Friday, August 29, 2008

My top five Mills alumni

As of this week, I am teaching a statistics class at Mills College in Oakland. I've met the class once and I look forward to the semester. In honor of the new gig and another event, I give you a top five list of my favorite folks who have degrees from Mills, a school that has been open since 1852 and has been in Oakland since 1866. Mills' history is as long or longer than any of the East Coast all-female schools, known collectively as the Seven Sisters. In 1990, the trustees voted to allow undergraduate males, but the student body voted it down, and the undergraduate population remains all female.

#5 Sofia Copolla Ms. Copolla has now directed three feature length films, The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. I have only seen Lost in Translation, and I liked it very much, which gives her a spot in my top five.

Of course, Ms. Copolla's family connections are a major contributing factor in giving her an opportunity to succeed, but a Mills education definitely informed her sensibilities, and the school has every reason to be proud of her, and she of her alma mater.

Go Cyclones!

#4 Dave Brubeck Wait a second, Matty Boy! You said Mills was an all female college. Is there some secret about Dave Brubeck we don't know?

Read more carefully, hypothetical question asker, and stop spreading weird rumors. The undergraduate student body is and has always been all female, but graduate degrees have been given to men for some time now, and especially in music, there are a lot of Mills men who have gone on to important careers, including Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead and composer Steven Reich.

I chose Brubeck from among these guys because I still loves me some smooth West Coast jazz.

#3 Barbara Lee Barbara Lee is my congressperson, and I couldn't be happier with her. Barbara Lee is the only member of congress to vote against the war in Afghanistan, which puts her on a par with Jeanette Rankin, who voted against the United States' entry into World War I and World War II. Personally, I would have voted for war in WW II and Afghanistan if I had been given the option, but I admire the courage these women showed at a time when passions ran so high.

Ms. Lee's objections were not against the Afghan conflict in particular but in the wording of the resolution. Here is what she said at the time.

"It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the September 11 events -- anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long- term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration.... The president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation from further attack and he has mobilized the armed forces to do just that. The Congress should have waited for the facts to be presented and then acted with fuller knowledge of the consequences of our action."

Good call, Ms. Lee.

#2 Laurie Anderson The words "performance artist" usually conjure up odd acts involving throwing chocolate syrup at the audience. This isn't Laurie Anderson's modus operandi. She is a singer and songwriter and musician and storyteller who uses multimedia and modern electronics to say whatever is on her mind, and she has a lot on her mind. While I decided to become a blogger in response to reading Princess Sparkle Pony and Padre Mickey's Dance Party, my ideas about "What can I write about?" come from the eclectic choices that Ms. Anderson shows in her work.

Ms. Anderson is also the longtime companion of singer and songwriter Lou Reed. They married earlier this year.

I've never seen Lou Reed live, but I have seen Laurie Anderson. Back in the early '90s, she was giving a multimedia performance in Wheeler Auditorium, a classroom that accommodates a few hundred. My friend Kevin and I were walking to the show, when we saw a huge line snaking down Bancroft as far as the eye could see, waiting to get into the Zellerbach.

"Who's playing tonight?" I asked a person in line.

"Noam Chomsky." came the reply. Yes, in Berkeley, a socialist professor of linguistics can get a line around the block of people waiting to hear him.

During the question and answer part of her show, someone in the audience asked her if she had ever been on stage with Noam Chomsky. "Oh, yeah, we're touring together this year." came her deadpan reply. "He's going to be opening for me, except in Berkeley, where obviously I will be opening for him."

#1 Holly Smith The top of my list of Mills graduates belongs to a young woman who is now studying to get a graduate degree in fashion at The Academy Of Art in San Francisco. Like others on this list, she is bright and engaging and confident and talented. Unlike others on this list, she is my niece. Also, her engagement party is this weekend, and I'm invited.


It would be remiss of me not to mention that Ms. Smith is also just about as cute as cute can be, even when sporting a pencil thin gigolo mustache caused by drinking some caffeinated beverage, shown at the bottom right of the picture.


Friday means Random 10!

What’s Goin’ On Marvin Gaye
All I Have To Do Is Dream The Everly Brothers
Coolsville Laurie Anderson
La Gran Seduzione Nino Rota
Into The Mystic Van Morrison
I’m Afraid of Americans David Bowie
Have A Little Dream On Me Fats Waller
Cantata #174 "Ich Liebe Den Höchsten Von Ganzem Gemüte" - Sinfonia (J.S. Bach) Max Pommer: Neues Bachishes Collegium Musicum
Soulful Wind Nick Lowe
Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (Part. 1) James Brown

Strong Random 10 today. If you click on the Marvin Gaye track, you may not do anything else all day but listen to it. The band is super tight, with Mr. James Jamerson on bass. All I can say is... Damn!

Laurie Anderson gets a video shoutout. David Bowie sings about being afraid of Americans; knock wood, David, I hope we will be less scary next year. Then we get some J.S. Bach, can't be bad, and we close with Mr. James Brown, because no one in their right mind wants to get up on stage after James Brown. He will knock you down, you will get back up and he will knock you down again.

And you will like it.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

You've got to see the Virgin Suicides. It's a very good film. And yay for you for posting another picture of your lovely niece! Yay Holly!

CDP said...

Dr. Monkey is right on the Virgin Suicides. I love the book and was reluctant to see the movie, but Sofia and Kirsten did a great job with it. And your niece is adorable.

dguzman said...

LOVE that Holly! (but only in the purest of ways, really!)

I also loved Lost in Translation, though no one else I saw it with liked it at all. Weirdos.

Anonymous said...

Laurie Anderson sat behind me in NYC at a Residents concert (Cube-E Tour). She fell asleep. The nerve!! Should we expect this from ALL Mills grads?


FranIAm said...

Dis post... i luvz it.

Very cool new teaching gig and cool list, plus your most excellent niece!

And a fine random 10!

Art said...

Hooray Holly! Congratulations to her on her engagement! And enjoy the party, MattyBoy!

Matty Boy said...

I will let my niece know that she iz a internetz supah-stah! As if she didn't know already.