Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rhetoric and Innocence

I just finished reading this year's commencement address for the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley. [Hat tip to Digby at Hullabaloo for that.] It caught my interest because, as you probably know, I graduated from that same department a number of years ago.

So it was with great fascination that I read what the address to this year's graduates would be. The tone is much more serious and somber than anything I recall from my graduation. Those were very different times. I was part of the group that planned our graduation ceremony, and consulted on inviting a commencement speaker. We chose a graduate of the department, Carrie Snow, as our speaker, and she was quite entertaining. But that was the point. She was working as a stand-up comic, and in the 1980s, there just wasn't a more appealing career.

To be honest, I don't remember a lot about Ms. Snow's address, although I do remember laughing a lot. Those were certainly more innocent times. Many in Berkeley believed that with Ronald Reagan at the helm, the country had reached a nadir. [I vividly recall the campus humor magazine cover with the caption "Reagan Wins" depicting a Berkeley "hippie" with a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head.] Little could they have anticipated how things would devolve over the next decades. We didn't want to think about the cold war or getting jobs, so inviting a comic to make us laugh seemed like a good way to end our time at Cal.

I should point out that the best tradition of the Rhetoric commencement, dating back to the time when it was the Department of Speech, is that each graduate has the opportunity to speak briefly to the assembled group. It's a pretty small department, so it doesn't add a lot of time to the ceremony, but it does bring out a lot of the personality of the department and its students in a way that I've never seen at any other graduation ceremony.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Clever TV Ad

I don't watch all that much TV, but during a baseball game today, I caught this, which I thought was both very clever in general, and very good at using the local backdrops (San Francisco).

Almost makes we want to drink a Pepsi. Almost.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dinosaurs at a Birthday Party

Forgive a little self-indulgence. Today we had a sixth birthday party for our daughter, and the theme was once again dinosaurs. The location was the wonderful Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. At least early on, the day was sunny and nice, so the view from the cafeteria was terrific. It got gray later, which was less stunning, but it's still a great overlook.

The highlight of the party was the cake. At the fundraising auction for the school, we'd won a gift certificate from Debbie Does Cakes, so we thought we should use it on a special birthday cake. Wow! Debbie is an Artist. She worked with us to design just the right dinosaur, a fine looking triceratops, and even delivered it herself. You can get an idea of her work by looking at her website, but the little pictures don't do it justice. The cake looked phenomenal, and tasted wonderful, too (devil's food with peanut-butter cream filling and delicious butter cream frosting.

Debbie mentioned that she's going to be part of a cake-baking special on the Food Network this summer. I will definitely tune in so I can see her at work. It should be a real treat to see how she creates her art. Meanwhile, we have leftovers to eat. Yum!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bobby Kennedy

I just read a very moving post by Christy Hardin Smith over at FireDogLake. I hadn't been aware that this was the anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's death. I was too young to understand what was going on in the summer of 1968 (although I do remember the Olympics that year); my political awakening came with Watergate and the 1972 presidential election.

Anyway, I highly, highly recommend you take the 6 minutes or so to watch the YouTube video clip she includes in that post. It's extremely moving.

Today, it's unimaginable that a candidate for high national office would make such an eloquent, yet restrained speech. Or that they would make a call for unity and calm without an appeal to partisanship. Or quote Greek poetry.

I want to vote for someone like Bobby Kennedy, but I don't see anyone like that entering politics these days. And that is sad.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Real First Fleet!

I try to stay out of the ongoing battles between the evolutionists and the creationists. I have a firm view on one side, and frankly find the other rather silly.

But as an Australiaphile, I just had to share an item on the subject from the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money (the picture there alone is worth the visit). It in turn references a fine item from the Boston Globe. The key item involves the question of how the original pair of kangaroos got from Noah's Ark to Australia, including speculation that they floated on mats of displaced vegetation.

Clearly, this would upset the whole notion of the settlement of Australia by the so-called First Fleet. It would be a huge change in the narrative if there was an earlier fleet of kangaroos. My own interpretation is that the original 'roos must have been convicts, too, transported by the other animals for some minor transgression.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I'm a Spork!

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter (approaching 6 years old) was making her lunch for school the next day. She wasn't making much progress on her peanut butter sandwich, and I noticed she was having trouble getting the lid off the jam jar (bad design, Smuckers: the big plastic jars from Costco, while cost-effective, are prone to sticky lids, and the jars aren't solid enough to really grab and twist effectively...but I digress).

Eventually she just looks at me and says, "Dad, you're a spork." I am? "Dad, you're a spork!" Apparently she means it, whatever it means. Why do you say that? "I'm trying to do something, and you're not being useful!" [beat...laughter all around the kitchen]

Some months earlier, probably while dining at some fine dining establishment that thinks it can save money by using sporks instead of spoons and forks, I had taught her the expression, "useless as a spork." It appears the lesson was learned and remembered.