By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

The question, “What are you going to be?” means something different this time of year, which is one of the many reasons why I thoroughly enjoy celebrating Halloween. Selecting a Halloween costume is terrific fun and a rare opportunity to be someone other than ourselves.

meandheather

This year, I was invited to many Halloween events (I always tell my students that I’m extremely popular). The party last Saturday was a “Saturday Morning Cartoons” theme, so I jumped in the way-back machine and dressed as Jem; she’s truly outrageous! My friend, Heather, went as Paddington Bear.

Saturated with shades of pink,  the ensemble I put together was successful enough for people to understand that I was Jem; alas, my costume wasn’t quite as good as that of the other Jem at the party, who had a more rockin’ 80’s wig. It certainly wasn’t surprising that another woman had a latent desire to be a super-cool, pink-wig-wearing rock star.

Tomorrow night, the Urban Family and I are are dancing at Beauty Bar, which is featuring an 80’s Halloween dance party. I’m going as Punky Brewster, ideally bringing her spunk and colorful layers to the dance floor. Jem seems too obvious, somehow, and the weather has turned colder.punky

Imbedded in these choices, linger decisions that adults are rarely asked to make—what else could you be? We are all diligently working on who we are, trying to become a better version of ourselves, the best version of ourselves, ideally.

Velma_Dinkley

Tricia Lunt?

At Halloween, we are enticed to explore different facets within, think of the men who dress as women (and who look fabulous in dresses, I might add). We are permitted–encouraged–to break free from our prescribed self, which is why when my friend suggest I dress as Velma Dinkely from Scooby-Doo, a childhood favorite to be sure, I turned to her and said, “but I’m Velma every day!” The glasses, the turtleneck, the sensible shoes: ask anyone who’s seen me hunt for my glasses.

On Halloween, I want to be someone else entirely.

So we reach beyond what we are to what we might be, or might have been, or might yet become. We revisit childhood and gleefully take up handfuls of sugar-coated goodness.

Halloween offers a trip down the rabbit hole, accompanied by the comforting assurance that when it’s over, we will come back to ourselves again.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

Thesis: Ignorance is bliss.

Antithesis: Knowledge is power.

Disturbing Synthesis: A little knowledge and a lot of ignorance is damn frightening.

The first two statements are cliches..  But, as with all cliches, there is a great deal of truth to them. What I am finding is that the third statement, though not as pithy or memorable, is no less true.  It seems like everywhere in America today, this disturbing synthesis is prevalent. The latest example is popular, and popularly misguided reactions to the ebola outbreak.

Those who are completely ignorant of ebola are not necessarily problematic. Approach them on the street and ask about the disease, and you may get blank stares and a shrug of the shoulders.  They have no worries; no concerns; no 291933-ebola-virusknowledge.  Honestly, the vast majority of Americans will never be affected by ebola, and so is it really surprising that our notoriously narcissistic selves may simply say, ‘who cares’?  Many of the ignorant may be callous, a great deal may be apathetic, but they are not dangerous.

The antithesis of this state is knowledge. An understanding of how the disease transmits, what it does to those affected, and how likely it is to spread is necessary. A realization that help should be sent to Africa is nobly knowledgeable.  Those with knowledge appreciate that there are much greater worries in this world than the highly unlikely chance of catching ebola. Knowledge, and its offspring perspective, allows an American to realize the food we put in our mouths poses a much greater threat to our health than any hemorrhagic fever.  Nonetheless, the informed American appreciates the power, and horror of disease, and the necessity of containment.  In our globalized age, a disease affecting Africa may not reach us personally, but the social revolutions, economic catastrophes, and military strife that may come as a result of the disease very well could.  Being an isolationist is not an option when it comes to fighting microbes.  Paradoxically, being self-centered should lead to a concern for the other.

It is the last, the synthesis, that should keep us up at night; it is the synthesis that must be fought against.  The happy medium between knowledge and ignorance is not all that happy, but it is disturbingly easy to come by.  Google, 24 hours news, and social media are the pushers of spin, sensationalism, conspiracies and half-truths.  The American people are the addicts.

Ebola-is-realIn a perfect world, Google allows us to find ‘truth’ in a simple easily structured search format. If you ‘google’ ebola, you will get articles from the WHO, the CDC, and the BBC.  But, accidently put an ‘h’ after ebola, and the logarithm used by the website offers you the opportunity to search ‘Ebola Hoax’.  Search that, and you start to fall down the rabbit hole.

I got a glimpse of this the other day. Riding home on the train, four adults, seemingly sane, began to discuss ebola.  There were the typical concerns and questions.  Some of the claims made were incorrect; the disease has not killed 30,000 in Africa, even though this train rider stated it was fact.  But soon things got out of hand.  One of the men shouted that ebola was actually created by the government; he stated that it was categorically true that ebola has been patented and that the government is controlling the disease.  How did he propose to prove this shocking revelation? He said to his friend, ‘give me your phone, and let me ‘Google’ it. I’ll show you!’

The tools for finding information are there for us to use.  They have the capability to provide anyone and everyone with the power of knowledge. Absolute ignorance is now, more often than not, a choice.  The problem seems to be that most people choose to collect only snippets of knowledge.  A ’30 second’ blurb here; a meme there.  Throw in a facebook status posted by a friend with some strange conspiratorial theories, and the synthesis of ignorance and knowledge is off to the races.  Though sprinting away from ignorance, we’re too often stopping far short of knowledge.

Imagine That

Posted: October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English FacultyCreate

These last four weeks (coinciding with the beginning of this term), I’ve failed to make space for creativity in my life; my work as a teacher has claimed the bulk of my time and energy. This is problematic in several ways, and ironic in at least one: I am currently teaching two “Creative Expression” classes, yet have found little time to do so.

This is a challenge most people face. Listening to our inner creative voice can be difficult amidst the thunderous din of life’s demands, but we ought to listen, and respond.Cool!

Creativity is essential to productivity, so while I am busy being “industrious,” I would be more so if I took the time to create (as I am doing now, grading be damned). Hence, this blog, and countless others, exists. Yes, to communicate, but also to create something where once nothing was. Hence the fancy cookery flourishing in kitchens of extremely busy people (you gotta eat). Hence the whole expansive world of imaginative Lego landscapes, constructed by young and old.

Though I do not make my living through the creative arts, I practice creative endeavors to connect more fully with life, through writing and dance and art. Countless extraordinary people I love work to make time for creativity in their lives: gardening, baking, crocheting, sewing, designing, painting, crafting, sculpting, acting, playing and singing: a river of dynamic energy overflowing its banks, nourishing us all.

The struggle to create is an essential part of living, of fulfilling the promise of lifelong learning, of evolving and realizing how many vistas remain in the distance, beckoning us to keep moving forward. Undertaking an artistic journey is particularly compelling, especially when it becomes all too clear that life really is what we make it.

Back to School, RMU Fall 2014

Posted: October 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

by Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

It’s been quiet ’round the Turtle these days because it’s busy here at RMU. Faculty and students are back to meet the Fall 2014 term with fresh school supplies and eager smiles. Thus, I offer some observations about new scholastic beginnings, touching upon both the profound and preposterous.

1. After a quiet summer, RMU’s halls elevator lobbies and classrooms are overflowing.

2. All the faculty are here, working at peak energy, which means the office is abuzz with laments and laughter, and the ever-present sounds of copier and stapler.

3. The emotional roller coaster has already descended from the first hill of optimism and, as assignment due dates are missed, we are all collectively headed for the initial trough of dejection, with the inevitable good intention to climb the next hill, sisyphean subtext intended.

4. Got meetings? I know we do.

5. Paul’s jokes have re-emerged on his White Board; his humor seems sharper–and more necessary–than ever.

6. My 8:00am classes are earlier than ever this year.

7. Two field trips already, and more planned!

8. Next week is “Spirit Week,” celebrated with dress up days: RMU gear on Monday; favorite team of Tuesday: neon on Wednesday, and Throwback Thursday culminating in Homecoming, which means with some savvy planning, I’ll be able to wear a t-shirt every day: nice work perk.

9. Helping students engage in their own educational journeys is a puzzle I work on every day. Thankfully, I’m a better thinker when I am teaching. Someday, I’ll solve it.

10. Witnessing student enthusiasm, catching them as realize the joy of learning, is why teaching matters, and why I’m still here.

I leave you with this bit of educational ecstasy from Back to School, the 1986 starring Rodney Dangerfield and Sally Kellerman. The scene may be a bit inappropriate, but, then again, so am I.

 

 

 

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

During the first Sunday of the NFL season, I did a lot of “grown up” chores in the morning: I graded papers, cleaned up my house, did a little yard work, and went grocery shopping. Around 11:00am, I was on my couch doing some more grading with the NFL pregame programs on as white noise, all while having a big kid, low-cal breakfast of Greek yogurt and water.

In nearly all areas of my life, I can identify ways in which I’ve grown and evolved as a person from childhood to where I am now as a 32-year-old. Being disciplined enough to get up and be productive on a Sunday morning is just one example.

Then at 12:00pm, as the NFL season kicked-off, I devolved into a child.

Though I have lived my entire life in Chicago, I have been a huge Miami Dolphins fan since 1991-92. (Just accept that and move on. Explaining it would take a whole separate post.) My emotional investment in Dolphins games takes me from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Tantrum.

From Week 1, here are some of my person highlights:

  • Kick-off: I am on my couch, knees pressed into my chest, and shaking like I’m awaiting terrible news. (Which, as a Dolphins fan, I normally am.)

    A candid picture of me at kick-off.

    A candid picture of me at kick-off.

  • Dolphins up 7-0 early: I jump off my couch and swing my fists like I’m in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.
  • Dolphins down 10-20 at halftime: I slump into my couch, mumbling about how it’s the same old Dolphins who are going to break my heart like every other season, and how I’ve lost faith in life, no one loves me, and the sun no longer shines.
  • Dolphins sack Patriots QB Tom Brady and force a fumble: I scream and pump my fist while saying a bunch of words to Tom Brady that he can’t hear and I can’t repeat on the Turtle.
  • Close game in the 4th quarter: I am in a half-squat position with my hands on my knees like I’m playing linebacker for the Dolphins, all with my face about two feet from my 50” TV screen.
  • Dolphins make a defensive stop against Brady: I have more choice words and perhaps a one-fingered salute for Tom, while still acknowledging that he is unfairly handsome, which may be part of why I am giving him the finger.
  • Dolphins win: I walk aimlessly around my house clapping. I begin commenting aloud on the team’s effort as if I’m in their locker room.

This behavior hasn’t changed at all from younger Paul, such as two incidents in 1997 when I was 15:

  • Monday, October 27, 1997: The Chicago Bears (0-7) defeat the Miami Dolphins (5-2) on Monday Night Football in overtime for their first win of their season. I stay up past midnight depressed and skip school to save myself the abuse from Bears fans.
  • Sunday, December 28, 1997: The New England Patriots crush the Dolphins in a Wild Card playoff game. I throw the TV remote across the room and watch batteries fly through the air.

This is all despite me not being a terribly emotive person. Though I am a very emotional person, I (often) exercise great restraint in demonstrating any real highs or lows, which has been noted at work where colleagues comment on how easy-going and even-keeled I seem.

However, the results of any meaningful Dolphins game will turn me inside out, putting all of those meaningless, superficial, game-related emotions out into the world. If the Dolphins win, I’m pleasant and cheerful; I’ll go out, do things, make friends, bake you a cake, whatever. If they lose, I am a grumpy terror, I hate the universe, and I may run over mailboxes with my car just so everyone else can feel some of my pain.

Check your mail for ads, bills, and evidence of my heartbreak.

Check your mail for flyers, bills, and evidence of my heartbreak.

This is all likely why my dad calls me after every Dolphins game. He loves pushing people’s buttons, and it surely delights him that there is at least one topic he knows will always elicit a reaction out of me. Even if the Dolphins play well, he will still poke at me by asking if I left the windows open in my house so “all the kids in the neighborhood could learn a bunch of new words.”

I’m not ashamed to admit any of these behaviors, because I know I am not in the minority. This type of over-invested, over-emotional response to sports is par for the course. If anything, I am one of the tame fans! (Just go look around YouTube or Twitter for all of the evidence of fans from all sports who have had complete, epic meltdowns after their teams lost.)

Why does all of this happen, though? Why do fans get so worked up? So invested?

The truth, I believe, is that the vast majority of us aren’t THAT invested. Sure, I love my Dolphins. Sure, I want them to win. But, in truth, if I was writing a list of the biggest priorities in my life, my seafaring mammals would be well down the list after food, water, shelter, health, family, friends, work, and lots more. Yet, externally, my reactions make it seem as though I’m more concerned with the Dolphins than the rest of the universe.

ESPN talk show personality Mike Greenberg hit on one of the keys reasons for this sort of emotional outpouring in his book Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad. To paraphrase, he comments on the value of sports as a great piece of distraction and fun from reality. During the bulk of our week, we are caring for ourselves and others, working tons of hours, and hearing a never-ending cycle of bad news from around the world.

In normal circumstances, especially at work, we have to keep our emotions in check. But with our teams, what a relief and joy it is that we can scream, yell, complain, and wear our hearts on our sleeves without any real consequences.

Unless you’re a remote control or mailbox…then there may be some consequences.

By Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty. 

I know that I’m most likely overthinking, overreacting, and overstating this, but I find myself constantly on the defensive over my love of football, probably due to the unrelenting pace of my Facebook posts with tiny hearts and hashtags like #lovethenfl #lovecollegefootball, #adrianpetersonissohot, etc., etc., etc.

21spoy1223I’m a woman. I’m a feminist. I’m an annoyingly self-righteous progressive. So, in light of the social, ethical, and safety concerns brought about by the sport, I’m supposed to be a hater. My love of football is oxymoronic. It befuddles some. It irritates others. It appalls a few. So, I love it.

Like any form of entertainment, art, or sport, football creates a cultural and social space. It’s an integral space where men can be “men” in ways that are stereotypical and sometimes repellant, to be sure, but also kind of awesome. Our society expects men to maintain the precarious balance of command and cooperation, strength and tenderness, primal physicality and intelligence. All of this happens on the football field.  The players we talk about most are aggressive, unrelenting, self-aggrandizing, and Superman-tough, and I usually love those guys, so I catch a lot of shit for it. I’m supposed to oppose this kind of hyper-masculinity, because it upsets the social expectations of my feminist-liberal position. Certainly, I’m not supposed to enjoy the muscles and the trash-talk and the brutality. So, I love it.

Not only is it unrealistic to expect men to maintain the difficult primal/social balance of appetite and acceptable behavior, it is simply NO FUN if we demand that they adhere to such a strict social protocol at all times. Football creates a spacepatrick-willis wherein men can growl, pound their chests, and smash into each other with primal aggression, and I get to watch. Now, THAT is fun. They get to channel animal urges toward a common goal and I get to enjoy, unapologetically, watching men with superior physical strength and mental acumen crash their big, strong bodies into one another and out-think their opponents. Then, they do awesomely cute little dances, flex their muscles for the camera, and slap each other’s asses adorably. So (of course), I love it.

Now, I realize that this celebration of hyper-masculinity is not securely contained within the cultural space of football. I know the serious social and interpersonal problems that present when a man is encouraged to be aggressive and self-important, when physical violence is the go-to solution to a problem, when putting one’s health and future at risk is expected toward the aim of winning a superficial game for money and fame and to enrich a few a-hole owners and a grossly flawed system. These are problems, and I know I should be repulsed, but it makes football dangerous. So, I love it.

I know, football promotes many of the negative aspects of stereotypical masculinity, and it subsequently facilitates serious social problems like domestic violence, economic inequities, and mental illness when those aspects creep from the cultural space of the football field into the social space of the actual world. I get that, and it disturbs me. I don’t mean to embrace or forgive any of these social problems, but football is complex enough, and compelling enough, and fun enough, that these dangers create, for me, a conflicted set of feelings. I’m supposed to hate it. So, I love it.

For these dangers, and the sex-appeal of athletic bodies in strenuous battle, come with another level of complexity. All of these “negative” aspects of masculinity bring with them impressive and undeniable displays of camaraderie, cooperation, intellect, and, yes, tenderness. When eleven men are on the field together, on offense or defense, they must operate withNFL: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions absolute connectedness to meet their goal and to protect themselves and their teammates from serious harm. Teamwork is real, and it works: WE win when we work together and protect each other. That connection, and the insanely hard work that teammates do together, makes football a space of intimacy and brotherhood, and THAT is beautiful. Intimacy and cooperation is subtly discouraged among men in our culture, which expects a certain level of rogue individuality to achieve an unrealistic masculine ideal: I win; you lose. Cooperation toward a common goal in football demands a level of intelligence and intellect that is often overlooked in discussions of athletics.  Football players are rarely given props for their intellect, but, in order to reach their common goal, these men have to study, collaborate, and think critically about their own, their teammates’, and their opponents’ strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Teamwork, hard work, and smarts: now, THAT is sexy. I love it. And you should love it, too.

by Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Somewhere there is a picture of my 6-year old self wearing an oversize football helmet, listening attentively to the plays called by my brother, my knowledgeable coach.

1981teamAll of my earliest football experiences involve my big brothers. I recall Cleveland Browns games during the “Kardiac Kids” era, watching with Bobby and Ralph, learning early in life the bittersweet responsibility of championing the underdog. My brothers also played football, an important part of their high school experience at Walsh Jesuit. From the age twelve, my brothers were steadily employed. Working tirelessly to pay for the tuition at the private school they attended and contribute to the household income, they took time off work to play football, signalling an enormously important commitment to the game. My brothers love football, as do I.

In high school, my friends and I attended every home game, probably because it was one of the only social options available, possibly because we were adept at sneaking beers in to the stadium. Why we thought it wise to smuggle beer into a high school function escapes my recollection.

After high school, I attended Ohio State University. I was eager to experience the thrilling Big Ten games, and bought a season ticket my freshman year. Regrettably, I only went to one game in “The Shoe,” shoebecause selling OSU football tickets is an excellent way for college student to make a little extra money. Besides, I attended OSU during Coach Cooper years, the low point of the program. And, I’d scored a job with exceptional pay, but it required I work every weekend, two back-to-back 12-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday. Consequently, with wistful longing I’d ride my bike past the early tailgate set-ups at 6:30 in the morning, and return at 7:30 in the evening to see the remnants of football fun strewn across campus. Alas, college is not a four year party, at least not in my experience. Nevertheless, I still “bleed scarlet and gray,” and I did get to tailgate for an OSU football game once, the year after my college graduation.

LarryAfter undergrad, I moved back to Cleveland, rekindling my connection with the Browns and beginning “Loser Bowl,” a yearly tradition of attending the Browns game on or near Christmas Day with my hometown buddy, Larry, and the occasional company of our friends Adam or Bryn. We dubbed this outing “Loser Bowl” because the Browns aren’t exactly winners, and neither were we. Otherwise, we’d have invitations to celebrate the holiday with loved ones; instead, we had the freezing cold, and a heartrendingly bad football team.

Chicago has become my home, so my weekly football ritual now entails Chicago Bears games at my local bar, my extended living room. Kicked off at the beginning of the season by the bar’s incredibly generous owner, every Sunday, local devotees of the Whirlaway prepare food for the entire bar full of Bears fans. The food preparation grows more competitive each year, home cooks looking to out-perform one another. Those who don’t cook have the party catered. We watch and feast and unabashedly sing the old-timey Bears fight song every time our team scores: a picture fan devotion at its finest.BearDown

As the football season wears on, it becomes increasingly  pleasant to stay inside in front of the television, eating well, drinking liberally, cheering madly and using a football game as an excellent excuse to spend the day in good company.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Ah, yes….Fall is in the air.  Though the weather doesn’t really say so (I HATE 90 degrees in September!), the television screams Autumn.  This past weekend marked the beginning of our yearly national obsession: Football season.  College football kicked off a week ago, and the NFL gets going tonight. Like millions of other Americans, my wife and I can’t wait. 

But, I try not to be simply an unthinking fanatic; I cannot ignore the sport’s troubling aspects.  As it is so popular, and influential, football as a cultural phenomenon must be closely read.  During the season though, it is easy to lose yourself in the action. The spectacle takes over, and analysis of said spectacle falls by the wayside.  These games are intended to be Heinz Fielddistractions. We inevitably pay attention to what happens on the field, and not off. 

The physicality of the game enraptures the viewer, providing us with the ‘circuses’ that makes him/her forget about real world issues. But this distraction has another layer, since most spectators of the game may be thousands of miles away from the action. The majority of fans sit at home, or at a bar, and watch the game on television. In this, we depend upon the commentators and play-by-play color men to describe, and explicate what occurs on the gridiron.   The Keith Jacksons, Al Michaels, Gus Johnsons and Mike Tiricos give meaning to the events on the field. Their voices are as much a part of the game, as the play itsefl. These men and women ‘talk the NBCs-Sunday-Night-Football-team-of-Cris-Collinsworth-Al-Michaels-and-Michele-Tafoya-not-pictured-picked-up-their-sixth-straight-Emmy-Award.game'; they make language central to our viewing experience.

Football, perhaps more than any other sport, is marked by language. Repeated metaphors, analogies and euphemisms are utilized by football announcers to make the game and players more human; more understandable.  But, language manipulates, as well as explicates. Metaphors, analogies and euphemisms have the ability to deceive, as well as simplify. There is a dark side to the football lexicon, though it can be hard to catch.

Here is a necessary, and necessarily quick, primer for the upcoming football season.

  • Racial codes:

 Racial profiling and stereotypes are commonly coded into commentator speech. Perhaps the most obvious example occurs when announcers compare one player to another, either of the same era, or a previous one.  Very rarely, if ever, do white players get compared to black players, or vice versa.  This is especially the case when discussing players at positions that have been traditionally composed of a different racial group  So, for instance, Russell Wilson is compared, not to Tom Brady, but to Michael Vick. Wes Welker is not compared to possession receivers such as Marvin Harrison, but guys like Steve Largent. The list goes on.

Such comparisons may be natural.  We inherently look for similarities between groups and people. But, commentators’ racialized understanding of the game goes beyond player comparisons. Coded racial language is also commonly utilized to describe players and their abilities. The obvious example of this is the term ‘athletic’ being constantly used as a descriptor for black players.  Similar and related terms, such as ‘explosive’, ‘physical specimen’ and ‘natural ability’, are simply different versions of ‘athletic’  Rarely will you hear white football players being described in this way.  Instead, white players will often be labelled as ‘hard-workers’, ‘intelligent’, and ‘dedicated to the game’.  If white players ever get the ‘athletic’ moniker, it usually comes with a disclaimer: the white player in question is ‘surprisingly’, or ‘sneakily’ athletic. On the other hand, if black players ever get the ‘intelligent’ moniker, it too comes with disclaimers: the black player has ‘football intelligence’.

  • Euphemisms for criminal activity

Arguably, the most common code word used during football broadcasts is ‘off the field issues’.  Watch any football game this year, and you will be sure to hear that common refrain.  Of course, this is not the same as the racial code words; those are terms that have been utilized for years, based upon very old racial stereotypes. Racial codes play upon the audiences’ subconscious racial absolutism.  ‘Off the field issues’, on the other hand, is simply a euphemism.  It is used to make the viewer forget many of the horrible things the players have done. Such euphemisms ensure that the ‘real world’ is pushed further afield for the viewer. The ‘off the field issues’ (ie. what is happening in real life) seems to occur in a foreign dimension.  During the game, the viewer is meant to forget about what is happening ‘off the field’.  The term itself is extremely broad ranging.  It can, and has been used when discussing a player’s divorce, or sick child. Most commonly though, it is a euphemism reserved for a player’s criminal, or immoral conduct. 

For example, the other night I watched the Florida State/Oklahoma State game.  FSU is led by Heisman Trophy winner Florida State v PittsburghQuarterback Jameis Winston.  The announcers mentioned that Winston ‘looked excited’ to be playing football again; being in the huddle would allow him to forget about his ‘off the field issues’.  What are these issues? Did he fail a class?  Did he get a little too drunk at a Tallahassee party?  No, his ‘issues’ that he wanted to forget about (and that we should forget about too) were petty theft, and more disturbingly, being accused of rape.  ‘Off the field issues’? Yes, I would say so. 

The NFL is by no means free of ‘off the field issues.’ This euphemism will undoubtedly rear its’ ugly head starting tonight, when the Seahawks take on the Packers.  If not tonight, then on Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens play their opening game.  If you watch that contest, I will bet that ‘off the field issues’ will be mentioned in the same breath as Baltimore Running Back Ray Rice. Rice’s ‘off the field issue’ that made the news recently happened when he punched his girlfriend (soon to be wife) in the face, and dragged her unconscious into their apartment. Unfortunately, Rice is not the only player with this ‘off the field issue’.

  • The Language of Injury

 Football’s most controversial topic over the last decade has been the prevalence of concussions during the games, and footballwhat this may do to players’ long term neurological health.  With this in mind, I heard a disturbing euphemism during a college game last week that is extremely prevalent.  After a player got knocked out the game, and was on the sideline being checked for concussion type symptoms, the sideline sports reporter relayed the ‘good’ news that the player would be coming back in the game soon.  Evidently, the 20 year old was fine, and simply got ‘his bell rung’.  What a dangerous term!  I have never had a concussion, but I assume the term ‘bell rung’ means that you are confused, and perhaps, literally, ‘hearing a ringing sound’, as though you were inside a bell.  Using such terminology does two things. First, it covers up with folk language what could be a serious medical injury. Second, by using the ‘bell rung’ term as euphemism, it allows us to judge the player.  If he ‘only’ got his ‘bell rung’, then why is he not back out on the field?  He needs to keep going, as getting your ‘bell rung’ is simply a common part of the game.  If a player sits out for too long after getting his ‘bell rung’, the announcers and the audience often start to question the player’s toughness.   Is he a true football player?

Unfortunately, that is what we really want to know. Everything else is secondary.

 

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

When I can’t read books, I enjoy listening to them.   I am teaching this quarter at three different campuses, and hence, I am forced to be in the car quite a bit, driving the wonderful expressways of Chicago-land, and/or sitting in the seemingly endless, ubiquitous metro road work. Books on CD are my savior; they are my sanity. Instead of just sitting there swearing at other drivers, I can listen to a good book. 

During the last seven weeks of the second summer quarter, I have gone through a number of books on CD. I started the quarter listening to Dan Ariely’s Upside of Irrationality.  I must admit, I only got about half-way through when I just couldn’t take the recounting of behavioral experiments any longer.  I then moved on to Mary Roach’s Gulp: Adventures on themedium Alimentary Canal.  Roach’s popular science book is filled with fascinating, sometimes disturbing, sometimes hilarious anecdotes about saliva, mastication, the stomach, digestion and much more.  I didn’t finish this one either, since there is only so much heavy description I could take. I then moved on to Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.  Greenblatt is one of the world’s preeminent Shakespeare scholars, and this book illustrated why.  It is a biographical and social historical literary critique of the bard and his times. Strangely, I attempted to read this book a couple years ago, but just couldn’t get into it.  Listening to it was much more enjoyable.

The quarter is now winding down. For my last 4 weeks of travel, I decided to go for something a bit different.  Browsing RMU library’s selection of audiobooks, I came upon Markus Zusak’s 2006 best-selling novel The Book Thief, a fictional account of a young German girl struggling to survive during the Nazi dictatorship. I picked it up, and checked it out.

I was not ignorant of this novel. In fact, I actually own a paperback copy of the work, and I have thought many times about reading it. But, I have never gotten around to picking the book up. Honestly, I figured listening to the book may be the best thing to do, since there is no guarantee I would ever actually read the book. You see, novels are usually not at the top of my reading list. I’m a non-fiction reader first and foremost.  I would say for every 20 books I read, 1 is a work of fiction.  I read a hand-full of novels a year. Would Zusak’s work ever make the list? There were a couple reasons to be dubious.

71h2sjik5al-_sl1380_First, Zusak’s novel is not located with my other books. Most of my books are around me at all times.  They are in my living room, in my dining room and at my desk at work. I am constantly looking them over. Often I will base my reading decision upon what book catches my eye.  The Book Thief has never caught my eye. It is not in my living room; or my kitchen; or at my desk. It is in my 7 year old daughter’s room.

If you did not know already, The Book Thief is considered, and labelled, as a ‘Children’s book.’  It is ‘adolescent literature.’  And this is the second reason I probably would not be reading the book any time soon. I am not a kid (surprise!).  I honestly don’t really want to read a ‘children’s book’ on my free-time, as I read kid’s books all the time with my daughters.  I need something more serious; more grown up; more….adult.

 However, I had always heard that The Book Thief was wonderful. I had read reviews that it was a powerful, serious novel. The back cover of the book described a plot that did not sound very childish. So, I figured, if I am not ever going to read it, I might as well give it a listen.

A  reminder: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover….or it’s genre.

The verdict? 4 CDs through, 9 more to go (please no spoilers) and I am hooked.  It is a wonderful novel. Extremely well-written and psychologically complex. The book rings true, both historically and emotionally. I highly recommend it.

But, I am left with one question: Why is this considered a ‘children’s book’? 

The book is not light or pleasant.  Zusak doesn’t whitewash disturbing facts; he does a wonderful job portraying human behavior during the darkest of times.  It is readable, but the prose is by no means childish or simplistic. Why is this ‘for kids’?

 Is it simply because the main character is a 9 year old girl, and that we, as readers, are expected to enter her mental world? Do publishers believe that adults don’t remember what it is like to be a child, with all the fun and terror that goes along with it? Do publishers assume that children will only want to read about children, and adults only want to read about adults?  

Since I am not a publisher of books, I can’t say.  But, as a reader of books, I can say that The Book Thief should be on your, or your children’s, bookshelf.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

washmapI spent my last day of my trip to the Pacific Northwest on the water. While the sun shines too brightly for my sensitive eyes, sunlight on the water is perfectly soothing. Whether swimming or boating, I relish every opportunity to enjoy water. Family lore suggests that my great-great grandfather worked his way over to the United States from Germany as a cabin boy on a ship bound for New Orleans. I expect that tale is only slightly true, but as far as adventure goes, even in the 21st century, being aboard a ship in a wide expanse of blue overflows with primal joy.

I booked a trip on the Victoria Clipper III, which sailed from Seattle to the San Juan Islands followed by a wildlife viewing excursion, with the intention of seeing orcas in the wild. Happily, I did just that. I left Seattle harbor at 7:45 am on July 28th, and spent a full twelve hours travelling northwest in the Puget Sound, through Deception Pass to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, and then further north to international waters near Vancouver.

I followed the recommendation of a friend and I did not attempt to take breathtaking pictures; instead, I watched. This watching was rewarded with the initial orca spotting. Four family members of K pod were having lunch in the waters near a lighthouse. After a few minutes of joy (and relief that the trip was already a success), the captain headed to another location frequented by orcas. Here we found five members of J pod frolicking in the water. This group included an astonishing 103-year old matriarch named “Granny” who apparently has some energetic grandsons. Her offspring delighted us all with playful jumps and stunts: spy-hopping, cartwheels, tail flapping, and breaching. A thrill in every way.

The search for orcas successful, our boat headed back toward Friday Harbor for a lunch break, stopping along the way to observe the utterly adorable wiggling and graceful swimming of sea otter moms and pups that populated rocky outcroppings in the water. Thanks to the on-board nature guide, we also spotted bald eagles! Mountains in the distance framed each exciting discovery.

At Friday Harbor, we all dashed for lunch. The tourist trap restaurants filled up quickly, so I went a bit further up the main road to the quaint Herb’s Tavern (the oldest tavern in town) where I had a beer from Alaskan brewing and the rightfully recommended fish and chips. The day was entirely too beautiful to remain indoors, so I walked to an ice cream shop, aptly named The Sweet Retreat, for a generous scoop of salted caramel. Back at the pier, I looked out at the boats and the water to drink in the joy of feeling so wonderfully far from home.Fridayharbor2

How beautiful to have enjoyed such a tremendously full day in a region of spectacular beauty; how marvelous that the natural world is a treasure we all can share.