Friday, March 18, 2011

Panic Virus on WAMC

Joe Donahue interviews Seth Mnookin about his new book, The Panic Virus on WAMC.

Mnookin visits under the sponsorship of the Writers Institute and the School of Public Health this coming Tuesday, March 22. Events will be split between the Uptown Campus and the East Campus in East Greenbush.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Akira Kurosawa Remembers the 1923 Earthquake

As we grieve for Japan, we are reminded of Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa's painful and formative childhood experiences during the onset and aftermath the Kanto earthquake of 1923, which claimed more than one hundred thousand lives.

Excerpts appear on the blog "Land of Sir Real" on
Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress will be screened this Friday at 7:30 in Page Hall.

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Edmund Morris on Conan O'Brien Last Week

Edmund Morris (who visits 3/15) talks about Teddy Roosevelt's "cool factor" on Conan O'Brien last week.

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Teddy Roosevelt on Obama

Pulitzer Prize winning presidential biographer Edmund Morris (who visits Albany tomorrow, 3/15), interviewed Teddy Roosevelt about the 2008 Presidential Election on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times.

No matter that TR died in 1919. Morris is also famous for using fictional devices to explore the mind and life of Ronald Reagan....

From "Theodore Roosevelt: Pundit" (October 27, 2008):

Q. What’s your impression of Barack Obama?

A. Unless I am greatly mistaken, the people have made up their mind that they wish some new instrument.

Q. You’re not afraid that he’s primarily a man of words? Like Woodrow Wilson, whom you once called a “Byzantine logothete”?

A. It is highly desirable that a leader of opinion in a democracy should be able to state his views clearly and convincingly.

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TR's Relevance Today

In an Atlantic review of Colonel Roosevelt (2010) by Edmund Morris (who visits the Writers tomorrow 3/15), Andrew Cohen finds contemporary relevance "on virtually every page":

"Last week, for example, just in time for Egypt's revolution, I was reading about Roosevelt's majestic post-presidency tour through Africa and the Middle East. After a speech at Cairo University in which Roosevelt had scolded his Arab hosts, Morris writes, "hundreds of furious students marched on [Roosevelt's hotel] and shouted 'Give us a constitution' at his terrace windows. The Colonel was engaged elsewhere, but got back to the hotel room in time to see the demonstrators breaking up." Sound familiar?

This week, the Roosevelt epic turned back to domestic matters -- and to the United States Supreme Court which, in the view of the ex-president and his confederates, was excessively pro-corporate and formalistic. One of Roosevelt's muses at the time was a Harvard law professor named Arthur D. Hill, a renowned constitutional scholar. Hill, writes Morris, "compared the Court to 'an irresponsible House of Lords.' Another contemporary voice in Roosevelt's ear was that of Supreme Court Justice Henry Moody, who nonetheless thought that "courts sometimes erred in deciding against the national government."

We are a long distance removed from the Lochner era of Supreme Court jurisprudence, which largely eroded the "progressive" (there's that word again) political gains of the period. But Roosevelt's lament also fits comfortably into the modern life of the Court and his worries, in part anyway, should be our own. This week, for example, marked yet another week when the justices did not meet to hear oral argument, another sign of what courtwatchers have long described as the Court's incredible shrinking docket. If the British House of Lords meets publicly less often than the United States Supreme Court -- if-- it's a close call. More.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Maureen Dowd's Previous Visit to Albany

Maureen Dowd last visited the New York State Writers Institute on September 14, 2004.

Here's Elizabeth Benjamin's article from the Times Union that appeared the following morning:

"The woman who routinely eviscerates America's leaders in print, leading President Bush to nick name her "The Cobra, " charmed a packed-to-capacity hall Tuesday with her self-effacing remarks and insight on today's often bewildering political landscape.

"Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had the crowd of some 1,000 fans eating out of her hand the moment she admitted, from behind a lectern that dwarfed her petite frame, to being "frightened" by her biweekly task of writing for the paper's influential op-ed page.

"Usually I wait until the last minute to start because I'm so afraid," Dowd said. "Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I go, 'Oh my gosh, how did this happen? Why would anyone want to listen to me?' "

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Maureen Dowd: Jerry Brown Then and Now

Maureen Dowd, who visits the Writers Institute this Thursday, March 10, sits down with Jerry Brown to discuss the newly re-elected California Governor's personal journey from angry young man to even-tempered elder statesman in an Op-ed piece that appeared in the New York Times, Saturday, March 5:

“There’s only one game in my life,” he tells me, as we split Southwest Airlines peanuts and a turkey and cheese sandwich in a hotel at the corner of Disneyland Drive and Magic Way, where he has come to address a police convention.

If you want to dish on tiger blood and Adonis DNA, go elsewhere. In the fantastic, monastic world of Jerry Brown, the talk veers toward Wittgenstein, the collapse of the Habsburg Empire and preventing the collapse of the American empire. More.

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James Gleick: Superlative Review in the NY Times

Janet Maslin's noteworthy review of The Information was published three days after James Gleick's visit on March 3 to the Writers Institute:

“The Information” offers this point-blank characterization of its author: “James Gleick is our leading chronicler of science and modern technology.” This new book goes far beyond the earlier Gleick milestones, “Chaos” and “Genius,” to validate that claim.

“The Information” is so ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical that it will amount to aspirational reading for many of those who have the mettle to tackle it. Don’t make the mistake of reading it quickly. Imagine luxuriating on a Wi-Fi-equipped desert island with Mr. Gleick’s book, a search engine and no distractions. “The Information” is to the nature, history and significance of data what the beach is to sand. More.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Philip Roth: Renegade

As part of the ongoing "Jewish Renegades in the Arts" series, novelists Elisa Albert and Ed Schwarzschild (a Writers Institute Fellow) will present "Philip Roth, Then & Now: Goodbye Columbus and The Humbling" at the William K. Sanford Library in Colonie under the sponsorship of UAlbany's Center for Jewish Studies, Monday, March 14 at 12 noon. Refreshments provided.

Photo: Roth in 1968.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Maureen Dowd: Have You Driven a Smartphone Lately?

Maureen Dowd, who visits the Writers Institute on Thursday March 10th, contributes an op ed piece in the Times about the "cornucopia" of electronic "diversions" on the dashboards of newly designed American cars. More.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

James Gleick: Everything is Information

James Gleick's new book, The Information, introduces readers to the new "physics of information," the idea that the fundamental building blocks of reality may be viewed as information. Gleick, who visits the Institute Thursday 3/3, addresses the subject in an interview with Kevin Kelly that appeared yesterday in Wired:

Kelly: According to your book, information underpins everything.

Gleick: Modern physics has begun to think of the bit—this binary choice—as the ultimate fundamental particle. John Wheeler summarized the idea as “it-from-bit.” By that he meant that the basis of the physical universe—the “it” of an atom or subatomic particle—is not matter, nor energy, but a bit of information.

Kelly: That sounds almost spiritual—that the material world is really immaterial.

Gleick: I know it sounds magical, but it needs to be understood properly. Information has a material basis. It has to be carried by something.

Kelly: The extreme view would be that all these bits that make up atoms are running on a very big computer called the universe, an idea first espoused by Babbage.

Gleick: That makes sense as long as this metaphor does not diminish our sense of what the universe is but expands our sense of what a computer is.

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James Gleick: Little Bits Go a Long Way

James Gleick, who visits the Writers Institute on Thursday 3/3, gets a rave review of his new book The Information from John Horgan in the Wall Street Journal:

"Some writers excel at crafting a historical narrative, others at elucidating esoteric theories, still others at humanizing scientists. Mr. Gleick is a master of all these skills. As he traces the evolution of intertwined ideas, he provides vivid portraits of [Claude] Shannon and other pioneers of our Information Age, including Charles Babbage, whose unbuilt 19th-century 'Analytical Engine' anticipated modern computers, and Alan Turing, whose machines helped the Allies crack German codes during World War II." More.

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