REO, Starship, Fleetwood Mac and Memories of Holling Hall

Hello from my front porch,

It is a beautiful day in North central PA, and after a morning of meetings with students and grading, I am taking a break to enjoy my porch. I did some initial flower planting of Hyacinth bulbs, and now I am waiting for the UPS delivery and for a former student to stop by. One of the requirements of this new issue with my liver is to continue to lose the necessary weight to provide my liver the best chance to regenerate. That means cutting back to approximately 1,700 calories a day and walking at least five miles a day. I am working on the calorie plan, mostly to understand what consuming only 1,700 calories entails, and then figuring out creative and tasty ways to do that. The walking element is not difficult, but it is time consuming. However, after about three hours of grading this morning, I did manage to get 7 laps in around the quad. That is almost 2 miles. With the other walking today, my trusty phone tells me I am up to almost 3 miles for the day. I really quite enjoy a rather pedestrian sort of walk. I do not try to speed walk or set any sort of amazing distance; it is to manage a steady and comfortable pace. Most of the time I wear my Wi-Fi earbuds in an just enjoy whatever I choose to listen to, be it classical, folk or classic rock, and even at times country. If it were not for the grey hair and white beard, I might pass for one of the students and their technologically saturated lives (at least I can hope that is the case). Over the years, I have added a pretty wide variety to my repertoire of listening. I have give Sarah (Hansen ) Jacobs a great deal of credit for my interest and continuing love for classical music. I remember as a sophomore in college how she would give me clues about a particular piece as push me to see who it was by understanding the style and characteristics of a particular piece. She would provide hints. I remember her offering me classical Greek passages also as I was struggling my way through Dr. Hutton’s first semester Greek course. She was a sort of precursor to Dr. Brandes and my music history classes and certainly a bit more personable and enjoyable that the Greek class. Over the past few days, spring as definitely sprung here and I have been working in my yard. BTW, it is a couple days later since I began this post. Today was a day of cleaning, moving things, rearranging, and organizing. I need to be much more intentional about this. As I cleaned and organized, the duplicates I found of things are beyond what one might imagine, and there is a level of ridiculousness in all of that the defies logic in more ways that I probably have fingers and toes.

One of the things that happened on my walk the other day was a playlist that sort of warped me back in my first couple of years as a student at Dana College. I knew of REO Speedwagon before I was a student there, and certainly owned their two albums, You Can Tune a Piano and Hi Infidelity. I remember two students my sophomore year who lived on the floor where I was an RA. Bret O’Reilly and Frank Polich. Frankie, as he liked to be called was a serious Kevin Cronin fan (one of the latter lead vocalists for REO). That group and the others in the title were part of my life as a student at Dana. I can remember my junior year roommate playing “Time for Me to Fly” out the window of my third floor Holling Room. I will not offer the reason, and while I found it amusing at the time, it was a bit brutal. To this day, however, my favorite REO tune is “Ridin’ the Storm Out.” A second song that morning kept me right back at that little Lutheran liberal arts college. Jefferson Starship (and yes, originally Airplane, but definitely more pop than the Airplane was) certainly covered a wide-range of genres from the psychedelic of the 60s, when Grace Slick epitomized the Haight-Ashbury scene, to their more pop sound of “Jane,” which was a song without either Slick or Balin. I think “Jane” managed to keep the group relevant as things were changing. Slick would come back and iterations of the band continue even now, but the 1985 release of “We Built this City,” provided the sound of Starship to an entire new generation of listeners. The next song to be offered as I walked the quad was from the group Fleetwood Mac and their Rumours album. I did not realize that was their 11th album, but I listened to this album so many times that first year I was on 4th Holling Hall with my roommate, Peter Bonde. I did not know nearly as much as I do now, but I sure did appreciate their music. To this day, I find Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar picking astounding. When I later learned about the drama in the group, it was even more (and still is) phenomenal they could put out such a significant group of songs with the stress they had to be living in. Perhaps that album epitomizes just how much passion their is in good music. Passion is such an important part of our humanity.

Music has this unparalleled ability to transport us back to the place we were when we first heard the song. As I listened to these songs, I remember names and faces, and ironically since I posted some of them have commented on the FB page, one of the places I posted this. What this means is I am editing. It seems again, I have done some of my best proofreading after posting. I remembered floor shirts and intramural football games; and I remembered how music was my saving grace as I worried about whether or not I was smart enough to be in college. I remember playing my guitar for weekly campfires for Campus Ministry teams. I remember being blessed to have friends who still reach out. I remember David, a person on our floor from Kansas who would hang out in our room as he tried to get his bearing about him in being a college student. I was so fortunate to have a roommate that first year even though I thought I did not want one. I remember being welcomed by some wonderful people. The memories of travels to Wahoo, NE for a concert, a 25th birthday party thrown in my honor and classmates who stunned me in so many ways. I am still blessed to be friends with and to maintain those friendships through various social media outlets as noted, but those friendships are so much more dear to me now.  I wish at times I could go back to that little campus on the hill. That is an entirely different story for another time. One of the nice things about being able to remember Dana for what it was is how the people there honestly changed lives, and that was not only because of the outstanding faculty, but it was the incredible classmates I had in my classes. There were so many capable and intelligent people in that little college. Yet, music was central to most of it. Between my stereo, my love for music that was more complicated than a 1/5/4 chord progression (and groups like Kansas would fall into that category), and then my opportunity to sing in the college choir for Dr. Paul Neve was something that affected my appreciation for the diversity and complexity of music in so many ways I had never known. I remember sitting in the cathedral in Lubeck as I traveled during an interim and listening to the music of Buxtehude. This experience was heightened and more profound because Buxtehude had lived in that very town, the town known as the Queen of the Hanseatic  League, something that occurred with the rebuilding of Lubeck in the middle of the 12th century. I remember how I learned to appreciate Scandinavian chorale music from my time at Dana. It is something that gives me both pause and comfort to this day. I remember some incredible voices from my classmates from little towns like Fairbury, NE or from little Iowa towns. What I realize is the three semester class that was the highlight of my college career, and also the bane of the existence of others, was my Humanities course. What it taught be was to synthesize the world in which I lived. That is still the case today. As a child of working class parents, and please know that I am grateful beyond words for those parents – particularly when they adopted me, I knew very little about art, classical music, poetry, literature, or world history before the 20th century. I knew about going to church, working hard, basic meat, potatoes, and carrots, and jello salad or things at church potluck dinners. I knew about bakeries and working in a bakery and working summer jobs. I was exposed to some music between Sioux City Children’s Choir and church choirs, but I had little idea about how I would ever manage to go to college. In fact, I remember a serious argument my mother and I had because of the cost and her lack of knowledge of said costs. Yet, to this day, music, and practically any genre, is basic to my daily existence.

As I think about the first couple of years at Dana, my living space was in Holling Hall. The first year I lived on Four-North, the home of the Raiders. The second year I was on Two-North, where I was an RA. That was an experience of all experiences and my third year, I was on Four-South until I transferred to the University of Iowa. My last year, I would come back to Dana and stated out in Holling again, but would move to Rasmussen Hall, which to this day, I know it was a difficult, but necessary decision. That semester in Rasmussen was perhaps one of the best times of my life. Studying Physiology and Anatomy with two floor mates and another young woman was outstanding for a history and humanities major. My RA saving my life, probably literally when another young man had a breakdown is still appreciated. Living on campus was an important part of daily life at Dana, and I believe integral to understanding the culture of that small campus. It was always a bit different being an older student, even though the age was not tremendously older. Yet in an exceptionally traditional Nebraska place, being 24 as a freshman was outside the ordinary. I think that is why music was so important to me. It kept me both grounded in my past, but living in the present. When I was a freshman, there was a Navy veteran on my floor. He introduced me to Jimmy Buffet and Moosehead beer. I appreciate Jimmy Buffet more than the Moosehead these days, but that is no big issue. At the time, I found Moosehead beer quite stunning. It was so much better than domestic swill. Today, I consider and remember Dana with a certain wistfulness. What I received there as a student and what students received for 125 years is no longer available. It is ironic as I write this some of the things I learned in my Art History lectures comes flooding back to me as the Notre Dame Cathedral is burning in Paris. I remember being in Paris in January of 1981 and seeing this magnificent structure. I remember learning about flying buttresses. What a tragedy this is. I am reminded of a smaller fire, but nonetheless devastating to those who were fortunate enough be in Old Main, the central architectural building on the campus when I was a student. There are so many important memories and experiences that shaped the person I have become personally, intellectually, and professionally. Yesterday, my father would have turned 104 years old. Hard to believe he has been gone for more than two decades, but much like the memories that I noted here, it is as if he lives on also. When people tell me I am a lot like him that is a profound compliment.

As I move forward through another day, it is hard to tell what will spark a memory of the times that formed and molded the person I have become. What I know is I am the product of so many things: music, people, places, experiences. Each have contributed to the tapestry known as Michael Martin. Hard to tell what will create yet another design or layer. Yet, I am blessed to have time to create yet something that is a blend of the old and the new. That is the way things work. For the time being, here is a song from the past, and a shout out to my Navy classmate from my time at Dana. The picture above is from today and speaks to the fact that nothing is spared from the elements that create the world in which we live: fire, water, air, and earth. To those who have reached out in response to our mutual Dana memories . . .  to my Dyak friends, my college choir friends, and those who mean more than I have appropriate words, thank you!! Seems apropos that Jimmy Buffet grace this post, so to my Navy classmate, thanks for the introduction.

Thank you as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

Flying

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Good early morning,

On Friday afternoon, I allowed my Foundations students the opportunity to be outside for class as It was an in-class writing day. It was actually a phenomenal day weather-wise, which typified the week (which is surprising because it was fair week here), but as I made my way around the quad speaking to students, one of the things I noted was the semester was 1/3 over. I do not ever remember it seeming to go so quickly. The speed with which these past 5 weeks has gone by seems surreal at best. I have noted that sense of time passing by more quickly, but it seems to be in “warp speed” and I do not even like science fiction, but this is not fiction (and I like it even less). I wonder if it is I am aware more that the time I have left is limited. Is it that last birthday or is it more?

This weekend I was reading paper proposals, blogs, and other things students have handed in. I wish I could go back in time and be able to move through space and see what one was like in high school last year for my freshman. However, in all of upper level courses, as is often the case, I have some students who have been in a class with me previously. I should note that the previous class is generally a FYW class. My general practice is to have a “Writing with Sources” presentation with in the first week of class and using sources correctly and managing the formula (MLA, APA, CSM) is something I spend a significant amount of time on. So when I have one of them in class again and their work looks like no one ever taught them anything about citation, I am both stunned and somewhat disillusioned. From freshman to seniors, average students to strong, citation, and the formula for doing it correctly, seems to be a foreign language. I remember helping one of the more exceptional students I have ever met last year, last minute as he or she panicked at the impending deadline. I was sending pictures to show them formatting. I remember working diligently last year with a former student as that student attempted to help another. There seemed to be no recollection of what I had worked so hard in class to both teach the way to do it and stress the importance of doing so. It begs the question of why? It is because they grow up with a lack of being shown its importance or significance? That does not seem logical to me because every teacher had to attend college and the importance of citation is stressed. Is it that they do not think classes outside an English Department worry about citation, so neither should they? I know colleagues from other disciplines believe it is important, so that rationale does not seem to hold water. I know in at least some of the cases in my current class, the student was taught, but demonstrates little to no evidence that such instruction ever occurred, so then what am I to think?

I am left with something I referred to in my last post: have we created a generation of “everyone-wins-there-are-no-consequences-let-me-take-care-of-that-I-do-not-know-how-to-think-critically-why-should-I-synthesize-but-I-tried” dependents? “Houston, I think we have a problem.” I think was the line from Apollo 13. More accurately – Arne Duncan, American education system, school administrators, teachers, colleges, professors, and parents, I think (I know) we have a problem. I am a bit concerned about the world it seems we have created. I think being older and not having to be around to see what is coming might be a blessing in disguise. I am actually shocked at the self-centered attitude that seems to permeate so many of the people in my classes and this generation in general – all under the guise of “I merely changed my mind” or “it’s not what I want to do” or “it’s not convenient and stresses me out.” Welcome to being in a grownup world. Tonight in my class the idea of deadlines and being accountable or responsible for one’s actions, or lack thereof, seemed to shock people when I told them that because what they did affected others it was neither acceptable nor professional. The fact that I might question such behavior seemed like a shock, at least to some. Whether it is an assignment or merely a verbal commitment, simply  expecting follow-through or communicating should there be a change in plans is not an unreasonable point of view. Furthermore, finding such a lack in doing this as unprofessional or problematic is actually common sense; it is how the world works. It is what employers require. That is the kind way or rhetorically appropriate way to put it. After an earlier conversation, I decided to do some research to see if I was off base. What I have found was instructional and has two points I find particularly germane. This mindset of “what I decide is all that matters”, is commonplace (we are in trouble), and many employers and old people, like me, are rather stunned at this lack of dependability or a seemingly cavalier attitude toward any commitment, and second (and I wish I could say equally stunning, but I see it too often so I cannot) the 20-something is irritated by our questioning, and as such believes it is somehow our problem. As my closest colleague said, “They will get fired.” In fact, my research revealed the number of bosses or job recruiters who have fired new employees, or these new hires just quit was staggering. Yet, observing what I did today confirms this attitude as “the norm”. This teleological ethic again leads us societally toward some real problems.

It is amazing how a string of events, when analyzed, puts things into a much clearer perspective. I will have to ponder the idea of taking flight in yet another way. The title above has taken on even more significance as I have worked to write this. During the late summer, I flew to California with two people who have not flown a lot. The first flight was a propeller flight. One of the individuals was petrified and it was also a bit shocking. I have never experienced such a fear of flying in someone. While one might consider it amusing, in a bigger picture I really did not. However, I was shocked that a person who tries to appear as nothing could ever faze him or her was so completely frightened. I am not sure it is even possible to get them on another flight and I think a propeller flight is certainly out of the question. It is always surprising to me that just when I begin to trust something something seems to fly in and change or shatter that trust. I remember once writing in my notes “trust no one”. I know on the other hand living that way is a double-edged sword. To trust someone or to put trust into something sets one up for disappointment and hurt, even if they have claimed to trust you. While trusting someone might create this potential for hurt, to live one’s life without trusting can create s life of solitude, but a solitude that is really loneliness and possible disillusionment. There is a place of balance, but that balance is a tenuous place at best. The belief that the clock can be rolled back to an earlier place just because of change is naïve at best, but when applying a teleological method it seems both possible and appropriate. There are no consequences only moving on, but the belief that life offers such a possibility is quite misguided. I have had to learn this the hard way from things in my earlier life. Life is not like the movie Groundhog Day. If only it were – I would have wanted to end up with Andie McDowell too.

I do wish I could live my life in a totally conditional manner to believe that everything is a “what if” statement (not really). What if by merely deciding, there is a change; therefore, I can also change without regard to surroundings (be that things or people)? What if I could move in and out of any situation merely because I decided? What if I could disregard any commitments or have anything I said not really count, that everything is a do over if I so decide? What if . . . wait!! You can. We now live in a world where there are no absolutes, it is a Pomo world – I have experienced it at least three times in the last 36 hours or so. Maybe that is why I am feeling like we have moved toward the precipice of chaos. There is no sense of that old adage, one that I grew up with: “one’s word is their bond.” That must just be for old people, unfortunately (and it is in numerous ways unfortunate and fortunate) , I am old.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin