USC in the News
“Misunderstood e-mails are causing problems at Walt Disney Co., Chairman Michael Eisner told University of Southern California graduates Friday,” began a May 13 Los Angeles Daily News story on USC’s 117th commencement. Eisner gave this year’s address to more than 8,600 students and thousands more Trojan friends and family members gathered in Alumni Park and around the world live via the Web. He discussed the perils of e-mail impulsiveness and the bad feelings and blowups that can result from a simple, thoughtless strike of the “send” button. Other media covering commencement activities included People magazine, USA Today the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, CNBC, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” FOX-TV, Channel 1, KMEX, KABC, Liaison Press Agency, Korea Central Daily, Korea Times, and KNX.
Culture critic Tanya Modleski argued in a March 17 Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed that “The Green Mile” and “The Cider House Rules,” two of this year’s candidates for the “Best Picture” Academy Award, drew stereotyped and offensive portraits of African-American characters. “Both of those films strike me as shockingly retrograde in their racial politics,” she wrote. “But mainstream reviewers, for the most part, had little to say about the films’ racism. When they did comment, the effect was usually to minimize the affront those films represent to African-Americans.”
Online journalism expert Joshua Fouts is representative of a group of adults who are returning to the board games they played as youngsters, ac cording to a March 27 Los Angeles Times article. Fouts and his wife, Jacki Weber, play games with other couples at least twice a month. “There’s a retro aspect,” Fouts said, “a going back to our roots.”
An April 3 United Press International story on Tierney Sutton, who heads up vocal jazz at the USC Thornton School of Music, praised the “phrasing and pitch of her delicious voice and her uncanny sense of timing.” It also singled out Sutton’s special ability “to blend and meld with the instrumentalists” both as the feature distinguishing her from many spotlight-stealing jazz singers and as the backbone of “Unsung Heroes,” her recently released second album. “I am always trying to become one with the instruments in the band. … It’s not about them backing me, it’s about us having a moment together,” Sutton said.
Communications expert and videophone designer A. Michael Noll didn’t mince words in an April 9 Salt Lake Tribune article about the future of the high-tech devices. “If I were to sum up the potential for videophones in one word it would be this: bleak,” said Noll, who designed the videophone used in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and who was on the Bell Labs team that developed the AT&T picture phone in the early 1970s. Consumers see videophones as intrusive, he said: “Science fiction movies may be the only real market for videophones.” On April 26, Noll appeared on the BBC World News talking about the AT&T wireless IPO. He was also featured in a May 3 story in the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger that focused on AT&T’s floundering stock and the fading star of CEO Michael Armstrong.
An Annenberg Center for Communication-sponsored study on communication patterns of Angelenos was mentioned in an April 18 Los Angeles Times article. “Metamorphosis: Transforming the Ties that Bind,” was inspired by the 1992 riots, said Elizabeth M. Daley, director of the Annenberg Center. “This study is the first of its kind to approach the question of community and a sense of belonging to a community from a communications perspective.” Communications expert Sandra Ball-Rokeach is the study’s principal investigator.
Even though no money was awarded, a jury verdict that Consumer Reports magazine de famed Isuzu Motors Ltd. was a clear victory for the car manufacturer, media law expert Jonathan Kotler said in an April 8 New York Times article. Isuzu “got most of what they reasonably could have expected” from the lawsuit, Kotler said. “They damaged the credibility of [the magazine’s parent company] Consumers Union, which is what they wanted to do.”
Environmental engineer Joseph Devinny was a guest on K-Earth 101-FM April 16 to talk about the “Art for Urban Sustain ability” poster contest. USC’s Sustainable Cities Program and Southern California in the World sponsored the poster contest for local high school students.
Transportation guru James E. Moore II was the skeptic in an April 17 Los Angeles Business Journal story about a proposed high-speed magnetic levitation, or “maglev,” train linking LAX to the Ontario Airport and Riverside County’s former March Air Force Base. “Maglev is a nonexistent technology,” said Moore. “Sure, test systems exist. And with enough money, I suppose you could move a carriage that floats on a magnetic field. But we could also move people around in space shuttles if we had reason to. This is hardly what I would call a very cost-effective way of getting people from here to there.”
An April 23 Washington Post story explored the phenomenon of interactive gaming and included several quotes from video game expert Mark Pesce. About the 20th century’s relatively passive entertainment – radio, TV and movies – he said, “Adults may have been wasting away over that hump period.” Pesce said that the very young generation, however, expects interactivity. “We’re feeding them now by giving them things like Furbys,” he said. “It’s going to make them think that the material world should be pushing back a bit, instead of just being pushed.”
In an April 24 interview with KCAL-TV, media ethicist Bryce Nelson termed television coverage of the Elian Gonzalez case “excessive.” “What all sides should have cared about is the welfare of a 6-year-old child,” said Nelson, who was also quoted in an April 24 Los Angeles Business Journal story on the advertising campaign of the Los Angeles Times. The ad campaign, said Nelson, “shows what happens when people who don’t understand newspapers are put in charge of them.”
Tsunami experts Costas Synolakis and Jose Borrero were cited extensively in an April 27 Los Angeles Times story on the threat of “near-source tsunamis” in Southern California. The story credited Synolakis with suggesting that the area could be subject to the kind of earthquake-induced underwater landslide that devastated Papua New Guinea, killing 3,000 in 1998. Synolakis worked with the Times to produce a color diagram showing how an underwater landslide works and a map showing how far the ocean would run up over land. Borrero, a doctoral candidate, told the paper that historical records indicate there were five such tsunamis in Southern California between 1812 and 1930. The last tsunami to hit Southern California, which did $575,000 damage in Marina del Rey, was caused by the 1964 Alaska earthquake. It also killed 12 people in Crescent City, Calif.
The May 2 Riverside Press-Enterprise reported on implanted corneal rings, a new alternative to Lasik laser eye surgery. Doheny Eye Institute ophthalmologist Joseph Lee told the paper that he is developing an adjustable implant, “basically a tube filled with clear strands of synthetic material.” Like telephone cable, the article noted, the strands are wrapped in a circle, adding thickness to the ring. “You implant it and if you later need to adjust the refractive result, you simply remove one strand at a time to decrease the thickness,” said Lee.
On May 5, KCBS ran two stories featuring oncologist Heinz-Josef Lenz. The first story reported Lenz’s success in treating colon cancer patients with Xeloda, an oral chemotherapy drug approved for breast cancer treatment. “The drug seems to have fewer side effects and targets the cancer more effectively than other treatments,” said Lenz. The second story reported Lenz’s success in colon cancer clinical trials of IM862 – a drug administered in nose-drop form. “The drug prevents tumor formation and has no side effects,” said Lenz. “The patients feel the effects of the treatment in as little as one or two weeks.”
In honor of Stroke Awareness Month, neurologist George Teitelbaum was featured May 9 in a live Web chat on the Doctor in Your House Website.
A Thornton School of Music lecturer, violinist Martin Chalifour – principal concertmaster at the Los Angeles Philharmonic – was featured on the cover of the March 9 Pasadena Weekly. Chalifour – who plays a $5-million Stradivarius, made in 1711 and once owned by composer Handel and more recently by violinist-composer Fritz Kreisler – discussed his career and influences, his work at the philharmonic and close working relationship with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. Of his seemingly natural affinity for the violin, Chalifour said: “I have never been talented in terms of super dexterity. My old teacher said I was a lyrical player. I have compensated over the years for that and tried to become more of a virtuoso player. The ease that you are talking about is a result of a different approach to the violin that was taught to me by Taras Gabora, who is now retired. He taught me to let the violin resonate by itself and find a voice in the instrument rather than imposing my own sound on it.”
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