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Concert aids search for leukemia cure

(04/28/99 9:00am)

Various Penn student groups came together to raise money for the fight against leukemia at the first annual Leukemia Benefit Concert at the Annenberg Center last night. Co-sponsored by the undergraduate Biological Basis of Behavior Society, the Penn Leukemia Society and Psi Chi -- the national honor society in psychology -- the event began with the talent of the Moribus String Quartet, which performed Schubert's Death and the Maiden. All proceeds from ticket sales went toward the cause and organizers collected additional donations from audience members. "I wanted to give a performance before I left and wanted to make it for charity as well," said College senior Jared Greenberg, a founder of the undergraduate BBB society and coordinator of the concert. Also performing was the Arts House Dance Company, whose members displayed the wide range of their talents with three different pieces -- a ballet-inspired performance set to the music of Ella Fitzgerald, an energetic modern dance routine with the fast-paced music of Ultra NatZ and a slower, ethereal piece accompanied by Tracy Chapman's "The Promise." The only vocal group of the evening, the Penny Loafers, performed five songs, including k.d. Lang's "Constant Craving" and a rendition on the current hit "Kiss Me," by musical group Sixpence None the Richer. Onda Latina, a Latin dance group, demonstrated some traditional Latin dances, including the tango and the merengue. In addition to group acts, College junior Tony Park, on violin, and Wharton junior Felice Chay, on piano, played the theme from Schindler's List and Greenberg gave a solo piano performance. Still, the artistic and creative expression did not overshadow the goal of the evening. Before introducing the first act, Greenberg thanked the audience for their generosity to the cause of finding a cure for leukemia. He also dedicated the concert to Carol Cole, the grandmother of College junior Alisha Oliver and a recent bone marrow transplant recipient, wishing her luck for a quick and complete recovery. Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Professor Alan Gewirtz, a member of the Board of Trustees for the Leukemia Society of America, gave a brief speech during the concert about recent developments in leukemia research. Gewirtz spoke of his first encounters with leukemia and of "remembering making rounds with the ward team and seeing people your age suffering from this terrible disease." At that time, "virtually everybody who got leukemia died," Gewirtz said. He emphasized the advances that have been made since then, adding that, "We probably cure one-third to one-half of the people now." But Gewirtz did not wish to avoid mention of the harmful side effects of current cancer treatments. "Drugs and other treatments are quite toxic and make [patients] ill," he said. Fortunately, Gewirtz has a positive outlook for a more patient-friendly future for the treatment of leukemia. He explained that new developments in the research of the biochemistry of cancer cells are leading to identification of the "proteins on the surface of malignant cells." Scientists are currently looking for antibodies for these cells so that the cancerous cells can be targeted by the treatment without also killing healthy cells, he said. Gewirtz closed by telling the students in the audience, "I think the future is bright for finding a cure for these diseases in your lifetime."

Noted film producer talks on the changing face of movies

(04/28/99 9:00am)

Sharing his expertise on current films while also emphasizing the importance of a background in the classics, film producer Robert Cort spoke to students last Thursday in Logan Hall about "Hollywood at the Millennium." Having produced such Hollywood hits as Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Cocktail and Three Men and a Baby, Cort praised students in Penn's new Film Studies program for having studied the history of film and urged them to "continue watching great movies of the past because it will drive forward better movies of the future." In the talk, sponsored by the Film Studies Department, Cort emphasized five foci of current Hollywood films -- technology, concept, youth, bipolarity and Americans. "Technology has always driven the industry," Cort said. "[But] the development in computer-generated effects really started in '92 with Jurassic Park." Increased use of technology causes a loss of "emotional content and thought content," Cort noted. Even if a special effects-oriented movie does have a large emotional aspect, "there's so much technological stuff up there it provides a screen between you and the movie." Cort then discussed the fact that concept films -- those with easily summarized plots -- are more likely to be made today because screenwriters often have to pitch a film to a movie company in a short amount of time. And movie companies must in turn sell the film to the public in a 30-second commercial, Cort said. "Pure movies about character and the complexities thereof, that's the toughest thing to get made in Hollywood today," Cort told the audience, citing examples such as Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider and his own Mr. Holland's Opus. "The great thing to be able to do is have a high concept and instill really great characters into it," he said. "Really great filmmakers do it." The extreme youth orientation characterizing contemporary films is due to the "bulge in the demographic of under 25-year-olds, an increase in [that group's] disposable income and their tendency to go to the same movie more than one time." The impact of this phenomenon is "a lot of resuscitation of old ideas, such as Pygmalion with She's All That and The Taming of the Shrew with Ten Things I Hate About You," Cort said. Cort assured the audience that youths will become bored with these revivals quickly and that the film industry will respond by beginning to speak to their target audience more intelligently, increasing the level of quality -- but still targeting young people. Referring to the current trend in independent films, Cort addressed the film industry's bipolar nature. "They either go for the home run or only have a couple of bucks in their pocket" and make a more personal movie, Cort said. In addition, the role of independent films is changing. They are becoming "more and more an audition for big companies than about saying something deep," Cort said. Lastly, Cort discussed Hollywood's propensity for making domestically oriented movies. "Hollywood movies are about us, they are set here and they have American actors," he said, adding that this is a break from the past when people like Ingrid Bergman, Brigitte Bardot and Federico Fellini populated the Hollywood movie industry. Offering perhaps a reason for this trend, Cort said that despite the tendency to think in more global terms, Americans often see the U.S. as the center of the world. Most students found the substance of Cort's talk to be interesting. "I don't usually come out of films having learned anything or having anything to think about," College freshman Andrea Zawerczuk said, in agreement with the producer.

Date auction helps charities

(04/20/99 9:00am)

Students donated both their bodies and their money to charity last Thursday at the Second Annual Charity Date Auction outside the Kappa Sigma fraternity house on Locust Walk. The event was organized by Kappa Sig and the Delta Delta Delta and Chi Omega sororities. Thirty-nine men and women volunteered to be auctioned off for a date. Each participant walked down the "catwalk" and stood in front of the crowd, while emcees and Kappa Sigma brothers Paulo Eapen, a College junior, and Evan Karabell, a Wharton sophomore, read a humorous blurb about the auctionee. Along with a date, successful bidders received prizes, making it difficult to discern exactly what some of the attendees were bidding on. College freshman Lauren Weinberger, whose $150 bid won her a date with Wharton sophomore Ashlea Higgs and a $500 Nicole Miller jacket, said she "went for the complete package." The highlight of the event came as a BMW rolled up in front of the fraternity and bidding opened for a date with Samantha Cross and a weekend in Cape May, N.J., with the use of the car, donated by Dan Rosen BMW. The bidding started at $100 and went up to a record $400. As College freshman Andrew Margolies raised his paddle for the final bid, Eapen announced, "now there's a man with a fat wallet and a big heart." "I am very excited I won," said Margolies, a Daily Pennsylvanian photographer. "It was a lot of money but it was all spent on charity and a hot date." The auction was created last year by Eapen and Eric Metzroth, a 1998 Wharton graduate, with the intent "to have an event before Fling that brings the whole campus together," Eapen said. Both Greeks and non-Greeks were represented, and this year's organizers Eapen and Wharton sophomore Russell Kling "tried to choose people from different organizations," while other participants simply volunteered to be auctioned off. Both the bidders and the auctionees seemed to enjoy themselves. Education School doctoral candidate David Hallowell won a date with Engineering sophomore Kurt Klinger, chairperson of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance, for $140 after an intense bidding war. "It was terribly exciting and I was not going to let that little bit of a thing outbid me," Hallowell said. Some auctionees simply threw caution to the wind. "It was awesome," said College senior Austin Root, who stripped down to his boxer briefs as the bidding started. "It was definitely eccentric because I've never done anything like this." Root was not the only one to try to entice the crowd into bidding higher. College junior Erica Brand dressed up as a Catholic schoolgirl, and College juniors Hannah Cannom and Paige Kollock went as a pair, one dressed as an angel and the other as a devil. A total of about $3,500 was collected to benefit both the American Red Cross and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The money given to the Red Cross will be used as medical aid for refugees in Kosovo.

Forum explores social apathy on Penn's campus

(04/01/99 10:00am)

On the day when hundreds of students gathered on College Green to protest the University's new alcohol policies, a small group held a "coffee talk" at Civic House aptly titled, "Why Penn Students Don't Give a Shit About Anything Important." But in contrast to the large rally, only about 10 students convened Tuesday night to discuss the general feeling of apathy on Penn's campus toward social and political issues. The group collectively pointed to a variety of reasons that may contribute to the difficulty in mobilizing students to help create positive changes in their community. College junior Marc Lener, president of Check One -- a multicultural campus group -- said he can empathize with students who do not do service work, for he himself did not explore such opportunities during his first two years at Penn. "I feel [the students] at Penn are so career oriented? that service doesn't fit in with their goals," Lener said. "You're adapting to a different way of life and service gets put on the back burner." Students also cited the general mood of contemporary society as a cause of apathy toward social issues. "It's kind of the times," Engineering freshman Anju Mathew commented. "It's not isolated at Penn. It's the generation and the world." Another student expounded on this theory, saying "the idea of being a community in our society is not larger than the basic unit of individual and family." Still, many of those present lamented the lack of enthusiasm for the community here on campus. "One of the first things you notice when you come here is that the students don't really care about a lot," College freshman Alisa Valderrama said. "I think it's really sad that there's not a lot of political activism." Conversely, the group generally agreed that to simply say no one at Penn cares about important issues would be erroneous. "There's a small core group of people that actually care about what goes on around them," Lener said. Valderrama agreed, adding, "If you talk to someone on a person to person basis, you find people care about things." The conversation eventually turned to the large turnout at Tuesday's rally against the temporary ban on alcohol at all registered undergraduate events. One student underlined the importance of the fact that the ban directly affects students and therefore is more likely to cause them to react quickly. Michelle Weinberg, a College senior and Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, noted the alcohol issue's importance in students' minds. "People didn't even want to look at other issues under the same premise of students not being consulted," she said, citing issues such as the University's investments, food truck dislocation and whether University apparel is made using sweatshop labor. While expressing disappointment that alcohol was more inspiring than other social issues, Mathew felt that the rally could have some positive effects in creating more general activism on campus. "There are a lot of things in this world that we wish people would get pumped up about and if this is a stepping stone," that would be good.

Rev. talks 10 Commandments

(03/17/99 10:00am)

Presenting the Ten Commandments to politicians and expecting them to abide by them may sound like a tough task to some, but for Rev. Robert Schenck, it's just an average day's work. Schenck, who spoke to a small group at the Newman Center last night, is the president of the National Ministry Cabinet, a group whose main focus is the Ten Commandments Project. The group's mission is to present plaques of the Commandments to politicians and other government officials, actively "challenging them to display and obey them, the latter being the more difficult." Schenck described a few of his experiences in making these presentations, saying that, "almost always, we will get this response: 'Wow, you got me on a couple of those.'" "The silence indicates that these words have a job and are in fact doing it," Schenck remarked. "They make us aware of our own predisposition toward violating this moral code." One politician actually wept upon contemplating the Commandments in the office of the chaplain of the U.S. Senate. His guilt over an act of adultery, Schenck explained, overcame him as he was confronted by a plaque of the Judeo-Christian moral code. This is exactly the sort of response Schenck hopes to get from the distribution of the Ten Commandments. "There is no greater governor of human behavior than that which governs the heart and soul and conscience of an individual," he said. Schenck conceded that the Commandments are difficult rules to follow. "We cannot live up to this standard," he said. "We are doomed to fail it." Along with the importance of the Commandments, Schenck emphasized their universality. "The Commandments are one of the few places where Jews, Christians and even Moslems agree," he said. Schenck's ideas were well received by the group. Nursing junior Martha Valas expressed interest in "the impact of values of Christianity and Judaism on society" and thought "the way [the Commandments] pull everyone together is very profound." Wharton junior Anthony Bunker focused on the anecdotes Schenck told, saying that "it was interesting to hear about politicians and their reactions."

Rodin speaks on civility

(02/09/99 10:00am)

She spoke to the Penn National Commission at the White Dog Cafe. Combining good food with stirring discussion, University President Judith Rodin spoke at a talk entitled "Celebrating the Conversation: Public Discourse and Democracy" last night at the White Dog Cafe. The evening focused on the goals of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture and Community, a now 3-year-old panel formed by Rodin to examine and understand societal problems that impede democracy. Rodin explained that the PNC is a group of diverse individuals who "have committed a substantial amount of time and energy to thinking about the notion of civic engagement" and the importance of public discourse. Without open communication, such issues as abortion and racial and ethnic differences cannot be fully understood or surmounted democratically, she said. "Communities need discourse leaders and they need venues for discourse," Rodin said. "The White Dog gives us one opportunity in our community" to create such discourse. According to Rodin, the group believes that the polarization of political and social issues, the lack of strong public leadership, the fragmentation of communal life and the breakdown of public mores are the main impediments to public discourse and have created a climate of incivility. "The consequences [of incivility] are dangerous and widespread" Rodin emphasized. "There is increasing self-segregation and increasing intolerant behavior." The PNC is currently investigating ways to increase public discourse, including the development of a program to help public schools foster an environment of open discussion of important issues. Susan Furey, a public school teacher in the Philadelphia area, was very supportive of the group's ambitions, saying that "this is definitely needed in the schools." But she added that "in practice, it is difficult to unfold with this kind of approach because people are fearful of it." Hillary Aisenstein, a College senior and the chairperson of the Civic House steering committee, said she was happy with the talk. "[The PNC] is one of the programs that's helped put Dr. Rodin and Penn in a national limelight." The event was met with a group of protesters who claim to have been the victims of medical experimentation by Philadelphia city prisons, with the cooperation of the University, between 1951 and 1974. The group claims that Albert Kligman -- a Penn Dermatology professor emeritus who is credited with the discovery of the popular wrinkle- and acne-fighting cream Retin-A -- performed experiments on them and never told them about the consequences and that many of them now suffer from severe medical and psychological problems. The experiments were recently chronicled by Temple University Urban Studies Professor Allen Hornblum in his book Acres of Skin. Penn officials have offered the former prisoners free medical evaluations, even though they said they are not convinced that the ex-prisoners' ailments resulted fully from the prison tests. The prisoners have said that the offer doesn't go far enough, and protestors last night called the PNC event a "hypocrisy."