Photo Choice Showed Lack of Discretion
I must say, I am both surprised and saddened by the lack of discretion in the choice of photos for the “Wasser World” article [May|June 2016]. While The Pennsylvania Gazette is written for alumni, I have never before thought to filter what my children may see while eagerly flipping through “the magazine mom gets from her school.”
I did a double take to confirm what my eyes thought they saw in the photo of Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston, who was sporting nothing but her undergarments. Then only a page or two later you chose to display a naked Eve Babitz playing chess. I am sure there is nuance to the “art of the photograph” that you would offer as justification, but as a mother, I see images that, while I don’t even prefer to see, I certainly do not want my children to come across as they innocently flip through the Gazette. Disappointed in your decision making here. Surely the same points could have been made with more suitable photographs.
Melissa Amaya W’03 Anniston, AL
… and Glorified Smoking!
Shame on you! The cover of your May|June 2016 issue glorifies Steve McQueen exhaling a lung full of cigarette smoke. C’mon, guys, surely you could have found a more appropriate subject. McQueen, as you probably know, died in November 1980 from (you guessed it) metastasized cancer (from smoking) which led to a fatal heart attack.
William J. Young III C’58 Canandaigua, NY
We never set out to offend, but yes, it is about the “art of the photograph”—selecting the images that we felt best reflected Julian Wasser’s vast body of work. The shot of Nicholson and Huston at home, the one with Eve Babitz and Marcel Duchamp playing chess, and the portrait of Steve McQueen on the cover all speak vividly to the era in which the photos were taken and to the artistry of the man who took them. —Ed.
That’s What Happened
Son of a gun. So that’s what happened to Julie Wasser. As a freshman at Penn, I worked under him as a photographer at The Daily Pennsylvanian 1955-1956. He would give me my assignments, and I’d be running around with my Speed Graphic feeling very much like “Casey, Crime Photographer.” I always wondered if he continued as a photographer.
Fred Melnick C’58 D’61 Boca Raton, FL
Too Readily Dismissed
The letters of alumni Robert Chait and Michael Steinberg should not be so readily dismissed as in the response of the Editor [“Letters,” May|June 2016]. In the 1961 movie, Judgment at Nuremberg, the presiding Judge Haywood (Spencer Tracy) comments that he couldn’t find one German who had any knowledge of the Nazi atrocities. Is that also true of the American Muslim community?
As an example, the current Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel that is so popular in academia (students and faculty) that purports to be a humanitarian reaction to events in the Mid-East has been found by the FBI to be funded and supported by sub-rosa anti-Semitic Muslim terrorist groups (“The Anti-Israel Money Trail,” The Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2016). Add to that the sermons of some radical Muslims that are preached in mosques in America.
There is no doubt that many American Muslims are working toward accommodation. Yet, we still have Muslim neighborhoods that even the police avoid. I cannot name any other immigrant group that demands that others adhere to laws that they bring from their native lands.
The editor is correct that there are Muslim students who should not have to endure being “discriminated against or threatened.” But, do we know who they are? Does anyone feel uncomfortable when encountering a Sikh, an Orthodox Jew, or a Catholic priest? It is naïve and smells of moral equivalency to believe that Muslims are like those others, i.e., non-threatening.
The Bible teaches us to treat the “other”—i.e., the stranger, the widow and orphan—better than we treat our own families. However, the Bible also teaches that our first obligation is to protect ourselves and our families. Fear is a motivating force in how we see others. Muslims will be fully accepted and integrated into American life when we no longer have anything to fear from any faction of their community. The ball is in their court!
Robert Dubman D’63 Lake Worth, FL
The Bible Was There First
Letter-writer Michael Steinberg really needs to check the mote in his own eye (Matthew 7:3). The excesses of Islam are, in fact, the excesses of the Judeo-Christian Bible. After all, it is the Hebrew Scriptures which birthed the concept of genocide (Num. 24:20, Deut. 25:19); and as to the tactic of terrorism: who was the world’s first suicide-bomber/homicide-bomber/martyr-murderer (or whatever nomenclature you prefer)? Samson the Judge, of course (Judg. 16:30).
S. R. Cohen C’67 Baltimore
In your response to letters from Messrs. Chait and Steinberg you wrote, in part, “Sadly, the above letters strike me as emblematic of what people like Rashad are up against … That members of the Penn community feel this way should provoke sympathy in all of us.”
Why is it sad? Why should their “feel[ing] this way … provoke sympathy?”
Where—and when—I went to college (at Dartmouth; my affiliation with Penn is at the graduate level), I quickly learned the truth and value of the old saw, “When everyone thinks alike, no one thinks very much.”
What was true in Hanover was true in Philadelphia—back then, anyway. It would, however, be extremely sad if that “old saw” were true no longer.
Please spend some time with the well-researched and extensively footnoted It IS About Islam, by Glenn Beck, and Secrets of the Koran, by Don Richardson. You can cut an Acme Markets brown bag into book covers so no one else will know what you’re reading.
Stu Mahlin WG’65 Cincinnati
Not Just Stereotypes
The letters about the previous issue’s article on Penn’s Islamic chaplain, Kameelah Rashad, made me look up and read the article, which I had not taken time to do before. She has a profoundly tough job, and as long as she sees that job as helping Penn’s Muslim students achieve “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in their time at the University, both receiving and granting equality with those of different backgrounds, I hope she is good at it.
She shows she knows well, however, that Islam is not monolithic as a religion or as a culture. Even the best-known intra-Muslim difference, the Sunni-Shia divide, can raise many questions. Only limited success will be possible getting people to adopt one constructive way of relating to “Islam” or “Muslims,” when both of those words have a spectrum of meanings—even for those who fit within them.
Dismissing the letters that were published in the May|June 2016 issue as simply illustrative of hatred and intolerance is a luxury we cannot afford, since we cannot just turn a blind eye to the violence and hatred of ISIS or al-Qaeda (which still exists, although the spotlight appears to have gone elsewhere). Muslims need to be aware that these sentiments and fears exist and are based on real events, not just murky old “stereotypes” that hang around in people’s minds.
Ken Rumbarger C’78 Trooper, PA
Condescending and Unprofessional
I’ve always enjoyed the letters printed in the Gazette. It was a place to hear from Penn alumni themselves on the topics presented in the magazine. Unfortunately, in the May|June edition, the editor was making comments, not just to clarify, but to pass judgment. It seems very condescending and unprofessional to me. We are all accomplished adults. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we shouldn’t be chided.
Jennifer Frey Crispell C’93 La Plata, MD
Your response to the two published letters in response to the Islamic chaplain article is typical academia. Both writers, in a reasonable way, attempt to draw attention to the apparent lack of attention in the original article to Muslim behaviors world wide, that capture headlines in the media. I am not reluctant to suggest that we have Trump and others like him because American Muslims have had very little to say about the violent activities of their Muslim brothers and sisters. When Chaplain Rashad speaks out on campus against that activity, she may encounter kinder looks.
Fred C. Bergamo D’64 Paramus, NJ
Temple/Factory Definitely Wrong
I would like to point out a very large omission in “Tungsten Temple,” which describes a lightbulb factory located in a Hindu temple [“Elsewhere,” May|June 2016]. I don’t believe the author wrote with malicious intent; however, the essay glosses over a major point, and seems to imply this occupation is “cool.” The factory is illegal.
As part of the Enemy Property Act in 1971 and subsequent genocide, Hindu temples were commonly seized and sublet for commercial purposes. This temple was one such casualty, and the law left temples no legal recourse in which to take back illegally occupied temples such as this one.
I believe the mission of The Pennsylvania Gazette is to engage in unbiased and completely factual reporting, and glossing over a historically discriminative law violates that mandate.
The author’s final question repudiates the benign intent of the article: “Is there anything wrong with a tungsten lightbulb factory in a Hindu Temple?” Yes, absolutely!
Arvind Chandrakantan WG’14 Setauket, NY
Urban Folklore’s Longer History
The article, “Now Showing: A Coney Island of the Memory” [“Alumni Profiles,” May|June 2016], made enjoyable reading—except for Steve Zeitlin’s claim that, in 1986, “Even in the field of folklore, people didn’t think that urban folklore existed.”
Zeitlin is at least a few decades off. For example:
In the 1950s and 1960s, Folkways Records issued recordings of various New York street sounds, including children’s games and adult conversations.
Each year the Smithsonian Folk Festival features folklore of two states. In 1972 the states were Kentucky and Maryland. Kentucky sent a raft of folk musicians and artisans, but Maryland, with most of its population concentrated in urban areas, had a problem assembling enough material. So the organizing committee decided that Maryland folk material was “what folks did in Maryland,” and sent an equestrian club, members of the Greek and Turkish communities (who had a large picnic on the Mall, with food, drink, music, and dancing), and various other groups from Baltimore, along with some artisans and musicians from the thin western part of the state.
And at least as early as the 1960s, Alan Dundes, professor of folklore at the University of California (Berkeley), wrote books and articles on urban folklore.
These are just examples that I’m familiar with. I’m sure there is much more.
Joel G. Ackerman C’62 Richmond, CA
Karp: I Knew Kahn
I should commend John Lobell for his vigorous defense of colleague Haresh Lalvani with reference to my criticism of Lalvani’s Project X [“Letters,” May|June and Mar|Apr 2016, respectively, about Jan|Feb’s cover story, “The Shapes of Things to Come”].
However, I also have a few associations with Louis Kahn. When I was nine and away at a summer camp, Kahn had dinner at our home. He was a friend of my father. When shown a drawing I had completed of the Governors Palace in Williamsburg, Kahn was so impressed he took the drawing with him when he left. I met Kahn at a party when I was 14. I not only attended Penn during Louis Kahn’s tenure, I attended Kahn’s undergraduate studio. While I was in Philadelphia, I presented a few Kahn lectures through the AIA.
In 1995, when the Institute Superieur D’Architecture Saint-Luc Bruxelles commemorated the 20th anniversary of the death of Louis Kahn, I gave the lead lecture and presented an exhibition of Kahn projects at the American Cultural Center in Brussels. In 2011, while I was working in Los Angeles with Barton Myers GAr’64, a Kahn student as well, we presented the exhibition Kahn in Venice at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles. The exhibition presented Kahn’s unrealized Palazzo dei Congressi.
I worked in Louis Kahn’s office for six years primarily on the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Indian Institute of Management (project architect in Philadelphia), the Parliament of Bangladesh, and the New Haven Hill Central Project (project architect).
I have a copy of my Kahn recommendation, for a teaching position at New York’s City College.
I cannot claim to be an expert on Bucky Fuller, but I have read many articles by and about Fuller as well as his Operating Manual for a Spaceship Earth. I attended a wonderful four-hour lecture by Fuller at Penn. He started literally from the beginning of recorded history, on to the present with an amazing presentation of his theories. It was the most extraordinary lecture I have ever attended, and I treasure its memory. Both Louis Kahn and Frank Lloyd Wright pronounced immense respect for Fuller.
I purchased Mr. Lobell’s book Between Silence and Light when it was published. It is, in my opinion, a book of some virtue but hardly an outstanding book on Kahn.
I will briefly respond to Lobell’s commentary regarding Kahn’s City Tower Project developed with Anne Tyng: Tyng was an important associate while Kahn was developing his program for a new innovative architecture. But he soon realized her fascination with a total immersion in geometric issues limited his further concerns for a more humanistic program for development. With his development of the Bryn Mawr Dormitory, their separation was finalized. Kahn told me he learned years later that there had been no institution capable of financing the City Tower. The project had no impact on his mature work.
I’ve received numerous calls congratulating me for the letter published in the Gazette and the letter shall stand.
David Karp Ar’59 San Mateo, CA
Dave Zeitlin’s article, “March Madness Missed” [Mar|Apr], brought to mind my own minor involvement in the Ivy League vs. NCAA fracas.
In 1966 I was a tenor in the Penn Glee Club directed by the renowned Bruce Montgomery. Today the Glee Club travels all over the world, but in my era the club mostly visited alumni groups around the US.
In the spring of that year, we were touring the Midwest, including Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis, when we were scheduled to stop in Kansas City for an alumni concert. At that time, Kansas City was the home of the NCAA national headquarters, and the Glee Club decided to inject itself into the 1.6 minimum GPA rule controversy.
Our bus pulled up to the NCAA headquarters building and the entire Glee Club emerged to line up in concert formation and sing a protest song to the NCAA executives. We used the tune of the “Whiffenpoof Song.” The song began, “From the darkened Penn Palestra to the swimming pool at Yale …” and the chorus had the lyric, “We’ve been ostracized by a one point six.” I don’t remember all the lyrics but we were passionate about our cause. We knew we were being denied a place in the coveted tournament unjustly.
Thank you for rekindling this memory.
Tom Haller W’67 East Longmeadow, MA
Owing to some clumsy editing, it was incorrectly stated in “March Madness Missed” [Mar|Apr] that the men’s basketball team’s Ivy League championship in 1966 was the University’s first, rather than the team’s. In fact, that honor went to the 1955 men’s soccer team, which shared the title with Harvard. Thanks to Dick Tyrell C’57—who scored the goal that got them there, according to the 1956 Record—for setting us straight.