SEPT. 30, 2017 SEASON TICKETS TO CHURCH??
Rabid fans jumped to the opposite conclusion. How dare you boycott the Anthem? they raged. They wanted to tell the players You're fired! Since they couldn't, they fired themselves, swearing they'd never attend another game.
Racism is so ingrained in America, tweeted Qasim Rashid, that when people of color protest racism, critics think we're protesting America. And foreigners may have stoked the debate to push divisiveness in this country, according to Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We watched, even this weekend, the Russians and their troll farms, their internet folks, start hash-tagging out #TakeAKnee and also hash-tagging out #BoycottNFL. They were taking both sides of the argument ... to try to raise the noise level of America and make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue.
However, most people didn't really get that excited over the matter. Kristina Ribali tweeted, I've been so busy I have no idea what I'm supposed to be offended about. And the NFL's TV ratings, Donald Trump's favorite indicator of winning, actually showed a 3% increase this week.
SEPT. 27, 2017 SITTING DOWN FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE
did you know our former pastor had to resign? He was arrested
for domestic violence.
In the days of Jules Verne, science fiction imagined future technological advances and described how we might react to them.
In my high school days, before space probes disproved speculation about ancient Martian canals, I remember reading a Robert Heinlein novel about human colonists on Mars. Frozen canals are their highways. Their iceboats have open fronts to catch and compress the thin atmosphere. For long-distance communication, they bounce signals off Phobos and Deimos, using the moons of Mars as natural relay satellites. All of these are technically possible, and the story is about ordinary young people in this setting.
In the present day, apparently we're running out of plausible situations. Science fiction is gradually giving way to fantasy.
The other night I watched the 2006 movie Stranger Than Fiction. Emma Thompson plays a novelist whose protagonists always die in the end. She's currently writing about a character named Harold Crick. Unfortunately, it turns out there's a real Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell. He starts hearing her voice in his head, narrating his life. As the situation unfolds, the baffled author is warned that if she kills off the fictional Harold, it might kill the real one. She exclaims in exasperation, "I don't know the rules!"
That was my feeling exactly. Those who devise these fantastic stories are making up their own rules, which don't have to correspond to the way the real world works. And I have trouble suspending disbelief and accepting these artificial premises.
Television gives us stories about people who are angels, or Supermen, or conduits for the thoughts of dead people. Can they turn back time? Can they stop a speeding bullet? No real person can, but these characters can if the plot requires it.
Here are some of this season's new TV series, as described in TV Guide.
Oberlin is my alma mater. It's only ten miles from the shores of Lake Erie, and I'm well aware that its campus is completely flat except, that is, for one elevation that I remember as the college's very own "Mount Oberlin."
I ought to be surer of my sources, considering that I was WOBC-FM's sports director for 2½ years. Some of these facts may be distorted by the mists of time, and some may never have been true in the first place. But here's the tale as I recall it:
When construction began in 1930 on Crane Swimming Pool for Women, the excavated dirt was dumped in a pile on the athletic grounds out back. When I enrolled 35 years later, the pile was still there, now covered in grass. It served as the archery backstop, and I think I once climbed all the way to its summit. This eminence was jocularly known as Mount Oberlin.
During my visit a week ago, I wandered behind the John W. Heisman Field House and took these photos. The gold arrow points to Crane Pool, now being renovated, and the crimson arrow points to WOBC's antenna.
Usually when we revisit the scenes of our youth, everything seems smaller than we remember. But Mount Oberlin has overcome this phenomenon! (I suppose the bulldozers have been at work.) I remember it as small and steep and located more or less in the middle of the field.
SEPT. 20, 2017 MORE ABOUT LAST WEEKEND
There was a buffet dinner Saturday evening at Oberlin College for the volunteers planning the next two 50th anniversary reunions. I happened to find a seat between Wayne Alpern, president of the Class of 1969, and our classmate Christie Seltzer Fountain. Thanks to George Spencer-Green for the photo below, which I've flanked with yearbook portraits.
Our after-dinner conversation was mostly about Oberlin history. Wayne related that the college's charismatic early leader, evangelist Charles Grandison Finney, agreed to become a professor only on the condition that the young institution would accept Black students. That was in 1835.
According to the federal reporting method, there are 151 students who identify as Black. (That's only a fraction of the 1,013 students who by this method are non-white.)
According to a method which allows checking more than one box, there are 248 calling themselves at least partly African American.
Those numbers respectively translate to 5.3% and 8.8% of the college's 2,827 total students. For the nation as a whole, the corresponding numbers are 13.3% and 14.5%. Oberlin's legacy demands that we do better.
SEPT. 18, 2017 LOOKING BACKWARD, LOOKING FORWARD
Oberlin College plans ahead. Way ahead. My Class of 1969 will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our commencement on May 24 through 27 of the year 2019, and I'm privileged to be part of the preliminary planning.
In future posts I'll have more to say about this weekend. Other alumni were also in attendance, including the committee for the 2018 reunion.
But for now, let me show you the anti-war vigil that took place at the Elm site at noon on Saturday, proving that Oberlinians of my age group are still keeping alive the tradition of demonstrating for peace.
Some background: We had decided to become a 24-hour station by adding an overnight shift, 2:00 to 6:00 AM. We entrusted these hours to a robot, a blue metal box with lights and switches that controlled playback machines loaded with pop music. We called this sequencer "Igor."
Every 15 minutes, while switching from one tape to another, Igor played a short voice announcement. I recorded his computer voice, speaking in a monotone through a telephone and then speeding up the playback to a slightly higher pitch.
For one of his overnight announcements, Igor volunteered a tune of his own, but his data got out of sync. The lyrics file was one note ahead of the melody file. (I didn't come up with this gag myself. The concept goes back at least as far as a 1954 recording by a band led by Stuart McKay, the famous jazz bassoonist. Yes, I said "jazz bassoonist.") Our automated disc jockey sang the "oldie" notated below. All audio recordings of his unnerving performance were destroyed shortly afterward.
The antique turned left on Main Street, and I turned after it, hearing the loud puttering of the engine and smelling the puffs of smoke from the exhaust. I followed it for a couple of miles, as far as the US 20 intersection, before turning back toward town. I only hope I'm that spry and handsome when I'm 111 years old.
Or 77 years old, at least. When I got home, there was a mass e-mail awaiting me from Stephen FitzGerald, the chairman of Oberlin's Department of Physics and Astronomy. He was informing me, along with 538 other alumni who majored in physics, that there's going to be a big event on April 8, 2024. That afternoon, the next great American solar eclipse will pass right through Oberlin, providing almost four minutes of totality on campus. Plans for an observation are already under way!
SEPT. 15, 2017 LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS WOMEN
I'm on a committee embarking on a 20-month project with a couple dozen other members of my Oberlin College graduating class. We're planning for our 50-year reunion, to be held in May 2019.
Yes, we graduated way back in 1969. But today I'm thinking even further back in history, to the summer when the college celebrated its own 50th anniversary.
I have a new article about a speech given by a famous alumna on the Fourth of July, 1883, in which she urged that women's rights be elevated at least above those of a notorious traitor. She called it Oberlin and Woman.
SEPT. 10, 2017 SIGNS IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD
SEPT. 8, 2017 ONCE I WAS A MERE OSPHOMORE
I figured out the solution only last year. The solution to what? Whilst entering a high school football roster into an Excel spreadsheet, I encounter a column for Class.
After I've typed in my first Freshman, the spreadsheet knows that when I subsequently type F in a cell below, it can auto-complete the cell as Freshman. That saves a lot of repetitive keystrokes.
After I've typed in my first Junior, the spreadsheet auto-completes the next J as Junior.
But when I type S, the spreadsheet needs a little more information: does that mean Senior or Sophomore?
Pro tip: For a 12th-grader, I do type in Senior (and subsequently merely S). But for a 10th-grader, I type in Osph (and subsequently merely O). Later, after the entire roster has been entered, I can correct the spelling by using control-F to globally replace every Osph with Sophomore.
Most public high schools begin classes far too early in the morning. This article says the average start time is 7:59 AM. Students are still drowsy, impairing their health and learning ability.
In the 1960s, my school was apparently very progressive. As I detailed here, Richwood High School students didn't have to report until 8:45 AM, with our first class at 8:50.
But that meant we didn't get out until late afternoon, right? Not that late. School was dismissed at 3:30, but some activities like athletic practice could begin as soon as 8th Period was over at 2:45.
I returned yesterday from Michigan, where I was part of the Big Ten Network football telecast (Appalachian State upset the #5 Wolverines).
After my plane landed, the last leg of my trip involved driving Pennsylvania Route 28 from Pittsburgh to my suburban home. The state calls it "northbound" Route 28. Around here, however, the road parallels the Allegheny River and actually goes more east than north. To avoid confusion, traffic reporters usually call it "outbound" Route 28.
That got me thinking. Sometimes our situation is better suited to coordinate systems other than the standard directions of north, south, east, and west.
Inside a shopping mall, if someone asks us how to get to the Hologram Hut, we don't say "walk west and it's on your left." We say "walk toward Sears and it's on your left."
In my neighborhood, where streets are oriented to the river, it isn't quite correct to say "go north, then turn right and go east." It would be more accurate to say "go north-northwest, then turn right and go east-northeast," but that's as difficult to visualize as it is to pronounce. So I prefer to say "go away from the river, then turn right and go upstream."
And in the state of Hawaii, where the typical island is an extinct volcano surrounded by a ring of habitable land sloping down to the shore, the locals avoid the usual Cartesian coordinates (north, south, east, and west). Instead, they use the radial coordinate system (in, out, clockwise, and counterclockwise). "In" is mauka, toward the mountains. "Out" is makai, toward the sea. At Honolulu, "clockwise" is ewa, toward Ewa Plantation, and "counterclockwise" is waikiki, toward Waikiki Beach.
I've also updated my update of my update about laugh tracks in TV comedies, adding to this post a paragraph about an ancient episode with Dick Van Dyke as a "Hillbilly Whiz."