Well-known for his best-selling works, often described as historical fiction, the author of Ragtime and Billy Bathgate resists the labeling of his writing. “There is something diminishing about the word ‘historical’ as applied to a novel,” says E.L. Doctorow, who spoke at the fourth annual Leon Levy Conference at the Graduate Center. “A work relegated to a genre, somehow feels less relevant than the here and now,” says Doctorow, the award-winning author of 11 novels, who delivered the conference lecture, “Biography in Fiction.”
Since the November 2010 elections, more than a dozen states have passed legislation requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Republicans argue it helps protect against voter fraud, but according to Dale Ho, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Fund, these tactics have been tried in the past. “This ‘new’ assault on voting rights in the 21st century is nothing new,” said Dale at a labor forum sponsored by CUNY’s Murphy Institute titled, “Who Gets to Vote? The 2012 Election & Voting Rights Restrictions.”
When Peter Gelb took the helm of the Metropolitan Opera, he was determined to re-energize America’s premier opera house, even at the risk of upsetting the establishment. “It’s a mistake for any cultural institution — or any institution that is older — to think that change isn’t necessary,” said Geld to an audience at the CUNY Graduate Center. “That’s a recipe for stagnation or demise.” Since being named general manager in 2006, Gelb has launched a number of initiatives including staging new productions by directors from the film and theater industries and the popular, live high-definition transmissions of broadcasts to movie theaters. Gelb appeared with Bill Kelly, president of the Graduate Center, as part of the Extraordinary Lives Series.
Mercury — a complex environmental pollutant — is still on the rise. Indeed, it’s the only pollutant in the U.S. and around the globe for which advisories continue to increase, according to Anthony Carpi, professor of environmental toxicology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. When Mercury from natural or manmade causes, such coal-fired plants, leaves the atmosphere it “undergoes this hopscotching effect,” says Carpi, who recently led a team of researchers through the Amazon to study mercury mobility, “where a source in China could impact water resources in northern Canada.” The winner of the 2011 U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, Capri’s talk focused on mercury levels in the Amazon, as part of the Serving Science Cafe lecture series.
The author of Churchill Defiant: Fighting On, 1945-1955, claims that the British prime minister’s influence on John F. Kenney’s intellectual thinking and political strategies is indisputable. “I don’t think Jack Kennedy would have been half the man he was if it wasn’t for Winston Churchill,” says Barbara Leaming, the author of Jack Kennedy: The Education of a Statesman (2006), in which she detailed her research. Leaming, who spoke at the Tina Santi Flaherty Irish Voices Literary Series at Hunter College, discussed how Kennedy “looked to his idol for inspiration, in almost all his decisions, including the (1963 Limited Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty which put an end to the Cold War.”
Before advertising’s creative revolution in the late 1950s and 60s, the TV commercial landscape was filled with dull, repetitive images — like dancing cigarettes — lacking wit and originality. “People were bored and sick of the jingles,” says Andrew Cracknell, author of The Real Mad Men: The Remarkable True Story of Madison Avenue’s Golden Age. “After the revolution they began to treat consumers with intelligence and give them something with substance,” referring to work by agencies such as Doyle Dane Berbach, who created the groundbreaking “Think Small” campaign for Volkswagon in 1959. At a Graduate Center event, Cracknell was joined by Barbara Lippert, former advertising critic for Adweek, and Amil Gargano, advertising executive and a founder of the agency, Ally & Gargano, to discuss how these real life “Mad” men and women inspired others in the industry.
Some charter schools get funding from Wall Street, and the support may be there for reasons that ultimately benefit business, says Michelle Fine, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the Graduate Center. In the continuing debate over the effectiveness of charter schools versus traditional public schools, the source of support is an important factor that people should be aware of, according to Fine. Two-thirds of the Harlem Children’s Zone is funded by private money, “some of that from Goldman Sachs,” said Fine, referring to the Harlem-based charter school. “It’s a tax write-off, a way into the privatization of all things public, and a way to break up the unions,” said Fine in her lecture, “Charter Schools: The Promise vs. The Evidence,” part of the CUNY Science Cafe lecture series.
For New York Times columnist Dan Barry, it was the confluence of two critical events — a personal battle with cancer, followed by the heartbreak of 9/11 — that changed him both personally and professionally. “I came to understand, more acutely, the preciousness of life, not only as a person but as a reporter,” Barry said to audience at Hunter College as part of the Tina Santi Flaherty Irish Voices Literary Series. “I also found myself less interested in investigative journalism and more interested in bearing witness.” Barry recalled the impact of his Irish-American, working class roots and how writing the “This Land” column has given him the opportunity to “seek out the small moments that reveal the larger truths.”
Progressives tend to see the Great Recession as the result of the untrammeled free market. Tea Party conservatives argue that government gone wild is the real story. Who’s right? Listen as Peter Beinart of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism joined by Richard Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review magazine and Josh Marshall, editor of the liberal political blog, TalkingPointsMemo.com, deconstruct the 2012 presidential campaign in a lively discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Twenty years ago Barnes & Noble introduced super stores that “specifically targeted venerable independents and undermined them with discounts,” says literary agent Eric Simonoff. Now e-books and online sales are targeting both the Barnes and Noble giants and the few remaining niche booksellers. Simonoff, author Jonathan Ames and others gathered at the CUNY Graduate Center to consider the future of neighborhood bookstores, once fixtures throughout the city. “The e-book is here to stay, and Amazon is the big bully on the block,” says Simonoff.