Thinking about Jefferson

Just finished reading Mr. Jefferson’s University (along with its other virtues, it’s mercifully short). Wills makes the case, which is well known to all aficionados of the history of the University except those who graduated from it, that the buildings of the original Grounds did not spring fully formed from Jefferson’s mind but were substantially influenced by the work of others. In particular, Wills calls out the work of Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the US Capitol Building, who was said to have provided Jefferson with a folio of elevations for the pavilions of the University. Wills makes the case that, even if the façades were Latrobe’s design, Jefferson’s genius was in the original vision and the adaptation of the architectural ideals of Palladio (and one supposes Latrobe) to the realities of the hillside site.

Reading the book made me homesick. I went back to the Holsinger Archives at Virginia’s library web site for a UVA fix. Nothing like a little hundred-year-old photography to realize the enduring character of Jefferson’s vision.

Virginia Bowl Watch

It’s getting to be that time. That time when almost all the games have been played. When Virginia has played Virginia Tech (and the less said about that game the better). When all’s over but the shouting. And the bowls.

Ah yes, the bowls. The great holiday tradition: pissing off one’s spouse by parking immobile in front of the tube for several straight days to see the best in college football. Why do we care?

Why, because there’s a chance the Cavaliers might come to Seattle. Yes, Virginia, there is a Seattle Bowl. And right now it is one of the bowls that might extend an invitation to the Cavaliers.

Now the rest of the Virginia fans might not be happy about this—in fact, according to the fan poll on the Virginia Sports page (no permalink, look in the right nav at the bottom and vote), Seattle is about the last choice for a bowl for Virginia to go to. But it’s my first choice. Instead of ticking off my wife by sitting at home in front of the TV, I could freeze my ass off at the football stadium and cheer on my team instead. You bet I’m keeping my fingers crossed…

More old friends on line

Esta pointed a while back to Joe Gross’s gig writing for the Austin American Statesman, but I didn’t follow the links. (Joe and I met on the Declaration, and I persuaded him to join me on Rag & Bone because I knew he had the skills and passion to take it to the next stage. Its longevity is due at least as much to his involvement as to my efforts.)

Joe’s column on music is available online, and his writing is as excellent as it ever was:

With the recent release of Nick Broomfield’s somewhat inflammatory documentary “Biggie and Tupac” (well, it hasn’t been released here yet, but I’m sure you saw something about it on MTV when it wasn’t showing soft porn on “The Real World”)…


Summing up undergrad in half an hour

The recruiting panel for the University of Virginia last night was fun. Assistant Dean Shawn acquitted himself nobly. The panel discussion was good, though at one point a bit awkward (“What’s the alcohol policy? And how many students drink anyway? And what about outside the dorms?” Umm…). At the end, we were asked to sum up our first impressions and how they changed by the end. My rambling version could be condensed to this: “When I arrived I was a little in awe. I mean, Thomas Jefferson! The man was President, and he left that off his tombstone, but put on that he founded the University! But by the end I felt like the school was my family.”

I drove away feeling that my description had been inadequate. But on further reflection I realized it would have to be inadequate. How do you do justice to a place and an experience that made you an adult and a leader? that took a boy and put him on the road to manhood?

Another friend found

I’ve lost touch with many old Glee Club friends since leaving Virginia, so it was a bit of a surprise to see a familiar name attached to a recruiting email asking for participants for a panel discussion with prospective students. But surely he wasn’t an assistant dean?

A little Googling confirms that Shawn Felton has indeed gone up the academic ladder after finishing his Masters in Music. Boy, I’m looking forward to seeing him in a couple of weeks…

Football humor

This is by way of apologies for infrequent updates over the last few days: some observations on how the northeast and the South look at football differently. After all, after the shellacking the Cavaliers took against Florida State this weekend, we all need a laugh:

Women’s Accessories
North: ChapStick in back pocket and a $20 bill in the front pocket.
South: Louis Vuitton duffel with two lipsticks, waterproof mascara, and
fifth of bourbon. Money is not necessary; that’s what dates are for.

Stadium Size
North: College football stadiums hold 20,000 people.
South: High school football stadiums hold 20,000 people.

North: Expect their daughters to understand Sylvia Plath.
South: Expect their daughters to understand pass interference.

Campus Decor
North: Statues of founding fathers.
South: Statues of Heisman trophy winners.

Homecoming Queen
North: Also a physics major.
South: Also Miss America.

North: Rudy Guliani
South: Archie & Peyton Manning

Getting Tickets
North: 5 days before the game you walk into the ticket office on campus
and purchase tickets.
South: 5 months before the game you walk into the ticket office on
and put name on waiting list for tickets.

Friday Classes After a Thursday Night Game
North: Students and teachers not sure they’re going to the game, because
they have classes on Friday.
South: Teachers cancel Friday classes because they don’t want to see the
few hung-over students that might actually make it to class.

North: An hour before game time, the University opens the campus for
South: RVs sporting their school flags begin arriving on Wednesday for
weekend festivities. The really faithful arrive on Tuesday.

Game Day
North: A few students party in the dorm and watch ESPN on TV.
South: Every student wakes up, has a beer for breakfast, and rushes over
to where ESPN is broadcasting “Game Day Live” to get on camera and wave
the idiots up North: who wonder why “Game Day Live” is never broadcast
their campus.

North: Raw meat on a grill, beer with lime in it, listening to local
station with truck tailgate down.
South: 30-foot custom pig-shaped smoker fires up at dawn. Cooking
accompanied by live performance by “Dave Matthews’ Band,” who come over
during breaks and ask for a hit off bottle of bourbon.

Getting to the Stadium
North: You ask “Where’s the stadium?” When you find it, you walk right
South: When you’re near it, you’ll hear it. On game day it becomes the
state’s third largest city.

North: Drinks served in a paper cup, filled to the top with soda.
South: Drinks served in a plastic cup, with the home team’s mascot on
filled less than half way with soda, to ensure enough room for bourbon.

When National Anthem is Played
North: Stands are less than half full, and less than half of them stand
South: 100,000 fans, all standing, sing along in perfect four-part

The Smell in the Air After the First Score
North: Nothing changes.
South: Fireworks, with a touch of bourbon.

Commentary (Male)
North: “Nice play.”
South: “Dammit, you slow sumbitch tackle him and break his legs.”

Commentary (Female)
North: “My, this certainly is a violent sport.”
South: “Dammit, you slow sumbitch tackle him and break his legs.”

North: Neutral and paid.
South: Announcer harmonizes with the crowd in the fight song, with a
in his eye because he is so proud of his team.

After the Game
North: The stadium is empty way before the game ends.
South: Another rack of ribs goes on the smoker. While somebody goes to
nearest package store for more bourbon, planning begins for next week’s

Trouble with a capital T, Part I

I watched the first half of the season opener at my coworker David’s house. Down 19-6 at the half, I went home to get dinner taken care of. I asked Lisa to switch to the game so I could check the score, but then realized our cable package didn’t include Fox Sports Network (hey, don’t look at me like that! I didn’t even think I could watch ACC games in Seattle!).

So looking at the results, it looks like we have a little quarterback controversy. To wit: one throws passes that I could pick off; the other does better but fumbles on the 1 yard line.

But this is a young team. And their ability to come back like they did in the second half is impressive. I’ll have to see if I can sneak a little Fox Sports Network under the budgetary radar. This could be a good season.

Good to have friends, part 2

This morning I was finishing my tea and getting ready to head to work when the phone rang. It was Larry Mueller, who will be in Seattle for his grandmother’s 100th birthday and wanted to catch up with us? Maybe we could do lunch? Or maybe dinner and we could put him up?

Yeah, I think we could manage that. We haven’t seen Larry in a few years–since I went to b-school at MIT instead of Virginia, where Larry is director of financial aid at Darden–and I was beginning to despair of catching up with him again. Besides, we owe him. Shortly after he moved into his new home, he did us the favor of letting us stay with him before he had curtains. Well, Larry, most of our windows don’t have curtains yet either, but you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like.

Run it up the middle (again and again)

It would appear that the fans of my college football team, the Virginia Cavaliers, can’t take a joke. Greg thinks he caused the problem, but I’m sure that the original poster could have come across the poems in question through Google, where they are hit #6 for the good coach. (Note: The new link for the George Welsh poems is now on this site.)

For what it’s worth, I really respect Welsh. His work as a football coach made us cheer much more often than it made us moan. But in 1993, after watching yet another press conference after a win where he smiled about as much as a man with a gastric ulcer, Tyler, Joe, Patrick and I realized that there was something funny about the thought that this stoic man might have a secret literary life. Hence the poems. Of course half the fun was parodying the lit crit that might surround Welsh’s oeuvre.

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It's fourth and ten, boys, Florida State... You gonna eat that 'wurst, Frank? Damn.