THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 7, Issue 36 – June 24, 2013
The Polytechnic Summit is over, and our colleagues at Wentworth did a great job in hosting it. As mentioned in the last BLAB, the papers I attended were (for the most part) interesting, and I know that all who attended picked up some interesting ideas that will serve us well in the future.
After the Summit, it was time for a little vacation. Unfortunately, another tropical storm had moved in, and Friday (June 7) was quite rainy. By Saturday, however, things had cleared up. We drove from the hotel into Cambridge, picked up my parents, and had a beautiful day out on Cape Ann. Sunday it was brunch with my family at my cousin Ifat’s home (the name Ifat comes from the Hebrew Yafa, meaning ‘beautiful’) in Newton, a train ride to New London, and the ferry over to Long Island to visit Jill’s sister. And that’s when things went wrong.
On Monday, Mark decided that he had enough of vacation, and wanted to go home. He had several severe anxiety attacks, which we thought might end if we went into New York City and he got diverted by the many things to do there. We went there on Tuesday, but no soap. So, on Wednesday, we had to scramble to change our plane reservations, and fly home.
It’s interesting how some people get all bureaucratic when you need help and others actually move mountains trying to help you. We called up Delta and the first person we spoke to said we could switch onto the 6:20 flight that evening, but the cost would be $389. Each. Which is more than we had originally paid round trip for the tickets. I said I’d think about it. I called back a few minutes later, got a second person, and after explaining our situation, she said: “of course we’ll waive the penalty and give you credit from your original ticket. You’ll just have to pay the difference in the fare, which is $26 per ticket.” Needless to say, I jumped at that. She wrestled with their computer for a while trying to lock in the fare, refunded us the $29 for the “extra legroom” seats that weren’t available on this flight but that we had booked for our original flight, and we were home by 10:30 PM that night. Mark was fine the next day.
One good thing that came out of it—I was able to go into work on Thursday (June 13) in time to finish the draft of our Complete College Georgia Status Update, which we sent in on Friday. David Cline had done his usual good work in gathering some needed data while I was away, and some of the highlights included that our six-year graduation rate has gone up more than three percentage points to 35% (it’s still below where it needs to be, but we’re making solid progress each year), and that our percentage of courses available online had shot up to 32%.
Once again, I’m on one of the Complete College Georgia review groups for other USG universities reports, which will all ultimately go to the Chancellor and to the Governor. The four that I’m part of the review team for arrived by email on Monday, right on schedule. I did half of them on Friday (June 21), and finished the others on Sunday. They’re due today (June 24), so I’m all set there.
This past week was full of orientations. On Monday (June 17), I did the opener for the first orientation of the week and delivered the Academic Expectations session on Tuesday. I did another Academic Expectations session on Wednesday, and one more for the Jump Start group on Friday. In the speech, I talk about the 10 things students can count on the University for, and the five things we count on them for. The last of the five is that they need to be able to harness the power of their own dreams and to visualize themselves completing their courses and walking across the stage at graduation, because if you can’t dream it, you can’t do it. I then quote from what I say (and truly believe) is the best song ever written, Patti Smith’s People Have the Power. Much to my surprise, one of the parents came up to me after the Friday session, and said: “You’re right! That is the best song ever written!” She then regaled me with a story of how she was all set to see Patti Smith in concert, but sold her ticket to someone else because Patti Smith had replaced the lead-in group that she really liked with some unknown group called the Cockroaches. When friends who had attended the concert told her about it, she was astonished to find out that “the Cockroaches” was a fake name for the Rolling Stones, who were doing warm-up gigs for their current 50th anniversary national tour. Wow! It just proves you should never take anything for granted.
Thursday also brought the first meeting of the Search Committee for the new Director of International Programs. The position will now be a full-time administrative position, reflective of the growth in the International Programs area. The committee is chaired by Dean Nelson (A&S) and several of the members had previously served on the International Programs Committee.
There were also a bunch of “end of year” issues that turned up—trying to see if various projects had actually been funded and contracted, and if various pieces of equipment had been ordered. The Building I-1 project is nearing completion, and the new raised floor in Studio 2 (Room 102, I believe) is pretty cool—it will allow for maximum teaching flexibility in the studio, and will be a model for technology classrooms in years to come. The furniture for the building will go in this coming week. Go by and see it if you get a chance. Speaking of cool floors, check out the newly done floor in Construction Management on the third floor of Building H—very nice. Completing the ACM trifecta is the new data center going in on the second floor of Building N. The room that will hold it is now closed off, and the racks and equipment are going in. The result will be a facility where faculty can prepare online courses, podcasts, and develop other learning objects, and students can watch them do it and see the equipment involved. The adjacent studio will serve the new Masters in Architecture program launching this Fall.
Why My House is Full
While in New England, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the mall across the street from our hotel contained a Newbury Comics location. Newbury Comics is a store that we used to frequent back when I lived in Manchester, and is a great place to buy CD’s. Despite its name, however, it is no longer very big on selling comics. Anyway, I went rooting through their jazz sections and was not disappointed—I found 15 CD’s of excellent late 50’s and 60’s jazz, all at very favorable prices. I was almost out the door when I spotted a bunch of hardcover books reprinting Marvel comics from the 1940’s and 1950’s, marked down from their cover price of $59.95 each to $19.99 each. I bought eight, and when Jill asked: “How are we going to get all this home?” I reminded her that I used to work at Greyhound loading baggage onto buses back in high school and college, and that I’d make it all fit in our luggage. Which I did, but that made the suitcases damned heavy, even on wheels. So, we had to haul those books and comics onto the train, in New York, to the airport, and finally, to our car to get them home. All the while, I was still happy, until I found that they were all available online on Amazon as well as another comic book company at similar prices, and I could have just had them shipped to my house. Still, no problem—I looked to see if that company had anything else I wanted (they did—another dozen books), ordered them, and for a flat shipping rate of $6.95 for everything, they’re on their way with no muss and no fuss.
A Difficult History of the Berlin Philharmonic
Last Sunday, we took a drive out to Duluth to the CD Warehouse there, which for some reason always has a huge variety of blu-ray discs of classical music and opera for sale. Among my purchases, I picked up “The Reichsorchester”, a documentary film about the Berlin Philharmonic during the period 1933-1945, i.e., during the Nazi era. It was a really interesting documentary, dealing with a difficult subject: what kind of individual and collective moral responsibility do people have to confront evil? The documentary gave the history, largely through film clips from the period and interviews with Jews that were expelled from the Berlin Philharmonic when it was taken over by the Nazis (previously, it was owned and operated by its musicians), with musicians who stayed, and with children of some of the musicians.
The question of moral responsibility arises quite frequently in analyzing the careers of two of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, Wilhelm Furtwangler and Herbert von Karajan, both of whom conducted the Berlin Philharmonic. An interesting account of Furtwangler’s interactions with Naziism and the affect this had on his reputation during and after the war can be found here. Furtwangler was the only major conductor who didn’t leave or flee Germany during the pre-war period, raising questions of why he stayed behind. The documentary implies it was for the sake of his musicians, who begged him to stay. While Furtwangler was never a member of the Nazi party, and there is ample evidence that he tried to keep the Nazis at arms-length while holding the Berlin Philharmonic together until the very end (a concert was held two days before the Russians took Berlin), it is also true that his presence lent legitimacy and credibility to the Nazis. During and after the war, he was accused of being a Nazi collaborator.
Karajan was a young, relatively unknown conductor who rose to prominence in the mid 1930’s. He joined the Nazi party twice in 1933, about which Norman Lebrecht wrote (in the book The Maestro Myth): “For ambitious and unprincipled musicians, party affiliation in 1933 offered a rapid route to the plum jobs suddenly vacated by Jewish outcasts.” Karajan is therefore viewed by many as having been an amoral opportunist.
If you’re hoping for moral clarity in this pair of stories, you won’t find it. While Furtwangler was acquitted of collaboration in a trial in 1946, the charges haunted him until his death in 1954. After Furtwangler’s death, Karajan became conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. He consistently denied his Nazi party membership and when his membership documents were found in 1957, claimed they were forgeries. He went on to become the most famous (and wealthiest) conductor of all time.
Last Week’s Trivia Challenge
There wasn’t one.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
Today’s trivia challenge focuses on Superman, in honor of the new movie. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- Newspaper Clark Kent works for.
- Superman’s Kryptonian name.
- Villain who stole the city of Kandor from Krypton, shrank it, and put it in a bottle.
- Original two creators of Superman.
- The two women who played Lois Lane in the 1951 television series “The Adventures of Superman”.