In the Media

Jenkins Reviews Book on Famed Artist Lempad in Jakarta Post

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins ’64, professor of theater, published a review of Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line in the Jan. 19 edition of the Jakarta Post. Jenkins had high praise for the book, which contains pictures of the works of Balinese architect and artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad.

Jenkins wrote, “the aptly titled volume illuminates not only the exquisite lines of Lempad’s artwork, but also the intangible elements of Balinese identity that those lines represent.”

In addition to describing some of the noted works, Jenkins also commended the depth and insightfulness of the essays that accompanied each work. The essays were written by a team of scholars lead by the acclaimed Indonesian cultural researcher and author Bruce Carpenter.

Read the full review here.

 

Grossman Discusses Gold Prices with China Daily

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman spoke to China Daily about gold price fluctuations in connection with the Chinese New Year and other annual celebrations. Many in the Chinese community purchase gold jewelry and other gifts to help celebrate the holiday.

“There does seem to be a seasonal element to consumer demand for gold in several countries. In China, demand increases in months leading up to the New Year. In India, it is said to increase during the holiday/wedding season, which runs from the end of September through January,” said Grossman.

But, he added, inflation, currency movements, and economic and political stability are “far more important factors” in gold price fluctuations than seasonal demands from China and India.

Norman ’16 on Young Moroccan Entrepreneurs

Youth unemployment makes it difficult for them to contribute to the family's coffers. (Photo by Hannah Norman '16 for Al Jazeera).

Youth unemployment makes it difficult for them to contribute to the family’s coffers. (Photo by Hannah Norman ’16 for Al Jazeera).

Hannah Norman ’16 is the author of an article titled “Morocco’s young entrepreneurs face barriers,” published Dec. 27 on aljazeera.com.

According to the article, a lack of an entrepreneurship culture is among key challenges facing young entrepreneurs in Morocco. Every week in the capital Rabat, hundreds of young Moroccans stage protests demanding government jobs.

Moroccans resist taking financial risks for fear of failure, according to a recent World Bank report. Many believe that a lack of training, combined with a gap between what university students are taught and the skills companies need, are also handicaps for young entrepreneurs.

Norman spent several months in Morocco on an SIT Study Abroad program and produced this story in association with Round Earth Media, a nonprofit organization that mentors the next generation of international journalists. Norman, who works as a photography assistant in the Office of University Communications, also provided photographs to accompany the article.

Jacobsen: Cuban Cigars Are Actually Better

Following the recent announcement that the U.S. will normalize ties with Cuba, bringing with it an opening for American visitors to bring home up to $100 in Cuban alcohol and tobacco products, Vox decided to investigate the question: Are Cuban cigars really better? The answer, according to a 2003 paper by Andrews Professor of Economics Joyce Jacobsen and other researchers, is yes.

According to the article:

[The researchers] collected Cigar Aficionado quality ratings and price data for 689 different cigars, and sought to identify determinants of both high prices and high ratings. They took into account a battery of subjective factors — did the Cigar Aficionado review describe the cigar as mild? as well built? as smooth? was it nutty or cocoa-y or creamy? — as well as national origins.

They found that the single most important determinant of both prices and ratings was whether or not the cigar originated from Cuba. Being from Cuba bumped up a cigar’s rating by 4.05 points on a 100-point scale, on average; by contrast, being described as “well built” only gained a cigar 1.28 points, and being “leathery” only resulted in a 1.87 point gain.

“The ability of the judges to identify the Cuba characteristic in a blind taste test suggests the presence of a unique Cuban flavor (or potentially another identifying characteristic like color or shape),” Freccia, Jacobsen, and Kilby conclude.

Jacobsen is also dean of the social sciences and director of global initiatives.

Michael Roth is “An Unusual President”

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a major profile on President Michael S. Roth, highlighting the “unusual” ways in which he uses his post to engage in public debates on the problems facing higher education, and what he sees as its future.

“He seems to revel in the debates about the future of education, speaking especially sharply against what he sees as ill-considered technological fixes that, as he said to me in an interview, ‘aim at conformity over thinking.’ Now he’s published a book [Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters] that examined the history of debates on the nature of higher education, and found that, while the details vary, we’ve been arguing about much the same thing for centuries,” writes David Perry ’95, an alumnus who had grown distant from Wesleyan before being drawn back by an alumni event featuring Roth on the topic “How to Destroy Higher Education.”

Perry writes, “In his writing, Roth seems to be trying to reshape the narrative of crisis and disruption in American higher education.” And while others have spoken out with similar views, “Roth has the power to actually effect change at one of America’s elite universities.”

Roth tells Perry about some of the changes coming to Wesleyan, including encouraging students to create a portfolio of work to show what they can do with their education, and making Wesleyan more accessible to a diverse population of students.

 

Tucker: Can Culture Transcend Russia-West Conflict?

In an op-ed in The Moscow TimesJennifer Tucker and Aria Danaparamita ’13 write about the recent controversy over the British Museum’s decision to lend Russia the Parthenon marbles, “one of the most esteemed vestiges of Western art and civilization.”

According to the op-ed:

Controversy has followed the marbles since Thomas Bruce, seventh earl of Elgin, claimed in 1811 to have obtained a permit to remove the classical Greek marble sculptures from the Acropolis in Athens. They were purchased by the British government and passed to the British Museum. Greece has long lobbied for the restoration of the country’s monuments, and this year UNESCO agreed to mediate the dispute between Britain and Greece.The controversy was revived after the artwork was flown to St. Petersburg.

The authors contend, “Yet whatever one thinks of the morality or legality of the British Museum’s decision, it is a mistake to minimize the potential for art to play a role in cross-cultural negotiations and political dialogue.”

Danaparamita was a history major at Wesleyan, and received high honors for her thesis, titled, “British Borobudur Buddha: Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Orientalist Antiquarianism, and a Material Historiography of Java (1811-1816).”

Tucker is associate professor of history, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor in the environmental studies program, associate professor of science in society, and faculty fellow in the College of the Environment.

Hughes Discusses the Latest in Space Research

Assistant Professor of Astronomy Meredith Hughes participated in a discussion on WNPR’s “Where We Live” with other astronomers about all the latest exciting research on space.

“This big ultimate question that we’re all interested in is: What kinds of planets form around other stars, how frequently do planets form around other stars, and ultimately are there environments that are friendly to life and how common are those around the galaxy,” said Hughes.

She discussed her research looking at the regions where planets are forming, and the very youngest solar systems that are just starting to emerge from their birth cocoons of gas and dust.

 

The Timely Sculpture of Rachel Harrison ’89 Featured

The New Yorker has a lengthy profile of Rachel Harrison ’89, a sculptor whose work is “both the zestiest and the least digestible in contemporary art. It may also be the most important, owing to an originality that breaks a prevalent spell in an art world of recycled genres, styles, and ideas.” Ann Temkin, the chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, is quoted as saying, “When I first saw work by Rachel, I actively disliked it. I thought, Uh-uh! Then I couldn’t get enough of it.”

According to the article, Harrison enrolled at Wesleyan in 1984 and declared a major in comparative religions, but left after her sophomore year. She then traveled and took odd jobs, and completed a disappointing semester at another school, before returning to Wesleyan in 1987, where “she was strongly influenced by two teachers: [Chair and Professor of Art] Jeffrey Schiff, a sculptor, and [John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus] Alvin Lucier, a composer who makes sound installations. Another teacher introduced her to the poetry of William Carlos Williams, who appealed to her partly because, in his other career, as a family doctor, he delivered the artist Robert Smithson in 1938, in New Jersey. A line from Williams’s epic ‘Paterson’ became a watchword for her: ‘No ideas but in things.'”

Lipton on Thinking Machines

James Lipton, professor of computer science, vice-chair of mathematics and computer science, spoke to the website Kill Switch about the “Turing Test.” Almost 65 years ago, Alan Turning, perhaps the first computer scientist, posed the question, “Can machines think?” and developed a test to answer this question. Given all the computing advances that have allowed machines to act more and more human, Lipton considered relevance of the Turing Test today.

Robinson Pinpoints Addiction Center in Brain

Mike Robinson recently published an article in the Journal of Neuroscience about the center of the brain that triggers addiction.

Mike Robinson recently published an article in the Journal of Neuroscience about the center of the brain that triggers addiction.

Having trouble resisting another glass of wine or a decadent slice of chocolate cake? In a new study, Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, pinpoints the part of the brain that triggers addiction. It’s in the brain’s amygdala, an almond-shaped mass that processes emotions, reports the news site Medical Xpress.

These findings were published Dec. 10 in the Journal of Neuroscience (read the full story here). Robinson is the lead author, and co-wrote the paper with two colleagues from the University of Michigan.

The study was done using a technique called optogenetics with rats. Whenever the rats pressed a lever to earn a sugary treat, a laser light painlessly activated the amygdala in their brains for a few seconds, making neurons in it fire more excitedly. When the rats pressed a separate lever to earn a treat, their amygdala was not activated. When the rats were then faced with a choice over which lever to press, they focused exclusively on getting the reward that previously excited their amygdala and ignored the other. They were also willing to work much harder to earn the first reward.

Robinson told Medical XPress that the results suggest a role for the amygdala in generating focused and almost exclusive desire as seen in addiction.

“Understanding the pathways involved in addictive-like behavior could provide new therapeutic avenues for treating addiction and other compulsive disorders,” he said.

Scott: Is Our Art Equal to the Challenges of Our Times?

Distinguished Professor of Film Criticism A.O. Scott writes in The New York Times that ever since the financial crisis of 2008, he’s been on the lookout for the next great piece of art–a new “The Grapes of Wrath” or “Death of a Salesman.”

“The originals are all still around, available for revival and rediscovery and part of a robust artistic record of hard times past,” he writes. “But we are in the midst of hard times now, and it feels as if art is failing us.”

Scott explains, “Serious art and popular entertainment, in their diverse ways, offer refuge and distraction. Their pleasures and comforts are not trivial, but essential. Art is the domain of solved problems, even if the problems are formal and the solutions artificial.”

Grossman: Madoff Pales Next to “Forex” Scandal

Though Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme shocked the nation and grabbed headlines in the months following the subprime crisis, in his latest post on OUPblog, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman draws readers’ attention to two far more economically significant scandals: Libor and forex (foreign exchange). He writes:

 The Libor and forex scandals have several especially troubling aspects in common. First, unlike Madoff, they did not require asset booms in order to succeed: profits could be made on days when a particular currency rose or fell. That is, no prolonged asset bubble was required for forex manipulation to succeed—nor would the scheme collapse if an asset bubble collapsed. In theory, forex manipulation could have continued indefinitely.

Second, unlike Madoff, who only required his own wits and the gullibility of investors to succeed, the forex scandal was a conspiracy—or rather a series of conspiracies. […]

Finally, the forex scandal is especially troubling because it persisted for more than two years after the Libor scandal was exposed.