Commentaries - September 2007
I'll have more to say about The Mississippi Project in a later posting. Meantime, here's a passage from this year's convocation speech given to Penn's new freshman class by university president Amy Gutmann just a few nights ago:
If the first unwritten rule governing success at Penn is to open your mind to new ideas and friendships, then the second Penn rule is to aim high. The more unconventional, the better.
Consider Gabe Crane, a rising College senior whose passion for writing and canoeing led him to conceive a daring adventure: He and three of his pals would paddle canoes down the entire 2,000 miles of the Mississippi River. Then he’d write about the experience afterward.
Penn English Professor Al Filreis encouraged Gabe to be even bolder. Why not create a live blog called the “Mississippi Project” and make the adventure come alive in words, pictures, and conversation?
With tech support from Kelly Writers House and financial support from the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, Gabe created a multi-media literary journal that transformed his adventure into – in his words --- “a meditation on the state of our generation, coming now finally of age … and a meditation on the state of our country.”
Because Gabe aimed high, he has the beginnings of an original book and the makings of a successful literary career.
Penn can make the biggest difference in your lives when keep your mind open to challenging new ideas and friendships, and aim high.
Jerome Rothenberg's statement for Contemporary Poets (5th edition, 1991, pp. 827-28] is a beautiful summary of his life-work as a poet and global citizen. The enormity of mass destruction and genocide, during Rothenberg's youth, "created a crisis of expression...for which a poetics must be devised if we were to rise, again, beyond the level of a scream or of a silence more terrible than any scream."
Rothenberg will be here in February '08.
Libby Rosof and Roberta Fallon, a few years back, decided it was time to go wholly into the work they loved - reviewing art and advocating for local artists and arts organizations. They created "artblog" and it thrives.
Their most recent entries have to do with the new addition to the Philadelphia Museum of Art - the new Perelman Building, which is located across a section of the Ben Franklin Parkway circle connecting BFP to Kelly Drive.
China is the most influential nation allowing the Sudanese government to perpetrate genocide in Darfur. As Beijing prepares to host the 2008 Olympics, join us in demanding that China use its leverage with Sudan to secure a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur.
From "China's Gold Medal Spin Doctors" in Business Weekly, August 17, 2007: "Earlier this year, when activists tagged Beijing 2008 the "genocide Olympics," pressuring China to intervene in Sudan's civil war, Beijing listened and sent a senior official to refugee camps there. In May, a Chinese military engineering unit was dispatched to the region, underlining China's resolve to deal with the issue."
From "China's Healing Power," Time, August 2, 2007: "A tiny shift in China's Africa policy might just lead to peace in Darfur...Why has China's stance changed? [One] reason for the shift is that China desperately wants the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to go smoothly."
China, please: bring the Olympic dream to Darfur.
The photo above shows the torch relay - starting in the Darfur region of Sudan in August 2007. It will end in Beijing.
A former student of my Holocaust course at Penn, Karen Rutzick, has helped to create a powerful new web site: voicesfromdarfur.org.
"He was, for me, the most passionate of the scholars who pushed me to look beyond the easy and simple reading of literature. With cigarette ash always long on the cigarette and cascading down the front of his shirt, he thought more about the fire of words than that ash. I thought he was wonderful and stimulating and brilliant -- he was everything I loved about learning at Penn."--Elsie Sterling Howard
Bob Lucid died suddenly last December and I can't say I've gotten over it in any sense. In the weeks after Bob's passing, I spent a few minutes of free time here and there making a memorial web page for Bob. I pulled together some audio and video and gathered remembrances from students and colleagues.
This note from a former student stands in well for many others:
"My favorite memory of Bob Lucid is from when he led the summer in London program in 1985 that I attended. He turned up one morning for class, seemingly drunk, and announced, 'What the world really needs is a good breakfast wine!'"--Ilona Koren-Deutsch
Bob's not-quite-finished biography of Norman Mailer is being edited into a final typescript by a friend and colleague in the world of Mailer scholars.
We'll be celebrating Bob's life and legacy on Friday, October 19, 2007, at the Writers House. For more information about that event, click here.