Author Archives: WIH Reporter

How Much Do You Know About…Music in the Movies


April 18, 2018

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In anticipation of Dominque Royem’s class, “Music in the Movies,” we created a quiz to test your knowledge about music in the movies.

 

 

1. Who is the only person to win Oscars for both acting and song-writing?

A. Cher.
B. Barbra Streisand.
C. Anna Paquin.
D. Jennifer Hudson.

2. What was the first movie in film history to have a soundtrack?

A. Snow White.
B. The Wizard of Oz.
C. The Adventures of Robin Hood.
D. A Fistful of Dollars.

3. Who was nominated for Best Score of a Musical Picture in 1961 but lost to the arrangers of “West Side Story”?

A. Duke Ellington.
B. Dmitri Shostakovich.
C. Elmer Bernstein.

4. Who is the only person to win an Oscar for Best Original Song as well as a Nobel Prize?

A. Rabindranath Tagore.
B. Bob Dylan.
C. George Bernard Shaw.

5. In the 50s and 60s, Elvis Presley made many movies with soundtrack albums. Which was the one that sold the most?

A. G.I. Blues.
B. Roustabout.
C. Blue Hawaii.

6. What are the two bestselling soundtracks of all time?

A. Dirty Dancing.
B. Saturday Night Fever.
C. The Bodyguard.
D. Purple Rain.

Answers:

1. B. Barbra Streisand is the only entertainer to be awarded an Oscar for Best Actress: for Funny Girl (1968), and for Best Original Song, for the Love Theme (Evergreen) from “A Star is Born.” (1976).

2. A. The first movie soundtrack album commercially available was from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. It was such a new concept in music that the album had the title, “Songs from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (with the Same Characters and Sound Effects as in the Film of That Title)“.

3. A. and B. Dmitri Shostakovich and Duke Ellington were both nominated the same year at the height of their careers, but their scores were beaten out by the popular hit musical “West Side Story.”

4. B. Dylan won the Oscar in 2000 for the song Things Have Changed in the movie “Wonder Boys,” and also  won the Nobel Prize for Literature just last year making him the first person to ever hold both awards. The only other person to win both an Oscar (in any category) and a Nobel Prize is the author George Bernard Shaw who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his 1938 film “Pygmalion.”

5. C. “Blue Hawaii” sold three million copies and is also the bestselling studio album of Elvis’s career.

6. B. and C.  The Bee Gees “Saturday Night Fever” (1977) and the Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard” (1992) have sold more than 14 million copies in the U.S.

 

Ruth Chow-Kneese Speaks: On Shopping


April 18, 2018

shoppingMany women shop for clothes unaware of what they want or need. To make the items in your closet work for you and to make everyday dressing easier, it is important to shop with awareness. Really looking at an item, and thinking about what it can be worn with is the most important question to ask yourself before purchasing an item. Can you create several different outfits with this item? Shopping with a clothing stylist will bring these important questions into focus. Learning the tricks of the trade will make dressing so much easier and in the long run, save you time and money. Have the closet and wardrobe that work for you and your lifestyle.

Chow-Kneese’s 4-week class, “Shopping Wisely” starts on May 2. For more information, or to register, click here.

Meet Two New Professors: Victoria Jones and Hank Roubicek!


April 18, 2018

passion2The Women’s Institute of Houston is featuring two new professors who speak in very unique ways about important facets of human experience as it relates to art, relationships, and storytelling.

 

Victoria Jones, a counseling psychologist and co-founder of Psynergy Psychological Associates, explains the impetus behind her class “Illuminating the Psyche Through the Arts: Art As Lens To Relationships With Others” as follows, “Our individual journeys absolutely depend (even neurologically) on learning from each other. Thus, the class involves both supportive interaction and individual discovery.

Henry Roubicek, popular radio show host, award-winning educator, and instructor of the upcoming class “Storytelling is dedicated to helping students learn the art of storytelling in order to craft the story that they want to tell. Dr. Hank, as he is called, describes storytelling as follows, “Every story that people tell is a part of their life. The personal episodes that occur to you form a culmination of your life. Obviously, some are more meaningful than others. But, I really believe we’re born a blank book, and every episode that occurs in our life fills those blank pages.”

WIH Reporter: It’s wonderful to meet you both. Can you tell us what we should know right away about about your upcoming classes?

Jones: The most complex and illusive interdisciplinary subject of them all—the human experience—is not a required course from grade school to graduate school! A few of us may have included psychology as an elective or minor, but most of us know very little about a subject that dramatically influences daily happiness. My class is designed to help you discover catalyzing questions—and even answers—that move us closer to the place we are all heading in our individual ways.

Roubicek: In my class, “Storytelling,” we will see how storytelling is the best way to connect with others. When stories are told, listeners are invited into the windows of the teller’s soul. And, the single greatest denominator that binds people together is fully experienced – vulnerability.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about your specific class topics?

Jones: My subjects—the human psyche and the creative arts—often feel subjective, vague, ephemeral, confusing—quite the opposite of what I am planning for our focused work together. Our focus will involve working with inevitable tensions, like profound truth and playful curiosity; intrinsic rights and the erosion of time and focus; the things we prioritize and those we avoid; fear of abandonment/engulfment and our capacity for intimacy; and, the need to protect and defend in the face of incessant projections to and from others.

Roubicek: Mick Jagger once sang, “It’s the singer, not the song.” That’s another way of saying that delivery counts when you tell a story. Even in a traditional setting, there must be a shared sense of discovery so there is a payoff. Good tellers know how to make good listeners.”

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Jones: The format of my class will involve exploring fundamental psychological concepts or themes using the arts as window, lens, translator, mirror. This might involve hands-on activities; guided discussion; or writing inspired by a poem or painting. The process may also be reversed, in which we begin with a creative prompt which then leads to psychological exploration.

Roubicek: The format of my class will be interactive. “Even in a traditional setting, there must be a shared sense of discovery so there is a payoff. Good tellers know how to make good listeners.” “When you deliver a narrative, you have to come across as sharing information. People want to hear things when you share it with them. To me, a good storyteller makes sure there’s a payoff. You have to take something with you. When I had Holocaust survivors tell their stories on my radio show, the listeners didn’t take away the individual stories. They took away the bravery and gutsiness of the tellers.

WIH Reporter: Is there anything you would like to add about your classes?

Jones: The creative arts are central to psychological growth allowing us to imagine our way out of life’s double binds. Creative problem-solving unifies the brain, thereby inhibiting intrusive, inflexible, and habitual ways of thinking. With increased goal-directed behavior we can not only think outside the box when we are engaged in creative exploration, we are also more likely to take action. Creative thinking increases calm and focus, as well as access to excitement and pleasure.

Roubicek: A good storyteller offers complete thoughts, in a sequence. Our imagination puts thoughts and ideas together in symbols we call words. You must use words descriptively as a painter uses a paintbrush. Words are your color, texture and images, especially how the words are spoken. You add posture, gestures, voice, pitch, and other speech tools to create a message. In advertising and acting, you put these things together to create a message. But, the difference is storytelling creates a community. We remember people through the stories they tell.”

Discover one or both of these extraordinary professors in their upcoming classes at The Women’s Institute.

Click here to register for Victoria Jones’ 8-week class, “Illuminating the Psyche Through the Arts: Art As Lens To Relationships With Others” class which begins Wednesday, May 2 at 10:00 a.m.

Click here to register for Hank Roubicek’s 2-day class, “Storytelling” which takes place on on May 1 and May 2 at 1:00 p.m.

Barry Greenlaw Speaks: On Bridges


April 18, 2018

bridges2
I have always been fascinated with bridges. On my first visit to New York, as a young boy, I was far more impressed with crossing the George Washington Bridge, than visiting the Statue of Liberty, or the top of the Empire State Building.

Many cities are defined by their bridges – who can think of London  without London Bridge, or Tower Bridge; Sydney without its Harbor Bridge; Prague without Charles Bridge? Sailing out of New York Harbor beneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, or into San Francisco beneath the magnificent Golden Gate, defines the whole concept of departure and arrival.

This class will be roughly organized in a chronological manner from the earliest, primitive stone and timber crossings, to the magnificent modern engineering marvels of today. We will spend significant time with the first great bridge builders, the Romans, who linked their widespread Empire together with their bridges.

Bridges of the Middle Ages reflected the progress of architectural styles.
We will see how the development of the Gothic arch which allowed
cathedrals to be built higher, allowed bridges to be built stronger and
wider.

The 18th century was the first to utilize the new developments of the
Industrial Revolution, with the use of iron and then steel dramatically
improving the strength and utility of bridges. The adoption of the
ancient suspension system, utilizing these new materials, enabled
spans, higher clearances, and extraordinary beauty. The 19th century witnessed
a great period of bridge engineering in both Europe and America.

And today, we are in the midst of an explosion of new construction,
based mainly on the cable-stay system which has produced some of the
most magnificent bridges ever built.

Greenlaw’s 2 week/4 session class takes place on June 11, June 13, June 18, and June 20 at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

Lights! Camera! Action! Music in the Movies!


April 18, 2018

hollywood2Whether we notice it or not, music is ubiquitous in films. From catchy songs and lyrics to background music, music is an often unrecognized yet important factor in movies. Dominique Royem’s upcoming class, “Music in the Movies” covers a wide range of music in films, encompassing everything from early silent German expressionist works to the blockbusters of today. We visited with Royem to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your upcoming class?

Royem: There is a lot more to music in movies than what you remember hearing in the theater! You usually don’t even remember hearing the large majority of good movie music. To truly understand what’s at work, we will have to analyze why they work so well in context with the movie.

WIH Reporter: What makes music so important in movies?

Royem: Music is fundamental to the art of storytelling through film, not just something that’s thrown on top at the end. It can make or break a movie – John Williams is credited with turning Star Wars into a galaxy-spanning drama instead of a cheesy science fiction niche film.

WIH Reporter: What is the most incredible fact about music in films that you have discovered?

Royem: Music is so important to movies even silent films had music!

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Royem: We will watch and analyze clips from major motion pictures spanning over a hundred years. Your participation is welcomed – everyone’s take on culture is different, and these small (or large) personal differences add complexity to the composer’s job.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table right now?

Royem: These are the books I am reading right now: Film Music: A History  by James Eugene Wierzbicki, Celluloid Symphonies: Texts and Contexts in Film Music History  edited by Julie Hubbert, and Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music  by Royal S. Brown.

Royem’s 6-week class begins on May 3 and starts at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

Love and Passion in 20th-Century Literature


April 18, 2018

romancingLove and passion in the pages of 20th-century literature is the subject of Professor Laura Richardson’s upcoming course, “Romancing the 20th Century”.  We spoke with her to  find out more.

 

WIH Reporter: How did you come up with this idea for your class?

Richardson: The idea came from a great discussion my students and I had in my last course, “Contemporary Women’s Literature.” We were about to discuss Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto”, and I asked the class to share their ideas and experiences of what love is. Our amazing conversation ended up informing nearly all of our subsequent discussions; it was a special moment when we all shared, learned about each other, and then were able to take those experiences and use them as interpretative tools for the novels. I thought to myself, “I want to have more classes like this!” So the idea of “Romancing the 20th Century” was born!

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about romance in literature?

Richardson: As a genre, “romance” can designate either 1. a prose narrative that follows heroic or mysterious characters who participate in events in far-away times and places and/or 2. in the more familiar use of the word, a love story. We’ll be taking a close look at our course texts to determine how they specifically fit into one or both of these long-standing traditions of “romance.”

WIH Reporter: What surprises are in store for us in learning about this subject?

Richardson: Twentieth-century literature isn’t really known for its romances, but rather for its interest in technology, globalization, formal experimentation, and skepticism. As a class, we’ll be looking to define the traits of this genre in the past hundred-odd years. You won’t find a class like this anywhere else!

WIH Reporter; What will be the format of your class?

Richardson: Each day will begin with a presentation of discussion questions, useful background material on the author(s), and appropriate historical/theoretical context in lecture form. We’ll spend more time on this the first day as we talk about the definition of “romance.” Then we’ll spend at least an hour of each class in discussion.

WIH Reporter: We often like to ask the following question. What books are on your night table right now?

Richardson: I’m currently making my way through Stephen King’s The Stand (1500+ pages, but a real post-apocalyptic page-turner!) and am also enjoying Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, a nonfiction book on the role of medicine at the end of life.

Richardson’s 6-week class begins on May 1 at 10:00 a.m. For more information or to register, click here.

 

Understanding Culture: Bridging the Gap Between People


February 28, 2018

baba2As people come together from different backgrounds, understanding how societies are based around fundamental patterns of culture becomes essential at all levels of human interaction, from the interpersonal to the international. We interviewed Professor Claudia Baba about the subject of her upcoming class “Intercultural Issues: Developing Awareness to Understanding People” to find out more about the concept of culture and how to bridge the gaps between people of different backgrounds and traditions.

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your class?

Baba: Because we live in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world we encounter different value systems and behaviors. Houston, for example, was ranked the most diverse city in the USA in 2017 with 1 in 4 Houstonians born outside of the country. There are 90 languages spoken and 92 foreign consulates here. The reality today is that we’re more than a multi-cultural society in which we live alongside one another with limited interactions. We are moving towards an intercultural community where people of different backgrounds are coming together and exchanging ideas and cultural norms to develop deep understanding and respect for all cultures.

WIH Reporter: What do we need to know to move into better understanding?

Baba: The key for this community to flourish beyond a superficial gloss is through intercultural understanding and communication.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken ideas do we have about culture and how can we bridge the gap between people of different backgrounds?

Baba:
That culture is homogenous—a program on how to act.
That culture is a thing—without individual agency.
That culture is uniformly distributed with the group.
That the individual possess only one culture.
That culture is custom—based simply on tradition.
That culture is timeless.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the concept of culture?

Baba: In 1952, two American anthropologists critically reviewed the concept of culture and compiled a list of 164 different definitions.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Baba: Mostly lecture but there will be plenty of opportunity for discussions.

WIH Reporter: We like to find out what books are on your night table right now.

Baba: Recent books include Cultural Intelligence: Individual Interactions Across Cultures by P. Christopher Earley & Soon Ang, Culture and International Relations by Jongsuk Chay, The Truth Matters by Bruce Bartlett, The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin, The History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani, and The Collected Stories by Grace Paley.

For more information or to register for this 6-week class starting March 22nd, click here.

 

 

Liz Weiman Speaks: On the Mind-Body Connection


February 28, 2018

mindbody2

The latest scientific research into the power of the mind-body connection shows us that we can be active participants in taking control of our health and healing. In my upcoming class, we will explore the latest scientific research about this mind-body connection and also learn modern and ancient techniques that have proven to have profound effects on stress reduction and health.

One factor that we will explore is the art of breathing properly. Shallow breathing is normally triggered when we are threatened, as part of our innate fight or flight defense system. However, in these stressful modern times, our breathing may have become primarily shallow. We may notice that the air stops in our throat or upper/middle chest on each breath. Babies and young children breathe naturally, using the large muscle of the diaphragm which also massages the internal organs on each breath. By learning specific exercises that counteract stress-induced breathing, we can relearn how to breathe properly, cultivate calm, and improve overall health, longevity, and quality of life.

For more information or to register for Weiman’s 6-week class “The Mind-Body Connection: Improving Health, Longevity, and Quality of Life,” starting April 5th, 2018, click here.

 

Helga Aurisch Speaks: On Artistic Couples


February 28, 2018
kiss

The Kiss by Gustave Klimt

Another title I considered for this course was “Artists in Love,” but that had been used by Veronica Kavass for her 2012 book on this fascinating subject. I did want to concentrate on painters. And they were not always in love. Many of the relationships that we will be looking at, for instance Dora Maar and Picasso, Gabrielle Münter and Vassily Kandinsky were turbulent to say the least. Starting as love stories, even seductions, they often ended in sadness and misery for the women. They had to battle on while their former partners rose to stardom.  At a moment when the #metoo movement is fiercely debated in our society, looking at the trajectory of these couples that often began as student/teacher relationships will add a historical dimension to the current discussion.

For more information about Helga Aurisch’s 6-week class “Artistic Couples”, beginning March 19th, click here.

 

The Extraordinary Role of Women in Religion


February 28, 2018
360px-Virgin_Mary_and_Jesus_(old_Persian_miniature)

Virgin Mary and Jesus (old Persian miniature), wikipedia

 

The religions of the world would be mere shadows of their current iterations were it not for the women who championed them and, in many cases, illustrated the religions’ highest ideals with their very lives. In her upcoming class, “Women in Religion,” Professor Jill Carroll will focus on the extraordinary role that women have played, and continue to play, in the world’s religions.

 

 

 

 

WIH Reporter: From most people’s perspective, religions of the world are dominated by men. How will your upcoming class dispel this?

Carroll: The class, broadly speaking, won’t dispel this idea because historically it is mostly true. Religions have been made by men, for men and about men for the most part. That being the case, the stories and roles of women in the religions have been minimized. Our class will prioritize those stories and roles to balance out the portrait of the religions.

WIH Reporter: In many religions of the world, women are taught to be submissive. Would you give us an example of a female who went against this directive?

Carroll: Pretty much every woman who ever did anything notable in the realm of religion. Sometimes it was a matter of not being “submissive” – other times it was more about refusing the standard, limiting roles carved for women in a given socio-cultural context. The women who have achieved something in religion – started a movement, led a group, initiated socio-political activism, etc. – broke out of the prescribed roles in order to accomplish those things.

WIH Reporter: Do you have a favorite female prophet, disciple or saint and if so, what is her strongest characteristic?

Carroll: There are so many, but recently I’m enamored with Lucretia Mott, the 18th century abolitionist, women’s rights advocate, and religious reformer.  She was so brave, so smart, so powerful in her person and presence.  Another would be Angelina Grimke, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate.  Both these women were deeply radical in their contexts and had backbones of steel.  I admire them tremendously.

WIH Reporter: How do the women you will examine in this course illustrate the ideals of religion?

Carroll: In many ways, they exemplify the deepest ideals, teachings and ethical admonitions of the religions – and expand them into new area.  For example, Amma (a current day Hindu guru from the Dalit or untouchable caste) embodies in her life and practice many traditional Hindu virtues and does what respectable gurus everywhere do.  However, she expands her work into the world of widows – Hindu society is particularly hard on widows – and Amma from her own resources through the funds she raises has created a small pension system for widows.  I can’t imagine that such a thing would be on the forefront of a male guru’s agenda.  But Amma is a woman and understands the plight of women.  It’s not a blind spot for her.

WIH Reporter: Finally, in today’s world of women finding their voices to stand up to misogyny, what would surprise us to know about the amazing women you will be studying?

Carroll: I don’t know that it’s much of a surprise, but important to know is that so many of these women overcame significant odds against them to achieve whatever they’ve achieved.  They were scorned, put down, made fun of, harassed, rejected, etc.  But, as the recent meme indicates, “still she persisted.”

For more information or to register for Jill Carroll’s 8-week course starting March 19th, 2018, click here.

 

Breaking News: Bill Frisco Weighs In on Today’s Financial Market and Economy


February 28, 2018

wall2More than ever, investors are concerned with the high valuations in today’s stock and bond markets. William E. Frisco, Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser, has a lot to tell us about the market and the economy in his upcoming class, “Today’s Market: Will the Boom Times Continue?” We visited with Frisco to find out more.

 

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about the areas you will cover in your upcoming class?

Frisco: The class will address key areas that concern every investor such as if the stock market is overvalued and ready for a significant drop and if bond yields will rise as a result of rising inflation.

Investors are also concerned about the major changes in the new tax bill. Investors should know how much they can spend in retirement without running out of money and how the mid-term elections will possibly impact financial markets.

WIH Reporter: What kind of information will you be sharing with your students in this class?

Frisco: In addition to covering how to manage investment risks, generate income for retirement, and diversify growth portfolios to minimize volatility, I will be covering such topics as index funds, what they are, and why Warren Buffett is recommending them. I will also detail how assets should be allocated in today’s economic climate.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do you think we have about a class like yours that covers financial markets?

Frisco: People often assume that the class is biased one way or another in covering the economy, which is an incorrect assumption. Instead, we will will review strategies that have survived good times and not so good times

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Frisco: The class is taught in a question and answer format to improve the learning process and to fully engage the participants. Each class has detailed, updated handouts covering the topics to be discussed. I will layer a foundation in each area and then open up the discussion to cover questions and concerns from the participants. The research for the class is very current, timely, and from a variety of different sources. The class is for those who want to do their own investing as well as those who choose to work with an adviser.

WIH Reporter: We are often curious about the books currently on your night table. Could you tell us what you are reading lately?

Frisco: Books include The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan, Tools for Smart Thinking, by Richard Nisbett, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt:The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and The Flawed Giant – Lyndon Johnson by Robert Dallek.

For more information, or to register for Bill Frisco’s 5-week class starting on April 3rd, 2018, click here.

Romanticism: A Tradition and a Way of Life


February 27, 2018
blake

“The Lover’s Whirlwind” 1872, William Blake

According to Professor Jade Hagen, who is teaching the upcoming class “Masterworks of Romanticism,” the literary tradition of Romanticism is far reaching and though it has been considered to be part of earlier centuries, it has strongly influenced many elements in these modern times. We checked in with Hagen to find out more.

 

 

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about Romanticism?

HagenRomanticism is arguably the most influential literary and artistic tradition in American history, and perhaps the most important tradition to arise in Great Britain after Shakespeare and Milton. Surrealism and the avant-gardes of the early twentieth century wouldn’t have been possible without Romanticism, and the Beat poets of the 1950s and ’60s explicitly acknowledge the Romantics as their precursors. 

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about Romanticism?

Hagen: “Romanticism” does have the word “romantic” in it, but it’s not about romance in the popular sense of love or marriage. Rather, Romanticism has been described as both a literary tradition and a way of life, one that is distinctly modern in its commitment to history, change, individual genius, and cultivating a healthy relationship between nature and culture.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about Romanticism?

Hagen: Well, I realize its my own idiosyncratic take on things, but I would argue that Romanticism should be of interest because we are still in the Romantic period. That is, although Romanticism proper is usually considered an eighteenth and nineteenth-century phenomenon, most of the major issues we’re dealing with today—consumerism, climate change, the fight for individual rights and freedoms—are a part of the Romantic legacy. As a society, we’re still working out solutions and ways to live with these issues, and the Romantics were the first to alert us to the fact that these aren’t national or even regional issues, but human issues that affect all of us, regardless of our views on them.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Hagen: I like to begin class with an overview of the historical and literary contexts, and the major themes and questions that I hope we as a class can explore. Then I open it up to discussion. I’m also working on setting up either a visit to Rice’s Woodson Archives, or a speaker from the Archives to come to us. The Woodson has a copy of the illuminated version of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, which we will be reading. Blake was an engraver by trade, and engraved and colored by hand each individual copy of his poems. You can read them in a book, but it’s just not the same as seeing the original plates, which evoke a totally different feeling than if you just see the black and white print version. We may also get into some adaptations of Romantic works. Frankenstein is a favorite of course, and has so many modern adaptations they’re hard to keep track of! Some are better than others though, and once you’ve read the book, you know why, and can appreciate the better versions that much more.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table right now?

Hagen: It’s quite the eclectic mix. Let’s see, there’s Don Allen’s anthology, The New American Poetry: 1945-1960; Hafiz’s The Gift; a collection of Rumi poems; Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic; an anthology by Robert Bly called News of the Universe; John Ashbery’s Selected Poems; Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; and Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (a real thriller); and a pocket edition of Blake of course. There’s always Blake these days.

For more information, or to register for Hagen’s 6-week class starting April 3rd, 2018, click here.

 

 

 

How Much Do You Know About…the Stock Market?


February 27, 2018

In anticipation of Bill Frisco’s upcoming financial class, we created a quiz to test your knowledge about little-known stock market facts.

1. Where is the oldest stock exchange in the world?

A. Barcelona, Spain.
B. Hamburg, Germany.
C. Toulouse, France.
D. Antwerp, Belgium.

2. Where was the first stock exchange in the United States?

A. New York, N.Y.
B. Philadelphia, PA.
C. Washington, D.C.
D. Boston, MA.

3. The founders of the New York Stock Exchange took inspiration from which country’s stock market?

A. Great Britain.
B. France.
C. Italy.
D. Spain.

4. What is the name for the method of communications used by stock traders frantically running around a trading floor and using hand signals?

A. Verbal auction.
B. Open outcry.
C. Hand dealing.

5. Which of the following is an example of a defensive stock?

A. A weapons manufacturer.
B. A utility company.
C. An auto manufacturer.

6. What does it mean when a trader flashes four fingers parallel to the floor, palm out?

A. Sell four shares.
B. Sell nine shares.
C. Buy four shares.
D. Buy nine shares.

7. Which company is NOT a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

A. Verizon.
B. Amazon.
C. Hewlett-Packard.
D. WalMart.
E. Pfizer.

8. How many companies are in the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

A. 10.
B. 30.
C. 50.
D. 100.

ANSWERS

1. D. The oldest stock exchange in the world began in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1460.

2. B. The first stock exchange in the United States, opened in Philadelphia, in 1790.

3. D. The value of the dollar had been based on the Spanish real, so the NYSE founders looked to Spain for inspiration for their stock market.. The Spanish real is also the reason for all the fractional stock prices in the NYSE.

4. B. Open outcry is the way transactions are communicated using shouting and hand signals.

5. B. A defensive stock is named as such because its value doesn’t fluctuate much. A good example of defensive stock would be utility stocks.

6. B. Palm out means sell. Four fingers at a 90-degree angle indicates nine while four upright fingers signals four.

7. B. Amazon is not a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

8. B. 30 is the correct answer.

 Film and Music: Two Great  American Art Forms


January 22, 2018

Photo by Connor Limbocker

In the year 2018, a year that will perhaps be known as “The Year of the Woman”, The Women’s Institute of Houston would like to feature two of its female professors and their upcoming classes. Hannah Biggs, whose class “Legendary Directors: And Film As Their Art” explores 3 major film directors says, “I always strive to make my classes lighthearted, fun, and let the movies themselves guide us in a conversation about film as an art form.”

Dominque Royem, whose class “How Music Makes the Musical: More Musicals,” takes us on a journey through the world of musicals tells us, “We will watch and listen to musicals and discuss how the music works with the drama. Since music as a language is based on perception, each member of the class might hear things differently!”

We visited with both of these professors to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about each of your classes?

Biggs: In my class we will be studying the films of three directors: Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Martin Scorsese. I will show bits of these directors’ films in class, and I’ll pause for moments of lecture, ask questions of students, answer any questions, and provide clarification about the film.

Royem: In exploring the ways that music creates the musical, we will be looking at popular musicals to understand the special place music holds in drama.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about film directors and musicals?

Biggs: We often think directors’ films all fall into one particular category, style, or genre when in fact directors often experiment with different film styles, motifs, and camera work as they evolve throughout their body of work. In their earlier works, you’ll see nods to the styles of their directorial role models. For example, Spielberg often uses a lot of editing elements of Hitchcock’s; and, early on in his body of work, the more Hitchcock-style elements of his films stand out. Only later on will you get to trace the development of a director’s body of work when they move to experiment and develop their own directorial footprint on the film industry.

Royem: One mistaken belief about musicals is that you have to like all the shows we will be covering – Carousel, Kiss Me Kate, The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, Into the Woods, and Les Miserables. The truth is that even if you don’t like a particular musical, everyone can learn something from each one!

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the world of film directors and musicals?

Biggs: A director’s own personal biography can often have far more impact on the creation of a film than one would think. In addition to a director’s own personal biography, a director’s experiences making his/her earlier films can impact the types of films made later on. For example, Spielberg loved making films meant for children and young adults, like ET and Jurassic Park.He strove in all of his movies to reach that same feeling of suspended reality and total immersion in a world of imagination.

Royem: It will be surprising to find that we will be using the same methods of investigation for musicals that are used with classical music and opera. Learning these techniques in this class will make it easier to understand classical music as well.

 WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Biggs: I start off each class with a 15-20 minute lecture on the topic. We then view the film and work through the parts I’ve pre-selected to view in the class. Each film in this class will get two weeks of dedicated class time. I always play the movies with subtitles. You also don’t need to buy or watch the movies ahead of time unless you want to!

Royem: Our format is conversational! We will watch and listen to musicals and discuss how the music works with the drama. Since music as a language is based on perception, each member of the class might hear things differently! We will talk about why and how that happens, and what it means for our culture.

Hannah Biggs is receiving her PhD in English from Rice University. She was recommended to teach film at the WI by our very beloved professor, Dennis Huston. Hannah taught with Huston at Rice in his “Shakespeare on Film” class. Professor Biggs has published on film and television. Her review of Amazon Prime Instant Video’s original series, The Last Tycoon was published in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Review. She has served as the copy editor for The Comic Event: Comedic Performance from the 1950s to the Present, comedy on stage, tv, and movies. Currently, she is working on publishing an article on the film totem of funny farms, or comedy in agrarian storytelling—Chevy Chase’s Funny Farm, Green Acres, Cold Comfort Farm, and other such films and television series.

Dominique Royem is the Music Director of the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra and, as such, one of the few female conductors in the country. She holds a doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Houston Moores School of Music. In her short tenure here at the WI, she has garnered a faithful following of students who have gone to see several of the symphony performances under her direction. Follow this link to see her upcoming schedule of performances http://www.dominiqueroyem.com/schedule/

Discover one or both of these extraordinary women in their upcoming classes at The Women’s Institute.

Click here to register for Hannah Biggs’, “Legendary Directors and Film as Their Art” which begins Monday, February 5th at 10:00 a.m.

Click here to register for Dominique Royem’s, “How Music Makes the Musical: More Musicals” starts on Tuesday, February 6th at 10:00 a.m.

How Much Do You Know About…Women’s  Contributions to Film and Music?


January 22, 2018

“The Sense of Hearingo” by Philippe Mercier,  1744, Wikipedia

In anticipation of our upcoming classes featuring contributions by women in the arts, we put together a quiz to test your knowledge about little-known facts about women in music and film.

 

 

 

 

1. Who is is the only woman to ever win the Academy Award for Best Director?

A. Lina Wertmuller.
B. Jane Campion.
C. Kathryn Bigelow.

2. Who directed around 20 films over the course of her 24 years, taught Francis Ford Coppola, directed Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford?:

A. Bette Davis.
B. Lois Weber.
C. Dorothy Arzner.

3. What was the first superhero film to be directed by a woman?

A. Spiderman 2.
B. Wonder Woman.
C. Ant-Man.

4. Who was a medieval visionary, leader, poet, dramatist, herbalist and composer?

A. Catherine de Medici.
B. Eleanor of Aquitaine.
C. Hildegarde of Bingen.

5. Queen Victoria mistakenly thought a male had written one of her favorite pieces, “Italien” which was actually composed by:

A. Clara Schumann.
B. Fanny Mendelssohn.
C. Amy Beach.

6. Which actress became a pioneering director and producer and the only woman working within the 1950s Hollywood studio system to do so?

A. Ida Lupino.
B. Gene Tierney.
C. Dorothy Lamour.

7. Who was an American film and theater actress, singer, and dancer  best known for being the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress?

A. Hattie McDaniel.
B. Josephine Baker.
C. Dorothy Dandridge.

8. Which of these leading Broadway Ladies won 3 Tony awards and originated two of the most iconic Broadway roles in history?

A. Ethel Merman.
B. Liza Minelli.
C. Carol Channing.

Answers:

1. C. Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. Lina Wertmuller was the first woman nominated for the 1976 film, Seven Beauties. Jane Campion was number two for the 1993 film, The Piano, and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation was also nominated in the past.

2. C. Dorothy Arzner was an American film director whose career in feature films spanned from the silent era of the late 1920s into the early 1940s. In fact, Dorothy Arzner was the only female director working in the 1930s in the United States.

3. B. Wonder Woman (2017) was directed by Patty Jenkins. The domestic gross for the film was $285.3 million.

4. C. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) A composer of some 70 works, Hildegard was a writer, mystic and visionary. As a Benedictine Abbess, she founded two monasteries. One of her compositions, “Ordo Virtutum”, is the oldest surviving morality play.

5. B. Queen Victoria thought the piece was created by Fannie’s famous brother, Felix Mendelssohn.

6. A. Ida Lupino was an Anglo-American actress and singer, who became a pioneering director and producer—the only woman working within the 1950s Hollywood studio system to do so.

7. C. Dorothy Dandridge was the  first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones.

8. C. Carol Channing is regarded as one of the most amazing stars in history and one of the top performers of all time. Her Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly and Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes are two of the most iconic roles in Broadway history. The year Barbra Streisand was nominated for Funny Girl (1964) she lost to Carol Channing’s Hello Dolly.

 

A Broader View: Jewish History in Germany in the Last 200 Years


January 22, 2018

Wikipedia, Synagogue at Nuremberg, c. 1890-1900., destroyed in 1938

If the pinnacle of German achievements in science, the arts, and industry at the end of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century would not have been possible without the “German Citizens of Jewish faith”, why was Jewish life there destroyed so easily within just twelve years?

To answer this and other compelling questions on this topic, Professor Ursula Muenzel presents a 200-year history of the Jews in Germany in her upcoming class, “Beyond the Holocaust: German Jews From Napoleonic Times To Present Day“. We visited her to find out more.

WIH Reporter: Can you tell us what is important to know about your class?

Muenzel: The rise of Jews in German society and the end of German Jewry unfolded within the short span of one and a half century. In this class, I will cover the whole scope of Jewish-German co-existence.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about Jews in Germany?

Muenzel: The mistaken impression is to see the history of Jews in Germany only in retrospect, from the Holocaust, which is sometimes in the way of a broader perspective.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know in analyzing German-Jewish history when looking through a broader historical perspective?

Muenzel: What is surprising is the Jews in Germany constituted such a tiny minority. However, they were perceived to have a much larger influence, both in good and malevolent ways.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Muenzel: It will combine several elements: a lecture supported by PowerPoint presentation, suggestions for independent reading and always Q and A. Ideally we will create a dialogue between myself and the students.

WIH Reporter: We like to ask every so often about what books are on on our professors’ night tables right now.

Muenzel: Current books include Die Welt von Gestern (The world of Yesterday), a memoir by Stefan Zweig, an Austrian author, who gained world fame before 1933 and who committed suicide in exile in Brazil in 1942. I just visited his last home which has been converted to a small museum, in Petropolis, Brazil. In addition a small volume of poems Brazilyrik by Nikolaus von Behr, in Portuguese and German.

Professor Muenzel’s 6-week class begins on February 8th at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

David Brauer Speaks: On Women in Art


January 16, 2018

128px-Self_portrait,_1610

“Self portrait, 1610″ by Sofanisba Anguissola, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Soon after being asked to write this piece I learned of the passing of the distinguished American art historian Linda Nochlin (1931 – 2017).

Nochlin’s seminal piece “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists”, was published in 1971, on the first wave of feminist art criticism. The questions that Nochlin raised remain relevant to the present day.

This course will begin with the High Renaissance during which period Sofanisba Anguissola had become the first woman artist to enjoy wide-spread celebrity, leaving a body of some one hundred works.

The number of women artists increases through subsequent centuries to the present, but it is never a one-size fit all in terms of recognition and success. Not all countries produced significant women artists, this due to politics, religion and social issues. We shall try to create not so much definitive answers but at least clearer questions.

This course may have taken on an added relevance given the recent events in Hollywood and the creative world generally.

Professor Brauer’s 12-week class, “Women in Art: The Renaissance To The Present”, begins on February 8th at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

 

Sacred Musical Compositions


September 26, 2017

cburchThe beliefs and history of different faiths are often symbolized by their sacred music, for instance a Mass by Palestrina reflects the glory and majesty of Renaissance Catholicism, and a Bach cantata expresses the bold confidence of early Protestantism. Professor Vicki Gresik’s upcoming class, “Sacred Music: The Association of Music and Religion.” takes us through the basic tenets of the world’s major religions and explores the liturgical and devotional music, and classical art music inspired by these faiths. We wanted to find out much more!

WIH Reporter: What makes your class a “must take” seminar?

Gresik: I think religions are fascinating and sacred music can be some of the most beautiful music ever written. I hope to introduce my students to a variety of religious compositions. Some religious compositions will be familiar, and others might be new discoveries. Most of us are familiar with music from our own faith, but we may not have heard how others praise God.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about sacred music?

Gresik: I think that many people assume that sacred music is pretty old, even ancient, but composers are writing contemporary hymns today, some using a traditional format, others using an interfaith background. Young performers are creating a sacred sound that is meaningful to their generation.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about sacred music?

Gresik: Besides the fact that contemporary composers are writing sacred music today, if we listen to the lyrics of a number of popular songs we might be surprised to hear a religious theme. Also many well- known classical composers have contributed to the sacred genre.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Gresik: The handout will contain a brief review of the religion(s) for the class, followed by a list of the pieces to be heard during the class & the composer, often with remarks about the composition itself. I hope to have you listening to the music more than hearing me talk.

WIH Reporter: We often like to ask what books are on your night table right now?

Gresik: Because my house flooded with Harvey, I have no night stand at present, but I am presently finishing reading The Evolution of God by Robert Wright, and because I’m in a graduate program at Rice & taking a course on Russian history & music, I’m researching the Russian Orthodox Church using The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. On my Kindle the two most recent selections are: A Distant View of Everything by Alexander McCall Smith & Glass Houses by Louise Penny.

WIH Reporter: Is there anything else about your class that you would like to add?

Gresik:  Because I want to introduce a number of pieces each week, the listening will be limited to 1-2 minutes each. You may want more, but if you don’t like the piece you won’t suffer long!

Professor Gresik’s class begins on October 18th at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

 

 

Japan’s Unique & Traditional Culture


September 26, 2017
japanese

18th century woodblock print by Utamaro

WWII tends to dominate the vision that we in the West have of Japan since many of our fathers or grandfathers fought in WWII. But there is much more to be said about Japan and its art, culture, and historical significance in the wider world. Melanie Urban’s newest class is an intriguing exploration into Japan’s history, culture, and national psyche. We visited with her to find out more.

 

 

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your upcoming class?

Urban: In all periods of Japan’s culture, art has played a significant role. As in most cultures, from West to East, art served first as glorification of one or many belief systems. When Buddhism arrived in Japan in the 6th century, art enhanced the religious experience. During the imperial period, patrons prized various forms of art for its own sake – not just painting, but also sculpture, ceramics, lacquer ware, textiles, architecture, and even garden design.

WIH Reporter: What do we need to know about Japanese culture?

Urban: The native belief system survives and holds an equal place with the imported religion of Buddhism in the minds and hearts of Japanese people. Another example is that Japan honors its craftsmen as living treasures, a practice that preserves ancient skills in many art forms.

WIH Reporter: What are more examples and results of this inclusive philosophy?

Urban: An example from the 7th century: the regent promulgated a constitution with 17 articles, among them rules for governing the country as a harmonious whole.  He borrowed directly from both the Buddhist canon and Confucian principles.  Following on that, a subsequent ruler commissioned the largest bronze Buddha in the world during the 8th century.  It stands over 50 feet tall (or should I say “sits”).  And in the 11th century, a lady of the Heian court penned one of the first novels ever written, The Tale of Genji, a wonderful portrait of imperial court culture.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Urban: I lecture using pictures taken mostly from travels, either trips to locations pertinent to the subject or to museums.  My “technical assistant” takes the photographs and organizes my presentations to his own high standard.  I prefer discussion during the presentation when anyone in the audience has questions pertinent to the topic at hand.

WIH Reporter: What do you consider one of the most interesting facts we should know about Japan?

Urban: One of the most interesting facets of Japanese culture is how it fascinated people in the West from at least the 16th century.  As the Europeans discovered and exploited commercial opportunities in Asia, they imported Japanese, Chinese, and South East Asian art objects in increasing quantities.  The evidence of this trade can be seen in many European paintings, which often feature Japanese and Chinese ceramics and lacquer wares.  This fascination extended over centuries, and when Chinese goods were hard to come by, Japanese and South East Asian exports filled the gap.  This notion of imported Japanese art generated a whole new reaction during the late 19th century in France, the era of the Impressionists.  Many of the French painters of the 1880s and 1890s collected Japanese woodblock prints and used the new perspectives and compositional styles reflected in them.

Professor Urban’s class begins on October 19th at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

 

A Historical Introduction to the New Testament


September 26, 2017
newtest

Wikipedia-Papyrus 46, one of the oldest New Testament papyri, showing 2 Cor 11:33-12:9

In Charles Schmidt’s upcoming class, “A Historical Introduction to the New Testament” students will explore the texts of the New Testament from the perspective of modern academic scholarship, with an emphasis on their historical and social context. We checked in with Professor Schmidt to find out more.

 

 

 

WIH Reporter:  What is important to know about your upcoming class?

Schmidt: This class will provide a historical and cultural background to the world of the early Jews and Christians who wrote the texts that would eventually become codified as the New Testament. We will take a look at the historical figures of Jesus of Nazareth and Paul within the broader history of ancient messianic expectations and discussions of the Torah (the Jewish Law). My goal is to share some of the insights biblical scholars have had about these texts and traditions.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about the historical basis of the New Testament?

Schmidt: There are myriad examples, all of which I will discuss in more detail during the first week of this class. But for right now I would have to say that the arrangement of the texts in the New Testament gives us a false impression as to their relative dating. The New Testament opens with four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), before moving on to Acts and the letters of Paul. For over two centuries, however, biblical scholars have known that these gospel accounts about the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth actually post-date the letters of Paul.

In other words, if we wanted to read the New Testament chronologically, we would have to begin with Paul rather than the gospel writers. The arrangement of these texts in Christian Bibles gives us the impression that the gospel accounts are the real beginning of the story of Christianity. In many ways, this makes perfect sense; why not begin the story of Christianity with Jesus, after all. But for someone who wants to learn about the history of earliest Christianity and the development of its Scripture, it may not be the most historically accurate approach.

WIH Reporter: What don’t we realize about the New Testament?

Schmidt: For starters, I would say the most surprising thing would be that our earliest complete copies of Christian Bibles date to around the fourth century—about three hundred years after the life of Jesus. Additionally, these Christian Bibles contain some books in their New Testament that are not found in those used by modern Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. For example, they include texts such as 1 Clement and The Epistle of Barnabas, or substitute the Apocalypse of Peter for the Apocalypse of John. I’d also like to point out that the earliest canon list identical to the 27 New Testament writings in today’s Christian Bibles dates to the year 379. The point I’m trying to make is that the New Testament we’re familiar with today came into being through a complex historical process and did not appear one day, fully formed.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Schmidt: This class will primarily take the format of a discussion-based seminar. In other words, I like to run my classes as open forums for sharing and discussing ideas. Each class meeting will be organized around a particular topic or text about which our learners will read short texts or select passages before we convene. I begin class with a brief lecture designed to provide some historical context for that week’s material and topic. After that, the remainder of the class will be spent doing close readings of select passages, leading discussion, and answering questions that arise in the moment.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table  right now?

Schmidt: At present I am re-reading George Orwell’s 1984 and attempting to get through a collection of Greco-Egyptian esoteric texts called the Corpus Hermeticum, which are magical-philosophical writings about the ultimate reality of the cosmos.

Professor Schmidt’s class begins October 19th at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

 

Painters of Fashion & Their Famous Subjects


September 26, 2017
marie3

Wikipedia_ Portrait of Marie Antloinette by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1778

Helga Aurisch’s class, “Painters of Fashion: Fashionable Painters” seeks to take us on a fascinating journey exploring the interaction between artists, painters, and fashion. Starting with the reign of Marie Antoinette, arguably the most fashion-obsessed queen to occupy the French throne, the class will examine how she and her favorite portraitist Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, set the fashion world on its head in the years just before the French Revolution. We interviewed Aurisch to find out more.

 

 

WIH Reporter: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming class?

Aurisch: I hope it will be as entertaining and enlightening for the participants as it has been for me to assemble it. It will be a fascinating look at various moments in history, a snapshot look at collaborations between painters and fashion makers that speak volumes not only about art and fashion, but also about politics and the social developments that defined their historical periods.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the painters of fashion?

Aurisch: I think most people classify them unjustly as shallow. But these artists, who were superbly gifted painters, had the great ability to paint their subjects as they liked to be seen, a difficult feat. Many specialized in portraiture, but not all. They also produced works in other genres such as still lifes, landscapes, and history paintings as well.

WIH Reporter: There must be interesting stories about the fashion painters and their interactions with subjects!

Aurisch: Yes! They also often had to be sensitive listeners, entertainers and oh, so much more than just dexterous with a brush.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Aurisch: The class will be a richly illustrated lecture, with breaks for questions and answers. I would like to encourage the active participation of the class. Hopefully, the class will be enticed to look into the various topics more deeply on their own. I will be happy to supply reading lists for each class.

WIH Reporter: We like to ask what books are on your night table right now?

Aurisch: Right now, I’m reading Caroline Weber’s Queen of Fashion, What Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution, Eleanor P. Delorme’s  Josephine, Napoleon’s Incomparable Empress, and Kimberly Chirsman-Campbell’s Fashion Victims, Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. All of them are great sources, and very readable. Meanwhile, I’m off to Paris tomorrow, hoping to garner a few more delicious details for the course.

Professor Aurisch’s class begins on October 23rd at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.