Tag Archive for media

O’Connell in The Conversation: What Scientists Have Found by Drilling into the Ocean Floor

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair. In a new article,Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, writes about the important findings that have resulted from 50 years of scientific drilling on the ocean floor—and how much is still unknown.

Scientists have been drilling into the ocean floor for 50 years – here’s what they’ve found so far

It’s stunning but true that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the Earth’s ocean floor. Much of what we do know has come from scientific ocean drilling – the systematic collection of core samples from the deep seabed. This revolutionary process began 50 years ago, when the drilling vessel Glomar Challenger sailed into the Gulf of Mexico on August 11, 1968 on the first expedition of the federally funded Deep Sea Drilling Project.

I went on my first scientific ocean drilling expedition in 1980, and since then have participated in six more expeditions to locations including the far North Atlantic and Antaractica’s Weddell Sea. In my lab, my students and I work with core samples from these expeditions. Each of these cores, which are cylinders 31 feet long and 3 inches wide, is like a book whose information is waiting to be translated into words. Holding a newly opened core, filled with rocks and sediment from the Earth’s ocean floor, is like opening a rare treasure chest that records the passage of time in Earth’s history.

Chen ’98 Explores Emotions of Directorial Debut for Filmmaker Magazine

Director Lynn Chen on the set of her first feature film I Will Make You Mine, an experience she wrote about for Filmmaker magazine. (Photo by Eric Yang)

Already an actor and blogger, Lynn Chen ’98 is now also a director, with her first feature film, I Will Make You Mine. She wrote about the experience for Filmmaker magazine: “I Just Finished Directing My First Feature Film, Why Do I Feel Like I Have Post-Partum Depression?”

The editors note that these low feelings are common for first-time directors but not frequently discussed. Chen, however, is an activist—the ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association since 2012—and not afraid to tackle emotional content and bring taboo topics to the forefront.

“When I was a women’s studies/music double major at Wesleyan in 1998, I found very little crossover academically and had to carve my own way through that degree,” recalls Chen. “Now, 20 years later, I’m carving my own way again.”

In the Filmmaker essay, she explains:

About a year ago I started writing my first feature, ‘I Will Make You Mine,’ which I planned to produce, direct, and act in. This is the second sequel to the “Surrogate Valentine” movies I starred in by filmmaker Dave Boyle. I chose to take the same characters and tell the story, six years later, from the female perspective. I spent several months living in the heads of these women, thinking about what it means to grow older, revisit your past, and feel hope again.

Over the summer we filmed the first half of the movie, and despite the drama that comes with any film production, I felt more excited, passionate, fulfilled, alive (and any other positive adjective used to describe feelings) than I ever had before. Yes, I was truly happy. And I don’t care what all the self-help gurus say – that happiness was everything. On the last day, I was still on that high. Until a few hours after we wrapped, when it all came crashing down.

(Read more)

 

 

Gottschalk in The Conversation: Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?

Peter Gottschalk

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, discusses “Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?” Gottschalk also is professor of science in society, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development, and coordinator of Muslim studies.

Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and why haven’t they voted in 30 years?

Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, is all set to be the country’s new prime minister. His party emerged the single largest in recent elections.

It is only for the second time in the 71-year history of this second largest Muslim majority country that a democratically elected government, will transfer power to another after completing its full term. The nation’s military has intervened repeatedly to remove leaders and has directly controlled the country for about half of its history.

And so this recent milestone in Pakistan’s democracy has elated many citizens. However, one community boycotted the recent elections, as they have for over three decades: the Ahmadi, a religious minority.

Who are the Ahmadis and what does their boycott tell about the role religion has played in Pakistan’s nationalist politics?

The Ahmadi of Pakistan
The origin of the Ahmadi community goes back to the British-ruled India of 1889. At the time, in the province of Punjab (a region that would later be split between an independent India and Pakistan), a Muslim religious leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, became disenchanted with what he viewed as Muslim decadence that allowed for the humiliating experience of foreign rule.

Like many Indians, he wondered what needed to change in order to overcome the invaders.

Wesleyan in the News


In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Variety: “Entertainment Education Report: The Best Film Schools in 2018”

Wesleyan is highlighted as one of the best schools to study film. An exceptional group of filmmakers, including Joss Whedon ’87 and Michael Bay ’86, have cited Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, as a major influence on their understanding of film.

2. Hartford Courant: “New Bike Share at Wesleyan Offers Speedy Transport for Students”

Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst discusses Wesleyan’s new partnership with San Francisco–based start-up Spin to provide bicycles on campus for quick and low-cost rental by students and other community members.

3. WNPR: “Where We Live”

Katja Kolcio, associate professor and chair of dance, and Anna Fox ’19 discuss Wesleyan’s partnership with a university in Kiev, Ukraine, their recent visit to the country, and what they have learned from activists involved in the country’s revolution in 2014. Kolcio is also associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies and associate professor of environmental studies. (Kolcio and Fox come in around 26 minutes).

4. Poets & Quants for Undergrads: “The Case for ‘Test Optional’ College Admissions”

A new study, which analyzed data from Wesleyan and many other schools that don’t require the SAT or ACT in admission, finds that “test optional” institutions tend to enroll a higher proportion of low-income, first-generation students on average, and students from more diverse backgrounds. The study also found that high school GPA was a better predictor of success in college than standardized test scores for these students.

5. Gizmodo“What Shapes Are Things in Outer Space?”

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, assistant professor of integrative sciences, paints a picture of the planet formation process, and explains why planetary systems tend to be flat.

Recent Alumni News

  1. Tech Crunch: With Loans of Just $10, This Startup Has Built a Financial Services Powerhouse in Emerging Markets”

    Shivani Siroya ’04 is founder and chief executive officer of Tala, a Santa Monica–based financial services start-up. The Tech Crunch article offers examples of lives that have been changed in places such as India, Mexico, the Philippines, and Tanzania with help from Tala. Additionally, author Jonathan Shieber reports that Steve Case’s Revolution Growth fund recently provided $65 million in new financing for Tala: “’We see Tala as a company building the future of finance. They have quickly become one of the leading mobile-first lenders in emerging markets where well over 3 billion consumers do not have access to traditional banks,’ says Case.”

2. Washington Post: “The Trailblazing Writing Life of Alexander Chee [’89]”

“Alexander Chee is best known as a novelist, and after the operatic plot of his Queen of the Night, readers may be surprised at the quiet intimacy of his first essay collection, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel,” writes reviewer Crystal Hana Kim. “By offering the reader such advice in the form of personal revelation, we are asked to journey with him, to learn how to write alongside him. In the ensuing essays, Chee reflects on his professional trajectory. In some, like ‘The Writing Life,’ which chronicles Chee’s class with Annie Dillard at Wesleyan University, he discusses craft explicitly. In others, like ‘The Rosary,’ he only alludes to his writerly life….”

 

3. Washington Post: Op-Ed: “I Thought Grit Would Bring Me Success. It Almost Killed Me,” by Nataly Kogan [’98]

Nataly Kogan, who arrived with her parents in the United States as Russian refugees when she was only 13, is the founder of Happier, a learning and technology platform. In this op-ed she writes about the pressure she put herself under to succeed in America, but through work with a life coach, she learned important lessons about self-compassion. She is the author of  Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Sounds True; May 1, 2018).

4.  Channel NewsAsia: Commentary: ”A Liberal Arts Education in Singapore and the Usefulness of ‘Useless’ Knowledge

Terry Nardin, professor of political science and director of Common Curriculum at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, offers an explanation of a liberal arts education that challenges the cultural expectation that “the purpose of tertiary education is to equip students with technical or other specialised skills that qualify them for a specific job and stable employment.” As an example of a liberal arts graduate who has met with success he offers:  “Luke Wood [’91] graduated in 1991 from Wesleyan University, an American liberal arts college, where he had majored in American studies. Wood was able to turn his passion for music into an internship at Geffen Records, after which he signed artists for DreamWorks and Interscope.” Nardin traces Wood’s path further, concluding that “Wood’s success is another good reminder that ‘useless knowledge’ can not only turn out to be useful after all, but also that usefulness is in the eye of the beholder.”

5. Variety:Bloom/Spiegel Partnership Unveils Participants of Second Edition (EXCLUSIVE)

Ostin Fam ’17 (Dung Quoc Pham ’17) was selected as one of eight filmmakers for “the second edition of the Bloom/Spiegel Partnership, an alliance between New York’s IFP Marcie Bloom Fellowship in Film and Jerusalem’s prestigious Sam Spiegel Film School.” The article includes this background on the Wesleyan alumnus: “Born in Vietnam and based in New York, Fam graduated from Wesleyan University and received the Steven J. Ross Prize for his senior film thesis. Fam is currently finishing the screenplay of his first feature, Small Wars. Taking place in a rural village in Vietnam, the story is about a family of three.”

Executive Producer Selkow ’96 Directs Hip-Hop Docu-Series Rapture

At SXSW film and music festival, members of the creative team behind Rapture are Executive Producer Ben Selkow ’96, Director Marcus Clarke, Executive Producer Peter Bittenbender (of Mass Appeal), and Executive Producer Sacha Jenkins (of Mass Appeal). Rapture, a docu-series produced by Mass Appeal for Netflix is available now. Netflix describes the project as: “star[ing] directly into the bright light that hip-hop culture shines on the world…. Rapture dives into the artists’ lives with their families and friends, to sitting front row in the studio and grinding on tour, to experiencing the ecstatic power of moving the crowd.” (Photo Credit: Daniel Boczarski/Getty for Netflix)

Rapture, a new eight-part docu-series on hip-hop that premiered on Netflix March 30, features Ben Selkow ’96 as executive producer, showrunner, and one of the directors. It is art with an overarching purpose: “We hope to bring audiences and fans closer to the artists’ experience by sharing their biography and showing the perseverance, talent, and luck that helped each transform and transcend their situation,” says Selkow, a film studies and African American studies major while at Wesleyan, who previously directed Reza Aslan’s CNN series Believer. After returning from the SXSW film and music festival in Austin, Texas, where the team showcased several episodes of Rapture, Selkow discussed the project.

Connection: What drew you into this project and made it personally compelling?
Ben Selkow: Netflix wanted to collaborate on a new hip-hop project with Mass Appeal, an on-the-rise culture media and content company. A Netflix executive introduced me to Mass Appeal’s Sacha Jenkins and Peter Bittenbender, who needed an executive producer and showrunner. We got on really well from jump—and spent the next 18 months conceiving, refining, staffing, shooting, editing, finishing, and promoting Rapture.

I was drawn to it on many levels. I’ve been listening to hip-hop since my first Beastie Boy, Ice-T, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, and Public Enemy tapes—yes, tapes! And at Wesleyan, I continued my education in hip-hop with Javaid Khan (DJ Van Vader) ’96, Phil Jenkins (DJ Casual Phil) ’96, Jason Rosado ’96, and my man Jake Sussman ’96 making me mixtapes, as well as partying at [Malcolm] X house, while Matt Dickerson (DJ Denmark) ’95 was spinning. And then—beyond my love of the music, the culture, the politics, and its growing power of expression and American reporting—I really dug Sacha and Peter. Of course, the opportunity to work with Netflix and connect with audiences in 190-plus countries/117 million subscribers was a dream.

Connection: What was your role on the project and what were your biggest challenges?
Ben Selkow: As showrunner and one of the executive producers, I worked with all our specialists in each area, leading the charge—from conception to the talent casting, to the aesthetic look, to team staffing, to legal, to music supervision, to running everything with our amazing post-production team and doing the general crisis control. I also directed the episode with 2 Chainz.

Hip-hop artist Nas (left) and Executive Producer and Director Ben Selkow ’96 attend the Rapture Netflix Original Documentary Series, Special Screening at The Metrograph in New York City, on March 20. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Netflix)  Wesleyan viewers will want to know that Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 makes a cameo appearance in Rapture‘s Nas/Dave East episode, when the three are shown filming the video for the Hamilton mixtape song, “Wrote My Way Out.”

As for challenges, we had no proof of concept as this was Season 1, so the initial casting was the first challenge. We wanted a diverse group of artists and we were trying to compel the artists to entrust their stories with us. We were also making big asks for their time—not just an interview and some B-roll, but we wanted to do longitudinal, observational cinema, which makes for totally unique narratives. But we were able to earn a tremendous amount of trust with all the artists. Then the challenge was keeping up with their kinetic lives and building narratives. In the end, it was both a relief and incredibly exciting to watch the artists’ reactions once we screened their episodes with them. Sitting in a screening room with Nas, Just Blaze, or 2 Chainz and hearing that they loved it and thanked us…. Man, amazing feeling.

Connection: Why is this piece important? What do you think are the most important points you are bringing to the world?
Ben Selkow: By selecting a wide breadth of artists who range aesthetically, regionally, generationally, racially, and gender-wise—as well as including a super producer—Rapture paints the portrait of hip-hop as a diverse, complex, and wildly dynamic music universe. By offering an immersive view of the artists’ personal lives—beyond just seeing them as superstars—we are afforded the privilege of witnessing the artists’ humanness and mortality, as well as seeing what it is to live a life of an international celebrity.
We hope that Rapture illuminates some of the misconceptions about hip-hop and rap culture. For so long society at large has written off hip-hop as being only for gangsters, thugs, people who were morally corrupt. But through Rapture, we sought to depict the brilliance, passion, intelligence, artistry, dexterity, humanness, complexity, and perseverance that has made hip-hop and rap music the dominant global form.

We hope the series shows the featured artists at the top of their game for a reason, rising because of supreme artistry, hard work, a desire to change their situation: in summary, rising through the American dream.

Connection: Were there some best moment, breakthroughs, or epiphanies? What did you learn?
Ben Selkow: We had many, many incredible moments—from rocking with Nas at JazzFest in New Orleans backed by a 10-piece brass band in the Soul Rebels, to watching T.I. and Harry Belafonte intensely examine contemporary issues. But one moment that I just experienced speaks to the moments of resonance, the nuances and many gems throughout this whole series: During the screening of the Nas episode at the 1,100-seat Paramount Theatre at SXSW, T.I. was sitting with Dave East in the audience (I was one row behind them). They were really enjoying the episode, where director Sacha is highlighting Nas’s power in hip-hop—and she tells him that legendary Bronx rapper Big Pun’s grandson’s given name is Ether (“Ether” was a famous diss track Nas made in 2001). On screen, Nas is visibly taken aback at hearing this—as, I can see, are T.I. and Dave East, Nas’s protégés.

The next thing that happens in the film is we play a line from “Ether” to punctuate the point, that Nas’s influence is deep: “I am the truest, name a rapper that I ain’t influenced.” When this line plays, the audience spontaneously sings this line together—led most loudly by T.I. and Dave East.

At that moment, I realized: Doesn’t matter what the reviews say; true hip-hop is feeling this project. We did it—and, hopefully, get an opportunity to keep telling these stories. [See trailer below].

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Sharing the Stage: Greenberger ’81 Wins Award, Whitford ’81 Presents

Sharing the Stage: Bradley Whiford ’81 (left) presents the Writers Guild Award to his senior-year housemate and fellow theater major, Dan Greenberger ’81. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Variety)

Dan Greenberger ’81 attended the Writers Guild Award as a nominee in the category of On-Air Promotion (“the TV equivalent of movie trailers,” he explains) on Feb. 11, 2018. As an award veteran (he’d already won twice previously), Greenberger had done his homework: checked who was presenting his category and prepared an acceptance speech in case he won.

Just before the ceremony, as people milled around the dinner tables, he ran into his Wesleyan senior-year housemate, Bradley Whitford ’81, who had news: the scheduled presenter in the on-air promotion category had canceled. Instead, “I’m presenting in your category,” Whitford told his friend.

And from there, everything went off script for Greenberger, who quickly tried to reformulate his prepared speech to celebrate the friendship on stage, should he win.

Greenberger was the winner, and when he dashed on stage, the two embraced and ribbed each other gently about their college housekeeping habits.

In a conversation afterward with the Connection, Greenberger acknowledged the uniqueness of sharing that moment with his fellow theater major. “Senior year was a bonding time, as we were both getting ready to go out into the world.

“Brad and I took a train together to New York to audition for Juilliard,” Greenberger recalls.”He got in and I didn’t—and that’s when I decided I would be a writer.” In fact, Whitford had appeared in Wesleyan plays that Greenberger had written.

“Obviously, at the presentation, we were joking around a lot—but how great a full-circle moment is that? To be on stage, getting an award, with someone to whom you’ve talked about dreams and hopes when we were in college—I’m just so proud of what Brad has done with his career. As an actor, he keeps getting better.”

Greenberger, whose current work at CBS includes writing the promotions for Kevin Can Wait, notes that his favorite assignment was also very Wesleyan: How I Met Your Mother, the nine-season sitcom written by Carter Bays ’97 and Craig Thomas ’97. “I loved the sensibility; it was smart, it was funny, it was edgy—and I loved the fact that it was created by Wesleyan guys,” he recalls.

And he also knew it well: “When you work on promoting a show, you really get to know it almost better than anyone. You watch every episode more than once, you take it apart, you take notes on it: ‘Oh, here’s a good line; there’s a good moment.’ These are the pieces of the puzzle that I use to build the promotion—a story in 20 seconds, and every syllable counts.”

As for Whitford, Greenberger maintains: “He’s one of the very funniest people I’ve ever known. I’ve always told him he should do more comedy.

“But seriously—any time I look at Brad I go back to those days at Wesleyan when we were both theater majors falling in love with ‘the business,’ and wondering, ‘how do we get into this, and how do we make our mark?’ It was so great to have our paths converge on that stage.”

 

Boger ’73 Recalls “Weightless Flight” With Hawking for WNPR

Noted physicist Stephen Hawking (center), who died on March 14, enjoys zero gravity during a 2007 flight aboard a modified Boeing 727 aircraft owned by Zero Gravity Corporation. Joshua Boger ’73 (not pictured), founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, was on the flight with Hawking and recalled it for a tribute on WNPR. In this photo, Hawking, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) was being rotated by (right) Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Zero G Corp., and (left) Byron Lichtenberg, former shuttle payload specialist and now president of ZERO-G. Kneeling behind Hawking is Nicola O’Brien, a nurse practitioner who was Hawking’s aide. (Photo courtesy of Zero Gravity Corp., Wikimedia Commons)

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Connecticut Public Radio tapped Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09, chair emeritus of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees, for his recollections of a historic flight he had taken back in 2007 with noted physicist Stephen Hawking, who died March 14 at the age of 76. The flight had been sponsored by Zero Gravity Corporation and provided, for those on board, eight zero-G opportunities—or “eight brief windows of weightlessness,” as WNPR correspondent Patrick Skahill described them in his story, “Remembering The Flight Where Stephen Hawking Went Weightless.”

Boger had written in detail about the experience of this zero-G flight with Hawking in  “Weightless But Weighty” in Wesleyan magazine, 2007 issue 3:

“Zero-Gravity One!” Hawking, gently guided by Peter [Diamandis] and Byron [Lichtenberg] rises into the air, supine, on his back, still, curiously, completely flat. It is an electric moment, mocking the classic magician trick with the floating assistant, as he remains floating with no one touching him. . . . I glance over at Hawking’s heart monitor and see that his pulse has raised only a few beats from baseline. Mine is racing. He is in bliss. What is he thinking? What is he feeling?

We’d all give worlds to know. . . .

“Zero-G Eight!” . . . We sit in lotus position, cross-legged, and push a finger gently on the “floor,” floating effortlessly into the center of the cabin. Peaceful, unspinning, we learn at last the cosmic serenity of no gravity. This is the one weightless segment of all the zero-Gs that I will remember the most. No spins. No flights. No ceiling dances. Just gravity down. Gravity up. Nothing happening in between except novel cognition. A glance at Professor Hawking confirms he was there six zero-Gs ago.

Grateful Dead Lyricist, Internet Rights Advocate John Perry Barlow ’69 Dies

This photo of John Perry Barlow ’69, seated on Foss Hill, ran in the 1994 summer issue of Wesleyan, for the article titled “Cognitive Dissident,” by Lisa Greim ’81, (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Lyricist for the Grateful Dead and cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow ’69 died Feb. 7, 2018. He was 70.

A College of Letters major as an undergraduate, he collaborated with his friend from high school, Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, on lyrics for songs that included “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues” and “Black-Throated Wind.”

In the 1980s Barlow was active in an early online community. Then in 1990, with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In the summer 1994 issue of Wesleyan, an article, “Cognitive Dissident,” written by Lisa Greim ’81, profiled his journey.

“To the surprise of many who know him, John Perry Barlow ’69 has become respectable,” wrote Greim.

“In the last ten years, Barlow, 46, has evolved from a Wyoming cattle rancher into one of the nation’s most outspoken computer experts and defenders of the right to electronic freedom….

‘I don’t know anyone else who is welcome at the White House, backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, at CIA headquarters and at a convention of teenage hackers,’ says Howard Reingold, author of The Virtual Community.

In a statement released by the EFF, Executive Director Cindy Cohn said of Barlow: “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”

To read the article from the 1994 issue of Wesleyan, click this link: JPBarlow_WesMag1994.

 

Liseo, Hardigg ’90 Share WESU Connection Spanning 3 Decades

Francaccio (Franco Liseo) co-hosts a show of Italian music on WESU 88.1 FM with Lucilla Caminito, who Skypes in from Italy. (Photos of Francaccio by Cynthia Rockwell)

 

For two hours every Saturday—and any early morning or late night shift available—Middletown resident Franco Liseo fills the airwaves of WESU 88.1 FM, with Italian music. His specialty is the sounds from the ’60s and ’70s; “Love songs,” he says. “When I left Italy, I left with the music”—and he’s been doing this for 30 years.

The Saturday show is special; he broadcasts with a co-host, the daughter of a childhood friend, Lucilla Caminito, who Skypes in from Melilli. These shows feature contemporary music that Caminito chooses and sends to Liseo—whose DJ name is “Francaccio”—via the internet, YouTube or on a CD. “She’s prepared for this music; it’s more rap sounds now, the new generation,” he says.

Between songs, the two talk on air in rapid-fire Italian, smiling always and laughing frequently—never with a script—until it’s time for Francaccio to announce, “WESU Middletown,” and push the buttons for another song for their listeners throughout Connecticut and in his native Italy. Then he relaxes, continuing a conversation in Italian with Lucilla and in English with any visitor to the Broad Street location above Red and Black Café.

“Right here,” he says, opening his arms wide to encompass the whole studio. “I am home; the radio is me; I’m in paradise.”

Mastrogiovanni ’79, Lala Pettibone and the Writing While Female Tour

Heidi Mastrogiovanni ’79 speaks on the Writing While Female 2017 Tour with her friend and fellow author, Teri Emory, whose book is also published by Amberjack. Mastrogiovanni notes that they frequently receive similar questions—on juggling career and home life—but observes that she does not believe John Irving, for instance, is regularly queried on this by his readership.

“The title character is, of course, a Wesleyan graduate,” says author Heidi Mastrogiovanni ’79, of her debut comic novel, Lala Pettibone’s Act Two (Amberjack Publishing, 2017). The novelist herself is also a comic actor, an animal welfare advocate and a screenwriter—and her second novel, sequel Lala Pettibone: Standing Room Only, will be available in August. To celebrate, she and a fellow Amberjack author—with similarly titled books, both with a reference to a second act—visited bookstores and venues across the country to talk about the writer’s life and the ways in which a book written by a female is perceived, welcomed and marketed.

In a question-and-answer interview, Mastrogiovanni speaks about her journey from Wesleyan to cross-country author’s events.

Q: You were a German and theater major at Wesleyan. How did this translate into a career in writing?

H.M.: Looking back, the connection is clear. It was at Wesleyan where I really grew to love spending time in the company of words. We read so much wonderful German literature, it was almost impossible to not be inspired. And being an actor in the Theater Department provided a solid foundation for developing an ear for dialogue—absolutely essential to a writer in any medium. Both majors shared an appreciation for the profound power of words.

After college, I moved to New York (back when you could still get a one-bedroom for less than $500 a month: AKA, the Stone Age) and formed a sketch comedy group with people I met at Manhattan Punch Line Theater. That’s when the urge to write really hit. We needed new material all the time, so I started writing sketches with another performer in the group. I discovered that saying a line and getting a laugh was addictive, and especially compelling when I’d also written the line.

Q: Where did the character of Lala Pettibone come from—how did she arrive in your head?

H.M.: Lala had such an unexpected arrival. My ideas for stories often come from an observed moment, a snippet of thought, a piece of overheard dialogue. Lala had two distinct phases in her journey to the forefront of my mind. It began with the first dog my husband and I adopted together, a wonderful, 12-year-old Beagle we named Eunice Petunia, because it just fit. Eunice had a lot of nicknames, among them “Baba Ganoush” and “Lala.” I have always believed—to borrow from T.S. Eliot’s words regarding the naming of cats—that a dog should have at least three different names.

Months after Eunice joined our family, the phrase “Lala Pettibone, Journalist to the Stars,” popped into my head out of nowhere. That was the first time Lala’s full name appeared to me—although she didn’t end up being a journalist to the stars.

Lala Pettibone is a lot like me in many respects. We’re both Wesleyan graduates, we were both widowed at a young age and found love again in our Act Two, and we both overuse ellipses in our writing. . . .

Ganbarg ’88 Co-Produces Another Grammy Nominee with Dear Evan Hansen

The Broadway cast recording of the Tony Award–winning musical Dear Evan Hansen earned a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album on Nov. 28. Produced with Atlantic Record’s President of A&R (artists and repertoire) Pete Ganbarg ’88, along with music supervisor and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, creators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and Broadway producer Stacey Mindich, the album had debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 when it came out last February.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. WNPR’s Where We Live: “A Life with Food Allergies and Intolerances”

Associate Dean for Student Academic Resources Laura Patey is a guest on the show to talk about how Wesleyan works with and supports students and other community members with food allergies. Patey comes in around 40 minutes.

2. The Middletown Press: “Colleague Picks Up Mantle of Late Wesleyan Professor’s 20-Year Book Project on South African Hometown Under Apartheid”

Professor of History, Emeritus Richard Elphick completed an unfinished book by his late colleague, historian, author and Wesleyan professor Jeffrey Butler.

3. The New York Times: “Book Review: Weird Christmas”

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, reviews Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders.

4. Connecticut Magazine: “Book Club”

Wesleyan University Press is featured on page 17-18.

5. WUNC: “Why Learning Is So Much Bigger Than School”

Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, discusses how the purpose of school in our country has evolved over time. He comes in around 11 minutes.

Recent Alumni News

  1. Variety: “Grammy Nominations 2018: Complete List

A number of categories included work by Wesleyan alumni:

Best Musical Theater Album: Dear Evan Hansen is co-produced by Pete Ganbarg ’88; Hello, Dolly! includes cast member Beanie Feldstein ’15 as Minnie Fay.

Best Recording Package: Singer-songwriter Jonathan Colton’s Solid State, by art director Gail Marowitz ’81

Best Song Written For Visual Media: “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02.

Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual MediaMoana: The Songs, (Various artists—including Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02).

2. CT Now—“Write Stuff: Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, HON ’15, P’04] to Speak at Hartford Seminary”

The author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race (initially published in 1997 and revised for its 20th anniversary) was the featured speaker for Hartford Seminary’s Michael Rion Lecture on Thursday, Dec. 7. Tatum, who is president emerita of Spelman College and a clinical psychologist and racial identity expert, earned a master’s from Hartford Seminary in 2000. She spoke on “Listening to the Still, Small Voice: The Call To Lead.”

3. Tablet Magazine: “Cartooning’s Jewish Je Ne Sais Quoi: An Interview with Jason Adam Katzenstein [’13]

Cartoonist and illustrator of the graphic novel, Camp Midnight (Image Comics, 2016), Katzenstein is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, as well as a member of the Brooklyn-based band Wet Leather.

In a broad-ranging interview that begins with Katzenstein discussing his favorite fictional representation of his hometown, Los Angeles, he traces his childhood love of comics, noting, “There’s a kind of Jewish je ne sais quoi about a lot of the comics I grew up with.”

4. Refinery29: The 67%: “Please Stop Complimenting Me on My Body” by Beanie Feldstein ’15

The actor, who currently is in the Broadway production of Bette Midler’s Hello, Dolly! as well as the newly released feature film Lady Bird, asks the readers to consider the inappropriate nature of remarking on someone’s appearance—even with ostensibly positive comments. “All I am saying is I don’t want anyone to feel that a change in appearance is an open invitation to comment on someone’s body — even if they believe they are being kind,” she says.

5. MusicInSF: “Q&A: Overcoats”—JJ Mitchell ’15 and Hana Elion ’15;

Nylon: “A Guide To All The Brooklyn Bands You Should Be Listening To Right Now” (number 15 in the slideshow); and

m.axs.com“Interview: Overcoats Break Down Their Electro-Folk Sound

The Overcoats, duo JJ Mitchell ’15 and Hana Elion ’15, have been touring and writing new music. They’ve been highlighted recently in a number of media outlets, discussing their history (beginning at Wesleyan) and songwriting technique. See information on their January tour schedule: