BOOK PROJECT: 3 Faculty Members, 3 Takes on Joy

Karma Waltonen poses with larger-than-life-size cardboard cutout of cartoon character Homer Simpson.
In a room filled with her “Simpsons” memorabilia, Karma Waltonen poses with a stand-up cutout of Homer. Come Jan. 31 Waltonen will be doing the stand-up — stand-up comedy, that is — in a routine on chronic pain. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)
"The Book of Joy" cover

In faculty presentations this week and next, Philippe Goldin will address compassion in health care, James Housefield will discuss “Design and the Play Instinct” and Karma Waltonen will perform a stand-up comedy routine on chronic pain, all in connection with this year’s Campus Community Book Project, The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

All three events are free and open to the public.

The book project began in fall quarter with a schedule of events continuing into May, including a campus visit by co-author Douglas Abrams in February. See below for more information.

More about the Campus Community Book Project, including the complete schedule.

Here are the details on the forthcoming faculty presentations:

Philippe R. Goldin mugshot

• “Considering Compassion: Implications for Our Community at UC Davis Health” — A talk by Philippe R. Goldin, an associate professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, where he teaches, conducts research and mentors students in the areas of health promotion, clinical psychology and cognitive-affective neuroscience. As a clinical neuroscientist, his work focuses on adults with diagnosed mood, anxiety disorders and chronic pain disorders, as well as community samples of adults and children. Noon-1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, 1204 Education Building, 4601 X St., Sacramento.

• “Design and the Play Instinct: Paul Rand and Joy in Modern Art” — Rand is the American graphic artist (1914-96), one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, recognized for his designs of books, magazine pages, posters and corporate identities. James Housefield, associate professor of design history, theory and criticism, is the speaker for this program to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, in 220 Cruess Hall.

James Housefield against backdrop of bicycle wheel

“Rand’s iconic logos for IBM, UPS and ABC characterize a work that balanced exuberance with control,” Housefield said. Rand’s essay “Design and the Play Instinct,” published in 1965, remains influential today — indeed, Housefield said, UC Davis students continue to read it.

This talk considers the contexts of modern art that Rand drew upon for his essay. “These ranged from the irrationality of Dada and Surrealism to the cool rationality of painter Henri Matisse,” Housefield said. “Through these creators and others, the joy of play led to techniques for artistic creation that might bring joy to those audiences who experienced their art.

“By emphasizing what might be learned from childhood and play, the modern artists and Rand paved the way for a new ethos. Post-war U.S. culture promoted creativity in childhood education as a path to boost innovation in art and design. By embracing the play instinct, educators and designers alike promoted a culture of joy that shaped modern society.”

• “Chronic Pain: A Comedy” — A one-woman show by Karma Waltonen, lecturer, University Writing Program, and who leads the First-Year Seminar “Writing and Performing Stand-Up Comedy.”

“This is a very personal routine,” she said, one that addresses the challenges she faces as a chronic pain patient.

Karma Waltonen's head pokes through hole in a board covered with "The Simpsons" cartoon toys.
Waltonen, surrounded by some of her “Simpsons” memorabilia in photo shoot for a recent UC Davis Magazine feature. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Her performance is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in the auditorium at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2279 45th St., Sacramento.

She put this routine through a test run at UC Davis in 2017 — “some of the students in the stand-up club opened for me” — before presenting it at a “Storytelling for Health” conference in Wales. Last year she performed part of the routine at the Great Writing Conference in London.

“There are a few allusions to how I need humor to cope, but the routine isn’t didactic,” she said. She summarized some of her topics: “How allergies prove that our bodies are irrational, too; ridiculous fights with insurance companies; and how doctors should be able to prescribe me a boyfriend for the endorphins/pain relief.”

Waltonen advocated for The Book of Joy as this year’s book project selection — she’s a longtime member of the selection committee — and said her routine shows some of the book’s advice in practice. “The audience is able to see someone suffering who still laughs, who still searches for joy,” she said.

“Dr. Karma,” as her students call her, has a wide variety of interests, “most of which are incredibly nerdy/geeky,” according to her faculty webpage. Another First-Year Seminar she teaches is “The Simpsons: Satire and Postmodernism,” and she is the co-author of The Simpsons in the Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience With the Wisdom of Springfield (2010).

More recently she published articles on time travel in Star Trek, asexuality in Sherlock and postmodernism in The X-Files, as well as the ethics of religious cults in Doctor Who.

“The Campus Simsonologist”: Read more about Waltonen in UC Davis Magazine’s fall-winter edition, 2018-19.

Author’s visit

Douglas Abrams mugshot

Abrams will be here Monday, Feb. 4, to participate in a Forum@MC (Mondavi Center) and to give an evening talk:

Forum@MC — Panel discussion moderated by psychology professor Robert Emmons, who does research on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its potential consequences for human health and well-being. 4-5 p.m., Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Free.

Evening talk — The Abrams program will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Jackson Hall and will include a question-and-answer session at the end. Tickets are available through the Mondavi Center box office:

  • Online
  • By phone — 530-754-2787 or 866-754-2787.
  • In person — The box office is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour before all ticketed events.

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