Posted at 2:51 PM on October 6, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Film
A clip from the documentary "Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II" directed by LeAnn Erickson
In today's world we think of a computer as a thing, but back in World War II a computer was a person, and in many cases it was a woman.
Tonight Minnesota Film Arts is hosting the screening of "Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II" directed by LeAnn Erickson.
Erickson says she stumbled across the story while interviewing twin sisters who owned the first women-run real estate agency in Philadelphia, and were key in integrating Philly neighborhoods, or "blockbusting" as it was called.
It turns out those twin sisters - Doris and Shirley Blumberg - had spent their first years out of high school serving their country with their math skills. Their computations of complex ballistic calculations eventually led to the development of the world's first modern supercomputer, ENIAC (short for "Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer").
It's common knowledge that women took on men's jobs in factory lines during World War II, but not many know they also took on jobs involving complex math and science.
The thousands of women who used their mathematical talents to help figure out when to release a bomb from a plane took oaths of secrecy, and didn't even share the details of their work with their family and friends for decades after the war had ended. Erickson's documentary interviews four of them about their experiences, and the work they did happily in service to their country.
Erickson says in large part, their work has gone unrecognized, and unappreciated.
It's harder for us from that distance to understand what daily life was like for women at this time. When I was looking at the ads right before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there were not only "men only" jobs and "women only" job listings, but as soon as the war happened, and they needed to have all these different high end high tech positions filled, you start seeing all these ads for "women engineers" - where did they think all these women would be coming from if they hadn't had the opportunities beforehand?
While Erickson expects many people to see her documentary as a historical film, she believes the story has even greater relevance for women today.
When you look at the fact that something dismal like 27% of people holding jobs in the high tech industry are women, when 52-53% of all the college graduates are women; it's pretty shocking that they're so underrepresented in a field that's so important. I feel that if girls in high school or even junior high knew that some 18 year old girls helped win WWII because of their math smarts, that the first computer manual was actually written by a woman...that that would actually help inspire them.
"Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II" screens tonight at St. Anthony Main Theaters at 7:15pm. Director LeAnn Erickson will be there to present the film and answer audience questions.
A rendering of the proposed Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center Commons as viewed from the East entrance
The board of Macalester College has given the thumbs up to move on the first phase of a $39.8 million renovation and expansion of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center. The project is scheduled to begin in January 2011.
The fine arts center, built in 1965, houses the Music, Art, and Theatre & Dance Departments. The first phase of the project will renovate and expand the Music building, including the concert hall, add rehearsal space, and create an "Arts Commons" (see above photo) which will house new art history classrooms and a new art gallery.
The first phase is expected to take 18 months, reopening in fall 2012.
A view of the renovated Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center from outside the Shaw Field entrance
According to a release, the renovation and expansion project cost is $33.8 million. In conjunction with the arts improvements, the college will also complete a $6 million, 31,000 square foot renovation of the facilities department, located in the lower level of the building, bringing the total project cost to $39.8 million. The college has raised $16.5 million towards a $24 million fundraising goal focused solely on the arts building improvements. The college will bond for the remaining $15.8 million.
HGA of Minneapolis is the architect and McGough Construction of St. Paul is the contractor.
The second phase of the project is set to begin once the first phase is complete and remaining funds are raised. Phase Two will include the Art, and Theatre and Dance Department buildings.
I love vampire films and in college I actually took a class on the gothic novel, where we looked at how vampire legends and other horror stories were created, in part to help explain what happens to a body after death.
In this Big Think interview filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about the role monsters play in helping us to understand the world by becoming "living, breathing metaphors." He also explains how he creates his own monsters, and gives advice to budding filmmakers.
In particular I was fascinated by his response to the question "why are vampires so popular right now?"
I think that, you know, the moment of the birth of the vampire myth in English literature is with essentially there is few writings here and there, a poem and this and that. But in fiction most everyone agrees that it was birthed by John W. Polidori with a short story, "The Vampyre." Now, the fact that Polidori had an ambivalent relationship with his master and friend, Lord Byron and he based the character of the main vampire in that story, Lord Ruthvren on Lord Byron, you know. Immediately gave birth to a vampire that was both a loathsome parasite and a dandy. A seductive character that is later absorbed by a Stoker in "Dracula" and you know, you can trace it all the way to Anne Rice.
And I think that right now, we have an unbridled sort of melodramatic, romantic, fantasy with the vampire is only one half of the myth. The bad boy romantic lead myth, which is essentially Gothic fiction. You know, it can be Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights," or it can be Robert Patterson in "Twilight."
The thing that it tells you right now is that human relationships, intimate relationships have become so completely demythified, they have become so prosaic, you know, whenever you talk about a relationship, you're talking about it in very prosaic terms. How much does he or she make? What job security? Nest egg planning. It's all very materialistic. Double-income household, it all becomes very prosaic and it's almost impossible to dream romantic things without sounding corny.
So you know, of the fascination of romantic fiction with a bad boy gets sumlimated and dark angels are created, angels of the night that create a spiritual and physical bond with a love interest that is permanent and eternal. So through that fiction you can abandon yourself to the lull of a romantic fantasy without feeling silly or stupid.
What I find symptomatic I think for the... I daresay, for the first time in the culture of mankind, the vampire has been sort of defanged by making them celibate and asexual as opposed to polysexual, like Anne Rice did and they have been Mormonized, so to speak, into being a sanitized creature. And you know, I'm not in favor or against it. I'm fascinated by it, because I do think it is a very strong symbol of where we are. And I find it intriguing and I try to watch the phenomenon without judging it. But it's quite peculiar.
Evidently the Guthrie Theater is enjoying its role as a high-quality art cinema. The theater has re-upped its partnership with the National Theatre in London, and will broadcast six of the NT's productions in the coming performance calendar. They are as follows:
Saturday, November 6 at 1 p.m.
Complicite's A Disappearing Number
Directed by Simon McBurney
A Disappearing Number weaves together the story of two love affairs, separated by a century and a continent. The first happens now. The second is set in 1914. It tells of the heartbreaking collaboration between the greatest natural mathematician of the 20th century, Srinivasa Ramanujan, a penniless Brahmin from Madras in South India, and his British counterpart, the brilliant Cambridge don GH Hardy
Thursday, January 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, sees his father's ghost. Tormented with loathing and consumed by grief, he must avenge his father's murder. What he cannot foresee is the destruction that ensues.
Thursday, January 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), FELA! reveals Fela Kuti's controversial life as an artist and political activist while featuring many of his songs and choroegrapher Bill T. Jones' staging.
Monday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Donmar Warehouse presents Shakespeare's King Lear
Directed by Michael Grandage, and featuring Derek Jacobi in the title role.
An aging monarch. A kingdom divided. A child's love rejected. As Lear's world descends into chaos, all that he once believed is brought into question. One of the greatest works in western literature, King Lear explores the very nature of human existence: love and duty, power and loss, good and evil.
Sunday, April 3 at 1 p.m.
Danny Boyle's production of Frankenstein
A play by Nick Dear based on the novel by Mary Shelley
Oscar winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) returns to his theater roots with a new adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Boyle is making his debut at the National Theatre directing Nick Dear's play as a "large-scale and theatrically and visually ambitious stage production."
Monday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard
Directed by Howard Davies
The Gaev family face bankruptcy and the loss of their estate. Even so, they refuse to sell their largest asset, their famous cherry orchard. The old world is giving way to the new, but the Gaevs seem not to have noticed the bewildering changes in the Russian way of life. The fate of the beautiful orchard becomes a symbol of the fate of all of the characters in this classic masterpiece.
Tickets for all performances are $20.
NT Live's first season was seen by over 150,000 people on 320 screens in 22 countries. Outside of the Guthrie Theater, the closest venues for Minnesotans to check out the NT productions are in Thunder Bay(Canada), Winnipeg(Canada), Lincoln(Nebraska) and Ann Arbor(Michigan).
Posted at 1:29 PM on October 6, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Funding
A colleague forwarded along this interesting article from BBC News which asks whether hard times inspire great art. The piece was inspired by the announcement that the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport is preparing for a departmental budget cut of 25% to 30%, leading Tate Director Nicholas Serota to call this the start of "the greatest crisis in the arts and heritage since government funding began in 1940."
But, writer Jon Kelly posits, doesn't hardship result in the best art?
A sluggish economy and harsh spending cuts might mean tough times are ahead for most of us, but the romantic narrative of the impoverished poet, musician or painter might lead us to expect that the cultural world could at least anticipate a period of creative fulfilment.
While numerous artists and analysts cast their votes for and against, I was most struck by the comment of Dr Tiffany Jenkins, a cultural sociologist and visiting fellow at the London School of Economics. Jenkins believes "public subsidy has done a great deal to stifle artists, having been often tied to agendas such as increasing community cohesion and forging the regeneration of deprived areas."
In other words, the money comes with strings attached, often reining in or forcing the direction of the art.
This is an idea I often hear debated in the Twin Cities, often by artists visiting from elsewhere. Minnesota foundations, government, private companies and individuals are all incredibly generous when it comes to giving to the arts, and the Minnesota arts scene is huge as a result. But is the art that's produced here as edgy or as challenging as it could be? Is the relative comfort of the local arts scene making us soft?
I welcome your thoughts.