December 08, 2006
$43,960 And Counting
The best minds of their generation, destroyed by boredom:
A Web site captures what Penn students are typing when they should be studying.
November 03, 2006
University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, right, threw a costume party at her place Halloween night. Entertained a little controversy.
At left is Saad Saadi, who came dressed as your basic suicide bomber, with plastic dynamite belted to his chest and a toy automatic weapon, according to Winfield Myers, director of Democracy-Project, which posted the photo, as well as pictures of mock executions.
My friend, Jason, and I express our condolences and sympathy to all affected by our costumes. We wish to make it clear that we do not support terrorism, violence, or anything that is against society. There is no agenda or statement associated with our behavior shown in these pictures. The costumes are meant to portray scary characters much like many other costumes on Halloween. Additionally, we strive for all societies to instill healthy and non-violent values.
An outrage? A costume party, for goodness' sake?
Myers took the outrage position. On Campus Watch, a Philadelphia-based, conservative site that monitors the teaching of Middle Eastern studies at U.S. colleges and universities, Myers asked:
But what was President Gutmann thinking when she agreed to pose with him? Would she have allowed anyone dressed as Adolf Hitler, or a Nazi SS officer, to enter or remain in her house?
The Volokh Conspiracy took another view:
But this is a Halloween party, no? In recent years, people dress up as positive things for Halloween, too (my boys were Pooh and Tigger) but I had thought the tradition was to dress up as scary, often nasty people. One of the kids in the neighborhood this year was dressed as a '20s gangster, complete with a plastic machinegun. Pirates are pretty common.
You're told to dress as someone scary. A suicide bomber is scary. It should probably be scarier than a skeleton or a ghost. Sounds like you did your Halloween duty. And I don't think that wearing a costume for Halloween endorses the likely sentiments of the person being depicted, be he pirate, bomber, gangster, or zombie.
Now there is a more complex argument, I suppose, that could be made: wearing a costume suggests that the depicted person's activity is a laughing matter. I take it that this would be a possible objection to people's dressing as Nazis for Halloween. I should say that I wouldn't object myself to people's dressing as Nazis for Halloween; still, I assume the sensible argument wouldn't be "by dressing as a Nazi you're endorsing Nazism" but "by dressing as a Nazi you're suggesting that it's OK to use Nazis as a subject of light-hearted fun." Yet even this isn't that persuasive an argument in my book. There are contexts in which light joking about suicide bombers or Nazis might be strikingly inapt; a Halloween party, on the other hand, doesn't seem to me to be one.
One of his commenters, ex-fed, was predicting fire from all sides:
I'm waiting for the perfect PC storm -- where the right is OUTRAGED at a costume that minimizes or supports suicide bombers and the left is OUTRAGED at a costume that suggests brown people are suicide bombers.
UPDATE: At noon, Penn's president issued this statement:
Each year, the president hosts a Halloween party for Penn students. More than 700 students attend. They all crowd around to have their picture taken with me in costume. This year, one student who had a toy gun in hand had his picture taken with me before it was obvious to me that he was dressed as a suicide bomber. He posted the photo on a website and it was picked up on several other websites.
The costume is clearly offensive and I was offended by it. As soon as I realized what his costume was, I refused to take any more pictures with him, as he requested. The student had the right to wear the costume just as I, and others, have a right to criticize his wearing of it.
A Daily Pennsylvanian article about the party attracted this comment from someone writing as a "Penn professor:"
Of course no one writes about the several students at the party dressed as Native Americans (which is exactly as tasteful as dressing in blackface), the students I saw dressed as crackheads, or the many women dressed in demeaning skimpy french maid outfits. Let's face it--whatever Mr. Saadi's judgement, his costume has been hijacked by others with their own agendas. Pick your costume and get worked up about it--there's no shortage of things to be offended by. But in the end, your own political agenda is the source of your upset--not one 21 year old student's choice of costume.
Amy Gutmann is, after all, a representative of the entire University- had she refused to take the picture, it would have sent the message that the University finds it acceptable to quiet the voices of students who make any controvercial noise. While she certainly would be justified in refusing to take a picture had she personally been very offended herself, she made no error in failling to act according to the above poster's individual version of "moral clarity."
I personally saw a few of these guys walking around in costume and thought it was distasteful as well...but my second thought was that I sure as hell am glad to be a part of a campus where free speech is respected- even when applying to the distasteful.
October 03, 2006
Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin asks whether school shootings, such as the one Monday in Amish country can be charted, and links a suicide-prevention researcher and author named Loren Coleman, who says yes, and watch out for more mid-month.
On his blog, Coleman, author of Suicide Cluster and The Copycat Effect, writes that most of today's school shootings occur during the beginning and end of the school year. Copycat attacks strike on anniversaries - whether it's a day, a week, a month, a year or ten years later. School shooters often imitate previous incidents - often down to specific details. "Celebrity" events, such as the Columbine shootings "have a far-reaching impact and modeling effect."
School shooters, he says, are suicidal, more than homicidal. Coleman, who spend much of his career in science as a cryptozoologist, aludes to a Secret Service study to support his thesis.
Until two recent shootings, the post-1996 model was for a student to kill fellow students. Before that, it was outsiders entering school and killing students.
Coleman recaps the school year so far:
The Aug. 24, shooting in Essex, Vt (two teachers killed, two more wounded - all female. The male shooter was wounded by his own gunshot.)
Aug. 29 in Hillsborough, N.C. (father of shooter killed, two students wounded in Columbine copycat.)
Sept. 7 in Paris, France. (16-year-old boy emptied shotgun inside a school, injuring a teacher and student.)
Sept. 13, Dawson College, Montreal (one student killed, 10 others hurt, by Columbine-obsessed shooter who killed himself.)
Sept. 14, Green Bay, Misc. (police, tipped by a student, arrested students and recovered sawed-off shotguns, automatic weapons, pistols, ammo.
Sept. 27, Bailey, Colo., (54-year-old-man walks into an English classroom and takes six young women hostage, sexually assaulting some. Kills one hostage before police kill him.)
Sept. 29, Cazenovia, Wisc. (recently expelled student brings shotgun to school, loses it in a struggle, then kills principal with a handgun.)
Please note that the lone male "outsider shooter" is a common denominator here, as well as most of the victims being females or authority figures (teachers, administrators). Also, there exists a clear and concentrated repeating pattern of Wednesdays and/or Thursdays, since August 24th.
I would watch Wednesday, October 11 (four weeks exactly) through Friday, October 13 (the month-by-date), the anniversary period, which is a "month" from the Dawson College shootings. There will also be another dangerous "hot window" for a next wave of school shootings. A month from the Colorado-Wisconsin events of September 27-29, at the end of October, could be a time in which people must keep their guard up and on high alert.
In general, of course, we seem to now be in an unfortunate high copycat effect pattern, and it could be a deadly time for students in North America, as well as internationally, for several weeks, no matter what the day or date.
June 27, 2006
What's In A Name, II
Remember the embarrassment of riches that Archmere Academy found itself with, having accepting a million dollars to slap the soiled Capano name over the Delaware private school's student life center?
The school's board of directors met last night and decided to find "the appropriate means of recognizing, in some other way," Louis Capano Jr.'s gift in honor of his parents.
Color Monorail Mike "thrilled."
June 15, 2006
What's In A Name
News that the Capanos want paid a cool mil to lend their family name to a building at Archmere Academy has generated some blog buzz.
(Quick fact file: Attorney Tom Capano murdered his mistress, Anne Marie Fahey. Brother Louis Jr. lied to the grand jury and destroyed evidence. Harrassed someone, too. Brother Gerald helped lose the body, but leaked to the feds.)
That a new arts center at the Claymont, Del., private school is to be named after their parents, hasn't appeased the critics.
"This is analogous to naming a Catholic high school building in Los Angeles after O.J. Simpson’s parents," wrote Monorail Mike, aka Michael Devine, a 1992 graduate of the Roman Catholic high school.
"Money may not be able to buy you happiness, but it can get you pretty far with the Catholic Church," wrote JudyPhilly in Truth, Justice & Peace.
Devine gives this background:
Last fall, in an apparent attempt to atone for his past, Louis struck a deal with his old high school: he would donate $1 million if Archmere would name a new building on campus after his parents, the late Louis Capano, Sr., and Marguerite Capano. And if that wasn’t enough, he made an additional million-dollar offer for the naming rights to a new building at the elementary school he had attended, St. Edmond’s Academy.
Archmere announced Capano’s seven-figure donation at a capital improvement event on the school’s campus on Sept. 25, 2005, but widespread knowledge of the agreement only began to surface recently. In response, Archmere students, parents, and alumni have launched a furious grassroots effort to oppose the new Capano building and have built a Web site, Protect Archmere’s Legacy, in order to promote the cause.
In a comment appended to an online petition aimed at his alma mater, he wrote:
I certainly recognize that a cornerstone of the Catholic faith is forgiveness. But it is completely unacceptable to honor a man who tampered with evidence and lied to a grand jury in an effort to help his brother literally get away with murder. In Delaware and the Philadelphia suburbs, the very name Capano is synonymous with scandal and crime, and no building on the Archmere campus should bear that name, regardless of how much money their family wishes to contribute. ... It’s very sad to realize that Archmere’s greed appears to outweigh its integrity.
A read through the petition suggests the school has a problem on its hands. Here's the most recent statement from the institution. The headmaster, in a letter to parents, expresses surprise that the matter didn't attract much debate when announced in the fall.
Gil Spencer has a tart column about the affair in the Delco Times, writing:
With all the fuss being made you’d have thought they’d decided to call it the Osama bin Laden Center for the Performing Arts.
His idea for a fix:
At Archmere, if they want to keep the money and shut their critics up too, here’s an idea: change the name of the building without changing the name.
From The Louis and Marguerite Capano Center for Student Life to this: Lou and Margie’s Student Union.
It lacks a certain grandeur but that’s the beauty of it.
March 22, 2006
The Columbia Journalism Review called Dick Polman one of the nation's top political reporters. Jules Witcover called him "one of the best of the political reporters who have succeeded my own generation."
Now you can call him "perfessor."
And say goodbye, sort of.
After 21 years at The Inquirer, Polman says he is crossing the Schuylkill this fall to become a full-time senior lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. He expects to teach two classes per semester at the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, and conduct symposia at the Kelly Writers House, where he will also deliver his own talks. This fall he plans to create a class in modern American political writing.
Polman is in negotiations to continue writing for the newspaper, where his most recent title has been national political correspondent. At the Inky, Polman covered four presidential elections, served as London correspondent, the Phillies beat writer and features writer.
Polman launched a blog last month, called Dick Polman's American Debate, at Philly.com. He writes a regular column about national politics in The Inquirer. He talked about continuing to write the blog or the column for the paper.
Inquirer editor Amanda Bennett wrote by email: "We are going to talk very seriously with him. We are very eager to keep his distinctive voice and expertise in the paper. National politics remains important to our paper. We are committed to continuing our aggressive coverage and will look at all options for how we do that."
Polman said that Penn, where he has taught journalism for three years, approached him for a full-time position. The offer became more attractive, he said, after the The Inquirer's fate became less certain. It is one of a dozen papers that McClatchy has said it will sell once it buys the chain from Knight Ridder.
Polman's blog has attracted fast attention on the web. Extreme Mortman wrote about the political columnist's blog-reading habits Monday. Polman described his thinking about the new media this way:
I have become a blog devotee. I don’t believe that they should replace some of the habits that are so two years ago - things like actually talking to real human beings - but they are often great tip sheets for measuring mood and ‘tude in the political world. I work with some friends who scoff at blogs and say “nobody is reading them, nobody is reading you,” but I keep insisting that they are behind the times. Yes there are many thousands of political blogs, and most of them are probably rant-infested, but I suspect we’re in an era not totally unlike the early 20th century with the autombile. There were scads of car companies, but over time most died off as consumers gravitated toward the credible ones. Anyway, I get story ideas from the credible blogs of today; I also get links to stories I would not have known about.
March 09, 2006
Philly Across The Mersey
Cold, rainy but brilliant! A group blog from University of the Arts students taking their spring break in Liverpool, England.
They tour the Cavern club. Play pool on tables with only red and yellow balls. Can't find the half and half. Struggle with doors that push, not pull. Hunt for the @ on the English keyboards - the whole beautiful tourist thing.
Each day at 1 p.m., Philly time, the students will broadcast an audio diary of their day, hosted by DJ Fatty B, aka Dan Berlin. Friday at 1 there's a concert that will be played over the Web.
A couple faculty members and 19 University of the Arts students are based at the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts. That's the school Sir Paul McCartney founded and funded. U of the A and LIPA are developing a partnership. The students are collaborating on bucket drumming, playing jazz, dance and performing a Sam Shepherd piece. They're rooming with Liverpudians.
DJ Fatty B writes of the broadcast's trial run:
i found a sweetspot in the bar and with a pint of Cains in my hand spoke to Philly from across the pond. Of course, this laptop can't use FETCH outside of UArts, much less from another continent so i had to try and use FTP.EXE on a PC here, but am unable to select RUN from the start menu because of our guest access. It was all a bit frustrating but to make a long story short, I was able to ftp the ref movie for the broadcast.
More Cains, please.
January 09, 2006
Hawks Fly South
Fourteen St. Joe's students and staffers traveled to The Big Easy to help the city rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. They worked the first week of the year with the Maryknoll Mission. The Hawks in New Orleans is their blog.
"When we arrived at Glen's house, an upside down car welcomed up and presented us with what seemed to be a daunting task, to empty out an entire woman's 45 year life at her house," began one of the more evocative posts, this one by Christopher Romano. They broke down plaster walls, got covered in dust and dirt and sweat. And learned that four months after the storm, there remains much to do.
A wrap up post, by Megan Halferty, is titled "Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint:"
Yes, I was able to sample corn grits and po boy sandwiches, bask in 70 degree temperatures in January, take in the sights of the beautiful parts of the city and alternatively the other areas' eye-opening and heartwrenchingly devastated remains, and finally I was introduced to the rich culture that is the birthplace of jazz and everything Mardi Gras.
However, I will take from this city much more than these tangible things. I will take from this city the spirit of a downtrodden people pushing to rebuild. I will take from this city the unrelenting will to move on, despite hardships and unfortunate realities. And I will take from this city's residents the belief that love survives all.
Jim Huck, a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, spoke with us Thursday and offered some powerful insights into the Hurricane's effect on the city. Jim told us that rich and poor didn't matter when the hurricane hit, levees broke, and the city had been flooded. No matter what amount of money you had sitting in a nest egg in the bank and no matter what expensive car was once sitting in your expensive driveway, it would not save you. Nothing tangible could.
November 01, 2005
Garden Variety Smarts
That crowing your hear is New Jerseyans reading how they scored in a ranking of the nation's smartest states.
Out of 50, for you who didn't pay attention in civics.
Morgan Quitno Press, the Kansas-based publisher of state and municipal ranking publications, calls it the Smartest State award.
Pennsylvania doesn't do too badly, either.
Delaware: middle-piddle at 25.
The Northeast ruled under these measures. Cow-friendly Vermont came in first, followed by steady-habited Connecticut and college-heavy Massachusetts. After New Jersey came Maine, which will surprise many a New Englander. Yup.
The rankings reflect scores in 21 categories, such measures as spending on public education, graduation rates, reading and math proficiency, teachers salaries, etc...
Bottoming out, from worst to less awful, were Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada and California.
Some bloggers are seeing this in political terms. Wrote the Pink Shoe Diaries:
and i won't mention that most of the red states are on the bottom half of the list.
but you know i'm thinking it.
September 05, 2005
Real World, Public School Division
Kevin and Nancy Peter are used to opening their West Mt. Airy home to the neighborhood each month or so in the hopes of selling others on their enthusiasm for the local public school, Charles W. Henry Elementary.
Now they're doing it by blog, as well.
Knowing Henry has been online since May, when the couple - parents of a first-grade boy - began posting news and observations about the school community. With Philadelphia public schools opening for business Tuesday, seemed a good time to enroll in the Peters' site.
The Henry school was the featured in an Inquirer series last fall by Dale Mezzacappa and Alletta Emeno, in a piece that noted: "Even in a city neighborhood with a fabled pride in its diversity and an indelible streak of 1960s idealism, parents of any color with the means to choose do not often choose Charles W. Henry Elementary."
The Peters, their Henry Group and their Knowing Henry blog, seek to change that. This post from the late spring, can't hurt:
You know that scene in Finding Nemo when Marlin takes Nemo to school for the first time? Not the part about the Drop-Off, forget that. But the part where they show up to drop off Nemo, and all the parent fish are hanging out talking as their kids go over to join the school. That part.
Taking a kid to Henry in the morning is like that. Lots of kids streaming into the schoolyard from all corners. Some kids are jumping Double Dutch by the stairs, others are racing by the fence, others are dutifully anticipating the call to assemble. And parents scattered throughout - some are spending a final few minutes with their kids, some are talking to the groups of kids that inevitably gather around them, while others are congregating in small groups to talk about a run to Infusion for a hit of caffeine on the way to work. ...
Dropping off our son at school is an immersion in community. I get hugs from Shelby, high-fives from Rondell, and the morning report on who's being unfair to Sean - all while my son is running foot races with kids ranging from kindergarten to fourth graders. I talk to one father about the bike ride coming up this weekend, to another about how the sound system makes the morning announcements sound like they're coming from an adult in Peanuts, and to a mom about the opera she's in at the moment.
They've posted something for the first day of school, a piece that sprinkles a little Chuck Berry into a mediation on the night-before-school-jitters and a lament for those starting the year in Hurricane Katrina's wake.