The Jewish Experience Explored at UC Santa Barbara

8232The Middle East has been in our headlines a great deal lately with the recent elections in Israel and the on-going talks about Iran.

Go beyond the news with three new programs that feature writers who are exploring the Jewish experience from biblical times through to today.


From ancient history explore the perplexing and enigmatic David:

29249David: The Divided Heart
“If you read through the bible you read about Moses and you read about Abraham but then you come to David and you say: this is a human being, this is a full-blooded portrait of a person.”
- Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple in Los Angeles

From more recent history learn about nine Holocaust survivors who went on to change the course of the 20th century:

29236The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler
and Changed the World

“They had started life on a calm and prosperous voyage and then things changed very quickly. After they were uprooted for the crime of being Jews from their native Budapest they never felt really at home anywhere else.”
- Kati Marton, Hungarian-American author and journalist

From the present, a discussion on contemporary Israel:

2925021st Century Zion: America, Israel, and
the Challenges of a New Era

“It’s so needed to have a candid, intelligent, civilized discussion about Israel, about the Middle East and about the Israeli-American relationship.”
- Ari Shavit, Israeli reporter and columnist

The programs are presented by Herman P. and Sophia Taubman Foundation Endowed Symposia in Jewish Studies at UC Santa Barbara. The entire archive of past talks is available here.

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Critical Thinking and Imagination in Science, with Ryan Shenvi

8232“…how do you know that you know?”

With this, The Scripps Research Institute’s Ryan Shenvi delivers a captivating exposition of why the most important function of science is not to provide answers, but to ask more and better questions in order to advance our knowledge – and what is critical to this process.

From CS Lewis, one of the greatest literary critics and debate masters of the 20th century, to Karl Popper, grandfather of science philosophy, to his own use of the scientific method to overturn assumptions about processes in metabolic reactions — and perhaps provide better preventive treatments against malarial infection — Ryan weaves a fascinating and engaging proof of one of the most fundamental, but most oft forgotten facts about science. As Karl Popper wrote: “There is no such thing as proof in science…science advances only by disproof.”

With some interesting stops along the way to ask — and answer — simple questions like “is water really blue?” Ryan goes beyond a convincing proof of Popper. What qualities enable this process of continual disproof we call the scientific method?

Ryan’s vital message is the absolute necessity of imagination and critical thinking in asking the questions that advance this process of “disproof,” and give us assurances that we do know what we know.

Watch Ryan Shenvi – Strong Inference, then browse more programs in the Saturday Science series.

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Preventing HIV By Understanding Patterns of Transmission

8232“Understanding the spread of infectious diseases in a population is the key to controlling them.”

AIDS is one of the most devastating infectious diseases in human history, and its cause, HIV, has been responsible for millions of infections. Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV. It is estimated that there are over 56,000 new cases of HIV in the U.S. each year.

Dr. Susan Little of UC San Diego School of Medicine sheds some light on this disease and the possibility of preventing its spread. Her research tracks HIV infection by rapidly obtaining genetic information from those engaged in HIV healthcare. A discussion follows on privacy protections, the risks associated with the use of these data and their potential to significantly limit HIV transmission in communities. Dr. Little is presented by the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology in San Diego.

Watch Preventing HIV By Understanding Patterns of Transmission with Susan Little, MD.

Browse more programs from the Exploring Ethics Series.

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Nixon in China: The Opera

8232John Adams’ Nixon in China has attained the status of modern classic since its premiere in 1987, but the opera is not performed frequently and is still unfamiliar to many audiences. Nonetheless there is great curiosity about the piece, as I discovered when I began work on the Spotlight program; I think I’ve gotten more questions about this opera than any other I’ve documented.

In some respects it’s easiest to begin a discussion of Nixon in China by listing what it is not:

• It’s not a dry history lesson;
• It’s not a political rant;
• It’s neither a satire nor a farce;
• It’s not unmelodic or atonal;
• It’s not strictly “minimalist” (though it certainly has elements of that style).

So…what is it? I’m not an historian, political scientist, or musicologist (and I don’t play one on TV), but in the course of shooting rehearsals and talking to the cast & production staff I’ve made a few observations.

I was already somewhat familiar with the opera in its original incarnation as directed by Peter Sellars, but this production is a fresh conception (i.e., not a re-mount) directed by James Robinson. The music and dramatic intent are the same, of course, but the new staging has some interesting features of its own. The settings are less representational and more abstract, and very colorful (I joke that it “needs more red”). The media coverage surrounding the event plays a more prominent role. There’s increased emphasis on movement, both literal (the ballet, ritualized gestures) and figurative (from exuberance to reflection). Robinson and his cast have also worked to highlight the abundant humor in the libretto. And, the piece has an expansive, “mock heroic” tone that is, dare I say it, a lot of fun.

“Fun.” Now there’s a word you don’t often hear associated with opera, particularly modern opera, yet it’s a vital component of this one. Adams and librettist Alice Goodman brought a sense of playfulness to Nixon in China, and that was reflected in the rehearsals. Of course it helps to have a director, conductor, choreographer and cast who are confident and attuned to the demands & nuances of the piece, and San Diego Opera assembled such a group. The participants seemed to be genuinely enjoying their work; I think that comes across in the Spotlight footage, and hopefully it will prove contagious for the audience.

Back to my original question: What is Nixon in China? I could say that it’s a dramatic comedy (or a comic drama), or it’s a stage spectacle, or it’s a postmodern character study; or just say it’s an evening’s entertainment and leave it at that. But I’m not the authority here – watch UCSD-TV’s San Diego OperaTalk and San Diego Opera Spotlight, then attend San Diego Opera’s Nixon in China and cultivate your own impressions. It will be time well spent.

Submitted by John Menier, Arts and Music Producer

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Want the job of your dreams? Then create your own!

29132Considering a life as an entrepreneur? If so, you won’t want to miss Create Your Own Job, an informative panel discussion featuring four professionals who all took the plunge by creating their own companies.

Moderated by Lee Ann Kim of Pacific Arts Movement, panelists include Adam Markowitz of Portfolium, Denise Bevers of Kindred Biosciences and Henry DeVries of Indie Books International. While each are in different stages of their careers, they all share stories of sacrifices and risk-taking, setbacks and triumphs…and why they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Watch Create Your Own Job on The Career Channel.

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