Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Videos

So I’m sure you all have been dying for an update on what has been happening back at MSU with the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program that I was working with this spring. Well, I have had very limited contact with the students who are interning this summer, but they are working on video podcasts for the other Peer Educators. Here is a link to their second video, featuring our three summer interns, Jackie, Marc, and Rachel, and Dr. Jayne Schuiteman of the Women’s Resource Center. As far as additional info, such as when the program will actually be occurring and when training will be and who the coordinator of the program will be, I have no idea yet. Hopefully, some information on that will emerge.

I am still unsure what my affiliation with the program will be when I get back, but at the moment I am planning on giving them around five hours a week. I’m not sure what the capacity will be in, but I am hoping to keep myself involved. It has been something I’ve been passionate about for a long time, and I don’t want to abandon it. I think it is important work.
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I Met Bill Kelso

Yes, it’s true. I shook his hand, I talked a little about my dissertation, had lunch with him, and I received a tour (with the HSMC 2008 Field School) of Jamestowne, his lab, and the museum. Please note in this photo (taken by me) how close I am standing to him. No zoom involved here, folks. I was this close.
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For those of you who don’t know who Bill Kelso is, let me run through a couple of his accomplishments: He excavated the Kingsmill Plantation in the early 70’s, one of the earliest plantation and slave excavations completed. He excavated Mulberry Row, the row of slave quarters at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation. And, oh by the way, he found the Jamestowne Fort, the birthplace of America, which had been previously to be lost to erosion. No Big Deal. He is, as I like to say, an Archaeological Rock Star.

At any rate, as you can probably pull from this post, I was a “chaperone” (i.e. driver) for the 2008 Historic St. Mary’s City Field School annual trip to the Virginia historic triangle. We visited Williamsburg and Jamestowne (both the excavation and the settlement, which are entirely different things. The former is an actual excavation of the real thing, while the latter is a Disney-fied recreation). All were fascinating. I went last year as well, but that did not make the trip any less exciting. There is a lot of great work going on, and it was neat to see the behind the scenes of other archaeology labs, excavations, and museum interpretations. I would highly recommend a trip to these places for anyone with any interest.
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All-Star Game! Cubs Everywhere!

Well, the All-Star game festivities begin this week, with the Home Run Derby this weekend and the All-Star game on Tuesday. I always enjoy watching the game, because it is a rare time to get to watch the best ball players face off. I particularly enjoy it now that the game actually counts; the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series. So, unlike the basketball, football, or hockey All Star games, this game actually matters, and the players actually play it for real. People slide, and pitch inside, and try to leg out doubles, and dive for balls in the outfield. It is a real game, and the players play it that way, and that makes it exciting to watch. Also, this usually means that, with so many incredible ball players on the field at once, something amazing will probably happen.
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This year, 8 of those amazing players are actually members of the Chicago Cubs! Gone are the days when only Sammy Sosa or Ryne Sandberg were the representatives. This year, Alfanso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Geovanny Soto, Carlos Zambrano, Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Marmol all made the team. Soriano cannot play because of a broken hand, and Wood is out because of a blister. Marmol was then selected as Wood’s replacement. The most incredible story on this list? Definitely Wood and Dempster. Last year, Kerry Wood was about to retire until his arm magically healed, and Dempster was the teams closer. This year, Wood is the closer (formally a starter for the Cubs), and Dempster is having a career year as the Cubs No. 2 starter.

Needless to say, I am excited. I am pumped. I’ve never been so elated about a season as I am this year. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how to feel. The Cubs have the best record in the major leagues, have the most All-Star representatives, and just made a huge trade last week for A’s starter Rich Harden that will make them even more solid. It is a bizzarre feeling, and I’m not sure what to do with it. On Tuesday, however, I will be kicking it with a couple beers and my Mark Grace jersey on to watch some baseball.
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On Baseball Parks and Scoreboards

Ashleigh and I caught another Orioles game this past weekend, a dissapointing 5-3 loss to Texas. We sat directly underneath the scoreboard in centerfield, and it made me realize something different then when I had done same thing at Wrigley Field.

I’m going to preface this post with a disclaimer: I think that Camden Yards is one of the most beautiful ball parks in the Major Leagues, and a fantastic place to watch a game. I haven’t been to many, but I have always been impressed, ever since my aunt took me thare when it first opened. As should be no surprise, Wrigley Field is, I think, the best place to watch a baseball game. The reasoning hadn’t been entirely clear to me, although this weekend helped solidify it for me. So anyway, if this sounds like a knock on Camden Yards, it isn’t meant to be, it is simply a description of a dramatic difference in two ballparks that were built nearly 80 years apart, and I think, therefore, reflect quite dramatically all that has changed in America during that time. At any rate, my job is to look at man made structures and figure out how they reflect or shape human behavior, so here it goes.
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Wrigley Field was built in 1914, and became the Cubs home field in 1916. It is the second oldest ball park in the majors. It is small, seating just over 41,000 people. The foul territory is incredibly limited, the outfield wall is made of brick and covered with ivy, and fans can watch the game from the rooftops across the street. The scoreboard is enourmous, operated primarily by the individuals inside it, who replace the numbers on all the scores by hand. It keeps track of the time (analogue), the batter’s number, strikes, ball, and outs. An electronic ticker was added underneath it that puts the batters name and a couple stats up.

Camden Yards was built in 1992, and was the first of many new “retro” ballparks built in the 90s. These parks were built in the downtown areas, and were supposed to mimic the fan-friendly styles of older parks, such as Wrigley Field. Much like Wrigley, Camden has some unique features: the warehouse on Eutewa Street and the high right field wall come to mind immeidately. The scoreboard is one of modern extravagance: Although topped with a classic rendering of The Baltimore Sun and an analogue clock, two large screens depict videos, games, and highlights between innings, full head shots of players, and stats galore.
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It is interesting to consider how the differences in scoreboards changes the way you watch a baseball game, but I argue that it most certainly does. It hadn’t become clear to me until Saturday, when I would have to physically turn around in order to watch the Crab Shuffle or the blooper real in between games, or to figure out who was pinch hitting. It was also interesting to watch everyone else in our seciton do the same, and to watch the umpires watching the board between innings. At Wrigley, this doesn’t happen. You watch the drunks, or the players taking warmups or flag down the Old Style guy or listen to the five piece pep band. It is an entirely different baseball experience. I’m not advocating one over the other (although I prefer Wrigley, but again, personal preference), simply pointing out the differences.

So why? What’s going on here? As should be no surprise, parks with the multimedia scoreboard are trying to keep baseball “interesting”. Most sports only have serious down time every half hour, whereas baseball could have it every ten minutes. Someone paying 30 bucks for a seat should be stimulated at all moments of the game, so the scoreboards have become the center of the baseball action. For most of the game, you are consulting the scoreboard, be it for a batting statistic or some between inning entertainment. About the only inning that the scoreboard is not being watched at Oriole Park is during the 7th inning stretch, when the same country song is played and everyone dances (I should point out that this is the most exciting inning break for everyone). At Wrigley, the focus is always on the field. The park is small, you are on top of the action at all times.

The newer parks of the last twenty years are all fabulous structures. Camden, more so then most, has managed to capture the feel of the small park, and it is a shame that it does not fill up as it did in the 1990s. Wrigley continues to fill up the seats, and has for a long time, in part because it is a tourist attraction in and of itself. People go to “experience” Wrigley Field, not so much to watch baseball. I’m not sure what that says about the park itself, but I think it implies that the afternoon at Wrigley can be relaxing place, whereas the newer parks are trying to constantly create a frenzied, constantly stimulated place to be -- which is precisely the kind of world we live in.

All that being said, baseball still is the most wonderful game in the world, and the ballpark has a lot to do with that. It is a variable: only in baseball does the field vary from place to place. The only restriction is the distance from the mound to the plate, and from base to base, and that makes this game unique, and that makes it special.

Go O’s! Go Cubs!

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Movie Review: Wall-E

Ashleigh and I bit the bullet last night and decided to go see a movie at the Lexington Park movie theater, one of the most miserable places to see a movie in America. After dropping $18 for two tickets (they don’t have a student rate, but a student night, which was not Tuesday), we settled in to watch Wall-E, the new Pixar film.
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This movie is pretty easy to describe: it is CUTE. It is the tale of a robot called Wall-E, who has been left on Earth to clean up the excess of trash that has been left behind. There used to be many Wall-Es, which are basically robot trash compactors, but most of them have broken down, leaving only this one Wall-E to do the work. He goes to work everyday with his friend the indestructable cockroach (who sleeps in a Twinky, which, after 700 years, is still gooey inside), and collects interesting bits of human culture in his red lunch box (Wall-E is, it should be noted, an amature archaeologist). He has, over the course of time, created giant mountains of trash, and one day, finds a tiny sapling. On this same day, the humans that have been on a luxury cruise space ship for the last 700 years drop off a pod robot named Eve, who is trained to find any evidence of life. It is at this point that the adventure begins, and Wall-E and Eve return to the space-cruise-liner to deliver the proof that Earth was yet again sustainable.

This movie is not subtle. There are some pretty clear messages being sent. First, there is the clear environmental issue. There is also the anti-corporation message: There appears to have no longer been a government anymore, but a giant corporation called, appropriately, Big and Large (WalMart on steroids, basically). There is the issue of obesity and sloth: the humans on the luxury cruise have been reduced, or should I say enlarged, to fat slobs who sit in robot chairs watching their own personal television all day. At one point, the captain of the ship actually stands on his own two feet to the cheer of all the other rolly-polly humans who had all fallen helplessly out of their robot-chairs.

This movie clearly takes a shot at our consumerist style of living, threatening a future of obesity and pollution and misery (the captain again, for example, has to ask a computer to define “dancing&rdquoWinking. At the same time, however, it is not anti-technology. For it is the robots that fall in love, and the robots who understand the importance of saving the Earth. Also, as the credits roll at the end of the movie, there is a montage of humans and robots bringing Earth back to life together. In a sense, then, the message really is not so much to stop consuming, but use technology to do so responsibly, and to not consume to the point where your “directive” is larger then simply consumption. Always keep your eyes out for beauty and love. One should also take into account that this is Pixar...I highly doubt Steve Jobs would be too pumped about a movie that did away with technology entirely, particularly when the hero, Wall-E, makes a macintosh start up sound when he is fully charged.
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Book Review: Straight Man - Richard Russo

Since I dedicated our many car rides this weekend (three three hour ones, to a wedding, to th Eastern Shore with my extended family, and then back home) to finishing a book, I thought I would give a little shout out to
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Richard Russo’s fine piece of work. Straight Man (1997), was my third Russo book, the Empire Falls (2002) and The Risk Pool (1994). All three manage to capture stories about men reaching turning points in their lives, and provide incredible insightful glances into the way in which these men cope with the pressures of family, profession, money, and women.

In Straight Man, Russo follows Hank Devereaux, the interim head of an English Department, child of a legendary literary critic, and general smart-ass, who never takes anything seriously, much to the detriment of everyone around him. Through the novel, you follow his quick downward spiral into general academic mayhem, including the threatening of all-out firings of professors, the murder of a goose, liasons with local new reporters, an unfortunate urinary issue, among other things. Russo manages to tie this altogether so that it makes sense, and, most importantly, is hilarious.

My favorite part of the book is its portrayal of the academic department: each character is a charicature of a certain type of academic. For example, there is the smart ass, the pansy, the cranky guy who doesn’t get what he wants, the seductrist, the former seductrist, and, my personal favorite, the overly-sensitive liberal man. As in, he suggested that because he was a white male, he shouldn’t be given tenure because his spot should really be given to a woman or person of color (this was soon recanted, as can be understood). he also made a motion during a faculty meeting, (one in which Hank, or main character, was listening in on from above, in the cieling, after having wet his pants while napping in his office) that everyone should try to like each other more.

All in all, an eventful, funny, enjoyable book. One that tends to pick on itself, or its profession, a little bit. There is some sort of criticism going on where a book ridicules departments that would study the writing of it (does that make sense?). The department comes across as pretty deficient, the college poorly off. Hank, a writer of only one fiction book (entitled Off the Road), teaches writing to a bunch of students who don’t grasp his teachings, while it is his secretary who ends up landing a book deal by the end of the book. There is something to be said about a department of English who’s only member that gets published is the woman answering the phones. It is also hinted at in the final scene, where a room full of male professors manage to trap themselves in a small room, filling the room so much that they cannot open the door, which swings in. Finally, they all laugh, recognizing the obsurdity of the situation. Finally, they decided to not take themselves too seriously.
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