Tag Archive for alumni

Angels and Demons, with Screenplay by Goldsman ’83, Opens at Number One at the Box Office

Angels and Demons is number one at the box office.

Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in Angels and Demons (Photo by Zade Rosenthal/Sony Pictures)

Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman ’83 (with David Koepp) co-wrote the screenplay of Angels and Demons, directed by Ron Howard, which was number one at the box office at $48 million during its first weekend.

The film opened nationwide at at 3,527 theaters on Friday, May 15. Based on the novel by Dan Brown, Angels and Demons is a prequel to the best-selling thriller The Da Vinci Code which follows the adventures of Harvard University symbologist and theology sleuth Robert Langdon.

The movie version of The Da Vinci Code, which also had a screenplay by Goldsman, was a hugely popular film internationally, opening worldwide in its first weekend at $232.1 million. Both Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code feature Tom Hanks as Robert Landon with Ron Howard as a director.

New Poetry Collection by Middletown Resident Allison ’85

Susan Allison

Susan Allison

Susan Allison ’85 has just published a poetry collection, Down by the Riverside Ways (Antrim Books).

Allison returned to Middletown a few years after graduating from Wesleyan and has lived here since.

Most of the poems in this collection have been written in Middletown over the last 20 years.

Allison comments: “I like the word concatenation, meaning: to link in a chain, to describe some of the poems. Many of the poems are concatenations of ideas based in experience. The book as a whole is a concatenation, and strives to make sense through random strings of devotion. I owe much to Rennie McQuilken who collaborated with me on the book.”

Poetry Collection by Susan Allison.

Poetry Collection by Susan Allison

A Tune for Harmonica
by Susan Allison
for Thomas Moses

Ladder ladder I descend
down where cocktail parties end.
Landscaped vistas, rarified air—
it’s too freezing cold up there.
Moribund hostesses make me shiver.
I am climbing a ladder down to the river.

Rippled current ocean-bound,
only here do I bow down,
sink my toes in fish-rank muck
soft and warm and full of suck.
My harp sings to the blessing giver.
I am climbing her ladder down by the river.

Connecticut Gallery Features Sculptures by Stern ’80

Recent sculptures by Melissa Stern ’80 will be shown with work by four other artists at the Bachelier Cardonsky Gallery Open House in Kent, Conn. from May 23 through July 5. The opening is from 4 to 6 p.m. on May 23.

Stern’s work reflects both non-Western and outsider art influences. Her drawings, collages, and figurative sculptures are characterized by their richly drawn and deeply layered surfaces. She uses a wide range of materials from encaustic to clay, pastel to steel.

“All of my pieces share a thematic thread,” Stern says. “Childlike and goofy my figures live in a dream world, cower in relationships or stand tall in the face of adversity. They are at once dark and funny, expressive of the absurd world around them. Gender, relationships and broader social dynamics are subtly intertwined. The personal is the political.”

Stern, of New York, N.Y., considers herself a handyman cobbling together drawings and sculptures from elements found, borrowed and imagined.

The Bachelier Cardonsky Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and by appointment. For more information call 860-927-3129. Its address is 10 North Main Street.

Oracle Acquires Sun, Headed by Jonathan Schwartz ’87

Jonathan Schwartz '87 (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Jonathan Schwartz '87 (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

On April 20, Oracle Corp. announced it would acquire Sun Microsystems, whose chief executive officer is Jonathan Schwartz ’87. The deal, valued at $7.4 billion, promises to make Oracle a more potent competitor against I.B.M., Sun’s previous suitor, according to The New York Times.

“With Sun, Oracle will more directly compete against I.B.M., H.P. and other giants selling products and services used in corporate data centers by big corporations,””said the Times. “The move by Oracle is part of the trend of the largest technology companies to assemble more offerings — hardware, software and services — for corporate customers, often through acquisitions, as I.B.M., H.P., Cisco and Oracle have all done in recent years.”

In an e-mail to Sun employees, reported by the Wall Street Journal, Schwartz spoke about the acquisition:

“This is one of the toughest emails I’ve ever had to write. It’s also one of the most hopeful about Sun’s future in the industry. To me, this proposed acquisition totally redefines the industry, resetting the competitive landscape by creating a company with great reach, expertise and innovation. A combined Oracle/Sun will be capable of cultivating one of the world’s most vibrant and far reaching developer communities, accelerating the convergence of storage, networking and computing, and delivering one of the world’s most powerful and complete portfolios of business and technical software.”

Kurtzman ’95 Re-Imagines Star Trek for a New Generation

From left, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, Chris Pine as Kirk, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as McCoy, John Cho as Sulu and Zoë Saldana as Uhura. (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.)

From left, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, Chris Pine as Kirk, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as McCoy, John Cho as Sulu and Zoë Saldana as Uhura. (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.)

Alex Kurtzman ’95 and Roberto Orci are the screenwriters for a new version of Star Trek, directed by J. J. Abrams, which premieres in the theaters May 8. The eagerly awaited movie has already received a large amount of advance publicity in the media, everywhere from Entertainment Weekly to the Wall Street Journal to sci-fi web sites, and advance word has been positive.

The New York Times devoted a feature by Dave Itzkoff on April 26 on the upcoming film. The new version delves into the series’ mythology and takes the viewer to the origins of James Kirk and Spock as young men and the beginning of the U. S. S. Enterprise.

According to the Times: “For the ‘Trek” faithful there are plenty of nods to past television episodes and movies, familiar catchphrases and Kirk’s notorious solution to a supposedly unwinnable mission simulation. But there is also a conscious effort to inscribe this “Trek” in the storytelling traditions popularized by Joseph Campbell, in which heroes must suffer loss and abandonment before they rise to the occasion.”

In a recent review in Variety, Todd McCarthy says that “the new and improved Star Trek will transport fans to sci-fi nirvana.” He adds that the film “rockets along like a beautifully engineered vehicle you can’t help but admire for its design and performance. It shifts gears often but always smoothly, and accelerates again and yet again when you suspect it might be tempted to ease up for good.”

Memorable Tales of a Mill Town by Winn ’75

Tracy Winn '75

Tracy Winn '75

Tracy Winn ’75 is the author of Mrs. Somebody Somebody (Southern Methodist University Press), a vibrant new collection of interwoven tales about the inhabitants of Lowell, Mass., a dying mill town.

Her affecting and unsentimental stories, set from the 1940s to the present, cover a range of fascinating characters, including mill workers, a doctor, a hairdresser, a bookie, a restless wife, and several insightful children.

In his review of the book in the Boston Globe, Steve Almond ’88 praises Winn’s book as “a testament to the power of the short form.” He adds that her stories “carefully expose the universal desires for love and security that live within all of us — and the ways in which well-meaning but damaged people thwart these desires.”

Winn chose Lowell as her setting because it reminded her of Holyoke, the town where husband grew up. In a recent interview in the Republican (Mass.), Winn said: “You can’t protect your characters from bad things. That was hard for me to learn.”

Tower ’96 Makes Remarkable Fiction Debut

Wells Tower '96

Wells Tower '96 (Photo by Suzanne Bennett)

Author Wells Tower ’96 recently garnered rave reviews across the country for his first short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Farrar Straus Giroux) which was published in March. The book received two fine reviews in the same week in The New York Times and was the cover review for The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

For the Sunday Times, acclaimed writer Edmund White wrote: “Every one of the stories .., is polished and distinctive. Though he’s intrigued by the painful experiences of men much older than he is, Tower can write with equal power about young women and boys; about hell-­raising, skull-bashing ancient Vikings and an observant housebound old man of the 21st century … His range is wide and his language impeccable.”

Book by Wells Tower '96

Book by Wells Tower '96

In her weekday review for the Times, Michiko Kakutani, one of the paper’s toughest literary critics, praised Tower’s “masterly conjuring of his people’s daily existence, his understanding of their emotional dilemmas, his controlled but dazzling language and his effortless ability to turn snapshots of misfits and malcontents into a panoramic cavalcade of American life.”

Tower majored in anthropology and sociology at Wesleyan. He received an MFA from Columbia University, and two stories he wrote there were published by The Paris Review. Tower has also written nonfiction articles for the past five years for The Washington Post and Harper’s. Besides following his dream of working as a writer, he also played in a punk band for six years.

In a recent interview in The New York Observer, Tower said: “I think what people really want is fiction that in some tiny way makes their life more meaningful and makes the world seem like a richer place. The world is awfully short on joy and richness, and I think to some extent it’s the fiction writer’s job to salvage some of that and to give it to us in ways that we can believe in.”

Link to the New York Times Sunday Book Review article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/books/review/White-t.html?ref=books

Link to weekday New York Times review:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/24/books/24kaku.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=%22Wells%20Tower%22&st=cse

New York Observer interview:

http://www.observer.com/2009/books/wells-tower-fiction-writer-looking-joy

 

Dick Rohfritch ’66 Finds Unusual Route to Book Selling

“Book-lover Dick Rohfritch didn’t set out to buy 12,000 modern first editions once owned by an eccentric lawyer-collector found murdered in his rural Missouri home. It’s just that he doesn’t like to play golf. And thereby hangs the tale of how The Woodlands got Good Books in the Woods, a new secondhand bookstore full of remarkable finds.”

The Houston Chronicle recounts this story about Rohfritch ’66, an English major who works in chemical sales but has always loved reading and enjoys collecting books.

The dead man, 70-year-old Rolland Comstock, was an avid bibliophile who acquired signed first editions by 20th-century British and American authors. In July 2007 he was found shot dead in his home, and the case remains unsolved. Many of the books in his collection were in superb condition, signed and encased in acetate wrappers.

Rohfritch discovered the collection in a warehouse owned by Second Story Books of Washington, D.C. According to the Chronicle, he soon became “the proud owner of a 40-foot trailer’s worth of modern firsts plus hard-to-find literary magazines.”

The idea of opening a bookstore emerged gradually. In The Woodlands, a planned community in the Houston metropolitan area, Rohfritch found a house that could be renovated as a bookstore and installed his son, Jay, as general manager. They expect to do sell most of their first editions over the Internet at prices ranging from $12 to $300.

Jazz Artists Bynum ’98 and Halvorson ’02 on the Rise

Taylor Ho Bynum

Recording by Taylor Ho Bynum '98

A recent March article by Nate Chinen in The New York Times focused on Firehouse 12, a New Haven state-of-the-art recording studio and home to a jazz record label of the same name. Firehouse 12 Records is co-owned by cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum ’98 and Nick Lloyd, who owns the recording studio.

The Times article pointed out that the Firehouse 12 studio in a renovated 1905 firehouse in New Haven’s Ninth Square Neighborhood has also become a venue for performances by some of today’s most talented young avant-garde jazz artists. At the same time, Firehouse 12 records has already released several well-reviewed recordings by a number of up-and-coming musicians, including drummer Tyshawn Sorey, trumpeter Peter Evans, and guitarist Mary Halvorson ’02. Halvorson’s Dragon Head album went into a second printing.

Bynum, who was interviewed by the Times, studied with Wesleyan music professor and jazz legend Anthony Braxton. He mentions in the article that Firehouse 12 had an initial success with their first release of a boxed set of Braxton recordings, priced at $100.

Recording by Mary Halvorson '02

Recording by Mary Halvorson '02

Bynum and Halvorson also were singled out with two of their musician friends in April in The Wall Street Journal as “among the most exciting new jazz musicians to emerge on the New York scene.” The WSJ article called Bynum’s sextet recording Asphalt Flowers/Forking Paths (Hat Hut) “one of the best recordings of the past year. It’s a broad, sprawling disc brimming with unique harmonies and pithy solos.” The article noted that Halvorson’s Firehouse 12 album Dragon Head was named the finest debut recording in the Village Voice’s annual jazz critics’ poll.

Link to New York Times article on Firehouse 12:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/27/arts/music/27fire.html?ref=music

Link to Wall Street Journal article:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123923002993502795.html

Quindlen P’07, Premji P’99, Masselli,                   Alexander ’88, to Receive Honorary Degrees

An award-winning best-selling author, a pioneering entrepreneur and philanthropist, and two dedicated members of the Middletown community will be the honorary degree recipients at the 177th Wesleyan Commencement on May 24, 2009.

Anna Quindlen P'07.

Anna Quindlen P'07

Anna Quindlen P’07, who will also give the Commencement Address, is a novelist, a journalist, and a champion of higher education. She currently writes the “Last Word” column on the back page of Newsweek and serves as chair of the board of Barnard College, where she received a degree in English literature.

Quindlen has published five novels, all of them bestsellers. Her most recent, Rise and Shine, debuted at number one on The New York Times bestseller list. She has also published many nonfiction books, including Thinking Out Loud, How Reading Changed My Life, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life, which has sold more than 1 million copies.

Quindlen spent most of

Whedon ’87 to Keynote Shasha Seminar in May

Joss Whedon '87.

Joss Whedon '87.

Joss Whedon ’87, writer, director and executive producer of such popular TV shows as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and the new series “Dollhouse,” will give the May 30 keynote address for the seventh annual Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. The unique seminar scheduled for May 29 through 31 will focus on “Defining American Culture: How Movies and TV Get Made.”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Chair of the Film Studies Department, and curator of the Cinema Archives will be the facilitator for this seminar. Other presenters include successful Wesleyan alumni who work as film and TV producers, directors, writers and actors.

“This seminar provides an opportunity for an intellectual examination of films and TV and their influence on our culture,” says Linda Secord, Director of Alumni Relations and the Shasha Seminar organizer.

Tyrnauer ’91, Leff ’90, Burden ’89 Create Valentino Documentary

Matt Tyrnauer '91, left, talks with Valentino.

Matt Tyrnauer '91, left, talks with Valentino.

Matt Tyrnauer ’91, special correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, has produced and directed an engaging new documentary, Valentino: The Last Emperor, which was released nationwide in March. (The film opened in Manhattan on March 18 at the Film Forum.)

Co-produced by Adam Leff ’90 with Carter Burden ’89 as executive producer, the film celebrates the colorful career of the renowned Italian fashion designer Valentino, covering the period between his 70th birthday and his final couture show. It tells the story of his extraordinary life, examines the fashion business today, and deals with the designer’s relationship with fame.

The Last Emperor</em>.

Valentino, center, in Valentino: The Last Emperor.

At the center of the documentary is the unique relationship between Valentino and his business partner and companion of 50 years, Giancarlo Giammetti. Tyrnauer and his crew had exclusive, unprecedented access to Valentino and his entourage. In production from June 2005 to July 2007, the filmmakers shot more than 250 hours of footage.

In March, Valentino and Giammetti were guests on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the film was also featured on The Charlie Rose Show and The View. The documentary has been received favorably in the press. Lisa Berman of Entertainment Weekly says: “I really enjoyed Matt’s film. He did an amazing job, and the access was phenomenal. I found it fascinating how it … became a business story.”

Tyrnauer comments: “The movie, in certain ways—thanks almost entirely to its stars—plays more like a feature film than a documentary. What started as a journalistic inquiry, in the end, revealed a unique love story with the world of fashion as a backdrop.”

Tynnauer was recently interviewed by several publications, including Women’s Wear Daily and IndieWire.

Film website:
http://www.valentinomovie.com/