Author Archives: Vicky Gan

Student Latin speakers bring dead language to life

This is a corrected version of a post published on April 10, 2012. It was changed to clarify a quotation in the sixth paragraph.
 
The Mathey College spoken Latin table is an exercise in anachronism. Like the other language tables held in the residential college dining halls, it meets weekly to provide active language practice and something of the immersion of living in a foreign country. But the Latin table does more than transport students to a different place; it takes them back in time. Every Thursday night, students are bringing a dead language back to life.
 
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Graduate student Jason Pedicone leads the spoken Latin table at Mathey College, held during dinner on Thursday nights. (Photo: Courtesy Jason Pedicone)
The Latin table is led by Jason Pedicone, a Ph.D. student in the classics department. Pedicone attributes his passion for spoken Latin to the charismatic tutelage of Reginald Foster, former Vatican Latinist. For 23 years, Foster taught aestiva Romae latinitas, or Summer Latin in Rome, and inspired a generation of Latin scholars to speak the language of Cicero and Virgil.
 
This “living Latin” method flies in the face of traditional Latin pedagogy, which stresses translation, memorization, and recitation. Joseph Conlon, a classics graduate student and Latin table regular, criticized the traditional model as “exclusive” and overly pedantic. As a result, “people are scared of Latin,” he said.
 
The Latin table aims to change that by fostering fluency in speaking in addition to reading and writing. Conlon encourages students to view Latin as a “normal language, just another mode of human communication.” Students talk about a range of topics at the table — de die (about their day), de professoribus (about professors), de cibo (about food), and of course de lingua latina (about Latin).
 
A dead language poses unique problems for modern speakers. How do you translate a word for something that didn’t exist a thousand years ago? Pedicone’s answer: “By the seat of your pants.” Consider the modern word “computer.” One approach calls for “back-forming” the Latin translation from the English word to computatrum. Circumlocution is another strategy: “computer” could be described alternatively as machinamentum quod putat, or “machine that thinks.”
 

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Student film screening spans styles and genres

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An image from Jessica Welsh ’14’s "The Dark Lord’s Wife," based on a story by Welsh’s 10-year-old sister. (Courtesy Jessica Welsh ’14)
The final project for VIS 261 comes with only one guideline: a five-minute time limit. This fall, eight students in Introductory Video and Film Production wrote and directed their own short films, under the guidance of professor Keith Sanborn. A screening of the students’ work was held at the Lewis Center for the Arts on Tuesday night.

According to Sanborn, the class is not so much about technical skills as it is about “learning how to see.” “I want students to get in touch with their own imaginations,” he said. They practice the nuts and bolts of the filmmaking process, including lighting, camerawork, and sound editing, but they are encouraged to “take what they need” and “find their way.”

Judging by the diverse showing, Sanborn’s students took that message to heart. Their short films encompassed a wide range of styles, from photo montage to documentary to point-of-view cinematography.

Rivka Cohen ’12 offered a heartfelt paean to home and friendship with her film, “This Is NOT a House,” set in her West Virginia backyard. Agisae Kim ’15 tackled everyday “insincerity” in “This Is You,” which featured subtitles revealing the inner thoughts of characters as they spoke.

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Journalist-turned-filmmaker David ’00 connects with South Carolina roots

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Grainger David ’00 (Photo: Courtesy Grainger David ’00)
Growing up in Wadmalaw Island, S.C., Grainger David ’00 saw film as something “giant and impossible.” Today, he is debunking that childhood belief as an independent filmmaker.
 
David came to film by way of writing. He was an English major at Princeton and took several creative writing classes, including John McPhee ’53’s famous nonfiction seminar. He credits McPhee with introducing him to journalism, a path he pursued immediately after graduation. At Fortune magazine, David covered such disparate subjects as caloric restriction, a Mongolian gold rush, and New Line Cinemas.
 
David’s reporting on the movie business encouraged his growing passion for a new medium. Like so many filmmakers before him, he was drawn to the vibrant cinematic culture of New York City. He started watching independent films, “small movies that seemed somehow achievable.” He read screenplays and wrote his own. “Fiction writing is all about taking you into the mind of the character,” David explains, “and the mind of the character is exactly what’s not available to you in film.” He found the challenge exhilarating.
 
In 2005, David enrolled in New York University’s film school, where he wrote and directed three shorts: “George & Karl,” named Best American Short Film at the 2008 Avignon Film Festival; “Sissypants”; and his thesis film, “The Chair,” which took David back to his roots in South Carolina. “The Chair” will have its world premiere at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival.
 
David’s next project, “The Edge of the Woods,” was also shot in South Carolina. The film is supported by a grant from the South Carolina Film Commission and by individual donors on Kickstarter, a crowdsourced fundraising website.

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Kim ’00 fosters creativity as education director at 826NYC

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Joan Kim ’00 directs programs at 826NYC, a writing lab and tutoring center tucked behind the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. (Courtesy Joan Kim ’00)
The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. is a serious business. Sandwiched between a florist and a farm-to-table restaurant, the unassuming Park Slope retailer is a one-stop shop for all your crime-fighting needs. You can find lamé capes, sonic blasters, and half-gallon jugs of invisibility. For the unbeatable price of $16.50, you can even take home an Evil Blob Containment Unit. But behind this gadget emporium, past the sliding bookcase, is where the real magic happens.
 
The secret lair of the Superhero Supply is 826NYC, a nonprofit writing lab and tutoring center for youth ages 6 to 18. Like its sister chapters across the country, it offers after-school homework help, creative writing workshops, and interactive field trips — all free of charge.
 
“The goal is to engage students,” says Joan Kim ’00, education director and co-founder of 826NYC. After graduating with a degree in English and a certificate in teacher prep, she worked at a small publishing house in Manhattan. A friend invited her to an 826 event, and the experience inspired Kim to join the organization fulltime. As education director, Kim has a variety of responsibilities that include teaching workshops, writing grants, planning fundraisers, and meeting with community partners. “No two days are the same,” she says. “You’re constantly on the move.”
 
There are eight chapters of 826 National, the brainchild of McSweeney’s editor Dave Eggers, and each offers hands-on workshops in a wide range of topics, including cartooning, journalism, and filmmaking. The chapters also operate their own storefronts, each with a unique theme; Valencia, in San Francisco, runs a pirate store, while Chicago’s sells spy equipment. The store serves as a “gateway” to the organization, attracting students, funders, and volunteers.
 

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