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Student Filmmakers Win Top Honors at 24-Hour Film Festival

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video
Team Middlebury won Best Film at the Sleepless in Burlington Film Festival.

Team Middlebury won “Best Film” and “Audience Choice” at the Sleepless in Burlington Film Festival Oct. 20. Photo: Sleepless in Burlington

A team of five Middlebury College students won “Best Film” and “Audience Choice” awards at this year’s Sleepless in Burlington festival on Oct. 20. The annual competition, tied to the Vermont International Film Festival, pits Vermont college teams against each other to produce finished short films in 24 hours. Befitting the Halloween season, Middlebury’s entry was a short creepy thriller titled “Room for Rent.” Students started casting their films with a pool of professional actors, provided by the film festival, on Saturday morning and submitted their films for screening by noon on Sunday. The teams were also given a couple of props that they were required to incorporate into their stories. In addition to Middlebury, teams from UVM, St. Michael’s, Champlain College, and Burlington College produced films for the competition. The Middlebury crew included Benjamin Kramer ’14, director; James Brown ’15, writer; Joanie Thompson ’14, audio; Ali Salem ’16, editor; and Benjamin Savard ’14, cinematographer.

 

Once-Controversial Sculpture Returns 30 Years Later

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video

“I’m a patient person,” said Middlebury Museum of Art Director Richard Saunders.

And that’s a good thing, as it’s taken nearly 30 years for the College, with Saunders’ guidance and perseverance, to take care of some unfinished business.

In May of 1985, on the eve of Commencement, a work of art on campus was set on fire and irreparably damaged. The vandals were never identified, and the debris was ultimately removed and placed into storage.

The work was a sculptural installation called “Way Station” that was created in 1983 by the Christian A. Johnson Visiting Artist Vito Acconci, along with a group of students, during a winter term course he taught about public art.  Situated on the northwest edge of campus along the walkway near what is now Bicentennial Hall, the work was meant to intrigue students who passed by between classes.

“The idea was to encourage contemplation. The work had a spectacular view of the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west, ” explained Saunders.

The mostly grey steel structure consisted of a door that opened to reveal on its inside a painted interior of flags, one over the next. The international array included the United States, Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, Cuba, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)—all entities that were very much in the news politically at the time. Two steps led down into a small room with a built-in seat and desk. Opposite the door, three rows of moveable panels spelled out the words “God,” “Man,” and “Dog,” and the panels could be moved to reveal the mountain view. On the other side of the panels, viewed from the outside, were painted playing cards. A mirrored front was one-way glass so you could see out that way as well.

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The artist Acconci peers through the panels of playing cards that were damaged in the 1985 fire.

“The intention was for people to sit in the structure and reflect on the politics of the time, and their place in relationship to others,” added Saunders, referring to the overlaid flags and the panels of words. “And the playing cards might represent the idea of chance and unpredictability in our lives.”

What should have been a curious conversation piece for a college community turned instead into the center of an acrid debate. For a variety of reasons, people on campus did not take kindly to the placement of the work, or its stark industrial look.

“When it appeared, with no explanation or context, in the middle of winter, on a central pathway, people were surprised and confused,” said Saunders. “There was very little tolerance then for things you didn’t understand. And there was also no history of art on campus back then. Nothing like what we have today. ”

And what we have today is largely due to the issues that were raised by the Acconci piece and its subsequent removal. The creation in 1994 of the Committee for Art in Public Places at Middlebury, known more commonly as CAPP, was a direct result of that time, and has since introduced numerous works of art, mostly sculpture, throughout the campus. “We wanted people to understand that there is a place for art on campus outside of the Johnson Gallery, which was then the main location for the college’s art collections.”

Throughout the 1990s, Saunders and others took up the cause for reinstalling the Acconci work but found little support.

“As a college, aren’t we supposed to teach our students tolerance for other points of view? Expand your horizons and open your mind up to all sorts of things you may not instantly like or understand? So why would we ignore this work?”

Eventually Saunders found growing support over time, and now, 30 years after it was commissioned, Acconci’s “Way Station” is restored on the Middlebury campus, this time near the pond behind the Mahaney Center for the Arts. An ongoing exhibition in the Museum of Art gives context to the artist and his work—both today and from the time of the vandalism.

“It’s an opportunity to get something positive out of this phoenix-like experience,” noted Saunders, recalling the way it had been torched so many years ago. “It’s a teachable moment, which college is all about.”

The official opening of “Way Station” will take place Friday, October 18, at 2 p.m., behind the MCFA, where the work is located. The exhibition, “Vito Acconci: Thinking Space,” is open through December 8. And the artist, who has since become an accomplished architect as well, will be on campus to deliver an illustrated lecture on Thursday, November 7, at 7 p.m. in Dana Auditorium.

Sunshine and Foliage Welcome Families

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video

 

Slide Show from Fall Family Weekend:

Watch Debora Spar’s talk on her book, “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection”

As sunlight glowed on the reds, yellows, and oranges of Vermont’s fall foliage season, an estimated 1500 family members enjoyed activities, both indoors and out, during Middlebury College’s 2013 Fall Family Weekend, Oct. 10-13. It was a glorious autumn weekend in the Champlain Valley and just about everything went as planned.

A standing-room-only audience came to hear Debora Spar, the president of Barnard College and parent of a current Middlebury student, speak about her new book “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.” Parents had a lively give-and-take with President Liebowitz in the McCullough Student Center, and attended panel discussions on study abroad, putting passion into action, and careers in finance for liberal arts graduates. There was a breathtaking contemporary dance performance by faculty member Catherine Cabeen and her company, Hyphen, and a leadership workshop for families conducted by MiddCORE faculty members Jessica Holmes and Mike Kiernan.

There was a host of outdoor activity all weekend including tours and treats at the college’s Organic Farm, the marathon reading of “The Iliad” on the steps of Davis Family Library, and home athletic events in men’s and women’s soccer, football, rugby, volleyball, and field hockey. Also this year there was an open house at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, which included live music, a barbeque, and chairlift rides to the summit of Worth Mountain where, as expected on this near-perfect weekend, the views in every direction were spectacular.

Angelique Kidjo Dazzling and Thought Provoking in Concert, Lecture

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video
Singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo performs at Middlebury College's Nelson Arena
Angelique Kidjo performs at Nelson Recreation Center Oct. 3.
Highlights from Angelique Kidjo’s talk for the John Hamilton Fulton Lecture in the Liberal Arts. The full talk can be seen here 
Concert photos by Brett Simison:

Concert Video Clips from MiddBeat

When she was a young girl, West African singer, songwriter, and social activist Angelique Kidjo wanted to be James Brown. This was probably not the only factor distinguishing Kidjo from other accomplished people invited to give the John Hamilton Lecture in the Liberal Arts at Middlebury.

Kidjo has long been the most recognizable face of contemporary African music, creating from such influences as traditional African sounds, Latin, jazz, rhythm and blues, Ravel, Beethoven, souk, Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, and yes, James Brown. She has eleven albums, international accolades—“The Undisputed Queen of African Music,” “Africa’s premier diva”—and a Grammy Award to show for it. But she also uses her voice to call for justice, to promote action, and to encourage her audiences worldwide to find strength in who they are, no matter who they are.

At her Fulton Lecture on October 2 in McCullough Social Space, Kidjo spoke about her life, her art, the wisdom of her parents, politics, African history, and humanitarian service with Assistant Professor of Music Damascus Kafumbe, a Ugandan ethnomusicologist and musician. Kafumbe wisely prompted Kidjo with selected questions from faculty members and then let the guest be her feisty, hilarious, inspiring self in delivering the answers. Several times during the conversation, recordings of Kidjo’s music filled the McCullough Social Space, giving the audience a chance to hear her distinctive work. As one of those recordings played the classic love song “Malaika,” Kafumbe was heard saying softly, “I first heard that song when I was nine years old.”

Kidjo has been performing professionally since she was a school girl—her father made sure she stayed in school—and had enough of a public profile that when her native Benin was taken over by a Marxist coup in 1972, and the new leaders wanted prominent artists to promote the regime, she exiled herself to Paris. Fourteen years later, she moved to New York City, where she and her family have lived since.

Kidjo detailed her artistic process—sometimes she wakes in the middle of the night with a song that she records on her iPhone, which she doesn’t remember in the morning. “You don’t know when inspiration comes; you have to grab it.  I’m at the service of my inspiration,” she said.  Artists can’t stay comfortable: “You got to put yourself in question all the time. It’s about learning. If you’re too sure of what you’re doing, you learn nothing anymore.” She finds inspiration everywhere. Her song, “Agolo,” a wake-up call to protect the Earth, was inspired by the frequency and capacity of the garbage truck that came to her house in France. (“Without Mother Earth, there is no humanity. Period.”) She has written songs to bring the stories of refugees and AIDS orphans to public attention. (One of her songs, “You Can Count On Me,” provides a tetanus shot for an African mother every time it’s downloaded.)

Kidjo’s nickname in her village was “When Why How” —no surprise after hearing her forceful opinions of male control over women and of Western control over Africa. Asked by Kafumbe how she felt being one of the most well known people from a continent usually characterized by war, poverty, and corruption, she responded, “Well, people are stupid enough to think that Africa as a continent only has one story to tell. The danger of the single story defines all of us.” She continued, explaining how biblical stories of male dominion still keeps men in power, able to persist in forced marriage and female genital mutilation; how the Western colonizers’ stories of African inferiority allowed them to commit the crimes of slavery. Later she added, “We Africans have to learn to tell our story. We can’t keep blaming other people for telling our story because we don’t do it ourselves.”

As for outsiders’ views of Africa, Kidjo was blunt: “I say every time I’m in front of any leader, ‘I don’t care who you are, if you tell me ever that the leaders of Africa are corrupt, I say “who’s sleeping in the same bed with them?”’  She continued,

“The interest today for the rich countries is to keep Africa the way it is because if we start really developing, they have a problem.”  She invoked several of the African nationalist leaders assassinated in the 1960s by western-led coups. “Kwame Nkrumah [Ghana] was killed for that; Lamumba [Congo] was killed for that.

Many Africans have died because they said ‘We need our money to resist, we need to fix the price of raw materials, we need to be independent…’all those who stood up that way have been killed. And they would do it again.” Widespread rape in the Congo, she said, is ignored because industrialized countries want Congo’s minerals such as coltan for cell phones and other electronics.

Linking her social advocacy to her music comes naturally, she told Kafumbe and the crowd, in part because African history is traditionally oral. And although she has seen terrible suffering since starting her travels as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador a decade ago, what keeps her going is her music and how it connects with others. “Always I feel the resilience and the power of the people,” she said.

When asked her final question, “What should we walk away with,” Kidjo was emphatic. “Be proud of who you are. And whatever you do, do it with your heart. We are capable of moving mountains. Only fear is holding us back from achieving more. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

At the concert in Nelson Recreation Center the following night, the Middlebury community got another chance to see what being Angelique Kidjo means. Dynamic and dazzling, perfectly synched with her fellow musicians drawn from New York, Senegal, and Paris, she created a spectrum of vocals while dancing on the stage and through the crowd. In her songs and in between them, this small and powerful woman brought her message to the hundreds dancing and listening: Look for ways to overcome your differences—it’s hard, and it’s worth it. Be yourself. Life is joyful. And when she brought students onstage to dance, and to take solo dance breaks to the drumming of the djembe, you knew she was right.

Midd and MIIS Experts Join Forces for Translation Symposium

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video

Middlebury students tried their hand at simultaneous interpretation in a booth at the Mahaney Center for the Arts,
with coaching from Monterey faculty.

You’re translating right now. We do it all the time, unconsciously—from visual to oral, from one person’s sensibilities to another’s. Then there are those who do it professionally, across cultures and eras. Without them treaties couldn’t be negotiated, business would hit bottlenecks, and great literature would be fettered to an author’s language.

This year, Middlebury’s Clifford Symposium focused on that complex world of translation and translators. “Translation in A Global Community: Theory and Practice” put a new twist on the fall tradition of the Clifford Symposium by bringing together faculty both from Middlebury’s language programs and from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, which is known worldwide for its translation and interpretation programs. Keynote speaker Professor David Bellos, director of Princeton’s Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication, acknowledged the particular suitability of the topic by noting he was speaking from “the beating heart of language teaching in North America.”

Before Bellos began his talk, audience members were offered headphones to listen to his address interpreted in Chinese—two Monterey graduates were visible onstage in a professional interpretation booth, poised to do the job for both Middlebury and Monterey listeners. The booth and the varied interpreters within were a feature of the three-day symposium, and students conversant in other languages were invited to try their hand interpreting at a special Friday morning session (see video).

Bellos, an Englishman who also teaches French and comparative literature at Princeton, and who won the first Man Booker International Prize for translation in 2005, gave an often-humorous account of the judgment calls good translators must make for the sake of an author, a work, and readers. In the course of translating Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret detective novelettes from French to English, Bellos knew he wanted to keep the page-turning dynamics of the originals while helping current readers move smoothly through some of the extinct conventions of the author’s 1931 France. For example, Simenon’s view of Eastern Europe approximated the famous 1976 New Yorker cover “View of the World from Ninth Avenue,” in which the Pacific Ocean washes onto Kansas, about two blocks from New Jersey. This isolationism was common in Simenon’s France; with today’s travel and communication, conflating Latvia and Lithuania would be considered ignorant, and Detective Maigret was not. Likewise, the foods, fabrics, technologies, and police hierarchies have changed. Bellos explained, “A translation is an invention of something. There’s no one right solution. But you have to be consistent.” Using experience, an ear for tone, and sources such as old French dictionaries and trademark records to make his decisions, Bellos still expects e-mails from “persnickety readers,” and said, “If I get attacked for a clumsy translation, at least I’d have a learned answer.”

Translation involves art, Bellos suggested, and other sessions throughout the symposium looked at additional angles: whether everything is translatable, whether translation is a political act, and how interested students could find careers using their language skills. For those who choose to follow that path, Kawashima Professor of Japanese Studies Stephen Snyder, one of the symposium’s organizers, shared his view: “Translation is one of the fundamental underpinnings of [global relations], to think about how languages are learned, to think about who provides communication between cultural spheres.”

The annual Clifford Symposium is named after College Professor of History Emeritus Nicholas R. Clifford, who taught history at the college from 1966 to 1993 and who in his many years as a member of the faculty and administration cultivated critical inquiry.

Student Urges Action on Nuclear Sub Proliferation

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

nate_sans_r-lNate Sans ’14 thinks the U.S. Navy should redesign its nuclear submarines. And his opinion earned an impressive audience last month when an essay he wrote was published in the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.” While interning this summer at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), Sans won the Bulletin’s monthly contest for young people called “Voices of Tomorrow.”

“I think what they’re trying to do is figure out what people my age are thinking about,” said Sans. ”I can’t tell you how many times I heard at CNS that the perspective of younger people is particularly important to them. They came into the business in the cold war, and the perspective of someone who didn’t grow up during the cold war is valuable to them.”

A political science major with a minor in Russian, Sans argued in his essay that the kind of technology used in American nuclear submarines, which use highly enriched uranium, could offer countries like Iran a “back door” route to building nuclear weapons. He notes that a loophole in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allows military nuclear reactors like those on submarines to bypass guidelines that civilian reactors must follow.

“What I was pushing at was, let’s reconsider this: maybe the priority of nonproliferation could supersede the priority of having the best submarines. Maybe we can still have a satisfactory submarine and also do work on this nonproliferation priority.”

Sans, who has a strong interest in national security and international studies, happened on the topic while doing research for CNS. ”They were really good about offering us free rein on what we wanted to work on,” he said. “They had a bunch of projects and we could pick and choose based on what we thought was interesting.”

Sans landed the CNS internship as a result of his semester at the Monterey Institute of International Studies last spring. He happened to ask his Russian politics professor for suggestions about internships the day before the CNS deadline. She suggested he hurry up and apply.

He says the Monterey experience was an ideal complement to his Middlebury studies, in part because of the diversity of his classmates, many of whom had worked in fields he cares about. He also says he left Monterey with a better understanding of how foreign policy happens in the massive U.S. government bureaucracy. “You get a good understanding of who the players are and what they do, which helped me figure out what interested me and narrowed my focus.

Jon Wolfsthal, deputy director of CNS, says an experience like this can really pay off for students. “The summer fellowship provided Nate a chance to shine and to share his passion and expertise with his peers, many from other top schools,” said Wolfsthal. “His writing and participation were terrific and we’d welcome more Middlebury students for the fellowship and course work in the future.”

As far as submarines are concerned, Sans says he’s always been fascinated with them, but he’s not about to become a submariner. He’s more interested in the nonproliferation policy implications and how they’ll play out politically. ”Any sort of contribution I made to the debate was that the administration could do more.”

Updates from Irvine: Team Middlebury at the Solar Decathlon

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Videos:

Inside InSite

Video Walk-Through

Construction Kick-Off (4/13)

Final Scores

Middlebury’s Solar Decathlon team is competing in Irvine, Calif. this year. We’ll follow their progress as they navigate through the assembly, competition and homecoming. Check back here for regular updates and take a look at the team’s Facebook page  and web site for more news. Follow them on Twitter: @MiddSD13.  Photos supplied by Team Middlebury unless otherwise noted.

 

10/12/13 – Congratulations! Team Middlebury Finishes 8th Overall

Team Middlebury poses for a photo with their third place award in the affordability contest. Photo courtesy Solar Decathlon.

Team Middlebury poses for a photo with their third place award in the affordability contest. Photo courtesy Solar Decathlon.

In a sea of graduate architecture and engineering programs, Middlebury was the tenacious liberal arts college that proved itself over and over, ending up with an 8th place finish in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The D.O.E. announced the winners at a ceremony in Irvine, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 11.

“Coming from our Liberal Arts background we are proud to be able to compete with the rest of the teams which are coming from architecture and engineering graduate programs,” said team manager Gwen Cook ’13.

Middlebury did very well in a series of scoring contests, with third place finishes in affordability, communications, and home entertainment. They nabbed 7th place in architecture and top 10 finishes in the other categories.

“The Solar Decathlon is inspiring and training the next generation of clean energy architects, engineers and entrepreneurs, and showing that affordable, clean energy technologies can help homeowners save money and energy today,” said D.O.E. Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Congratulations to the Solar Decathlon 2013 competitors – your hard work and creativity is helping to build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

“What an incredible accomplishment all of you have achieved over the past two years with InSite,” said President Ron Liebowitz in a  congratulatory note to the team, “capping it all off with a superb showing in Irvine.”

“To have been accepted into the competition, and then to place in the top 10, speaks volumes in a global-wide program that has become so competitive,”Liebowitz said. “The homes this year are remarkable, from top to bottom.”

Team Middlebury began the epic journey to Irvine in fall 2011 when it proposed its plan to the college, then later to the Solar Decathlon competition. Simply being selected among the highly competitive field of applicants is an honor in itself. Middlebury was among 20 teams selected to compete in 2013. Over the course of two years, students worked on everything from design and architecture to engineering, construction and communications. In September, 2013, they shipped their home by train to Los Angeles, where it was transported by truck to Irvine.

The 2013 Solar Decathlon wraps up Sunday, Oct. 13, after which the team will deconstruct the house and ship it back to Middlebury by rail and truck. The house will be reconstructed on a permanent site on Shannon Street in Middlebury, where it will serve as a student residence and educational resource.

10/10/13 – Two Big Contest Results

This was a big day for all of the teams because points were awarded in two of the ten contests. Middlebury had an excellent showing, achieving third place in the Affordability contest and fifth place in the Market Appeal contest. By the end of the day, with points tallied, Middlebury was nicely situated in fourth place overall. Fellow Vermont team Norwich University made their home state proud, tying for first place in affordability and moving up to 10th place overall.

10/9/13 – Team InSite Reflects on Challenges of Solar Decathlon

10/8/13 – Update from Team Manager Cordelia Newbury ’13

“Yesterday we had the communications and engineering walk-through. Jonah, Gwen, Joseph, and Ari all felt extremely proud and confident in their respective presentations and we look forward to hearing the results on those on friday and saturday respectively. This morning we had our architecture walk-through and the jury was extremely impressed by our liberal arts background and our holistic mission and design. We have the affordability and market appeal walk-through coming up and are excited for the juried contests to come into our scores as they will really help us in pulling ahead!

“The net metering has gone really well- we are keeping steady in our measured contests and are working to improve our processes to improve results. We are doing really well in our energy gain- this is especially important as we are going to enter into a cloudy few days where energy gain might reduce a bit, but we are feeling confident in our net metering right now.

‘The tours have also gone really well and we are getting fabulous feedback on our home- the public seems to think it is the most livable space and extremely accommodating of the needs of a family. For us, this is such an important piece of feedback as we want our ideas to spread as far as possible and to inspire sustainable design across the country. we have also gotten a few comments on our solar path, with families expressing interest in our drawings and specs  to build a solar path for themselves!”

10/7/13 – Photos and Scoring Update
Photos by Brendan Mahoney ’11

As of this posting, Middlebury is doing well in the standings after four contests. They have been as high as first place, but are currently in 10th with six contests left to go. It’s a rapidly changing picture, so keep an eye on them as their standing is likely to change again soon. To keep tabs on the scores and standings, click here.

10/3/13 – InSite Opens to the Public
Video by Matt Lennon ’13 and Brendan Mahoney ’11

10/3/13 – Welcoming the Media (Check out that barn board!)
Video by Matt Lennon ’13 and Brendan Mahoney ’11

10/2/13 – House is Completed – Inspection Time
Video by Matt Lennon ’13

10/1/13 – InSite is Nearly Finished
Photos by Brendan Mahoney ’11

9/30/13 – L.A. Times Features InSite

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9/27/13 – Video Recaps of Construction Progress
Videos by Team Middlebury

From the team: “The team in Irvine has been very busy this week. Yesterday they finished raising all of the exterior and interior walls of InSite, completing the form of our home. Today the team will work to place the deck panels and raise the Solar Path. For more photos of the construction process, make sure to check out our facebook page. The team has also been enjoying seeing all of the other teams’ designs coming to life, and we can’t wait to tour all of them!”

9/23/13 – Starting Assembly

From the team: “Started at 5:30 to pack our uhaul. We then got to the front of the line at 6:40 to get on site and met the sun with sun salutations led by Kate. Our crane was the first to set up and now we are waiting for our first container to come on site. Great start to assembly!!”

Later in the day, the team's foundation passed inspection and they were able to lower in the mechanical module.

Later in the day, the team’s foundation passed inspection and they were cleared to lower in the mechanical module.

sdirvine_foundation_crane

Middlebury students on the assembly team take a break from building the foundation for InSite.

Team members from Team Middlebury College Solar Decathlon 2013 and Team Kentuckiana Solar Decathlon 2013 warm up with a Sun Salutation while waiting to begin construction at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. (Credit: Amy Vaughn/U.S. Department of Energy) — at Orange County Great Park.

Team members from Team Middlebury College Solar Decathlon 2013 and Team Kentuckiana Solar Decathlon 2013 warm up with a Sun Salutation while waiting to begin construction at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. (Credit: Amy Vaughn/U.S. Department of Energy) — at Orange County Great Park.

sdirvine-assembly_day_one_sunrise

Middlebury’s assembly team waits at the “starting line” to begin work on InSite at Orange County Great Park.

9/22/13 – Arrival in Irvine

The assembly team and the container trucks carrying the house have arrived. Assembly begins Monday, Sept. 23.

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Team Middlebury arrives in California.

 

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Shipping containers carrying InSite were delivered by train to Los Angeles, then trucked to Orange County Great Park (above).