14
Aug 19

Why I brag about our students

I frequently tell students that empirical data points are important on the resume. A professor I had in undergrad taught me that. He’s teaching at a university in Texas now. Nice guy, questionable reviews on ratemyprofessor.com. Here’s one of them now: He marks every tiny mistake and your grade suffers.

The nerve of that guy! And a journalism instructor! Taking off points like that! He was a copy editor in a previous life, so I am sure that’s a big part of it. Also, there’s the issue of getting things right versus getting things wrong.

Anyway, it’s been almost 20 years, but I remember him as a kind man. Always had a big smile. Like a lot of teachers, once you decoded what he was after you could make some nice progress. He was big on feedback since so much of what he taught was grounded in subjectivity. And getting that feedback could often times be the most useful best part of his class. Some of those lessons still ring in my ears. He was also very patient during office hours. I hope some of that part rubbed off on me, by accident.

Back then there weren’t as many administrative support positions as students enjoy today and the few that were around were somewhat overwhelmed. Plus, I reasoned, the people who’d been in my field would be more helpful in drafting the right kind of resume for my field. So I went to the faculty and this one man was generous with his time, working through several drafts of the brutal document with me, marking every tiny mistake, like the copy editor he was. And he liked empirical data points.

So I’ve always had them in my resume. There’s not a job description that doesn’t include a mention of ratings boosts, enrollment increase or social media gains and some data points or percentages.

Which is a long way to say — because I’m vamping, clearly — that another kind of data is peer acceptance. The media industry, you might have heard, is big on awards and honors. It’s a marker of professional peerage. A plaque! Maybe a trophy, or even a certificate! Ultimately they mean you get to mention them from time to time, say you are award-winning and so on. Plus, and perhaps most critically, some of these things give you additional feedback and you get to see where you are next to others plying the same trade. They don’t wow many people at parties, but they do look nice on a resume. For all of these reasons I encourage students to take the necessary steps to get over the requisite hurdles that allow them to jump through the hoops of getting their media efforts nominated.

If nothing else, I get to brag about them:

This is where I trot out my old saw about how student media members do this stuff in addition to their class work, their real jobs and in dealing with whatever is going on with their lives. These particular sports guys in particular always seem to be working when there is a significant game that they, as fans, would enjoy watching. But they’re working. They do it late at night and late in the week, even on those weeks when the campus is a ghost town because everyone else has left for a long holiday. It takes dedication to be a high functioning college student anyway, but it takes another round of that same spirit to do something as demanding as media work. And then, of course, they have to deal with me. All of this is a kind of first step into the media’s dues-paying process. It can be a thankless task, sometimes, which is why I try to thank them and show them off as much as possible. Oh, look, here’s another group to brag on:

One really nice thing that the ACM contests do is they share the submissions of each category’s finalists, so you can see the work of some of the best people in the country. I can say the students I work with are doing work that gets nominated for big national awards, sure. I can also say they are being mentioned with students in other great programs like Syracuse, Kent State, Quinnipiac and more. And we can see the great work the people in those programs are doing, too.

But mostly, being a finalist for a Pinnacle Award, that’s not a bad bullet point on a sophomore or junior’s resume.


13
Aug 19

They specifically said they wouldn’t play Freebird

When we started making our plans for last weekend my wife asked her parents what they would like to do during our visit. It was their weekend. Big birthdays, so we thought they should make the plans. We went to a wonderful little Italian restaurant on Friday night. On Saturday night, we went to a rock ‘n’ roll show.

This is a band called Long River Jam. The guitarist and lead singer works with my mother-in-law on a church program she runs. He’s a musical therapist, among other things, and he has this bband. Turns out the in-laws go see them fairly often at this apple orchard farm where they played this weekend. Did I mention we were celebrating two of those big, round number birthdays, and we were doing it at a rock ‘n’ roll show?

Sure, they played the Violent Femmes. The farm was selling their cider and baking you pizzas. They’d brought in a food truck that was selling not-bad downstate New York barbecue. There was a petting zoo, and the kids were running around having a great time. It was a great family atmosphere. And the band was putting out some great atmosphere. Here’s the more-or-less full set list:

Xs and Os – Elle King
Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder
Dancing in the dark – Bruce Springsteen
Harder to Breathe – Maroon 5
Hard to Handle – Otis Redding (But in the style of Black Crowes)
Hand in My Pocket – Alanis Morisette
Hurts so good – John Mellencamp
Santeria – Sublime
She Moves in Mysterious Way – U2
Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
In the Name of Love – U2
It’s Beautiful Day – U2
Semi Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind
With a Little Help From My Friends – Beatles
Locked Out of My Heaven – Bruno Mars
Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns ‘n’ Roses
Lookin’ Out My Back Door – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Oye Como Va – Santana

Because nothing says family like cults, massacres, political assassinations and crystal meth, he laughed, in his distinctly Gen X way, during the first set. To be perfectly honest, though, the band was doing a great job turning an oversized patio into a party.

And can I just tell you? The little kids, who danced most of the night away, really liked Hard to Handle.

Here are the in-laws, enjoying the show as the band plays just in the background:

During the break, my father-in-law said the second set wasn’t as strong. They come to see their friend in the band so much they know the setlist. But he changed his mind because of some new material and improving play. Here’s the second set:

Love Shack – B-52s
I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston
Let’s Hear it For the Boy – Deniece Williams
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
I Will Walk 500 Miles – The Proclaimers
Valerie – Amy Winehouse
Good Lovin – The Rascals
Authority Song – John Mellencamp
I Want You Back – Jackson 5
Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams
Time of my Life – Jennifer Warnes/Bill Medley
Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes
The Joker – Steve Miller Band
Last Dance with Mary Jane – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Country Roads – John Denver
Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

It was right around Jackson 5 that we started giving him a hard time about his second set pronouncement. And then, of course, they had to put in Dirty Dancing, and so we did all the Dirty Dancing bits. All of them. Most of them successfully.

They did Country Roads with this cool Caribbean island swagger, and then on the last chorus really sped things up. That would have been enough, but they actually played an encore. Cover band encores are always good.

Of course by then it was late into the evening, and the guitarist we know had to go take his girlfriend to the airport for a 3:30 a.m. flight, so I didn’t get to ask, but I’m guessing the CCR and Van Morrison were some of the first songs someone in the band played.

Two other quick videos from the weekend. Here are some beautiful flowers I saw Sunday morning:

And this is a Purdue ad at the airport. “We’re a terrific university in a wide range of area, but did you know we’ve been to the moon?” Honestly, they probably have to resist the temptation to use this in all of their promotional material:

Anyway, it was another great weekend, which is why I’ve dragged it into Tuesday. If there’s a lesson to be learned it is to get yourself some in-laws who are kids at heart. They’ll always be ready to have a good time with you.


12
Aug 19

Catching up

Run! Run into the weekend! Run away from last week! And farther from next week! That is why you run!

That was a Saturday run. Well, she ran, I walked through the woods. Still can’t run. Maybe another month or two. Which is fine, I prefer a good walk anyway.

Here’s some moss and grass in the park where The Yankee and I took our engagement photos. You won’t see this in that photo shoot from 2008, however, because we took those photos in the middle of a Nor’easter.

It’s also the park my wife played in as a child, so maybe she’d hopped around on this stone:

Perhaps she picked the berries off this tree and flicked them into the sky:

I had about an hour to goof around with while she ran, so I walked through the woods behind the park and watched the light and shadows highlight the little details of the plantlife:

I found an out-of-the-house fly:

It’s fun to wonder what this will grow into, and how many people may walk by it before the weather turns in a few months:

The park has some nice landscaping, too. When you take in the whole place this stuff comes off almost as an afterthought:

The bees dig it! (When you look at flowers, stick around for a few minutes to watch the bees.)

Tomorrow I’m going to share videos from the weekend, and talk about rock ‘n’ roll. Be sure to stop back by for that. Until then:


09
Aug 19

Travel day

Well we made it. Despite the rescheduling of yesterday — apparently several days of storms had thrown off the air traffic patterns of the eastern seaboard and they only needed the one more night, and the passage of one line of storms last evening, to reset the process — and a lot of choppy, bouncy turbulence today, we made it to New York City.

Meaning Laguardia Airport, which is precisely the same amount of mess we left it in our last visit. They say it will be completed in 2022. I say when have you ever known a massive project to hit its target. And, Laguardia is a massive project. The signage also says uplifting things about a better tomorrow, but you’re smarter than all of that. We’re all just hoping it isn’t as bad as today out there.

From a design standpoint this is a fascinating puzzle. How do you rebuild one of the nation’s busiest airports (20th, it turns out) while keeping it one of the nation’s busiest airports? It’s a dreadful experience today, but make it better. You can’t example implode the buildings and start over. You can’t add extra land (it covers 680 acres). You can’t move those 30 million annual passengers someplace else.

So across the Throgg’s Neck Bridge and up the coast of the Long Island Sound. Throgg’s Neck is named after an early 17th century settler, John Throckmorton. It was a Dutch to English name thing, as best I can tell. Anyway, the Bronx and New York grew up around it. And we were on our way out of New York to summer on the Gold Coast, or at least have a weekend with the in-laws.

We used to summer on the Gold Coast here in beautiful Connecticut, but now we are busier, I guess. This year we are having a long weekend and celebrating two important birthdays. So tonight we had a delicious Italian dinner at a local favorite.

I had the chicken marsala, which was great because so far today I’ve had … the bag of Cheez-Its they gave me on the plane. I don’t know why eating and traveling is such a difficult proposition, but this is the way it goes. I had a late lunch at Chipotle yesterday, some fries for an early dinner and a snack last night. I’m sure the little cup of apple juice I also had on the plane kept me at an appropriate caloric level until dinner tonight. It’s a curious thing, that’s all.

The important thing is the birthdays, and that I ate a lot chicken marsala. And it was delicious.


08
Aug 19

‘that only make me lay it down more careful-like’

There’s a certain joy to getting home in time, leaving again right away and somehow that being nine minutes late and yet still getting a good shot to extended parking, an easy parking place, a timely shuttle to the airport, a pleasant conversation with two people going on a cruise and a quick bite to eat, before a relatively decent TSA experience and then finding yourself at the gate before your plane arrives.

There’s a certain joy to hearing a gate agent who has no optimism at all. “This flight hasn’t been canceled yet.” There’s a certain resigned humor to hearing of a delay, knowing there’s no plane at the end of that jetway, or weather between here and that plane and knowing this is going on for a while, a run-on sentence of gate announcements that continue to portend this flight will be boarding in 15 minutes, now 45, and it isn’t canceled yet, until it is.

But who cares about that? There’s always a flight tomorrow. We’re booked on it. Because we were nine minutes leaving the house, but still had a good trip up to the airport, we could linger over food in the concourse. And because I got a refill at Chick-fil-A, by the time I got down the terminal all of the seats at the gate were taken. So we sat at an empty gate across the way, on the other side the slidewalk, but next to this cool installation:

Mari Evans wrote, in about 1992, Celebration. She was a writer, a teacher, a television producer. And the words she could write, the feelings she could bring out of you … She taught African American Literature at Indiana, and she could do some stuff with just an incomplete phrase that could pull you this way and that. It’s no wonder she taught people how to use the language, for she was a masterful user of it, indeed.

The poem Celebration was about people who were flawed and perfect and who had been through some stuff:

I will bring you a whole person
and you will bring me a whole person
and we will have us twice as much of love and everything

I be bringing a whole heart
and while it do have nicks and
dents and scars,
that only make me lay it down
more careful-like
An; you be bringing a whole heart
a little chipped and rusty an’
sometime skip a beat but
still an’ all you bringing polish too
and look like you intend
to make it shine

And we be bringing, each of us
the music of ourselves to wrap
the other in

Forgiving clarities
Soft as a choir’s last
lingering note our
personal blend

I will be bringing you someone whole
and you will be bringing me someone whole
and we be twice as strong and we be twice as true
and we will have twice as much of love
and everything

I discovered her because of this mural in Indianapolis:

It was unveiled in 1996, and she got to see it, at the age of 97, just under a year before she passed away. And while I haven’t yet read everything she published, everything I’ve read has been a joy.

The Celebration installation, above, is by British artist Martin Donlin. He produced 14 large, abstract glass murals at the airport, featuring contemporary Indiana poets and authors. These are hand-blown glass, almost 2,400 panes over the whole project, each pane weighing about 400 pounds.

If we hadn’t been a little late, but had a plane that was later, we might not have sat there, and I might not have seen it, across the way as it was.

There’s a certain joy to this. A certain restless, tired, hopeful joy to that.

As we were leaving the airport, for home, there was a rainbow off to the east. And it stayed out there all the way back to the house. We watched the same rainbow for 52 miles:

We’ll go back to the airport tomorrow, but this evening:

We’ll sleep in — until 6 a.m., at best! — and then make the quick drive for a quick flight into a quick weekend will begin. But! To have this for an hour!

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Got a little rainbow in my eye …

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There’s a certain joy to that.