Written by Sam Marsh Megaphone Staff Writer“Does Georgetown really need a bus system? I mean, I haven’t been all around, but it doesn’t seem all that big,” said Sophomore Kassie Juenke.Nobody’s completely sure yet, but that is Ed Polasek and his cohorts are looking into. Meetings have been held in areas of particular interest to investigate interest and estimate possible ridership. Keith Hutchinson, the city’s Public Information Officer, told me that there was a good bit of interest shown. He directed me to Ed Polasek, “Ed’s really driving the bus on this one.”The Georgetown City council held a meeting on Tuesday, January 22, and the first order of business was the proposed bus service to the different areas of Georgetown. There were representatives from many organizations, including the Texas Department of Transportation, (TEXDOT) and CARTS, the company that would provide the services. Mr. Polasek spoke first, speaking of growing economic activity in areas like the Wolf Creek Ranch, and said that the service was specifically targeted at “college students, senior citizens, and lower income families.” The service would also make access to hospitals and other necessary services easier.Dave Marsh, who is the executive director of CARTS, and who has implemented similar systems in towns like San Marcos and Kileen, had a presentation showing possible routes and showing costs. He said the enthusiasm he found here was unusual. “Usually, if there are more people at the meeting than staff, we consider that a success, a few of the meetings had 50 people.”The costs of the system will be about 733 thousand dollars a year, with most of the start up costs coming from CARTS and the city. Later, advertising and fares would probably be profitable for the city. Federal and State funding will be likely forthcoming in the future.The system would consist of four busses, running four routes. All routes would “pulse” at the Downtown hub, meaning all busses would arrive there and allow people to go anywhere from there. The Sun City Route would go out Williams Ave, serving the Sun City area, and stopping in the Rivery shopping area before going downtown. The East Route would go out S.H. 29, passing the University. The Southeast Route would go through the southern part of Georgetown, servicing much of the residential area of the immediate Georgetown area. The Southwest Route would continue West of 35 on Leander Rd. These last two would alternate going to Wolf Creek on the Shopper Shuttle Route. Possible expansions would also include connecting to bus lines that run to Austin.The busses themselves would be medium sized busses, based on a large van platform, and running on propane. They would cost a $100,000 each, and will last about 5 years. A proposed 3 bus system was ruled out as a possibility. The busses would have bike racks, and there would be racks at the stops, allowing bikes to be locked at the shelters.The system would help the University in many ways. In addition to easing traffic along University Ave, having access to a system like this will help many of the buildings get environmentally friendly certifications, qualifying them for grants.Some students said they had no interest in riding. Freshman Robert Andrade said he had no problem driving to HEB. Sophomore Lindsey Knapton said, “I would ride it if it were convenient.” Though its hard to tell from the parking lots, some students don’t have anything to drive. “I don’t have a car here on campus, so I’d probably use a bus if they had it,” said Freshman Matt Wladyka.Mr. Marsh advised not starting service until April of next year, to avoid rushing into an inferior program, so by the fall of 2009, we will be able to ride our pirate bikes to the bus stop, instead of all the way to HEB.
Written by Sam Marsh
Megaphone Staff Writer
“Does Georgetown really need a bus system? I mean, I haven’t been all around, but it doesn’t seem all that big,” said Sophomore Kassie Juenke.
Nobody’s completely sure yet, but that is Ed Polasek and his cohorts are looking into. Meetings have been held in areas of particular interest to investigate interest and estimate possible ridership. Keith Hutchinson, the city’s Public Information Officer, told me that there was a good bit of interest shown. He directed me to Ed Polasek, “Ed’s really driving the bus on this one.”
The Georgetown City council held a meeting on Tuesday, January 22, and the first order of business was the proposed bus service to the different areas of Georgetown. There were representatives from many organizations, including the Texas Department of Transportation, (TEXDOT) and CARTS, the company that would provide the services. Mr. Polasek spoke first, speaking of growing economic activity in areas like the Wolf Creek Ranch, and said that the service was specifically targeted at “college students, senior citizens, and lower income families.” The service would also make access to hospitals and other necessary services easier.
Dave Marsh, who is the executive director of CARTS, and who has implemented similar systems in towns like San Marcos and Kileen, had a presentation showing possible routes and showing costs. He said the enthusiasm he found here was unusual. “Usually, if there are more people at the meeting than staff, we consider that a success, a few of the meetings had 50 people.”
The costs of the system will be about $733,000 a year, with most of the start up costs coming from CARTS and the city. Later, advertising and fares would probably be profitable for the city. Federal and State funding will be likely forthcoming in the future.
The system would consist of four busses, running four routes. All routes would “pulse” at the Downtown hub, meaning all busses would arrive there and allow people to go anywhere from there. The Sun City Route would go out Williams Ave, serving the Sun City area, and stopping in the Rivery shopping area before going downtown.
The East Route would go out S.H. 29, passing the University.
The Southeast Route would go through the southern part of Georgetown, servicing much of the residential area of the immediate Georgetown area. The Southwest Route would continue West of 35 on Leander Rd.
These last two would alternate going to Wolf Creek on the Shopper Shuttle Route. Possible expansions would also include connecting to bus lines that run to Austin.
The busses themselves would be medium sized busses, based on a large van platform, and running on propane. They would cost a $100,000 each, and last about five years. The busses would have bike racks, and there would be racks at the stops, allowing bikes to be locked at the shelters.
The system would help the University in many ways. In addition to easing traffic along University Ave, having access to a system like this will help many of the buildings get environmentally friendly certifications, qualifying them for grants.
Some students said they had no interest in riding. Freshman Robert Andrade said he had no problem driving to HEB. Sophomore Lindsey Knapton said, “I would ride it if it were convenient.” Though its hard to tell from the parking lots, some students don’t have anything to drive. “I don’t have a car here on campus, so I’d probably use a bus if they had it,” said Freshman Matt Wladyka.
Mr. Marsh advised not starting service until April of next year, to avoid rushing into an inferior program, so by the fall of 2009, we will be able to ride our pirate bikes to the bus stop, instead of all the way to HEB.
Written by Maria Arispe
Megaphone Staff Writer
It could be said that Martin Luther King Jr. was an extraordinary man and influential person to many people’s lives as well as the infamous American civil rights Movement. It could also be said that he went above and beyond his call of duty, questioning the status quo and pushing for a better and brighter future for everyone. Finally, some might conclude that because of his never ending strength, non-violent mode of action, and quite successful way of stirring up much needed change, he was assassinated. His life was cut somewhat short by an assassin’s bullet.
However, even with Dr. King’s death, he is still remembered constantly and loved dearly by a lot of people. A sophomore, Joy Fears comments: “I am really grateful for the things that Martin Luther King Jr. has done for our society. If it wasn’t for him, I would not be at Southwestern getting an excellent education. He has helped the African American community in so many ways; he has really helped to integrate the United States’ schools, communities, and universities. And although there is still a lot of blatant and institutionalized racism in the US today, he has started an awesome integration process between the minority and the majority that I hope never stops.”
Every year, people from all over the country, no matter their race or ethnicity commemorate his life, his accomplishments, and his struggle to make this world a better place by dedicating one day of the year to him, also known as Martin Luther King Day. People who decide to celebrate Dr. King usually celebrate in different ways; some gather to march around a designated area of their city or town, others, like Southwestern University, as well as the Georgetown Community celebrate the life and work of Dr. King by gathering for what is known as the MLK Celebration or dinner. This form of celebration is a somewhat long-stranding tradition, having been going on under the supervision of Michele Amerson since 2003. Amerson, the coordinator and chairperson of the MLK activities going on this week, says: “The community dinner is an opportunity to bring Dr. King’s dream in which ‘the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will sit together at the table of brotherhood,’ to fruition.”
This year, SU and Georgetown began this series of celebrations for Dr. King on January 21st. There was the Community March starting at the Court House on 7th and Austin Ave, followed by what is known as the MLK Community Celebration Program at Macedonia Baptist Church, and ending with the MLK Jr. Community Dinner, where The Honorable Dawnna Dukes, State Representative from District 46 gave a wonderful speech held in the McCombs Ballrooms. Moreover, sophomore Charles Prince would like to add that “This week, there will be a constructive dialogue on a movie called The Color of Hope this Thursday at 7 in Olin 110. A guest speaker is coming to campus on the 30th at 4 pm in the chapel and then a reception at 5 pm. Dr. Felder is a professor from Howard University. He is going to talk about Africa and the bible.”
If not already known to the community, the theme for this year’s MLK Celebration, according to Michele Amerson is “Capture the Dream! Hope, Equality, and Justice for All.” She, as well as others involved wish to stress that it is sincerely encouraged for anyone interested here at SU and in the Georgetown Community to consider attending these events. To a great deal of people, Martin Luther King Jr. was an extraordinary individual who accomplished more in his lifetime than most ever will. A lot of people would most likely agree that he lived and breathed much needed reform of this country and should be remembered most respectfully for it.
Written by Meg Susong
After two and half years of work and more than $10 million (funded largely by Fayez Sarofim of Houston, with other gifts from alumni and friends of the school) the Alma Thomas Fine Arts Center reopened last weekend, just in time for the season’s holiday performances.
The Sarofim School of Fine Arts has its roots in the university’s original School of Music, which was established in 1888. In 1941, the Department of Art was merged with the School of Music, and the School of Fine Arts offered its first courses with Dr. Henry Edwin Meyer as the first Dean. In 1956, the Department of Drama and Speech was incorporated into the school. In 1999, it became the Department of Theatre, and the Sarofim School of Fine Arts evolved into its present configuration.
Currently, the Alma Thomas Fine Arts Center contains the 769-seat Alma Thomas Theater, the 322-seat Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater, the Caldwell-Carvey Foyer performance space, an 80-seat recital hall, a band and orchestra rehearsal hall, two art laboratories with individual carrels for art majors, an art gallery, 20 practice rooms with pianos, three large classrooms, offices and teaching studios.
The recently completed renovations include a complete makeover of the Alma Thomas Theatre, which was originally built in the 1950s. The theatre was totally gutted and rebuilt to provide additional storage space, a real orchestra pit and all new seats, in addition to new lighting and sound systems. Handicapped access has been improved throughout the theatre.
The renovations also included a two-story addition to the Fine Arts Center that provides more space for offices, classrooms and practice rooms. New classrooms include a special room for theatre design.
The main practice room on the second floor of the Fine Arts Center also was expanded and soundproofed so that it can be used at the same time performances are going on in the Alma Thomas Theatre. The new practice room houses Southwestern’s first-ever music library, and there is a new room to store band equipment.
Other enhancements to the Fine Arts Center include a new box office that can serve both the Alma Thomas Theatre and the smaller Jones Theatre.
The changes and additions to the building are especially significant for the students interested in arts. Housed in the Alma Thomas Fine Arts Center, The Sarofim School of Fine Arts makes available courses leading to the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theatre, the Bachelor of Music degree, and the Bachelor of Arts in art, music and theatre.
The purposes of The Sarofim School of Fine Arts are to prepare students for professions in the fields of art, music and theatre, including the teaching of those subjects; to provide them with a base of liberal arts subjects in order to give them breadth and intellectual solidity; to provide opportunities for all University students to participate in studio, class and ensemble activities; and to function as an aesthetic and cultural force for the University and the community.
Overall, the students have been very receptive to the new additions.
First-year Audrey Olena said, “it is a lot nicer because there are so many more practice rooms, so no matter what time of day it is, you can find somewhere to practice.”
Fellow first-year Travis Valadez agreed, saying that “the practice rooms have much more space.”
A new and major change for audiences is an entrance on the west side of the building, facing the Academic Mall. The courtyard has also been expanded, and Gaffney hopes both areas will provide an inviting space for patrons to gather during intermission. The restrooms in the lobby also have been expanded and remodeled.
“This renovation puts Southwestern in the top rank of what liberal arts colleges have in terms of performance facilities,” Gaffney said.
The university is still raising funds for furnishings and additional building finish out. At some point, there are plans to renovate the smaller Jones Theatre and other portions of the Fine Arts Center.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” Paul Gaffney, Dean of the Sarofim School of Fine Arts, said. “This will enable us to do things we couldn’t do before.”
For example, Gaffney said, Southwestern will now be able to stage much larger musical productions. The first example of this will come in March 2008 when the university presents “Fiddler on the Roof.” In the future, the larger stage will also enable the university to do larger opera performances, dance performances and choral concerts.
For a complete schedule of upcoming events at the Sarofim School of Fine Arts, visit http://www.southwestern.edu/academic/sfa-site/calender.htm.
Written by Leslie Lube
At the end of this month, a cast of 16 SU students will present “Seussical” to over 1300 children from nearby elementary and middle schools. “Seussical the Musical,” which is the musical adaptation of the works of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss, is a full, two-act show that premiered on Broadway in 2000 with music by Stephan Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens.
The original show is a fairly complex compilation of 17 of Seuss’s most famous stories, and it was only moderately successful on stage. The show has experienced greater success, however, since it began touring in regional theatres. Music Theatre International produced a special, 70-minute, one-act version for the Theatre for Young Audiences. The shorter version leaves out a few characters and songs as well as the military subplot of the original to create a story that has been extremely popular with children across the country.
The SU thespians will be performing the Theatre for Young Audiences version of “Seussical”, which includes characters from “Horton Hears a Who”, “The Cat in the Hat”, “Myrtle the Turtle”, “McElligot’s Pool”, “Horton Hatches an Egg” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
“This is a perfect opportunity for us,” Dr. Rick Roemer, theatre professor and the show’s director, said. “We were looking for a musical that could engage kids and that had a good message.”
Roemer teaches a class called Musical Theatre Workshop, and the students in this class make up the cast of “Seussical.” The interview they completed to take the class took the place of an audition for the show, which will also serve as their final. Roemer has taught the class every other year for the past several years, but this is the first time that a full-scale musical presentation will be a part of the class since the theatre department now offers a degree in musical theatre.
The class meets on Fridays from 2-4:30, and the students have been using class time to prepare the show. Now that “The Country Wife” is finished they have added extra rehearsals during the week.
“The rehearsal schedule is pretty rigorous,” Junior Michelle Haberl said. “We meet for three hours a day, four days a week.”
The cast includes Bradley Acree as Horton the Elephant, Claire McAdams as the Cat in the Hat, Taryn Stafford as Gertrude, Natalie Kabenjian as Mayzie and Evan Faram as the Wickersham brother.
All of the students have been working hard to get the show ready before Thanksgiving because the performances start the week after the break.
“Rehearsals are going well,” Haberl said, who serves as assistant stage manager. “We have a couple more weeks until we perform, and I think that we’ll be prepared.”
“The students have been incredible,” Roemer said. “They are really bringing the show to life. It is a very time-consuming project, and we spend a great deal of time together, but they have been terrific.”
While the main goal of the class is to produce the show, Roemer tries to use class time to share ideas with his students that they can apply to any theatre experience.
“I want to help them understand that the performance itself is just one part of the overall experience,” he said. “It’s like the basic performance is the shell of the egg, and the passion and character and everything that you put into your performance is the yolk of the egg. That’s the important part, and what I try to help them discover.”
Roemer feels that performing “Seussical” for so many children is a special opportunity for the students in his class. The show’s message stresses the importance of tolerance and acceptance of others.
“It teaches these kids about the importance of non-bias and speaks out against prejudice,” he said. “It’s a great show, and I’m not saying that we’re pushing these ideas on kids, but they’re a part of the story and something that the kids can pick up on.”
Haberl agrees with Roemer’s analysis of the story’s message.
“I love the show so much because it tells the story of the human race through the characters of the Whos without the darkness and graphic detail of a more adult drama,” she said. “I think that it conveys a poignant message about dealing with fears and a lack of control over life that is embodied in the Whos’ experience. The essence of the play is expressed in the quote, ‘A person’s a person no matter how small,’ and I think that this is meaningful to children because they are small people who have to deal with fears and feelings of helplessness.”
Another important aspect of the show is the opportunity that the cast has to introduce children to live theatre. For many of the students attending the performances this is their first experience with a play or musical.
“We hope that the experience stimulates them in a fun way,” Roemer said. “I mean, we’re creative people so we think that these kinds of things are important, and we want to share them with as many people as possible.”
One of the goals of the theatre department is to introduce young people to the theatre. Roemer talked about the fact that recent generations of children have seen far more movies and television programs than live performances, and the SU theatre students and faculty want to show children what a special experience it is to watch a play or a musical live.
“This goal [to introduce children to the theatre] gives a purpose to our performance of ‘Seussical’,” said Roemer. “I told the cast that if just one person in the audience has never been to a live performance it is worth it for us to give it all we have so that they enjoy the experience.”
Haberl also feels that a musical has a lot to offer to children and adults alike.
“Music colors drama in a very beautiful and powerful way. There are emotions that can be conveyed through music better than through words alone,” she said. “That’s not to say that musicals are better than straight plays. They just provide a different way to express and experience emotion.”
Haberl encourages everyone to come to the public performances of “Seussical” because it is not meant solely for children.
“I just love this musical drama, and I think that the show is a priceless experience for anyone who watches it,” she said.
“Seussical” runs from November 27 through December 2. The Tuesday through Friday performances will take place during the day and are reserved for local children. The Saturday and Sunday performances will take place at 3:00 p.m. and the entire SU community is invited to attend. As with any other show, students can reserve two free tickets by visiting the Jones Theatre box office.
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Megaphone Web Staff
Written by Alma Aguilar
Greenling is a local Austin company that delivers organic food to your home. They offer a variety of products from fruits and vegetables to meats and breads. Most of their products are grown locally and meet the USDA’s standards for organic products.
In the fall of 2006, Gail Roberson, Associate Director of Admissions, arranged for this company to make special weekly delivers to campus.
“Greenling’s regular delivery area goes up to Round Rock but does not include Georgetown home deliveries. They make an exception for us,” Dana Hendrix-Head,
Collection Development and Acquisition, said.
Most of the products that Greenling offers are grown in Central Texas by local farmers who grow their food without any harmful chemicals, drugs or processes. They use biological systems to enrich their food, bettering the food along with the soil it was grown in.
“Chemicals [are not] used that harm area wildlife and pollute water sources, organic practices are better than conventional practices,” Hendrix said.
Senior Melanie Loop is one of the people who is part of the group that receives shipments on campus. She enjoys the advantages that come along with eating organic foods.
“I like to eat organic products due to the fact that they don’t have all the pesticide and herbicides on them that conventional produce is grown with,” Loop said. “When something is grown organically, it tastes and smells amazing, unlike conventional grown produce that doesn’t really smell much and is lacking flavor as well.”
Greenling, much like a supermarket, offers a variety of products, which run around the same price range.
“I did a price comparison before I signed up last year, and at that time the Greenling prices were just about the same as what I was paying for organic products at local stores,” Hendrix said.
Offering local fresh and healthy organic products to everyone is one of Greenling’s goals. They say that the use of organic growing products make the food tastes crisper because it allows for the food to strengthen its own flavors.
“Definitely better tasting and better for you, and I feel better eating organic,” Hendrix said.
Through its online ordering system, Greenling saves you the time and hassle of shopping for the food at the supermarket.
“It is also nice not to have to fight through a crowded grocery store to buy food for the week,” Loop said.
Since organic products do not have as many chemicals to keep them fresh longer, it is recommended that you eat the produce in about a week or two of purchase.
“It will go bad because it is, thankfully, lacking that outer coating of wax that conventional produce has to keep it fresher longer,” Loop said.
Greenling delivers every Wednesday at the Mood Atrium. To place an order you can go to their website www.sa.greenling.com, or you can talk to Dana Hendrix on how you can get started.
In order to continue this service on campus, 20 people must order for a delivery to be made.
“In the summertime, we fell below the minimum number of participants that Greenling requires so our deliveries stopped for the summer,” Hendrix said.
For this reason, anyone who enjoys eating organic, or those who just want to taste the difference, should participate.
There is a minimum 25-dollar weekly purchase required; however, you can combine orders to meet it. You may also not order one week to offset the cost.
“You can choose a predetermined box, like the local box with only whatever is in season and grown locally, or you can choose each item you want individually so you just get what you want and need,” Hendrix said.
If cost is a concern for you, Greenling offers discounts for people who live “green” or help the mother earth is some way. You get 10% off every time you refer a friend. You can also receive five dollars off your purchase if you drive a hybrid, power your home with green energy or share your stories on what you are doing to help the environment.
If you have any questions or would like more information about this program on campus, contact Dana Hendrix at email@example.com.
Written by Caitlyn Buckley
Over the past week, Southern California experienced more than 23 wildfires that went uncontained for days. Over a five day period, over 500,000 acres burned, damaging forests as well as commercial and personal property.
By Saturday, firefighters were able to contain and extinguish the majority of the fires due to slowed wind speed and cooler temperatures. Still, incredible amounts of damage have been done, with eight people presumed dead, 1,800 homes destroyed and 640,000 people displaced. There are still more than 20,000 properties that are still threatened, while the firefighters remain optimistic that the worst is over. It is being reported that has been one of the worst fire disasters in California’s history. Conservative damage estimates are being placed at 1.6 billion dollars.
California often experiences wildfires during this time of year due to the Santa Anas winds developing a small fire into one that is out of control. The majority of this week’s fires were caused by the high wind speeds snapping power lines.
However, two of the worst fires, located in Orange and Riverside Counties, were suspected to be the result of arson. A $50,000 reward has been announced to capture those responsible for the arsons. California experienced an incredibly dry summer, which contributed to the severity of the fires, making them spread more rapidly and much more difficult to control.
While the immediate threat is mostly over, concern still remains about the dangers posed by the smoke. California’s coast already experiences a high level of pollution, but after the fires, the amount of air pollution is three times greater than normal. People in the more highly affected areas are being encouraged to stay indoors and avoid prolonged exercise—particularly the elderly, children and those with respiratory problems.
Volunteers are aiding Californians in various ways. More than 1,000 volunteers from other states headed to Southern California to assist in wide-ranging fields from medicine to yoga instruction. Volunteer fire crews have come to the area from Mexico, Northern California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington to give a rest to those who had spent several days trying to control the fires. 950 more volunteer firefighters are reported to be on their way to assist in extinguishing the few remaining trouble spots. 3,000 volunteers are currently being trained by the Red Cross to help the evacuees in the upcoming weeks. So much food and water has been donated that officials have asked for monetary donations instead as there is no longer room to accommodate more physical donations.
Even 1,300 miles away from California, the fires have made a significant impact on the SU campus.
“It makes you a lot more grateful for what you have,” Sophomore Linda Peña said. “When you think of the people that lost everything, it really puts things in perspective.”
Several classes on campus have discussed the fires in the context of what is being learned.
“We talked about it in my Earth Science class as well as in International Studies. We learned that people are insisting on building in danger zones that historically have had fires every year, yet they continue to build homes there. We talked about how this happens every year, but this one stood out more than most. It just reminds you to be grateful for what you have and that we aren’t having those same problems here in Texas right now,” Peña said.
In response to the possibility of some of the fires being set by arsonists, Peña said, “If people really did that, I hope they get caught. It is crazy to think that you can get away with destroying so many peoples’ homes and whole lives. I hope that all the people who were somehow impacted by the fires will be okay. It’s so sad and scary to think that something so dangerous and so damaging can happen anywhere.”
While we still don’t have articles to post, there will be some next week (or heads will roll!), I just want everyone to know that I, Lane Hill, only wrote one article that had been included in any issue of Megaphone Online (and that was the Segway Hacking one). The rest have been done by our hard-working authors who are credited in the article itself, and in the “front page” of any update. This will be standardized in the next issue.
Hello, dear reader.’ You’re probably wondering where the next issue of the Megaphone online is. We are working on it, and will notify you when it is up. Until then, give a hoot and read! -Lane HillWeb Editor
Thursday, October 25
SEAK’s Fall Earth Day – 1:00 to 4:00 pm on the Academic Mall.
The Country Wife – Performance at 7 pm in Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater.
Friday, October 26
The Country Wife – Performance at 8 pm in the Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater.
Friday Night Live: Tungsten Coil – 8:30 pm in the Cove.
Saturday, October 27
SCAC Cross Country Championships – Men start at 9 am, women start at 10 am on the Golf course.
SU Volleyball – SU vs. UT-Tyler at noon. SU vs. Texas Wesleyan University at 5 pm.
The Country Wife – 8:00 pm in the Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater.
Sunday, October 28th
The Country Wife – 3:00 pm in the Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater.
Wednesday, October 31
SU Volleyball – SU vs. University of Mary-Hardin Baylor – Robertson Center at 7 pm.
Lying In Order to Write – 4 pm in Olin 105
Written by Angelica Castillo and Tristine Baccam
For this year’s The Writer’s Voice, the incredible novelist, Amy Tan, graced the campus community with an evening of high-spirited and comical insight into the life which has served as the inspiration for her widely known and much loved novels. Earlier in the day on Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Tan to discuss her novels, views on authorial responsibility, and the experiences which have colored her life in the wake of The Joy Luck Club’s initial publication.
Amy Tan:If you hear this sound recording, I’ll say, “This is Lily drinking water”
The Megaphone:Lily is a very cute doggy!
Megaphone:First of all, Would you like me to refer to you as Ms. Tan…?
AT:Amy is fine.
AT:Oh even my nieces call me Amy. Yeah…They start to say Auntie…but they still call me Auntie Amy…laughter.
Megaphone::Ok…So let’s start off with…How would you, Amy Tan, introduce your work to a new reader? How would you describe it?
AT: Oh…um… Well I’ve never been asked that question…(laughter) You’d think it’s an obvious one, but I’ve never been asked that. Usually when people ask…Well you know, if I’m on an airplane or I meet somebody and they don’t know I’m a writer…They say, “Well what do you do?” and I say “I’m a writer. I’m a fiction writer,” and then that’s basically all I say. And if they were to say “What kind of fiction?” I suppose that I would say that “I write, um, literary fiction” and second, if they asked what it’s about, then I would say “Most people would say it’s about mothers and daughters.” For me, I would say that it’s about the questions that I ask myself in life that add up, that one day add up to what I think is the meaning of my life. I never have short answers to anything, and everything is in context which makes it very difficult if you were to write a one sentence answer…If you ask me what my favorite color is, I can just go on and on and on…there are different reasons for every answer I have, I don’t have just one answer to anything…
Megaphone: No that’s great… I mean the more we get to learn about you the better. Like I said we are all very excited to have you here…You have asserted on several occasions, that writing is a deeply personal thing for you, and I believe in one of your essays, you described… the words that you use in your books… as words that often have “specific associations with something deeply personal and often times secretly ironic in my life…” So, how do you reconcile this intimacy with the fact that your work, once published, is read, interpreted, and possessed by millions of readers?
AT: Well partly, I don’t always have awareness as I’m writing it. I have had people say to me “You are so brave to write that.” and I think, “Well… What did I write?” Laughter It’s as though I um… I had said something that was shocking or that people wouldn’t normally say. And then I wonder, well, what is it that people don’t say to one another? I don’t think that I reveal everything about myself in the deepest sense of what I’m trying to explore in myself. The things that are private…when I said that I use choices of words or whatever it is, they are things that nobody is going to be able to read and say, “Oh. I remember. She was doing this on such and such a day. Or this came about the day that her friend died and she was wondering about such and such and that’s why she wrote that. People will not know that. So that’s what I mean by “deep and personal.” The kinds of questions that we all have in life, I get to explore on a daily basis when I’m writing, so as I said, I don’t think that I’m sharing everything in my life but I think that what I write about is deeply personal in the sense that they’re the questions that I want to ask. I think that they are probably the questions that everybody wants to ask, or they do ask themselves. How many people don’t get to sit down for twelve hours a day, just thinking about that, writing about it, you know, it’s a great luxury to be able to think a lot…
Megaphone: When my mother found out that I was going to interview you, the first thing she did was rush to buy a Spanish language version of The Hundred Secret Senses, which is the book I recommended to her. So what do you think about the fact that your works are now widely available to people around the country and around the world and that it has become widely cherished and appreciated?
AT: It was shocking when I first found out that I was going to be published at all. Shocking when this book was selling much more than anybody thought that it would sell, and so when it was being published in other countries, I thought it was strange—in one sense because these were characters who to me lived in such a small world, the private world, these were in some respects modeled after my mother who was an unseen person. She was the person you would see in the store who didn’t speak English that well, and you know, people wouldn’t think “I want to sit down and talk with this person.” She didn’t speak English that well. So these were unseen women, all of these women in my family, and suddenly they were being seen in all these other countries! My grandmother who died without even, without most of us knowing her name, what really happened…now she has the life outside of that window of time when she lived. So, it was a tremendous honor in many respects and frightening (laughter). So I take it your mother, she speaks Spanish…she’s reading Los Cien…
Megaphone: Los Cien Sentidos Secretos.
AT:Ah… I will say that at one point in my life I could speak Spanish, far better than I could Chinese, very ironic, I was in Cabo [San Lucas], and I got to use it, and when you don’t speak a language very well…I was pretty… It’s the only translation I have been able to read in the past, otherwise, I’m learning French now, so I’m now able to read the French edition.
Megaphone:I don’t know, If I were able to read something I had written in another language and be able to understand it, I don’t think I would even be able to run that through my mind, to process it.
AT:Yeah…I’m even more curious, also, in a cultural sense, about what people see. Because in a story there are a lot of images and there are a lot of cultural assumptions. It is an American writer and an American context and what do people in other countries think about those various American images that are a display of culture. There was a journalist in Italy, in my first year, who wrote that when she interviewed me, I had long, lacquer red finger nails and I think she called them “Dragon lady… long, lacquered dragon lady finger nails” and I thought that what she did was carry in her mind some image that she had of Chinese women, and that’s what she claimed in the way of describing me. I don’t have long, lacquer red nails. I mean, you can see, they are short nails. And I don’t think I ever wrote about a character with long, lacquer nails. It just never would have occurred to me that that would be a detail but that’s what I mean about people’s own cultural assumptions and impressions that are over laid in the book and that’s interesting…I don’t think I have time to talk to everybody about what they see and a lot of what they see is going to be caught in a rubric of the exotic…
Megaphone:So, kind of on that note, since your books have been published in so many different places, do you receive fan mail from readers abroad with their reactions to what you write and, maybe, do you know how that compares to how readers in this country feel about your work?
AT: The fan mail that I do get is often similar. You know, it often has to do with something that struck a personal chord…um… I am always surprised when I get something from a man, say in another country. He’s read one of my books and has much appreciation for it. You know, the curious thing is, I don’t really get a lot of fan mail and maybe it’s because we’ve also made it hard to get the fan mail. I don’t know what it is, but I hear about these people who say “yeah, I got 89 letters the other day…” 89 letters, you know! I get one or two every now and then but or maybe Ellen (her publicist) doesn’t show them to me…I don’t know…I have no idea…It’s not that I’m encouraging it because I also have a policy of not wanting to read them. I think that I try to leave as many influences out of my life as that of being, in that public sense, an author and not a writer, and I don’t want to be a hermit. But I also don’t want to read things like “You’re just wonderful!” You get this distorted sense of yourself.
Megaphone:Since the publication of The Joy Luck Club, which was your first big novel, I would imagine that many things probably changed in your life after that. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve developed as a writer, and as a person, how this has affected you?
AT: Well, in a wonderful way and a difficult way. The difficult was feeling that my life was completely out of control. I had never dreamed of being a published writer. I had never dreamed at all of selling a lot of books. All of that was pulled along, I never… Someone sent my story to somebody, it got published. That is, it was never anything that I sought that actively. I cried the first day my book was published. I cried all day long because I was scared. By then things were getting a little weird. I just didn’t know where my life was going, because I had a very happy life in many respects, and I didn’t want anything to change too horribly. A friend of mine actually just wrote me a letter, an email yesterday, and he had a partner who won the equivalent of American Idol in China, and suddenly was all over the place. Movie deals, tours, signings…and they broke up. His partner came and said “Yeah. My life has changed and …” then he broke down and cried and I could really empathize with somebody who goes through that. There’s a part of you that’s still there but you are no longer the same person. It’s like you lost a part of yourself…So that’s the scary part, and I’ve adjusted to that. The good part, one of the main things is that I get to meet a lot of really interesting people. Writers. Wonderful writers, and I get to call them my friends as well as people in other areas. That is truly one of the best things. Another one, a huge one, is that I was able to make my mother very happy. The last few years of her life were completely happy, and she was so happy that we appreciated her. That was wonderful. I was also able to support her and do more things for her. Although with that kind of financial success there comes a certain responsibility, and so our goal has always been to think about how you manage these funds. All of our money basically goes to charity…you know…who do you look at…who do you leave money to and why and so that’s really been an interesting way of how we look at our lives and how we affect things. I always keep in mind, though, that somebody who scrimps and saves ten dollars and gives that same amount of money to an organization probably had to make a bigger sacrifice than I had to make, so the amounts of the money are not an indication of being a more generous person, and I mention this because I’m always struggling with this sense of who I am. That who I am, in one, for me should not have anything to do with how many books I sell and the same thing with your generosity…there are so many different elements that go into that. It’s easy to give away money if you have money to give away. Oh …just one other thing…as a writer I’m much more self-conscious. Much more self-conscious. Every writer I know has dealt with the same thing. It doesn’t get any easier…
Megaphone: Do you think that it could be because you are giving away a part of yourself in the book that you’re writing and so in that sense, people are having access to you?
AT:No. I don’t think that is the issue. I think more that as a writer, the whole craft of writing, and what you seem to be saying, is what you argue. Are you trivial, are you shapeless or over-inflated? There are tons of different questions having to do with craft. When you are better known, you will hear more opinions, and so every single writer would have this kind of exposure…they’ve been exposed to these kinds of opinions and it’s kind of scary. It’s like going out to be target practice for somebody. I’ve had friends who say, “Well, if you get published you should expect that people are going to attack you and that people at a party can come up to you and say “I really didn’t like that last novel…” I don’t know, I’m only a human being. Why would people think that things like common courtesy go away just because you’ve been published? Anyway, it’s hard. It’s also wondering if, as a writer, you’re covering the same ground…When you look at people’s work, you also see that many writers write about a similar thing which eventually…ooh you know the work and so I see that a particular question I’ve been asking myself becomes clear to me, and when it becomes clear to me then it is a little bit dangerous, because then I fall to the possible avenue of being contrived. Of moving in a certain direction rather than letting it be discovered naturally…
Megaphone: So, throughout your career and the publication of your novels, I imagine that since you’re so well known and read by many people, and you’ve already addressed part of this…that there are pressures which come with having your work published, so do you think that the writer has a responsibility to the society?
AT:Yes and no. A writer does not have the responsibility to shape her work according to what society says it should be about. That is a surefire way to have literature go down the tubes of propaganda. There are writers, however, who write politically. But they do it in a form of a fiction that is not polemical. It just presents a story in which the person feels the story and then the issue and the nature of whatever politics they have in mind are going to assert themselves. If everything in life, if you say politics has a lot to do with what you believe and then what publicly people should do is according to those beliefs and then everyone has some kind of politics in their books. There is a responsibility, and you say “Gee, If I write this will everybody in a certain city think that all men have concubines even to this day, and at some point, I as a writer have to say, I cannot be responsible for every single way somebody is going to read something, that readers have a responsibility too, to be aware and not read everything literally and textbook. The third kind of responsibility is when people say “You are in the limelight. You are in the spotlight. You need to call attention to abuse in orphanages in China or these baby girls or you need to protest in Burma and I had to say to myself, “Well, what is it that I believe that I should do? What do you do with compassion?” I have to come to the conclusion that I don’t want to make my responsibility that of somebody who stands out and shouts and vilifies people. I would rather do something actively than attack. So the things that I have done, you know, working with orphanages, it has to do with trying to get more babies adopted. Then you have programs to improve care giving in orphanages, or Burma, not protesting out loud “Burma is terrible!” standing out there. Writing a story, you have to at least feel the suffering that others have, and I think my big conclusion is compassion…that you are doing something that other people read and feel compassion…that’s a good political move…
Megaphone: Great… now to change the subject a little…
AT:You see… I have no short answers…
Megaphone: No, that is, I love that you are letting us know so much…laughter… You are a wonderful, wonderful storyteller. In all of the different novels that you have presented us with, you take us around the world and you introduce us to so many different relationships and so many different situations. At some points, some of them even seem quite fantastic. For example, in The Hundred Secret Senses, the character of Kwan, she can see and she can speak to ghosts. So, where do you get the inspiration for some of these fictional characters and situations?
AT:Well, a lot of them were inspired by my mother. She was so honest and she was contradictory, very opinionated, really, really an expert in human behavior and observation of human beings. She was especially good at saying if somebody was…the Chinese word basically means “fake.” She would get really mad when people pretended to be nice, and they weren’t, and she would tell them they weren’t. She taught me to read faces. There was something about being able to read a person’s face, and you could know, almost instantly, something about their character. That helped me as a writer because then I put it into my books. So Kwan, I have no idea where Kwan came from. Well, in some ways she is like my mother…having these opinions and being very open. Kwan is a very open person. My mother was completely open. People would say to me “What does your mom think of the book? You know, was she wounded or…?” I would say “No. She loved it!” I could say anything openly and honestly. She had nothing to hide. If I said there was a time my mother tried to kill herself, she would say “Oh, I remember, but there was that other time too… I thought about killing you. I didn’t tell you but I was thinking about it.” So she was just completely open. I don’t think she had the understanding that it might have been inappropriate, that there were some things she should hide…Kwan, sometimes I think she is my grandmother…
At this point Amy’s assistant comes in to remind us that we need to finish up the interview…
Megaphone: Oh ok, so just really quickly…to finish up…Any future plans? Are you working on a novel or anything that your readers can look forward to?
AT:I am working on an opera. I actually wrote the libretto for an opera based on “The Bonesetter’s Daughter”. I finished the libretto. The composer is still finishing the music, but he’s pretty close to done. We start our rehearsals in December, and it will open, have its world premiere September 6, 2008. David Gockley, we got him from Houston Grand Opera, you know, he was twenty five years at Houston. My composer also, he trained in Austin—a lot about the opera comes from Texas (laughter), and then I’m working on an article for National Geographic that concerns a tiny village of rice farmers in the poorest province of China, probably one of the poorest regions in that province. The province is Gui Zhou and it’s a tiny, little village, and so that story will come out in National Geographic sometime in the spring in a special issue on China. All the other articles will be about China. And then my new book…
AT: have a lot of notes for it in my head. And the only thing I can never talk about is a book and what it’s about. But I will say I will say that I so fell in love with this village and I have many books…notebooks and hours of tapes, interviews and research, that, and I am writing only a little fourth of it for an essay for National Geographic, and they know I am going to use it, that material for something. It is such a beautiful location, such an interesting location. I love being there, and I figured, that is where I want to be in a story. I am going to write it and be there. It’s where I want to be.
Megaphone: That’s wonderful…
AT: I’m pretty, you know… ok, maybe, yeah, readers will want to be in a beautiful, interesting place like that.
Megaphone: That’s great. It’s exciting that we have that to look forward to, and I am sorry I took you over time…
AT: No, No. I should have kept my answers shorter, but it would have been over in like 10 minutes.
Megaphone:Thank you so much.
AT: You’re welcome.