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Why isn’t Leehom Wang ’98 Singing at Commencement?

From the College:

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, will be the principal speaker at Williams College’s 227th Commencement Exercise on Sunday, June 5. The day before, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert will be the Baccalaureate speaker. Both will receive honorary degrees at Commencement, as will Sarah Bolton, current dean of the college at Williams and president-elect of The College of Wooster; author and illustrator Eric Carle; writer and commentator Frank Deford; Peace Corps director Carrie Hessler-Radelet; Tony Award-winning playwright and screenwriter David Henry Hwang; and singer-songwriter, producer, and actor Leehom Wang ’98.

Leehom Wang ’98 is almost certainly the most famous Eph of this century, and probably of the last one as well. (For our older and/or more US-centric readers, Wang is a hugely popular singer/actor in Asia. More people have seen his picture and/or listened to his words than they have to any other Eph. (Contrary examples welcome!) Now, it must be admitted, that tens of millions of these people were teenage Chinese girls, but numbers still count.

Anyway, why not have Wang perform at Commencement, either the main event on Sunday or on the previous Saturday. The guy knows how to put on a show! Perhaps Wang did not want to perform? Perhaps Wang/Williams were concerned that his fans might crash Commencement? I just hope that the College was not so narrow-minded to turn down his offer to perform. I guarantee that he would do a better job that the typical, boring, regurgitated schpiel.

But all the above is just an excuse to resurrect this Spring Streeter video from 10 (!) years ago. Highly recommended!

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Winter Arts Round-Up

A few arts-related stories of note from the winter:

  • Lee-Hom Wang ’98 won three awards, including best male singer, at the Chinese Pop Music Awards.  Check out Lee-Hom in a Nikon commercial.
  • Steve Case ’80 nominated to serve on the Smithsonian Board of Regents (just one bit of news in a ridiculously busy week for Case).
  • Great Wall Street Journal (??!) feature on bassist Chris Lightcap and his band Bigmouth.  See Chris perform in the video embedded below.
  • There is a new member of the Williams Art Mafia, John Wetenhall, M.A. ’82, recently appointed President of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.
  • John Sayles ’72 has picked his next project, an adaptation of Girls Like Us.  (Thanks for pointing that out, Eric Soskin).
  • David Turner ’97 is appearing in the Broadway revival of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia — previews beings on February 25 (unless, of course, delayed by any stunt-flying injuries).
  • Eph supergroup Darlingside has a snazzy new website.  They play February 12 in Arlington, VA, and have a number of other upcoming shows in New England.
  • Check out this Philadelphia Inquirer feature on architect Cecil Baker ’63’s home.  I really like the style of Baker’s firm, very elegant and clean, with simple yet visually arresting geometric forms and patterns.  The Louis Kahn (whom Baker studied under) influence is certainly visible in his work.
  • Great news for North Adams, as Wilco will return next summer to headline another awesome music festival.
  • WCMA needs a new director after Lisa Corrin decides to step down.  Williams certainly has no shortage of alumni to choose from for the position, should it decide to go in that direction.
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Summer Arts Round-up

A summer summary of Williams / Berkshires arts news:

  • Be sure to support both MassMoca and the Clark, each of which has advanced to the second round of America’s favorite art museum contest. 
  • The Way Out, the new CD from The Books (based in North Adams, and featuring Eph Nick Zammuto ’99), has received “universal acclaim” according to Metacritic.  The Books are definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but they create a lot of interesting soundscapes.  Listen to the new album here
  • Speaking of The Books, they will be performing at the can’t-miss music event of the summer in North Adams, the Wilco-curated Solid Sound Festival, which runs from August 13-15. 
  • Leonard Nimoy has an intriguing new exhibit at MassMoca.  Joseph Thompson ’81 is quoted at length in this NYTimes article discussing the exhibit and Nimoy’s career as an artist. 
  • WCMA commissioned an interesting installation (which is housed in a vacant North Adams car dealership) by Pepon Osorio, Drowning in a Glass of Water. 
  • Darlingside, comprised of recent Eph grads, continues to produce great music.  You can purchase their LP or see their tour dates here
  • North Adams’ annual Downstreet Art exhibition series appears to be bigger and better than ever this summer.  Even City Hall is getting in on the burgeoning North Adams art scene. 
  • John Sayles ’72’s latest film, Amigo, is in post-production.  Sayles has a blog chronicling the making of the movie.  See the teaser trailer here
  • Lee Hom Wang ’98 continues to dominate the China arts scene, recording a duet with Usher, starring in and  directing a film, and releasing a new album.  Busy guy …
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Williamstown Film Festival … (with bonus Ephs-in-film update)

The Williamstown Film Festival begins today!  Lots of interesting events in the line-up, but this one stands out for me:

WFF returns to MASS MoCA on Friday night, October 30th with La Nave de Los Monstruos (The Ship of Monsters), a Mexican sci-fi musical in which Venusian women land on Earth in search of men. Ethel, America’s leading rock-infused string quartet, accompanies the film with a live original score. In honor of Halloween, a costume contest will precede the film.

[By the way, women of Venus, I live in Washington D.C., and I’m ready to be your intergalactic love slave … oh, and how much must it suck to be in American’s second-leading rock infused string-quartet … “oh, you rock the strings?  Sweet, you must be in ‘Ethel'” … “ummm, well, actually …” — awkward!]

Other events of note: Barry Levinson (Diner, Rain Man, etc.) speaking at The Clark, and a lunch seminar with James Ivory at The Orchards (and really, could an event featuring Victorian-period-drama-maven Ivory be held anywhere else in Williamstown; if tea and crumpets aren’t on the menu, it will be criminal).

Kudos to Steve Lawson ’71 for making this happen …

Speaking of Williams and film, does any college without a film program have a group of alumni directors that can rival this group of Ephs: Elia Kazan, John Frankenheimer, John Sayles?  I’d be surprised … (and how sweet is Sayles’ webpage?!).  Browsing Sayles’ prolific IMDB page, I was pleased to discover that he wrote Battle Beyond the Stars, an especially corny entry in the-post Star Wars explosion of low budget underdog sci-fi movies, and one I watched at least 25 times before I turned 10.  Space Cowboy, anyone?  Anyone?

In other film news, notable Eph actors Monique Curnen ’92 (starring in Legacy opposite Stringer Bell, err, Idris Elba), Lee Hom Wang ’98 (featured in Jackie Chan’s upcoming Chinese-language war movie) and David Straitharn ’70 (too many wicked-cool sounding films to fully list — can you find the connection to Amherst in one of them — but Howl, The Tempest, Odysseus in America, and Challenger all figure to be high-profile releases) all have intriguing projects on the horizon … I am particularly looking forward to Challenger.  Ask anyone in my generation the first news event that they clearly recall, and eight out of ten will list the Challenger disaster.

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Most Famous Eph Ever

Reader Brian Carey enjoyed this Record article on Lee-Hom Wang ’98.

Singer Leehom Wang ’98 is the most famous Eph, ever. He’s more famous than George Steinbrenner ’52, he’s more famous than Stephen Sondheim ’50 and he’s definitely more famous than President James A. Garfield, Class of 1856. He’s too famous to perform at Spring Fling, and he’s also too famous to answer my e-mails, apparently. But if he’s so famous, then why haven’t you heard of him? Well, he may not pop up in American gossip magazines as much as LiLo, but “Wang Leehom,” as he is called in China, is a household name 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. It’s hard to miss Wang’s face in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei. Pass a McDonald’s, and you’ll see a poster of him rockin’ out next to a life-size frosty drink. Stop by a convenience store and pick up a bottle of Wahaha water, and there’s Wang again smiling at you on the label. Look across the street, and there’s Wang listening to music on his phone for a Sony Ericsson ad.

Is Wang the most famous Eph? Depends on the metric. I suspect that there are more people alive today that would recognize him on the street. Is any other Eph even close? But, being instantly recognizable by 12 year-old Chinese girls is a special kind of fame. By the way, another sign of my increasing out-of-it-ness is that I have no idea who “LiLo” is.

The people who did see Wang’s talent in pop were probably those who went to see Springstreeters shows. Wang was an active member of the a cappella group since his freshman year, and became extremely close with his fellow singers.

Which does not prevent some gentle mocking from his fellow Springstreeters.

Still my favorite Eph Youtube. By the way, did the Octet reject Wang?

After 13 years, Wang’s career is stronger than ever. Along with the many albums he has released since his debut, he recently starred in 2007’s critically acclaimed and controversial Lust Caution, directed by the esteemed Ang Lee. However, Wang is still Leehom from the block, and he knows where he comes from – the Purple Valley. According to Kubler, Wang will be returning to the College this summer for his 10-year reunion.

That will be interesting. Perhaps the College could have Wang sing while Erin Burnett ’98 reported financial news. Just thinking out loud . . .

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Lee Hom Wang in Lust, Caution

Ang Lee’s new film, Lust, Caution won the Golden Lion Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Lee Hom Wang ’98 landed one of four starring roles in this sure-to-be-controversial (aka, lucrative) film, which has earned an NC-17 rating due to its graphic sexual content (apparently, not involving Lee Hom).

P.S. David, you owe me thanks, as I’m sure the Lee Hom mention will dramatically increase your website visitor count.

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