Tag Archive for alumni

Book by Moezzi ’01 a Required Reading at University of Dayton

Book by Melody Moezzi '01

Book by Melody Moezzi ’01

More than 1,700 incoming University of Dayton (UD) students are required to read Melody Moezzi’s ’01 book, War on Error: Real Stories of American Muslims, before they arrive on campus Aug. 22 for first-year orientation, according to a July 26 Dayton Daily News article.

The book is an award-winning collection of essays about young American Muslims, Moezzi is an American Muslim of Iranian descent.

UD is a Marianist Catholic university.

Moezzi’s book will serve as the basis for a series of student dialogues on the issue of diversity and differences.

“I hope that they’ll be able to see a human side of Islam and not a politicized version of it, which obviously we all get too much of,” Moezzi said in the article.

“War on Error” was one of 48 books nominated for the first-year read in a UD campus poll. It was selected in part because of Moezzi’s Dayton roots and its timely subject matter.

Tintori ’06 to Direct “Light Boxes”

According to Variety, Ray Tintori ’06 is slated to direct Shane Jones’ debut novel “Light Boxes.” Spike Jonze has acquired feature rights.

“Light Boxes,” published earlier this year by Genius Press, is centered on a mysterious town that endures a deadly 1,000-day winter.

Tintori’s directed numerous music videos plus short films “Jettison Your Loved Ones” and “Death to the Tinman,” the later of which was completed while he was a student at Wesleyan and later featured at the Sundance Film Festival.

Transformers Sequel Directed by Bay ’86 is a Huge International Hit

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Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. (Paramount Pictures)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen directed by Michael Bay ’86 with a screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ’95, opened in late June to mixed reviews, but the film, a sequel to Transformers (2007), sold some $201.2 million in tickets at North American theaters over its first five days as the number one film at the box office.

In his review of the film in The New York Times, A. O. Scott wrote:
“Mr. Bay is an auteur. His signature adorns every image in his movies … and every single one is inscribed with a specific worldview and moral sensibility.”

In the latest film based on Hasbro toys, the young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is on his way to college but is compelled to join the Autobots robots in an intergalactic feud against their sworn enemies, the Decepticons.

The weekend of July 10-12, Transformers 2 remained very popular at the domestic box office, grossing $24.2 million from more than 4,200 screens for a total of $339.2 million in its third weekend. Overseas during the same weekend, the film continued to attract large audiences, grossing $32.5 million from 63 territories for a total of $364.5 million. The picture has done particularly well in Asia, and had a strong debut in India.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has made $703.7 million worldwide.

Art Work by Harrison ’89 at Bard College

Artwork by Rachel Harrison '89 is on display in New York City.

Large-scale installations by Rachel Harrison '89 are on exhibit at Bard College.

Now through Dec. 20, the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard) in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. presents Consider the Lobster, the first major survey of New York-based artist Rachel Harrison ’89. Named after an essay by the late David Foster Wallace, this exhibition encompasses more than 10 years of large-scale installations by Harrison, all of which will be reconfigured for the CCS Bard galleries, as well as a number of the autonomous sculptural and photographic works for which she is best known.

In addition to Rachel Harrison’s work in the CCS Bard Galleries, six artists, including Nayland Blake, Tom Burr, Harry Dodge, Alix Lambert, Allen Ruppersberg and Andrea Zittel, have collaborated with Harrison to re-install works from the Marieluise Hessel Collection.

In a recent review of the exhibition in The New York Times, Holland Cotter wrote: “Ms. Harrison … is often called a sculptor, which is accurate. But she is also, and simultaneously, a painter, photographer, video maker, collagist and installation artist. She has the databank brain of a historian, the magpie instincts of a collector and a curator’s exacting eye. Her work is figurative and abstract, casually piled on and highly deliberated, zany and chilly. ”

Consider the Lobster is a collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery in London, where the exhibition will be on view from April 27 through June 20, 2010.
For more information, visit http://www.bard.edu/ccs/ or call 845-758-7598.

Schafer ’85 Translates Mexican Poet David Huerta

Book by Mark Schafer '85.

Book by Mark Schafer '85.

Mark Schafer ’85 is the translator for Before Saying Any of the Great Words: Selected Poems of David Huerta (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), a bilingual anthology of one of Mexico’s foremost living poets, David Huerta. The collection contains translations of 84 of Huerta’s poems selected from 12 of his 19 collections along with the original Spanish-language poems. The book is a powerful antidote to recent news coverage of Mexico that depicts the country as often violent and drug-ridden.

Huerta has been a central figure in two of the most influential poetic movements in late-20th-century Latin America—the neobaroque movement and that of postmodern language poetry. His imagery, intertextuality, and dense lyricism remain unparalleled in Mexican letters. In 2005 he was awarded the prestigious Xavier Villaurrutia Prize for his lifelong contributions to Mexican literature.

A graduate of Wesleyan’s College of Letters, Schafer has worked as a literary translator for 25 years. His career started with his senior year thesis, which he expanded and later published.

He edited and translated Before Saying Any of the Great Words with the support of a NEA translation fellowship. He also has received a variety of honors for his translations including grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Fund for Culture Mexico-USA, an NEA translation fellowship, and the Robert Fitzgerald Translations Prize. Translations in the Huerta anthology previously appeared in more than 15 literary journals, including American Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, BOMB Magazine, Massachusetts Review, Salamander, and Review: Latin American Literature and Arts.

Rau ’05 Directs Comedy at Two Summer Play Festivals in NYC

Michael Rau ’05 is the director of the play Evanston: A Rare Comedy by Michael Yates Crowley at the Undergroundzero Festival at P.S. 122 (150 First Ave.) July 14–17 and at the Summer Sublet Series at HERE! Arts Center 145 Sixth Ave., between Spring and Broome Streets, enter on Dominick Street) Aug.  3–5 in New York City.

Presented by Wolf 359, Evanston: A Rare Comedy begins with the disappearance of a teenage girl in deepest suburbia and ends when a meeting of The Evanston Women’s Book Club goes horribly awry. In between, a transgender student dreams of death, a housewife dreams of Mexico, an economics professor has an affair with a Whole Foods check-out clerk, and the financial crisis rages on. The latest show from the Wolf 359 team is inspired by the words of Psalm 137 and the streets of Evanston, Ill.

Wolf 359, founded in 2007 by playwright Crowley and director Rau, is dedicated to radical new theater. Its last show, The Ted Haggard Monologues, was a New York Magazine Critic’s Pick and was filmed by HBO and presented in Germany as part of a festival of new American plays. Crowley and Rau are currently artists-in-residence at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City, where their adaptation of Gilgamesh, titled Rag Fur Blood Bone, was performed in March 2009.

Performances of Evanston: A Rare Comedy at P.S. 122:
July 14, 15, 16 at 9:30 p.m.
July 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: Call 212-352-3101 or visit http://www.ps122.org

Performances at HERE! Arts Center:
August 3, 4, 5 at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets: Call 212-352-3101 or visit www.here.org

Writer/Director Whedon ’87 Shasha Seminar Keynote

How Movies and TV Get Made."

Joss Whedon '87, Academy Award-nominated and Hugo Award-winning writer, a director, an executive producer, was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. The three-day seminar focused on "Defining American Culture: How Movies and TV Get Made."

Whedon spoke to members of the audience following his talk May 30. He was the writer, director, and executive producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. His latest creative project is the new TV series Dollhouse.

Whedon spoke to members of the audience following his talk May 30. He was the writer, director, and executive producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. His latest creative project is the new TV series Dollhouse.

Pictured in center, Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives, chair of the Film Studies Department, was the Shasha Seminar's facilitator.

Pictured in center, Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives, chair of the Film Studies Department, was the Shasha Seminar's facilitator.

Wheadon and Basinger spoke to Shasha Seminar attendees and Wesleyan students at a pre-address dinner May 30. (Photos by Bill Burkhart, university photographer)

Whedon and Basinger spoke to Shasha Seminar attendees and Wesleyan students at a pre-address dinner May 30. (Photos by Bill Burkhart, university photographer)

Other presenters at the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns included author Mark Harris; Mark I. Bomback ’93, screenwriter, whose credits include Race to Witch Mountain, Live Free or Die Hard, and Deception; Miguel Arteta, film and television director of Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Six Feet Under and Youth in Revolt.

Also Liz Garcia ’99, producer, editor and writer of Cold Case; Evan Katz ’83, screenwriter and the executive producer of the television series 24; David Kendall ’79, director of several television series, including Jonas, Hannah Montana and Growing Pains; Dan Shotz ’99, producer, editor and writer, Jericho, and the new show Harper’s Island; Matthew Greenfield ’90, vice president of production, Fox Searchlight Pictures; Dylan Leiner ’93, executive vice president, acquisitions and production, Sony Pictures Classics; Jason Zolov ’94, market researcher at Home Box Office and Jeffrey S. Lane ’76, five-time Emmy Award-winner and television writer of Mad About You and Cagney and Lacy.

Hinton ’85 Co-Edits Book on Genocide

book by Alexander Laban Hinton ’85.

Book edited by Alexander Laban Hinton ’85.

Alexander Laban Hinton ’85 and Kevin Lewis O’Neill have co-edited Genocide: Truth, Memory, and Representation (Duke University Press), a book of essays in which leading anthropologists consider questions about the relationship of genocide, truth, memory and representation in the Balkans, East Timor, Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan and other locales.

These specialists draw on ethnographic research to provide analyses of communities in the wake of mass brutality. They examine how mass violence is described or remembered, and how those representations are altered by the attempts of others, from NGOs to governments, to assert “the truth” about outbreaks of violence.

One contributor questions the neutrality of an international group monitoring violence in Sudan. Another investigates the consequences of how events, victims, and perpetrators are portrayed by the Rwandan government during the annual commemoration of that country’s 1994 genocide. Other writers consider issues of political identity and legitimacy, coping, the media, and ethnic cleansing.

Contributors include Pamela Ballinger, Jennie E. Burnet, Conerly Casey, Elizabeth Drexler, Leslie Dwyer, Alexander Laban Hinton, Sharon E. Hutchinson, Uli Linke, Kevin Lewis O’Neill, Antonius C. G. M. Robben, Debra Rodman, and Victoria Sanford.

Hinton is director of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights and associate professor of anthropology and global affairs at Rutgers University, Newark. He also is the author of Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide and editor of Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide.

Shankar ’94 Studies Young South Asian Americans in Silicon Valley

Book by Shalini Shankar '94.

Book by Shalini Shankar '94.

In her ethnographic account, Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley (Duke University Press), Shalini Shankar ’94 focuses on South Asian American teenagers (“Desis”) during the Silicon Valley dot-com boom.

The diverse students whose stories are told are Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, from South Asia and other locations, including first- to fourth-generation immigrants whose parents’ careers vary from assembly-line workers to engineers and CEOs.

Shankar analyzes how Desi teens’ conceptions and realizations of success are influenced by community values, cultural practices, language use, and material culture, and she provides a compassionate portrait of a vibrant culture in a changing urban environment.

Whether she is considering instant messaging, arranged marriages, or the pressures of the model minority myth, the author keeps the teens’ voices, perspectives and stories front and center. She looks at how Desi teens interact with dialogue and songs from Bollywood films as well as how they use their heritage language in ways that inform local meanings of ethnicity while they also connect to a broader South Asian diasporic consciousness.

Shankar is assistant professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at Northwestern University.

Fins ’82 Delivers Phi Beta Kappa Address

Joseph Fins '82 spoke to members of Phi Beta Kappa.

Joseph Fins '82 spoke to members of Phi Beta Kappa.

Joseph J. Fins ’82, M.D., chair of the Alumni Association, spoke to members of the Wesleyan Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa during Reunion & Commencement Weekend. His speech was titled “Minding Time.” Membership for Phi Beta Kappa is conferred for high scholastic achievement.

It is a delight to be here with you today to celebrate your induction into Phi Beta Kappa. Let me add my congratulations to those of The Faculty, President Roth and your friends and family. This is a memorable day in your life and it is good that you savour this accomplishment. A former professor of mine once told me we should, “Cultivate resting points of satisfaction.”

And this is one of those resting points. A moment that seems to encapsulate all that has happened to you at this marvelous university. It is an occasion when time seems to stand still. Memory is flooded with images of your first academic success, the hard work, and the epiphanies when you figured something out and, as importantly, the failures, which really led to intellectual growth.

As I think about how you must feel, I am reminded of a distant College of Letters class with Professor Howard Needler. We were reading St. Augustine’s Confessions and I remember stumbling upon Augustine’s notion of the “eternal present.” Referring to God, Augustine wrote the following:

In your “today” you will make all that is to exist tomorrow and thereafter, and in “your today” you have made all that existed yesterday and for ever before.

When I was a student here, I sometimes felt there was a coalescence of past, present and future — certainly not on the Celestial scale envisioned by Augustine — but on a personal one. These were formative moments.

And in many ways, that is how it must seem to you now, as you sit back and reflect in this moment about the distance you have come and the paths you are yet to take.

But the cultivation of resting points of satisfaction is not so simple. It is not about the eternal present, about this moment. Instead, what is implicit in the message is that sense of evolution, of progress of moving on. We are not talking about early retirement here. Rest should be temporary.

This is but a resting point. The line of a life is made up of such points, but it remains a line facing forward. Soon it will be time to leave here, move on, and make continued progress.

Your lives will continue, you will refine your passions, settle into careers and make the contributions to society that we expect of you. I was reminded of this forward march when I found my copy of Augustine’s Confessions in my library, circa 1980 margin notes and all.

Not only did my “Penguin Classic” edition cost $2.95, I also realized that while that volume had not changed, as I read it, I certainly had. When I first read it 30 years ago, it was an older man’s reminiscences and making sense and even atoning for an errant youth. To put it bluntly, Augustine wasn’t always a saint.

When I was twenty, I was interested in his tales of youth, wondering how did this start of a life end up as accomplished and saintly as it did. Perhaps naively, I wrote in the margins that Augustine, “did not appreciate when young the gift of life that God gave him. He did not realize that his study of rhetoric was shallow and useless because it was the use of words without substance. He tries here to atone and retrospectively judge afresh his old deeds.”

If I were to judge my notations three decades later, I am struck by the sense that my marginalia precisely did what I accused young Augustine of doing. My words were true, but as yet I did not understand them. My rhetoric was shallow and I wrote of things I did not yet understand, and could not know. It remained the stuff of platitude.

My margin notes were written absent the lived experiences that tests ideas, challenge theories and temper stances. Over the decades, I have gained a deeper insight into what I wrote through life experience, or as the American Pragmatist, John Dewey succinctly put it, “learning by doing.”

As a physician and a parent, I have since come to understand that when I wrote of young Augustine’s inability to appreciate the “gift of life” given to him, I too had yet to fully appreciate life and loss and how precious each life is.

Sadly, this is a lesson that each of you learned prematurely when this community was touched by unspeakable tragedy weeks ago. This too is now part of this moment, this shared present, as you reflect upon your past and contemplate your future. A future that is made all the more precious because of the pain that comes when it is irretrievably lost.

We prize the future for the potential that each of you embody and for the ways it will manifest the unfolding of the education you have received here. At this point your knowledge and skills remain mostly latent, still unapplied to the great works and good deeds that you will undertake. And in realizing those accomplishments, none of us knows which aspects of your education will be relevant decades later, when the future becomes present.

Perhaps an illustration will make my point clearer. When I was an undergraduate and read about Augustine’s “eternal present,” I never thought I would have an occasion to invoke this conceptualization decades later this afternoon or in connection to medical research considering how the brain recovers from injuries severe enough to cause a disorders of consciousness, like coma or the vegetative state.

Most would see that as a purely scientific quest and reasonably ask, what could a 4th century theologian, much less a Saint, add to scientific studies exploring the natural history of brain injury and mechanisms of brain repair? And truth be told, if the question were narrowly cast, the answer would be, “not much.”

But if the broader dimensions of the injured self are invoked, Augustine and the humanities would have a lot to add. His Confessions became relevant again when my colleagues and I found a brain-injured patient who was physiologically — and I dare say — metaphorically stuck in the eternal present.

You may of heard of the case, the remarkable tale of a patient named Terry Wallis who sustained a severe brain injury in 1984 when he was in a car accident. For nearly two decades he lay in a nursing home bed diagnosed as being in the vegetative state. He came to international media attention six years ago, when he began to speak spontaneously.

Like Karen Ann Quinlan or Terri Schiavo, Terry Wallis carried the diagnosis of being in the permanent vegetative state. As the years rolled by and he ceased to improve, he and his family were ignored by the medical community. He was marooned in a nursing home bed. His parents who visited him regularly asked that he be seen by a neurologist or have another scan of his brain. They were told that he was immutably injured, that he would never recover from his vegetative state and that further assessment was futile and too expensive.

The medical system had written him off as forever gone in a vegetative state of “wakeful unresponsiveness” in which his eyes were sometimes open but there was no awareness of himself, others or his environment. He had been relegated to what is euphemistically called “custodial care.” And there he lay, day after day, minding time.

But his parents thought they saw glimmers of awareness, only to be told that they were in denial or overly hopeful. Sometimes he would follow them with his eyes when they came into the room. At other times he seemed to follow an isolated command or nod his head. But these signs of awareness, of minimal consciousness, were not reproducible when the occasional doctor visited.

All of this changed in the summer of 2003 when Terry began to speak spontaneously. His first words were “Mom” and “Pepsi” and over time he gained greater fluency. But what was really interesting was that for Terry, it was still 1984. Ronald Reagan was still president. Like Rip Van Winkle he was locked in time.
Terry has continued to live in an eternal present since then, although his speech has become more fluent and he is laying down new memory. For example, he now knows the song “Bad Boys, Bad Boys, what you gonna do?” — which may or may not be an improvement. But it is important because his brain is learning and it seems, also changing structurally.

Neuroimaging studies using advanced MRI techniques at Weill Cornell showed what was described as new axonal sprouting or new connections between existing neurons in his brain. Over an 18-month interval two scans revealed dynamic changes in his brain with both axonal sprouting and pruning.

We don’t know if these neuroimaging changes were responsible for his ability to speak but they are suggestive. In tandem with his improved functional status, the neuroimaging findings show that while Terry was temporally locked in an eternal present, his brain injury was not immutable. Some degree of recovery was possible, even decades after injury.

But despite this forward progress it remained 1984. A couple years ago, Terry and his family watched President George W. Bush deliver the State of the Union Address at their home. Terry turned to his mother and asked, “Mama, who’s that?”

Mrs. Wallis said, “That’s President Bush.”

Terry responded, “What happened to Reagan?”

In preparation for this talk, I called the Walllis family last week to check in with them and to secure their on-going permission to share their story. They graciously have allowed me to continue to talk about Terry and his progress.

In our conversation, Terry’s mother, Mrs. Wallis told me that Terry’s daughter, Amber had graduated from college the night before. Since 2003, Terry has had difficulty reconciling that Amber was his daughter and not his ex-wife. Amber had been born after his accident and resembled her mother. Terry confused her with his former wife because in 1984, he was still married and had no children.

So it was all the more remarkable when Mrs. Wallis told Terry about his daughter’s graduation and he responded, “Amber’s graduating college? She’s not a kid anymore. She’s a young lady.”

Although Mrs. Wallis tells me that it’s “still 1984, most of the time”, Terry’s appreciation that Amber is getting older suggests the return of a temporal sense, at least on an inconsistent basis, now 25 years after he was injured.

Terry is not alone in his temporal dislocation and the slow march of recovery. The brain injury literature recounts other cases. In one case, a psychologist described his own disorientation after regaining consciousness:

During this period, I had no awareness of time. I existed in a world of the here and now. I was not even aware that such a concept of “time” existed. I knew who “I” was but did not think of myself as being a child, a boy, or a man…One day, however, my “mental clock” began ticking again and the concept of time began to become significant. (Cited by W. Winslade, Confronting Traumatic Brain Injury. New Haven: Yale U, Press, 1998. pp 78-79.)

Cases like these raise perplexing questions about time and personhood. Can you fully be you stuck in an eternal present, not knowing whether you are “a child, a boy or a man”? Imagine the thought experiment of self-awareness devoid of temporal reference points.

Although neuroscience may be on the way to answering this age-old question, the humanities have already weighed in on the issue over the course of millennia. Augustine saw the eternal present as that which divided us from the deity.

Deities aside, humans are not meant to reside in an eternal present — or as the psychologist put it, “a world of the here and now.” We are destined, instead, for a temporal grid with a past, present and future.
And in more modern times, Martin Heidegger would write in his aptly titled masterwork, “Being and Time” that we achieve our potentiality as Beings only after fully assuming a temporality and appreciating their broader place in History. Fundamentally, we need to be aware of the march of time for an authentic understanding of our Being.

Milestones like the one we mark this afternoon — and on Sunday — are reminders that the passage of time is inextricably linked to the realization of one’s potentiality and to the cultivation of a perspective on personal growth.

As the Wisdom of the Ages and newer insights from the Neurosciences show us, though we might savor these resting points of satisfaction, they do not define what we are but rather who we are in the process of becoming. It is the stringing together of these moments that make for a reflective life. So as we celebrate your accomplishments, let us also mark the passage of time, which allows us to appreciate such moments, knowing that they are singular and fleeting, and indispensable to the trajectories of each of our lives.

Waldman ’86, Miranda ’02 Perform at White House Arts Evening

Two Wesleyan alumni performed May 12 for President Obama, his family and others at the White House. The event was titled “An Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word.” Ayelet Waldman ’86 and her husband Michael Chabon, both writers, were among the speakers. An NPR story about the event included Waldman discussing the power of the written word: “To harness the power of language you have to be able to put yourself in the position of the person you are speaking to—to imagine what they are thinking, what they’re feeling. That’s hard.”

Also at the White House was Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, creator of the award-winning Broadway show “In the Heights.” In her blog, Waldman says he won over the audience “with a hip hop song about Alexander Hamilton, as sung by Aaron Burr.” She credited Miranda with being “one of those performers who comes along every once in a rare while who’s just got magic about him.”

Study by Hill ’91 Explores the History of U.S. Radical Politics

Book by Rebecca Hill '91.

Book by Rebecca Hill '91.

Rebecca N. Hill ’91 is the author of Men, Mobs, and Law: Anti Lynching and Labor Defense in U.S. Radical History (Duke University Press) in which she compares two seemingly unrelated types of leftist protest campaigns: those intended to defend labor organizers from prosecution and those seeking to memorialize lynching victims and stop the practice of lynching. Her incisive new study suggests that these forms of protest are related and have considerably influenced one another. She recognizes that both campaigns worked to build alliances through appeals to public opinion in the media, by defining the American state as a force of terror, and by creating a heroic identity for their movements.

Hill focuses on the narratives produced during the abolitionist John Brown’s trials and execution, analyzes the defense of the Chicago anarchists of the Haymarket affair, and compares Ida B. Wells’s and the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaigns to the Industrial Workers of the World’s early 20th-century defense campaigns. She also examines conflicts within the campaign to defend Sacco and Vanzetti, chronicles the history of the Communist Party’s International Labor Defense, and explores the Black Panther Party’s defense of George Jackson.

Hill is an associate professor in the department of social science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York.