Monthly Archives: February 2013

Hasty Pudding Still Punny After All These Years

Stage right: a chimpanzee dressed like Gilligan in bluejeans and a sailor cap perches at a typewriter. He pokes at the keys and reads his words aloud.

“To be or not to be… Nah, too existentialist.”

He tries again: “Beware the Ides of March… Hmm, too topical.”

Scratching his head with a hirsute hand, the primate––aptly named Jim Pansy, played by Harvard sophomore Sam Clark––decides on a more original opening line. His words revert to monkey screeches as the typing resumes, the stage lights up and the curtains open.

So begins Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals (H.P.T.) 2013 performance, “There’s Something About Maui.”

The Hasty Pudding Club, whose former alumni members include William Randolph Hearst, J.P. Morgan and John F. Kennedy, celebrates its 165th anniversary this year. The festivities include the usual theatrics expected of the troupe: bombastic burlesque, pun-laden dialogue, and a chorus line finale comprised of ivy league boys with stocking-clad kicks rivaling those of the Rocketts.


This year’s student-written, directed, and acted performance takes place at a local watering hole called Sand Bar on the island of Little Maui in 1942. The motley cast of characters includes:

  • Princess Lei, a voluptuous and lovestruck hula girl
  • Helen Killer, a blind spy with a license to kill
  • Amelia Airhead, a ditzy pilot with her head in the clouds.

The cast and orchestra perform original songs entitled “Lethal Webbin’ ” and “A Soldier to Cry On,” among others, for a crowd of nearly 250, filling the Hasty Pudding Theater on Holyoke Street in Harvard Square.

The now co-ed club has a female president, writers and choreographers contributing to the production. However, keeping with tradition, the dramatis personæ remain all male, requiring some of the members to cross-dress for their roles. After the curtains close, the cast returns to the stage and earns its standing ovation with an explosive can-can in stilettos and sequins. A patron leans over and whispers, “these are our future congressmen and world leaders.”

Though rooted in history, H.P.T. reinvents itself every year with contemporary references to pop culture, politics and current events. It reprises its perennial plug for the Harvard Coop, as well as light-hearted digs at Radcliffe counterparts and rival Elis. The spectrum of entertainment attracts a variety of patrons.

Longtime Boston resident and business owner Chris Lutes has attended the H.P.T. performances for the past four years. In 2009, his Cambridge-based restaurant group, Tigers and Bears, started sponsoring the club, which piqued his interest in the shows.

“It’s a great escape,” says Lutes, 51. “I forget that those are 20-something boys up there on stage.”

His daughter, Lilah, who turned 17 on Valentine’s Day, attends the show with him every year as part of a birthday tradition. This year, before the performance, she discovered a local treat honoring of the club: Hasty Pudding ice cream featured as J.P. Licks’ flavor of the month.

“It tastes more like frozen banana pudding than ice cream,” she says.

H.P.T. neophyte Nora Wasson, 84, attended her first performance this year. She drove from her home in Warwick, R.I., to attend the show.  Wasson enjoyed the witty lyrics and clever puns, of which she heard and understood only some. “I wish that I was sitting closer to the stage,” she says. “I heard laughter and felt that I missed a lot of the jokes.”

The show’s combination of bright costumes, uplifting music and dance moves appeal to Wasson the most, which entice her to return next year. “I can’t believe that men are so loose in the hips as to do the hula.”

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Nourish Your Soul


Susan Cabana at her store Nourish Your Soul in West Medford. (Astrid Lium photo)

“Juice is such a life changer,” says holistic health counselor Susan Cabana.

A diet trend for some and a weight loss aid for others, juicing has become a passion and purpose for Cabana, who now builds her lifestyle and livelihood around it.

On June 9, the vivacious 45-year-old entrepreneur opened her shop, Nourish Your Soul, in West Medford, Mass. The business features fresh juices, smoothies and cleanses, and emerged in the wake of what Cabana refers to as “life challenges.”

In November 2004, her husband, Christopher, died unexpectedly at the age of 37. Cabana was suddenly a widow and single mother of three girls, then aged 5, 3 and 1. Less than five years later, in February 2009, she was laid off from her long-term financial job at Putnam Investments. “I was in a dark place for a while,” Cabana recalls. “It was like losing Chris all over again.”

She eventually began to make positive changes for herself and her family. Cabana, a longtime resident of Winchester, Mass., started to run more regularly, practice yoga daily and make healthier food choices. “I kind of woke up and decided to live,” she says. “Chris would want me to.”

While working in finance, convenience influenced many of her decisions. Relying on “whatever got me through the day” meals often consisted of quick, easy and processed foods. Those habits changed after she lost her job and examined her life more closely.
With the help of yoga, Cabana took more time for introspection. She eventually saw the layoff as an opportunity to take her life in a different direction. “I never thought it would happen, but it was truly a gift,” she says. “I’m not sure I would have been able to leave something so stable.”

Cabana enrolled in Natalia Rose’s Intensive Teacher Training program as well as the holistic Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She also completed the Prana teacher-training program and became a certified yoga instructor.

Since going into business for herself, she has not looked back. As a holistic consultant, Cabana has attracted several clients, many of whom joined friends and family as juicing experimenters. “My clients often made excuses about why they wouldn’t juice,” Cabana says. “But they told me that if I made the juice, they would drink it.”

Less than four months old, Nourish Your Soul has already attracted regular customers and local press, including a nod from Stuff Magazine’s Top 100 list in July. Relying on word-of-mouth advertising thus far, Cabana has not promoted the business in more traditional ways. “There is no need to advertise just yet!” she says with a chuckle.

The next step for Nourish Your Soul is to add more edible treats to the liquid menu. Cabana also hopes to expand to more locations and add a delivery service in the near future. “I want to provide a healthy alternative to what is out there,” she says. “The standard American diet is lacking on so many levels.”

A believer in balance, Cabana says that deprivation is not sustainable. One to indulge on occasion—especially in dark chocolate—she views juicing as a lifestyle, not a diet. “Yoga is about combining the mind, body and soul,” says the holistic health consultant. “Juice does the same thing.”

Still juicing everyday, Cabana also recommends her favorite elixirs to loved ones. “My kids all love something different,” she says of her daughters, now 13, 11 and 9. Her 20-month-old son, George, from a recent relationship that was short-lived, regularly drinks a version of her green lemonade. “The sippy-cup age is a good time to start incorporating juice into the diet,” Cabana explains. “It isn’t too taxing because there is no fiber to digest.”

Her mother has also integrated fresh juice into her diet after battling two bouts of cancer. According to Cabana, the nutrients have helped boost her mother’s immune system. “Juicing has helped with the healing process,” she says. “And sharing it with others helps me heal, too.”

Nourish Your Soul’s juice and smoothie produce comes from Russo’s market in Watertown, Mass. Cabana opts for local and organic ingredients when she can, emphasizing the need for large quantities.

Focusing more on seasonal options, she introduced Watermelon Mint juice in the summer and plans to add a carrot and root vegetable-based juice/soup for autumn. To view the entire Nourish Your Soul menu, visit

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Blizzard of 2013


New Englanders are making noises about how Nemo harkens back to the big bad blizzard of 1978. The lack of technology and preparedness left scores of folks stranded in their cars on I-95. It also left the region with a hefty price tag: $520 million in 1978 dollahs, which equals about $1.85 BILLION in modern, inflation-adjusted terms.


When I heard Governor Deval Patrick’s “driving ban” the libertarian in me recoiled. I had no desire, of course, to drive in the tempest. But the government-sanctioned proscription of it suddenly made me want to hop into my heated leather seats an joyspin down Washington Street.

I didn’t. Instead I:

  • charged all of my Mac electronics
  • baked peanut butter cookies, broccoli potato medallions, and a random mash of perishable items best used before dawn
  •  double-checked my stash of Ikea votive candles
  • Netflixed “The Day After Tomorrow” to see how bad things could be…say, if I lived in a dystopian version of Manhattan


A buried Saab and eight hours of shoveling are pretty much all I had to show for my trouble. These hardcore Yankees got me beat.

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Baring a Private Self on a Public Page

For 26 years, I have written my most intensely personal thoughts and reflections in journals. Starting with a gold-padlocked teddy bear diary in 1985 and continuing through my current three-hole Staples notebook, the collection contains entries I wouldn’t consider showing to anyone.

glass steps

“Glass Steps” © Jeff Shelden

Yet, three years ago, within weeks of launching my own blog for a journalism class, I was using my posts to expose my soul to an audience of virtual strangers. Details of my first bikini wax and the dynamics of my dysfunctional family—topics generally reserved for brunch with my best friend or costly sessions with my therapist—appeared for all to read.

Blogging unlocked my inhibitions and sent into the world a raw, private version of myself that coexisted dangerously with the more polished self I normally displayed in public. With no editors or red ink, the blogosphere granted my inner life carte blanche on a public platform.

Exhilarating at first, this situation eventually grew unsustainable. I found I had to reconcile my two selves, especially when navigating my eventual relationship with the man who fell in love with me by reading my blog.

How It All Started

I created my blog, The Pithy Pupil, in 2009, when I moved to Boston and enrolled in a blogging course, a component of my master’s program in journalism. The previously unknown world of tags, widgets, and RSS feeds excited me, low-tech neophyte that I was.

Strewn with hyperlinks and naïvely pirated stock photos, my posts included pop culture references, literary analyses, intellectual debates, and personal anecdotes. Embellished in this way, my private life and unique opinions suddenly seemed more interesting—more official, somehow. Knowing that my words were accessible to millions of online viewers validated my voice.

My family and my then-boyfriend never read The Pithy Pupil. My father, a Neo-Luddite, has neither a mobile phone nor an email account. My mother, a columnist for her local Vermont newspaper, asked why she couldn’t find my blog online. I reminded her that not only had I emailed her the link at least five times but that she could access it directly through Facebook. To this day, she insists I prevented her from reading my posts.

My boyfriend, a musician and carpenter, sought creative outlets in drumsticks and a hammer. Words on paper or screen held little value for him. My use of vocabulary and the way in which I labored over a paragraph confounded him.

“You’re such a perfectionist,” he said with contempt. “You spend hours working on one assignment!” (It didn’t feel like the right time to point out that he spent days fine-tuning a nightstand.)

So, I integrated the people closest to me into my blog without fear of retribution—as in this passage about my boyfriend’s devotion to his pet rabbit:

I expected a more masculine pet from a rugged rock-and-roll drummer who swings a hammer every day. He refuses to chop his long hair or shave the mountain man beard because they enhance the authenticity of his hardcore look. Yet, after bloodying his knuckles on a snare drum during every show, he goes home to kiss his bunny wabbit goodnight.

The incongruity escapes him. (And, fortunately, he doesn’t read my blog. I told him that I’m writing about rock-and-roll bands in this week’s post, which isn’t completely untrue.)”

The catharsis of writing passages like these proved more helpful and affordable than psychotherapy sessions. I let down my guard, reveling in my ability to reveal my uncensored self—and to entertain my invisible audience at the same time:

Surround me in greasy onion rings or cheesy Doritos and I’m likely to die of starvation. But dangle a caramel-covered carrot, a box of Godiva chocolates, or, sadly, even a frosted sticky bun and I’ll offer my pinky toe in exchange (since I need my fingers for typing and dipping in cake batter) and promise my firstborn for the prospect of another fix.”

Sharing these personal tidbits online granted me access both to an audience and to parts of myself. I felt a great sense of relief at revealing these parts of me in my blog—the raw frustrations, the irrational cravings, the macabre realizations of my own human predicaments—and I hoped readers would share that sense of liberation, refreshed by my honesty.

Still, while the release of my private self into the world was liberating, it was also embarrassing at times. And it had consequences I never could have anticipated.


“Pavers” © Jeff Shelden

An Inside-Out Love Affair

After two months, my colorfully formatted, photo-enhanced public confessions found an unexpected audience: a man I met at a party. After we’d exchanged a few emails, he knew that I had my own blog. Based on my experience with my family and friends, I assumed he wouldn’t read it.

But he did. While awaiting a flight at Logan Airport, he read nearly every post in one sitting. Afterward, he sent me an email that read, “Pithy, yes, although some were a bit long, at least for me, reading from an iPhone.”

Our correspondence turned into a relationship: first virtual, then physical. Later, he told me that my posts taught him more about me in one day than dating for weeks could have accomplished.

In person, we developed a friendship the old-fashioned way: setting forth heavily edited, well-mannered versions of ourselves. However, thanks to my blog, he already had a direct line to my inner self—to a version of me that was brutally honest.

“I felt like I was reading things I shouldn’t have been privy to,” he eventually admitted. “My relationship with your blog was light-years ahead of my relationship with you in real time.”

He felt that our relationship was out of balance from the start. While I knew little about his personal life, he had used my blog to (virtually) meet my family, get acquainted with his competition, unearth my quirky sense of humor, and discover my vices.

“It was like I was spying on you,” he recalls. “From your blog, I knew that you didn’t want kids, and I discovered the names of your sex toys. I wanted to learn these things from you in person, if at all.”

The Blog Hangover

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I never expected Newton’s third law of motion to apply so aptly to my blogging experiment. But I found that my discovery of writing freedom did produce consequences of comparable proportion. People were reading my posts. And they had feedback.

the tourists

“the tourists” © Lois Shelden

My former mechanic in Vermont found my blog in a Google search and religiously read every post. When I bumped into him at a Fourth of July parade, he said, “I read about your bikini wax. That was kinky.”

Only after we broke up did my ex-boyfriend read my blog. He claimed to have found the posts about him amusing, although he didn’t entirely agree with their content. If he’d read them when I first posted them, though, he might not have been quite so forgiving.

Ultimately, what curbed my oversharing was this: dating, and then living with, a man who reads everything I publish. My posts became less personal and more prudent once someone close to me was reading them. Finally, they dwindled away.

These days, most of my writing is for publications and class assignments. It reflects my public self, not the unguarded inner me who made my blog an invitation for voyeurs.

That part of me still writes, of course. But only in my ninety-nine-cent Staples notebook. And I’ll never tell you where I hide it.


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Leadership Conference Brings Women Together

This article originally appeared as a May 2, 2012 post on Michele Norris’ website:

On the heels of International Women’s Month was a women’s leadership conference at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center.

Sponsored by Simmons College, the 33rd annual Leadership Conference last month featured an array of inspiring women from different walks of life. The longest-running women’s leadership forum in the country, the event reached its maximum capacity and attracted about 2500 attendees.

The theme this year was “Innovation and Impact,” and a list of notable women discussed various ramifications of those overarching concepts. The speakers represented a variety of backgrounds, from entrepreneurs and athletes to money managers and media personalities. A unifying factor was the encouragement of women to excel in any field.

According to Joyce Kolligian, the conference’s executive director, “This year’s roster included some of the nation’s most visionary change-makers who recognized and seized opportunities that have altered the course of their industry or profession.”

The 2012 keynote speakers of the all-day conference included Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP) and former president and CEO of eBay; tennis pioneer Billie Jean King; Robin Chase, former CEO of Zipcar and founder of GoLoco; and Michele Norris, co-host of National Public Radio’s (NPR) program “All Things Considered.”

Previous guests of the conference hail from a range of fields and have included Oprah Winfrey, Toni Morrison, ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

In the Corporate Marketplace area were booths set up by the conference’s business and media sponsors, including Cisco, TD Bank, Philips, EMC² and HP. Held in the ballrooms and conference rooms were different talks, which Whitman kicked off with opening remarks at 8am.

The following 10 hours included discussions, book signings, lunch and lectures. Over the course of the day, a dozen influential women shared their insights and tips on leadership, business, success and balance in life

Norris, the first African American female host for NPR, opened the afternoon talk with thoughts on feminism, race relations and recent advancements toward equality. Noting the sheer size of the cavernous room, she commented on the seemingly endless space filled by strong women. “It just keeps going and going!”

The 50-year-old radio personality underscored the importance of not taking such advancements for granted. “Even within some of our lifetimes, it would have been hard to imagine a room like this,” she said.

Before delving into the topics addressed by her 2010 “accidental” family memoir, “The Grace of Silence,” Norris balanced the serious talk with a light-hearted anecdote. The mother of two explained how her kids plead over dinner, “Mommy, can we have the radio voice?” Norris joked that she provides the coveted “radio voice” only after they have cleaned their rooms.

The bulk of her talk related to the discussion of racism, particularly within her own family, as it appears in her book. “I wanted to write a book about how other people talk about race,” she said. When Norris listened to the conversation closer to home, she realized how little of it she had heard before. “I was writing the wrong book,” she concluded.

The result was a collection of first-hand accounts from her parents and extended family about racism. Her family faced discrimination in a predominantly white Minnesotan neighborhood; her grandmother traveled the country as an “itinerant Aunt Jemima”; her father was shot while on his way to take a class about the Constitution.

Other speakers at the event included Vernice Armour, third-generation Marine and the first African American female combat pilot in U.S. military history; Carmen Wong Ulrich, a finance expert, author, public speaker and former host of CNBC’s program “On the Money”; and Rhonda Kallman, who helped launch The Boston Beer Company (makers of Samuel Adams Boston Lager) and New Century Brewing Co.

Moderators of the conference included Jill Avery, assistant professor of marketing at the Simmons School of Management, and Dr. Teresa Nelson, the Elizabeth J. McCandless Professor of Entrepreneurship Chair and director of the School of Management’s Entrepreneurship Program.

Proceeds from the Leadership Conference go toward Simmons graduate scholarships.

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Gun Debate Creates More Tension Than Answers

Monday, January 28, 2013

The gun debate is front and center in the United States again. Mass shootings across the country dominated headlines in December.

Early in the month an NFL player shot and killed his girlfriend, and then himself. One week later, at an Oregon mall, a 22-year-old man shot three people, two of them fatally, before killing himself. Then, on December 14, a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, killed his mother with her own firearm before continuing the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The 20-year-old shooter killed twenty children and six women before turning a gun on himself.

That night, a plethora of Facebook updates referenced the shooting. Most of them offered condolences, thoughts, and prayers on their walls. Others Tweeted similar sentiments. Mainstream, fringe, and social media gave the event its nearly undivided attention and offered their political views. My Constitutionalist friends expressed concern about the government exploiting the shooting to disarm a nation. Gun-control advocates found those worries inappropriate in light of the death of twenty children. Some emailed jokes like these:

Q: How many NRA members does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: More guns.

I found this neither offensive nor particularly funny. I did find it an example of appealing to ridicule, a tactic employed to discredit an opponent’s argument with humor or mockery, not reason or debate. Such approaches can invoke laughter, but they do little to encourage open discussion and plausible solutions on which most people can agree.

The school shooting captivated the entire country, and reached others around the globe. When any one story captures worldwide attention, my cynical side asks, “what else is going on from which the government needs the public distracted?” As it turns out, the country is about to fall off something called a fiscal cliff.

Anyway, since Newtown’s tragedy, the small, affluent, New England town––virtually unknown to the rest of the country or world––has become a household name. And, predictably, everyone is talking guns. Like the political hot potatoes of abortion, capital punishment, and gay marriage, to name a few, the firearm issue is boiled down to two polarized camps: pro-gun rights vs. pro-gun control.

On one side of the oversimplified argument is America’s “gun culture,” a term coined by historian Richard Hofstadter in 1970. It conjures up caricatures of gun-toting, backwoods Republicans who like to hunt, donate money to the National Rifle Association (NRA), and staunchly defend the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms). They are usually older, white men who resemble Charlton Heston and Tom Selleck.

On the other side emerges the image of liberal pacifists in Blue States––several of them Hollywood actors who Tweet their political views––who want the government to crack down on crime and make the streets, malls, and schools safer for citizens. They deem the NRA an all-too-powerful lobbyist group full of right-wing nut jobs with guns.

I subscribe to neither of these groups. I suspect that most Americans, like me, can see valid points in both arguments, as well as seeking something more viable in between. But when I went hunting through articles, opinion pieces, and videos on this topic, what I found was a line of demarcation separating those two opponents. From Fox News and MSNBC to Alex Jones and Jesse Ventura to some dude in his basement filming himself for a YouTube video, only two forces emerged, no matter how articulate (or not): protect citizens’ civil liberties to arm themselves, or further restrict gun use to protect citizens.

In search of something that resonated with my more nuanced and complex views, what I found instead was a divided country, each side screaming their own perspective while ignoring the “opposition.” The closest thing I found to an argument that transcended the blind stone throwing was an opinion piece by CNN contributor Roland Martin.

In his December 28 article entitled “National gun ‘conversation’ mostly a waste of time,” Martin writes:

“The tragedy has allowed the usual suspects to declaim from one side or the other. It’s either pro-Second Amendment or restrict guns. Very little else has broken through to put this gun violence epidemic into the proper context.” He continues, “If we are going to keep saying, ‘let’s have a conversation,’ then by God let’s do it. Right now, we are seeing advocates against guns and for guns try to score points and demonize one another. That’s not a conversation. It’s an exercise in futility.”

One point on which everyone does agree is that what happened in Newtown (or Clackamas Town Center, Aurora movie theater, Columbine High School, or any other mass shooting) was tragic and should be avoided in the future. The approaches to working toward that end differ. The NRA suggests that more armed guards at schools can protect against shooters. Gun control supporters call for stricter gun laws, comparable to those in Europe and Australia.

In a country that thrives on buzz words like ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom,’ open discourse with varying viewpoints is to be expected, even encouraged. But I have yet to hear a variety of arguments. I have yet to see either side listen to the other. I have yet to come across a viable solution to this problem. It starts with a conversation, which requires both sides to listen. Then, maybe, more than two arguments can infiltrate the discussion.

This article was published in The Politico Magazine on 1/28/2013.

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February 8, 2013 · 2:53 am

Filmmaker Alberta Chu: The Science of Art

Oct 31, 2012

Filmmaker Alberta Chu: The Science of Art

Filmmaker Alberta Chu: The Science of Art

Boston-based documentary filmmaker Alberta Chu loves to combine two passions––art and science––in her work. She does it yet again in her latest film, Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm (2011), which premieres November 7 at Boston’s Museum of Science. Alberta’s fourth documentary, Lightning Dreams highlights the story of Alan Gibbs, one of New Zealand’s most prolific art patrons.

She took the time to talk with me about her career path, the journey leading up to this film, and the voice that she hopes to offer her subjects in the fields of art and science.

ASTRID LIUM: How did you get involved with documentary filmmaking?

ALBERTA CHU: I started out as a biologist, [and] I worked as a researcher in L.A. at a biotech company. I had always wanted to get into journalism, and I thought maybe science documentaries could be a way for me to use my science background and break into documentary or journalism. I started a science consulting company, [where] scientists who were tops in their fields would consult with Hollywood screenwriters and set decorators for accuracy. We worked on one of the X-Men films to develop the Wolverine character [and] help them figure out what his supernatural powers would be. It was a way for them to bounce ideas off scientists and get more creative.

How did working as a researcher lead to documentary films?

I did a segment on volcano research. As a researcher there were tons of stories being produced all the time, and I met tons of producers and directors. Most of the stories I would pitch were science, and on one of the shoots I was producing for Sci-Fi Channel I met Greg Leyh, the guy in my film that is premiering at the Museum of Science. I found out that he was building the world’s biggest tesla coil for this billionaire art collector in New Zealand. I pitched it around L.A., but no one wanted to do it, so I decided to make an independent documentary film called The Electrum about the project in the year 2000 about the Electrum sculpture. That film played at a lot of festivals, aired on PBS, won a bunch of awards.

What is the documentary about?

The film was about a quirky group of scientists and engineers that build the world’s largest tesla coil, which ends up in New Zealand. But the guy who commissioned it––the billionaire–– gave me permission to do the film but he didn’t want to be in it. He was very private at the time. His name is Alan Gibbs and he’s … just totally cool. He’s building a giant sculpture park and the reason he likes art is the likes the mental sparring with the artists. He likes to push them to do better work. He pushes everyone around him, you can see why he’s so successful because he never settles for anything. He’s always pushing for more … so that’s why he’s the owner of the world’s biggest tesla coil!

How is your relationship with Alan?

He’s bigger than life. It’s been so interesting to have interactions with him, and he likes my films. So he’s been sort of like my patron, in a way. So he invited me to do the Serra film (2003-04), then the Anish Kapoor film (2009-10). Then he asked me to do a film about the Electrum sculpture in 2010, about 10 years after the original film was made. He wanted this new film to include his perspective. The new film, Lightning Dreams, is about the conception and the whole story of the sculpture.

Why do you do the work you do?

I make films about scientists and artists because they see things that aren’t there yet. They’re envisioning the future and I think that’s really inspiring. They inspire me to make films about them, and my hope is that my films will inspire other people to push boundaries of what’s known and unknown and to look and wonder and dream themselves. Because that’s the only thing that humans can do that computers can’t. There’s something about creativity that’s impossible to articulate. I mean science and art really are the same thing and they have become very divergent in today’s culture.

How do you choose the topics for your documentaries?

I’m about making films about creative people that are changing the world for the better, who want to make a difference. I make films about scientists that are making a difference, trying to make the world a better place. If I can give a voice … I can help them announce their victories and inspire people to help with what they’re doing. I can help them get out their important messages because they are doing very important work. A lot of time they can’t explain it to a regular audience, and I can help.

Do you feel like you’re a translator in some way?

Yes, translating ideas and concepts for a general audience, totally. I hope to be. And same with artists.

It can be a challenge, though.

Yeah, it’s hard to create something. It’s not easy, none of it’s easy, it’s all work. It can be very rewarding work, but if I can help a scientist or artist expose their labors and their victories … and their failures to a wider audience, that’s what I’m about — finding the most interesting creative people in the world, and telling stories that really inspire people to create.

– Interview by Astrid Lium, Twitter: @astridspeak

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Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Roasts Marion Cotillard

Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals turns 165 this year! The troupe is celebrating with this year’s performance, “There’s Something About Maui,” and its annual roast of two Hollywood darlings.


The 2013 Woman of the Year honor was bestowed upon Marion Cotillard, marked by a January 31 parade and roast in Harvard Square. The 37-year-old French actress, best known best for her Academy Award-winning portrayal of Parisienne chanteuse Edith Piaf in the 2007 biopic “La Vie en Rose,” also appears in “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Rust and Bone” (“De rouisse et d’os”), among others.


Honored on stage by Hasty Pudding Theatricals President Renée Rober and Vice-President Ben Moss, Cotillard subjected herself to a series of puns and knocks to her career. She follows in the footsteps of Anne Hathaway, Julianne Moore, and Claire Danes, among a litany of other A-listers, as HPT’s guest of honor.


Before earning her illustrious Pudding Pot award, Cotillard had to pass tests in a dream within a dream within a dream (a reference to the plot of “Inception”). They included teaching Gwyneth Paltrow how to act (and execute death scenes), sketch better than Pablo Picasso and Salvadore Dali, and sing better than the HPT reincarnation of Edith Piaf.


The lovely Mme. Cotillard passed her tests and entertained a packed theater in the process.


The 2013 Man of Year, announced on February 4, is Kiefer Sutherland, whose roast is slated for Friday, February 8, at 8pm.

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