The Gay Question
People always think they know what determines sexual orientation. “It’s biological.” Or “It’s a choice.” But the reality, says Gayle Pitman, J94, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Sacramento City College, is that “when you look at the research, the jury is still out.” That uncertainty makes for riveting reading. Pitman’s book provides both a primer on sexual identity research and a scintillating look at the characters, plot twists, and hard questions associated with the desire to understand what determines who we love.
An academic book sort of sucks the life out of a subject. When a student suggested I write a textbook, I took her words to heart. For eight months, I sat and stared at the computer, feeling guilty that I couldn’t get the job done. One afternoon I was talking to a colleague who’s done a lot of research on lesbians, and she said, “There’s a story behind every research study.” Then it clicked: What if instead of writing a traditional textbook, I write this as a narrative, describing the political landscape and the personalities and motivations behind the studies?
So often the research that’s out there gets twisted around and is used for negative political purposes. There are really powerful organizations out there that have that as their mission. It’s very important for people to understand that a lot of researchers bring their personal perspectives.
It’s extremely difficult to get funding for LGBT research unless you’re studying HIV/AIDS. One of the examples I talk about is Dean Hamer’s “gay gene” research. Hamer was a scientist at the National Cancer Institute who suspected that sexual orientation had a genetic component. He managed to get an NIH grant by emphasizing genetic variation in the progression of the HIV virus. Hamer made a conscious choice not to reveal any aspect of his sexual orientation because he wanted his research to stand up for what it was. He made that choice from the standpoint of scientific credibility, but I had to think it came at a personal cost. He eventually abandoned that line of research to focus on filmmaking. He made his first film with his partner about being an out gay, getting married, and living in rural Pennsylvania. He said that science could only go so far.
When people make accusations about ‘activist’ researchers, they’re really asking, ‘Is it all right to use social science research to further a political goal?’ Coming up with a finding that could benefit a particular group is what applied research is all about. Brown v. the Board of Education was decided in part based on scientific evidence. Lesbian and gay issues—don’t ask, don’t tell; gay bullying; and marriage equality—are the primary civil rights challenge of our day.”books
The Kitchen Daughter (Gallery)
Hiding in her parents’ closet and cooking are the only things that soothe Ginny Selveggio. The predictable rhythm of the knife, the meticulous honing of culinary skills, and the sensual memories conjured up by sesame oil or ceviche help anchor her to a world she finds baffling. When her parents die unexpectedly and her overbearing sister threatens her autonomy, Ginny retreats to the kitchen, where she discovers that she can summon the ghost of any dead person whose dish she prepares. A cryptic message from her late Italian grandmother, called by the rich scent of a ribollita, launches Ginny on a quest to unravel a family secret. In the process, she strives to escape the limitations imposed by the label “Asperger’s” and learns how to live. Jael McHenry, A95, also writes the popular “Simmer” blog, and her evocative descriptions of food will make your mouth water. This novel’s searing treatment of grief will have the same effect on your eyes.
Soundbitten: The Perils of Media-Centered Political Activism (NYU Press)
Watch the coverage of a presidential nominating convention and chances are, the camera will alight on a group of embattled protesters, perhaps engaged in an elaborate form of performance art. If we remember them at all, these groups remain on the periphery of our consciousness. This is exactly what worries Sarah Sobieraj, an assistant professor of sociology at Tufts. For many political activists, media attention is the gold standard of success. But do their efforts pay off? She followed fifty diverse organizations through two presidential election cycles and found that not only did their exploits fail to generate media attention, they actually impeded their larger goals by diverting resources from worthier endeavors.
Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film: Essays on Belief, Spectacle, Ritual, and Imagery (McFarland & Company)
Catholicism and movies are a match made in heaven. The Church’s inherent theatrics—its dramatic rites, stories of saints and angels, and doctrine of transubstantiation—have long inspired filmmakers in the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres. This collection of twenty-two critical essays, edited by Regina Hansen, J87, includes reflections on obvious contenders, such as The Exorcist, Miracle at Fatima, and Danny Boyle’s Millions, the story of a young British boy who communes with saints. Catholic subtexts are also given thorough treatment, as are society’s shifting perceptions of Catholicism. Several essays observe that vampire and zombie films mirror the sacrament of Communion, with its promise of eternal life through the consumption of flesh and blood. Another draws a connection between anti-Catholicism in 1930s vampire films and the era’s anti-immigration hysteria.MUSIC
Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers
Jumbo Gleeks have an album all their own. The Tufts Beelzebubs provide the background vocals for the hit Fox show’s all-male a cappella group, the Dalton Academy Warblers, rivals of Glee’s stars, the McKinley High New Directions. Former Bub Ed Boyer, A04, is responsible for the arrangements, which are produced at Q Division Studios in Somerville, then recorded over by Warbler leads Chris Colfer (“Kurt”) and Darren Criss (“Blaine”). The album includes thirteen covers, twelve with the Bubs backing.
9/11 Memorial Concert
Tufts commemorated the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks with a concert entitled Ten Years Later: Musical Responses to 9/11. Diana Dabby’s “September Quartet,” commissioned by the Tufts New Music Ensemble, received its world premiere. Also featured were works by Tufts composers Stefan Anderson, A13; graduate student William Kenlon; Kevin Laba, A13; Professor John MacDonald; and Kevin Warren, A13.film & video
The man of a thousand voices, Hank Azaria, A88, was the perfect choice to play Gargamel, the campily evil wizard in the movie version of the popular 1980s cartoon The Smurfs, which premiered in July. As the voice for more than half the characters on The Simpsons, Azaria has won Emmys with his shape-shifting vocal chords and fluid acting. In the original cartoon the character of Gargamel was voiced by Paul Winchell, and Azaria didn’t subject the over-the-top sorcerer to a significant reinterpretation. “I started from the ground up with the voice but ended up with something very close to what Paul did,” Azaria said in an interview for GateHouse News Service. “But there was also a stock cartoon villain voice that I remembered from the cheesy cartoons of the seventies. I thought that would be so bad and clichéd that it would be fun.”
Unlike his blue, CGI nemeses, Gargamel is a live-action character, and Azaria donned heavy makeup and prosthetics to perfect his demented hunchback look. Since Gargamel spends much of the movie chasing the Smurfs around New York City, this had to be a challenge, but Azaria has never shied away from the physically demanding side of acting, including performing a grueling eight shows a week in the Broadway hit Spamalot. He continues to work on The Simpsons, and appears in the NBC series Free Agents.
Do It Again
This documentary following Geoff Edgers, A92, in his quest to reunite the Kinks will be syndicated by American Public Television. A sixty-minute version of the film premiered on WGBH-Boston and, so far, has been picked up by eight other markets (Albany, Atlanta, Austin, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Oregon, and Wichita) for broadcast later this year. The film, which Edgers produced, features Sting, Zooey Deschanel, Robyn Hitchcock, Paul Weller, Peter Buck, and Warren Zanes. For air times, see doitagainthemovie.com.
a passage from . . .
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of