THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 9, Issue 23 – January 19, 2015
Vacation is over and it’s time for a new term to begin. Remember, we’re still doing the Engagement Grades pilot in the third week of the term. It’s especially useful if you use it proactively—tell the students that you’ll be doing the engagement grades in the third week, and let them know what you’re going to base the grades on (which may be some combination of attendance, classroom participation, grades on an early assignment—whatever you are actually doing). In previous terms, faculty have found that this motivates students to make a better early start, and as we all know, good beginnings lead to stronger endings.
As many of you may be aware, SUNY Canton is in its final probationary year with respect to joining the NCAA’s Division 3. The NCAA is, of course, the largest of the university athletic organizations. Normally, the probationary period lasts four years, but our athletic director, staff, and program are so strong, the NCAA waived one of the years. This past Wednesday, I flew down to Washington DC for their national meeting. Randy Sieminski, Courtney Bish, Liz Erickson, and John Vandevere also attended.
I drove down to Watertown and took USAir from there down to Philadelphia, and after a short layover, took the short connecting flight down to Reagan International Airport in DC. Washington has three major airports (Dulles, BWI, and Reagan) but I always prefer to fly into Reagan because it is the closest to the city and accessible by the Metro. The conference was held at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort, so that’s where I stayed. It’s a little bit east of DC in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and unfortunately, there’s no Metro stop anywhere near it, so I had to take a taxi.
The Gaylord National Harbor Resort is quite nice—huge meeting rooms that can easily handle a convention of 5,000 people, big restaurants, and good-sized rooms. The rooms are arranged in a bit of a maze, however. I was on the ninth floor in room 9086. At one point, I took a different elevator up to the floor and when I followed the room numbers going up, they reached 9082 and then jumped (as best I can remember it) to 9301, with 9086 nowhere to be seen. I’m not sure why I tried this, but I walked back to the 9200 corridor, walked to the end of it, and found myself in a corridor with rooms in the 9100’s. Turning left, the numbers dropped, and I eventually found room 9086. The room to the left was 9084, and the rooms thereafter went into the 9500’s. Go figure.
Anyway, I put my suitcase and stuff in the room and texted Courtney to see if everyone else had gotten there (they had driven to DC). Courtney and Liz were staying in a different hotel and were going to get dinner there, so I called Randy and he, John, and I went out to the Thai Pavilion, a restaurant a short walk away. Neither of them had ever eaten Thai food before, but it was a very good restaurant and we all enjoyed it.
The conference started the next morning and I was at various sessions (some of them designed for new presidents) all day. About 3500 people were in attendance from all over the country. As I was walking to my first session, I promptly ran into Courtney and Liz, who were going to theirs. I walked in to hear the keynote address and one of the first people I ran into was one of the delegates from Saint Lawrence University—small world! I thought I knew almost no one at the conference (other than our own folks), but a little later in the day, one of the afternoon sessions was moderated by Lori Runksmeier, the Athletic Director of New England College, where I was VPAA from 1999 to 2005. It was nice to see Lori again and to catch up on some old friends. After all the meetings, there was a reception at 6:00 PM where I caught up with Randy and John.
After the reception, the ECAC was hosting a party at Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar. The place was packed and very loud, and when the dueling pianos started to play 1980’s music, it only got louder. I ran into Skip Sullivan (SUNY Alfred’s president) there, who I’ve known for several years because I had worked with him when we were both in Georgia. I also met a couple of delegates from Worcester State College, which is located just a couple of blocks from where my wife grew up. We had a nice chat about what a nice city Worcester is—excellent restaurants and a fun night life, without the traffic or high prices of Boston. My favorite comic book store (That’s Entertainment) is there too—I’ve been getting my new comic books from them for more than 30 years, and the owner, Paul Howley and his family have been close friends of my family for decades. After about an hour, the noise was just too much, so Bill Murabito (SUNY Morrisville’s president) and I left to walk back to the hotel.
Friday, breakfast was served in the foyers between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, and the sessions began immediately after. There was a lunch for Division 3 presidents, more meetings, and then a reception for presidents, where I ran into a big bunch of people I knew who had worked in Georgia while I was there, including Lendley Black (Chancellor of the University of Minnesota—Duluth, he had been the provost at Kennesaw State University), Cheryl Dozier (President of Savannah State University and one of my favorite people—I first knew her when she was the head of Diversity Affairs at the University of Georgia), Tim Hynes (President of Clayton State College), Bud Peterson (President of Georgia Tech), Dan Papp (President of Kennesaw State University), and Linda Bleiken (President of Armstrong Atlantic State University). While walking down the corridor that afternoon, I also saw Donna Shelala, who was Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, and is now the President of the University of Miami.
After the reception, I attended the Honors Dinner, where 10 athletes from this year and 10 athletes from 25 years ago were honored. Their stories were all quite remarkable in terms of challenges overcome, as well as their academic and athletic achievements.
Saturday began with breakfast between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, followed by the main business session for Division 3, where fifteen different proposals were considered and debated. The most controversial was one to allow D3 colleges to play football in the spring, which narrowly was defeated. After voting on all the proposals was finished, a motion to reconsider the spring football decision was introduced, and went down to an even narrower defeat. There was a small closing reception after the business session, and the conference was over.
I wasn’t flying back until Sunday morning, so I spent the afternoon walking around the National Harbor area. Until 1984, the area had been Salubria Plantation, built in 1827. The plantation house burned down in 1981, and the area has been redeveloped into apartments, upscale restaurants, and a wharf area that includes the Capital Wheel and a metal sculpture (called “The Awakening”) of a giant, half buried underground.
There was also a store that sold nothing but Peeps (the candy). Who knew that there was such a thing?
The weather was a bit cold, so there weren’t too many people around. Before the National Harbor area was redeveloped, there was strong opposition to it because it was so hard to get to, and its distance from public transit. There’s some talk of extending the Metro’s green line there in the future.
I left DC at 8:30 on Sunday morning, in a light rain. When the plane landed in Philadelphia, the rain was heavier and I heard later that there had been a multi-car pileup that morning due to ice on the highways. The flight to Watertown was a little late taking off due to the weather and quite bumpy, but the weather was good when we landed. Strangely enough, it was warmer in Canton than it was in Washington—the temperature got into the 40’s and much of the snow had melted, though a little snow is expected overnight.
Something that a lot of people don’t know is that student athletes, on average, have higher grade point averages and higher graduation rates than non-athletes. While this surprises some folks, it makes a lot of sense, since the work ethic and time management skills needed to be a successful athlete are also skills that are quite applicable to being successful academically. We have a great group of athletes and coaches at SUNY Canton, and the NCAA will be enriched by our joining.
CD Release Party
Back on Saturday the 10th, the jazz combo “A Fine Line” had a CD release party up at the Parkview on Main Street in Canton. For those who don’t know, the trio consists of Bill Vitek (keyboard, who is a department chair and teaches philosophy at Clarkson), Dan Gagliardi (bass, who teaches Math at SUNY Canton), and Mike Magilligan (drums, who is the Assistant Librarian Digital Technologies and Learning at SUNY Canton). Their new CD is called “Conversations, Vol. 1”, and its great—nice versions of several jazz standards and some new stuff too. Jill and I went to the party, and had a great time. The Parkview is a nice place to listen to music with surprisingly good acoustics for a brick walled room. There was a light snow falling, so I was afraid that the turnout was going to be small, but instead the place was packed.
The music started at 7:15 or so, and went on for a good hour and fifteen minutes, with some friends joining in on sax, flugelhorn, and vocals. After a short break, there was another 30 minutes of music. The entire evening was fantastic—lots of great improvisation and coolness. It’s really impressive to see how much first-quality music is available in the North Country—I’ve attended many excellent performances already, and look forward to many more.
This is a great time to be a collector of comics, movies, and music, three of my big passions.
When I was a boy, you could buy comics on the newsstand for 12c, but once they were gone they were gone forever. The major titles put out annuals once or twice a year that sometimes reprinted old stories, but in general, unless you could find an old comic at a flea market or the like, you were out of luck. Comic book stores began to show up in the 1970’s (though many have now closed since sales of comics have been falling for years). Today, there are several companies that reprint old comic strips or comic books into collector’s hardcover volumes, making it possible to put together a complete collection of your favorite title. I own lots of these things, including EC Horror Comics from the 1950’s (about 20 volumes), Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories by Carl Barks from the 1940’s through the 1960’s (30 volumes!), and early DC and Marvel comics. I also have runs of the Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, and Buck Rogers comic strips. While I was in Washington, a hardcover I had ordered featuring the various artists who had drawn Betty and Veronica in Archie comics came in the mail. Along with Wonder Woman, Betty and Veronica is the longest-lived comic book title with female lead characters. It’s a very nice volume of beautiful art by Dan DeCarlo, Henry Lucey, Bob Montana, and several other good artists who have drawn the comic over the past 70 years. I’ve always liked Archie comics, and as most of you are aware, was even in one in a story about microscale chemistry.
Movie-wise, more and more things are available at relatively low prices on DVDs. Yes, I know you can stream movies on Netflix, but they don’t have all that much of the older movies that I like, and besides, I like to own ‘em. I especially like movies in 3D, which was a craze in the 1950’s that got revived a few years ago, but seems to be fading out again. Too bad, because good 3D can pop your eyes out and can really add to a movie. With many movies, though, it’s used in a pretty unimaginative way, and really doesn’t add all that much. Over the break, I got a few new 3D DVD’s, of which I’ve watched two: “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “Pina”.
Many of you will remember “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” from Saturday morning monster movie shows on TV. It came out in the early 1950’s, and was the last of the great classic monsters. What I didn’t remember was that it was originally shot and shown in 3D, using the same basic techniques that are used now. Jill and I both really liked the movie (which I don’t remember every having seen before, and Jill hadn’t seen it since she was a teenager), and the 3D effects were a lot of fun. There was also a “making of” feature (only in 2D, darn it!) that was great, not only talking about how they made the monster costume and interviewing the two actors who played the Creature, but also interviewing the beautiful Julie Adams (the female lead in the movie) who had interesting things to say about acting in the movie and about her wardrobe.
“Pina” is a movie about German modern-dance pioneer Pina Bausch. The dance numbers were quite striking if a bit avant-garde for my taste. I gave up trying to understand what was going on in the numbers about half-way through the film, deciding instead to let them wash over me without trying to interpret them. The 3D in the movie was unbelievably good—huge depth of field, so much so that at times, I couldn’t tell where the borders of my TV were. 3D really adds to a movie about dance, since it gives “heft” as well as interesting perspectives to what the dancers are doing. There was also an excellent “making of” feature, also in 3D, showing how things were done. At one point, a man holding a boom mike at the side of the screen decided to shift over a bit. When he got up, it looked like someone else had been sitting in our living room, and it gave us quite a start! If you’re interested in modern dance or in innovative use of 3D, “Pina” is a great movie.
Finally, music-wise, it’s a great time if you love classical music. The major labels are issuing huge box sets of first-rate recordings for almost nothing, and I’m taking full advantage. A year or two ago, Sony put out a 60-disc set of symphonies conducted by Leonard Bernstein, mostly with the New York Philharmonic. These are great performances with marvelous remastered sound, packaged in an lp sized box with a nice softcover history of the recordings. I picked it up a little after it came out, for $80 (including postage), which comes to a little more than $1 a disc. Even when I was a boy, a record cost $4.98 for a stereo recording, so this is an incredible bargain. It has now sold out, and the price is a bit higher (about $150 last I looked). A second big box set, this time 80-discs of concertos and orchestral works conducted by Bernstein has now come out, and it just arrived in the mail. I picked it up for $100, again just a little more than $1 a disc, and I’m looking forward to listening to it.
I recently picked up the 70-disc set of Vladimir Horowitz’s complete recordings on RCA which was available again (great!), as well as a new 40-disc set of his live recordings from Carnegie Hall (also great!). On my wish list (which means I’ll probably get them in the next couple of months) are some the big box sets of recordings conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Karajan was arguably the greatest conductor of the 20th Century (though as a human being, he was much less exemplary, including having joined the Nazi party twice in the 1930’s), and I already have the big boxes of his 1950’s and 1960’s recordings on the EMI label, and from the 1960’s on Deutsche Grammophon (DGG). I’m looking at the 1970’s and 1980’s DGG boxes as well as trying to fine the EMI box set of operas that he conducted, which has been out of print for some time. It seems every time I turn around there’s another mega set of these things. They’re all tempting, but at the end of the day, how many different recordings of Beethoven and Mozart’s symphonies does anyone need?
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s trivia contest dealt with the word “year”, in honor of the New Year. Our winner was Christina Lesyk, an adjunct faculty member at SUNY Canton. Others getting all five right included Rhonda Rodriguez and Terri Clemmo. Here are the correct answers:
- Expression about what you do on January 1. Happy New Year.
- Many schools and colleges issue them annually. SUNY Canton’s is called the Paysonian. Yearbook.
- Your spouse might have this if they start talking about the person they dated before you were married. Seven Year Itch.
- Excellent 2013 movie based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, who was abducted and sold into slavery. 12 Years a Slave.
- Rolling Stones song from their “Satanic Majesties” album, it has also been done by The Tragically Hip, Sky Cries Mary, and Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade (I love all those band names!). The first few lines are: Sun turnin’ ‘round with graceful motion/We’re setting off with soft explosion/Bound for a star with fiery oceans. 2000 Light Years from Home.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
Together, each of the questions in today’s challenge relate to a number. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO email@example.com since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- Curly, Larry, and Moe.
- Nickname for the Beatles.
- Movie starring Jack Nicholson about him being transferred from a prison to a mental institution.
- Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
- Vladimir John Ondrasik III’s stage name. He’s a singer who’s top 40 hits include “Superman (It’s Not Easy)”, “100 Years” and “The Riddle (You and I)”.