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Preview/Review (Jan. 26 to Feb. 10)

A preview and review of some U events and lectures occurring through Feb. 10

Compiled by Adam Overland

Deadly Spin 165

January 25, 2011

I'm at one of the U Bookstore's author events listening to Wendell Potter, former head of corporate communications for a top health insurance company and now author of Deadly Spin—an exposé of the industry and his own involvement in what he calls an effort to mislead the American public. Over his left shoulder, Sean Hannity stares back from the cover of one of his books. Hannity, a popular conservative talk show host, has often used the term "socialized medicine" to condemn health care reform legislation, casting it as a massive government takeover leading inevitably to huge tax increases, and to what Sarah Palin called, on his show, "death panels."

"It was not, by any stretch of the imagination [a government takeover]. Far from it," said Potter.
Words and language, contends Potter, are more important than facts when it comes to heating up public opinion. That information is stock-and-trade among talk show hosts and politicians alike. And Potter should know; he wrote many of the talking points that were used by politicians and popular media to denounce the legislation.

Now a senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy, Potter seems to be paying penance for what he considers his crimes.

It's an interesting debate, one that affects us all and that will continue to do so over the coming years as the legislation evolves. But Potter's Deadly Spin is no doubt a unique and rare perspective, and one that he's become passionate about sharing. I leave you with some of his remarks form the event:

"I called this book Deadly Spin for a reason. Forty-five thousand people die every year in this country because they don't have health insurance—they don't have the same access…they wait too long to go to the emergency room when their health is too far gone. I realized toward the end of my career in the industry that I am at least partly responsible for that shameful statistic—123 people, every single day. The spin that I helped to create has made people believe things that are not true, and to obscure reality. I talk on talk shows all the time, and people call in and question that statistic…and I say back to them ’what is an acceptable number of people to die in this country? If it's not 45,000, what is an acceptable number?’”

Upcoming author events at the U Bookstore are available online. Podcasts of the events, including Potter's presentation, are available online and by subscription.

Next event: acclaimed science writer Gary Taubes discusses Why We Get Fat, Jan. 26, 4 p.m.
--Review by Adam Overland

Author event: Charles Baxter talks about his book Gryphon: New and Selected Stories. Jan. 28, 3–4 p.m., 207A Lind Hall. Free. Edelstein-Keller Professor of English Charles Baxter will talk about his book Charles Baxter book cover 165Gryphon: New and Selected Stories. In her recent review of the book in the New York Times, Joyce Carol Oates wrote that "Baxter has staked out an undisputed claim in the Midwest, specifically in those sprawling, flat, economically devastated states: Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois." Baxter is the author of four other story collections; five novels, including The Feast of Love; two volumes of literary essays; and three poetry collections. He has received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit for Short Story, and the Minnesota Book Award for General Nonfiction. His stories have been included regularly in the annual Best American Short Stories anthologies. Baxter will present again on Feb. 8.

"Fundamentalist Cartoons, Modernist Pamphlets, and the Religious Image of Science during the Scopes Era," with Edward Davis, professor of the History of Science, Messiah College. Jan. 28, 3:30–5 p.m., 131 Tate Lab of Physics. Free. Recent events in Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other states have raised once again fundamental questions about science and its public image. This talk, heavily illustrated with images, shows how the self-styled "fundamentalists" used cartoons to demonize evolution, and how their "modernist" opponents used religious pamphlets by leading scientists and clergy to advance a more favorable religious image of science. The cartoons are largely forgotten today, and the pamphlets are unknown to both historians of science and historians of religion.

The "Classical Singer" Vocal Competition. Jan. 29, 10 a.m.–3 p.m., Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall, Ferguson Hall. Free. I've always thought that Pavarotti looked a lot like actor John Rhys-Davies (Sallah, in Indiana Jones). Is that musing also on the minds of the classical singing culture? To find out, I may have to go to this, the first round of the Classical Singer Vocal Competition. Refreshments will be served. Tickets and reservations are not required. Seats are available on a first-come, first-seated basis.

Hidden Gems of the Wine World. Jan. 31, 6:30–8:30 p.m., Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul. Cost: $160. At a cost of $160, a person like me (that is, a consumer of relatively inexpensive wines) could buy about 16 bottles of wine. Sadly, drinking wine does not in itself impart knowledge of wine. But you could do both at the same time (drink wine and learn) if you take this four-session course, one in the LearningLife series offered by the College of Continuing Education (CCE).

The course will introduce the two classes of grapes: "Noble" grapes (the “big 10”), and the "hidden gems."

Through tasting, lecture, and discussion the class explores questions such as: Why do some of these grapes grow well only in micro-regions? What characteristics do they bring to a wine that other grapes can’t? How are they marketed, and wouldn't it just be easier for the growers to plant Chardonnay and make their life easier? This fascinating topic weaves together history, culture, and politics to give a full picture of what are essentially the endangered species of the wine world.

More Home, Less House: Why Bigger Is Not Always Better for Creating a Dream Home. Feb. 1, 7–9 p.m., Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul. Cost: $125. Another offering from the CCE's LearningLife program, this three-session course will introduce the basic design strategies employed by residential architects as they sort through a maze of decisions in order to create beautiful home spaces that are "just right for the client." Focusing on quality and not quantity, and on answering the question: "What makes this place so beautiful?", participants will learn about the "more home, less house" concept and the challenge of making homes more sustainable through the use of design. The course instructor is the U's Marcelo Valdes.

Frontiers in the Environment: "Bringing the New Green Economy to Scale," Feb. 2, noon–1 p.m., IonE seminar room R380, VoTech Bldg., St. Paul campus or via UMConnect. Ahh, the Wednesday lecture series from IonE, how I enjoy this food for thought over the noon-hour. Combined with this bacon, turkey, and avocado sandwich, it's pure office bliss.

On Feb. 2, Lois Quam, founder and chair of Tysvar, LLC, will talk about the coming transition to the New Green Economy—considered the most significant economic change since the Industrial Revolution. Quam will cover the mechanisms of economic change and the ways momentum is created, as well as review the leadership skills important for leaders who will bring this space to scale.

Rebecca Krinke's "Visitation," Feb. 3–26, with public excursions to various Twin Cities locations. Opening reception and performance Feb. 4, 6–10 p.m., Rosalux Gallery. Rebecca Krinke, an artist and associate professor in the College of Design’s Department of Landscape Architecture, has created a new project, "Visitation." The work explores memory and forgetting. Her most recent project, "Unseen/Seen: The Mapping of Joy and Pain," has received nationwide attention since it was unveiled the summer of 2010. "Visitation" is a three-part project: a solo gallery show, a performance, and a series of four public excursions during the month of February. Excursions range from a visit to a Zen center to a "polar bear odyssey."

First Friday lecture series: Out of Bounds: Challenging the Status Quo. Feb. 4, noon–1 p.m., 120 Elmer L. Andersen Library. "Out of Bounds" is the theme for this year's First Fridays lecture series at Elmer L. Andersen Library. The first event will include two presentations: "Literary Resistance and Talking Out Loud," and "Controlling Information in the Age of Discovery." The Out of Bounds theme will explore the concepts of suppression and expression in the varied collections held by the U Libraries. First Fridays take place at noon on the first Friday of each month.

Opening reception: Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future. Feb. 4, 6–8 p.m., 241 McNeal Hall, Smart house livable community 165Goldstein Museum. Free. My house is probably already smarter than me (as evidenced every time I lock myself out), but apparently homes are getting even smarter. This exhibit, about staying "at home" in our old age, will explore the housing trend of aging in place by developing products and adaptive technologies that allow people to stay in their homes. One can only hope that homes will soon be smart enough to do their own remodeling. The exhibit runs through May 23. Curated by Marilyn Bruin (Housing Studies) and Jodene Riha (graduate student).

A Sip of Science: Road de-icing salt impact on Twin Cities Waters. Feb. 9, 5:30 p.m., Aster Cafe, 125 SE Main Street, St. Anthony Main. Free. Held every second Wednesday, this series bridges the gap between science and culture in a setting that bridges the gap between brain and belly. Food, beer, and learning are on the menu in a happy hour forum that offers the opportunity to talk with researchers about their current work, its implications, and its fascinations. The Feb. 9 event addresses the nearly 350,000 tons of road salt applied for de-icing in the Twin Cities metro area every year. The salt keeps our roads safe during winter, but where does it all go when the ice melts? Civil engineering professor Heinz Stefan will talk about the effects of road salt on local water quality and the steps that could be taken to address the issue. Sponsored by the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED).

Author event: Izzeldin Abuelaish, I Shall Not Hate. Feb. 10, 4–5 p.m., U Bookstore. Free
. Palestinian physician, humanitarian, and author Izzeldin Abuelaish will discuss his book I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. Abuelaish made international news when an Israeli army shell killed his daughters and he declared, live on Israeli television, “I shall not hate.” The book recounts Abuelaish’s upbringing in the refugee camps of Gaza, his scholarship to study medicine in Cairo, and his career as a doctor in service to his community and the region. Despite practicing in some of Israel’s best hospitals, Abuelaish lived with the daily indignities of being a Gazan commuting across the militarized border. He has resolved to fight for reconciliation with something more productive than violence and destruction. His pleas for understanding, on both sides, have thrust him on to the world stage as a unique voice of humanitarianism.

Find more Twin Cities events using the U's events calendar.

University events and lectures preview/review is a periodic column (about every two weeks) highlighting events and lectures recently past and soon-to-come on the UMTC campus. Faculty and staff are invited to contribute. Review submissions should be no more than 500 words, previews 200 or fewer. Both are subject to review by the Brief editor.