branding, of recruiting and rejection.”

“Bruni tackles the roots of this lesson with example after example of successful, accomplished and happy people whose college experiences were far from the elite halls of Stanford or Harvard,” writes Roth.

“As an educator, I applaud Bruni’s advice to disregard the false rankings systems and recognize that hundreds of schools across the country offer fantastic opportunities for people eager to work and learn. As a father, I am grateful for his reminder of the importance of family for students: ‘something so much more essential and nourishing and lasting’ than admission to a college — no matter how highly ranked.”

Roth Reviews ‘In Defense of a Liberal Education’

Writing in The Daily BeastPresident Michael Roth reviewed In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria, a refreshing change from the scores of books published in recent years decrying the state of higher education. Roth writes:

Into this atmosphere of cynicism and spleen, Fareed Zakaria offers a compact, effective essay on the importance of a broad, contextual education. Cheerfully out of step with the strident critics of higher ed, In Defense of a Liberal Education is a reminder that American colleges and universities are a powerful resource that has allowed so many young people to learn about themselves and their ability to have a positive impact on the world. Although he is well aware of the pressures on advanced study in this time of economic anxiety, Zakaria has confidence that the resources for addressing contemporary challenges lie within the very traditions being criticized.

Zakaria writes of his own personal journey through higher education, and “presents a brief sketch of its history in Europe and the United States.” Roth writes, “Most powerful in his personal and general history is his commitment to the idea that flexibility and judgment are enhanced by an education that toggles between deep engagement with specific material and the exploration of possible interconnections across a wide variety of fields.”

Krishna Winston Memorializes Gunter Grass

Krishna Winston

Krishna Winston

When the Nobel Prize-winning German writer Günter Grass died at age 87 this week, The Wall Street Journal turned to Krishna Winston, his translator, for perspective on his life.

According to the Journal’s obituary, Grass was Germany’s best-known contemporary writer “who explored the country’s postwar guilt and in 2006 admitted to serving in one of the Nazis’ most notorious Nazi military units.”

Winston remembered Grass as “a gregarious man who loved cooking and invited his children to sit in on meetings with translators that often lasted several days…”

Grossman Speaks to MarketWatch on Reforms to the Fed

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman

MarketWatch columnist Howard Gold turned to Professor of Economics Richard Grossman for his take on reforming the Fed. Gold took issue with calls from presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul and others to “audit the Fed,” but instead advocated for term limits for Fed chair-persons and changes in the pivotal Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

On the matter of term limits for the Fed chair, Grossman spoke of former chairman Alan Greenspan, who stuck around nearly 19 years.

Herman ’16 is One of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women

Lily Herman '15 at Wesleyan University. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Lily Herman ’15 at Wesleyan University. (Photo by Olivia Drake)


Lily Herman ’16, co-founder of The Prospect website on college admissions and college life, has been named one of Glamour magazine’s Top 10 College Women of 2015.

Herman, of Jacksonville, Fla., told Glamour that while her mom helped her to choose the right school, many first-generation and international students don’t have the same resources.

Loui Talks Tone-Deafness on Radio Health Journal

Psyche Loui is assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Psyche Loui is assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, discussed the phenomenon of tone-deafness on Radio Health Journal.

Millions people go through life thinking they’re hopelessly tone-deaf when they are not–they can distinguish between correct and incorrect notes, yet they’re just unable to sing them properly. Ironically, those who are truly tone-deaf cannot hear such distinctions, and thus may be unaware of their condition.

“You’ll see some people who don’t really know that they’re tone-deaf,” said Loui.

Identifying tone-deafness can be done by having people listen to, rather than sing, music. Many people who are tone-deaf don’t enjoy music.

“Some people think it all sounds the same, some people think it sounds like clanging, some people think it’s just really unpleasant,” said Loui.

People who are truly tone-deaf make up on about 2-1/2 to 4 percent of the population. They’re more likely have family members who are also tone-deaf, suggesting genetics play a role.

“It’s really a wiring problem, really a difference in connectivity in major pathways of the brain for regions that are important for sound processing and regions that are important for sound production,” said Loui.

Hear the full interview here.

Jenkins Writes About “Eye-Opening” Performance of Indonesian Dancers

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins wrote in The Jakarta Post about recent performances of Rateb Meuseukat, a form of Acehnese dance from Indonesia, at Wesleyan and a few other New England colleges, which gave American audiences “an eye-opening introduction to an aspect of the Muslim world that is rarely seen in the West.”

The group “Tari Aceh” performed at Wesleyan’s Crowell Concert Hall on Feb. 27. The day after the performance, some audience members returned for a workshop in which they learned how to do the movements they had seen onstage.

Jenkins writes:

Images of Muslim women in Western media often focus on the restrictive nature of head scarves and other customary clothing, but the dancers of Aceh shattered these naïve stereotypes through the liberating power of their performances.

The women’s colorful woven headscarves accentuated the sassy energy of their movements. Their modest costumes used traditional textiles to heighten the dynamic quality of their choreography.

The hooting, stomping, finger snapping and body slapping that punctuated their dances gave the performance an unstoppable sense of momentum that erased all notions of female passivity.

The women dancers of the “Tari Aceh” tour were clearly the masters of the remarkable universe they created onstage.