30 June 2009

Favorite description of an on-line item for sale

This sounds like either the title of a late-70s punk album or a mid-poem line of a 1967 extempore Ginsberg performance:

Ava Gardner Sarah Vaughan Nerve Gas Tempo

Either way, I LIKE IT!

(In actuality, it's simply a 1955 Tempo magazine with Ava on the cover and -- separate -- articles about her, Miss Vaughn, and nerve gas, but how boring is that?)

29 June 2009

This is just funny and SOOO on target!

kung fu grippe

a personal weblog,
or “blog,”
by Merlin Mann


BET Awards celebrate Michael Jackson - CNN.com

Like a well worn but still-sparkling glove, BET slid easily into Michael Jackson mode Sunday as the network’s annual awards show began.

Ok. Wait. Let me get a pencil and a nice Xanax.

  1. This glove sparkles. Still sparkles. Despite being “well-worn.” I’m struggling to reconcile that. But, no matter.
  2. The inexplicable glove simile is used to modify BET, right? Read the sentence again. Ok, why not? BET is a glove. That still-sparkles. And is well-worn. Sure. Moving on.
  3. So, what is it that’s sliding into this glove? Aha! Exactly! Nothing. It is the glove that is sliding into something else. Got it? BET is a glove. That still-sparkles. And is well-worn. And is—contrary to a more traditional application of the metaphor—sliding into something else. But, what will this glove slide into, you ask?
  4. A “mode.” The glove is sliding into a “mode.” While still-sparkling.
  5. The “mode” is “Michael Jackson mode.” And now it has a glove in it.

Later, awards will be distributed.

28 June 2009

So, aside from Delta Burke and, maybe, Tom Selleck...

...could someone tell me who's really interested in buying this show on DVD (much less a season at a time):

Simon and Simon, Season 2 (including, according to the "Best Buy" sticker on the cover, the Magnum P.I. "crossover" episode)!

What I learned today: it's really disheartening to wander around a Best Buy.

I know my focus should not be so easily distracted during a religious ceremony, but..

...I can't help but chuckle when I see --in contemporary hymnals that try to squeeze in as many hymns as possible -- lyrics that 1) are not broken into stanzas but 2) retain all the original capitalizations that only make sense if the words begin lines.

Such inconsistency leads to lyrics like this in the second verse of the hymn "Lift High the Cross":

Each newborn servant of the Crucified Bears on the brow the seal of Him Who died.

The "Crucified Bears"?

Are they anything like the "Care Bears," the "Berenstain Bears," or the "Three Bears"?

Is it too much to ask publishers to spend just a little editing effort to make it a lower case "b" since they're not bothering to print the songs in the intended stanzaic form?

It's all in the journey...

This article in today's NY Times, "Grant System Leads Cancer Researchers to Play It Safe" brings to mind something Noam Chomsky, of all people, said about research funding when he visited Central Connecticut State University a few years ago. Essentially he said that the US Defense Department is one of the best of funders of all because it lets experts research and develop what they themselves find interesting and important -- because, until that research is pursued, the DOD can never know what might wind up being immensely helpful to the military.

Granted it may end up being used in ways completely alien to how the researchers intended, but the more restrictions placed upon research at the beginning the less innovative that research almost, by necessity, will be in the end.

Call me old fashioned, but...

... I miss the days when television cops/private eyes/emergency responders had to figure things out normally (not paranormally) like Medium, The Mentalist, and The Listener.

Yes, Columbo always had a really good hunch, but at least he didn't see the murderer in his sleep!!!

26 June 2009

"My Father's Eyes Were Blue" by Antony Owen

From the back cover of Antony Owen's new poetry collection My Father's Eyes Were Blue (Heaventree Press, 2009):

The range of the Antony Owen’s poetry is startling. Depicting scenes ranging from eighteenth-century justice to contemporary shopping, Mr. Owen’s verse can also powerfully capture a child’s introduction to nature’s cruelty (“The Runt’) and a grown man’s painful recognition of the hold the past has on us all (“The Watch and the Hiding”). With an eye toward the exotic (“New Nagasaki” and “Marrakech”), the poet displays a keen sense of literary history (Sylvia Plath in “Mil and Gas”) and form (the litany of “The Unforgiven Gone”). His images are often stark but always with a humanity that renders the common and uncommon equally new.

Dr. Gilbert L. Gigliotti
Central Connecticut State University

Darlene Zoller's "My Show": The Review

With my older daughter, I attended the opening night of Darlene Zoller and the stop/time dance theatre's production of My Show: A Choreographer's Story at the under-new-management Playhouse on Park in West Hartford.

This dancing autobiography -- with the narrator's part of Darlene played by Gretchen Fountain -- was fine theatre throughout: fast-paced and energetic, funny and touching, colorful, and lots and lots of dancing of every stripe. (Let me note that, since Ms. Zoller is my tap teacher, I was a wee bit disappointed that there weren't a couple more tap numbers, but her treatment of Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" toward the end of the first act made it worth the wait! I also was hoping for a little more of Darlene herself, but I assume that, if it's hard to direct oneself in a film, it must be really hard to do so in a live dance extravaganza. Not to mention her being on a walker just a few short weeks ago.)

A look back at her life and career, My Show covers all the dance fads and television shows we've lived through -- American Bandstand, Hullabaloo, and, yes, even Solid Gold... with choreography that shows how much dancing has infused her life. While the entire show investigates the battle we face (or, should I say, the delicate navigations we must perform) between the deluded(?) image we have of ourselves and the real possibilities available to us, a number like "Big Time" drives the point home: what we want to happen, what we try to make happen, but, then again what really happens -- and how, surprisingly, we end up happy (and successful and fulfilled) nonetheless.

A talented troupe, including stand-out performances by Constance Kollmorgen, Mallory Cunningham, and Hillary Ekwell and yeoman's work by Rick Fountain and two drop-dead funny cameos by Michael Morgan, Ms. Zoller had the dancers in constant motion with all accessible at every angle for the audience sitting on three sides of the stage.

There's no doubt in my mind that better music elicits better choreography... so it should come as no surprise that "Lotta Livin' to Do," "Sing Sing Sing," "All that Jazz," and a Damn Yankees medley made for far better pieces than "Dance," "To Where You Are," and even "Magic to Do."

My quibbles are few (and perhaps idiosyncratic): each of the vocal numbers began with the singers hard to hear but luckily the sound balance got better as the song progressed; why no tapping on "Sisters" (?!); and there's just never a good time to play a Josh Groban song.

A special mention for 6-year-old Madison Righi, whose performance of "Brand New Baby" at the opening of the show couldn't have set a better mood and must have made everyone else have to try even harder. (What's the old saying about following children and dogs?)

In Playhouse on Park, stop/time dance has found a home, and last night's full house for Ms. Zoller's My Show suggests a long and happy life ahead.

Clearly this choreographer's story still has several acts to go...

25 June 2009

Farrah Fawcett, RIP

While the Farah poster is an image that is (and was) inescapable, in the Senior Lounge at The Covington Latin School in the Fall of 1976, the preferred (or at least more ubiquitous) image was from the Time cover of 22 November.

Michael Jackson, RIP

While nothing he did musically as a solo artist could ever eclipse his records with the Jackson Five , let's make one thing perfectly clear: his greatest solo album was Off the Wall NOT Thriller!

What a great performance "She's Out of My Life" is...
UPDATE 6/26/09
Just heard an interview of Quincy Jones by Katie Couric. Jones was saving "She's Out of My Life" for Sinatra until he heard Michael sing it!
It's always nice to be validated by Q.

A REALLY good way to end your 8th grade career...

...is to come home (with not a few scholarly recognitions) to find the new Rob Zappulla cd You Ought to Be Havin' Fun in your mailbox.


Well, along with the cd's being a bevy of hits from the 60s and 70s, driven by the swinging trumpet of Mr. Zappulla, one of the names of the background vocalists on the title track is, in fact, your own!

Promotion to high school and a professional cd credit to your name (yes, a gig for which you actually got paid): now THAT'S a good day.

Enough to make even a good father a tad jealous (or does even admitting that refute the "good" part?).

22 June 2009

An award you are enormously proud to have your 4th Grader receive...

...especially when it's from the school librarian who says that she does not present it regularly:

The Avid Reader Award!

21 June 2009

Happy Father's Day (Part II)

My lovely wife, the mother of my children, gave me a wonderful coffee table book Paul Newman: A Life in Pictures (Chronicle Books, 2006) as one of my Father's Day presents.

Has there ever been a man who was better looking for that long? If so, I'd like to see his pictures. (Feel free to post them and send us all the link.)

While the constant comments on his looks obviously annoyed him (as he is quoted in the book, "I picture my epitaph: 'Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown,'"), one can't help but notice how great he always looked.

Yes, he was a great actor (Hud, Butch Cassidy..., The Color of Money, etc...), a wonderful humanitarian (The Hole in the Wall Gang, the salad dressing, the tomato sauce), a fine racer, and a pretty smart businessman (yes, that salad dressing and tomato sauce again...), but, man, he was handsome!

Happy Father's Day!

My favorite t.v. dad?

No doubt: Danny Thomas in Make Room for Daddy (1953-1964)!

20 June 2009

Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven's (Wooden) Door

A colleague of mine just returned from a tour of Israel with her mother. She mentioned that one of the stops along the way was in Nazareth, and it got me thinking about an industry there that is either wildly overpopulated or decidedly unrepresented: Carpentry.

Let's face it, the thing about Nazareth that's known worldwide by those who know nothing else about Nazareth is that a "carpenter's son" once hailed from there. So, if you're interested in carpentry, either you embrace the icon and open up a shop called "Joseph and Son" or "Wood from the Tree of David" and use such advertising slogans as:

"Our artisans are heavenly,"
"Your satisfaction is our cross to bear," or
"God, we're good!"

or you simply avoid the profession altogether. Right?

Oh, in case you're wondering, no, there'll be no nail jokes from me...

19 June 2009

I want a name like Graham McNamee; now THAT'S an announcer's name!

Just finished Anthony Rudel's Hello, Everybody!: The Dawn of American Radio, a fascinating history of the rise of radio in the '20s and '30s. Rudel uses the stories of a variety of individuals (quacks, bureaucrats, entertainers, politicians, announcers, and authentic visionaries) to depict the free-for-all that early radio, in both the technological and entrepreneurial realms, really was.

The parallels of radio's rapid dominance of the American cultural scene with the more recent i-revolution are apparent throughout, but what sells the book are the stories of the likes of Rudy Vallee, Herbert Hoover, Fr. Charles Coughlin, and "Doctor" John R. Brinkley. Whatever most of us know of any of them will be deeply enriched by Rudel's clear presentation of their stories.

Well researched and plotted, this book is quite a nice read.

Ah, baloney!

I'll leave unsaid what springs immediately to mind when you first hear about something called the "Bologna Process" and how, in some way or another, many of you also fundamentally agree with the following quotation from the Chronicle of Higher Ed article about it:

"Many of the other universities had already changed to Bologna degrees," he said.

18 June 2009

I'm looking for a hard-headed woman...

A co-worker who shall remain nameless has taken to riding -- as often as possible -- a very nice bike she calls "Myrtle." It even has a little bell. However, because she rides on the sidewalk and stays mostly in her neighborhood, she refuses to wear a helmet since, as she argues, a helmet (especially those aerodynamic ones so popular with the kids!) just "wouldn't go with Myrtle."

"Safety first," we say.

Right, Sister?

What's round at both ends but literate throughout?

The Mt. Washington Library, a branch of the Cincinnati Public Library, sits at the corner of Campus Lane and Beechmont Avenue, and at the foot of the Mt. Washington water tower. (The library is just to the right of the car in the picture at left.)

It was on my way home from Guardian Angels Elementary School, and on a hot or cold day, always a good place to get, either cool or warm, and, of course, where one went to research topics for school projects, etc, since, while the nice Collier's encyclopedia set at home was fine, nothing beats the stuff you'd find at the library. (There was also an "adult" section from which kids could not read or check out books, but, if my memory serves, it wasn't anything like the adult sections of any number of places now that just seem creepy.)

The one book that I remember enjoying immensely, and of which I would love to get a copy again, was Sir MacHinery by Tom McGowen -- the kind of book, ironically, that I roll my eyes at kids' readin' today, with wizards, etc... (Of course my reading it in the early 1970s was not heralded as the salvation of reading among American youth, as so many books seem to be considered today. And it wasn't a bloody series either; Mr McGowen clearly had more than a single set of characters that he wished to develop.)

All of this comes to mind because I was perusing the annual ranking of America's "Most Literate" Cities by the CCSU President Jack Miller and saw that, in the library category, Ohio had three cities in the top 10: Cleveland #1 (overall 13th), Cincinnati #3 (tied with Portland, OR overall for 10th), and Toledo tied at #5 with Seattle (overall 48th).

To quote Chrissie Hynde utterly out of context: "A-O, way to go, Ohio!"

17 June 2009

New Britain Public School Events for Students that I've attended (or to which I've driven a daughter or two) in the past eight weeks

Visit with a working poet to Room 28 at Holmes Elementary School

International Food/Culture Night (Holmes)

4th- and 5th-grade district-wide Spelling Bee (Smith Elementary School)

6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade district-wide Spelling Bee (Slade Middle School)

Holmes Elementary School Singers/Instrumentalists Concert

Hall of Arts, Literature, and Science (HALS) Academy Concert

Superintendent's Book Club Dinner for elementary school students (NB Board of Ed offices)

Superintendent and Board of Education Recognition Night (NB Board of Ed offices)

Holmes Elementary School Science Fair

Room 28's Poetry Night (Holmes)

Presentation of Top 10 8th-grade Orations (HALS)

Annual Awards Ceremony (Holmes)*

Commencement (HALS)*

*Forthcoming next week

Darlene Zoller's "My Show"

This is the latest show by my tap dance instructor, Darlene Zoller, and her troupe, stop/time dance theatre.

She's a wonderful dancer and choreographer -- and a martyr of a dance instructor (with yours truly's poor physical skills and even poorer sense of rhythm as her primary torments).

I'll be giving away a pair of tickets on my radio show next Tuesday, 23 June, between 8 and 9 AM. Listen to WFCS 107.7 fm or on-line at www.live365.com/stations/wfcs to win! (Of course, buying a ticket or two or three is always an option, too.)

Of music, birthdays, and sadnesses

At his birthday party in May, the now-six-year-old's guests all received cds with a playlist of his favorite songs from the year. Here's his dad's blog about it. (We still have a few cassettes sitting around with playlists of a different kind: for car trips and hospital visits when my older daughter was undergoing regular treatments in NYC during her first three years of life. Music: it's a good thing for so many reasons.)

As usual, this birthday cd is an odd mix for such a young man, but rarely does he go wrong!

I'm currently fascinated by "Tire Swing" by Kimya Dawson (yeah, yeah, I know, who?), the chorus of which is an excellent round that should be taught to elementary school students country wide.

The chorus reads:

Joey never a met a bike that he didn't want to ride
and I never met a Toby that I didn't like
Scotty liked all the books I recommended
even if he didn't I wouldn't be offended.

What fascinates me is the way the round on the studio version plays out --with the final line sounding more and more like "even if he didn't die..."

Now, this could be simply poor enunciation by Ms. Dawson (and how many current singers do not enunciate poorly?), but I'd prefer to think it's more intentional (and touching) than that.

15 June 2009

Of Big Boys and Colonels...

In 1985 when I left teaching at The Covington Latin School to pursue my Ph.D. at The Catholic University of America, the big news was that Big Boy restaurants were getting rid of Big Boy as its mascot. I joked in my farewell in the school newspaper that the rumor that I was leaving CLS to replace BB were, despite the resemblance and indeed suitability of my talents to his position, the story was in fact just a rumor. (If BB did get canned in the mid-80s, it’s nevertheless clear now that it wasn’t permanent.)

I recall this piece of ancient history because this past weekend I’ve learned that Kentucky Fried Chicken is looking to replace Colonel Sanders, as it pushes the new Kentucky Grilled Chicken.

First, I just tried the new grilled chicken, and, while it was very good grilled chicken, I don’t see a need to go the KFC (or is it KGC now?) for good grilled chicken. There are, after all, many places – including home – that one can get good grilled chicken. There is however only one place to get “finger-lickin’-good” fried chicken made with all those “secret herbs and spices”: KFC!

Second, they can’t get rid of the Colonel. A smart company doesn’t forsake Betty Crocker or the Maytag Repairman or even Aunt Jemima or the Marlboro Man. You might update them a bit (or they might die of lung disease), but you don’t get rid of them intentionally.

And, thank you, but, no, I’m not interested in the KGC opening right now; call me again when this chairman gig winds down...

14 June 2009

The General David Humphreys House and Connecticut Open House Day

On Saturday, June 13th, it was Connecticut Open House Day which had dozens of arts and cultural institutions all around the state opening their doors (with either free or reduced admission) to encourage residents and non-residents alike to take advantage of all the opportunities that Connecticut offers.

My daughters performed at an open house held by the organization formerly known as The Newington's Children's Theatre, but, while there, I looked at the state-wide schedule and, at the top of the town participant list, was Ansonia and its General David Humphreys House. I headed off shortly thereafter!

Now, any reader of the "Connecticut Wit" blog should at least recognize the name of David Humphreys, who -- along with Joel Barlow, Timothy Dwight, John Trumbull, Lemuel Hopkins, and Elihu Hubbard Smith, et alia -- comprise that band of early American writers known as the "Hartford, Wicked, or Connecticut Wits." The Wits were the first to attempt to write a distinctly American writers. They came to prominence when they authored "The Anarchiad," a series of satires in in the late 1780s that argued for the need for a new constitutional convention. They met at Yale, and Humphreys would go on to become George Washington's aide-de-camp and one of the first industrialists in Connecticut when he would import Merino sheep from Spain and build Humphreysville (now Shelton, CT)...

I was excited to go to the house (and glad I went) but, I must admit, disappointed in the complete absence of any exhibit acknowledging his literary contributions to American history. Even the pamphlet about his life by Leo T. Malloy that the Derby Historical Society (DHS) sells pretty much ignores his authorial dimension. While it quotes briefly from one of his poems and mentions his "outstanding friends" Trumbull, Dwight, and Barlow, it never refers to them as "The Wits" or any of their several their collaborations.

While I commend the DHS for both maintaining the house and their undeniable dedication to keeping Humphreys' name alive, I just wish they'd give him his full due.

I recognize that it's easier (and, to judge by the many young and old who were there, more popular) to display things military (or things more generally colonial/early national), but even a little love for Dave the poet would be nice.

A little cinematic "Over/Under"

One-and-a-half (and that's my bein' optimistic)

The number of jokes in the new movie Year One (opening this coming weekend) that reflects any actual historical, social, and/or cultural knowledge of the period (like the very smart -- and funny -- "Romans, Go Home!" bit in Monty Python's Life of Brian).

13 June 2009

I just learned that on my elder daughter's required summer reading list...

...for all first-year students at her potential high school (I'll explain "potential" in another post sometime) is Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven.


My suggestion for one of the five would be Mitch Albom -- because that at least would mean he won't be writing any more books.

On the other hand, I'm thinking of changing my radio show's name to Tuesdays with Gillie.

After all, if you can't beat 'em...

When "Shuffle" isn't random

This afternoon I was cutting my lawn, as I am wont to do every 5-8 days, and listening to my Philips 2 GB GoGear MP3 Player, as I am also wont to do. (I know, I know, you're all jealous of my high tech-ness)

To keep things interesting as I'm mowing, I occasionally put the player on "shuffle" to, or so I thought, be surprised by what songs would be played. But if the same songs come up in the same order how's that "shuffling" the songs? (If I shuffled a deck of cards and each time I did every player got the same cards in the same order, someone would rightly call foul.)

If I wanted a regular grass cuttin' playlist,* I'd make one. If I'm shuffling, then should the player actually shuffle the darned songs?


Preliminary Grass Cutting Playlist*

(It's Not Easy) Being Green (the version by Frank Sinatra or Van Morrison)

What a Day for a Daydream (The Lovin' Spoonful)
(with that line about lying down on a freshly mown lawn)

Pleasant Valley Sunday (The Monkees)

Our House (Crosby Stills and Nash)

Dogs in the Yard (Fame Movie Soundtrack)

You Can't Come and Play in My Yard (pop song from the early 20th Century)

Other suggestions?

11 June 2009

Recent Brushes with Greatness

Merlin Mann, web guru, visits "Frank, Gil, and Friends" on 4/28/09, the day that he gave three seminars at CCSU.

(Photo Jason B. Jones)

CNN franchise Anderson Cooper at the annual Vance Lecture at CCSU on 5/1/09.

(Photo Maryellen Fillo)

10 June 2009

There goes the neighborhood

The suspect in the Holocaust Museum shooting, James W. von Brunn, according to the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, was an unsuccessful realtor.

Go figure.

Imagine his trying to sell a house, when for almost every available property outside the "white supremacist enclaves" he lived in and around over the years, he'd have to stop and say:

"It's right in your price range, but, then again, there's one of 'those' down the street," or

"Yes, this is a great house, but around the corner live some..." or

"No, I can't help you find a place, you @$!#%..." or

"I swear I don't know all the words to the theme song of The Jeffersons."

If the First Commandment of real estate is "Location, Location, Location," then Mr. von Brunn's possible market must have been fairly limited (perhaps not as limited as we all should want but a heckuva lot smaller than he must have believed).

Sure, a white supremacist might enjoy the idea of those blazers that all realtors wear in the tv advertisements, but actually having to relate to real people must have ruined his work day many a time.


And may the sadly disproportionate minority prison population welcome Mr. von Brunn as soon as possible.

"Is that Parfum de Willard you're wearing?"

And exactly how would a CCSU “campus-specific scent” (see article below) smell?

Similar to (but, naturally, more robust than) WestConn’s, Southern’s and Eastern’s and less sweaty than UConn’s.

It’d be less pretentious than Trinity’s and far cheaper than Wesleyan’s but far more expensive than Tunxis’s than one would think it should.

You could only get it on-line during the summer and winter sessions but could probably get it used from the Bookstore anytime…and soon everyone will be introduced to it first at the Center for Student Success and Fine Cologne.

Robert Duvall said it best: “I love the smell of Central in the morning; it smells like victory.”

From Inside Higher ED

Smells Like School Spirit

June 10, 2009

From battered hot dogs at football games to crisp autumn afternoons, certain smells conjure up memories of college life long after graduation. A new fragrance company is attempting to bottle that nostalgia by selling perfumes based on campuses around the country.

Since 2008, Masik Collegiate Fragrances has churned out a small but growing line of campus-specific scents, starting with Pennsylvania State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Louisiana State University. More are in the works, including the Universities of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, and Auburn University. Each has its own version of perfume and cologne, packaged in 3.4-oz. bottles for $60.

The scents are inspired by university colors, landmarks and architectural style, and campus trees and flowers, among other factors, says Katie Masich, the company's president and CEO. For instance, Louisiana State University's purple-and-gold logo matches its perfume's notes of plum, golden bourbon and honey. There's also a touch of oak, in homage to the oak tree-lined campus.

Meanwhile, eau de Chapel Hill consists of lychee champagne accord, mandarin orange and green apple, with undertones of jasmine, violet and vanilla. "It's very romantic, charming, kind of that soft southern charm," Masich said of campus and concoction alike.

Masich said she came up with the idea for the line in 2007, wanting to break away from the typical idea of perfume.

"You walk in any department store and the markets are dominated by celebrities and fashions celebrating those people," she said. "Why not celebrate something that's a part each and every one of us, as a student of [a] university, or a fan or an alumni, faculty, staff, et cetera."

Masich said she figured she'd have the most luck with colleges with large student bodies and national sports followings. Having grown up in Pennsylvania and studied chemical engineering at Bucknell University, she decided to start with nearby football giant Penn State. The campus was not entirely convinced at first.

"When I first called Penn State, it took me a while to get hold of them, but I convinced them it was something unique and different," she said. "They said, 'It's not going to smell like a Nittany Lion, right?' and I said, 'No, no.' "

In fact, Penn State's perfume blends cassis, a type of black berry, with Moroccan rose, lilac and vanilla. Jessica Silko, who graduated from Penn State in May, said she has seen the fragrance at the student bookstore but shied away from the $60 price tag.

"As a college student, I don't want to waste money on something like that, just 'cause it has the Penn State name on it," she said. "However, if you put the Penn State brand on something, there will be a large number of fans who will buy it. They just will, it doesn't matter if it's something kind of ridiculous -- especially if it smells decent."

Part of each bottle's profit, usually around 10 percent, goes to a collegiate licensing company that distributes the funds to student scholarships and athletic programs at each campus, Masich said.
Like the rest of the American economy, the fragrance industry is struggling these days. Total prestige fragrance sales generated $2.68 billion in 2008, down 6 percent from 2007, according to Dora Brunette, a spokeswoman for the national market research group NPD.

But in Chapel Hill, the campus scents are a hit, says John Jones, director of student stores. Ninety-six bottles of perfume and 93 of cologne have been sold since they arrived last summer. The buyers are primarily alumni and visitors during football season and the holidays, he said.
Stacey Simeone, a 2008 graduate from Chapel Hill, was a skeptic at first sniff.

"When I first saw it, I thought it was kind of stupid -- they can't make a perfume that would smell like it," she said. "Then I smelled, and then I thought it smelled really good, but it didn't necessarily remind me of Chapel Hill" -- which, to Simeone, smells like "spring."

Asked what her personal recipe for Penn State perfume would be, Silko didn't hesitate for a moment. "Stale beer and nachos," she said.

— Stephanie Lee

© Copyright 2009 Inside Higher Ed

Why the NBA is no better than Figure Skating

In an earlier post, I admitted that, while I like competitive figure skating, it's not a sport for a variety of reasons. Watching even bits of the NBA Finals strongly suggests proves that frequently professional basketball ain't much better.

Why? Because so much of the scoring (as in who gets to shoot free throws and, as a result, so often win) depends upon:

Who has the ball
Who is defending
When in the game it is
Where the game is being played (i.e., in which bloody city!)

If the same action in the same game can be called completely differently depending upon such factors as these then there might as well not be rules at all.

In baseball, the strike zone can vary from umpire to umpire, and even from league to league, but one ump tends to call his zone fairly consistently throughout any given game.

Not so in the NBA...too many refs seeing too many of the same things things in too different a way.

And how can .5 seconds take so long to pass? Hell, even a skater's long program is never that long!

PS: Let's see if Laker Pau Gasol can spin Kobe into the air and if Kobe can then land successfully while still be moving forward seamlessly...and, you know what, he'd still NOT be called for traveling because, well... because he's Kobe Bryant.

PSS: And tell me Gasol isn't related to Laker Head Coach Phil Jackson somehow?

09 June 2009

Feeling the love...

Go to www.ccsu.edu/, and, under"Featured Sites,"

click on "Commencement Gallery" and check out pictures:

#9 (WFCS General Manager Emerita Hilda Sullivan and I)


#48 (My reading one of the 1300+ names that morning...in toto, I only read half of that number, sharing the duty with ESPN producer John Totten)!

I really do love commencement and don't quite understand why every faculty member doesn't. It is, after all, a celebration of our students' success.

And we get to wear the cool outfit!

Kids, Kids, a Father's Day gift idea!

The menorah of Sammy Davis, Jr.

Now THAT'D be a fine addition for my "Rat Pack Pack Rat" collection.

08 June 2009


Have you seen the new Disney series Jonas? It's the one about Kevin, Joe, and Nick, better known as The Jonas Brothers. (They also have a little brother who, while no cuter than that ghastly little Jimmy Osmond was, has the grand benefit of being referred to as "Bonus Jonas.")

Jonas (the series): Picture the Monkees, mixed with a little Partridge Family (but with two parents) and, in a particuarly good episode, a dash of a G-rated Flight of the Conchords parody song thrown in for good measure. (I had thought each episode had a song, but I just witnessed one without -- and, I must admit, I missed it, although the plot of remaking the Jonas Family home movies that they had accidentally destroyed was, in fact, cute.)

As much as I don't want to like them, I fear I do....well, apart from their needing a good haircut or at least a comb.

The good news is that last Father's Day my daughters gave me a Jonas Brothers pillow, so my fan-ness has some street cred (at least as far as chronology goes -- and at least as far as Jonas, "street cred" and "I" can be mentioned in the same breath without laughing).

BUT, if you have time to watch only one show aimed at the youngish set, then it shouldn't be Jonas anyway, that honor goes to iCarly on Nickelodeon.

High-schooler Carly, best friend Sam(antha), and boy-who-loves-Carly/webcamera guy Freddie, put on regular web program upstairs in her room, while her older brother/guardian/artist Spencer tries not to burn their place down. (No parents here to interfere, although the practical uncle is always a threat to take Carly away.)

Here we have the web generation doing what several generations of American youth have traditionally done -- goof around, make dumb jokes, laugh at any stupid stuff that comes to mind -- but then, as only this generation has ever been able to do, share it for all the world to see. The jokes are probably no funnier than those we thought of as kids, but the intimacy of those inside jokes can potentially reach a much wider audience. The hope, of course, is that the extended intimacy inspires the audience to its own merriment and creativity, while the real fear is that the audience will simply sit back passively and not act or react at all.

Come to think of it, kinda like a blog, no?

Not that I'm counting, but...

...the trials and tribulations facing a department chair at this time of year (i.e., cleaning up messes made by any number of folk -- including myself -- during the Spring semester and, indeed, all year long), encourage me to look ahead:

Only 449 more days until my term ends.

Notes from the Tony Awards

In the "surprise" opening number, which considering it was merely a medley of things presently on the Great White Way and so hardly was surprising at all, Stockard Channing sang "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" from the revival of Pal Joey, and, while it was far from a great performance, at least she was performing a song worth hearing – especially when paired with (and compared to) “I’m Alive” sung by some guy from Next to Normal. Why is it that most songs from contemporary musicals are so repetitive? I believe the only thing he sang was -- wait for it -- yes, “I’m alive.” There’s more wit and lyricism in any one line of almost any Rodgers and Hart song than anything recent I heard last night…and we won’t even mention the music.

Liza Minnelli looked and sounded terrible (to be polite). As my wife explained to our girls, “Like her mother, she’s had a very hard life which has included drug abuse, etc…” To which I added, “But her mother was smart enough to die before she turned into this.”

9 to 5: The Musical.
Shrek the Musical
Rock of Ages (was that really “Don’t Stop Believing” I was hearing?)
And these are the ones the American Theatre Wing chose to put on stage to highlight itself. Broadway’s not dead; it’s simply gone senile…

From the vaults: Elton John writing an Aida is akin to Neil Simon offering his own Macbeth. Not saying they can’t do it, but, man, they really shouldn’t.

05 June 2009

"And that made all the difference" (or should that be "sum")

Recently Congress mandated a "net price calculator." As an article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed states:

"Congress mandated the new feature last year to give prospective students a clear idea of the actual cost to attend each institution. The net figure will be derived from total cost—tuition, fees, room, board, and other expenses—minus average aid from all sources of grants (but not loans).

Colleges will be required to display the figures through a net-price calculator, a tool they will create on their Web sites."

How "clear" an idea exactly will students get from such a number?

My question is: Can schools factor in the cost to students -- if the don't attend (or attend a more, or less, prestigious university): career earnings potential, the trouble they may get into outside of school; the lectures, classes, and parties they'll never attend; other lost opportunities?

Come to think of it this calculator could be a real metaphysical wake-up call.

A financial rendering of "The Road Not Taken"!

Now THAT would be a tool worth puttin' on a website.

03 June 2009

Quick thought on the new Scorsese project on Frank Sinatra

Who portrays Sinatra will make little difference (i.e., he could be a big name like Leo or a nobody like the mini-series star Philip Caswell was ... still is?).

The focus of the script will be what makes or breaks the project.

If the director tries to tell anything approaching Frank's whole story, it will fail pretty miserably (i.e., it will shed no light on any aspect of the artist or man, although I'm sure there'll be lotsa glamorous women and hoodlums -- not necessarily in that order).

What he needs to do is what the 2003 film The Night We Called it a Day, starring Dennis Hopper as Frank and Melanie Griffith as Barbara Marx, did: focus on a specific period/incident in Frank's life. In the case of the Hopper film it was the 1974 Australia incident, in which Frank essentially ticked off an entire continent and was stuck in a hotel room while the popular resentment against him played out across the country. The film, while far from great, is worth seeing for Hopper's depiction of Sinatra and, even more, because it didn't bite off more than it could chew.

I'm assuming a great director like Scorsese will be able to craft a better film than the 2003 movie, but the approach should be the same: take a particular incident that will allow us to see the artist, if not for the first time, then at least more deeply than ever before on screen.

I'll be at opening day no matter what, but I'd really prefer to be eager to see the final cut!

02 June 2009

How do you spell S-O-D-E-R-L-I-N-G?

Last night my older daughter was recognized by the New Britain Board of Education for her achievement of running the Spelling Bee table, as it were...winning the district-wide Bee each of the past five years in the only grades for which they hold the competitions (4th through 8th grades).

She received a special trophy with a goofy bee on the top (to go with the more traditional trophy cups she had received at each victory), and it struck me that she did what Rafael Nadal didn't at the French Open, win from her very first attempt and repeat that accomplishment four more years in a row.

I told her that after seeing her very first bee victory in the school-wide competition in 4th grade, I never doubted her winning any of the bees in her first three years since she answered each word with such calm confidence, while those around her lost their cools. It was only last year in 7th grade, when I saw a momentary blankness in the school-wide competition, that I thought, "Ya know, she might be beatable." If she were beatable last year, she wasn't beaten; and, of course, she was unbeaten again this year.

A remarkable accomplishment indeed.

She admitted to me last night that, no matter how it appeared, she was nervous throughout and never had been as confident as I was (which, when one is doing the competing, is probably a very good thing). I, by the way, kept my confidence to myself, and along with her mom, made it clear the point was to have fun.

Her younger sister experienced the other side. In her very first year of competing, she made it to the district-wide competition but came in fourth when she spelled v-a-l-i-d when the word was b-a-l-l-a-d. (We're still not sure why the judges didn't stop her when she clearly said "valid" before spelling it, so there was no doubt that she just misheard the word. Of course, while one can have the word repeated, one wouldn't ask for the word again if they didn't think they misheard it.) Ask her, winning is more fun than losing -- even to your best friend. You're sad that you didn't win, but that doesn't mean you don't feel happy for the winner. (Yes, Lebron, even if you're a fierce competitor!)


A small post script for those inevitable questions: she never entered the national spelling competition because 1) it requires a local sponsor (usually a Scripps-Howard newspaper) that at present doesn't exist around these parts, 2) the New Britain Schools' bee time frame never fit the national one, and 3) quite to my liking, the NB bees focus on words that kids who read just might come across in their reading (as opposed to the national bee in which each word is really a puzzle of national origin, derivation, and linguistic history, with many words that no one outside of very specialized fields of study rarely, if ever, will come across).

01 June 2009

Sing along with the Second Amendment!

In light of the "Gun Sales Skyrocket" piece in Saturday's New Britain Herald, here are my favorite gun songs (in alphabetical order):

“Bang Bang” (from Robin and the Seven Hoods) (Cahn/Heusen)
“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (Sonny Bono)
“Hallelujah” (L. Cohen)
only for the line: “All I’ve ever learned from love is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you”

“Happiness is a Warm Gun” (Lennon/McCartney)

“I Shot the Sherriff” (Marley)

“Pistol Packin’ Mama" (Dexter)

“Scared of Guns” (J.W. Harding)

“You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” (Berlin)