Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Sweeten Piano: A Daily Reminder

Author: Elise Betz

On Monday, February 13, a very special gift arrived at the Sweeten Alumni House – an ebony satin, Boston Performance Edition, baby grand Steinway piano. It’s no coincidence that it arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day because the piano was a gift in honor of Penn Trustee and past Penn Alumni, President Paul C. Williams, W ’67, given with love by his sweetheart, Leslie Berger. There is a special story behind this gift – Sweeten is a “home” at Penn for Paul and a love for piano has great significance in Paul and Leslie’s relationship.

Paul was awarded Penn’s greatest honor in November, the Alumni Award of Merit.  Here are a few details about Paul’s passion for Penn:

You have said that Penn’s alumni should “expect a lifetime of engagement and enrichment from their alma mater” – and you have made it your personal mission to make good on that promise.   It is hard to find a corner of the Penn community you have not touched with your inspiring engagement.

Beginning as a Penn student, you embraced a commitment to giving back to the community.  You were the campus coordinator for the Neighborhood Youth Corps, a tutorial project in the neighborhoods surrounding Penn and you served on the board of the Community Involvement Council.  Your impulse to help others has only intensified over time and Penn has been the fortunate focus of your generosity of spirit.

You reconnected with Penn around your 25th reunion, becoming a member of the Board of Overseers for our School of Arts and Sciences in 1994 and a member of Penn’s Board of Trustees (as an Alumni Trustee) in 2000.  In 2003, after you were named to the board’s Executive Committee, you participated in the Presidential Search Committee that selected President Amy Gutmann.  The same year, you were elected president of Penn Alumni, representing over 290,000 Penn alumni around the world, a key leadership position you held for five years.

You have been described as someone who knows how to bring people together and to help them be their best.   That is good news for all the Penn alumni who have benefited from your cheerful team building, tireless advocacy, and legendary commitment to your many volunteer roles.  You have served on a long list of committees, including Academic Policy, Development, Honorary Degrees & Awards, and Neighborhood Initiatives.  You have invested countless hours meeting with the leadership of Penn’s alumni diversity groups, attending their events and supporting their mission to make Penn a supportive, nurturing and academically exciting place for one and all.

Off campus, you were Penn’s ambassador in Chicago during the many years you lived there.  You founded the regional advisory board, hosted and attended events, and graciously welcomed administrators, faculty and staff visiting the Windy City.  You played an instrumental role in garnering support for initiatives such as the Chicago Regional Endowed Scholarship.

Your personal philanthropy is evident everywhere on campus – from your support for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and building projects, to your funding of faculty term chairs, undergraduate research grants and special projects in Kelly Writers House.  You underwrote the purchase of a piano for one of the residence halls.  In response to a presentation made to the Trustees by members of the Provost’s staff, you provided the funding to expand Penn’s efforts to address the problem of underage drinking on campus.  A practice room in the newly renovated Music Building bears your name.

Your friends in Alumni Relations know you as the strategic thinker who identifies needs and finds ways to meet them.  As a thoughtful colleague, you always remember to send birthday greetings.  As a quiet deliberator, your sense of humor is both subtle and nuanced.  As a good natured Penn Alumni president, you were thrilled to receive a Penn blazer with your nickname embroidered on the inside pocket, P-Dubs.  In recognition of the significant contributions you have made to this University over many years, Penn is delighted to present you with the 2011 Alumni Award of Merit.

Penn will forever be indebted to Paul for his leadership and to Leslie for her unwavering support.  Thank you for this extraordinary gift, a daily reminder of what is important in this world.

Watch this short video of the first person to play the piano (she found out about it through our Twitter feed!):

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Filed under Elise B., The Arts, The Sweeten Life

Preserving the Cinematic Experience

Author: Lisa Marie Patzer

The Academy Award Ceremony on Sunday has stirred discussion around the importance of watching cinema on the big screen. This is in part a self-preserving strategy by the movie industry, concerned with the fall in movie ticket sales and their dwindling budgets, but it also points to the idea that the experience of watching a movie in a theater is inherently different than watching it on a computer, a TV or iPad.  The significance of the shift from watching cinema in the theater to the living room, airplane, and anywhere you can take a mobile device, has been an ongoing area of research and debate among cinema scholars.  It is a subject that brings up questions of ideal spectatorship, visual and auditory immersion, and audience participation.  Obviously, this is a topic too vast for me to tackle in what is supposed to a pithy blog post.  So rather than try and summarize an entire body of research, I will bring it back to my own experience.

Last week I attended the first screening of the Penn Humanities Forum film series “Adaptations” and was reminded of why I love to watch cinema in a theater. The film was Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 Contempt, projected from a 35mm print in the unusually wide Cinemascope aspect ratio.

Contempt Poster from Screening

As described in the program, “Contempt (Le Mépris) stars Michel Piccoli as a screenwriter torn between the demands of a proud European filmmaker (played by legendary director Fritz Lang), the crude and arrogant American producer (Jack Palance), and his disillusioned wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot), as he attempts to doctor the script for a new film version of The Odyssey.”  The film, typical of Godard’s style, was layered with commentary and innuendo, making the narrative at times inaccessible and difficult to watch.  And for all of these qualities of the film, I was thrilled to be sitting in a seat, surrounded by other viewers.

Together we were awed by the rare chance to see a 35mm film in Cinemascope format, with the scratches, hairs and depth of resolution that came with it.  And when Fritz Lang referred to the Cinemascope as not  ideal for shooting a story but better suited for showing snakes and funerals, the audience had a level of appreciation that would not be possible on a small screen.  And in those moments when I felt completely and utterly bored, restless, aching to get up out of my seat, the presence of the others kept me there.  Sure, I could have stood up and walked out, but the thought of disturbing a room full of attentive people who seemed stronger than I, kept me in my seat and glued to the image on the screen. To be completely honest, I don’t think I would have made it through the entire film if I were watching it on Netflix.

I embrace new technology and feel the film industry needs to adjust to changes in models of viewership, however, I do feel there is something unique and special about theatrical screenings that needs to be preserved.  I am grateful to the Penn Humanities Forum, the Cinema Studies Program at Penn and other advocates of cinema for doing so.

There are three additional screenings in the Film Series “Adaptations”


All films begin at 7:00pm
Ibrahim Theater @ International House, 3701 Chestnut Street
Registration for films is not required.


29 February
Adaptation, Spike Jonze (2002)
Intro and Discussion: Timothy Corrigan, English and Cinema Studies, Penn

21 March
Le Million, René Clair (1931)
Intro and Discussion: Carolyn Abbate, Music, Penn

28 March
Day and Night
The Green Wave
Jack Smith Tumbling
Another Occupation
Seeking The Monkey King
Ken Jacobs
(2010-2011)
Intro and Discussion: Charles Bernstein, English, Penn
and Ken Jacobs, Filmmaker

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Filed under Film, Lisa Marie Patzer, The Arts, The Arts at Penn, Uncategorized

Where is the LOVE Statue?

Author: Aimee LaBrie

Actually, that should be “How is the LOVE statue?”  or “What happened to the LOVE statue?” Because one may have noticed, if one were not too tired from the weekend and not just having her first hot sip of much-needed coffee while stumbling down Locust Walk, that the LOVE statue has been slightly altered since we last checked in.

To wit:

Here’s what the popular, student-run blog, Under the Button has to say about it:

Spotted early this morning amidst College Green was a newly rainbow-hued LOVE statue. According to our sources, the makeover, touted as a “public art installation,” may be the first of many Cubic Street Art projects. Maybe it has to do with our school’s gay-friendly status? Perhaps.

If you have the inside scoop, let us know.

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Filed under Aimee L., Campus Life, The Arts, The Arts at Penn

My Life as a (Pretend) Wharton Student

Kayleigh Smoot,C’13

Even though I am happily studying psychology in the College, I sometimes wish I were studying business at Wharton. The aura of Wharton is very strong at Penn and something about being a business student seems glamorous to me (although my disgruntled Wharton friends would definitely disagree).

Maybe it’s the beauty of Huntsman Hall, home to some of the nicest classrooms on campus. Or, it could be the fact that a majority of Wharton undergrads go on to become incredibly successful leaders of society. So, since my sophomore year, I have made a point of taking at least one Wharton class a semester.

Wharton classes are genuinely different from College classes. Professors cold call on students, name tags are required, and group projects are usually a given. This semester in particular I am taking MKTG 211: Consumer Behavior. The main purpose of the class is to get into small groups and come up with a strategic marketing plan for Microsoft’s Window Phone. Our final presentations will be made in front of some of Microsoft’s high level executives; I find this to be both exhilarating and terrifying.

But, I believe this blend of classroom and real life is probably the best way to learn. So, in my last few semesters at Penn, I will probably continue to take an occasional Wharton class, if only to have an excuse to keep up the illusion of being a (pretend) Wharton student.

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Filed under Academics, Kayleigh, Student Perspective, Wharton

Snow at Penn

Author: Kiera Reilly, C’93

I work for Penn, but I am based in our western regional office in Los Angeles. For the past few years, I’ve returned to campus in February for the Penn Alumni board and Global Alumni Network retreats. Last year, I flew in from Seattle after a Penn event there the night before, and our flight was delayed due to snow in Philadelphia. My colleagues flying with me were not thrilled, nor was everyone back at Penn, as about a week or so prior there was a huge snowstorm. Snow was still around making everyone miserable, and no one wanted any more.

But for me, I couldn’t have been happier. I love the winter and snow. I was born in New Jersey but moved to Texas when I was 12. When I decided to attend Penn for college, I looked forward to beautiful snow falling on the campus. Sadly, during my four years on campus, we barely had any snowfall. My senior year, as everyone was returning from Spring Break, we finally got some serious snow – enough to cancel flights and delay everyone’s return to campus.

So, when I was on campus two weekends ago, I was thrilled to be in a session with our Global Alumni Network volunteers in Huntsman Hall and see snow falling outside. It wasn’t sticking to the ground though, but it made me smile. Later that night, as I exited the Palestra after watching the Men’s Basketball team eke out a victory over Dartmouth, it was snowing again. I was with Melissa Wu, C’98, of PennClubLA,  and Beth Topor, W’80, of the Penn Club of Northern California. How fitting that three California Penn grads walked out to windy snow…and then desperately tried to find an available cab.

I didn’t get any pictures of that snow, since it was night, but I share with you below some photos from March 2009 that I took. Everything is so pretty when covered with snow!

Locust Walk in front of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

College Green (not looking so green...)

 

Furness Fine Arts Library

 

Ben Franklin Statue in front of College Hall

 

Shops on Sansom Street, including the now closed Black Cat

 

Birds chirping near the food trucks behind Meyerson Hall

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, GAN, Kiera R., Penn Clubs, Philadelphia, Photos

A Rockin’ Saturday Night at Penn

Author: Colin Hennessy

Are you looking for something to do this Saturday evening? If so, join me at the Penn Symphony Orchestra Concert at 8:00 PM in Irvine Auditorium. This free concert, for those with a Penn Card or $5 general admission, will feature a program including works by Liszt and Brahms.

Founded in 1878, the Penn Orchestra is an ensemble made up of musicians from throughout the University community, primarily non-music majors. The Orchestra rehearses for four hours each week and performs a diverse array of repertoire drawn from the Classic Period through the Twentieth Century.

This particular concert will feature the 2011 winner of Penn’s Hilda Nitzsche Concerto Competition, Ellen Hahm. Hahm, who grew up in Seoul, South Korea, is a senior Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major and began playing the piano at age 4. In addition to her studies in her major, she has spent the last 18 months studying the piano with Michael Sheadel, a College House Music Fellow in the Department of Music. She also spent the summer of 2010 honing her musical skills at the acclaimed Aspen Music Festival and School. On Saturday evening, she will perform the 80-minute Piano Concerto No. 1 by Franz Liszt. The epic Fourth Symphony by Johannes Brahms will conclude the concert.

I hope to see you this Saturday at Irvine!

Penn Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, 25 February 2012,  8:00 PM 

Irvine Auditorium

Liszt: Concerto for Piano no 1 in E flat major, S 124

Artist: Ellen Hahm (Piano)

Brahms: Symphony no 4 in E minor, Op. 98

Conductor: Brad Smith

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Filed under Colin H., Events, The Arts, The Arts at Penn, The Penn Fund

In Defense of those Outrageous Ticket Prices and that Awful Popcorn

Author: Deidre Bullard, C’13

The question: “Oh, so, you watch movies all day? That’s cool.”

My answer? Yes, my friends, I watch movies all day.

As this is my first interaction with Frankly Penn readers out there, I should highlight this most important aspect of my temporal existence: I watch movies all day. As a cinema studies major, I proudly do nothing else. No food, water, running, reading, talking, laughing, living like a Philadelphian. What of the parties, the networking, the social aspect of colleges? Toss it out the window like a pumpkin in the hands of a frat boy on Halloween night. And taking part in Penn’s traditions, living up to the expectation that I carry on the pursuit of truth through scholarly inquiry? No interest. The $53,000/year (and rising) price tag of this education has privileged me to near isolation in those smelly cloth chairs contained in that dark theatre, save for the awkward, pimpled usher waiting impatiently for me to leave as the credits roll. My honors thesis? Depends entirely on watching the stars of The Help take home some Oscars. Heck, I might even get my graduate degree if I participate in illegal gambling by voting on the side.

“Game Space” and the virtual: where is it? How do we find it? How has virtual space changed our perspective on the world in our professional, personal, and private lives? A shift in perspective is key to my new understanding of game space, as it changes our self-awareness in the worlds we occupy.

I kid you, of course. You must be thinking to yourself, “What an obnoxious and self-indulging introduction for a new blogger!” I’m not one to argue when I’m wrong: you’re right. But my sarcasm stems not from any qualms with you. I honestly could never count the amount of times that I encounter this question. On a campus where pre-med and business majors claim dominance over the student body, such objections are understandable, but still insulting. To find someone who thinks I am wasting my degree by watching movies all day–which, by the way, I do not–suggests that I am incapable of recognizing a wealthy intellectual experience when I see it. But I am not blind. I watch movies, after all.

Society often doesn’t think much of its entertainment mediums, and we tend to separate the exhausting task of intellectual thought from activities of recreation. It’s as if speculating on how entertainment loses life and meaning when a lens is held up to it. As one who signs up for film classes well beyond the requirements of my major, I can tell you that the focal points of cinema studies mediates the entertainment value of a film with its cultural value. Indeed, the two are intertwined: we cannot understand how or why audiences love “Glee” or High School Musical without knowing what is going on in the world currently.

“The Ethics of Horror Film” has taught me, among many lessons, that bloodshed and surprise horror indicate a collective anxiety in our socio-political relationships.

Take, for example, those classes offered by visiting faculty, which I am extremely privileged to take. “The Ethics of Horror Film,” taught by Mia Mask of Vassar College, emphasizes heavily the political and social upheaval underlying popular horror films. We read The Exorcist as a representation of second-wave feminism, as well as the anxiety of religious skepticism. Invasion of the Body Snatchers reveals the tumultuous political environment of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. This class is not only a comfortable environment in which I can talk about Hitchcock as an auteur who focused much on psychoanalytic theory (enter obnoxious cinephile joke here), but also a space in which we can confront our fear of monsters and killers in the movies, all the while recognizing why our culture permits them to frighten us.

If analyzing society is becoming my specialty, then I’m allowed to ask the following: in a society full of technology, why does the video game repeatedly demand our controversial obsession, whether through sheer hatred or admiration? Taught by Professor Alexander Galloway, a professor at New York University, the class “Game Space” theorizes on why our fascination with the virtual has transformed both the interaction and evolution between man and machine. No aspect of our lives remain untouched from the virtual phenomenon: the corporate board room, the narcissistic nature of Facebook and social networking programs, the all-too real world of the battlefield, and even the capture-surveillance model of the toll booth camera.

But this shift would not be possible, were it not for our manipulation of technology itself. In “Theories on Cinematic Spectacle” with Scott Bukatman from Stanford University, we explore the various ways a camera and its operator influences what we see on screen. Here we focus on the spectator participating in his own manipulation as he contacts a film of spectacle. Is this the working class forcibly participating in his own oppression? Or does cinema, like the video game, signal a subconscious, unfulfilled need for equilibrium and utopia? If the latter, then I have basis to argue that films like Star Wars, Avatar, and other big-budget, explosion-filled adventure films not only please a desire we cannot express, but also follow the tradition of cinema’s exhibition from its creation in the 1890’s.

Is the spectacle of Avatar really an empty financial leech for the easy-to-please? Or does it follow a long tradition in the history of art?

During my time at Penn, I’ve experienced something of an academic multiple-personality disorder, switching my major from Biology/Genetics to Communications, and finally to Cinema Studies. In no way could I express more happiness with that decision. As shown by these few of many rich topics I have encountered at Penn, my education defines diversity and multidisciplinary at their best. Seldom do I feel so rewarded, when I turn away from the screen and return to the world outside.

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Filed under Deirdre B., Student Perspective