Cass Sunstein, ‘Star Wars’ fan

first_imgIt was a galactic head fake from one of Harvard’s eminent legal scholars.Cass Sunstein wowed a crowd at Harvard Law School during a talk on his love for one of the 20th century’s cultural touchstones: “Star Wars.” Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor, said the film that spawned both prequels and sequels — including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” out Dec. 18 — was a seminal source of inspiration in his life and career.“I became a political science major only because of those ‘Star Wars’ movies. You saw those movies, and you had to focus on political science,” said Sunstein, adding that his love of behavioral science grew out of his fascination with the film’s storm troopers. He said that Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom he clerked after law school, was his substitute for the film’s all-knowing mentor, Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi.Then, Sunstein let his listeners in on his joke.His schooling, personal life, and professional career had “zero” to do with the famous film franchise, he confessed. He was simply, like millions of others, a fan of the movies, until his young son saw the original “Star Wars” and was hooked.“That’s the source of this project,” Sunstein told his listeners.This project is his offbeat forthcoming book: “The World According to Star Wars.” Scheduled for release next May, the work will use “Star Wars” to touch on culture, politics, history, and business, according to publisher Dey Street Books.Sunstein is fluent in the “Star Wars” canon. During the lunchtime talk, the former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs quoted the scripts, recounted scenes from the films, and suggested reasons why the first film caught fire at the box office in 1977.Students were encouraged to dress up for Sunstein’s talk. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerThe movie might have ridden an early wave of interest that helped it go viral, he suggested, or it might have been just the lift people needed in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. For his part, Sunstein said he likes to think, “Awesomeness is in the end the right theory, although I am not sure it’s true.”He also playfully linked “Star Wars” plots twists and constitutional law.“What the court is doing this term in the affirmative action and abortion controversies is it’s continuing the narrative,” he said. “It’s doing what [director] J.J. Abrams has to do … which is perfecting the continuation of the tale. It has to fit with the tale and it has to make it good.“Constitutional law on that view is like a chain,” Sunstein added. “It has a bunch of links, and the new link has to be firmly tethered to the old, but also [has to] kind of make it look continuous. That’s what constitutional law is like; it’s what narrative construction is like.”Clad in an R2D2 outfit that she found online, first-year HLS student Sarah Racicot said she looking forward to the newest film in the series and to Sunstein’s book.Hearing one of the law school’s top legal minds discuss “Star Wars” was “just really cool,” said Racicot. “One of the professors where I go to school is writing a ‘Star Wars’ book. Not everyone at every law school can say that.”last_img read more

Brendan Kinney named VPR’s vice president for development and marketing

first_imgVermont Public Radio,Brendan Kinney has been named Vice President for Development and Marketing for Vermont Public Radio.  Kinney will oversee all of VPR s fundraising efforts, including major and planned giving, membership, underwriting, foundation grants, and capital campaigns. He ll also be responsible for crafting a strategy to reach new listeners. Kinney joined VPR last month. About VPRListener-supported Vermont Public Radio has been serving the people of Vermont and the surrounding region since 1977. As Vermont’s only statewide public radio network, VPR is a trusted and independent source for news, music, conversation, NPR programming, and much more.  The stations of Vermont Public Radio serve more than 170,000 listeners each week.  For more information about VPR and VPR Classical, coverage maps, schedules, and streaming audio, visit is external). Kinney comes to VPR from SUNY Plattsburgh, where he served as Associate Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of Marketing and Public Relations. Previously, he was Director of Saint Michael s College Annual Fund and Advancement Services. I am excited to join the team at Vermont Public Radio, Kinney said.  VPR is a very strong organization, thanks to the loyal support of its individual members and business underwriters. I look forward to helping VPR realize its ambitious and forward-thinking vision for the future. Source: Vermont Public Radio. 3.4.2010 Kinney holds a Bachelor s degree in English and a Master s degree in Education from Saint Michael s College. He serves as a member of the Essex Town School District Board of Directors and resides in Essex with Mary Brodsky and their three children. “We are delighted to welcome Brendan to VPR, said VPR President Robin Turnau. His 15 years of work in development and public relations, along with his leadership experience and enthusiasm for public radio, will help VPR achieve its goals of growing our local news effort and web presence, as well as expanding the VPR Classical network.”last_img read more

Keepers of the Flame: Reigniting the Cherokee Language and Culture

first_imgIn 1996, a private 309-acre tract of land within Great Smoky Mountains National Park was sold for $3.5 million. With that transaction, the buyers were able to reclaim what was rightfully theirs—and had been for 10,000 years.The Eastern Band of the Cherokee had purchased Kituwah, the legendary birthplace of their people (Kituwah, pronounced gid-doo-wah, is also the original name of the Cherokee and their language). At Kituwah, the Creator handed down the laws and gave them the gift of fire. In the middle of Kituwah’s open fields, there is a mound that once held the hearth of the eternal flame—a fire so significant to the Cherokee people that members of distant villages would walk hundreds of miles to visit it. They would leave dirt or ash from their village on the mound before collecting the warmth and light of the flame to bring home to their family and neighbors.The eternal flame was carried away to Oklahoma in the 1830s when many of the Cherokee were forcibly removed from their homelands. But those who have remained in the mountains—known today as the Eastern Band of Cherokee—are hoping to rekindle the ancient fire through language. Just a few miles away from Kituwah, just past Harrah’s Tribal Casino, the New Kituwah language immersion school is reviving Cherokee traditions and culture.The school, which enrolls children as newborns, is helping children appreciate their native language and preserve the Cherokee identity. Out of roughly 12,000 Cherokee living in Western North Carolina, only about 270 of them still speak Kituwah and the average age of native speakers is 57. The Kituwah language is literally dying out.“Language is a part of who we are. It is part of our identity and what makes us Cherokee,” says Renissa Walker, the immersion school manager.Walker’s son was one of the first students at New Kituwah. He started in the school’s pilot class as an infant and is now one of six first graders.Many senior Cherokee grew up in a household where Cherokee was spoken as the first language. However, when those individuals started attending primary school, they had trouble adapting and were often made fun of because of their language and accent. As a result, most of those individuals refused to teach their children the Cherokee language. For two generations now, the prevailing trend of the Cherokee family has been to avoid speaking their native tongue. 1 2 3last_img read more

Cosmos Soccer Stadium Question Lingers Amid Belmont Stakes

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York [dropcap]A[/dropcap] four-way race is down the stretch at Belmont Park in Elmont and the winner could impact future Belmont Stakes—but these contenders don’t include horse racing’s Triple Crown hopeful, California Chrome.Rather, four developers are vying for the green light from the New York State Empire State Development Corp., which nearly two years ago requested privately financed proposals to redevelop 36 acres of land near Belmont—the most ambitious of which being the revived New York Cosmos soccer club’s suggested $400-million, 25,000-capacity stadium. The Cosmos won the North American Soccer League title to cap off their debut season last year. The team currently plays its games at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University.“To transform into something greater, something that appeals to millions more people, we must have entertainment beyond our sporting activity,” Christopher Kay, President and CEO of the New York Racing Authority that runs Belmont, Aquaduct and Saratoga racetracks said at the board’s May 28 meeting. “We must have differentiated places for our guests to have fun.”The Cosmos’ proposal, dubbed “Elmont Town Crossings,” includes a hotel, office space, entertainment and retail complex. Real-estate investors and developers Engel Burman Group, based in Garden City, and Basser-Kaufman of Woodmere, have submitted a joint proposal involving retail space, a community center, a large-scale supermarket, and soccer field. A Manhattan real estate firm, Related Companies, proposed a similar plan but without a soccer field. The Syosset-based real estate development firm, Blumenfeld Development Group, propositioned for a “Big Box Store,” such as a Best Buy or Home Depot, which will be surrounded by restaurants, a community center and athletic fields.NYRA saw a roughly 80-percent drop in thoroughbred-horse-racing bets since interest began declining four decades ago, according to former NYRA board member Bennett Liebman. But Belmont, which banks on the excitement surrounding the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner in three decades, is not alone in trying to get get creative to mitigate waning interest besides such big-ticket events. Aqueduct Racetrack now features a “racino” with video slot machines, and Saratoga Race Course, which is pushing to expand its racino into a full-fledged casino. Television upgrades, new restaurants and state-of-the-art sports bars are just some of the amenities NYRA added within the past year at all three tracks.The New York Cosmos, seen here playing a preseason match with Leyton Orient at the Matchroom Stadium in London, will start their debut season Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013 at Hofstra University.“Horse racing track operators are attempting to lure younger crowds with music and food festivals,” IBISWORLD, a company that specializes in industry research, said in a recent report. “Some operators spend thousands of dollars to invite popular music performers to attract younger people.”Look no farther for attempts to lure younger crowds than the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, featuring musical performers LL Cool J and Frank Sinatra, Jr.NYRA has also worked its way into the digital sphere, appeasing Internet junkies when it launched a Roku channel allowing customers to watch a live high-definition stream of the races at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.But, the bigger racino expansions can have a down side, experts say.“Racinos can potentially put money back into the industry in the form of prize money or money to upgrade facilities,” said Philip McManus, co-author of “The Global Horseracing Industry: Social, Economic, Environmental and Ethical Perspectives.”“But at their worse they can generate an incentive for owners/trainers to put a racehorse in a race above its station and, often with the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs and with little regard to the welfare of the horse, try to win a major purse.”As far as the soccer idea goes, State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) has publicly endorsed the Cosmos’ bid. But, Nassau County legis. C. Solages (D-Elmont) and his sister, Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), are opposed to the soccer deal and are pushing for the alternatives that offer a supermarket, since the closest full-scale supermarkets are outside Elmont’s borders. They also question the interest in soccer (observers for years have debated the American sports fan’s devotion to the game) and traffic such a stadium could bring to the vicinity. The Cosmos’ average attendance last season at James M. Shuart Stadium, which seats 11,929, was 6,859. By comparison, the New York Red Bulls, currently the only local Major League Soccer team (they play in New Jersey) averaged 19,461 during home games at Red Bull Arena, which has a capacity of 25,189.Despite the big bets on the table, the Belmont Park decision has reportedly been delayed time and time again, like the elusive Triple Crown last won by Affirmed in 1978.last_img read more