Sunday, September 30, 2007

Henderson County, IL Heritage Trail is Midwest at its Best

Those city folks may laugh, but the real heart of the idea that is America lies in the magnificent rural breadbasket of the country. As William Faulkner said, "I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it, and by sublimating the actual into apocryphal I would have complete liberty to use whatever talent I might have to its absolute top." So it was a lovely fall day, a bumper harvest, and good old midwestern pastimes from flea markets to cider drinking were around every corner. What could be better? There are more photos on Flickr under the search item Henderson County, IL Heritage Trail.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Some sad news.

Mike DiFuccia was a friend of mine. I was on the Board of directors of the Buchanan Center for the Arts when he was hired as our Executive Director some nine years ago and to hear that this vigorous young man of 54 had succumbed to a massive heart attack this past weekend was a true shock. Having survived a heart attack and subsequent open heart surgery myself, Mike's passing was felt with an empathy that only those who are "members of the club" can know.

To his family and his fiancee go my deepest condolence. I will miss Mike and so will Monmouth. His committment to his job at the Buchanan Center is really not covered in the obituary below. The artistic community of Warren County will hope to redress that omission a bit by holding a special commemorative event for Mike at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth,IL on Wed. Oct. 3rd at 5:00 PM.

Michael Anthony DiFuccia
January 23, 1953 - September 23, 2007)

Michael Anthony DiFuccia, age 54, of Galesburg, IL, passed away Sunday, September 23, 2007 at Genesis Medical Center, Illini Campus, Silvis, IL. A celebration of life will be held at 7:00 P.M. Wednesday at the Gibson Funeral Home in Port Byron, IL. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to River's Edge Fellowship located at the Heritage Center, P.O. Box 244, Hampton, IL 61256. Further arrangements are pending at the Vancil-Murphy Funeral Home, Springfield, IL. Michael Anthony DiFuccia was born January 23, 1953, in Erie, PA, the son of Nello and Patricia Ray-DiFuccia. Michael served in the Navy and was currently executive director at the Buchanan Center for the Arts, Monmouth, IL. First and foremost Michael loved his two boys, Matt and Nick. He was a member of the Worship Ministry at River's Edge Fellowship, he was an extremely talented musician, loved to play golf and was a man of faith. Michael was currently engaged to his fiancee, Allyson Wright. He is survived by his sons, Matt and Nick DiFuccia, Springfield, IL, his mother Patricia Helm, Erie, PA; sisters, Sandi Kruse, PA, Teri Kotyuk, PA, Kim Gillespie, NC; brother, Nello "Chip" DiFuccia, PA and many other extended family. He was preceded in death by his father, Nello.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Monmouth College (IL) Has Successful Cultural Fair

This past weekend Monmouth College(IL) hosted a highly successful Cultural Fair. For four hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon the Dunlap Plaza on the college's campus was home to sweet music, displays from around the world, and especially to glorious foods from sushi and satay to crepes and flan. My wife and I stuffed ourselves with goodies, chatted with old friends, met some new ones, and learned several things about the citizens of our world. This is indeed "What college was meant to be". Thanks to Ms. Ruby Pentsil-Bukari, Coordinator of Intercultural Life, who somehow managed to put this all together and still keep a big smile on her face (see just above), and to the weather, which was as perfect as it could be.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Curmudgeon Speaks!

Stayed in a Hawthorne Suites hotel last weekend and was asked for the first time to sign a statment swearing that we would not smoke in a no-smoking room upon penalty of severe retribution. While admitting that on occasion there have been some strangely smokey smells in supposed no-smoking rooms, this strikes me as a bit over the top. I cannot be required to swear that I am not actively involved in overthrowing the government, but I can be required to swear that I will not light up in a smoke-free place. Just go ahead and and throw the book at me if I do. The signs are posted. Why bother with a disclaimer?

While we are on the Hawthorne people, has the unannounced charge for using the provided room safe (even if you don't use it) gotten in your craw. This could easily be parleyed into an extra charge for movies on the TV even if you don't watch them, and an extra charge for providing the snack fridge even if you don't eat any of the overpriced goodies.

Granted a buck is not a bank breaker and they will remove the dollar for providing a safe if you complain and state that you did not use it, but it does raise an ethical issue. Since they pop the bill under your door in the dead of night and tell you that you can just leave without checking out, my guess is that they are banking (literally banking as it turns out) that about 80% of their tenants will not notice the buck as it is stuck in there with all those neat little taxes that you also didn't know about when you signed up for their bargain rate. Another 10% will notice it and pay it anyway without asking questions. In a large chain I would suspect that there can be thosands of little bucks in profits piled up before you know it.
I seem to recall that some time ago there was a corporation that was rounding up all their bills as a convenience to you. Not down, but up of course. A few pennies here and there not weighing down your pocket and over a month a couple of million pennies weighing up the corporate balance sheet.

And then there are the "convenience fees" for purchasing event tickets or using a bank's ATM machine. The servicer handles a transaction by conveniently buying a machine to do what an employee would have to be paid a good deal more to do. Yes, yes, machines cost money. But once they are amortized, they don't get vacations, sick, peevish, or strike for higher wages. Sure it is convenient to pick up your cash at 9:30 PM on Sunday night, but let's get real. They really ain't doing it for your convenience; they are doing it because in the long run it is cheaper for them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Urban Reads from New Novel--The Dean is Dead

Professor Bill Urban appeared at the Warren County Public Library in Monmouth last night. He read from his new book, answered questions, and afterwards signed copies for some of the audience.

Urban teaches History at Monmouth College in Illinois. He has written some twenty books--most of them scholarly studies on medieval history. The Dean is Dead is his first foray into fiction and it breaks the mould completely by being a comic mystery set in a small, financially starved liberal arts college. The characters are amusingly common types found on most campuses and you will find yourself chuckling often as they try to go about their business while the murder investigation dredges up old animosities and new suspects.

Monday, September 17, 2007


At an Advocacy Session at the Illinois Theatre Association on Saturday, September 15th, Ra Joy, Executive Director of the Illinois Arts Alliance explained in chilling detail the current Illinois budget stand-off. Unfortunately, that fight between the governor and the legislature is holding funding for the arts as one of the prime hostages. Money for the Illinois Arts Council and for art and foreign language instruction through the Illinois Board of Education has been labeled as "Pork" by our governor.

The next two weeks may be critical in resolving these issues. Many state arts agencies (including Monmouth's own Buchanan Center for the Arts) received notices this weekend that their 2008 grants may be cut from 33 to 50%. This means cuts to several local arts entities who have benefited from re-grant funds. These include the AAUW Art Presenter Program, Monmouth College, OFTA (Old Friends Talk Arts), and various schools.

An e-mail or letter to your state representatives and the governor is in order now if you believe these cuts need to be rescinded. Go to and follow the simple instructions. Addresses and talking points can be selected.

If you want additional talking points on these critical issues or if you want to send information to your friends, you can find the Arts Alliance issue briefs for Arts Council funding and Arts and Foreign Language Education funding at:

And finally, if you think you might be able to attend one of the regional budget hearings between now and the Sept. 27th, go the following site to see the dates, times, and locations. The Rock Island, IL meeting is on Monday, Sept. 24th at 6:00 PM at the County Bldg.

The time is short and the threat is real. Small rural arts groups and small rural arts centers like Monmouth's Buchanan Center are most at risk here because we have far more limited access to private wealth, large corporate givers, and major foundations.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Welcome to the Illinois Theatre Association 2007 Convention

Almost one hundred members of the Illinois Theatre Association met for their annual convention in Champaign/Urbana, IL on September 14 and 15. The group saw scenes from a forthcoming production, Approaching Africa, at the University of Illinois' Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and attended an evening performance of the Station Theatre's production of James Still's Iron Kisses. Other activities included a reception, educational workshops, and an Awards Dinner. Special guests at the convention included keynote speaker Michael Rohd, Artistic Director of the Sojourn Theatre in Portland, Oregon and Ra Joy, Executive Director of the Illinois Arts Alliance.

Keynote Speaker Michael Rohd

John Muszynski, President of the ITA (left), listens to special guest Ra Joy,(right) Executive Director of the Illinois Arts Alliance on the importance of political advocacy for the arts.

Several awards were presented.

Members chatted informally in the lobby.

Small groups met to learn new techniques and discuss practical problems of theatre production.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On This Day When "9-11"

My academic career was bookended by two "Where were you when?" moments. In 1963, shortly after I began teaching at Monmouth College, John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
In the fall of 2001, as I was beginning my retirement year, a green field, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center were indelibly linked in another tragic moment. Black and white television was another linkage for me. The first event was broadcast that way, but 9/11 first came to me in my campus office when a colleague called, "Do you have a TV? Something's going on in New York." I had a tiny little 5 inch black and white set that sat on my bookshelf and I remember rolling my chair over to turn it on and then leaning closer and closer: staring in disbelief at that grainy little screen. This could not be real.

Now six years later, on a larger color screen, I have seen debates on how much grief or commemoration is enough? Has it gone on too long? When do you just get on with it? Well, I'm not sure I've ever gotten on with the destruction in Dallas, so I am inclined to let each soul determine his or her own remembrance comfort level. Let the processing of 9/11 take as long as it takes you because it is a part of you.

Dealing with the pleasant and the horrendous elements of the past and making some sense of them for you and your students is one of the great challenges of teaching. There was no one way to make explanations in 1963 and there is no one way today.

Perhaps this will help. Hector, the retired teacher, in Allan Bennett's The History Boys says at very end of the play,

"Pass the parcel.
That's sometimes all you can do.
Take it, feel it, and pass it on.
Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, some day.
Pass it on, boys.
That's the game I wanted you to learn.
Pass it on."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oh Dear! It Rained on our Parade.

It was our 32th Prime Beef Festival Parade and definitely one of the dampest. It looked like a few clouds at first, then a light shower, but it just kept coming down until both marchers and viewers were sodden to the max. We ended up with a full cadre huddled on our porch. Luckily it was a warm day so noone got chilled. And glory of glories just as the parade wound down, a quite nice rainbow appeared to announce the end of the water for the rest of the evening.