Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rutgers v. Army at the New Meadowlands

I don’t go to many of my alma mater football games. In fact the last one was decades ago, when I went to the final Rutgers/Princeton game. Rutgers won that, 44 to 13. Rutgers was just starting to make its bid for big time football, and so needed to be in a different league than Princeton. It was surely an end of an era, since those two institutions began “college football” when on November 6, 1869, guys from Rutgers College challenged guys from College of New Jersey (now Princeton) to play football. Rutgers won, 6 to 4.

I have a sentimental place in my heart for Army, since my father used to take me to West Point to see Army play, usually against Notre Dame, and then we had to root for ND, of course.

The “new” Meadowlands looks a lot like the old one, a.k.a Giants Stadium. I saw a few games there in the LT years.

It was perfect football weather: cool but not cold with sunny skies. And it felt good to participate in this time-honored autumnal American ritual. Rutgers won in overtime, 23 to 20, but they really didn’t deserve to. Army was clearly the better team, but Rutgers scraped by and got lucky in many plays, except in one terrible play where Defensive Tackle Eric LeGrand sustained a neck injury in overtime. He's in the hospital, and his condition hasn't yet been reported, which doesn't sound good.

Update: The NYTimes is reporting that LeGrand is paralyzed from the neck down. How shocking. There were other injuries during the game, other players who didn't get up right away, so there was no way to know how serious Eric's injury is. Do there seem to be more injuries than in the past? As a kid watching games for years with my Dad, I don't remember any critical injuries. Everyone is praying for Eric.

I bought these tickets back in August, to go with an old RU alumni friend and her husband. It’s an odd twist of timing that the first game we go to for decades is just after the tragedy of Tyler Clementi put RU on the front page for troubling reasons.

Looking around at the RU fans, it’s hard to imagine any of them would have been so cruel to Tyler, even given that his sensibility was so different from their own.

And Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei: we’ve heard nothing more about charges against them. Why is that? Are their parents paying out to protect their privacy? Won’t that just suck.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Really Important Birthday: Happy 10 Years Andrew Sullivan & The Dish

On the heels of John Lennon's big day comes this very important day in the blogosphere: The Dish is turning 10!! (Making it a Libra blog, uniting John, Andrew, and me :) For all of you who think blogging is a more recent phenomenon than that, take note!

(I love his party hat and cake for the dogs. The man knows how to celebrate.)

Andrew is the blogger’s blogger. I read him several times every day for the sheer scope of ideas, for his clear, interesting, provocative, comforting voice, for the postings from his readers. He is a true pioneer of the form, as he says, “in 2000, there was Mickey and me, basically, in the political blogosphere”—-he taught us all by doing. He is so much richer than just a “political” blogger.

His blog (along with James Wolcott and Matt Zoller Seitz’s House Next Door) is the reason I started blogging: I wanted to join this amazing, self-empowered conversation myself, first hand.

And it was a thrill when Andrew did that literally by linking to my St. David’s day post last year, simply because I had emailed him and asked if he would be writing one for the day. That connection is the essence of blogging. We gave a collective nod to the Welsh on their national day—Dydd Gwly Dewi Dedwydd--because we both find that sort of tradition important.

Andrew’s description of the blogger’s joy is a perfect encaspulation:

“The original appeal, of course: the dream every writer has ever had since history began. To be able to write directly to other human beings, with no editor or publisher, no censor or commercial pressure, to open the mind to other open minds, to speak with as little fear as possible and to see what happens. I saw that potential in this new miraculous medium the first instant this blog was born; I see it now more clearly than ever.”

The “Toast or Roast” posts from his peers in honor of the day is wonderful reading.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dun-na-nuh-neh-na-nah, neh nuh: THEY SAY IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY


I’m SO happy to see the Google animation for John. What a great way to take his 20th century doodles into the 21st century.

The Paley Center for Media’s Tribute to John Lennon (in 2010), who would have turned seventy years old today, brought me into his early world and mind. I’ve had the genuine thrill of producing a gallery exhibit of early images from John’s life, “This Boy . . . John Lennon in Liverpool.” Working with Beatles historian Martin Lewis and curator Ron Simon, we brought together images of the child John—-from Yoko Ono’s archive; the teenage John—-from Rod Davis, one of his Quarrymen bandmates; and one image of John the man——from Bob Gruen’s classic, classic 1980 shoots, among other images.

The show really captures the beginnings of this great artist’s family/school life-—one of my favorite images is John with the neighbor’s dog, Squeaker. Then there is the most important date in rock ‘n’ roll history, July 6, 1957, when John is playing with the Quarrymen at the town fete and Paul is standing in the audience (the visitor’s own POV). The next image is the first time Paul played with the band, and the image after that is George, Paul, and John captured at a friend’s wedding.

Then there is a glimpse of the lads at an audition for Billy Fury. John is doing Elvis, and he’s asking for Billy Fury for his autograph!

Along with the exhibit, the Paley Center screened the Sam Taylor-Wood’s biopic of the same era, Nowhere Boy, with the Quarrymen, who played some of the old tunes after. And closed the week with American Masters LENNONYC, a superb documentary of John’s last ten years. It will be on tv in late November and I strongly recommend it. It’s a incredible time capsule of the 1970s with amazing footage of John you’ve never seen.

The Real Thing
There has been a veritable forest worth of trees and an ocean of ink and a googol of pixels dedicated to thoughts/scholarship about the Beatles, John, John and Yoko.

What has struck me in this special week is the wit and intelligence and struggle of a man trying to balance his extraordinary talent with the entire range of human situations and emotions: longing, jealousy, growing up in the spotlight, rage against the establishment, desires of every kind, loss, bliss, generosity, early middle age.

John’s relationship with Paul fascinates because of its depth and what it gave to the world: an insane number of musically exceptional songs that resonate deeply in the hearts of generations. John’s love for Yoko had such extreme consequences, from furthering tensions within the Beatles to fatefully bringing him to live in New York.

I’m not a big fan of John’s solo career, nor the underlying nihilism of “Imagine,” but I am a huge fan of his spirit of looking for peace: in the world, in his group, in his family, in his own heart.

John, I really hope you were wrong about the "no heaven" thing, and that the seraphim and cherubim are rockin’ with you to celebrate your birthday along with all of us down here.

"In My Life" from Anthology.  The perfect Lennon/McCartney song perfectly set to images:

(Exhibit photos, Reuters. Quarrymen, Michael Priest)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dark Days on the Banks of the Old Raritan

Sol iustitiae et occidentem illustra
Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also.

Irony now swirls around the Rutgers sunburst seal, with its adaptation of the Latin motto of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, connoting the original college’s early affiliation with the Dutch Reformed Church.

Rutgers is my alma mater, specifically Rutgers College, New Brunswick, College Avenue Campus. Rutgers used to be known for these people: Paul Robeson, Joyce Kilmer, Milton Friedman, George Segal, and more recently, James Gandolfini, Kristin Davis, Calista Flockhart, Mario Batali, and Pulitzer Prize novelist Junot Diaz.

Now it is known as the college where Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei toyed with the life of Tyler Clementi for their own twisted amusement, after which he jumped from the George Washington Bridge.

People have been cruel and stupidly cruel to one another forever. But the hurt that can be inflicted with the speed of a tweet or the upload of a video is of course our own age’s contribution to man’s inhumanity to man, which, by the way, is a line from Robert Burns’s 1787 poem “Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge,” written 21 years AFTER Rutgers was chartered as Queens College in 1766. Rutgers is one of the oldest universities in the country.

“My father sent me to old Rutgers, And resolv'd that I should be a man”

Rutgers College only went coed in 1972, so the words from its school song from 1869 can be forgiven.

Shortly after I graduated, Rutgers went from distinct, independent colleges—-Rutgers College, Douglass College (which Robin Morgan of Sisterhood Is Powerful fame once called “the cradle of feminism”) and Cook College (where the Rutgers tomato was cultivated)-—to a federated university system. For instance, it went from each college having its own English department/faculty, to one University-wide English department. This was part of a bid to be the Michigan of the East, with a football team to match it. I know this because I was asked to speak at a trustee dinner about the academics at Rutgers when this plan was talked about.

And I didn’t really get to say what I wanted. The academics at Rutgers were excellent, but in the 1980s it had an air of anti-intellectualism. The frats were in their heyday, and they weren’t as charming or clever as Animal House. Only two full classes had graduated since women had been admitted, and the status quo was still adjusting.

It was less of an adjustment for the “artistic” dorm I was in called Demarest, which had Special Interest sections. We were all feverishly worldly in the Petri dish of hormones and cerebral gymnastics that is dorm life. Everyone at Demarest was a little off center from the mainstream, in various ways, and so being different was embraced.

Demarest remains the Special Interest housing, and I am certain that Tyler Clementi would be alive today if he had been placed there instead of his dorm on Busch campus, more of a bastion of regular old Jersey boys. It’s a sad, chilling, tormenting thought about how something like a housing lottery can have such an effect on our lives.

A Course in Civility
What the hell is going on at Rutgers in general? Since when do you try to teach civility at a university level?

Completely separate from this tragedy, Rutgers had initiated what it calls “Project Civility, a two-year, university-wide dialogue at Rutgers, sponsored by the Offices of Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education at Rutgers- New Brunswick.”

It so happens that the kick-off event was Sept. 29, “Choosing Civiltiy,” with another “Can We Be Kinder Towards One Another on the Rutgers Buses?”

Rutgers runs free buses between the campus of College Ave., Cook, Douglass, and Busch. What the hell is going on on these buses that such intervention is necessary?

As I said, in my day the frats went too far in hurling verbal abuse at women walking to class on College Ave., but they were reigned in. (I see Phi Gamma Delta [FIJI!] lost its charter. It was a great place for dance parties, but that was before ruffies.)

Clearly, there is some sort of atmosphere at Rutgers that is souring the experience of the young people going there for their college experience. The university still has 70 Greek charters, but there's no evidence that the frat system is at the root of today's malaise.

As for Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. For whatever reason they thought it was acceptable to maliciously tape anyone in an intimate moment and post it on the internet, well, they were fatally wrong.