The Download: Penn on the web

Unless you’ve programmed your email server to collect every mention of Penn on the internet on a daily basis, it’s unlikely you can keep up with the University’s ever-widening presence on the web. By mining online publications, websites and blogs, the Current has collected a few interesting, unusual and thought-provoking items to provide you with a snapshot of what’s being said in cyberspace.

Find out how you can add your voice to a new virtual environmental word wall, and where you can drink ancient beer (on purpose). Learn how the master of mystery developed his creepy characters, and what a history detective thinks of ventriloquism. Take a virtual stroll through nature, and find out how you can listen to music inspired by the ageless story of Adam and Eve.

Did you know half of Penn’s power comes from wind energy? President Amy Gutmann recently posted a video on the electronic wall of the website Repower America—a virtual cork board featuring influential leaders and citizens speaking on environmental issues. Her spot highlights Penn’s green initiatives and the release of the University’s Climate Action Plan, designed to further reduce the carbon footprint of the University. Penn’s dedication to going green was recently lauded when it received Green Report Card 2010’s highest rating. Check out all the voices on the wall, and add your own, at repoweramerica.org.

Ever wonder what beer tasted like 9,000 years ago? Patrick McGovern did—that’s why the archaeological chemist from the Penn Museum and the School of Arts and Sciences has become an expert at reviving ancient brews for eager tasters at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Rehoboth, Delaware. Working alongside the brewery’s founder, Sam Calagione, McGovern devises concoctions like the Midas Touch, a mixture based on the remains of a 2,700 year-old Turkish royal funeral feast. Also in McGovern’s beverage portfolio is a Latin American brew made out of chewed, fermented corn, and an ale from China that predates all modern calendars. McGovern’s recently published book, “Uncorking the Past,” takes readers on a journey through the multi-continental history of brewing. To learn more, head to Discovermagazine.com and enter the keywords, “Stone Age Beer.”

Hannibal Lecter vs. Freddy Krueger: Who reigns supreme in terror? Thomas Devaney, a poet and literary critic from the School of Arts and Sciences, says most certainly the former. In a column he recently penned for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Devaney explains the power of creepy literary characters created by masters of terror like Edgar Allan Poe. Devaney says Poe did not frighten people by depicting the clearly insane, but by focusing on the murky realm between sanity and madness, a space Devaney calls the “lucid streak.” Lecter, Devaney says, is an example of a more modern version of a “lucid streak” character. To plum even deeper into the depths of Devaney’s thoughts on Poe’s writings, go to www.philly.com/Inquirer and enter the keyword, “Telltale.”

What does Tukufu Zuberi, sociology professor in the School of Arts and Sciences, do with his time away from the classroom? He investigates some of history’s most intriguing mysteries on the PBS show, “History Detectives.” Zuberi says, “telling these lost stories allows people to see how history is related to their everyday life and dreams.” You can learn fun behind-the-scene tidbits—like which cases were Zuberi’s most and least favorites—at the Inside PBS blog. Go to www.pbs.org and enter “Five Good Answers” and “Zuberi” into the main search box. You’ll find an interactive question-and-answer with Zuberi in which he discusses, among other things, how he investigated the “geneology” of a Vaudeville ventriloquist dummy.

Need some time away from your desk? Take WHYY’s virtual tour of Penn’s Morris Arboretum by visiting www.YouTube.com and searching for “Morris Arboretum WHYY.” Fusing nature, art and technology, the Arboretum features attractions such as the snail-inspired Summer Palace, a spiraling shell-shaped habitable installation made solely with sticks and saplings woven together by volunteers in mere weeks. Visit Japanese gardens and century-old trees without ever leaving your chair. Listen to the song sparrows’ unique call. It’s a good way to refresh your outlook on the wider world before it’s time to leave the office.

When James Primosch, the Robert Weiss Professor of Music in the School of Arts and Sciences, was tasked with composing a sequel to his highly successful score, “From a Book of Hours,” he decided to go back to the basics—way back. In his new composition, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Primosch gives voice to the man he deems the very first baritone: Adam. With the help of past collaborator and poet Susan Stewart, Primosch provides a musical backdrop to her verse, following Adam as he first becomes self-aware and encounters Eve in the garden, and exploring subjects like Abel’s death. To learn more about “Songs for Adam,” visit the Chicago Tribune site at www.chicagotribune.com and search for “Primosch,” or head over to the CSO’s web site, www.cso.org.

Originally published Nov. 12, 2009.

Originally published on November 12, 2009