Summer Film Review: The Bourne Legacy—Fun, Pretty and Impossible

Editor’s note: This is the last of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors were up to in between semesters, and alas, a symbol of the summer’s end—but with more film reviews to come in the fall. Communication arts professor and film critic, Rini Cobbey, takes a look at why the Bourne Legacy—the fourth film in the trilogy—is a wild and impossible ride:

Bourne Legacy: “I really have no idea what’s going on.”    

By Rini Cobbey, associate professor/chair of communication arts

I tried to explain the premise, as I understood it from previews, of The Bourne Legacy to my friend as we walked into the theatre to see the fourth movie in the Bourne trilogy. As far as I can tell, I was successful.

Jason Bourne was never really a real person, or at least not who he seemed to be, or Jason Bourne wasn’t his real name, and he had a lot of identities when played by Matt Damon in the first three films and in his role as a part of The Program, run by the U.S. government, or by corporations, or rogues, so it’s okay that there’s a new actor (Jeremy Renner) now in the same role, except it’s not the same role, but . . .

Wait, let me start over.

A few minutes into my viewing of the fun, action-packed, pretty-to-look-at, sometimes cleverly-scripted, but just as often cliché-ridden Bourne Legacy, I started to track dialogue that explicitly acknowledged the story is convoluted, but who cares? My notes include the line, “I really have no idea what’s going on,” in quotes – but I have no recollection of who said it, when, or why. Continue reading

Summer Scholar: The Muscles of Music Performance

Peter Iltis, second from left, with Jeff Nelson, second from right, and colleagues at the Fearless Performance Advisory Group in July.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

Most people might not think about the intricate muscles around a musician’s mouth as he or she plays the trumpet or French horn. But when those muscles—known as the embouchure—aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, well, suddenly music takes on a scientific and medical dimension.

Enter Peter W. Iltis, professor of kinesiology and horn, who in February 2012 published an article on music performance anxiety for the journal of the International Horn Society (IHS). Based on research he’s done over the past several years around movement and muscle disorders in musicians, Iltis (who is also the medical and scientific editor for IHS’s The Horn Call) connected his findings to the level of anxiety musicians often face when they perform. The result?  Iltis got a call from world renowned horn player and ‘fearless’ performance coach, Jeff Nelsen, who is also a full professor at the prestigious Jacob School of Music at Indiana University and speaker at the TED Talks in July 2011.

Nelson read  Iltis‘s article, invited him to Indiana for a week in July, and the two—along with a select group of colleagues—discussed how they might work together, bringing science to the art of musical performance. Now  Iltis will serve as a consultant to Nelson for future coaching sessions, a video series and possible workshops. Below is the article he wrote for the February 2012 edition of The Horn Call:

Music Performance Anxiety: The Science behind the Problem”

By Peter W. Iltis

Many musicians struggle with music performance anxiety (MPA), including horn players.  Through the years in The Horn Call, we have heard from many professionals about their own individual approaches to dealing with it.  However, a review of the scientific literature on this topic has not been published in our journal to date. In her recent review of psychological approaches for treating MPA, Dr. Julie Nagel [1]observes that organic medical conditions and the symptoms they evoke may be exacerbated by psychological factors, complicating both treatment and recovery.  She suggests that therapeutic strategies for treating many disorders require acknowledging this, and developing a more holistic approach that includes psychological approaches.  While my focus in this article is on MPA itself, in a recent article on embouchure dystonia, I commented on its apparent association with anxiety.  Though the scientific community is reticent to attribute anxiety as a cause for dystonia, the association has been made [2, 3], and an understanding of factors related to and methods for dealing with MPA is warranted.  It is beyond the scope of this article to fully explore the anxiety/dystonia connection.  However, examining MPA separately has application for all musicians.  This article describes the nature of MPA, and examines samplings from the current literature to provide some general principles for understanding and coping with this condition.

The sympathetic nervous system and music performance anxiety

When we are placed in circumstances we perceive as threatening, we have a built-in mechanism for coping.  It is a branch of our autonomic (automatic) nervous system known as the sympathetic nervous system.  This is that part of our body’s automatic control system that prepares us to “fight or flee”.  Our heart beats faster and stronger, the pupils of our eyes dilate, our airways become more open, our muscles tense, and even our salivary glands begin to secrete more viscous saliva that can give us that dreaded dry mouth feeling.  While these are changes that prepare us to deal effectively with physical threats, they are counter-productive to the performing artist attempting to play a musical instrument.  The fact is, our sympathetic nervous system has responded to something that poses no real physical threat to us with physiologic adaptations that are not helpful.  Why? Continue reading

Summer Scholar: Smith Presents New Data on India at U.S. International Trade Commission

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

Dr. Smith goes to Washington. Again. In early June, Stephen Smith, professor of economics & business, was invited to speak on a panel at the American Enterprise Institute. On July 23, he traveled to the nation’s capital to present new research at the U.S. International Trade Commission. Along with long time collaborator, Michael Anderson, the Sadler Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University, and their new co-author Jose Signoret of the USITC’s Office of Economics, Smith discussed their findings regarding India’s export sector. Theirs is the first study to examine the behavior of Indian firms, whose behavior should shed light on whether findings based on U.S., European or Chinese firms should be considered universal. Below is the introduction to their paper:

Export Prices of Indian Firms: An Examination of Market and Firm Characteristics

By Stephen Smith, Michael A. Anderson and Jose Signoret

       “How do firms matter in international trade?  This has been the focus of intense interest in the international economics literature for close to two decades, and much has been learned.  Exporting firms are different from non-exporters—they are larger, have higher productivity and capital intensity, and pay more, among many sharp and now empirically well-established contrasts.  A flurry of work in trade theory that explores firm heterogeneity, particularly with respect to productivity differences, has accompanied this empirical work.[1]

         Much of the evidence comes from studies using firm-level data from the United States on trade and output.  One of the most provocative findings in this literature is that the well-known gravity model result that trade volumes decline with distance arises because of distance’s effect on the extensive margin—that is, because many firms drop out of trade at high distances rather than because all firms trade less.  For firms that trade, the average value of trade per product per firm rises with distance (Bernard and Jensen 2007, 122-3). Continue reading

Summer Scholar: The News of Justice in an Unexpected Land

NEWS UPDATE: Jo Kadlecek’s report on the Honduras seminar is published in the Huffington Post’s religion blog: read the article here. See also her article on Capital Commentary, published by the Center for Public Justice.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

Honduras seems an unlikely place for an international gathering of scholars, ministers and community developers sharing ideas and thinking together about how best to pursue justice. But Jo Kadlecek, senior writer, journalist in residence and communication arts adjunct professor, has been invited to cover one such unique seminar June 23-29. Here’s what she said about her assignment:

“Sponsored by an NGO known as the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) in Tegucigalpa, the gathering will be asking some big questions in a setting usually off the radar of most North Americans. The seminar, entitled Justice: Theory Meets Practice in Honduras, includes Yale philosopher/theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff as the keynote speaker, who will give six talks. About 30-40 professors, pastors and practitioners from around the world—China, Brazil, Ecuador, Nigeria, Romania, Cambodia, etc.—will also be presenting talks and projects related to justice themes in their respective contexts.  There will be opportunities to see some of the work of AJS first hand and the impact it’s had on a city with one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime, usually related to poverty and land issues. We’ll also meet with representatives from USAID, NAE, and various other organizations. Continue reading

Summer Film Review: Our Young Kingdom in “Brave”

 Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters. Communication arts professor and film reviewer, Rini Cobbey, takes a look at why the popular new summer PIXAR film is not your typical children’s movie.

Brave: “Our Kingdom is Young” 

By Rini Cobbey

The more dimensional Disney movie images get, a friend of mine recently observed, the more dimensional the characters are, too.

The latest Disney-PIXAR and fairytale princess movie, Brave is a familiar fantasy that goes refreshingly beyond its formula, with welcome (if not earth-shattering) depth and shades. It’s witty, pretty, and exciting: a sort of healthy, playful development in the realm of coming-of-age cartoons, and worth hanging out with on a summer afternoon.

Merida is the oldest child of a big bear of a fun-loving king and his more stoic yet empathetic wife, the queen. The time has come for the adolescent princess to select a prince to marry from among the three who compete for her hand.

Visuals in this mountainous forestland are stunning – the most intricate PIXAR setting I’ve seen, with colors, textures, shadows, and details complementing the age-old story of a willful youth fighting for self-determination.

A wild-haired young woman with nonconforming but not-so-wild hopes, dreams, and skills, Merida isn’t ready for her prescribed destiny. She and her mother struggle separately and then together to strike a balance between responsibility and loyalty to the ways of their land on the one hand, and youth and spontaneity on the other. Continue reading

Summer Scholar: Salzburg Symposium & Program Explores Dynamics of Sacrifice in European Culture

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters. 

Tom Brooks

Gregor Thuswaldner

Five Gordon professors will return to Austria July 9-August 13 for the second annual symposium of the Salzburg Institute of Gordon College with the University of Salzburg. Co-directors of the Institute, Thomas Brooks, professor of music, and Gregor Thuswaldner, associate professor of German and linguistics, along with Susan Brooks, professor of music, Jim Zingarelli, professor of art, and Pamela Thuswaldner, adjunct professor of German, will also teach in the summer school program, which includes classes, tours and the international symposium. Here’s how Thuswaldner and his team of organizers described their call for papers:

Making Sacrifices: Visions of Sacrifice in European Culture                                                                       University of Salzburg, Austria; July 31, 2012

Much like Italian premier Mario Monti did at the beginning of December, politicians are increasingly calling on citizens to make sacrifices for the future of their countries. Such public invocations of sacrifice place politicians and their constituents in a state of tension at least partly because of the difficult and often contradictory connotations of sacrifice. Sacrifice, a concept of religious provenance deeply embedded in European culture, can mean to offer for destruction and to make amends, to hurt and to heal, make whole, or sacred. Such oppositions at the heart of sacrifice make it a dangerous and much-fraught concept, as well as a fruitful and powerful one in numerous spheres of culture.

This year’s symposium of the Salzburg Institute of Gordon College is dedicated to investigating notions of sacrifice as they appear at important junctures of European culture, past and present. The following questions, among others, will be considered: Continue reading

Summer Scholar: When Green is More Than a Season

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

June and July in New England are typically as green and lush as it gets. But for Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, green is the schedule he keeps during the summer months—and all year long for that matter. Green chemistry, that is. As the program chair of the organizing conference for the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meetings, Levy is busy preparing. The next meeting is in Philadelphia in August, then the ACS moves to New Orleans in the spring 2013 for its bigger gathering.

That’s not all. Levy has joined the board of directors for Beyond Benign, a green chemistry education organization, and is working with them and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a new project called the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) where Gordon will be one of its first models. And oh yeah, he’s on the faculty advisory board for the GCC as well. In between his scholarship and leadership, Levy took the time to answer a few of our questions:

Faculty Central: What exactly does your ‘continuing work as program chair’ of the ACS include?

LEVY: I do the organizing of all the Chemical Education symposia for the ACS national meetings twice a year. Typically I’m working on three meetings at a time — final planning for the next meeting, lots of work getting everything in place for the meeting about one year out and pre-planning for the third meeting out. Each meeting lasts for five days with (usually) four concurrent sessions running all day each day. In addition we host a large number of undergraduate student posters. In the fall meetings we typically have about 1,800 authors presenting about 1,200 unique papers. In the spring we have about 2,700 authors presenting about 1,800 papers. At the most recent spring meeting (San Diego this past March) there were seven Gordon College students and all of our faculty in attendance.

Faculty Central: Sounds busy but exciting.

Levy: It is! I work as a member of the Executive Committee of the Division of Chemical Education, working with the division chair and with the meeting co-chairs for the national meetings, as well as with symposium organizers, and even individual authors (at times). I’m also the liaison between the organizers and the ACS national office staff who actually produce the meeting, coordinating details down to catering. So I get to have some of the big ideas about our meetings but I also spend a lot of time attending to hundreds of little details for each meeting. Our portion of the meeting is one of the larger ones but the entire meeting is massive. A typical national meeting draws 10,000 – 20,000 attendance for one or more days of the meeting.

Faculty Central: What can you tell us about the upcoming meetings? Continue reading

Summer Scholar: Conflict, Truth and Reconciliation

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

Conflict doesn’t have to mean bad news. In fact, according to Judith Olesonassistant professor in sociology and social work, it can be transformative. As part of the curriculum development track of the International Social Work (ISW) conference June 14-16 in Minneapolis, MN, Oleson will present a workshop entitled, “Conflict as a Transformative Process: Preparing Social Work Students for the Reality of Local and Global Contexts.” The talk sprang out of two new courses she recently developed for Gordon’s minor in Peace and Conflict Studies, “Peacemaking: Personal, Social, Global” and “Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation.”

Oleson is also conducting research in reconciliation processes between indigenous and non-indigenous groups in Australia, Canada and the U.S., and so after the ISW conference, she will drive north to participate in the National Gathering of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Suskatoon, Canada, June 21-24.  The event is to honor the First Nation survivors of the residential schools, operated throughout Canada through government and church partnerships.  In addition to interviewing Canadians engaged in the reconciliation process for her research, Oleson will help facilitate survivor groups and provide individual support to those giving testimony. The following is part of her abstract for the ISW conference:

“Conflict as a Transformative Process”
By Judith Oleson

Undergraduate social work students are taught from a generalist framework that enables them to make connections between micro, mezzo and macro contexts of practice. Conflict occurs on all levels and is often the first point of crisis when students are in their field practicum: conflict among colleagues, with clients, with the organizational system or within the community. Providing theory to normalize and understand conflict, and utilize it as a transformational process is essential, whether non-profits or ethnic groups. Teaching the initial skills for social workers to navigate and mediate this conflict is essential for their work at the local or global level. Continue reading

Summer Scholar: Touching the Ancient Texts

Professor Graeme Bird and student Sarah Seibert examine an ancient text.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

Graeme Bird, associate professor of linguistics and classics, has always been fascinated by the ancient stories and their modern meanings. And his students can’t help but catch his vision, as the Gordon Tartan recently reported. From June 13-16, he travels to Texas as part of his scholarship on rare and biblical texts. Here’s some of what Bird said about the trip:

“I’ll be going to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, with a current and a former student, recent graduate Paul Johnson, history major, who currently teaches Latin at a school in Malden, Mass., and sophomore Sarah Seibert who has studied two years of New Testament Greek at Gordon. They are two of only 20 successful applicants at the Logos at Baylor program, and the workshop is part of their summer institute for students interested in textual scholarship and Christian apologetics.

The purpose of the one-week seminar on Papyrology (among other things) is to learn about the handling and interpretation of ancient papyrus manuscripts. The two students each won a scholarship to participate in the weeklong workshop, and the event is directly related to Gordon’s loan of an 1800-year-old papyrus of Homer’s Iliad. I imagine part of the session will involve instruction in the construction and transmission and proper handling of ancient manuscript, as well as how to decipher them and work out their dates, from examination of different letter shapes and styles, etc.  But I’m keen to find out.”

Summer Scholar: Dr. Smith Goes to Washington

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

Dr. Stephen Smith, professor of economics and business, took four of his students June 6–9 to a conference entitled “Purpose & Prosperity” in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  Smith was asked to speak on a Friday morning panel entitled, “The Morality of Wealth,” and is pictured here on that panel, far left. Other  issues addressed at the conference included social security, feminism and freedom, economics and the crisis of family, and financial cycles and human prosperity. Here’s some of what Smith said about the experience:

“The AEI’s conference hosted approximately 75 college students from across the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, with approximately 25 faculty, drawn mostly from the social sciences.  This year’s student attendees from Gordon were Joy Jeon, Julia Marra, Rusty Hawkins, and Jordan Frank. 
I would have been pleased enough to go to the conference with these excellent students. But I was delighted when they invited me to be part of a panel debate on the ‘Morality of Wealth.’ I argued that one of the compelling moral arguments in favor of economic growth is its efficacy at raising the poor out of absolute poverty.”