March 2005 Archives
*Spring is here, and I'm back in the webcast booth. Along with my partner, Greg Jacobs, I'm starting my second year of commentary on Woodberry Forest's home varsity baseball games. We're still working out the details of hooking up to the web live, so I'm afraid we've had to resort to "tape-delay" broadcasts for the moment. Still, if you're interested, you can click here
to access our broadcast of last Saturday's game against the #25 (USA Today) DeMatha High Stags. (I won't give away the results, but I can't promise the guys at the WFS website won't, either...) It's a pretty big file--just over 96 minutes--but if you're curious about either WFS baseball or our ability to offer commentary on a live sporting event, feel free to give it a listen. (I'm not sure what software you'll need to listen to it, but it's working for my Windows Media Player, at least.)
The division of labor between Greg and me is pretty simple: he does play-by-play, I do color. His knowledge of baseball is encyclopedic, while mine is roughly equivalent to a 1980 copy of the AAA Road Atlas; I know a little about the game, and a fair amount about radio broadcasting and other subjects, but our on-the-air banter is based, quite legitimately, on me playing dumb. Greg, luckily, is close to fanatical about providing the basic information; he will never leave the audience wondering about the score, the count, the base runner situation, etc. That leaves me free to be puzzled, pensive, naive, or supportive as the situation dictates.
*The Tar Heels are back in the Final Four and all's right with the world. I'd feel more secure about our chances if we'd looked a little sharper against Villanova (in the Sweet 16) and Wisconsin (in the Elite 8), but any victory is a good thing at this point in the year. I find myself hoping for a championship not only because I'm a die-hard UNC fan, but because I'm reeeeeeeeeally
starting to be annoyed by the people who are getting on Roy Williams' case because he "can't win the big one." I heard that said about Dean Smith for nearly two decades, and I thought was an idiotic statement back then, too. You think UNC-Duke, even in the regular season, isn't a "big one"? Tell it the guys on both campuses who light fires afterwards.
*It's the week after Easter, and that means Kelly and the boys are down in North Carolina. My job: hang out at home, do dorm duty, feed the fish. It's been a bit sad, because this is the first such spring break I've spent without Five, whom I always took to bed in Kelly's absence. I've been a bit too busy to feel much sorrow, though; I've not only done a little reading, taken my advisees to Charlottesville for Thai and The Ring II
(I wouldn't bother, unless you really like CGI deer or have a real hankering for water effects; I swear, I thought the theater would be mildewed by the time the credits rolled.), and gotten a little laundry and shopping done, I've also knocked off a couple thousand words on the novel. It's just shy of 95,000 words. It's getting close, but is it finished? ...um ...no.
*One thing I've reread in the family's absence: Tom Stoppard's Arcadia
. I've said before that it's the best play I've ever seen. I was lucky enough to visit DC with the senior class to see the late-90s ArenaStage presentation, and it absolutely blew me away; the performances, the superb in-the-round set design, the lighting and music effects, everything worked to perfection, but even I, a Stoppard fan from years ago, wasn't prepared for the brilliance of the script. The dry wit and intellectual deftness for which Stoppard is known were certainly present in spades, but I was equally dazzled by the depth of emotion, the sorrow and wistfulness that supported the script's intelligence the way the heat of the air supports the fabric of a balloon. I was determined that Kelly had to see it, and I dragged her back into town for its next weekend, and it was just as good. This time I simply sat and read it over a couple of evenings, but even outside the context of the theater, it's simply fantastic. It sounds stupid to say it, but it's one of those works that helps me believe in the sustaining power of art; if human beings, as a group, can produce stuff this good from time to time, the heat death of the universe doesn't seem so bad, y'know?
*After what seems like an eternity of rain, the sun's out today. So why am I sitting here typing?
Good question. Later. 9:03 PM
I heard the Hitchcock speak my name.
First, please recognize that I refer not to some peculiar bird, but to a person. Second, please note that the person in question is my musical hero, Robyn Hitchcock, not Alfred or some other Hitch. And third, please accept this as literal truth: I got to hear him say my name aloud, and I am feeling darned pleased about that.
The occasion of this event was last night's show at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland. It's a great room, with tables set close enough to see the stage from almost every angle (and where they'll bring you food and drink, even during the show), though it does have the disadvantage of lying some three hours from our Virginia home. Still, it's been years since Robyn has come even that close on a night when we could get free to see him, so once we saw the tour schedule at The Museum of Robyn Hitchcock
, we knew we'd be off to Maryland.
Despite owning over twenty of his albums, I'd seen Robyn only twice before, once on the 1990 tour for his acoustic masterpiece, Eye
, when he visited the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill, and once at the Rialto in Raleigh, where the doors were opened, the audience was admitted, and then (and only then) the announcement was made that Robyn's throat was giving him trouble and he wouldn't be able to perform. We were a bit irked to be told this inside
the theater, when not everyone still had his ticket stub, limiting our options for demanding refunds, and the opening act, faced with a hostile and surly crowd, wasn't any happier about it. Robyn gamely came onstage, apologized raspily, and actually managed to sing a handful of songs before his throat closed up entirely and he retired.
The first thing I noted about this show, therefore, was that Robyn seemed a good deal more cheerful than when I'd seen him last. His legendary free-associative patter between songs covered as much ground as ever, ranging from Karl Rove's fear of emperor penguins to Victorian attitudes toward sex to the source of admiration for Keith Richards, but it was all done in what seemed a particularly bright and sunny mood, especially considering his attitudes toward Rove and Rumsfeld. Still, it was the music that delighted me in particular, because it seemed as though Robyn, looking over his enormous catalogue of songs--nearly 30 years' worth!--had carefully chosen most of my favorites. Here's the set list:On acoustic guitar:
*Tarantula (I think that's the title--it's the only song I didn't know)
*I'm Only You
*The Idea of You
*I Feel Beautiful
*Full Moon in My SoulAfter switching to electric:
*Autumn Is Your Last Chance
*Queen of Eyes
For his encore, he bent over to pull the microphone out of his acoustic, strapped it on, and intoned, far away from the mic, "Before the invention of the PA system, singers walked among you." He then proceeded to wander through the room, strumming along to a relentlessly upbeat medley (with occasional lyrical improvisations) of George McRae's "Rock Your Baby," Dr. Hook's "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman," David Bowie's "Sound and Vision," and finally, improbably, Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting." It was, to put it mildly, an unexpected finish, and a complete delight.
After the show, Robyn announced that he'd be available to sign stuff (after a short decompression period). While he was in the dressing room changing out of his performance shirt (he favors boldly patterned shirts during shows, but put on a rather more subdued black-and-white pullover), Kelly ran out to the car to fetch our CDs of Jewels for Sophia
, his most recent release, in hopes of getting them autographed.
I myself was holding onto something else entirely: a copy of The Verb 'To Bird'
. Robyn is mentioned twice within it (on pages 24 and 140, if you're wondering), and it had occurred to me that the least I could do to thank him for years of musical enjoyment and inspiration was to give him a little bit of my own creative work in return. Thus, after Kelly had proffered the CDs, and after Robyn had fended off a fan who wanted a photo taken with him--he doesn't like to be photographed--I extended the book toward him.
"Do you want me to sign this?" he asked.
"No, I want you to have it," I replied, and briefly (I imagine rather haltingly) explained that I'd written it and mentioned him in a couple of places and hoped that he'd enjoy it.
"Is it a novel?"
"I'm working on a novel, but this one's nonfiction. It's about my own obsession with birds and other things. Christmas specials, even."
He looked at the cover, probably trying to appreciate Grant Silverstein's beautifully organic cover illustration in the dim light. "Then you must be Peter Cashwell."
"I am," I said, and I've been hearing that last lovely phrase of his for the last twelve hours. I don't know if he'll read the book, let alone like it, but just having the chance to give it to him made me feel somehow validated, just as I'd imagine Robyn would feel after first meeting his musical hero, Bob Dylan. (Has he met Dylan? I sure hope so. And I hope Uncle Bob told him, as I certainly would, "Your version of 'It's All Over, Baby Blue' is better than mine, Robyn.'")
So cheers, Robyn, and thanks for everything. I'm feeling good today. And I may not ever wash my ears again. 4:23 PM
While on my recent trip to North Carolina, I was treated (if that is the correct word) to a Saturday evening at Nikola's Lounge in New Bern, NC. My dad, my brother and I were there to watch the Wake Forest-West Virginia game, and we did watch all the way through both overtimes, though we also spent a fair amount of time watching the bartender, a comely young lady who hustled all around the bar making sure glasses remained full and eyes remained--um--full.
But the other "treat" was the presence of something I haven't experienced in some time: karaoke.
The emcee led the singing off with a Shania Twain song, which offered me some concern for the later material, and that concern was to some degree legitimate. There was a guy who did Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight," which has always grated on me, ever since I first heard it performed at a Chapel Hill High talent show in 1978. There was a woman who attempted Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About" without considering what people might be saying about her singing afterward. There were four drunken guys who were utterly flummoxed by the non-standard rhythms of "Ring of Fire." And then there was the guy with the high-pitched gravelly voice who did Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" and followed it immediately with AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," a pairing I'm still wondering about.
The problem with karaoke has always been that there are really only two ways to make it work. First, you can be a really good singer; it's a reasonable plan, but it's not easily achieved, and worse, there are many who think they're achieving it but aren't. That leaves the second method: pick a song that everyone in the crowd wants to sing along with.
"Ring of Fire" succeeded on this latter basis, particularly since, compared to the guys on stage, we all were
really good singers. Moreover, it was a song that I can cheerfully sing even while watching Tyrone Downey knock down clutch three-pointers, which seemed to be happening a lot, or watching the bartender stretch languidly toward the glasses in the upper rack, which wasn't happening quite so often, darn the luck. Most of the performers were also shown up by a technical change I had never heard before during a karaoke show: a huge group of background singers that appeared suddenly during the chorus of most songs. It was a little jarring to be listening to someone semi-croon softly through "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime," only to have the entire Morman Tabernacle Choir appear in full-throated cry sixteen bars in.
Obviously, karaoke technology has gotten a wee bit more complex than it was in my day. Of course, "my day" refers to New Year's Eve, 1992, when I was persuaded by my wife and brother-in-law to give karaoke a shot in Sammio's Italian Restaurant. I opted for a sing-along, choosing the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine."
Having written and performed music and sung for money, I like to think I've got an informed opinion about the business, and there's something to be said for the idea of keeping entertainment in the hands of professionals. Then again, I don't believe you should have to have a union card to perform in front of an audience, and there are plenty of people who call themselves pros who won't do any better than the amateurs at Nikola's. Moreover, my Thursday and Friday night entertainment suggested that karaoke might actually be an improvement. At both the Courtyard Grill in Greenville and the Latitude 35 bar in New Bern, professional bands were playing, and neither impressed. One group consisted of a guitarist, a guy with a set of synthetic drums, and a keyboardist who was playing the bass part with his left hand; they were rhythmically suspect, which made their attempt at the Allman Brothers' "One Way Out" pretty dicey, and they followed that with a couple of Platters songs despite having only one vocalist. The Latitude 35 group was a guitarist and a keyboardist with a second guitar around his neck, accompanied by a drum machine, and they were of course hacking apart "Wonderful Tonight." 9:15 PM
Yes, it's true that Matt Groening once penned an entire two-part comics series called "Ducks Are Hell." It's also true (as readers of TV2B
will know) that I was once terrified by the sight of a 25-foot Canada goose. And yes, it's true that my favorite comics writer, Alan Moore, once recorded these lyrics:What are they doing at night in the park?
Think of them waddling about in the dark
Dressed in plaid jackets and horrible shoes
Getting divorces and turning to booze
Ducks, ducks (quack quack, quack quack)...
--"March of the Sinister Ducks"
On the whole, however, my own experience with waterfowl has been untroubled. Ducks, geese, and swans are fascinating and beautiful birds, and I've usually encountered them in controlled situations where few threats to me or my personal taste were present. Nonetheless they remain a somewhat bizarre group of birds to me.
A big part of the weirdness is their limited distribution. These birds are called waterfowl for a reason--you are unlikely to see them anywhere but on, above, or beside a body of water. Granted, Canada geese are becoming more and more willing to spend time on soccer fields or municipal park lawns, but they're the exception. When you want to see a duck, you've got to go to the water.
That's what I did yesterday, piling into the car at 5:00 a.m. yesterday for a trip to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Scott Weidensaul's Seasonal Guide to the Natural World
describes four Mid-Atlantic NWRs as "outstanding for the numbers of migrating waterfowl they attract each year." About two of them (Back Bay NWR in Virginia and Bombay Hook NWR in Delaware) Scott was absolutely right, so I set out, along with my friend and colleague Kurt, on a journey of discovery to learn whether Blackwater really belonged among their number.
Alas, the first discovery of the morning was a basic one: even at 5:50 a.m., don't fuck around with the D.C. area.
We reached Gainesville, VA, with every intent of whizzing around the city before 7:00 and heading off past Annapolis and over the Bay Bridge by 7:30 or so. Alas, before we got onto I-66, there was a massive accident that brought traffic to a crawl--one radio traffic reporter estimated the backup at 33 miles in length. We didn't even get out of Gainesville until 6:40, and our desperate attempts to crawl cross-country onto alternate routes led to encounters with stopped traffic on routes 215, 28, and I-95 before we finally found relative happiness slogging northward on old US 1 to the Wilson Bridge.
We finally crossed the Maryland state line at 9:10.
There was a mile-long backup at the Bay Bridge--child's play!--but that added to our delays to the point where we didn't reach Blackwater until 10:30. Luckily, at that point the karmic balance of the day shifted somewhat, or maybe the Ides of March decided they'd done us enough damage already. Before we'd even paid our $3.00 fee to enter the Reserve, we'd logged a Red-tailed hawk, a Kestrel, a raft of Mallards and a semi-alert squadron of Canada geese on a pond across from the NWR offices. Immediately behind the offices was a pool full of dabbling ducks, including a big group of Greater Scaups, a bird I hadn't seen in several years. We parked nearby and went around a path that looped through a stand of pines on a marshy point, and right as we got out of the car, a huge bird with a white tail sailed through the trees--it wasn't a good look, but there was no bird it could have been but a Bald Eagle. We circled through the pines, hoping to get a better look at it, but we had to settle for smaller fry: chickadees, wrens, titmice, woodpeckers, kinglets, nuthatches, even a Brown Creeper, as well as a gorgeous Great Blue Heron already moving into breeding plumage.
Kurt, a novice birder, proved a dedicated observer of field marks, and he did an excellent job of keeping his eyes trained on the subject and calling out "Grey!" or "It's got a slight crest!" until I could help him ID the bird as a Tufted Titmouse. (But, y'know, only when it actually was
a Tufted Titmouse, not when it was a Turkey Vulture or something.) When we drove out to an observation site on the Blackwater River, he was also lucky enough to spot an Osprey when it stooped to catch a fish, and then we were treated to a perfect look as it shifted the fish in its grip (head into the wind, for aerodynamics), flapped upwards, and settled on a dead tree for lunch. Eagles soared over river as well; most could be seen to have the white tail and white head of the Bald, but some were far away or colored indeterminately, which frustrated me mightily. For once, I had done some research into the trip, and I had learned that Golden Eagles had been observed in the refuge over the past two weeks. A Golden would be a life bird for me, and one I'd be unlikely to spot anywhere in the East. I dearly wanted to see one.
As it happened, I got to. Kurt and I made two loops around the refuge's Wildlife Drive, and on the second trip to the observation site, we were lucky in two ways: one, I spotted a group of huge dark birds soaring over the marsh, and two, a couple from New Jersey pulled up while we were staring and took a spotting scope out of their car. Far more powerful than our binoculars, it gave us a chance to get a closer look at the eagles and see that we were right--there was no white on them. The adult Bald is dark brown with a pure-white head and tail, but the dark immature form has white only in patches and speckles on the underside. We could tell from comparison with the Osprey (who was still lingering over lunch, albeit on a different tree) that these birds were absolutely enormous, but it was the lack of white and the slight difference in wing and head shape that finally clinched it for us: Golden Eagles.
Nonetheless, the overall impression of Blackwater's bird life is one of waterfowl. There were ducks everywhere, and usually in astonishing numbers. The only sorts that appeared in small groups were the two Hooded Mergansers, the three Common Mergansers, the two different pairs of Green-winged Teals, and the pair of male Blue-winged Teals (another lifer) that dabbled in Pool 1 near the Mallards and Scaups. Everything else had apparently been sold to the refuge in bulk: a gaggle of Canadas that had to number in excess of 200, plus smaller groups of two or three dozen in other spots; huge masses of Tundra Swans on the shores of the pools, necks extended high or curved back into their own feathers to preen; American Black Ducks picking through the shallows, their red legs clearly visible against the dark muck; one pair after another of Northern Pintails, the males' long spiked tails tipping up as their sleek brown heads dipped under; a gorgeous and almost out-of-sight whirl of white on the far reaches of the river which we eventually determined was a restless gaggle of thousands of Snow Geese; and most surprising of all, Northern Shovelers.
In my field guide, the Shoveler looks like a Mallard writ small, with a green head and a brown-and-white body. In real life, however, there's no confusion at all. The Shoveler is much smaller, its head darker (and purpler), its breast a pure and obvious white (rather than the Mallard's chestnut chest), and the brown patches on its sides reddish, almost Robin-colored, as opposed to the Mallard's grey. There's also its improbably large dark bill, the garden-tool-like implement that gives the duck its name. We saw our first pair at about noon and marveled much. Then we saw another pair, marveling yet more, and another, with a slight dip in marveling, and another with less marveling still... within an hour we had seen probably 60 Shovelers, which remained no less beautiful, but which had now firmly entered the category of Birds We Know. And that was the day's third lifer for me.
All told, we got 49 species on the day, thirteen ducks and eight birds of prey. The Golden Eagles were an impressive sight and a satisfying addition to my life list, but as always, it's improbability that makes me happiest as a birder. The sight of Shovelers kicking through the pools, yellow eyes gleaming against the deep green-violet of their heads, is the one I'll long remember when I think of Blackwater.
And yes, I'll probably remember to take the alternate route across the Potomac--US 3 past Fredericksburg, then 301 north to Annapolis. If the ducks arrange anything different next time, they deserve to be called sinister. 4:38 PM
UPDATES UPDATES UPDATES UPDATES UPDATES UPDATES!
After a seeming eternity, I have finally managed to give petercashwell.com some long overdue updates.
Understand, please, that when I say "I" I actually mean "we," or more accurately, "she," because my friend Phoebe (hi, Phoebe!) is the one who actually had the web savvy to get the changes made. Under her direction, I was able to remove some very old content (I actually found one part of the site that mentioned The Verb as a book that "will
be published by Paul Dry Books in 2003." Oops...) and add some new stuff. Among the changes you'll note if you look around the site:
*Updated biographical information in About Peter Cashwell
*New Life List Excerpts
(featuring owls this time)
*New Works In Progress
data (featuring updated titles plus a whole new book in the pipeline)
*New entries under PC's Favorite Sites
, including sites for politics, urban legends, and general good humor.
*New (and far more recent) Recent Reads
*A few minor color tweaks (mostly links in the Archives)
*A bit of minor repair to get rid of broken links
The challenge: Phoebe's left me with some software and (now) a little experience in changing the site. From here on out, I'm going to be the guy (gulp!) doing the work. I have no intention of tearing out walls or adding new wings at the moment--I'm still far too happy with the basic design of this site, and I'd be very reluctant to make major changes in anything Karen & Mignon constructed--but I'm starting to feel that, yeah, if there's furniture to be moved, or wallpaper to be hung, I really ought to be the one to take care of it.
Oscar Wilde was rumored to have said on his deathbed, "Either that wallpaper goes or I go." I just hope that petercashwell.com and I never get to that kind of confrontation.10:45 PM
Yes, the sun's out, I'm on vacation, and I'm still enjoying our state debate championship, but this week has been enormously pleasant for other reasons.
In fact, I'd say about 75 of them, as opposed to 73 of them.
I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
last night--definitely a film that should have gotten more attention at Oscar time--and am delighting in my birthday present: a DVD of This Is Spinal Tap
, featuring commentary by the band itself, David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, and Derek Smalls.
But also, I saw the year's first Wood Ducks today, and that's got to be worth something.10:18 PM
And why, exactly, am I in a good mood? Is it the bright sunshine that has chased away this morning's all-but-freezing rain? Is it the chickadee on the feeder out back? Is it being done with grading for the winter? Is it the cheerful strains of Fountains of Wayne playing? Is it the pleasure of having put our first-place debate trophy in the school trophy case yesterday? Is it the start of spring break?
Well, yes. But it's also this: 75-73.
Call me biased--no, really, call me biased--but I have to feel that the sun shines a little brighter, the chickadees are a little more chipper, and the Fountains of Wayne songs are a little more satisfying because Carolina finished off its regular season with a victory over Duke on Sunday. And not just a victory, but a classic Carolina/Duke last-minute cardiac-arrest-style victory at that. They did it despite the absence of second-leading scorer Rashad McCants, out with an intestinal bug for four games now. They did it despite a tough Duke D and a suddenly-unfriendly rim that limited them to only 17 points in the first 17 minutes of the second half. They did it despite going into the final three and a half minutes down by nine, 73-64. They did it by knocking down clutch free throws (by Sean May, Raymond Felton, and Marvin Williams), a clutch tip-in (by Jawad Williams), and right at the end, a bank shot off the rebound of a missed free throw (by Marvin.) They did it with clutch performances by Jackie Manuel and Felton, who knocked the ball away and recovered it, respectively, when Duke had a two-point lead and could have held the ball for the rest of the game.
But mostly they did it on the broad shoulders of Sean May, who's moving up my personal list of great UNC big men like a meth-crazed woodpecker. He had 26 points and 24 rebounds against Duke, a team led by Shelden Williams, who leads the ACC in blocked shots and rebounds like a maniac. If that's not impressive enough, consider that May had 12 offensive boards--five more than Duke's entire team
. Points 24, 25 and 25 came on a crucial put-back near the end of the game and the resulting foul shot--that's clutch. And rebound #24 came after Daniel Ewing heaved up Duke's last desperate shot to tie. I've seen every UNC center since Lee Dedmon play, and right now there aren't many who still rank behind #42. Who are they?
Well, Mitch Kupchak was a beast--the first freshman ever to start for the Heels. (To be fair, his class was the first eligible to start for the varsity.) He was the ACC Player of the Year by his senior year, and a major contributor to the USA's Olympic gold medal team in '76. (In fact, the only guys who scored more for the USA were Adrian Dantley and Sean May's dad, Scott.) Since Sean's still got a year to go, I'll keep Mitch on top.
Rasheed Wallace? A great athlete, to be sure, but I think I'd have to give Sean the nod. Sheed is faster and probably at least as accurate a shooter--and maybe better on D, to be fair--but I think May wins on rebounding and post moves, and is almost certainly a more stabilizing infuence.
UNC's most versatile big man was probably Bobby Jones, who could score in the paint, hit the j, rebound, and defend--and I mean defend anybody. He was an NBA all-defensive team staple, as well as the guy who beat Duke with a writhing layup in Durham in early '74. He was better on D than Sean, but Sean's better on the boards. Right now I'd have to call them even, and Sean's all but certain to pass him.
Brad Daugherty? A damn fine center, thanks, and one of the best passing big men ever. Plus I love his accent--he's just a good ol' boy from Black Mountain, NC, after all, and he took #43 in the NBA because it was Richard Petty's number. He's also one of the all-time leaders in field goal percentage. But I don't know that he could dominate a game the way May can, and he was three inches taller to boot. I think I've got to give Sean the edge by just a bit.
Antawn Jamison? The classic tweener, Antawn knew better than perhaps any big man I've ever seen how to use not just size but speed
. He'd get a rebound and put it back before he'd even finished the arc of his jump. He could score in bunches without a single set play. I'm not sure he's better than May, who's a bit taller and a lot bigger, but at the moment I'm prepared to give the nod to Twan. Talk to me in another year.
I can't really compare Robert McAdoo to anybody, since he was only at UNC for one season. Sorry, Bob.
Tommy Lagarde? I liked him, but he couldn't do what Sean does.
The three-headed freshman beast of UNC's 1977 NCAA finalists, the threesome who stepped in when Lagarde went down with a knee injury? Much as I admired Jeff Wolf, Rich Yonakor, and the all-but-forgotten Steve Krafcisin (transferred to Iowa, I believe), they were more gutsy than talented. Their classmate, however, Mike O'Koren, was a dandy. A great shooter and clutch rebounder, Mike was a major reason the Heels got to the finals with Walter Davis and Phil Ford nursing injuries. Still, he was an undersized (6'7") power forward; May'd eat him alive.
J.R. Reid? Please.
Eric Montross? Eric was big and strong, and mean-looking to boot, with that flat top, but he got most of his damage by being--um, big and strong. I couldn't say he had touch. And again, he had three inches on May. Eric was a great weapon, but he was in many ways only as good as the guys surrounding him. Which brings me to...
George Lynch. I could make an argument that he was the greatest UNC player ever. Seriously. He was a freakin' 6'8" power forward who led an outmanned squad to an NCAA championship largely by force of will. He was the one who inspired the Heels to come back from 17 down against Florida State, possibly the most important game of the season. He was the one with double-doubles in every NCAA tournament game during his senior year. He was the guy who had to guard Chris Webber in the 1993 finals. And he was the guy who made offensive rebounding and defense seem not just necessary, but downright heroic. He was never a center, so the comparison with May isn't entirely appropriate, but at the moment, I'm unwilling to call anybody a better big man than Lynch. Even if I'm wrong, I won't do it.
Sam Perkins? Ooooh, tough call. Sam still holds pretty much all of UNC's rebounding records (except single-game rebounds--that'd be Rusty Clark's 30 boards against Maryland), and he was a clutch scorer as well as a crucial cog in the '82 NCAA tournament run. Right now I'll give Sam the nod, but in another year, I might be willing to reconsider.
And that brings us to James Worthy. Ah, here we go--a three-year man, so the comparison is completely fair. Big Game James was a stud on the boards, in the paint, and (mostly) on the fast break, where his tomahawk dunk was memorialized by my buddy Mike Beard as "The Demoralizing Thunder Jam." His NBA career was the stuff of legend, though it probably didn't hurt to play with Magic and Kareem, and he's got that NCAA Final Four MVP thing going, too. If Sean leads the Heels to a championship this year, I may change my mind, but right now, James gets the nod.
So I'm prepared to put Sean alongside Bobby Jones, just ahead of Daugherty, and just behind Kupchak, Worthy, Perkins, and Jamison. (I'm putting Lynch in a whole different category. So there.) Pretty heady company, Mr. May--but with your dad hanging out in the living room, I guess you're used to that. 7:30 PM
We start with Saturday the 26th, the end of the winter trimester, which involves my reading and grading some ungodly number of papers in order to get things ready for exams. I had quite a few things to grade--in fact, I still have a few--before I could even get ready to review for exams.
Then we start exam prep. I hand out review sheets to the kids on the second-to-last day so that we can go over the stuff on the exam on the last day. After ten years of teaching speech and five years of teaching American drama, I've got a pretty good backlog of possible questions for the exam, but the final review makes a big difference in terms of which ones I use. If there's a term or a concept the kids are having trouble with, I have to either pound that concept into their heads good and hard on the review day or adjust the exam accordingly.
Then, naturally, I have to write the exams. My old colleague Bob Davies, a math teacher by profession, theorized about a Conservation of Grading Principle: basically, an exam takes a certain amount of time, and that time is a constant. You can write an exam using very little time--just put together a few essay questions, say--but then it'll take you a long, long time to grade each one. Multiple-choice tests, by contrast, can be graded very quickly, but each question must be carefully worded and each answer carefully phrased and placed, so they take much longer to prepare. This one was a little heavier on the prep end than it will be (I hope) on the grading end.
On Monday the 28th, I had my first meeting for our school's self-study, a complex self-examination we must undergo once per decade in order to keep our accreditation. Each faculty member is assigned to two committees; I'm on Instruction and Program, a sort of over-arching committee for which I volunteered, and Math, to which I was assigned by some administrator with a twisted sense of humor. (Actually, every departmental committee has at least one member from outside the department; I think it's to prevent inbreeding.) I'm also on two other non-self-study committees; I was drafted to serve on the group reforming our now-on-temporary-hiatus Summer School, and I volunteered to serve on a committee to examine our schedule and see if we can't find more than 24 hours in a day. Basically, I'm spending a lot of time thinking about how Woodberry Forest School works, and if I can figure it out, I'm in a pretty good position to help it work better.
Oh, and I was on dorm duty that day.
On Tuesday, March 1st, I had the good fortune to turn 42. I am now the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.
That morning I sat in on the English Committee meeting at my department chairman's invitation, though I'm not technically a member. My speech exam was that afternoon, followed by a Math Committee meeting, followed by a birthday dinner of Thai food in Charlottesville and a big pile o'comic books.
On Wednesday I forced myself to stay home and rest. Good for me. Too bad I had to spend several hours that night writing my English exam.
On Thursday I gave the exam, and while I was proctoring my English students, I was to my surprise actually able to finish grading my speech exams. Seriously. They're done. That never
On Friday I packed, printed maps and directions, picked up checks and cash, sent emails, and got my debate team ready for the Virginia Catholic Forensic League state finals in Midlothian. We drove down Friday night so we could relax, have a good meal together, and not have to sprint down to the Richmond area at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Admittedly, the fact that Spring Break starts at 10:15 and the school wants to lock up all the dorms is a big part of the reason we leave early, too, but it was still pleasant to eat deep-dish Uno Grill pizza with the guys and sleep in (relatively speaking) prior to a big tournament.
And on Saturday, March 5th, I'm happy to report that the VCFL crowned a new champion in debate: Woodberry Forest School.
This is the tenth year of the WFS debate program, and this is not only its first state title, but its first first-place team trophy of any sort. Because our team is so small, we're usually at a considerable disadvantage in team (or "sweepstakes") competition; we had 15 guys this year, our largest team ever, while our competitors, often large public schools like Charlottesville High and Madison County High, may have forty or more members. Yesterday, for example, we had four students competing in the speech division, while MCHS had eight in the final round of Duo Interpretation alone. As a result, we usually have to be content with the successes of our individual speakers, as in 2004, when WFS debaters won two individual titles, but the team finished second to a very good squad from the Maggie Walker Governor's School. This year, however, we dominated the debate awards, taking 1st and 4th in Student Congress and 2nd and 3rd in Lincoln-Douglas debate. (And 4th in Original Oratory, though it's a speech event, not a debate event.) We have a big, red, shiny trophy now, and I'm going to relish placing it in our school's trophy case.
Busy week. Good week, though. 5:52 PM