Briefly Noted

Issue Date: 
March 12, 2007

Cultural Studies Hosting Reading by Ellis Avery

The Cultural Studies Program in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences will host a reading, question-and-answer session, and book signing featuring Ellis Avery, author of The Teahouse Fire (Riverhead Hardcover, 2006), at 6:30 p.m. March 13 in 501 Cathedral of Learning.

Avery’s first novel, The Teahouse Fire, explores the shifting cultural ground of late-19th-century Japan through the story of Aurelia, an orphaned American girl taken in by Yukako, the daughter of Kyoto’s most important tea master.
Inspiration for The Teahouse Fire came from five years of weekly tea ceremony study in New York and five weeks of daily tea study in Kyoto, where Avery spent most of 2004-05. The novel will be translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Romanian, German, and Dutch.

Avery’s work “Hagi Night,” a personal essay, and “The Setsubun Girl,” a short story taken from The Teahouse Fire, have been published in the Kyoto Journal. She is in the seventh year of a 10-year daily haiku project called Seventeen Reasons that began and continues as correspondence with her best friend. Poems from this work have been published in In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing (Impassio Press, 2006). Nine other poems from Seventeen Reasons appear in the anthology Enhaiklopedia, published in Kyoto by the Hailstone Haiku Circle, a group of poet friends living in the Kansai area of Japan.

For more information about the reading, e-mail or visit —Patricia Lomando White

Nobel Laureate and Physicist To Speak Here on Improving Undergraduate Science Education

Since modern science blossomed in the 1500s, it has evolved into society’s key source of knowledge, technology, and medicine, and explores a vast terrain, ranging from the outer reaches of the universe to tiny quarks. Yet the quality of science education has largely failed to keep pace, according to Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman, director of the Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia.

A champion of modernizing undergraduate science classes, Wieman will speak March 14 from 3 to 5 p.m. in Room 343 of Pitt’s Alumni Hall. He will talk about the shortcomings of current science education and how to revamp curricula through such methods as interactive software and hiring education specialists to work within science departments. His appearance is part of the annual Teaching Excellence lecture series, which features experts on the best techniques for teaching at the undergraduate level, and is sponsored by Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences.

While at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Wieman won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics with two other researchers for producing a super-cold state of matter known as the Bose-Einstein condensate. With a temperature close to absolute zero—or negative 273-degrees Celsius—the condensate is useful to physicists because it slows atomic activity to an observable level.

The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. For more information on the event, call the Office of the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies at 412-624-6482 or visit —Morgan Kelly

PITT ARTS Presenting Free Concert by Namoli Brennet

PITT ARTS, the University of Pittsburgh program that introduces Pitt students to the city’s cultural life, will present a free public concert by singer/songwriter Namoli Brennet. An openly transgender folk artist, Brennet will perform at 4 p.m. March 15 in the auditorium of the Frick Fine Arts Building. For more information, call 412-624-4498.
Brennet’s performance is one of the “Promoting Dialogue: Arts Engaging Social Change” programs piloted by PITT ARTS. These specialized programs are designed to create opportunities for Pitt students to discuss issues of social justice and social change as expressed in the arts.

Based in Tucson, Ariz., Brennet has honed her craft through hundreds of performances at coffee shops, clubs, festivals, colleges, and house concerts across the country. She has independently produced five CDs on her own label, Girl’s Gotta Eat Records, including her latest, Alive, which was released last year. Her music has received airplay in Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York City, San Francisco, Portland, New Haven, and Chicago, as well as in Australia and France. She is widely recognized as an artist with the ability to adeptly communicate the complexities of the human experience.  —Sharon S. Blake

Columbia University Sociologist To Lecture About “Time Tax”

Sociologist Kathryn Neckerman will deliver a free public lecture titled “The Time Tax: Race and Spatial Equity in New York City” at Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) from noon to 1:30 p.m. March 14 in the School of Social Work Conference Center, 2017 Cathedral of Learning. Lunch will be provided, and registration is not required. Neckerman will address what she calls unequal access for many American residents to basic retail and consumer services such as grocery stores and banks.

“This imposes a ‘time tax’ on residents who must travel farther to meet their everyday needs,” said Neckerman. “We often associate this inequality with poor inner-city communities. In New York City, however, spatial inequality is patterned more strongly by race than by poverty,” she added. She feels that recent trends in urban policy could widen the “time tax” gap between New York City Blacks and Whites.

Neckerman, who taught sociology at Columbia University, is now the associate director of Columbia’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. She has studied the role of race and ethnicity in urban labor markets, family structure, and education. She is the editor of Social Inequality (Russell Sage, 2004) and the author of Schools Betrayed: Roots of Failure in Inner-City Education, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press. Neckerman earned her bachelor’s degree at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Chicago—all in sociology.

Her lecture is part of the CRSP Reed Smith Spring 2007 Speaker Series. For more information, call 412-624-7382. —Sharon S. Blake