Mining the Vaults: What Were the Big Questions of 1999?

We recently uncovered this terrific photo of ALOUD Curator and LFLA Cultural Programs Director Louise Steinman, in what appears to be a thoughtful, fun conversation with artist/filmmaker/composer/inventor/musician/chart-topper Laurie Anderson (as if that job title weren’t cool enough, she’s also married to Lou Reed!)

The program, which took place on September 19th, 1999, was part of a series called The Big Questions (13 years ago, the LFLA hadn’t yet integrated all its programs under one name–what would soon become just “ALOUD”). Anderson’s talk was titled “What Makes a Good Story?”, and it certainly looks like she’s telling one in the photo.

The Big Questions was framed as “a celebration of writing, reading, and public debate…featuring visionary thinkers in the arts, sciences, and humanities who are asking new questions, challenging accepted theories, and reframing ancient dialectics.” In addition to Anderson, the series that year featured Barbara Ehrenreich, Michio Kaku, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Robert Pinsky, Frans de Waal, bell hooks, and Jared Diamond.

We have yet to podcast our earlier programs, so in lieu of listening to Anderson’s talk, let’s just think for a moment: what would have been the big questions in 1999? We were bigger than ever. We were extremely preoccupied with Y2K, and were on the cusp of radically changing the way we work and communicate (remember, this was the very beginning of Web 2.0). We loved Shakespeare lite. We were just as divided over our leadership as we always have been. We were more worried for our youth than ever. Most of all, we were curious about what the new millennium would bring. 13 years is not a long time, but my, how we’ve changed since then.

As 2012 is the year of the LFLA’s 20th Anniversary, we’ve been looking back quite a bit lately. Be on the lookout for some more ALOUD history in our summer newsletter, due out at the beginning of May!

Photo credit: Gary Leonard

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