Jon Goodman, executive director of USC’s Egg Company 2 Annenberg Incubator Project, and Alfred E. Mann, biomedical engineer and USC trustee whose $120 million gift established the Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering, are among the people and companies to watch as they secure Southern California’s place on the high-tech map, according to a page one special report in the April 12 Los Angeles Times Business section. “Our objective is to try to make Los Angeles the capital of biotech in the U.S.,” Mann said.
“I’ve found that in the most personal is the universal,” said poet and performance artist Eric Trules in a Feb. 19 Los Angeles Times article on Trules’ documentary The Poet and the Con, which explores his relationship with his uncle, Harvey Rosen-berg, a career criminal and confessed murderer. “By [my] having the courage or stupidity to reveal myself, I know that people will see themselves and their own family.”
In a Feb. 28 New York Times story headlined “Suburbia Out-grows Its Image in the Arts,” historian Greg Hise commented that filmmakers and other entertainers fail to reflect the increasing diversity of suburbia in such works as the recent movie Pleasantville. “At least with urban novels and films, you see cities as a place of freedom, autonomy, possibility. With the suburbs, the writers and producers and directors are working with a set of accepted wisdom. We see the same stories about suburbia because we expect them,” Hise said.
The March 16 San Francisco Chronicle published an op-ed by industrial safety expert Najmedin Meshkati about the devastating Feb. 23 fire at the Tosco oil refinery in Contra Costa County. “Blaming ‘human failure’ or forcing the closure of a plant will not fix anything. An acceptable solution can only come when Tosco’s corporate management recognizes that it must operate with consciousness of safety, environmental and social concerns, and when Contra Costa County realizes that Tosco’s presence benefits the community,” he wrote.
Once again, earthquake expert James Dolan was prominently featured in an analysis of an important study revealing a large fault running under Los Angeles. “This study is a vast leap forward in understanding blind-thrust faults,” Dolan said in the March 20 Science News.
A public-relations battle between the Burbank-Glendale- Pasadena Airport Authority and the city of Burbank hasn’t helped either side get its message across to the public, according to communications expert Jack Ryan. Quoted in the March 23 Los Angeles Times, Ryan said the costly campaigns are confusing. “I’m not sure either side has articulated their point as well as they could,” Ryan said.
The Los Angeles Times covered the annual Asia/Pacific Business Outlook Conference on March 26 at USC’s University Park Campus. The Times focused on Indonesia’s ravaged economy.
“I think of Judaism as a religion for communities to observe. It’s not a phallic cult,” said Rachel Adler, an expert on Jewish feminist theology, in a March 26 Jewish Journal article titled “Asking the Feminist Question.” “Adler’s new book Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics, winner of the 1998 National Jewish Book Award for Jewish thought, tackles a primary feminist question: What would modern Judaism be like if it articulated the commitments, prayers and visions of both men and women?” said the article.
USC alumnus George Lucas’ $1.5 million gift to create a new digital studio at the School of Cinema-Television was noted in the March 26 International Herald Tribune, the March 25 Daily Variety, City News Service, Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Times, and by almost every local television and news radio station.
Bioethicist Alexander M. Capron sounded alarms in a March 27 Los Angeles Times article about a woman who had given birth to a baby using sperm retrieved from her dead husband. “Is it appropriate to consciously bring a child into this world with a dead father?” he asked.
Lifelong-learning expert David Peterson was quoted in a long March 29 Los Angeles Times story about seniors attending universities and living in college retirement communities. “Because older people are part of our society, they tend to buy into our stereotypes, the most common one being: ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’” He said joining in college activities helped boost retirees’ self-esteem, and he touted USC’s elder hostel program.
Pop culture expert Leo Braudy was quoted in the March 30 Newsday about the difficulties of making movies based on stories in the Bible. “Words are allegorical and fable-like, and the images are tangible, they’re specific,” he said, referring to the controversies that often erupt over a visual depiction of Bible stories.
Education and economic class influence the way people interpret biblical accounts of the life and death of Jesus, sociology of religion expert Donald Miller says. Quoted in the April 3 Los Angeles Times, Miller said educated and financially secure people tend to view the Bible abstractly, rather than literally.
A 56-pound almost-pure gold nugget found by a lone Austra-lian prospector and assayed at USC by earth scientist Jean Morrison triggered an international flurry of stories. Beginning April 5, stories ran on City News Service, Associated Press, Australian Associated Press, Deutsche Presse-Agentur and Agence France Presse wires. It was front-page news in many Australian and Asian newspapers. On April 9, when Australian authorities questioned whether the prospector had filed the proper export papers, another spate of stories began. The Christian Science Monitor reported on April 15 that “Scientists at the University of Southern California confirmed that a 56-pound nugget found by an Australian prospector is 80 to 90 percent high-purity gold,” and said plans for the nugget’s auction by Sotheby’s were forging ahead.
The news that filmmaker and USC trustee Steven Spielberg was donating $500,000 to fund a high-tech media classroom for film students at USC was picked up by wire services and appeared in media nationwide April 6 and April 7. “I’m a long-term admirer of the hands-on education filmmakers receive at USC. There’s no better way to learn,” Spielberg said in an-nouncing the gift, which will build the classroom in USC’s new Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts. Cinema-TV Dean Elizabeth M. Daley was also quoted frequently in the stories, which were distributed by the Associated Press and City News Service. Newspapers running the story included Daily Variety, the Buffalo News, Toronto Sun, Baltimore Sun, Cleveland Plain Dealer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and USA Today. Virtually all Los Angeles-area TV and radio stations used the story as well.
Christmas in April/South-Central Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization, has many corporate sponsors, but the neighborhood cleanup event it sponsors couldn’t happen without USC, the group’s vice chair said in the April 8 L.A. Watts Times. “USC is huge in what we do with Christmas in April,” Karen McPhee said. “They provide bus transportation for the volunteers to the various homes and facilities needing repairs. They also provide pagers and cell phones to the house captains at each site. They have been there for us since the beginning.”
Microbiologist and beach tester Rachel Noble was both quoted and pictured in a front-page April 9 Los Angeles Times story about her study of the cleanliness of Southern Califor-nia beaches. Noble found that 95 percent of the shoreline meets health standards, but that the waters near storm drain outlets were a persistent problem, even during dry summer periods. “The majority of the coastline looks pretty good, and that is one of our main conclusions,” said Noble. “We really didn’t uncover any hot spots that we didn’t know about … which is a sign that the [government] beach monitoring program is doing a good job.”
Two USC technologists were prominently featured in three separate BBC radio programs, all of them broadcast worldwide in April. Virtual reality expert Albert “Skip” Rizzo’s project on gender differences and virtual reality was the subject of a BBC broadcast on April 10. Rizzo was interviewed for the very first edition of “Sound-byte,” a weekly computer and technology program. The following week, April 17, “Soundbyte” featured a segment on Steve, the 3-D “softbot” created by education technology researcher Lewis Johnson. Finally, during the same week, Johnson and his other pedagogical agent, Adele, who helps medical students taking Web-based courses, were featured in another BBC program, “Health Matters.”
The sheer size of big auto manufacturers makes them particularly suited for dual leadership structures, according to management guru Warren Bennis, whose views were mentioned in the April 13 New York Times. Bennis was also quoted in a Jan. 17 New York Times Magazine piece titled “Hollywood Roulette” and in a Jan. 24 Los Angeles Times “Corporate Currents” column on the relevance today of the landmark 1950s book The Organization Man.
Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, are the key to improving the lives of African women, according to Doe Mayer, an expert on media and social change. Quoted April 14 by City News Service, Mayer said a recent $1 million grant to Women Connect!, a program developed by USC’s Annenberg Center for Communication and the Pacific Institute for Women’s Health, will be used to educate African women about their rights and health. “This project will help [NGOs] develop appropriate media strategies to educate and inform African women,” Mayer said. “It will also connect them to each other via e-mail and the Internet.”
A plan to sell advertising on AltaVista, one of the leading search engines on the World Wide Web, is fraught with danger, on-line journalism expert Larry Pryor warned in the April 15 New York Times. “If they try to be subtle about it and slide it by so people can’t tell [when the information provided is a paid ad], it’s a terrible problem.”
A band of recreational vehicle owners who live near Palm Springs in their parked buses and vans are representative of a new kind of homelessness, according to urban affairs expert Madeleine Stoner. Quoted in the April issue of Los Angeles Magazine, Stoner described the urban squatters as “highly functioning people … that … choose to live around other people. They create, in fact, a community.” Children living in such conditions, however, can be harmed, Stoner said. “These kids experience a certain sense of shame and stigma when they go to school. They know they’re considered marginal and deviant by the community.”
“The USC-supported Kid-Watch program has revived the days when neighbors looked out for each other and tended local kids as their own,” said an April 18 Sunday Los Angeles Times Opinion section article. The article, about why the NFL should grant Los Angeles a professional football franchise, called the “much-maligned” Exposition Park neighborhood, near USC, “one of the most vital, healthy communities in the city.” It quoted Jane G. Pisano, senior vice president for external relations: “There isn’t another area in the city where 500 people are watching the children twice a day, every day.”
Space scientist Mike Gruntman’s effort to map the solar system’s heliopause was listed in a recent issue of Physics News as one of the top physics stories in 1998. The heliopause is the boundary where the outgoing solar wind meets the incoming plasma of the local interstellar medium. It is believed to be at least 120 astronomical units away. (An astronomical unit is the distance from the sun to the Earth, roughly 93 million miles.)
Composer Stephen Hartke was featured prominently in an April 18 New York Times story on baby-boomer composers who mine the music of their youth. Noting that Hartke’s Gradus was to receive its premiere the next day at Merkin Concert Hall, the story said “the rock element has crept into his music despite his best efforts to keep it out.” Hartke said a “sleek, glossy and anonymous” international style prevailed in university music departments until composers of his generation finally rebelled: “We decided that it was all right, at last, to reflect in our works the musical background we grew up with.”