Thursday, December 19, 2013

Helsinki beyond the Harbor

Most visitors to Helsinki, Finland arrive by cruise ship and have only a few precious hours to spend in the city.  This means they can seldom do more than visit the waterfront market and make their way up to the Cathedral Square.  These are exciting and lovely but represent only a small part of Helsinki's charm. 

With a little more time you can manage a walk along the Esplanade, a ride on one of the many tram lines, and visits to some of the major sites. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Figgy Pudding to Stir for Christmas

Volume XXXX                                                                                                                                             Dec. 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” Kurt Vonnegut

True terror may also be that you realize you have been writing this letter for forty years.  In December, 1973, I wrote, “We’ve returned from our year in London and have been spending the last few months going through the typical cultural re-entry shock that goes with any foreign experience.”   This summer, returning from Finland, we went through that re-entry for the umpteenth time. It still carries conflicting emotions. We are happy to return to our own comfy cocoon in Monmouth, yet also chagrined that so many here in this country still seem to believe that people in foreign lands could not possibly have better health care,  education, or a better standard of living than an American.  Don’t get me wrong.  Needy is still needy wherever you are and by any standard Americans, including us, have been blessed with an unmatched fullness of life and liberty. On the other hand a recognition that the world has caught up and in some cases passed us is a truth that can no longer be denied.   

Now before the soap box collapses, let it also be known that 1973 was the year I started my beard. I didn’t like it at first, but then it grew on me.  All together now, LARGE GROAN! 

On the family news front son David and his wife Lotta continue to reside in Finland and dote on our only granddaughter Frida. She is now walking and climbing in the best of De Young tradition. To be honest, two sets of grandparents and a bunch of aunties on both sides are doing some doting as well.  Taking a look at her can tell you why.

We spent two weeks in Helsinki this past summer and bonded sufficiently to enable Frida to recognize us now during our Skype calls. Lotta plans to go back to work in February. David has not been able to get a job yet, but the government is paying him to study Finnish and he hopes to be able to compete better this coming year.  It has not been easy but they are surviving, prospering, and loving parenthood. 


We were also able to spend time with our new in-laws, Jukka and Anna-Maija. While touring the studio of a well known Finnish artist, Soile Yli Mayry, we sat for a picture of all of us in front of one of her paintings. Just in case you can’t tell, the artist is the lady in the red glasses and black tights.  STOP!  Medical advice break:  If you hear a ringing in your ears, don’t answer it.  Additional break to fill up the page: Do you need something to liven up the conversation while checking out at the grocery store?  When the clerk asks you, “Paper or plastic?”, just say, “It doesn’t matter, I’m bi-sacksual.”
Now on to the Brown household. Daughter Amy is continuing her teaching career while husband Todd is still working long hours as well.
But this year the parents will have to take second place to our oldest grandchild, TJ, who will be graduating from high school in May. His grade average has remained over a “B+” and he has been accepted into the Fire Safety program at Western Technical College in La Crosse, WI.  While keeping up with his coursework, helping at the fire station, and a part time job at a day care center, he has also managed to study for and pass his national EMT certification exam. We are so proud of him!    

Younger brother Mikel, 11, continues to do well in school and took after his brother by playing catcher on a summer baseball team.
 He is an avid iPad operator and loves to do crafts. He also shows some signs of becoming a philosopher. His mom reported last week that while he was looking at the ads for new computer games, he noticed that most of them were marked “M” for mature.  He then observed, “How does that make any sense? If someone was mature they wouldn’t be playing computer games, would they?” Hmmm--- a definite case of early onset wisdom.

Here’s your final break: Have you ever found it a little scary to see Braille numbers on the keypad for a drive-thru bank machine?   Jim and Jan are also chugging along.  Jan, as promised last year, gave up the AAUW Art Presenter Program after 40 years.  She does remain on the Warren County Library Board and is still active in AAUW.  For his part Jim has given up chairmanship of the Old Friends Talk Arts program at the Buchanan Center for the Arts.  To make up for this sudden influx of leisure both of them are now spending more time at the local history museum where Jim is a board member and Collection Management Chair.    
Even though our travels this year have been focused on Finland, we did manage a trip to Cancun in January to join our old friends the Spaetzels from Beloit College days.  
Then there was a swing through Arizona in February, and Carolina, Georgia,  and Florida early in the summer. Finally we took a side trip to Barcelona, Spain, on the way back from Finland. Full photo coverage for the very curious is available on Flickr:

And that’s the way it is forty years on.   We send you holiday greetings wherever you may be and wish for you and your loved ones a happy and healthy New Year.  Cheers!

p.s.  WHY IS THERE AN EXPIRATION DATE ON SOUR CREAM?  Do you need more nostalgia? Try  








Saturday, December 07, 2013

A Play Identification Quiz

Last week Sue Van Kirk, a good friend, budding author,  and former literature teacher challenged us  us to identify a list of  major novels based only on their first sentences. 
Here's Sue chowing down at her favorite Phoenix eatery.
She implied that the well read among us would have no trouble doing this and pronounced that it would take 13 out of the 15 to earn an “A” grade from her.   Surely, I thought, Ms. Van Kirk and her friends would also score well on identifying the following major works of dramatic literature based on their first lines. 
I have directed nine of them and have taught them all at some point in time.  Many are iconic works in the canon and should not push you too hard; others may stretch you a bit.  One final hint.  None are musicals, which is no surprise to anyone who knows me.   

1.       “Nothing to be done.”

2.      “If music be the food of love, play on.”

3.      “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket; I have things up my sleeve.”

4.      “Children, youngest brood of Cadmus the Old, why do you sit here with branches in your hand while the air is heavy with lament?”

5.       “The train’s in, thank God. What time is it?”

6.      “Willy?”

7.       “Who’s there?”

8.      “Is that you Petey?” 

9.      “Oh my word, I don’t think they are even up yet.”

10.   “I pray you all give your audience and hear this matter with reverence, by figure a moral play.”

11.    “Oh God for an end to this weary work; a year long I have watched here--head on arm.”

12.    “Jesus H. Christ!”

13.   “Now fair Hippolyta our nuptial hour draws on apace.”

14.   “With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces . . .”

15.   “Septimus, what is carnal embrace?”


No Peeking now until you have finished.

I’m an easier grader than Sue so My grading scale:  13-15 Right–  ”A” You are a dramaturgical scholar of the first order. Take a solo call in front of the curtain. 10-12 Right– “B” Almost at the top.  When I went to school this was still considered an excellent grade. Take a solo bow during the cast call.   9-11 Right  “C” You probably didn’t take my theatre history sequence but still a respectable showing. You're at least in the cast call.   7-8 Right– “D”  Not everyone sees or reads classic world drama. As Sue suggested you might try another field. We may still let you pull the curtain and put your name in the program.   Below 7 Right–”F” Your theatre chops are below par. Get thee back to a viewing and/or reading regimen before you try out for Jeopardy. .

Answers: 1 Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot  2 Wiliam Shakespeare Twelfth Night 3 Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie 4 Sophocles Oedipus Rex 5 Anton Chekov The Cherry Orchard 6 Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman (If you missed this one your are truly in need of further instruction) 7 William Shakespeare Hamlet  8 Harold Pinter The Birthday Party 9 Henrik Ibsen Hedda Gabler  10  Everyman  11 Aeschylus Agamemnon  12 Edward Albee Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf  13  William Shakespeare A Midsummer Night’s Dream  14  Peter Shaffer Equus  15  Tom Stoppard Arcadia
To the winner goes the balloon.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where Were You Fifty Years Ago on That Fateful Day?

In the summer of 1963 my wife took this picture of me on a ferryboat in Switzerland. We were having the time of our lives and in the middle of a long traverse of Europe with two suitcases, rail  passes, a camera, and a tattered copy of "Europe on Five Dollars a Day."  We were as young and carefree as we were ever going to be.

One month later I took up a position as a speech and theatre instructor at Monmouth College in Illinois.  On Nov. 22nd 1963  I was driving a carload of Monmouth students down Highway 150 (No Interstate 74 in those days). It was a noisy and excited group as we headed for Peoria to compete in the Bradley University Speech Tournament. We stopped for gas at a tiny Standard Oil station in Brimfield, Il. To pay you had to go into the station and inside a radio was on and the voice sounded serious.  As the attendant was finishing my transaction, he said, "Didn't you hear? The President's been shot."   I can still see him standing behind that counter today. I can still hear his voice.

I returned to the car, slid back into the driver's seat, and said "I think we need to turn on the radio. President Kennedy may have been shot."   By the time we got to the Bradley Student Union there was no doubt. When we entered the building there was just an eerie deadly silence. The main lounge was packed with students and their teachers all sitting in stunned silence around the grainy image of a black and white television.  For the next day and a half we went about our competitions but always  returned catatonically to that lounge and that TV set to watch the sad story of  JFK's assassination unfold. To this day it was the most somber event I have ever been a part of.

Did it influence us?  Yes!  Camelot was a presence for us that is hard to communicate today even to young and idealistic Obamamites.  We had cast one of our first presidential ballots for Kennedy and he was going to take us to the moon and beyond.  It's not just an accident that the middle name of our son,  who was born in June of 1964,  is John.
We have probably made that Peoria trip hundreds of times in the past fifty years. My wife grew up there and her parents lived there then.  Ironically, just today my wife and I happened to make that same drive again to stock up on groceries at Sam's Club.  Brimfield is just a quick passing shadow on a bypass now, but every time we have cruised past since 1963 the memory of that little Standard Oil station and the students in our car surges back.

That's where I was when our president was killed.   That "one brief shining moment" was gone.


Still traveling fifty years later this time with two cameras.  My wife took this one of me with our son David John De Young in Helsinki, Finland.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Monmouth College Illinois Homecoming 2013

Monmouth College celebrated its 2013 Homecoming this past weekend.  We attended the dedication of the Kieft wing of our new Science and Business Center and later Friday evening we deposited Doc's ashes under a new tree near the front door.  That was a sad event, but with each passing year I am moved by the joy that most returnees seem to feel when they come back to Monmouth.

Time chisels off the rough edges of past  experience, but it also exposes the erosion resistant core.  I heard again the stories of  how your education and your teachers shaped your lives for the better.  A resounding "Thank you" to each one of you who shared a bit of your story with me in the last two days. You made my weekend and I am sure the weekend of every professor you saw.

Here's to Big Red!
And our Pipers.
Hail the King and Queen!

Our first performers at the new Fushion Theatre show the promise of the next generation.
Craig Watson our Hatch Teacher of the Year and family.  Well deserved, old friend.

Here's some of my favorite people.  Brad Nahrstadt, Jeremy McNamara, and my wife at the parade.

Ralph and Martha Whiteman continue to show their support for the college every moment of every day.


And Prof. Doug Rankin continues to pass the parcel on to the next generation.
Love you man with all my heart!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Theatre Buff? Look at EXIT THE ACTRESS.

Exit the Actress is a first novel by Priya Parmar, a young woman with roots in English Literature and the Theatre. It recounts the life of the 17th century Restoration actress Nell (Ellen) Gynn via a sequence of fictional diary entries and a series of gossipy news items, letters from royalty, and even period recipes for food and medicines.  Nell is portrayed as an independent woman who will play by her own rules and not those of the men around her. She lives out her unmarried life as the mistress of three different Charles', but is faithful to each in his time. Above all she is adamant about not being kept and continues to insist on control of her living space and her professional life in the theatre.
The diary format tends to diminish the tension somewhat as the conflicts are narrated rather than dramatized, but the theatre buff will still be caught up in the Restoration ambiance and the treatment of familiar stage figures such as Thomas Killigrew, John Dryden, and the third Charles, King Charles II of England. At over 400 pages of smallish print, you will not be polishing this off in an afternoon at the beach, but I think you will find Ms. Parmar's take on Nell quite endearing and somewhat different from some of the more salacious takes on her life.


Monday, July 08, 2013

Bit and pieces post firecracker day

Blogging is tough to keep up.
Gee, nothing since Fathers Day.  What's been going on?  Not a whole lot and that's good at my age.  Surprises mean change and change requires energy. 
Did learn a thing or two in the last few days though.   For instance in a lovely program on Hampton Court, the royal residence just outside of London, I learned that those little figures peering down from overhead in the eaves of the great hall are the source of the word "evesdropping".

After that came the first episode of "Endeavor".  Yes, PBS is our channel of choice.  It is a Masterpiece Mystery prequel that takes us back to Inspector Morse's first days on the job as a smart but naive young investigator.  The portrayal of the young Morse seems too precious. He seems too willing to show off his observation skills, but perhaps this will mellow as the series progresses.  I also wonder why there is anyone left in Oxford after all these years of seemingly continuous multiple murders.   Is this series a setup for a pre-prequel that will give us the very young Morse making the decision to become a cop? 

Rain has once again put the golf on hold and may also put the library board picnic indoors tonite.

Working on an entry on the Ringling Estate in Sarasota.  Maybe tomorrow.   Meanwhile the grandsons play a mean game of baseball and the granddaughter is looking to start walking any day now.

The rich are not like the rest of us. Because, well, they're rich.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Some Post Fathers Day Notes

T'was a busy three day weekend of travel, observation, baseball, reading, and live theatre.

Off on Thursday to see the grandchildren play ball.  The team of the youngest didn't quite have the mustard this time.  The game of the oldest was forfeited when the opponents couldn't field a full team.  No runs, no hits, no errors, no player or fan broke a sweat,  and still a win.  So we were fifty fifty; can't beat that.

While looking at the Skogman Real Estate ad in the Cedar Rapids paper, I was intrigued to note that there were three full pages of pictures of their agents.   Not a single face of color visible.  Hmmmm!

More irony.  We were browsing the CR Barnes and Noble and came upon a display of books advertised as gifts for Dad on Fathers Day.  Every single volume on the table was about war or weapons.   HMMMMM!   The caps mean Hmmmm intensified.

Home on Saturday to do a two hour stint at our local history museum and then on Sunday up to the Quad City Music Guild's production  of Cabaret.  Playing Sally Bowles was former student Melissa Anderson-Clark.  I am most proud when those young people continue to do theatre after they leave college.  Art as a key part of life exemplfies the core of the liberal arts experience.  And in addition both of her children are active in performance.  To top if off her dad, a successful MD and also a Monmouth College grad, participates in theatre as well.   Kudos to a remarkable family giving back to the Quad Cities.

Need a read?    A challenging article in the May 20th New Yorker is titled "The Ivy League's Online Push."  It explores in some depth both the potential strengths and weaknesses of  formal internet education.    It moves us to consider once again the mystery of education.  Why do some students remember a moment in a classroom years before as a deciding path in their lives and some find difficulty in stopping the moment for even a second before it passes out of the other ear unfettered by thought or consideration?   Does the fact that Zuckerberg and Gates dropped out of college demonstrate that their  education was a success or a failure?   Check it out.  As the author, Nathan Heller, notes: ". . . the mechanism by which conveyed knowledge blooms into an education" may "either enrich teaching in this country or deplete it."  Now if we can just understand the mystery of the mechanism.

Need a longer and more theatrical read?  Try Priya Parmar's EXIT THE ACTRESS.  I guess I would call it bio-fiction.  It pretty accurately chronicles the life of famed Restoration actress Ellen "Nell" Gwyn, but it is couched in the form of a diary, which as far as we know, Nell never wrote. 

Now on to deeper things like the sand trap behind number two at Gibson Woods. 


Sunday, June 09, 2013

A Little Breakfast Aubade from the Professorial Side of the Desk

This photo was taken by my grandson Mikel and is one of my favorites.

A Little Breakfast Aubade from the Professorial Side of the Desk

An aubade is an ancient French word meaning “dawn song” or a song composed to be sung in the morning.  You can be comforted that I will not sing to you this morning.  Instead I’ll simply say a few brief words about my love affair with Monmouth College and liberal arts education.   

I first heard the word “aubade” at Beloit College in 1950’s when my mentor and head of the theatre department, Kirk Denmark, used it in a talk he gave at a morning convocation. The second time I used the word was in a speech I gave to our student body in the 1980’s at our Spring Honors Convocation.  This is the third time. (It’s not a word you can find an excuse to use very often.)  And now former Speech 101 students, on to the body of the talk.

About two weeks ago a former student, now in a graduate program in Texas, wrote to me:  "If it weren’t for you, I most likely never would have discovered theatre. Thank you, Doc, for playing such a pivotal and supportive role in helping to shape my life. I look forward to sharing a Guinness with you when I add Dr. to my name. :)"

I mention this not to aggrandize myself but to remind all of us that there is always someone who came before.    

For me it was my parents and it was in their honor that I made my small gift to Monmouth. Neither of them had a college degree.  My mom graduated from high school and went directly to work.  My dad had a tougher task. He had to leave high school after two years in order to help support a family whose father was away fighting in WW I.
My mom with me and my sister in 1946
My dad with me in 1938

In later years, my parents were both determined that their children would get the educational opportunities that they never were able to have.  And both of their children became first generation college graduates just as did many Monmouth graduates over the years. 
My dad, my future wife, me, my mom, my future wife's mom and dad at the Beloit College graduation in 1959
As a matter of fact, our family could qualify as ACM (Associated Colleges of the Midwest) poster children.  I went to Beloit College because my uncle went there.  My wife and I graduated from Beloit. My sister and her husband graduated from Coe College and they lived in Ripon for a time while my brother-in-law taught there. My son graduated from Grinnell and my daughter has both a BA and Master of Arts in Teaching from Coe.  And of course I taught here at Monmouth for thirty nine years. We must clearly have seen some value in a liberal arts education.  

One of the most important things we learned in those years of attending or serving at small colleges was that giving back, in the measure you can afford, is a part of life.  For me “the give” was to the theatre program at Monmouth; for you no doubt, something else equally important.        

But whether your motivation was a discipline, a professor, or the liberal arts concept itself, it is all summed up beautifully in Alan Bennett’s remarkable play THE HISTORY BOYS. Hector, the elderly teacher says at the end:

“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, one day. Pass it on, boys.  That’s the game I wanted you to learn. Pass it on.”

This was a brief talk delivered by Dr. Jim De Young. Professor Emeritus of Communication and Theatre Arts at the McMichael Heritage Society Breakfast on the Monmouth College Campus on June 8, 2013
The McMichael Heritage society honors people who have given substantial gifts in a year, made estate gifts, and employees with more than twenty-five years of service to the college.

The Wells Theatre was dedicated in 1990 and De Young Theatre Arts Education Fund honors
Dr. De Young's parents and will help fund guest theatre artists on campus and defray travel costs for current to off-campus theatre arts events. If you wish to add to this fund, contact Mr. Steve Bloomer, Director of Principal Gifts at Monmouth College, Monmouth, IL 61462 or email him at


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Just finished a book titled Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told."   Papp was the guiding light behind the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater for many years and shepherded a host of  new playwrights including David Rabe, Jason Miller, and Ntozake Shange.  His hand was also on breakout Broadway hits including  Hair, Chorus Line, and Pirates of Penzance.

The format of the book carries us through his career and the shows produced in Central Park and at the Public Theater through  the vehicle of interviews with Papp, the directors, actors, and other personnel who were involved in the productions.  This makes the narrative a bit jumpy and sometimes repetitive, but for any comtemporary theatre historian, dramaturg, or director of the works covered, there is some fertile loam to sift through.  Think of it more as a research tool for the professional rather than something the casual reader might pick up and read from cover to cover.

I did enjoy one fine pun story from the 1975 production of Hamlet in Central Park. John Lithgow was playing Laertes and slipped while leaping into the grave during the fight scene.  He injured his knee and had to be taken to the hospital.   Mr. Papp was heard to say after the event, "Well I guess you can't make a Hamlet without breaking some legs. "    

Monday, May 06, 2013

Could we dial back the volume?

  Is it conveivable that "the other" can never have even a marginally good idea, is 100% motivated by evil, and should always be treated with contempt?   William Rivers Pitt has a message for those who seem to have nothing better to do with their lives than spew unending racist and political venom.
“There is a corner in every human heart made to be filled with hatred, fear, and violence. It is our common curse, and when we feed that space, it grows larger, stronger, and more vicious. Whoever you are, wherever you are from, whatever you believe, that corner exists within you because you are human.

The great challenge of our common humanity, and of every individual human, is to make a void of that space as best we can. In that simple discipline lives freedom, for it is our hatreds that bind us and stagger us to ruin. Hatred of the "Other" is the puppet string upon which we dangle. When you hate someone you have never met for who they are or what they believe, you are doing the work of those whose joy is in your rage.” 
Could we dial back the volume for them so they might grow in peace and love and respect for their fellow human beings?


Monday, April 29, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Warmth in the Midwest Finally--No Change in Washington

We are all looking forward to some real spring this weekend.  I will hope to sow a few seeds in the garden.

Meanwhile we watch our republic suffer through more gun and bomb violence. Our ineffectual, cowardly, incoherent, and self-serving legislators do nothing but babble for the TV cameras once again.  The United States Senate, founded as a deliberative body, refuses to deliberate.  Our congress cannot agree on the time of day without someone denouncing the decision as a Republican or Democratic plot to destroy the country.  Shame on all of them!  And of course shame on us for electing people who refuse to participate in the act of governance itself thus making a mockery of our representative system.   

But the daffodils are blooming and the tulips are not far behind.  The very act of spring brings hope for rebirth and new beginnings in even the coldest ground.     


Monday, April 08, 2013

Vote tomorrow!

 "Do what you can within reach of your arm . . . because anything you touch is part of a tapestry that reaches far and wide, even unto the highest and mightiest seats of power."

William Rivers Pitt

Tomorrow is Tuesday and local election day here in Monmouth.  I like this quote because it not only comments on the power of the ballot, but also on the importance of each person doing what they can for their community, their state, and their country.  Each small effort is a part of the whole whether it is voting, serving on a volunteer committee, or picking up a piece of trash on the street in front of your house.

There is a thing called "the common good" that we seem to be on the verge of losing when only our own comfort and convenience and mindset becomes preeminent.

So think Spring and do vote.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Measure for Measure at the Goodman

We saw the Goodman Theatre's production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure last week. It was well done and technically flawless as usual , but I wasn't bowled over and did have some concerns which will come out in my comments below.

Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure  has been a problem play for 400 years and director Robert Falls manages to reinforce that feeling in his current Goodman Theatre production in Chicago.  First of all  Falls falls for the old  “if you don’t have the actors over-design it”  and hope the ever moving scenery will  cover up the cast.   I wish it were not the case but no one in the company, aside from a few of the comics,  seemed  to rise above the  stew-- i.e. nothing in this production is bad but nothing got my blood flowing either.   James Newcomb’s Duke returns to  eavesdrop  and meddle not as a Friar but as a Barry Fitzgeraldish Irish priest.  He is amusing yet has bothersome problems with keeping his accent consistent.   The same could be said of Isabella who pronounces only her name in dialect while sounding straight mid-western the rest of the time.  

The selection of the New York Times Square of the pimp ridden porno polluted 1970’s is a pertinent setting for the play,  but its  gaudy neon signs,  shiny steel  fence cages,  and too neatly positioned piles of garbage come off as too sanitized for anyone who  actually saw those years.  It was never glitzy; it was dirty,  drug ridden,  and wretchedly seamy.  

Notwithstanding things do keep moving.  Falls accelerates the scene transitions by starting entrances in slow motion as the previous scene winds down and then bumping up the lights and the movement to full speed as the next scene begins.  In another nice moment he highlights Angelo’s  lust for Isabella by having her enter in low light stop motion and rush forward to embrace him.  The audience gasps and laughs.  There is a quick blackout and the lights come up again to see them both apart and ready to play the scene as written but with an indelible comment made visually about an undercurrent in both characters.

And then there’s the ending.  Directors often search  for the right visual and movement metaphors to reinforce or clarify the action of a play and I have just noted a successful  example of one such choice.  Yet when directorial search extends into choosing an action that is not even vaguely suggested by the  text, I must draw the line.        

Falls’ decision to have the freed convict Bardardine sneak back during the jazzy final curtain love fest  and stab Isabella  just seems ludicrous rather than meaningful.  Barardine’s short comic appearance as the death row inmate who refuses to cooperate in his execution is milked nicely by actor Joe Foust,  but his short re-appearance in order to be pardoned  by the Duke gives us not one remote shred of reason as to why  barely a minute after his release he would somehow acquire a knife and return to the party and butcher the lady the Duke has just invited to be his wife. 

Shakespeare gives us plenty to think about  in the play.  Power is beguiling and sinister in its reach.  Justice seldom manages to be just and can be arbitrary.   Yet there is a difference between seeming arbitrary and being arbitrary.  While admitting Euripidean  deus ex machina endings are possible,  it remains my thought that this was not what Shakespeare set out to say in this still problematic work.       



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Illinois Creative Economy Initiative

Illinois Creative Economy Initiative
I have been writing about the economic importance of the arts in recent posts and was pleasantly surprised to see Governor Guinn's latest newsletter mentioning the same statistics and launching the following initiative. 

"On March 19, Governor Quinn launched the Illinois Creative Economy Initiative as part of his commitment to creating jobs and driving Illinois’ economy forward. The initiative will explore innovative strategies to grow the $2.7 billion creative economy in Illinois, which employs thousands of people and is a key driver of tourism to our state. The Creative Economy Initiative will be led by Ra Joy, who will work to bring all stakeholders together to identify and deploy strategies to boost a variety of arts and strengthen their role in the state’s economy. Joy has served as executive director of the Illinois Arts Alliance since 2007, and has been an advocate, community organizer and coalition builder for various arts causes for more than 15 years. For more information about the Creative Economy Initiative, visit"


Friday, March 22, 2013

Make Art Work Meeting in Peoria

We drove to Peoria's new Riverfront Museum yesterday (3-21-13)  to participate in a program called MAKE ART WORK sponsored jointly by Arts Alliance Illinois and ArtsPartners of Central Illinois.  The purpose was to explore how the arts support jobs, generate revenue for governments, attract tourists, and spark human creativity on all levels.  

The keynote speaker was Randy Cohen, Vice President for Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts.    His primary purpose was to highlight a major national economic study on the  contributions of the arts to our national economy.  The three county area around Peoria, IL was a part of this study and to localize his talk he concentrated on the figures from the state of Illinois and the Peoria area. 

If you need a couple of key statistics to insert into a grant application or to offer in a conversation with someone enamored with cutting the so called "frill" areas out of budgets, here are a few items.    Non-profit Arts Organizations  contribute around  20.4  million dollars to the Greater Peoria economy and 2.75 billion dollars to the Illinois economy each year.  In the Peoria area over 14 million dollars of this comes in direct spending by arts and culture organizations in creating events, constructing and maintaining their buildings,  and paying their employees.  Another 6 million comes from ancilliary spending by consumers as they buy fuel or take public transport to get to places, purchase food and beverages,  shop at other commercial retail outlets, or pay for lodging during their stay.

The national study covered over 33,000 arts related businesses in Illinois and also pointed out that those businesses employ almost 80,000 people statewide and  account for 850 full time equivalent jobs in Peoria.  The study also emphasizes that most of the spending by arts agencies and their customers stays local and thus returns tax revenues to states and municipalities.

When cuts to the arts are proposed,  I suggest you stop trying to depend on the emotional arguments about cutting the arts as a cut in the quality of  people's lives and instead argue that cutting the arts cuts needed revenue for your community.   Yes the arts may give you an emotional lift and something to live for, but the real key is that "It makes economic sense to support the Arts!"

The crowd files in at the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI last summer.
How can you help?  Tap into any or all of the organizations mentioned at the beginning of this article and give them some support.  I am a proud member of the Art Alliance Illinois and the Americans for the Arts. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hiroyuki Fujita Advises Monmouth College Students.

We attended the Whiteman Lecture this morning at Monmouth College. The speaker was Hiroyuki Fujita, a 1992 graduate of the college. 

After graduating from Monmouth Fujita went on to get a PhD in Physics from Case Western Reserve University.  Academia certainly called,  but business won out and he has since become the President and CEO of one of the fastest growing medical technology companies in the USA--Quality Electrodynamics.  

But it was not his vita that caught my eye as much as his speech. He spoke directly to the current student body and his message was clear.  Do not think that you go into business only to make money.  You also have to have a desire to make a difference.  You are not put here to do things to the world; you are here to do positive things for the world.  If you can put that into effect, you will also make enough money.

Asked how he measures his own background and how he looks at potential employees in his company he stated that everyone has ABILITY in something and needs to cultivate it.  Cultivation of that talent always requres EFFORT.  You score anywhere from 0 to 100 in the first two areas and find it wiped out if you do not have the right ATTITUDE because attitude can be scored from -100 to +100.   Bad attitudes impinge on effort and without effort ability can be squandered. 

Another idea he cited was "Always look at the doughnut, not the hole."  Be thankful for what you have. Don't spend valuable time whining or complaining about what you don't have; instead do something to fill the hole.

Simplistic. Sure.  But it seemed like practical advice coming from a foreign student who came to America and made the American Dream come true. . 

Although I never knew Hiro or his future wife when they were students, several of my fellow faculty members did and they were on hand to re-unite with him and to celebrate his accomplishments. All told an impressive day for the efficacy of a liberal arts eduction in providing knowledge and a moral compass to encircle it.    Thank you Hiroyuki.     


Friday, March 08, 2013

Homeward Bound

With a mindful eye on the weather forecase, we decided to leave a day early in order to avoid a predicted snowfall in Flagstaff.  That part of our plan worked perfectly.

As we headed toward Flagstaff we began to pick up some snow but most of it was in the higher elevations.
We made the junction to I 40 with ease and soon the mountains were in the rear view mirror. 
New Mexico's high plains red rocks were now etched on the horizon. 
We stopped that evening just past Albuquerque with the thought that we were out front of the weather.  At Tucumcari we headed off on the diagonal cut-off that goes through a little piece of Texas and the Oklahoma panhandle into Kansas.  At that point the world started to turn whiter. The wind picked up, the clouds closed in, and soon we were struggling to see the road in a nasty mix of swirly snow and freezing rain.   We crept into Meade, KS about 2:30 in the afternoon.  The Moon Mist Motel appeared out of the fog and we decided that we had lost the race with the storm. It wasn't fancy but the heat, the TV, and the WI FI worked.  So we hunkered down.  As the day wore on even  the truck traffic dwindled to a few ice covered bravehearts.  When the behemoths get off the road, it's time for the mere mortals to give up as well.  That evening we found out that the restaurant in the truck stop across the road had closed because their evening shift couldn't get into town.  More proof that we had made the wise decision.  That left the Pizza Hut as the only restaurant open in town, but it could have been a whole lot worse.  We spent a pleasant hour and a half there and had a nice chat with a local guy who was a WWII vet and had been a school bus driver for 22 years after he retired from ranching. Even he said it was bad out there.
So there we were for the next two days. 
On Friday  morning we scraped off the car and headed east once more.  
The snow wasn't really deep but the freezing rain had made for slippery going along with the bad visibility.  It put a glitsy patina on the trees,  
but I'm sure the guys who were using the morning to get their jackknifed rigs out of the ditches weren't too much into the beauty. 
To make a long story short, the sun burned through the haze quickly and the temperature shot above freezing.  Soon it was a clear crisp day with plowed dry roads and gorgeous vistas.
We sailed all the way to Topeka and enjoyed a lovely dinner and evening with Sue H, her husband Dave, and a crazy cadre of cats--some shy and one so bold that she wanted to jump up on the table and look you in the eye whenever she had the chance.  
Blueberry pancakes courtesy of Dave fueled our breakfast on Saturday morning and we set off on the last leg of our return. When we headed out on Feb. 6th, we had no snow in Monmouth and didn't see a lick of it until we hit the mountains of AZ  Our return was white almost all the way and winter was clearly still with us when we turned into our driveway on Saturday afternoon.
4000 miles and ready for a rest.
Thanks again to all of our hosts. You made the trip well worth the effort.