A President's Reflections

Hitting to all Fields

Posted on October 21, 2009

In case my three readers were wondering, I have not abandoned my blog.  The computer virus that afflicted Belknap computers last week interfered with the log-in function for WordPress.  I have an alternative way in for now.  Tammy says “Get a Mac.”

As a longtime reader of the Boston Globewho starts his every day with the Sports section and that first cup of coffee, I have always envied Bob Ryan his occasional “hitting to all fields” column where he obviously shares whatever random thoughts have occurred to him lately.

Then it occured to me: I’ve got a blog.  I can do the same thing.

So really, stop right here if you are hoping for something profound or even merely insightful.  Now….

1. Okay, so the Sox were quickly overcome by the Angels.  The tough truth is that the better team won and the Sox’s weaknesses were revealed.  They were not as good as their record.  Papi, God love his steroid enlarged heart, is on the quick and steep decline.  Lowell’s hip is shot.  Papelbon is down to a fastball and even odds are that Theo will trade him while he still has some value.  Time to rebuild.

2. HOWEVER, does any team in any sport have a better psyche song than the Dropkick Murphy’s “Tessie?”  There’s no one in close second.  So there is that.

3. I dearly love my 91-year-old mother and my in-laws (in their 70s), but phone calls to them make me feel like I’m on the bridge of a sinking boat and all the reports coming in are about another leak, a rudder loose, an anchor lost.  The chronicle of illnesses (and friends’ illnesses) and treatments is boundless.  Maybe that’s a fitting metaphor for life’s physical infirmities at a certain age: just trying to keep the tub afloat.  Turned 52 last week.  Boat may be taking on a bit of water, but still seaworthy (I think).

4. We held a brown bag lunch in the Gallery on Monday in the wake of some student complaints about the show hanging there now. It was a good discussion and my heart particularly ached for one veteran-student who saw the show’s indictment of torture and abuse of Iraqis in custody of American soldiers as a larger indictment of all soldiers and their service in Iraq.  This young guy clearly saw things that no should see and is haunted by the experience.  Anyone who glibly argues for sending troops into any conflict should see the show and meet a veteran like this young man.  The price on everyone involved is terribly steep and not much paid by those of us worrying more about the Red Sox season or Pam and Jim’s wedding on The Office.

5. But….I did love the wedding and the split narrative was brilliant.

6. Watched Woody Allen’s Matchpoint this week.  I once loved his work, but I now find myself not liking or even caring about his characters (at least in this film).  I understand the indictment of the privileged class and also of those who scratch and claw to get there, but in the film there was no moral counterpoint or compass.  The guy is so amazingly talented that the movie was a pleasure to watch — few directors have a better eye.  But I fear with Woody there’s less there than meets the eye and the intellectual veneer is, in the end, sophomoric.

7. If Pat were writing this, she’d add he doesn’t get women worth a damn.  Can’t argue.
8. Parental brag: our daughter Em is an aspiring photojournalist and has three times been in Iraq over the last 18 months (once embedded with the 101st airborne for 2 months) and has done a lot of work in Syria.  You can check out her work at www.makotophotographic.com. She spent three months documenting the lives of inmates in a Syrian asylum and that work is part of her first gallery show out in Springfield.  L’Mondehas decided to use Makoto stories every month on its web site — a real coup for these three young journalists who just started the photo agency this summer.

9. My campus heroes of the week:

A. Debbie Disston, for not being defensive about the Gallery show and finding a way to create a teaching opportunity where smart, well-meaning people could disagree. (What, no art faculty could show up?)

B. The team that led our United Way campaign.  We broke last year’s record
and blow out of the water every other college or university in the area.  Thanks to all who gave!

C. Our two cross-country runners who last week abandoned their race to help an ailing BU runner who had collapsed.  While scores of others ran
past the unconscious student athlete, out two guys stopped and got him to an aid station (automatically disqualifying themselves).  How much do you love those kids?
10. Favorite under-appreciated rock bands and/or musicians who deserve your attention:

Mission of Burma (download…I mean buy…”That’s When I Reach For My Revolver.”)
The Replacements.
Billy Bragg.
Patty Smith (Horses is still brilliant).
Ja Rule (okay, more guilty pleasure than great and not appropriate for
 family listening).
Crash Test Dummies (another love it or hate it lead vocal).
Goo Goo Dolls
Iris Dement
Jimmy Webb
Joy Division (later New Order)
Kings of Leon
The Pogues
Richard Thompson
Todd Rundgren
Steve Earle (now here’s a guy who is angry)
The Strokes
Tom Waits

Related music notes:

Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” is a PERFECTLY executed song;
Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” is a perfect wedding song (disclosure: it’s ours);
Tom Petty’s “Wild One Forever” is a great B-side no one knows;
Springsteen’s “Turn Out the Lights” is a brilliant anti-war song
and B-side non-hit;
Can we admit it?  Most folk music is dreadful;
Terms our kids don’t really get:
     Liner notes
Want to feel old?  Ask a student about their first album.  They won’t
know what you’re talking about.

Disclosure #2: Pat knows WAY more music than I do and more contemporary music than most college students.
11. Hannah (our youngest) had a bout of H1N1.  Emma (our oldest) has it now and I am on the road.  I know its a neurotic, but I hate being away when my kids are sick.  I’d rather trade places.  Does that ever stop?�
12. Is it a kind of ADHD to always be reading more than one book at a time
(and thus all books more slowly than one should)?  I am reading David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers, Karen Armstrong’s The Case For God, and Maile Meloy’s Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It.  The first won the Pulitizer, the second had glowing reviews and I heard the NPR interview with the author, and the third had a great review in the NY Times and the author is the niece of an old friend.  I really just listed them (I am reading them all)
so the Liberal Arts faculty wouldn’t think their president is just sitting around listening to old rock and roll, watching sports, and obsessing about his children — though he does all three of those with some regularity.

13.  What happened to science literacy in this country?  I keep reading reports about parents who won’t get their kids the H1N1 flu vaccine.  This vaccine is made with time-tested methods in the same facilities that do the regular flu vaccine year after year.  The flu is an unusual one — the vaccine is not.  People, come on.

Wow — that was the most random, disconnected blog post I’ve ever written and it was utterly satisfying.  If you’ve read the whole thing and are still with me at this point…..really, you need to find better things to do!

9 thoughts on “Hitting to all Fields

  1. Tammy says:

    I have but one thing to say: Get a Mac.

    No, two: I’ll back off on the Mac thing a bit because you like Tom Waits, the Replacements, Patti Smith and Iris Dement.

  2. Trish says:

    Maybe Tammy will let you borrow her Mac (and her iTunes library) until you know for sure that you’re ready to give up the immuno-supressed PC. I’m also quite sure that more than three people are reading your blog.

    Close 2nd is Nutty – also by the Dropkick Murphys. Definitely the best ‘get your game on’ song that I know.

    The leaks don’t exist until you start reporting them.

    I absolutely can not believe that Crash Test Dummies is on your list. Ugh. I’d rather listen to Rick O’s radio than CTD.

  3. Jason Mayeu says:

    I think this is great Paul. It makes you very down to earth and normal. Which in my eyes makes you a better president and person.

  4. Jason Mayeu says:

    Oh yeah….and you need a Mac.

  5. Paul Leblanc says:

    Aw shucks, Jason. Down to earth maybe. “Normal” is debatable.

    I’m starting to think Mac users are actually a corporate sponsored cult…..

  6. Jason Mayeu says:

    Normal is always debatable I suppose but, I think, it definitely makes you more approachable. If nothing else, it gives more context into who you are so that conversations between you and others are easier to start. That of course is not to say that you were unapproachable before only that it makes it easier on those that may not know how approachable you really are.

    In regards to Macs, I suppose if you mean we enjoy that Apple:
    • delivers on a promise of manufacturing reliable computers that last longer than a typical PC
    • manufactures computers that have little to no issues and are less susceptible to viruses
    • puts their computers together in a stylish mold that is not only modern and stylish but environmentally (or atleast leaning that way) conscious
    • manufactures computers with an OS that sees little to no problems in comparison to the likes of Windows Vista (yet allows you to run Windows if you truly desire too, I honestly don’t expect Windows 7 to be better then Macs Snow Leopard but it surely can’t be worse than Vista)

    If the above is what you mean then I guess we are a devout following and therefore could be considered a cult, of sorts. The fact that we may pay a little extra for the computers could qualify us as a “corporate sponsored cult” but if that means more reliability, longer computer life and better ease and pleasure of use then it might just be worth the extra expense.

  7. Gregg Mazzola says:

    I am the biggest Woody Allen fan alive (read Eric Lax’s biography) but I couldn’t agree more with this assessment. His movies and personal life have grown old, stale and unfortunately all too predictable. Yet I hold onto the hope with each new release that he has one more “Take the Money and Run” in him. Unfortunately, he ends up looking more like the creaky old quaterback who threw one too many passes and retired a year too late, rather than a year early.

    But nobody had a better run of quirky, inventive, and topical movies than Woody. The sound tracks alone are worth renting.

    My two favorite Woody quotes commited to memory:

    “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

    “Don’t knock masturbation – it’s sex with someone you love.”

    Keep this format coming.

  8. Paul Leblanc says:


    In Catholocism that is called the “Apostles Creed.” In Religious Studies you can follow the progression from cult to sect to religion. You’re all the way to third base, man.

    But at least you’ll have good music at your services with iPods and all.


  9. Jason Mayeu says:

    Good music and a contemporay temple. 🙂

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